Monday, 26 September 2022

Custom Neck Installed

It finally happened, but not what I had planned... Back in Marc I bought an electric guitar, and then ordered a custom neck which arrived in May at which time I realised I had accidentally specified a Strat neck pocket instead of a Tele neck pocket.  While I _could_ have made it fit, I sat on my hands for a few months agonising over it, and then eventually snapped and bought a cheap second hand Strat copy from the pawn shop and installed the neck on that.

It's been an interesting exercise, I've learnt a lot.  Here is some of it!

Thanks again Leo Fender for standardising bolt on necks.  The Strat copy I bought is the same neck as a real Strat and the same as what a bloke in China made with his bare hands. So it fits just fine.  not sure why you changed the design between Strats (overhanding fretboard in the neck pocket) and Teles (flat ended in the neck pocket) though.

Looks pretty! I like the classical guitar
fretboard and the overall simple clean lines

Handmaking the nut is not complicated, but it is tedious.  There are numerous tutorials on the interwebs so I don't need to write it up here, but I am going to talk more about spring spacing in another blog. By the time I had finished the nut I was already dissatisfied with it and I will be re-making it, but it will do for now. Shout out to Mr Manchester for his handy spacing calculator. When I make me next, and better one, I will talk about it some more then.

Aligning the neck is nerve wracking.  Clamp the neck into the pocket, put on both E strings and then rotate it until the neck is square.  Then drill!  I reckon I was pretty close - I won't need to fill the holes and do it again.

Something as simple as drilling tiny screw holes to hold the machine heads in place.  This seems so obvious in hindsight - but screw on the machine heads first, wiggle them so they are perfectly lined up, then screw the little holes to lock them in place so they don't rotate. Not before! Streuth, I don't know what I was thinking - I was rushing it.

Enough talk about the build! What is it like to play? How does it sound?

Ha ha - I don't know yet!  I think I like it! I think I don't like it! I am going to remake the nut because the intonation for the low E is awful - the action is too high - and the top E needs to come in, it's too close to the edge of the fretboard.

But it sounds like an electric guitar, so I took a moment to record something electric guitarish:

A shout out to my Patreons who help fund projects like this, and keep me supplied with fresh guitar strings 👍

Friday, 23 September 2022

Musescore Swings!

"If you gotta ask, you'll never know" - an old response to "What is swing?"

My hands found swing a long time ago - my brain had no idea what they were doing, but it sure felt groovy.

So when I started tackling arrangements with swing, I just couldn't get down what I was playing. I generally left the swing out with an instruction "just listen and play it like that". Occasionally the swing was so prominent and important I had to put it in the sheet. For example in 2019 I attempted to write out "Gold" by John Stewart as swung and got this:

Which I quickly abandoned because "something just isn't right, and wow, that's hard to type in."

But it's actually a good insight into how swing is notated - that above is text book "shuffle" - so I discovered. Secret let out - swing is delayed offbeats. Forcing the notation into triplets like I did above is a hard shuffle where the normal offbeat (the "and" note between main beats) is pushed out from 1/2 of the way to 2/3 of the way to the next note.

So when I recently took on "Horse With No Name" I once again came up against how to get that swing feel into Musescore. Because when I played the song I realised that my hands were playing swing. (How do they do that? How do they know when something swings, and when something doesn't? See opening sentence.)

So in my frustration I googled "Musescore swing". And what do you know, it's been there all this time! Musescore for the win!

Like a few features of Musescore, you actually just add text to a note, and that brings up a properties option, and in this case you can set the swing options. And the people who write the Musescore software are clearly music geniuses - there is a percentage setting for the swing delay, so 50% means the offbeat note is "where it should be" out to 100% meaning the offbeat note is actually on the next beat (ha ha - let's call that "ultimate swing").

But let's not just talk about it, let's see it in action! Here are the first 4 bars "straight" to begin with and then "swing" at 60%, which feels about right.

Look, this is big improvement, but it is a strict rigid swing. I can hear that my hands actually varying the swing per offbeat as they go - for instance, "the" in "all the life" doesn't quite sound right in the above. I experimented with the swing setting after I did this, and discovered my hands actually swing "the" around 65% rather than 60%.

At least half of my arrangements need swing turned on I reckon - the text "Swing" at the top, and then when it plays back you hear the delayed offbeats.

