|Dodd's Music was in the white building|
I started taking guitar lessons when I was 13 years old; first at the YMCA in a group setting and then at Dodd’s Music Store, in Covington, Kentucky.
|One of the acts on WLW radio|
My teacher at Dodd's was an old guy named George Olinger. George made a living playing guitar in Country groups around town as well as being a staff guitarist on WLW radio, back in the days when the station played live music.
George taught me the basic chord patterns mainly from the books he had me purchase, which seemed to all be written by one man; Mel Bay.
This got me to wondering, who was Mel Bay?
|Mel 1928 with National Triolian|
Mel grew up in a small Missouri town in the Ozark Mountains. He bought his first guitar at the age of 13 from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Within months of acquiring the guitar, he was playing in front of people. Mel Bay never had a guitar teacher. He watched other guitar player perform and memorized their fingering on the fretboard.
That is the way I learned to play guitar. I stood in front of bands and watched the lead guitar player and copied his fingerings. I am certain many of you reading this article honed your skills in much the same manner.
Bay was not satisfied to just learn the guitar. No sir. He went on to learn fingerings on the tenor banjo, mandolin, ukulele and Hawaiian slide guitar. This was all back in the 1920's when he was still a young man.
|D'Angelico with "Melbourne Bay" |
engraved on the pickguard
He put together The Mel Bay Trio, which consisted of him, a bass player and a drummer. And this became his steady gig for the next 25 years. His career was briefly interrupted by a stint in the US Army during WWII.
|His custom D'Angelico New Yorker|
He determined some of the material availabe was flawed. It only offered students chord patterns; not the ability to learn notes on the guitar.
So Mel began writing his own instruction books. These books became the basis for the Mel Bay Publication House.
|Mel Bay's 1st Book|
|Mel Bay's 2nd Book|
By 1948 another book was published called Modern Guitar Method. Through the years Modern Guitar Method has sold more than 20 million copies in its original version.
|Mel teaching guitar to |
high school students
By the mid 1950’s Elvis Presley's career was the talk of the nation, and this caused the guitar to experience a surge in popularity. During these years Mel Bay traveled around the country talking to guitar teachers and their students about his publications with the goal of selling them as texts.
In doing this he came to know most every guitar teacher in the United States on a first name basis. Guitar Player Magazine dubbed him as The George Washington of Guitar.
|Mel Bay playing a mandolin|
Since first publishing guitar instruction books, his company has branched off into publishing method books for violin, banjo, mandolin, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, harmonica, folk instruments, and accordion. His books for guitar include methods for differing styles, including folk, jazz, classical, rock, blues and jazz.
|Mel Bay Book by Tommy Flint|
Mel Bay received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guitar Foundation of America from the Retail Print Music Dealers Association and he also received the Owen Miller Award from the American Federation of Musicians.
Bay received a Certificate of Merit from the St. Louis Music Educators Association, as well as a resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives honoring his achievements. He ever was sent a letter of commendation from President Bill Clinton, and was honored by St. Louis mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. Making October 25, 1996 “Mel Bay Day” for citizens of that fair city.
|Mel's D'Angelico New Yorker|
One of Mel's personal guitars was a New Yorker model with a cutaway and a slightly thinner neck custom made for him.
Mel Bay kept playing guitar every day until his death at age 84 in 1997.
|From St. Louis WOF Inductees|
|Ode To Mel Bay|
A song was written by Michael “Supe” Granda of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils called “Ode to Mel Bay”. It is featured on the album by Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins called The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World. It sort of makes fun of Mel’s instruction books.
|Mel Bay Books|
Let’s talk about Walnut for a second. Let’s talk about how poor Walnut is often overlooked. Everyone has seen English Walnut, Claro Walnut, all the beautiful looking Walnuts. But what about boring old Black Walnut? A little lack luster in appearance, it’s often passed by as a mediocre tonewood. And it isn’t harvested in some exotic location like Central America. It’s from Eastern USA, right in Martin’s backyard. Don’t be fooled though, Black Walnut kicks some serious butt and will surprise you.
Every year, we take some of our favorite in-house builds to the NAMM Show. In 2017, my favorite was a Black Walnut Dreadnought that we’ve been calling the “Clarence Walnut." Inspired by the humongous sound of the Clarence White model from years ago, this thing is a boomer! The Adirondack top paired with forward shifted Golden Era braces, a large soundhole, and Black Walnut all add up to an amazing, huge sounding guitar.
