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.