Archive for the "General" Category

CONTEST: Win a Copy of The Gibson Les Paul: The Illustrated History of the Guitar that Changed Rock

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a book titled The Gibson Les Paul: The Illustrated History of the Guitar that Changed Rock. The book includes a generous helping of artist profiles, Les Paul history, and great pictures, and I enjoyed it. The publisher, Voyageur Press, has kindly offered to give a copy of the book away to a lucky Guitar Lifestyle reader.

To enter win the book, all you have to do is fill out the form below.

Contest details:

* Contest is limited to US and Canada residents.

* Contest will run until midnight EST on 8/2/2014.

* Winner must provide valid email address and must be willing to provide valid mailing address in US or Canada if chosen.

* Winner will be selected at random and notified sometime on 8/3/2014.

Good luck!

Les Paul Book Contest

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Vintage Guitars

I think we are in an age where some of the finest, most consistent guitars are being made both in factories and by individual makers. For this reason, while I’ve thought vintage guitars were intriguing, I’ve never really bought into the hype that they are worth, in some cases, 100 times more than a new guitar of “equal” specs.

The truth is, though, I had never played any truly vintage guitars until recently. I’ve now played a few vintage guitars, and I realize that there’s a little more to it than hype.

What I’ve found is that there does appear to be something special about a good vintage guitar. I played through a couple of examples from Gibson and Fender and was surprised about how they felt. It’s hard to put into words exactly what was different about them, but there’s definitely something about them, whether it’s vibe or wood that has aged or something else. It’s probably a lot of things.

To give a specific example, I was able to play a 1963 Strat that was really beat up, with various modifications. The body looked like it had been dragged behind a car. However, the neck felt better than any neck I’ve ever played before. It was well worn and extremely comfortable. The body was very resonant and had a nice attack to it. There are some guitars that when you play them just feel right. This guitar was like that.

That’s not to say that all vintage guitars are great. There are certainly some duds, just like there are some duds being made today. When I was playing the Strat a few weeks ago, I also played through about five different 50s era Telecasters. I didn’t like any of them. One was very heavy, and the rest just lacked whatever it was that the Strat had.

However, when you find a good one, there’s a little extra vibe to them that new guitars don’t seem to have. Again, it’s hard to explain what it is. There’s also something special about playing a guitar that has a lot of history. It’s fun to imagine where the guitar has been and what stories it could tell.

Unfortunately, most vintage instruments are priced out of the range of normal people. It’s hard to find a 60s Strat or a 50s Telecaster that is below $10,000, and you certainly aren’t going to find a vintage Les Paul that regular players can afford.

For that reason, I’m glad that the factories and boutique builders of today are producing such high quality instruments at relatively low prices making them accessible to most of us. Even the import guitars are much better than they were just 10 or 15 years ago. There are nice guitars being made at just about any price point.

However, if you ever have a chance to play a vintage guitar, I think you’ll find what I’ve found: No matter how nice a new guitar is, there’s a vibe and feeling in a good vintage guitar that a new guitar can’t replicate.

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Capo Touch

Capo is my favorite music slow downer application, and developer Chris Liscio has released a new version of the app for both Mac and iOS. If you’re not familiar with this type of app, it allows you to slow down music from your iTunes library without changing pitch, which is very helpful when trying to learn a song.

What I like about Capo is its clean, beautiful design and its feature set. The new version of Capo for iOS, called Capo touch, features Chord Intelligence, which is a feature that attempts to automatically detect and display the chords being played in a song.

Here are the details of the new release:

Capo touch features Chord Intelligence—now also available on the Mac with Capo 3.1—that delivers improved chord detection accuracy and a wider chord detection vocabulary.

What’s New in Capo touch?

  • Fully automatic chord detection with Capo’s brand new Chord Intelligence engine
  • Guitar chord box display with quick selection of alternate ways to play a chord
  • Automatic beat detection with bar/beat display for easy region looping and metronome count-off for practice
  • Seamless integration with iTunes to access your music library
  • Landscape view, easy scrolling, touch zooming, and other user interface improvements
  • Independent speed and pitch controls to listen to fast licks slowly or change the key of any song
  • Excellent sound quality even when played considerably slower
  • iCloud Sync between all your devices (Mac and iOS)

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Wampler Pedals Podcast

Last month, Wampler Pedals introduced a podcast titled Chasing Tone. The podcast features Wampler employees Travis and Max along with founder Brian Wampler discussing pedals and guitar tone in general.

There are currently four episodes. Episode 1 covers overdrive, distortion and fuzz. Episode 2 covers pedal order and effects loops. Episode 3 covers true bypass vs buffered bypass. Episode 4 covers vintage gear.