What I like so much about this guitar is that its a cannon but its balanced. That can be hard to find! Sometimes huge sounding guitars quickly lose balance and complexity in the search for sheer volume and power. If you’re strictly buying with your ears, this might be your new favorite.
Emily has worked at Martin Guitar for 10 years. She has been cross-trained in every aspect of guitar building and currently serves as the Martin Guitar Custom Shop Administrator. Dear Emily is an advice column that will appear bi-monthly on the Martin Guitar Blog.
I am extending my 15% off sale through March 2017!
Now's your chance to own one of my handcrafted guitars!
Please contact me for details!
|1958 Hagstrom Deluxe 90|
This auction marks what would have been Cobain’s 50th birthday had he not taken his own life at age 27. A cardigan sweater once owned by the musician brought in $137,000 USD some years ago. This auction will run from February 16 starting at 11:00 am EST to February 26, 11:00 am EST,
|Owner Nathan Fasold displays the Hagstrom|
The guitar is a vintage 1958 Hagstrom Sparkle Deluxe guitar that is currently owned by Nathan Fasold of Black Book Guitars in Portland.
It has been authenticated by Earnie Bailey, who was formerly Nirvana’s primary guitar tech who personally delivered it to Cobain in 1992. At that time it was converted to a left-handed model.
|Jerry Garcia with Wolf Guitar|
This gorgeous guitar is a 1973 creation of Grateful Dead builder Doug Irwin and was given the name “Wolf” after Garcia affixed a sticker of a cartoon wolf to its lower bout.
Through the years, the guitar went through many updates with pickup combinations.
|Body of Wolf guitar|
Garcia used this guitar for over 20 years before retiring it in 1993.
After Garcia’s death in 1995, a dispute occurred regarding ownership of Garcia’s instruments. As a part of a settlement, Doug Irwin reclaimed this guitar.
|Jerry play Wolf in later years|
He later sold it auction to its current owner for over $700,000. The anonymous owner will auction the Wolf guitar at an event to be held at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl.
|The back of the Wolf guitar|
The Wolf guitar is an exceptionally gorgeous instrument as was hand-made with book-matched curly western maple for it’s body and the builder also used amaranth wood, also known as purple heart and African ivory. The inlay work on the neck is superb.
Dropped picks. Picks that turn in our fingers when we play making them useless. Is there a solution to this, other than just gripping tighter? Maybe. Here are a few tricks I’ve tried over the years.
These days, I’m mostly a finger-style player but I still make a point to practice with a flat pick and in my days of playing lead guitar or strong rhythm guitar in various groups the issue of pick control was always part of the equation. I’ve written before about the importance of using at least a medium gauge thickness flat pick or even a heavy one rather than a thin pick, which may be easier to use initially but encourages bad habits, i.e, depending upon the flexibility of the pick to make a controlled attack rather than your wrist and forearm, which is where control should come from. Plus, thin picks break – frequently – when used in an aggressive manner. It’s instructive that the vast majority of great players in rock, jazz, blues and bluegrass use medium to very heavy gauge picks. Thumb picks are another issue entirely and because I’ve never had much luck with them I’m not qualified to comment of those things.
So, what to do? First, don’t get locked into the idea that you MUST use the standard shape triangular picks (with rounded tops and corners) that have been the most popular shape for decades. If they work for you, great, but don’t be afraid to try different shapes and sizes. After many years of using the standard shaped ones (Fender mediums) I went to the smaller Fender “jazz” teardrop shaped picks in heavy gauge. My tone, accuracy and speed improved quickly and I used them for many, many years. Still do from time to time. But the issue of dropping picks at just the wrong time continued. So I began drilling small holes in the center of those picks, usually with a 1/16” drill bit. This improved my grip and helped immensely. I remembered that the small music store in my home town when I was growing up had a big display of picks and some had a round hole that was surrounded by a ring of thin cork. Can’t remember if I ever tried them but later on the hole thing seemed like a good idea, and it was.
These days there are a few companies that offer round and star-shaped holes in picks but these are mostly the standard overall size and frankly if there’s one thing I know for sure, I prefer a smaller flat pick. I have no doubt they work however and are probably worth a try.
