Tuesday, August 30, 2011

James Honeyboy Edwards dead at 96 - RIP

James who learned to play guitar a guitar his father bought him from a share cropper in 1929 for $8 has past away. James had a photographic memory and would often tell of meeting and playing with Robert Johnson who happened to be dating Honeyboy's cousin. Honeyboy won a Grammy for traditional blues album and also received a lifetime achievement award in 2010. His death represent a direct loss of a direct link to the first generation of Mississippi blues musicians. That part history will have to be read about from now on.

Born in 1915, Honeyboy was playing professionally by the age of 17. He had a wonderful story about his first paid gig where they gave him some alcohol and he played for many hour - but all the same tune with different lyrics. Honeyboy learned to hobo and spent 32 years on the road as a bluesman. "If you stay out of the cotton fields then you are doing pretty good," Honeyboy said. His first recording was in Clarksdale in 1942, when Alan Lomax recorded blues music by HoneyBoy, Son House, Willie Brown, and Muddy Waters for the library of congress. “I did 17 numbers for him!” Honeyboy wrote. “… And after he gave me $20. That twenty kicked like a hundred dollars in my pocket then. That was my first recording and I felt good! I felt all right with $20 in my pocket, too; I appreciated that.”

From the movie - Lightning in a bottle - 2004!

Up until his death Honeyboy was still playing 75 shows a year. Colorful and enduring, Honeyboy loved to tell stories and had plenty to tell. He was a living breathing museum and national treasure whose time has come to pass. God speed Honeyboy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Test your Hearing!

You can now test your hearing sensitivity, equal loudness contours, and audiometry.

Warning 1. Do not start with a panel in the top third of the chart: you might hurt or even damage your ears.

Warning 2. Results using this test cannot be regarded as clinical data. Although the sound files have been carefully prepared, the actual sound level and spectral purity depend on the frequency response of your sound card and headphones. They may, however, be helpful for comparison, such as left vs right ear, or for changes in hearing over time, assuming that you use the same hardware. Note, however, that daily fluctuations in hearing are common. If you are worried about your hearing, consult an audiologist.

scholarship ad

For best results you will need reasonably good quality headphones that enclose your ears completely and seal out external noises. Ordinary loudspeakers, and especially the small ones that come with computers, have such poor response, particularly at low frequency and are so much affected by interference effects and resonances that results obtained with them are useless. They may also be damaged by low frequencies.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - 21 years ago !

Yessir! Stevie passed away August 27, 1990 - 21 years ago. Stevie was a huge influence on many guitarists and he is dearly missed. I saw him in concert once and I hope to never forget the intensity of his playing. Words can't express just how great he was.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Guitar Factory Tours

If you don't have the time or money to go visit your favorite factory, something we should all strive to do at least once in our life. Then here is a cheap alternative all in one shot and you can even have yourself one of your favorite beverages, snacks, and sit in your favorite chair while viewing!

Not in any particular order!

Godin Factory tour:

Paul Reed Smith tour:

Taylor Guitar Tour:

Martin Guitar tour:

Fender Custom shop tour:

Fender Tour tour:

Collings Guitar tour:

Gibson guitar tour:

Bigsby Tour:

Carvin tour:

Yamaha tour:

Warwick - Framus:

Santa Cruz tour:
more with Willy Carter

Ibanez tour:

Chinese manufacturer for many labels - Fender, Ibanez, Gibson, BC Rich, ESP and more:


Friday, August 26, 2011

Federal Agents Raided Gibson Guitar Factories - Again!

Yes, the Federal government raided Gibson factories in defense of the Lacey Act. At this point, Gibson CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz has reported that Gibson buys wood from Forest Stewardship Certified Suppliers. Henry feels that the Federal Government is harassing the company.

I am intimately aware of the various intricacies of import and export. The paperwork must be infinitely tidy. Each item must be properly listed in proper categories. With a guitar being comprised of various pieces of wood, failing to list a piece of ebony during shipment would be cause enough for the Federal agents to seize material. The wrong doing could also occur on the distributors side, say, India, where if they fail list something then it would appear that they are trying to avoid duty taxes. Those that do import and export labeling are held to very high standards. The fines for can be exorbitant. To make matters more complicated, often, the Department of Homeland Security is also involved which further complicates the legalities. Personally, I doubt this is an issue of environment consequences, moreover, it is a violation of duty tax - Money talks, saving the environment walks to coin a phrase.

