Monday 31 March 2008

Kramer Focus "Jewel" guitar

Kramer Focus Jewel guitarI appreciate that this very pink girlie Kramer guitar would have been marketed to young girls, but I do hope that Jewel herself doesn't play one, as she'd look a bit silly playing a guitar with her own picture on it.

I can't help being reminded of this exchange:

MILHOUSE: I'm Radioactive Man.
LISA: I don't think Radioactive Man would wear a plastic smock with his picture on it.
MILHOUSE: He would if it was Halloween.

(The Simpsons, Tree House Of Horror X: The Collector's Lair)

Friday 28 March 2008

Brooklyn kids make electric guitars

Brooklyn kids make electric guitarsHow cool is this? For several years now, Paul Rubenstein has been showing schoolkids in Brooklyn, New York, how to make electric guitars.

The kids each design, cut out, build and paint their own six string creations. They even get involved in the electronics side of things, winding their own pickups and building amps too!

Music lessons weren't like this back in my day. We used to have a "music trolley" laden with beaten-up drums, tamborines, glockenspiels, and those most hated of noise-makers, recorders. A ghastly discordant racket was the result. We could only dream about guitars.

What better way to get kids interested in music than to explore the science of how a musical instrument such as the guitar works, to take the hands-on approach and build these instruments, and then to play and record them?

Congrats to all the kids for their cool designs, and to their teacher Mr R for dreaming up the scheme in the first place!

Thursday 27 March 2008

One of Gibson's more eccentric designs...

Gibson CorvusI won't be the first to ask and I very much doubt I'll be the last: Just what were Gibson thinking of in the early 1980s when they dreamt up the design for the Gibson Corvus? Commonly likened to a tin-opener, its seemingly-abstract assymmetrical shape begs the question "WHY?"

My only guess is that perhaps it's an attempt at an ergonomic design. The contours on the body's treble side suggest it was designed to sit comfortably on the lap, and the strap button inside the cutaway at the rear of the guitar is possibly positioned so that the guitar hangs nicely on a strap. (Although, having said that, the other strap button up by neck doesn't look very well situated at all - I can imagine the guitar and strap parting company quite easily without some kind of strap locking device).

I wonder what Robert Irizarry over at Building The Ergonomic Guitar would make of it? Ergonomic or not?

Despite wondering what planet Gibson were on when they produced this guitar, I have to confess that I do actually quite like it. It has a Sci-Fi alien ray gun feel to it, and puts me in mind of Dave Hill's now legendary Superyob guitar.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Thicket to Ride

Shrub Me Do
The Fab Four reformed (as shrubs) in the capital of culture. Yes, it's true, The Beatles have returned to their hometown of Liverpool in privet form. Now, who would have expected that? (Errrmmm... isn't the neck of George's guitar a bit too long? Looks more like a bass scale length. Someone take the secateurs to it, please!)

I also like to take this opportunity once again to recommend Fab Guitars of The Beatles which features just about every guitar they ever used.

Blog Updates

Jazz Guitar illustrationThe eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that topic labels have begun appearing beneath posts. These should aid cross-referencing and searching through the archives. I've been applying these labels over the last several days, and whilst all the most recent entries have been taken care of, not all of the archives are indexed yet. It's a very long process, it seems.

I couldn't help notice how the blog has evolved over the years. Earlier entries were typically much briefer - often being only a link and occasionally a comment. The topics I covered have changed too. These days I don't feature every piece of guitar-related product news that I can find as there are plenty of other blogs doing that now.

Photographs also used to be rather thin on the ground, whereas these days they are a major feature of the blog. I have to apologise for any "dead" photos in some of the earlier archives. Many of these were hosted on a now long-extinct domain; some have been lost forever and others I still have on my hard-drive, but it would be a major task to re-upload and re-link to them all. I'll try to remedy this situation with some of the more pertinent archive materials such as some of those about projects and my own guitars.

By its very nature, some of the archive material will be incomplete. Things change and stories and websites linked to may no longer exist.

Phew! Who knew that maintaining a blog could be such hard work?

Friday 21 March 2008

DiMarzio "Red Beauty" Strat from 1984

Red DiMarzio StratI'm not JP Stratoblogster but if I was I'd choose this as my Strat for Friday.

OK, so it's yet another Strat-type guitar - nothing unusual about that, but WOW! isn't it so very very red? I've certainly not seen the neck and fingerboard coloured in this fashion before. Not on a Strat anyway. I have to say, I really like it.