I’m really enjoying the show and have learned some stuff along the way. If you’re interested in guitar tone, I think you’ll enjoy the podcast, too.

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Pride & Joy: The Texas Blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan

SRVLaunch

This past month, the Grammy Museum unveiled an exhibit honoring Stevie Ray Vaughan titled Pride & Joy: The Texas Blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimmie Vaughan curated the exhibit:

“I’m excited to partner with The GRAMMY Museum to honor my brother and his music,” said Jimmie Vaughan. “I know Stevie’s many fans will enjoy this exhibit, as many of his personal, never-before-seen items will be on display.  I hope by doing this, it will remind people of the incredible musician he was and all the music and love he gave to the world.  I miss him every day.”

The exhibit will feature several guitars, including SRV’s “Number One” Strat. If you missed it when it was on display in Texas, you now have another chance to see it. Also displayed are some of Vaughan’s stage outfits, including his Indian headdress, handwritten lyrics, and more. The exhibit will run through July 2015.

 

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The Song or the Gear?

I have a confession to make. When I hear a song I like on the radio or online, I oftentimes become more interested in the gear being used than the song itself. As a gear hound, it’s almost instinctive. I’m not proud of this.

In some ways, learning about the gear can be inspiring. It may open up new possibilities in your mind about gear you already own or help you find the sound you hear in your head.

But, all too often, I find that it’s a distraction rather than an inspiration. I get caught up in acquiring the gear of a song I like rather than trying to apply the techniques that make the song appealing to my own playing. I may spend hours watching demo videos, looking up information, and trying to find the best price for a piece of gear when I could have spent that time playing and improving myself.

Moreover, it is my contention that “normal” people, i.e. non-musicians, don’t listen to a song for its tonal characteristics. They simply want to hear good music, whatever that means to them. A good song played on mediocre gear is going to go farther than a bad song played on the best gear.

I love gear, and I love pursuing the tones I hear in my head, but I’m trying to make a conscious effort not to let the pursuit of gear get in the way of making music. And isn’t making music the reason why we picked up the guitar in the first place?

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Carter Vintage Guitars

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Carter Vintage Guitars here in Nashville. The shop was opened last year by Walter and Christie Carter, both longtime employees of Gruhn Guitars, so they bring a vast amount of experience with vintage instruments to Carter Vintage Guitars.

The shop is a welcoming place with some incredible guitars hanging on the walls and on stands around the building. Near just about every guitar in the building is a seat just inviting you to grab something off the wall and play for a while.

I’ve been in other shops where you weren’t really allowed to touch anything without having an employee first take the guitar from the wall and put plastic on it. I can understand this position, as you don’t want a customer damaging a high-priced instrument. However, it’s frustrating, and a bit jarring, if you don’t know the rules and you touch something only to have an employee chide you for touching an instrument.

This is not the case at Carter Vintage Guitars. I was looking at some of the guitars, and one of the owners stopped by and told me to play anything I wanted in the store.

And, to be clear, this is not a shop where there are a bunch of sub-$1,000 guitars hanging around and a few “good” ones. At Carter, they’re all good ones. I only recall seeing a couple of instruments that were less than $1,000. The rest were more, and in some cases much more. For example, they had a pre-war Martin 000-45 that had a price tag of $125,000 and a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom priced at $60,000.

As you might expect, the Martin was stored in a case, but the Les Paul Custom was hanging on the wall and could be played by anyone, including me:

Les Paul

These are just a few examples of the types of vintage instruments that Carter keeps in stock. There were many other Gibsons and Martins, as well as Fenders, Gretschs, and Guilds, among many other brands.

If you find yourself in the Nashville area, I highly recommend checking out Carter Vintage Guitars. Be prepared to spend some time in there, though, because you won’t want to leave.

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The Story Behind Fender’s “You Won’t Part with Yours Either” 1965 Ad Campaign

This is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the making of Fender’s 1965 “You Won’t Part with Yours Either” ad campaign featuring the Fender Jaguar:

Jon Martin and Randy Nauert discuss shooting the iconic Fender Jaguar ad in 1965-
“Newport, June 1965. Fender Guitars was launching their famous, ‘You wouldn’t part with yours, either!’ campaign and hired me to get this shot… I paid [Jon Martin] a little money, had him sign a waiver. He slung the Jaguar over his shoulder, paddled out on his board, turned around, and took off on the first good wave. He stood up, whipped the guitar around in front, I snapped the photo, and he finished ridding the wave into shore. We got it, one wave, first take. There wasn’t a drop of water on that guitar when he came in, either. We packed it back up, and it went back to the factory and got shipped.” -Bob Perine

(via @fbjournal)

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Writer Steve Hochman on the Fender American Design Experience

Fender commissioned Los Angeles Times rock critic Steve Hochman to write about their new Fender American Design Experience, where you can design your own Fender guitar and order it exactly how you want it directly from Fender. Here’s what Steve had to say:

By Steve Hochman

There’s an impending arrival in Amos Heller’s life that pretty much overshadows everything else. Home in Nashville between world tours playing bass in Taylor Swift’s band, Heller and his wife are expecting the birth of their first child.

