Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guitar Tanning!! Tan lines?? Get on your lotion!

Ever think about installing a new pick guard on that old acoustic guitar? Well, there are a few things you should know first. If you have a natural finished guitar or light colored tinted guitar then you might find upon removing your old pick guard that the color beneath the guard no longer matches the uncovered regions of the instrument. Indeed, beneath the bridge, tailpiece and other areas will be affected by light or lack of light in comparison to the exposed areas. About the only thing you can do is replace the pick guard with a larger pick guard to avoid showing an ugly tan line. I've had instruments that never were in the sun but they still had tan lines and short of becoming a vampire and burrowing deep into the earth never to return to the sun - Ya'll just have to deal with it. Or if you have endless supplies of cash, have the guitar refinished by the factory and/or risk devaluing the guitar.

So, bear in mind that if you choose to replace the pick guard, bridge (floating on a archtop) you will need to either go Super-size or deal with those ugly tan lines. However, I've seen some tan lines and I must say that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder ;)

Gagnon Guitars - Nice stuff!

Those that might have visited the Healdsburg Guitar Festival might have seen a lot of very nice guitars and meet a lot of really nice people. One particular vendor caught my eye and subsequently I purchased a few instruments from this noted luthier. I guess what I liked was Bill Gagnon's attitude and approach to the art and the fact that he was very forthright with his methods and building tactics. My instruments, contrary to the Snob title on my page, don't require a lot of ornate or intricate work - Mind you, some of Bill's work is very tedious and ornate - My needs are more along the lines of a relentless tone chaser. My application for the instruments that Bill built for me were fairly simple. I wanted a guitar that I could hook up to my solid state amplifier resulting in a booming dark tone with subtle high frequencies. I chose the Devant 19 inch shape and ebony finger board. Like I said, very simple! The end product is a high grade spruce top with maple sides and backing.

This particular guitar has NO fret markings on the neck board. The pickups are Kent Armstrong floating pickups. Schaller machine heads suit my tuning needs and a TKL case protects my investment.

Playing the instrument unplugged is almost as much fun as plugged in sessions. The top is touch tap tuned which seems to give the instrument a presence and bright sound. I run TL flat wounds but have also experimented with TL round wounds. Either way, the tone is unique and satisfying for my ears. At the time I purchased this instrument I was also looking at Sadowski and Victor Baker. I ultimatly had a great experience with talking to Bill and I let my intuition be my best guide. I do not regret this purchase and would seriously recommend that you check out Bill Gagnon's products before purchasing something else. Bill is located in Oregon. Check him out by clicking on his name - Bill Gagnon.
Jazz guitar luthier listings

Tsunami in Samoa - A tragety unfolds

Tsunami in Samoa - A tragedy unfolds

Yesterday a large scale earthquake registered on my computer. I am interested in physical earth sciences and therefore very connected to the US Geological Society. The news made my hair stand on end as I have a friend and former colleague who now teaches in American Samoa. My Friend Ben is fine but the area is in tatters at best. We could all use a helping hand now so I'd like to send out some good mojo (insert your belief here) to the fine people of Samoa and wish them a speedy recovery!

Though this has nothing to do with Guitars. Regard and concern for our fellow humans does in my view. Thank you! Scott

The following images are copyright protected. Any use requires permission from the orginator and owner -

Ben Albracht

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tone Killers - Some Suggestions to remedy the problem

Often I am called upon to make a repair where a little inspection on behalf of the player might save he/she some money. I have a list of things I check during a routine setup and if one item is out of tolerance then it might just be a TONE KILLER!! Above is an example of a pickup mounting bracket being too close to the strings. In this case the action was off as well and buzzing and lack of sustain were the primary complaints. In addition, the action was low but also I found the pickups to be too close to the strings! In order to fix this I had to determine the proper string height but this setting is tempered by the players desired string height. This is where things get a little sticky. See, the longer the guitar scale (25.5 inch - long) the more the strings will sag over the length of the guitar. The sagging strings oscillate (excellent presentation of string oscillation - click here) when strumming and could cause buzz without fretting a note. A thicker string will sag less than a thin string but most people want thin strings and zero buzzing. It's a nightmare for the luthier to remedy. There are more variables and I'll list those that effect buzzing, sag et all.

Not in order of importance or systemic analysis....
  1. Induced neck bow.
  2. String gauge.
  3. Fret height.
  4. String height above the frets.
  5. Nut slot depth.
  6. Strings not seated on bridge properly.
Frankly, it's not easy to set up a guitar with slinky light strings; low action, zero bow and not have some buzzing. Gibson guitar has started using a PLEK TOOL to help this problem out. The Plek tool will induce bow relative to string tension and then slot the nut and level the frets. It's a pretty cool tool but it's costly and there are just a handful of shops who can afford this device. Speaking with a few experts I've found that if the luthier is experienced, similar results can be achieved by hand but the tolerance will probably not be as tight as the PLEK work. Keep in mind the investment made by those who own the PLEK tool, your cost for repair will be supporting the cost of the footprint of the tool as well as the tool itself. ON the flip side, a job done by hand is usually based on experience which requires time and effort to gain - Therefore, determining which is a better bang for the buck is still dependent on the cost of the work. For manufacturing, there is no doubt that this tool is ground breaking and worth the investment.

Over all, doing routine inspections of your instrument can save your tone. Check all contact points. Look for misaligned strings, dirty fret boards, and string properly seated in the nut. Most professional guitarist frequently change their strings. Strings come in sealed package for a reason. Moisture in the air and other environmental elements oxidize strings. Old strings will kill your tone. I would recommend at least once per month even if you are not using your guitar! If you are playing a show or many shows - then your frequency could become greater. Those who sweat or play often with soiled hands will need to change their strings more often than those of the opposite nature.