Then a few years ago a student turned me on to Clayton Piktac Adhesive Dots. These little circles of plastic have adhesive on each side, one to adhere to your pick and the other to stick to your finger. They work, for sure – you will NOT drop your pick when using them – and they don’t leave residue on your fingers but I just couldn’t get used to the feel of things. But I have this weird thing about having sticky fingers or anything stuck to my fingers so that’s most likely just me. They come in packs of 50 pieces and are relatively cheap so they may be worth a try.
There was a recent thread on one of the guitar forums on this subject (dropping picks) and one person suggested and uploaded an image of his solution. He buys a roll of some sort of fabric backed adhesive material used for bandaging wounds and cuts it into small pieces that he sticks to the top area of his flat picks. He claimed that they not only improve the overall grip but the fabric absorbs moisture from the fingers, making them even more grip-friendly. I tried to find some of the stuff at a pharmacy yesterday and was unsuccessful. I will keep trying but I suspect the added thickness when the stuff is applied will be off-putting, to me anyway.
My latest solution has been picks from a small company called V-Picks. These are made of some sort of polymer that makes the pick adhere quite nicely to my thumb and forefinger when slightly moistened or heated up while playing. They come in various shapes, sizes and colors and I tried a variety pack initially. The model called the “Chicken Picker” in thin gauge (which is actually more like medium gauge in terms of flexibility) is my favorite. It is slightly smaller and more teardrop shape than traditional flat picks. I ordered more of them, and while expensive at about $4 each they have become my go-to flat pick. I’m not 100% thrilled with the tone I get from them as they are quite bright sounding but the lack of bulk and great adhering qualities make me reach for one every time I want to do some flat-picking, both strumming and single note playing.
I’ve also tried many others that are supposed to reduce the problems of dropping and pick rotation while playing including a bunch with various textured surfaces, rubber pads, etc. and some are pretty good. But in every case I did not care for the overall tonality that I achieved with them.
This gets to the good and bad of flat picks for today’s players. There are hundreds of designs, materials and shapes available these days, including some “boutique” picks that cost upwards of $20 each. I’m too cheap to take a chance on those fancy ones but if I ever have the opportunity to try a couple I may end up buying a few. After all, last year I spent more on a “boutique” capo than I have for some guitars! It’s great by the way.
The bad: you can spend a lot of time, effort and money searching out the perfect flat pick and you may never find it.
The good: Same thing. We have more choices than ever and I think everyone’s playing is better for that.
And it all gets back to technique. Take a flat pick between your fingers and grip it as hard as you do when you play. If you feel your wrist and forearm tighten up, you’re probably gripping too hard and whether you know it or not, this will slow you down and make you less accurate. Only grip hard enough to keep the thing between your thumb and the forefinger or middle finger (depending on which you prefer). If you can keep that grip as light as possible – thanks to a pick that stays securely between your fingers – you WILL be a better flat –picker!
Peace & good music,
Experience the six pack of sound in this video demo featuring guitarist Jordan Ziff on the NEW Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH FR M in Transparent Red. Firstly, Ziff runs through pickup positions 1, 2 and 3 with the volume knob in standard position. He then splits the coils by pulling the volume knob and again runs through all three pickup positions.
Watch below …
Nothings makes a Monday quite as great as the announcement of the eXceptional sales event!
You can instantly save up to $100 instantly on the D Jr., LX, and X Series models at participating U.S. dealers. But you may want to hurry! This sales event will end on March 31st.
You can find your nearest participating U.S. dealer here.
|Electro-Harmonix original logo|
We are not like “Guitar George, he knows all the chords. Mind he’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make them cry or sing.” The majority of us want to express ourselves and be heard.
One of the original and most prominent manufacturers of guitar and bass effects pedal is Electro-Harmonix. This company emerged on the scene in New York City back in 1968.
|Mike Matthews in 1979|
Back in 1967 Mike Matthews, the companies owner and founder was a rhythm and blues piano player and had a day time sales job. His friend, Bill Berko, was an audio repairman who had just constructed a circuit for a guitar fuzz pedal.
|'67 Axis and Foxey Lady fuzz pedals|
Under the advice of Matthews, Berko hired a company to construct these pedals under a deal with the Guild Guitar Company and the device was given the name of the Axis fuzz pedal. It was also sold under the name Foxey Lady.