"If you gotta ask, you'll never know" - but now we know, and luckily you never asked 🙂


Monday, 5 September 2022

What's happening September 2022

Quite a lot going on! Guitar repairs, new songs, playing out, where to start? Quick review, more details later!

  • "Fixed" the nut on the classical using the old supa glue and filler trick. The tips is to use bicarb soda as a filler - ie, make a "cement" of bicarb and superglue, and fill the slot. Then when it is hard, file it down. I thought that bicarb of soda sounded a bit wimpy, so I filed a bit of bone dust off a spare nut I had. Don't do this. The bone dust is nowhere near fine enough. While it made a good cement, and I was able to file it down, and now the buzz is all gone - it's so rough the string won't slide through when you are tuning. You have to yank it, and it twangs as it moves. No good. I will have to fix this properly.
  • I'm "playing out", kinda. I left my old classical guitar at work, some mornings if I'm early I'll play a few tunes before work, but on Fridays I would go to the park nearby and play for an hour lunch break. One Friday, it was raining and cold so I asked the security dudes if there was somewhere in the building I could play. They said to go into the break out room - it's quite a big room, there is a TV and couches and a kitchen and tables for people to have lunch at. Not normally very busy, so I sat in there and played for an hour. It's good practise, gotta keep all these songs fresh. A few people would stop and chat, but mostly quiet. But then last week it was getting busy, and people asking me if I'm doing this again next week. So, kinda playing out, kinda building an audience :-)
  • So I listened to Rick Bee-at-oh talking about famous songs that were only two chords. Rick is an interesting guy. Him and Mary Spender (an interesting lady) and another dude played them - one of them was "Horse With No Name" and I was, "No way, that's not just two chords". Went and listened to it. Yep, it's two chords. "That one will be easy to fingerstyle, shirley!" Well it is, and kinda addictive.
  • My eldest daughter, yes the one mentioned in the Canon in D, now 18, was in Sydney last month and while there saw Gorillaz in concert. Said it was a hoot. You know, I never realised that Damon was the lead singer of Blur. It all makes sense now. Anyway I looked at a bootleg video of the concert, and 19-2000 came on. I'd always liked that song. Thought - "I might be able to fingerstyle that". And I did. There is a lot of flying up and down the fretboard, so it's hard to be accurate. More practise required. But I reckon I've come up with a perky arrangement. Check it out!


Friday, 19 August 2022

Best Albums of All Time

I hinted in my last video about Best Albums of All Time. No - not best songs, but particularly best albums, from the days when albums used to be a thing. I generally don't post click bait Top-14-Best-Things-Everrr but the comment I made had me thinking a bit - what albums have had an effect on me over the course of my life, and what albums have stood the test of time, what are the ones I would play through right now? Let's find out, in my most favourite listenable order!

1. Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon - 1973 Phase 2 No surprise here, this has been with me since I found it in the late 80's. Only album I have put all songs to fingerstyle. I would still listen to this album once a month, sometimes more.

2. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here - 1975 Phase 2 Also no surprise, I discovered this album at the same time as Dark Side of the Moon. Not much more to say, I also listen to this album once a month. Great album.

3. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours - 1977 Phase 1 Every song stands on its own. Not a concept album like the previous two, but they all link together in such a great way. Well crafted, great album, my dad had me listening to it the moment it came out. Musically this album was very formative.

4. Ween - The Mollusk - 1997 Phase 3 I was put onto this by a friend when it came out, and I couldn't stop listening to it. Another concept album, and another album where each and every song stands on its own. Some dark themes in there, all very progressive rock. Caution - coarse language. Fun fact - the cover was created by Storm Thorgerson, who did a lot of art work for Pink Floyd.

5. Jeff Wayne - War of the Worlds - 1978 Phase 1 Another concept album, imagine that! A science fiction rock opera with recurring motifs and such varied characters. I loved the LP art - I would stare at those pictures as a kid while listening, I felt closer to "being a part of a story" through that music and art than any movie had ever done.

6. ELO - ELO's Greatest Hits - 1979 Phase 1 A collection of great songs, it was my dad that put this music in my head. Wonderful collection of Rock and Electronic perfect for my early teens. Strange that they released a "best of" so early on, there were several albums with great songs after this one. I like all the songs on this album, but it is missing "Don't Bring me Down" - that should have been there!

