Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why a Jazzmaster?

A Gibson amp from the '60's
In about 1962 I bought a used Fender Jazzmaster and a Gibson amp. I bought it from a high school classmate. This was my first electric guitar. I think I was attracted to it because it was cheap and available. I knew nothing about guitars or how cool this guitar actually was. If I still had it it would be worth about eight or nine grand. I don't remember much about the amp but it was brown, heavy and loud. Gibson amps of that era are not well regarded and lets face it, old electronics are hardly up to modern standards. My Fender Frontman is better sounding and the controls are in front, where they should be.

Fender introduced the Jazzmaster in 1958. They thought two things would happen; First, that it would be their top model surpassing the Stratocaster and second, that it would appeal to jazz players, hence the name. The guitar had a new shape – the “Offset Waist Contour Body”,  a little thicker and bigger than the strat but very comfortable, belly cut and arm contour.  The sound was governed by a new pickup that was wound flat as compared to strat single coils that are wound vertically. This pickup looks like a p90 and it has some of that sound but it is very warm. Especially good for jazz. 

Most guitars today have rosewood fingerboards but I have read that this was the first in the Fender line. Almost all are either maple or rosewood today.

Leo Fender designed a floating tremolo for the original 'master but the one that I have is the classic player version and has an improved tremolo. 

The Jazzmaster has a dual set of controls. The bottom set is a traditional volume, tone and three-way switch. A vertical slide switch at the upper bout switch you to a new set of volume and tone that are mounted so that just a part of the thumb dial is visible. This is pretty much another way to access the neck pickup but it is even warmer than the bottom settings. This is the "Jazz" setting.

Turns out that most jazz players just were not interested in a Fender solid-body guitar but the Ventures, a sixties group that influenced my early playing, and many surfer guitarists seemed to like the solid-mellow sound. The guitar also seems to often turn up in alternative rock bands.

My Classic Player model that I bought in 2010 is a lot like the original except the bridge doesn't rattle and the tremolo is a little farther back on the body making the strings a little softer to play. I'd be lying if I said it sounds like my old one. I don't remember that much from my high school years. I love it because it feels like the original.

Note: If you look closely at the pictures you will see that my guitar came with two volume knobs. This was a manufacturing error and Sweetwater was quick in sending me a tone control knob.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More Lytro Shots

 As promised here are a couple more Lytro examples. These show how the focus can shift on an image. As you can see the focus can be on any object or place in the picture... Means thinking about images in a new way. The window shot is so much like we actually see that it is amazing.

More about Lytro from their website:

Lytro was founded in 2006 by Executive Chairman Ren Ng, whose Ph.D. research on light field photography won Stanford University’s prize for best thesis in computer science in 2006 as well as the internationally recognized ACM Dissertation award.

In 2012, Lytro released the world’s first consumer Light Field Camera which offers photographic capabilities never before possible, such as focusing a picture after it’s taken, changing the perspective in the picture and creating interactive living pictures that can be endlessly refocused and enjoyed by friends and family online. Lytro was named one of Time Magazine's 50 Best Inventions of 2011, was Popular Science's Innovation of the Year, 2011 and took home the Last Gadget Standing Award and Best of Innovations Award for Digital Imaging at CES in 2012.

Monday, October 6, 2014

So What is A Lytro Camera...

I own one and I'm still not actually sure... It takes a picture like the one below. How is this a big deal? Well, click on the kid's nose... then on the flowers in the left corner, give it a second and you will see the focus change. The picture is an image that can be refocused on demand because it is generated from a different kind of picture engine.  It is quite amazing, easy to use and hare do explain. I hope I'll do a better job after I learn how to use it.

The camera looks like this: About 4 inches long with a big f2 lens on one side and a viewfinder on the other. It has an 8x zoom and is wifi capable. Dumps the pictures to my phone and then stores them for me online if I want. the picture above is a link to their photo sharing website. Because they need software for display it may be a while before you can have them on the wall.

Lytro Light Field Camera

Want to know more? Click on the image above to go to

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

John D'Angelico's Guitar

When I was in high school I had a Gibson Johnny Smith model guitar, it was about the top of their line and in 1963 when I got it there were only a few guitars that cost more. Don't ask how I got it, its too long a story, suffice it to say my father respected my taste in instruments. The Johnny Smith Guitar sold for about one-third of what a Chevy Impala cost at the time. 

When I started looking to buy a jazz guitar about 10 years ago, I learned that the Johnny Smith guitar was actually a copy, or knockoff, of a guitar built by John D'angelico in the 1940's. He and his apprentices built about 1200 guitars of various designs. Often the guitars were custom made for specific guitar players. Johnny Smith actually had one of these.
In the 90's, I think, the D'Angelico brand and design was bought by a company and the manufacture of the guitars was moved to Japan. A company called Vestax was commissioned to build them. 
I bought this one used about ten years ago on ebay. It is the pride of my guitars, one of the best playing and sounding guitars I have. The metal is thick gold and the fingerboard is ebony with large split block inlays. They still make guitars guitars of this quality but not many and not cheap. 
This one is an NYS-2 in vintage sunburst. It is a small guitar, a 14" body. This is actually inspired by John D'Angelico because he never made a 14" guitar.  It has a single "Johnny Smith" style humbucker attached to the neck, not the body. 
The pegboard inlays are intricate and beautiful. There is even an inlay of pearl on the back of the pegboard. The classic stairstep design is featured in the tailpiece, truss rod cover and pickguard.
The guitar has worn particularly well, it has a beautiful finish, slim neck and a great sound.

More about John D'Angelico on Wikipedia