DiMarzio, of course, are known mainly for their pickups, but back in the 1980s they put their name to a full range of spare parts from hardware to bodies and necks. These days, I believe, they tend to focus mainly on pickups. This red beauty is apparently one that they built for display at the 1984 NAMM trade show. I bet it turned a few heads.

So, it's from 1984, it's built from quality DiMarzio parts, it's American-made [EDIT: No it's not!], it's a one-off... what's not to like?

Unless you don't like red, of course. My nephew, being a Manchester United supporter, would LOVE it (anything red is good in his book), but he's going to have to make do with the Jaxville "relic" guitar I already bought.

Thursday 20 March 2008

Free REM video on iTunes

I'm not the world's biggest REM fan, but I really enjoyed this video of them performing "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" acoustically whilst on the move. You can download it for free on iTunes now - catch it while you can.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Sonny Bono's Veleno guitar

Sonny Bono's Veleno aluminium guitar on eBay

Last week I commented that the metal-bodied Liquid Metal Guitar put me in mind of Valeno guitars.

Well, here's an actual original Veleno as owned by Sonny Bono (of Sonny and Cher) for sale on eBay right now with a Buy It Now price of £14,500.

As is customary with all Valenos, the guitar is made entirely of aluminium (yes, the neck too) and has a real ruby inset in the headstock.

Monday 17 March 2008

The 40 Quid Str*t

40 quid Strat
40 quid Strat40 quid Strat
40 quid Strat40 quid Strat
40 quid Strat40 quid Strat

Just after Christmas my 12-year old nephew was making noises that he'd like to get a guitar, although his mum and dad weren't too sure about spending a lot of money on something that he might possibly lose interest in after a while and end up not using. I suggested that he "borrow" one of my guitars and that if he took lessons and made progress with it then he could keep it permanently. However, a little while after I regretted this slightly as the guitar I had offered - a Washbrun Idol WI64DLX - was actually well suited to down- and drop-tuning, something I'd been recently playing about with. So, I had it in the back of my mind to look out for another guitar for my nephew.

Now I get these regular weekly emails from a company that mainly specialises in recordable CD and DVD blanks as well as various computing items, a few electronic items, toys and things like that. Well, I received such as email last Thursday - it looked like they were having a stock clearance with hard disk and DVD recorders for bargain prices, and also - I noticed - a Jaxville Custom Series "relic" S-type guitar for £39.99 with free postage and packing.

OK, a cheap and possibly nasty guitar, I thought... but at that price, still very tempting. According to the specs the body was made from basswood, which whilst not as desirable as certain types of wood, is a perfectly good solid material from which to build a guitar. So, I reckoned, as long as the body and neck were sound I could always upgrade the hardware and get a workable good sounding guitar for peanuts.

I placed the order Friday morning. The guitar came today. Upon opening the box I admit I was very impressed. It is indeed a solidly-built nicely constructed guitar. The neck is nice and tight in its pocket - no huge gaps like some bolt-ons; the neck appears to be good quality and with what looks like a very dark piece of rosewood for a fingerboard (so dark, I suspect it may have been dyed). The "relic" finish is actually artwork - the guitar hasn't been deliberately dinged and knocked about like custom shop relics. To the touch the body actually has a smooth satin finish. I can't figure out if the relic artwork been printed onto the body or if it is some kind of transfer. Whatever, it is quite nicely done; the look seems to have been influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan's now legendary beat-up Strat. Cream-coloured pickup covers, knobs and selector switch tip in a black scratchplate complete the look.

Did I mention that the action was nice and low?

So far, so good. You know the expression "If it looks too good to be true..." - well I was desperately looking for the catch. Plugging it in I discovered that the pickups didn't sound half bad either. Obviously they're not the best units in the world but are perfectly serviceable and will certainly suit my nephew's needs. If there is a weak link I think it might be the machine heads. They felt cheap and are not the smoothest turning tuners I have ever come across. I think they'll do for now - possibly I can swap them out for something better later.

So, yes... I've been very pleasantly surprised. This should make a very nice starter guitar, and as I've already pointed out could be upgraded with pokier pickups and quality machine heads if desired. Let's see what my nephew makes of it.

Friday 14 March 2008

Is that enough strings? Just buy a harp, already!

15-string bass guitarC'mon, bass players, what's it all about? I mean for years you were content enough with four strings. Then in the 1980s some bright spark had a cunning ploy and added a low B string so as to be able to play bass parts with lows that otherwise only synth players would be able to reach (as was the fashion in the contemporary music of the time) and thus the five string bass was born.*

Then someone else thought "What if we add a high C string" and so the modern 6-string bass came into being.

And then after that it all went completely crackers. Someone else added a 7th string, and then an 8th, a 9th, etc, etc, and so it went on. It became a kind of rivalry between bass players - who could have the most strings.