All parties made a little money off the deal, and eventually Berko and Matthews parted ways.
|Mike Matthews 1967|
In 1969 they worked together to create a distortion free sustain device. Some fuzz tones of that era produced a buzz saw like effect that produced some sustain, while others like the Maestro box, just added gain to distort the guitars signal. Guitarists at that time wanted the ability for notes to be played and held, just like those played by horn players.
|Vintage LPB-1 interior|
The price for this unit was about $20 USD, and it was an instant hit. The original units were hand wired with no circuit board.
|1969-70 version Big Muff Pi (π)|
|'75 Big Muff Pi (π) interior|
|Double Muff and Little Muff|
The Little Big Muff was a smaller version of the unit and had a slight variation in the circuit. The NYC Big Muff came with a tone bypass switch that allowed the user to bypass the tone control and another switch the adjusted the frequencies of 3 filters embedded in the circuit.
|EH Bass and Treble boost|
There were several other devices made by Electro-Harmonix in the late 1960's and early 1970's that included a Treble Booster, called the Screaming Bird and a Bass Booster called the Mole, that were made in a similar format to the LPB-1; These small boxes had an input on one end to accept the guitar cable and a plug on the opposite side that went into the amplifier. These units originally sold for around $20 USD.
|EH Slap Back Echo|
The company also produced the Slap-Back Echo box that produced a slap-back effect and came with a filter switch to shape the tone.
|1975 EH Small Stone Phaser|
|EH Band Stone Phase Shifter|
The Bad Stone Phase Shifter was an upgraded circuit that added a Feedback control and a Manual Shift control to filter the sweet spot.
|'77 EH Octave Multiplexer|
Electro-Harmonix came out with an octave box called the Octave Multiplexer which produced the clean signal and a filtered signal an octave below.
|EH Elecric Mistress Flanger|
The Electric Mistress Flanger Chorus Pedal came out in the mid 1970’s and was one of the first multi-effects devices.
|Mid 70's EH Attack Equalizer|
The Electro-Harmonix Attack Equalizer pedal was a combination of a parametric EQ to produce desired equalization and a pre-amplifier to boost the guitars signal.
|1981 EH Graphic Fuzz|
The Electro-Harmonix Graphic Fuzz was not only a fuzztone/distortion unit, but it added a six band graphic eq control section.
|1980 EH Full Double Tracking Effect|
|'77 EH Triggered Y Filter|
The Triggered Y Filter was sort of a phaser unit that allowed the frequency range to be adjusted to Lo or Hi and the amplitude/depth of the filter sweep.
|Late '70's EH Echoflanger|
The Echo Flanger produced a modulated Echo and a flanging effect, similar to what record producer did when they would press their finger or thumb on recording tape to cause the one of the tracks to be slightly delayed.
|1978 EH Memory Man|
The Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, was introduced in 1978 and produced analog delay and echo using “bucket brigage” integrated circuits and incorporated a chorus effect. So the user could choose echo or chorus
|EH Deluxe Memory Man|
Several models of this effect including a stereo version and the Deluxe Memory Man that added a chorus/vibrato feature to the echo.
|EH Small Clone Chorus|
The Small Clone chorus, introduced by EHX around 1981 remains a very popular chorus pedal. it was also produced in two different smaller versions known as the Neo Clone and the Nano Clone.
|EH Holy Grail Reverb|
Electro-Harmonix issued a very popular reverb pedal called The Holy Grail. This pedal came in several different formats including The Holy Grail Plus and the Cathedral. The Holy Stain was a multi-effects pedal that offered two different types of reverb.
Tremolo was one of the very earliest guitar effects and Electro-Harmonix offered a solid-state tremolo/vibrato pedal called the Stereo Pulsar and a tube based model called the Wiggler.
|1972 Mike Matthews Freedom Amp|
|Interior of Freedom Amp with battery clips|
The only drawback was that it took 40 D cell batteries to power the thing. It was also available as a bass model or as a public address amplifier which came with built in reverb.
|'90's EH Freedom Amp|
By 1982 Electro-Harmonix was facing a multiplicity of problems. First there was a labour union dispute. And about the same time the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Two years later, in 1984 Electro-Harmonix was in deeper financial problems and Mike Matthew decided to shift his attention away from the little effects boxes to a new venture.
