Saturday, 23 April 2022

Was never going to try that again...but Paul Davids made me

Paul Davids is such a likeable guy.  Good musician, guitarist, video producer - he has a knack for how many words are too many - and are too few.  I've been watching him for years, right back to when he was in his old house...yeah, he started his youtube channel 4 years after me...  He has a quirky accent to boot.

Anyway, he talked about Never Going Back Again, the fantastic (Fleetwood Mac) Lindsey Buckingham fingerstyle piece. From one of the best albums of all time, "Rumours".  It's a complicated piece, and I'd meddled with it decades ago, but never really bothered to properly learn it.  It's one of those pieces that is already completely full, there's no room to add the melody on top - although Kelly Valleau did with a slightly modified tuning.

I haven't felt the need to learn something complete rote for a long time.  But Paul Davids put out a challenge, so I am learning it completely from the sheet.  Paul was nice enough to include tab portions on his video which I bashed into musescore, now it's just play play play until it gets into your head.  It is within my capabilities, and I can play all the phrases.  But there a big problem, which he did point out, and I also experienced while arranging and learning "The Great Gig in the Sky" have to hold strange bar chords for long times.

Now you can only really hold constant bar chords for a few minutes at a time, which isn't really enough time to get the Travis picking polyrhythm funky chord positions that the song is into your noggin.

The end result I had with "The Great Gig in the Sky" is play it every time you pick up the guitar, after a few months it will go in.  Luckily this song is repetition of the same and similar phrases, so there is less to learn and you can go through the whole thing more then once in a sitting.

So it shouldn't take me months 👍

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

$AUD142 experiment

It could be the Covid-19 talking (I'm nearly over it) but with the time at home in isolation I thought, measured, played, thought some more and rashly laid down $AUD(2022)142 for a very custom telecaster neck.  As previously discussed, 42mm necks on electric guitars don't suit my classical guitar mindset and I'm not at a point where I want them to. But because telecasters/copies are a standard design (thanks Leo!) you can get necks off the internet left right and centre. But every one of them a 42mm nut...

"Big Lou" in the US makes really wide necks for teles and strats, good on him! Good price, $100USD but shipping is more than half the price again!

Now since I live near Asia...well, relatively speaking...and Asia makes, well, most everything, I did an experiment on Aliexpress.  I asked around with the fender neck copiers who could make a 48mm nut neck.  (That's your 1 7/8" nut, so the same as a wide acoustic, but smaller than a classical.  With the fat strings on a classical 48mm feels like a good compromise.) One store didn't get back, one said "can't make" and another said "yes".

I have found in the past that you get amazing stuff out of China for the price. They really know what they are doing and do it in massive volumes.  Sure you get junk but you know when it is going to be junk. How about a custom guitar neck? Hmm. My engineering mind tells me the main cutting is done on some sort of CNC machine, so with a fixed program they can churn out hundreds at a time.  But if they don't have the program for something a bit different, how will they go?

 "Detailed" Custom Telecaster neck specification...

The person I dealt with was extremely responsive and friendly and very forthcoming. But alas, I have found even asking for something off the shelf can be difficult with the cultural and language difficulties. So I carefully worded what I was after, and even drew an annotated picture.  They said "48mm is not standard, are you sure?" - so they were paying attention, that is a good sign. The price went up each time I asked for something non-standard (48mm nut, ebony fingerboard) but I went ahead and paid my $142AUD and now I wait 50 days for it to be built - then they will take a photo before sending it!

What did I order? So Telecaster style, finished neck in maple, matt finish, ebony fretboard with no inlays - but side markings at 5, 7, 12, 17, 19 - and most importantly the 48mm nut width.  So yes, it will look a bit like a classical neck!

Let's see what happens, I'll report back later!

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Neck nut sizes

The size of the nut on the neck of your guitar pretty much sets the "width" of your neck.  Because I started out on classical guitars, typically 50-52mm (1 15/16" -2") that's what was burnt into my brain. When I was given an electric, at 42mm (1 5/8") I played that with a flatpick, but never really got into it.  In the 90's I bought a Maton acoustic, at 44.5mm (1 3/4") I adapted and played fingerstyle on it for a decade.  But as my fingerstyle grew more complex, I found the neck too narrow and restricting for fingerstyle.  I would play my classical and find it easier, but I struggled to go back to the floppy nylon strings.

I tried a crossover nylon in the 2000's with a nut width of 48mm (1 7/8") and I liked it for a year or two, but once I was re-accustomed to nylon strings I went back to a classical at 52mm (2") nut. Full circle, done.

Now I have a new electric, at 43mm (1 11/16"), yeah, that's really cramped for fingerstyle for me.

Playing solo - I would stick with the classical.  However, when I play in a band that has keyboard, multiple vocals, drums and bass, the classical is lost - it sits too close in sound with the keyboard and the vocals.  Acoustic strummed with a pick fits in nicely because it is super-bright, but I want to do more than strum cowboy chords!