Properly maintaining your instrument will help insure a longer life for the instrument and beget years of fun and fulfillment.

Django Reinhardt - Awesome!

First of all, if you don't know about Django Reinhardt then you should find out soon. Django has inspired countless famous musicians.


To learn some of Django's hot licks and tons of additional information, I invite you to click the link below as it has been a tremendous resource for me and I am certain you will enjoy the site as well.
Django tabs and info

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dean - Michael Schenker Flying V - Awesome!

Many people have nice guitars and sometimes I am lucky enough to get to check the wonderful units out myself in person or vicariously through photos. Either way, I love it. But I'd rather be able to hold and play these babies! In this case, I've held her and she's a player yes indeed. The following guitar belongs to a one of Michael Schenker's primary Disciple's of Fanaticism. What am I talking about?

The following is a brief description of a DEAN Michael Schenker artist model. This guitar is very well appointed. The body is outlined with a 7 layer binding with pearl block inlays. This model is number 2 of 100 and personally signed by the Mad Axeman himself - Michael Schenker! The pickups rip up a over driven amp to shreds and yet the tone controls subtly taper down if you need to play some clean lines. This very guitar was shown in Anaheim a NAMM where Mr. Schenker ran it through series of signature riffs and songs. Bottom line - This guitar rocks! DEAN GUITARS did a fantastic job and their customer service is top notch.

The following guitar is owned by Sir James Farinsky:

Now DEAN was not finished. Seems Rudolf was quite anamoured with the DEAN products as well. This partnership gave birth to a Brother's series as well as various other Schenker specials - Check them all out for yourself. If you've never heard the Band UFO, MSG, Scorpions then you are missing out on the bands that paved the way for bands like Metallica, Slayer, Dokken - Buy these tunes and learn where it started. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DEAN GUITARS

Now, as the great FRANK ZAPPA said - Shut up and play ur guitar!!!

Relic 1965 Mustang - FENDER

Jimi Hendrix is well known for being a Fender Stratocaster player but he also played a fender Duo Sonic while touring with the Isley Brothers. But wait, aren't we talking about Fender Mustangs here? Or is it Mustang Fenders??


The Mustang has been produced in the following colors:

For Current Fender guitar colors - Click here

  • Sunburst
  • Candy Apple Red
  • Sonic Blue
  • Vintage White
  • Blonde
  • Black
  • Olympic White
  • Daphne Blue
  • Fiesta Red
  • Lake Placid Blue
  • Dakota Red
  • Surf Green
  • Competition Red

Mustang players

Some noted players of the Fender Mustang are:

Source of Fender Mustang Information - CLICK HERE

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paint your Guitar with Period Correct Colors

Whether you know it or not, Leo Fender used the same paint that was used in the Automobile industry during the 50'. These days, a lot of people prefer the thin nitro paint over the thick glass like coating now being used. As a repair guy I prefer nitro because it is easier to repair. A chip in a Poly finish is usually deeper than that of nitro. The Poly does protect the wood from most of the impact but repair is usually not worth the time as the best that we can do with current resources is fill the crack or dent.

Nitro doesn't wear as well, can be sticky during summer and high humidity but it seems like the wood resonates better with nitro. Once again, this is only my opinion and if ya'll got data to prove otherwise then I'd love to see it. I can always change my opinion but as far as dents go - I doubt that will change unless DuPont creates some wild new Poly coat.

At any rate: If you need some vintage colors then I suggest taking advantage of some surfing that I've done and CLICK here and enter your favorite CAR color for which you'd like to apply to your Guitar!!

Vintage Fender 65 Mustang

The Fender 65 Mustang is a really fun guitar. It's options include: ability to play single pickup either neck or bridge, serial or parallel with a choice of in phase or out. Granted, I wouldn't really be slamming though the settings during an event but it's nice to have the options. The neck has a very narrow profile that made normal necks feel huge so I must say that this neck is indeed small. This guitar has tone that is somewhere between a Stratocaster and Telecaster. It's hard to pin down but a great value and wonderful player. This particular model is owned by David Chan. The neck has an awesome patina and the body is checked but still a beauty! Everyone should own one of these unless you are a metal head - In that case you would not be well served with a Fender Mustang unless you are cutting new ground and some modo freak shredder! :)

D'angelico - Vestax NYL-2

I've played a lot of guitars and the D'angelico NYL-2 by Vestax (Japan) is truly a remarkable instrument. First, it's a great value. The instrument has a AAA Spruce top with an Ebony fret board. The neck size is similar to a 60"s Les Paul and C shaped. Un-Amplified it's tone is round and has a nice dark tone (guitar was tested with Ti-flat wounds). The top is pressed into shape rather than carved. the NYL-1 is indeed a carved. The non carved top in my opinion probably leads to a more uniform top but a less responsive top. However, I have have only qualitative data and thus this is my own opine.

Using a solid state amp the guitar has excellent character and great playability for plectrum or finger style players. I found the tone to be a little darker than a Gibson ES 175 and this is probably due to the surface mounted pickup as apposed to the built in pickups on the ES 175.

Finally, if you are in the market and see one of these on Ebay (no longer produced by Vestax) I would suggest giving the guitar some serious thought in regard to purchase. the workmanship both inside and out is top notch. Pitting the instrument against Eastman's used to be silly as Eastman initially has some quality issues. However, Circa 2004 - The D'angelico is a hands down favorite. Truly a fine instrument. My only critique might be the somewhat gaudy headstock - But it's modeled after the famous D'Anglico luthier guitars and that's just fine! Try one out or buy one for yourself!!