Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Custom Made Guitar

I've always wanted a guitar with my name at the top. I've also been partial to guitars that are spruce top and rosewood sides and back. Ebony is my favorite fingerboard material because its dark and has a very solid feel when you play. I

The headstock design I supplied
knew that it would be very expensive to have this kind of guitar made but... There are several Chinese guitar makers will make you one, to your specifications for very little money. I took a chance and ordered one from a Chinese guitar maker. I used Ali-express to place the order because they guarantee delivery or your money back. They escrow the money until you receive the guitar. Only when you agree that it has been delivered to your satisfaction do they release the money to the seller. 

Mid August I designed a head stock and asked the owner, Kevin Shi, if he could do
The actual headstock on my guitar
The design I sent Kevin Shi
t. He said yes and I proceeded to order the guitar. On October 3rd it arrived in a big styrofoam box covered in packing tape and with stickers in Chinese and English attesting to its tour of American customs. Opening the box was simple enough and out came a beautiful guitar. Shiny and well finished with my name on the top. No labels, numbers or anything else on the guitar. Abalone rosette around the soundhole, beautiful fingerboard markings and even a pretty scallop at the bottom of the ebony fingerboard. The machine heads are gold Grovers and the neck is nice and slim with nice grain and figuring. It is straight and true with perfect intonation. The neck has a visible scarf joint but that is common on Chinese guitars. The frets needed a little dressing and the guitar needed a strap button but other than that is ready to play. I love it.

This is the Guitar. I had to put new strings on it and add a strap button but all in all its pretty nice!
The obvious question is how does it sound. Pretty much like a new, inexpensive guitar. As good as most, not spectacular. I believe it needs about twenty years of age to be really great. I'll not be quite 90 by then. (I plan to be here!) All in all this was a fun experience. Finally a guitar I actually can't sell, who would want a guitar with my name on the head stock?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Is it a Les Paul?

This guitar is called an ES=Les Paul. That usually would stand for electric spanish but in this case it refers to a a guitar that is semi-hollow. The guitar weighs about two and a half pounds less than a solid Les Paul. That is because the solid part is a block that runs down the middle of the guitar. Both the top and bottom sections are actually hollow. Hence the name semi-hollow.

Les Paul's have a great sound but are often too heavy for me. In 2014 Gibson released a semi-hollow Les Paul made in its Memphis USA plant. In 2015 they upgraded some of the features and I could not resist.

This guitar is in the lemon burst finish but the darkness at the edges is very muted. Its almost a lemon colored guitar. The finish is beautiful even down to the soft F hole design in the truss rod cover. The guitar is fully bound and has a very smooth and thin neck with low wide frets. Its fun to play and even has a bit of "woody-ness" that would be expected from a semi-hollow body guitar.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What's a Stratocaster?

The Strat is probably the most iconic electric guitar. If you see a rock band, there is likely to be a Strat or a Strat clone. They sell from $50 or sixty dollars up to tens of thousands for a custom made or classic model.

Basically the Fender Stratocaster features three pickups and a floating spring tension tremelo system. It was the first guitar in this configuration. It was the first Fender with a contoured body. The  "Comfort Contour Body" is less slab like than the tele.

Starting in 1954, the Stratocaster was offered with a solid, deeply contoured ash body, a 21-fret one-piece maple neck with black dot inlays and Kluson tuning heads.

Strats come in a variety of finishes and colors. I bought mine because I fell in love with the color, agave blue. It has a great neck and I've replaced the pickguard from plain white to a pearlized white like my thinline tele. Mine has a maple neck and maple fingerboard. I love these fender maple fingerboards. They are hard and smooth to the touch.

The Stratocaster features three single coil pickups, with the output originally selected by a 3-way switch. Guitarists soon discovered that by jamming the switch in between the 1st and 2nd position, both the bridge and middle pickups could be selected, and similarly, the middle and neck pickups could be selected between the 2nd and 3rd position. Mine has a more modern 5 position switch.

I love the sound and the feel but I've made three "mods" I added a spring to the floating tremolo so that it is not a floating tremolo anymore. Its what is often called a "hardtail" I don't use wammy's and this stabilized the tuning an feel. I added a new pickguard as mentioned above and finally, I replaced the stamped metal bridge pieces with solid chrome. This was to improve sustain but I noticed little difference.

What's a Thinline?

I have a Fender Thinline guitar. Its one of my favorites. It is actually a regular Telecaster that has been hollowed out at the top bout and has an "F" hole signifying that it is partially acoustic. 

The guitar has a wonderfully thin neck with a hard maple fingerboard and very wide low frets. It is a joy to play and has a very woody tone. It also has a tele "twang" when using the bridge pickup and that balances well with the sweet sounds of the neck pickup. Alone the neck pickup is very mellow and downright jazzy.

Designed by luthier Roger Rossmeisl in 1968 and  introduced in 1969 with humbucking pickups.My 1969 version has two standard Telecaster pickups and a mahogany body. Mike was made in Mexico while a more expensive USA made model is still available. I like the color of my Mexican model. 

I originally bought a Squire version of this guitar. Squire is Fender's lower priced line. I liked it so much that I traded up to the Mexican Fender. I like the color too. 

The guitar is remarkably light and easy to play.

(Paraphrased below from Wikipedia)

The Fender Telecaster was developed by Leo Fender in California in 1950. Solid body guitars had been around for about two decades but did not make much of an impact on the industry.
Fender had an electronics repair shop called Fender's Radio Service where he first repaired, then designed, amps and pickups for musicians. 
Leo built a prototype, a white guitar that had most of the features of what would become the Telecaster. It was a wooden guitar with a bolt-on neck.
The initial single-pickup production model appeared in 1950, and was called the Esquire. Fewer than fifty guitars were originally produced under that name, and most were replaced under warranty because of early manufacturing problems.  Later in 1950 a two-pickup model was renamed the Broadcaster. From this point onwards all Fender necks incorporated truss rods.
The so-called Nocaster was a short-lived variant of Telecaster. Produced in early to mid-1951, it was the result of legal action from the Gretsch company over the guitar's previous name, the Broadcaster (Gretsch already had the "Broadkaster" name registered for a line of drums). In the interim, before Fender had come up with an alternate name and printed appropriately revised headstock decals, factory workers simply snipped the "Broadcaster" name from its existing stock of decals, so guitars with these decals are identified simply as "Fender", without any model name.
In 1951 the guitar was officially renamed as the Telecaster and has been known as such ever since.