Wednesday 30 July 2003

Buddy GuyANOTHER guitarist birthday!

Today it's famed bluesman and master of the polka-dot Stratocaster, Buddy Guy!

67 years old today and still going strong!

Tuesday 29 July 2003

Mark "Surf Rat" Rowe - 12-String Fretless Bassist!

12 string fretless bass? Sounds pretty painful on the fingers to me! Would love to hear what it sounds like.
Geddy LeeHappy Birthday to Rush bassist and vocalist Mr Geddy Lee, who is 56 today.

Check out the official Rush website here.

I remember at school, there was always some kid who had inscribed the name RUSH on his books, or perhaps had painstaking painted the logo on his bag in Tippex.

This was far too much temptation for me, and armed with a pen (or another bottle of Tippex) I would make a sly amendment, thus destroying any credibility that the kid had: BASIL BRUSH.

Basil Brush!Well, it kept me amused anyway. To this day, I still cannot separate in my mind the band Rush from that cheeky fox puppet!

Monday 28 July 2003

Erik Braunn

Iron Butterfly guitarist Erik Braunn dies at 52

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Erik Braunn, lead guitarist with Iron Butterfly during the two years of the heavy metal band's greatest success, has died. He was 52.

Braunn died of cardiac arrest Friday in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. No other details were given.

Braunn, considered a violin prodigy, began his musical career at age 4. He was born in Pekin, Ill., but raised in Los Angeles. He was 16 when he joined Iron Butterfly and spent 1967-69 on tour with the band. He was the lead guitarist on the band's 1968 anthem, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida."

Braunn and Doug Ingle, Ron Bushy and Lee Dorman, left their mark on musical history with the psychedelic, 17-minute "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." The album went platinum and stayed on the national sales chart two years, and a three-minute version also became a Top 40 radio hit.

Braunn occasionally reunited with the band for performances, and worked as a songwriter, musician and producer until his death. During a 1988 reunion, he told the Times about his superstardom experience 20 years earlier, saying: "My first vacation I bought a car, a Jaguar, and parked it outside the hospital where I spent two weeks for ulcers and gastroenteritis."

Guitbass - Part 2

I mentioned last week that I had put together a "guitbass" (three-stringed guitar) from an old Fender Stratocaster copy and various spare parts, but that I was having some problem with the electrics and that only the middle pickup was working.

Yesterday, I decided to sort this out and give the guitar a single humbucking pickup in the lead position (an idea that suddenly seems to be credited to the guy out of Blink 182, although people had been using single-humbucker Strats for years - witness Earl Slick on David Bowie's "Serious Moonlight" tour).

First of all, the bridge pickup cavity needed enlarging to accommodate the bigger humbucking pickup. I used a router to do this, and it all went very smoothly despite being only the second time I had used that particular variety of power tool.

The next job was to cut out a humbucker-sized hole in the scratchplate. I had the idea that I'd cover the whole plate in sticky-backed plastic ("Get down, Shep!") and thus cover up unwanted holes for the neck and middle pickup.

Then I changed my mind, and decided to make a new scratchplate from, errrrm, scratch. Having a sheet of black/white/black ply scratchplate material helped, obviously, and I set out first drawing the outline using another plate as a template, and then went to work cutting it out using a fretsaw. It all went surprisingly well. It wasn't the greatest piece of cutting in the world, but some work with a sander around the edges soon smoothed out any inconsistencies in the cutting.

Cutting the pickup hole was a bit trickier, especially as I managed to break the fret saw blade mid-way through. The resultant hole wasn't as straight as it could have been, and was very slightly lopsided, but hey we're talking about using a black pickup in a black scratchplate, so unless you look up close it's not really obviously wonkily cut. Also, a slightly lopsided pickup in the bridge position of a Strat would most likely look like a design feature!

Next I had to wire it all up. Now I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel, parts-wise, as I could only find a few short pieces of wire, and could not find any spare 500k pots for the volume control, so I had to resort to using a 250k pot which would have been far more suitable for a single-coil pickup equipped guitar. When I get the chance, or rather a 500k pot, I shall rectify this.

I didn't install a tone control as I dislike them intensely, and chose to keep things simple and have just the single volume control between the pickup and the output jack. I topped off the volume pot with a black metal domed-knob, which fitted in with the black scheme of the scratchplate beautifully.

