This Hoyer 320 telecaster style apparently has a sister called the white lady. I love the simple black on black design and the white/black binding adds just the right touch. The sexy mudflap lady inlay is a nice touch as well. It borders on tacky yet remains a subtle tongue in cheek addition on this otherwise sober guitar.
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In one of the more curious announcements at NAMM, ProCo announced the Rat Tail Distortion cable. In short, it’s a RAT pedal in a guitar cable.
It features two distortion modes utilizing the same clipping diodes used in vintage RAT pedals. The distortion modes are selectable via the cable’s connector.
Yes, it even has a true bypass option. I guess if you really want the RAT sound, but don’t have any room on your pedalboard, this would be a good option? It’s available in 10, 18, and 25 feet.
Aloha and welcome to a new series for ukulele instruction books! I know it’s going to be hard to surpass the quality of the last series (90s music), but I’m going to give it a shot:
There are songs that seem to have been with us forever. Songs that we seem to be born knowing. They’re the songs that bring us directly to a different place mentally and have the ability to get us excited, calm us down, or transport us to a different point in time. They’re the songs drenched in nostalgia because they’re passed down from generation to generation. But unlike, say, old folk songs, these songs don’t seem to age nearly as fast.
Of course I’m talking about music from film, TV, and musicals in general.
And I’ll begin with a new classic: Hamilton.
I don’t know if you’ve been alive for the last year or so, but Hamilton has taken the world by storm with a crazy fan base of people who had previously shown zero interest in Broadway or musicals, but these are the same people that are also buying tickets NINE MONTHS in advance and planning trips to fly to the Big Apple just to take in the show.
The musical is a fantastic interpretation of history that gets a lot of the details right (some are glossed over, some are skipped entirely, and years are blended into what seems like much shorter time period at points) and writer Lin-Manuel Miranda incorporated hip-hop themes to liven up what would have almost certainly been a bore to people who weren’t familiar with the insanely interesting life of Alexander Hamilton.
Side note: If you haven’t read the Ron Chernow biography of Hamilton, I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s intense, but interesting once you get past the introduction. No kidding – it’s a solid, solid book.
The musical is interesting as it takes themes used in songs and re-uses them in other places in other keys, meaning different things. The technique has a definite effect because the one or two measures where the trailing end of a melody is played and then replayed at a different point makes you FEEL a memory for the last time you heard it, but you’re unable to place it at that moment just as you would a feeling from your past if something triggered it just right – where it’s faint, but it’s definitely there.
Additionally, Miranda’s ear for music is STAGGERINGLY good. I told my wife (who was the person who introduced it to me) that it was like he had a firm grip on my heart and it would beat, lift, or break at his will from the music.
And the musical is all music. This is a good thing because a lot of musicals that have spoken words between the songs don’t include said spoken word in the CD of the production (meaning the copy of Book of Mormon you bought isn’t nearly as funny as the actual show – even though it’s still quite funny). The result is that anyone can listen to the Hamilton album and enjoy it in its entirety, just without the visuals.
Once you’re finished (thoroughly) enjoying the production, you can pick up your copy of Hal Leonard’s ukulele transcription!
We had listened to the show a TON in the car. It was all my wife would listen to for months and my kids started singing and rapping along as well. It was a blast and they wanted to do something creative with the music. My son and I recorded our own cover of “Wait For It,” based on someone’s interpretation of the song and, while great, I think I can do better.
So when I saw that Hamilton had a songbook released for piano, I hoped it was only a matter of time before it was released for ukulele and now here it is! And, yes, “Wait For It” is included.
Actually, the book does a pretty good job of including a bunch of the songs from the show. Ten songs made it into the book and you get the feeling that, if it had been more, the size of the book would have been unwieldy and the price expensive, but the ten songs cover an awful lot of ground when it comes to the show, each with different vibes, tempos, and intricacies.
Regarding music notation, the book features standard notation and chord boxes, but no TAB. That’s fine, because when it comes to this music, I prefer to sing along rather than try to infuse the chords with the vocal lines.
It’s affordable, too. With a list price of $16.99 for ten songs from a show where tickets go for… just… SO much money seems like a steal to me. And the quality is of a high level as well because now I can bring the music of Hamilton into my home in my way. At my speed.
I loved going through the book, knowing that the songs that my family all love to sing along with in the car can now be sung in the living room (or, better yet, taught to the kids so they could play it to themselves and get better at the ukulele) makes me genuinely happy. That’s what made me start thinking about this series. While Hamilton is very new (musical-wise), it’s obvious that it’s destined to be a classic and performed for ages similar (but far superior) to something like CATS.
You watch and see that I’m right: this is a show that will be passed down from generation to generation, the music seeping into the public consciousness.