Gibson press conference with Henry Juszkiewicz
Of course this is the Gibson Stance. The Federal Government's position has yet to be articulated. Of course Gibson is going to play the victim. Keep that in mind while forming your opinion. Something is fishy because we don't see Martin, Fender, Taylor or other major manufacturers being raided by the Federal Government. Why is Gibson singled out?

Whether it is Gibson Guitars fault, the people they get their supplies from, or a witch hunt - Time will tell.

*UPDATE* - It appears that Gibson was sourcing Ebony from Madagascar. There was a coup in Madagascar in 2009 where the military took over the government of Madagascar. Most guitar manufacturers stopped using the island as a source of Ebony. The reason is logical, the Lacey act requires the end user to be able to trace the origins of the product to the location of the tree. It appears that there is evidence that Gibson continued to source ebony through illegal channels.
^ The Lacey Act is tough on business even for legitimate operations because the law is retroactive and vintage music, antique dealers must provide details for products that might have been produced centuries ago according to the letter of the law. Literally, a tough Act to follow - pun intended!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Get your Hair Cut! Got a DA? Rockabilly Style!

Son, ya gonna drive me to drinkin if you don't stop drivin that Hot Rod Lincoln!
Now, git on out and git a hair cut!

Touring in Europe? No problem! Hook up with Mister Ducktail the rock and roll Muthercutter!

....and who is this Lady?

Mr. Ducktail Body Guard! 

Smoking Hot!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Development of the Ear

In order to improvise well you will need the ability to identify the tones that you hear. To keep it basic, you need to be able to duplicate tones that you hear on your instrument. This is also holds true when jamming with others. The ability to learn from listening and transcribe are essential to understanding the efforts of those around him. Without this skill it is difficult to fulfill his obligation towards group improvisation.

One might employ a friend to play a note then the listener will attempt to replicate that note. Practicing in this manner will result in the increased ability to recognize tones. Memory is key, therefore, it is prudent to be lucid during this practice period.

To develop this most invaluable aid to improvising; it is suggested that you adopt the following methods:
  1. Being observing the slight differences in the tone quality of various pitches and registers on your instrument.
  2. Meet with another player of the same instrument and practice tone-matching exercises, beginning with one pitch at a time and gradually working toward longer series.
  3. Begin transcribing from recording of solos of your instrument, playing them on the instrument rather than committing them to paper.
Remember that developing a sense of pitch is a long term project and that progress might be slow. Be patient and practice often!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Electric Guitar sustain - the truth and the snake oil

There are several generalities used to describe electric guitar sustain:
  1. How long the note rings
  2. How long you can hear the tone
  3. It has sustain for days - dude...
You can use electronic devices to amplify the tone coming from your guitar that will in effect, make the note ring longer. Finding the pedal effect that affects your tone could lead to severe gear acquisition syndrome. Once you turned this corner you will have to test all the electronic devices that affect your tone. Get ready to spend a lot of money!

Next, you can buy brass nut pieces, brass saddles, steel tremelo blocks, titanium tremelo blocks and depleted uranium pieces but it will only psychologically make your guitar sustain better. The string simply needs a firm anchor point to sit, all else is simple string wave propagation physics.

In this matter; The speed of propagation of a wave in a string (v) is proportional to the square root of the tension of the string (T) and inversely proportional to the square root of the linear density (μ) of the string. This means:
  • The string will not decelerate slower because you have a high density tremelo block.
  • Will not decelerate slower because your guitar is made of iron, etc...
- The hardness of the anchor points WILL matter.
- The ability to maintain the string tension WILL MATTER.
- String density DOES matter.
- Neck Scale DOES matter.

In Melde's experiment he did not find that changing the density of the weight would increase or decrease wave propagation, i.e., sustain.

One must remember that with electric guitars pickups, the guitar pickup react to the ferromagnetic string excitation of the pickup magnetic field and not the wood body reverberation of the string noise(Caveat: providing there is no piezoelectric pickup on this system). Magnetic pickups are not excited by wood reverberation. Therefore, playing the instrument and feeling and hearing it louder due to replacement blocks and heavy mounting brackets does not equate to longer sustain.