The pickup itself, by the way, was one from an Epiphone guitar. I was originally going to use a DiMarzio humbucker, but it had one of those surrounds for a guitar with an angled-back neck and I couldn't figure out how to mount it.

And yeah, it's quite neat. As I already said, I'd still like to tinker around a bit under the hood, and depending on whether or not I decide to sell it, I may replace the machine heads and bridge saddles and make it into a six-string guitar again. The back of the neck could probably do with some attention where there are one or two deep scratches. These aren't really a problem for one-finger guitbass playing, but for regular playing they would be annoying.

So, still some work to do, but a good fun project.

Saturday 26 July 2003

He's not really known as a guitarist - although I believe he does have some talent in that area - but I couldn't let today pass by without mentioning that it's Mick Jagger's 60th birthday!

Poor guy, I bet people are going to keep on reminding him of this fact all day.

"Shut up..."

Thursday 24 July 2003

Oh, and after much soldering and de-soldering last night, I managed to fix that humming problem on the red "Falcon" Strat project.
Hhmmmmm... the guitar pictured at the top of the page HERE is a bit silly, isn't it? I mean, Rick Neilson's 5-necked Hamer was silly, but at least the necks on his were arranged slightly closer together.

Who on earth would be able to play that aluminium thing? And why have five necks all the same?

Daft for the sake of being daft.

Tuesday 22 July 2003

Strat Projects - "Guitbass" (part 1) and the "Falcon"

Here are a couple more Strat-style projects that I've put together from my box of assorted guitar bits and pieces.
Strat Projects
The red one at the top of the photo was based around a Falcon (never 'eard of them, guv) body and neck that I bought on eBay for only £12. The body is made of the weirdest material. I thought at first it was MDF, but I'm not entirely sure about this. Inside the control cavities where it hasn't been sanded and polished up it looks like solidified foam rubber! It is actually very dense, and the finished guitar sustains very nicely. The scratchplate and electrics came from a Squier Strat, although I had to modify the plate to accommodate the longer than usual 22-fret neck. Unfortunately I cut away more scratchplate than I really needed to, so am considering filling up the "hole" between the end of the neck and the scratchplate with some kind of white plastic material. This guitar, despite being a real cheapie, actually plays and handles really nicely. I still want to sort out the wiring some more, as I'm getting more hum than should be present. Humming Stratocasters seem to be haunting me at the moment!

The sunburst guitar is one I have mentioned before several times, namely my "Presidents of the USA" style "guitbass". This is a three-stringed guitar tuned C sharp, G sharp and C sharp (an octave higher than the low C sharp). To allow for the low tuning the strings are very heavy gauge - I forget the gauges I bought now, but I think the lowest string is a .062 gauge. In fact, this string was so heavy that I had to drill the hole in its machine head bigger to accommodate it. This tuning is designed for power chords - just place a finger at any fret, and you get route note, one fifth above and one octave above. It's actually something of a riff-monster and now I'm beginning to question: Why get overly complicated and use a 7-string guitar for these low heavy riffs when you can do the same thing with a 3-string?

However, the electrics are old and knackered - only the middle pickup seems to be working. I've been thinking of replacing the other two pickups, but what I'd really like to do would be to equip this instrument with a single humbucking pickup in the bridge position. This will require a little routing in the body to allow for the larger pickup, and also a new scratchplate, which I will probably have to cut myself. (Single humbucker Strat-style scratchplates seem to be virtually non-existant from all the suppliers that I have checked). I'd also only want the one volume control and no tone. I'm not a fan of passive tone controls; I consider them usually to be virtually useless at the best of times.

Monday 21 July 2003

Eliah Levy - The Stick Man - I just saw this guy busking in Oxford City Centre this lunchtime. Quite impressive. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for his website!

For more information on the Chapman Stick, see here:

Teisco guitar

Teisco guitarBack in March I mentioned that I'd bought an old Teisco guitar on eBay, then neglected to ever mention it again. Well, the guitar had really great sounding pickups, although perhaps the action was a tad too high for regular playing.

Teisco guitar
It also had one of the control knobs missing, so I replaced the whole set of four with an appropriately vintage-looking set also found on eBay. One slight annoyance with the appearance was that at some point someone had decided to spray gold glitter all over the whole guitar in an effort to make it look glam (perhaps?). I have been trying to gently scrape this off, but it's everywhere including on the fingerboard.