Now, call me cynical if it makes you happy, but I'd say that 15 strings on a bass is just plain bonkers. And surely with that amount of strings, by definition, you'd have to move out of the bass range and into the treble, so is it really a "bass"?

[* OK, I've skipped over Fender's five and six string basses from the 1960s, but they weren't exactly big successes back then, although they are very cool instruments. I've also not mentioned instruments with the strings arranged in courses, such as those used by Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson: 12-string basses with 4 courses of 3 strings - 4 regular bass strings each grouped with a pair of octave strings.]

Thursday 13 March 2008

18k Glistening Gold Metal Bodied Guitar

Liquid Metal Guitar
You know, I don't ony blog about those instruments that belong in some kind of Guitar Freak Show. I blog about beautiful guitars too.

The very very shiny guitar pictured here is actually an 18K gold plated metal-bodied guitar from Liquid Metal Guitars of Vancouver, BC, who claim to create the most beautiful custom guitars in the world. It certainly looks very eye catching from where I'm sitting.

This particular model GGG #001 went to a collector who collection also includes a gold bodied Veleno from back in the 60/70s, so he obviously likes a bit of bling on his guitars!

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Ghastly Elvis Tribute Guitar

From the people who brought you the tasteless 9-11 guitar, here's this much more amusing and highly over-the-top
Elvis Tribute Strat.
Elvis Presley Tribute Strat
Looks like they've been inspired by the now legendary Carver Doug.

Check the listing for some quite entertainingly bad English, such as:
Just paying happy price you can get very values musical instruments here!
Most of our auctions are starting from very low price even

Please try your good luck to win these valued instruments
They will bring good wealth, happiness to your business and life.
(Oh, I know I shouldn't laugh...)

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Tasteless 9-11 Guitar

I could hardly believe my eyes when when I saw this creation from a Vietnamese seller on eBay. I apologise in advance if this offends, but I feel it is my duty to document abominations such as this.
Tasteless 911 Guitar

WARNING: It gets worse...

Tasteless 911 Guitar
Tasteless 911 Guitar

Monday 10 March 2008

The Five-Necked Flamingo Guitar

Flamingo guitarHere's one from the Archives. I originally linked to this one back in the early days of this blog (the first English-language guitar blog and longest-running guitar blog ever, I hasten to add). I'm featuring this wonderful Flamingo Guitar again, because it's a favourite of mine and you may have missed it first time around.

In case you think I can't count, this guitar does indeed have five necks - mandolin, nylon string guitar, banjo, electric guitar and a Flamingo neck (of course!) and apparently it is fully playable. (That's a Bird of Paradise capo clamped to the banjo neck's 5th string machine head, by the way.)

It was built by luthier Bernard Lehmann, maker of fine acoustic and jazz guitars, as well as one or two oddities like this, two dreadnought guitars joined by one neck, a water-powered electric guitar, and a guitar that is part telephone. Wish I had photos of those!
103-Year-Old Musician Recovers Guitar: Huey Long, once a member of the legendary vocal group the Ink Spots, has been reunited with his guitar after a judge resolved a dispute between the musician and a documentary filmmaker.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Wurlitzer Wild One Gemini Stereo Guitar

I thought they only made organs...

Wurlitzer Stereo Guitar
This is a gorgeously funky-looking and allegedly quite rare Wurlitzer Wild One Gemini Stereo Guitar from 1966, currently for sale on eBay. I love the shape - all straight lines and points. Also, you can't really make it out in the above picture, but each pickup has a selector switch for Jazz / Rock settings (a coil tap perhaps?... except they look like single-coil pickups) and the pickups themselves are engraved with the legends Channel A and Channel B, I guess, in an effort to be user-friendly. Another nice touch is the Wurlitzer W on the Bigsby-style vibrato. (See the album while it's still available for close-up pictures).

Update: The seller contacted me to explain the function of the Jazz / Rock switches:

I am the seller on the Wurlitzer Gemini on Ebay. I just thought I would drop you an e-mail.

The guitar comes with two types of caps and that is were the tone difference comes from.

The jazz setting sounds muted like when you turn the tone down on a pickup and the rock setting is bright and P-90 sounding.

Thanks for your time.


Wednesday 5 March 2008

Humourless Guitarists Take Down Amusing YouTube Mashup Video: An amusing video of various guitarists soloing with some excrutiatingly bad guitar playing dubbed over has been taken down by YouTube after one of the featured guitarists complained. I've got to see this for myself. Apparently it's still available to view on MySpace, so I'm going to search it out.


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