7. The Presidents of the United States of America - The Presidents of the United States of America - 1995 Phase 3 My wife and I would play this loudly while imbibing a few beverages. It fit perfectly in those early marriage years, just fun and catchy music.

8. Meatloaf - Bat out of Hell - 1977 Phase 1 Just classic rock. Another album my dad put into my head. Lots of emotion, lots of meaning. Each song great listening.

9. Tame Impala - Lonerism - 2012 Phase 3 A band from my home town, this is a great fusion of old school psychedelic rock, catchy pop rock, and interesting synth sounds. One or two songs are a little too far out there for me, but this is an album I can listen to from start to finish anytime. Interestingly, this is the "newest" album on my list, and yet it has an old school sound.

10. Metallica - And Justice for All - 1988 Phase 2 This dropped at the exact time I was ready for this. I didn't like hard heavy metal, but this more pop/rock flavour of heavy metal really worked for me. Full of political commentary which gelled with me at the time, these days not so much. But I could still sing you each song.

11. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction - 1987 Phase 2 As above, this was released at the right time in my life. One or two songs don't work for me quite as much as the rest, but its relentless beat, and like the above, political and personal commentary, just clicked for me at the time.

12. Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morissette - 1995 Phase 3 My fondness for this album comes mostly via my wife. Well crafted, razor sharp lyrics - anger abounds - but tempered with the occasional sweeter side.

13. Iron Maiden - Powerslave - 1984 Phase 2 Discovered during the time I was enjoying the heavier side of music. Has a bit of a concept feel to it with its nod to ancient Egypt, the last two songs on the album I can still listen to all day.

14. America - History: America's Greatest Hits - 1975 Phase 1 Another album my dad forced into my brain. Some great songs.

15. Ottmar Liebert - Nouveau Flamenco - 1990 Phase 3 A quirky/wonderful instrumental album that was on constant repeat in a café where my wife and I often had tea and cake.  We had pretty much memorised the whole album before we asked what it was and bought it for ourselves.

16. U2 - The Joshua Tree - 1987 Phase 2 Probably the only album in my list here that is a celebrated "best album of all time" that got so much airplay I bought the album because it was just really good. Side one is a standout, side two doesn't standout but is quite good.

So I noticed that these albums came into my life over 3 broad periods of time:

  • Phase 1 - 5 albums - the 70's stuff my dad caused me to fall in love with when I was young;
  • Phase 2 - 6 albums - the stuff I found myself in my late teenage years when I was music focused;
  • Phase 3 - 5 albums - the albums I discovered from my 20's until now.

There are a few albums I have not listed on purpose, all great albums, but they exhaust me. Like Pink Floyd The Wall and The Final Cut. There should be at least one Beatles album there, but I find Beatles Albums are always a mixed bag - half brilliant songs, and half don't work for me. Even their greatest hits albums aren't 100% keepers. Same with Queen and Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd Meddle was a close call, but I only really listen to two of the 5 songs. I was close to putting Midnight Oil Beds are Burning on the list, again, another album at just the right time for my musical sensibilities at the time, but I couldn't listen to the whole album.


Wednesday, 27 July 2022


Quite a while ago, I noticed a bit of a buzz in my main classical guitar, the Esteve 1GR-11. I was quite convinced it was in the body, some wire or something from the pickup. It was very mild, on the D string, and only when I plucked really hard. I occasionally shook it, wiggled wires around when I changed strings, but it was not getting better, in fact it was slowly getting worse!

Test strip of paper and new nut
- will need some filing

When I recorded my most recent song, it was kinda bad, and was also now on the A string. So I really took to it properly this time, torch and mirror in the body and all.  I just couldn't see it.  In desperation I asked my wife - "where do you think this buzz is coming from? She immediately said "it's on the fretboard."

Yer what? No way! But, she was right. And to prove it to myself, I slipped a small square of paper, folded onto itself once, under the string on the nut.  And, with the few thou of extra distance to the fretboard, buzz went away.

It makes sense! The guitar was set up from the factory with nice low action at the nut and the saddle. But after years of tuning, dragging the rough wound string through the nut slot, of course it was going to wear material away.

No problem.  I ordered a bunch of bone nuts, you can get them from AliExpress pre-cut to almost the right size. And in they came. Now I just have to sit down with some sandpaper and a flat edge and slowly file it into place...