Teisco guitarNevertheless, the glitter doesn't detract from the great sound. Seeing as the action wasn't appropriate for regular playing, I decided to raise it even further and bought a nut extension from a guy called Chickenbone John who regularly advertises his slide-guitar products on eBay. This nut extension also has the side-effect of increasing the string spacing at the headstock end (obviously!) of the guitar so that the outside strings are almost hanging over the edge of the fingerboard! However, this is not a problem as I am using this guitar for slide playing (got a lovely bottleneck from Chickenbone John too!) and am playing it in the lap position as you would a Hawaiian guitar. The guitar is currently tuned to an open D chord and it sounds wonderful!

For more on Teisco guitars, see:

Hendrix tops guitar album poll

Jimi Hendrix's pioneering classic Are You Experienced has been named the greatest guitar album of all time more than 30 years since its release. The 1967 release, which spawned classics such as Foxy Lady and Fire, was chosen by a panel of music writers and experts.

The Beatles failed to make even the top 20 although the writers thought their 1966 effort Revolver, with its backward guitar snatches on Tomorrow Never Knows, deserved a place in the list of the 100 greatest guitar albums. The Who were runners-up with 1965's My Generation and a self-titled 1962 compilation by bluesman Howlin' Wolf completed the top three.

Left-handed musician Hendrix made it to number two in the UK charts with his debut album Are You Experienced, continuing the promise shown on earlier singles Hey Joe and Purple Haze. He had perfected his incendiary style in the clubs of Greenwich village in New York, but found fame after being brought to the UK by former Animals bass player Chas Chandler.

Are You Experienced showcased his incredible talent as well as his range of innovative guitar sounds using an array of electronic boxes. Music writer Ritchie Unterberger said: "It's impossible to cram all the innovative ways of playing an electric guitar that Hendrix pioneered on his first album into one paragraph.

"Foremost among them were his use of controlled feedback coaxing both oceanic waves and subtle flutters; his mastery of a huge range of high volume distorted tones and his piercing, clear lightning-quick blues runs."

Two albums from the Nineties make it into the top ten - Loveless by My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead's The Bends. Only one album since Radiohead's 1995 release is thought to be worthy of the top 100 - Elephant by The White Stripes which was released this year.

Although hardly high on technical merit The Ramones debut album with its straightforward three-chord romps is included for its primitive excitement.

The top ten are:

1. Are You Experienced - Jimi Hendrix Experience.

2. My Generation - The Who.

3. Howlin' Wolf - Howlin' Wolf.

4. Maggot Brain - Funkadelic.

5. Loveless - My Bloody Valentine.

6. The Bends - Radiohead.

7. Ramones - Ramones.

8. Genius Of The Electric Guitar - Charlie Christian.

9. New Orleans Street Singer - Snooks Eaglin.

10. The Rock'N'Roll Trio - Johnny Burnette And The Rock'N'Roll Trio.

Sunday 20 July 2003

Carlos SantanaThis weekend's other birthday boy is Carlos Santana, who is 56 today.

Saturday 19 July 2003

Brian MayHappy birthday to the maestro of the home-made guitar himself, Mr Brian May, who is 56 years old today.

I'm glad to see he's not wearing his clogs on that skateboard!

Check out Brian's official website here:

Friday 18 July 2003

Gruhn Guitars - THE source for the vintage instrument world.
The Genius of Lloyd Loar - The roaring '20s was a period of blatant disregard for laws, boundaries, and tradition. It was also an age of invention. In 1922 a brilliant acoustic engineer named Lloyd Loar developed the Mastermodel series of acoustic instruments and invented the first solidbody electric viola. Loar was the architect of the modern stringed instrument. This collection features the entire Gibson Mastermodel series and Lloyd Loar's personal instruments, which include his electric-viola, mando-viola, and musical saw.