But another upcoming delivery has him excited too. He’s one of the first artists tapped by Fender to explore the new American Design Experience — creating an instrument to his own specifications via an easy-to-use online interface that lets you choose the materials, hardware and accessories to get the sound and look that’s just what you want. And the result is on its way from the Fender factory in Corona, Calif.

“When Fender asked me to participate, I think I built about 1,800 combinations on the website before ordering,” he said. “I bored my wife to death asking things like ‘How about the pearl white pickguard?’ She’d answer, ‘I don’t care!’ But who doesn’t fantasize?”

Heller made his fantasy into reality, using the modular features, step-by-step, to create his own bass.

“I wanted something that would have a lot of character in it,” he explained.

His hand-picked model: A Jazz Bass with a maple neck — “famous for that distinctive jazz midrange presence that can cut through” — coupled with the 1964 Jazz Bass pickup — “because the first one I ever got from Fender had that, and it was the best sound I ever played.”

The one he designed has a nice classic look and feel: Lake Placid Blue body made of alder, tortoiseshell pickguard, black knobs, ‘70s Jazz Bass maple fingerboard, high-mass vintage-mount bridge, the ’64 Jazz Bass vintage pickups he mentioned and nickel hardware. All this for a cost comparable to an off-the-rack model.

“You see all these great signature series, instruments that great players have tweaked to be their own,” Heller said. “This gives you your own signature, something uniquely yours.”

He then paused for a much-needed breath.

“I’m way into this,” he continued. “As you can probably tell.”

He’s not the only one.

“Getting a custom guitar for this kind of money is pretty damn good!” said Telecaster devotee Dale Watson, master innovator in the long line of country, rockabilly and roots players with nearly two dozen twang-fueled albums to his name, the latest being 2013’s El Rancho Azul.

“Being able to order your own type of neck and fretboard and hardware and pickup and body combination kind of floors me, really,” said Watson. “We could all go in and buy a 1957 Strat or Tele if we could afford it, or if we knew where it was. But even then, I’ve played some and the neck wasn’t right. I have two Fenders I bought off the rack—a Thinline Deluxe and another Tele Standard I bought on the road. They play fine, but one has a maple neck where I’d rather have rosewood. The other has rosewood, but I’d rather have the traditional Tele pickups.”

Ditto for Butch Walker, who in addition to his own albums has a long list of writing and production credits from Taylor Swift to Pink to Panic! at the Disco to Keith Urban.

“I was never a kid growing up who liked stock items off the shelf,” he offered. “I would wear a different color sock on each foot, put patches on my jackets — still do! — and dye my hair different colors, just to not be like everybody else in the classroom. When I would see guitars on the walls at music stores as a young gun, I would say to myself, ‘Oh, I love this Strat with the white body, but I wish it had brass tuners or a pearl pick guard, and a rosewood neck instead of maple.’”

For Walker it’s more than just having a guitar you like. It’s about a full sense of self-expression.

“Being able to go to the site now and just design your own Tele or Strat from the ground up gives you that same feeling of personalization and individualism that makes you feel good about yourself,” said Walker. “And chances are the guy next door won’t have the same exact thing. I just designed a Tele that I can’t wait to get. It’s going to be my very own model. Who doesn’t want that?”

For Watson, the American Design Experience allowed him to find a sweet-spot guitar that had previously seemed elusive — and it’s not the strictly ‘50s vintage outfit you might expect. Well, not entirely.

“I’m not a big fan of the early ‘50s neck that was really fat and round,” he says, noting that he has relatively small hands. “I like the ‘60s neck. But I like the ‘50s body that was really light and made of ash.”

The key for him is the bridge. Rather than the six-saddle bridge with each string to itself, he went for the three-saddle model, pairing up strings.