However, one might argue that if you anchored the string ends with balsa wood or Styrofoam (low density material) that sustain will be lost. That is true. But that material is not practical for attaching a string.

A prime example would be the Floyd Rose system. There are certainly two fixed points. The tremolo block is usually made of steel (~8000 kg/m3) verse Titanium (~4800 kg/m3) which will lighten the amount of force require to activate the fulcrum but not increase sustain. Sustain is decoupled from the fixture material.

In conclusion, installing a heavy trem block, brass tail piece, aluminum tail piece, carbon fiber tail piece and guides might make your guitar look good but in will not necessarily improve the sound that flows from your amplifier.

Guitar neck scale length - It IS your TONE!

If you break down the necessities and all practical matters then you will find that with Electric guitars there are essentially only two guitar types: 24.75 inch scale or 25.5 inch scale. Don't be fooled, the 3/4 of an inch makes a significant different in feel, elasticity and harmonics.

There are different scales used for other guitars but for sake of simple example, I will only relate to the two aforementioned scale lengths. Nevertheless, the tones will be different on ALL scales as you will see later in this article.

It doesn't matter if you have single coil pickups on your Les Paul (24.75) or Humbuckers on your strat (25.5). It's not the pickups! It's the scale or rather the point where the string is suspended which is at the nut and then the bridge. See, in order for your guitar to be tuned to any given frequency, a precise amount of tension much be placed on the strings. The longer the distance between the suspension points = the greater the amount of tension. How does this effect tone? After all, we all know tone is in our fingers and our techniques! Well, you are right! HOLD ON, you are going to play a little differently if you have to push harder, snap it more or exert more force. Well, you still don't believe me??????

The harmonic overtone has evenly spaced nodes along the string doesn't move from it's resting position. This is a fact. However, if you are to place the nodes on a map where you compare the harmonic overtones (which contribute to the timbre) of a 24.75 inch guitar vs a 25.5 inch scale guitar, you will find that the nodes are not similarly placed. The harmonic overtones on a 25.5 inch guitar will have wider spacing while the 24.75 will have a narrower spacing. This spacing if long (25.5) will produce a E note with brighter chime and shiver (a little esoteric but bare with me) while the narrow tighter pack harmonics of the short scale 24.75 will have a thicker, warmer E sounding tone.

But wait, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, tuned to E flat and especially Eddie - He had monster tone! Yeah, EVH called it the Brown Sound. It's world famous!! But still, this is a compromise. You can get close to a Les Paul sound by de-tuning your long scale (25.5) guitar. You can put heavy gauge strings on the Les Paul to increase the string tension but the fact remains - the scale is a fixed point. You could build a guitar that has a moving nut but the distance between the frets will be off. Regardless, if you had the all the lab equipment at MIT you would never be able to find the exact same mathematically, sonic-ally specific tones on guitars of different scale.

I have heard the same old minutia about "it all in the hands," yeah I know buster! But it's also like this:




When the hand is deployed it has input to the brain. Different string scale effects the elasticity and tension of the string (to say the least). Therefore, your guitar scale effects your tone in a large way. One scale is not better than the other. Both are brilliant!! By all means, experiment and HAVE FUN with your guitar, bass, and I hope you now are more informed!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Old Gretsch Guitar ad

Gretsch Guitars deserve your interest!
Check out one at a shop near you!

Imelda May Band on Conan O'Brian show - Mayhem!

Rough schedule! Lolapalooza then to L.A. to tape with Conan and the next day (which happens to be today 8-9-11) to San Francisco at The independent! I can't wait!!!

This just in - PortLand is a lucky town! I just returned from the Imelda May show at the Independent in San Francisco. Too wired to sleep! I will report more later.

Foo Fighters Garage Tour - !

Foo Fighters had a contest where the winners would have the FOO FIGHTER show up and play in YOUR garage!

They taped the results and share it with you - the fans!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jammin' Johns - This is Exceptional!

Ok, Reading my latest version of Rolling Stone magazine back section - The Shop I found the following "music to your rears," and thought I'd give ya'll a shout about this!

Click here to view the Jammin' Johns Shop!
Super creative seat for solving world hunger, despair and economic meltdowns!

Guitar Scale Patterns & Structure (6th string Root)

This guide utilizes the 6th string starting point as the root note of the scale. Keep in mind that this is only one of many positions to play the included scales.