Tuesday 15 July 2003

Guitar Project: "Frankie 2"

This weekend I started to put together a second "Frankenstrat" from various odd bits and pieces that I had been accumulating. I had acquired a very attractive Strat body with a red transparent finish. Thinking that this could be the starting point for a really classy looking guitar, I bought a pearloid scratchplate, which came "loaded" with pickups, pots, wiring, etc (I got it for a very good price).
Strat body, with pearloid scratchplate in place

I already had a neck that I though would be suitable for this project, and indeed it was of the correct scale length and fitted the neck pocket in the body perfectly. Just one bizarre thing about this neck though, it was a left-handed neck with an Explorer-style headstock! Nevertheless, I thought it looked well cool, and let's face it - bog-standard STRATS ARE BORING! I wanted this one to look just that little bit different. (Actually, it strongly resembles one of the Strat-type guitars made by the Robin company in the 1980s.)
Strat body, with left-handed Explorer neck attached

So, I went about attaching all the parts: scratchplate, neck, tremolo claw, trem-bridge, springs, etc, and then wired it up to the jack socket. Plugged it in and ... it doesn't work. Arghhh!!! Looks like I've mixed up the wires and soldered the wrong one to the tremolo claw (for the earth), and so forth.

So... I had to remove the scratchplate so as to re-arrange the wires and poke them through the correct holes for the jack socket and tremolo cavities. But, as I was to find out, I couldn't take the scratchplate off with the neck in place, as the neck had a fingerboard extension to allow for 22 frets, and this was overhanging the scratchplate and stopping me from removing it.

I had to take the whole thing to pieces and re-wire it, then put it all together again. Once again I tested it through an amp (I had strung the guitar with a single string for testing purposes). Still not working! Grrrr... back to the drawing board again.

I tell you, I had that guitar assembled and then taken apart so many times that day that I lost count! I then got out my original Frankenstrat project guitar, and had a look under the plates of that one to see how it was wired up. I also consulted other Strat parts that I had, including another pre-wired scratchplate, a bunch of electrics without the plate, and the Strat-style guitbass that I'd been putting together recently. Would you believe it? It seemed that the electrics of no two Strat-style guitars (that I could lay my hands on) were exactly the same! However, in the end I think I worked out what was supposed to go where, and also discovered that I hadn't wired the original Frankenstrat properly either, as the tone controls were not working (this I fixed, obviously).

Despite getting all three guitars - Frankenstrats 1 and 2, and the guitbass - wired up as they should be (and double-checking against a circuit diagram I had found on the net), every time I tried out the guitars on my amp I was hearing a horrible humming.

At the end of Saturday I can tell you I was thoroughly sick to death of Stratocasters. However, yesterday it occured to me that the new Vox Brian May Special amp that I had been testing the guitars with might simply not like Stratocasters! So, again, I tried out all three guitars on my little Washburn practice amp. Perfect!!!

So, a word of warning there: Don't get a Vox Brian May Special amp if you want to play a Strat through it, because it'll sound awful. It's not a problem for me as I have other guitars.

Frankie 2, looking cool, but still some work to be done on itBut that wasn't the end of my problems with "Frankie 2". Remember that upside-down Explorer style headstock? Well, I soon discovered that my low E-string would fall off the nut because of the extreme angle of the head. I tried stringing all the string up "the wrong way around" and then the high E-string fell off the other side. So, I've now got this stupid situation where all the strings are strung normally except for the low E, for which you need to turn the machine head in the opposite direction from all the others in order to tighten the string. Not a very good situation really, so I'm going to have to find some kind of string retainer to screw to the front of the headstock for the strings to pass under.

So, how did the string stay in place on that neck originally, you ask? Well, the neck shows signs of having a lockin nut fitted. Not thinking that a replacement locking nut would be needed as I was only fitting a standard Strat-style tremolo to this guitar, I simply glued a non-locking roller nut in place. This turned out to be another mistake, as I hhadn't considered the height of the nut. I really should have filed out a little channel for it to sit in, as currently it is 1.5 mm too high, so the action at the bottom (headstock-end of the neck) is too high, making chords a right pain to play.

However, I did do quite a nice job of cutting out and shaping a little plate to cover the holes from the old locking nut on the headstock. I made the shape deliberately asymmetrical to echo the shape of the head, and I think it looks quite nifty!

So, still a few things to sort out on this guitar (see part 2 - coming sometime in the future), but it does look cool!