“This is just my ear and I could be totally wrong — but I have talked to some people I respect, and for the most part everyone agrees that the six-saddle – even though you get a lot of great adjustment possibilities – you can make it where every string is in tune all the way down the neck,” he said. “With the traditional three saddles on the tailpiece, they seem to me to lay against the body and the bridge plate a little better to give you more sustain. I picked a less powerful pickup so my sustain isn’t going to be as good as someone with a more blues-oriented, honkin’ pickup. So a six-saddle would be good for them. But with me, a three connects to the body in a more solid fashion. I like it when you hit a chords and it rings, stays out there a while.”

The upshot is the guitar he ordered is specific to him, in a way that would have been difficult — and expensive — to find before now.

“When I went on the site to play around, I basically built an old style guitar, which is beautiful,” he said. “If you get one of these old guitars you’re lucky to find them for six or seven grand. I was able to build a new one for a lot less.”

Now, these guys are pros, with the knowledge, experience and access that allows them to know just what they want and, now more than ever, how to get it. Arguably, though, the American Design Experience is an even bigger boon to the regular guy or gal, the amateur player, the folks who don’t know a humbucker from hummus or those who are intimidated walking into a guitar store. For lefties (your humble scribe included) who have largely had to settle for picking from whatever handful of southpaw models may (or may not) be at any given store, it’s a near miracle, as both guitars and both basses in the ADE program can be made either way.

Picking a look is very simple. As the user “builds” the instrument on the site, the image takes on the specific characteristics. It’s simple to switch bodies and necks and hardware and see any combination almost instantly. As for what any choice might sound like, each pickup, each wood selection, has an accompanying description of its sonic characteristics. For example, the American Standard Stratocaster SSS pickups are known for their warmth while the Custom Shop Texas Specials have “increased midrange, punch and presence.”

And to further help, a growing roster of Fender artists, including the three quoted here, share their choices and insight into how they approached the process on the Collaborate page, where these demanding experts give you a head start with their own designs.

In may ways, says Fender Electric Guitars Vice President Justin Norvell, the American Design Experience fulfills an ideal held by Leo Fender himself when he started experimenting in the ‘40s and ‘50s, laying the foundation of what would soon become iconic musical instruments. Essentially, modularity was built into Fender guitars and basses from the very beginning.

“As the company grew, we’ve tried to stay close to these roots,” he said. “The Internet affords the opportunity to increase that scale for more people. But every customization has always been nothing more than a couple of screws away. This further levels the playing field where you can build a signature instrument to your specs.”

It’s also a great way for people to step into the world of Fender and learn from the ground up — whether they buy a guitar at this time or not.

“That was the challenge, to be techy enough for the real professionals, but not make it a thing where you’d have to go to school to navigate,” Norvell explained. “A lot of people want to learn things, but in a way that’s not intimidating.”

After all, Leo Fender’s founding philosophy was that a guitar should be something the player wants to play, something that suits him or her perfectly. That’s something Dale Watson learned directly from Leo and something he explicitly incorporated into his American Design Experience Telecaster.

“Leo Fender gave me a guitar for the first video I ever did,” he recalled. “I went down there and played it and was tickled to death. And he’s there with his glasses on, with all the different magnifying glasses attached, and he had a pocket pen protector but with screwdrivers and wrenches. I was playing the guitar and he said to play the B string again, and then he made a little adjustment and said ‘That’s better.’ I told him as soon as I finished the video I’d keep it safe at my house. He said, ‘Give it back then if you aren’t going to play it.’ I said, ‘But, I play 6, 7 nights a week. It will get beat up.’ He said, ‘I’m not a musician; I’m a maker. My biggest joy is knowing that something I made is going to someone who can feed their kids, put a roof over their heads.’ He also talked about how he hated people buying his guitars and putting them under glass.

So I said, “Ok, it’s going to get really beat up,” and he said, “It’s just a hammer, Dale. A hammer.’

“And that’s what I had them put on the neck plate of the new American Design Tele I just ordered: ‘Custom Made for Dale Watson.’ And underneath that, ‘It’s just a hammer.’”

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Lost & Found: Bill Frisell’s ES-175

This is an incredible story from the Fretboard Journal about Bill Frisell being reunited with a unique ES-175 after almost 40 years:

Whether due to financial shortcomings, boredom, space constraints or restlessness, every guitarist has a tale of the “one that got away,” an instrument that we should have held onto, but, somehow, didn’t.

In the case of Bill Frisell, the one that got away was a custom 1968 Gibson ES-175. In his 20s, while the young musician was still discovering his singular voice, the Gibson was his main guitar and constant companion. And then, in a move he’d regret for decades, he sold it.

I think most of us can relate to selling a guitar and almost immediately regretting. It’s amazing that Frisell was able to find his guitar after so many years.

 

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