He launched a new company that he called the New Sensor Corporation, which was based in the Soviet Union. Matthew saw the need for vacuum tubes, which were no longer being manufactured in the United States and in short supply, but were plentiful in the USSR.
|Sovtek Mig 50 amplifier|
These amps were based on popular circuits and can still be found on the web at bargain prices.
|New Sensor EH Russian made Big Muff Pi|
In 1990 Electro-Harmonix resumed the building effect pedals. Some of these were made in Russia through 2009.
|EH 2006 Nano Pedals|
In 2006 the smaller and more standardized "micro" and "nano" effect lines using surface-mount circuit components were introduced.
The circuit board manufacturing was outsourced, but the final assembly of the pedals was done in New York.
|Vintage EH Micro Synthesizer|
When synthesizers came into vogue, EH offered the Micro Synthesizer for guitar or bass and the HOG effects unit; Harmonic Octave Generator.
|An original EH POG|
The POG or Polyphonic Octave Generator was released in 2005 and an enhanced version called the POG 2 came out in 2009. These units allowed your instrument to produce notes 2 octaves up and one octave below the guitars signal.
|EH 22 Caliber Amplifier|
Two of the more interesting and modern Electro-Harmonix creations may look like effects pedals, but are actually amplifiers housed in pedal sized effects box. The EHX 22 Caliber was a 22 watt solid-state amplifer capable of driving an 8 or 16 ohm speaker cabinet.
|EH 44 Magnum Amplifier|
It was discontinued and replaced by the EHX 44 Magnum, which could pump 44 solid-state watts into an 8 or 16 ohm speaker cabinet. These are small enough to pack into your guitar case. It is important to note, these units must be connected to a speaker load to work.
For 2016 and 2017 Electro-Harmonix has developed some amazing pedals that can coax organ or piano sounds from your guitar without the need for special pickups.
The C9 and B9 Organ Machines replicate the sounds of several different types of organs, from Hammond organs to church organs, to combo organs.
|Electro-Harmonix Key 9|
The Key 9 Electric Piano Machine produces a number of electric piano sounds. Combine any of these with the Lester G Deluxe Rotary Speaker emulator or the Lester K Rotary Speaker emulator and as a guitarist you now have all the tools of a keyboard player without the weight of hauling a B-3 and a Leslie cabinet.
|Electro-Harmonix Mel 9|
The Mel 9 Tape Replay Machine produces sounds from your guitar that were only possible with a Mellotron.
|A few of the Electro-Harmonix effects|
Electro-Harmonix now offers a line up that is far too numerous to mention every product. And these include not just guitar effects, but bass effects, drum effects and vocal effects. And they have also updated versions of their original effects that sell at a much lower price than the vintage models.
As a reminder, the sources for the pictures can be found by clicking on the links below them and the links in the text will take you to further interesting facts.
©UniqueGuitar Publishing (text only)
We are delighted to share with you Volume 7 of the beloved Martin | The Journal Of Acoustic Guitars.
The publications is written exclusively for acoustic guitar enthusiasts, players, dealers, and owners. This volume includes: a new Take It From The Top from CEO and Chairman Chris Martin IV, a special feature on the Two Millionth Martin guitar, new models, an article featuring Martin Ambassador Megan Rapinoe, and more.
Download and enjoy Volume 7 of Martin | The Journal of Acoustic Guitars here.
Anders Sterner, musician
Thought you might be interested in a short post on how I make capos, or cejillas, for classical/flamenco guitars.
First thing I do is roundup some black and white strips of veneer; a piece of nice wood for the core and even pretty wood for the outside laminations.
I plane pieces to proper thickness, align in proper order and glue all pieces together.
Here are two capo templates I came up with, I copied historic original Spanish capo shapes, I draw these onto the block of wood I just created from the veneer, laminates and core. Then I drill holes for the violin pegs and have a violin/viola/cello peg reamer handy.
Here is a photo of a shop made violin peg shaver that I made. I use 1/2 size violins for the capos.
Once the violin pegs fit perfectly in their holes in the capos, I cut them to proper length, drill a hole in the peg shaft between collar and head of peg for the nylon guitar string. I cut the capos to match the template outlines, sand, buff and apply some linseed oil.
I use LaBella brand nylon flamenco guitar strings to attach the friction pegs to the capos. The string will run through a piece of vinyl tubing which will protect the guitar's neck. After the strings and pegs are attached I glue a strip of neoprene to the face of the capo. Once the glue has dried I trim the neoprene...
and have a whole handful of beautiful capos!
Yes, I have left out a few steps of how I make these handy little tools for a guitarist, I can't give away all of my secrets!