Sunday 13 July 2003

The Art of Jimi - Photographer-designers Gered Mankowitz and David Costa will unveil their long-anticipated Hear My Message project in September, consisting of a limited-run Fender Stratocaster guitar that celebrates Jimi Hendrix. Only 375 examples will be made of the Ink Icon Guitars Portrait Edition reproduction of a 1969 N.O.S. Fender Stratocaster. Constructed by Fender's Californian Custom Shop, each model will be decorated with a classic portrait shot of Hendrix by Gered Mankowitz, silkscreened onto the body with the lyric "Hear My Message" (from 'Message To Love') reproduced in Jimi's hand. The guitars can be ordered through

Saturday 12 July 2003

Website problems: Sorry folks, I am well aware that certain images in the archives of this weblog are not working. This is because my hosting site (which was supposed to offer 50mB free for life) has inexplicably been deleted. I am desperately trying to find all the photos from the archives and load them up to another server, then make the corrections in the code. Most my pics were on a CD-R labelled "Guitars and Stuff", but can I find this anywhere now? Grrrrrr...

(The "My Guitars" section needs re-doing anyway as it is now hopelessly out of date.)

Thursday 10 July 2003

Yesterday, my Vox Brian May Special amp arrived at last. (Well, I say arrived, but I still had to go collect it from the music shop and then hump it all the way home. A handle in the box wouldn't have been too much to ask, I feel).

Anyway, I've not had a really good trial with it yet. Just tried out various settings and experimented playing various different guitars through it. I'll try to write a fuller report on it later.

More info at

Tuesday 8 July 2003

WD Music UK/Europe - Great Britain's largest online source of guitar parts!

Monday 7 July 2003

Designed to revive the lost art of self accompaniment, the The Porchboard (floor) Bass is an amplified, analog, rhythm instrument originally intended for solo guitar players. As a player-controlled timekeeping tool, it is beneficial for students, song writers and seasoned musicians.

Because it incorporates the natural technique of tapping your feet to the music, it allows the musician to control the bass rhythm without using artificial rhythm machines or midi equipment. Each tap of the player's foot produces a low-end, full-bodied, bassy beat that is more percussive than a bass guitar, yet sounds fuller and more resonant than most bass drums.

When accompanying a guitar, the PORCH BOARD (floor) BASS gives the impression that the bass "notes" are changing, allowing the solo performer to play with heartfelt intimacy and with a natural, bass beat that many desire. The perfect guitar accessory, the PORCH BOARD (floor) BASS can be mastered in a minimum amount of time... (more)

Saturday 5 July 2003

Epiphone JuniorEpiphone Junior

I recently acquired this rather gorgeous fire-engine red Epiphone Junior which is a budget version of the now legendary Gibson Les Paul Junior guitar, this one having a bolt-on neck.

Anyway, I'm not going to be able to hang on to this lovely guitar, as I have got something like twenty in the house now and it's getting a bit out of order. So, I will be selling this on very soon. If anyone in the UK is interested, please contact me. Offers in the region of £100 please (very reasonable I think).
Lady Six String - your online guide to the female guitarist!

Friday 4 July 2003

Wayward guitar brand back for a rockin' encore - an article about Dean guitars.
I just couldn't resist buying this old and battered cello guitar as a renovation project - it just looks so beautiful.
Cello guitar

Here's a close-up of the main damage, where the neck has pulled forward and the area behind the neck has become unstuck.
Cello guitar - close up of damage

It looks like the neck needs re-setting and the whole thing clamping up somehow. If anyone has any tips or knows how to do this, then please contact me.

Wednesday 2 July 2003

No one asks for encore from 520 guitar players
By Reuters, 6/29/2003

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - They might have played out of tune, but at least they're the world's largest guitar band.

More than 520 serious and would-be guitar players gathered in Portland, Oregon Sunday to set a record for Guinness World Records and raise funds for a nonprofit organization for the homeless.

The massed guitarists strummed Woody and Arlo Guthrie's ''This Land is Your Land'' in the key of G for an hour, led by a band of amplified musicians from a local music store.

Participants wore lyrics and chord guides on the backs of their shirts to aid the players behind them.

''I thought I might cry because an hour is a long time but I think also there is something in the song,'' said organizer Monica Beemer.

To meet Guinness requirements, guitarists registered before two witnesses and wore numbers during play. Beemer, who worked with Guinness officials, said the record was easily set.

''We really can't fail today because there is no record,'' she said. ''Next year we'll try to break this record.''


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