Monday 26 September 2022

Custom Neck Installed

It finally happened, but not what I had planned... Back in March 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 my next 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!

In Musescore version 3, 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. In version 4 it's right there in Format->Style->Score. 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 vary 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!