Important distinction: Acoustic with pick (or fingernails) - very bright.  Classical with fingernails, mellow with only a hint of sparkly bright coming through the fingernails.

Another important distinction: Acoustic - tough hard fretting.  Classical - lighter touch fretting, on par with electric guitar fretting.

So to get the electric to fingerstyle playable in a band setting I think I will change the neck over to around 48mm (1 7/8") at the nut.  (Remembering that steel string trebles are nice'n'skinny not like classical, so I don't think you need the full 50-52mm.)

Alternatively, put the classical through a super brightening pedal effect.

I'll get back to experimenting :-)

GuitarNut Width    
Nut Width
Telecaster copy43mm1 11/16"
Maton Acoustic44.5mm1 3/4"
Crossover Yamaha Nylon    48mm1 7/8"
Esteve Classical52mm2"

Sunday, 13 March 2022

I bought an electric guitar!

Perhaps this comes as no surprise based on my my recent post, but after half a century I actually purchased an electric guitar. "Am I reading this right JAW, is this the first electric guitar you have ever bought?"  Yes, that is correct.  While I have mentioned that I do own an electric guitar that my mum bought for me when I was 16, I never really got into it, and have been playing nylon and acoustic all my life instead.  So no, I had never bought an electric guitar, until now.

Before you get too excited, it is second hand, not new. I see that as a good thing - worn in, with history! But since my last post I had already been watching the local classifieds for telecasters.  One came along that really intrigued me.  Because this one has an acoustic pickup in addition to the normal magnetic coils. I kept telling myself no, I don't need it, I won't like it, but it was too late, curiosity got the better of me.  I had to try it.  And then when I did, I still didn't know if I would be able to do anything with it, but I had to have it.  I was pretty ruthless; the poor dude who was selling it had been trying for two weeks to unload it.  He probably paid around $AUD1400 for it new, he started the price at $800, he let it go to me for $500.  Nice bloke - thanks Will.

Guitar styled after a 90's Fender Telecaster.

So what is it JAW? It's a Michael Kelly, in 1955 Telecaster style.  I think it is quite pretty - it has a book matched maple front, quite a thick chunk from the look of it.  A nice sunburst finish around the edges. The white pearl styled pickguard is a bit much, I am already picturing a project down the track to make a replacement black one - it will look slightly reminiscent of the George Harrison Tele.  The volume and mic selector switch is very 50's telecaster.  But it is the acoustic pickup that sold me.

If you look carefully there is a three way switch on the front up near the guitar strap, and a knob towards the bottom.  The switch controls whether the acoustic pickup is included (acoustic only / acoustic + electric / no acoustic) and the knob controls the mix level.  When I played it, I thought the (Fishmann powerbridge) acoustic pickup - part of the bridge - it sounded fantastic. I will talk more about this pickup in the future.

But also, the whole guitar was lively - quite lively.  I could feel the vibration through the whole thing as I was playing it. Like every part of it was resonating.  I haven't played many electrics, but that was new to me.  It's only really my Esteve classical guitar that I have noticed that every part of it is trying to produce sound like that.

So it's at home, I have played it a bit.  Still don't like the skinny neck.  The intonation is not right, I think I will be able to fix it, but electric guitar intonations never seem right.  The light strings - the light touch is, well, kinda nice.  Acoustics are brutal on the left hand, unforgiving.  Nylons are touchy, also unforgiving.  We will see if this is also unforgiving in its own way.  But being an electric, well, if I don't like the neck I could always buy a wider one and bolt it on :-)

Another toy arrived a week later - a effects pedal.  But that is a story for another day.


Saturday, 26 February 2022

What's happening February 2022

I've hit a practise low. I have finished my arrangements for Cream - White Room, Dragon - Rain, Bob Dylan - It's All Over Now Baby Blue, Queen - I Want to Break Free and I am not happy with my ability to play any of them.  I can be a perfectionist and am overly self critical, but normally I can forgive myself,  just create and post.  But this time I seem to be unable to even get any of them to the most basic level of play through that I would expect.  My practise is currently unfocused - we should all be practising intentionally - normally I can wing it through a song with just ad hoc practise - so without focused intentional practise - but not at the moment.  Not sure what the solution is, I'll report back.

Possibly as a result of the above, for the first time in a long time I have thought about playing the electric guitar.  Fingerstyle of course, I'm not a philistine! ;-) The only electric guitar that I have ever owned, which my mum bought me when I was 16, does the job but I've never really enjoyed playing it fingerstyle.  One recording exists of me playing it on youtube, a long time ago, 2007. I feel that a telecaster is the right guitar for fingerpicking, it seems like a simple unit with no fancy floating bridge making it go constantly out of tune, but I've never tried one.  As if by magic, Joe Robinson played one for his first song on his previous livestream and as much as he nailed it, I just didn't like the sound!  I think one of the reasons I am considering an electric is because my touch has become so heavy, I need to restrict myself by playing an instrument that demands a light touch.

There's a lot to unpack in all that, but I think I'll go play the guitar instead.  I've got a bunch of songs to record!