Which made me think of the songs that I grew up listening to that was before my years and the songs that came out pretty early into my life that had the staying power that only comes from something like musicals. Soundtracks like The Wizard of Oz, Peanuts, Disney movies, and classic musicals from Rodgers & Hammerstein. These are songs that were either sung by my mom around the house or showed to me by her because she grew up loving them and wanted to share that love with me.
All of this, in turn, made me want to write a series on these often-overlooked, often-underrated pieces that get ignored because they weren’t performed by five guys in a band, but in the context of something larger.
It’s time to learn some musical numbers!
Suhr is one of my favorite boutique builders. To date, pretty much their entire line involved 25.5″ scale guitars, with Classic S, Classic T, and Classic JM styles as well as their Modern series. For years, fans have asked John Suhr to make a short-scale guitar. To celebrate Suhr’s 20th anniversary, Mr. Suhr has answered those requests with the new Suhr Aura:
It is with great pleasure that we announce the Suhr Aura™ 20th Anniversary Single Cut Guitar. This is a special year for us here at Suhr® as we get ready to celebrate our 20th anniversary. A special year deserves a special guitar. Allow us to introduce you to Aura™.
Single cut, set neck guitars are near and dear to our hearts. John Suhr says, “I grew up playing this type of guitar. It’s been a dream of mine to make the perfect version for me; one that eliminates the niggles that always personally bugged me.”
The guitar will have the following features:
- A deep-dish carve top
- 24.625″ scale length
- Frets that lay over the binding
- A headstock that promotes strength and tuning stability
- Ergonomic body contours
- Easy upper fret access
- A lightweight body that isn’t chambered or weight relieved
For 2018, the Aura will be limited to 100 guitars worldwide, with John Suhr himself working on the guitar along with his Production Manager Mike Ponce. Given the limited run and Mr. Suhr’s involvement, the initial run of the Aura will be priced between $7,500 and $8,000. John has said that they’ll be evaluating whether to introduce the guitar more widely after the first year, which will hopefully mean a larger run at a reduced price.
Stephen in his Salt Lake shop, 1978. Photo courtesy of George Stapleford.
Stephen's obituary can be found at this location -- http://www.premierfuneral.com/obituaries/Stephen-Shepherd/#!/Obituary
The text of his obituary --
Stephen Arden Shepherd
Stephen Shepherd, was born April 20, 1948 in Salt Lake City, UT, to Arden Warren and Vida Johnson Shepherd. He passed away January 24, 2018, a kind release from the debilitating effects of a stroke. He leaves a sister Merrily Runyan, Clovis, CA, and nieces and nephews.
Stephen Shepherd was a unique individual. Whether known as Stephen Shepherd the author, lecturer, and expert in 19th-Century Woodworking, or as “Tater”, the Mountain Man and adventurer, he influenced many people and sometimes irritated others with his infallible knowledge. Arguing historic technology with Stephen was frustrating and pointless – his knowledge was vast. And he shared that knowledge with anyone genuinely interested.
He was always building, repairing, tinkering and inventing, very often simply to see if he could do it – if it could even be done. Many of his friends are proud owners of a “Tater-made” item, from furniture to walking-sticks to quill pens. He shared his knowledge by writing four authoritative books on woodworking, and re-published two more “rescued” books of great value to historians of 19th-Century crafts.
For the most part he lived a 19th-Century life. Almost all his furniture and re-created items were made and restored using only hand tools. He had no power tools in his shop. His careful craftsmanship, restoration and renown finishing techniques, including gorgeous “painting and graining”, gained him world-wide recognition. His clients over the years included many wealthy collectors and The LDS Church Historic Collections.
He dressed for most of his adult life in 19th-Century-style clothing, including when traveling to other states. In 1976, during the bicentennial re-tracing of the Domingues/Escalante journey to Utah, Stephen and companions met the party in the desert, dressed authentically as fur-traders. Their clothing and accoutrement authenticity far outshone that of the re-creators! For decades he attended Mountain Man rendezvous all over the west, and was always welcomed by everyone.
People loved Stephen Shepherd, and were proud to know him. Sometimes they were friends of Stephen, sometimes friends of Tater, some not even knowing they were one and the same! His cheerful demeanor, his willingness to laugh at society’s faults, and his dedication to his friends make the memory of Stephen “Tater” Shepherd precious to all of us who were close to him.
Per Stephen’s wishes, no services will be held, donations may be made to This Is the Place Heritage Park in his memory.
Stephen (left) and myself (right), Mill Creek Canyon, February 1975. We camped this way. We were much younger then.
George Stapleford (left) and Stephen (right) near Moab, Utah, March 1975. Better camping conditions, still cold.
L to R, myself, Stephen, LaMar Higbee, Taos, New Mexico, May 1975. Yet better camping conditions.
George, Stephen, and I, September 2016.
Every guitarist knows that each instrument has its own unique voice and feeling depending on the material used to craft the instrument. The type of wood, along with how it is treated in the factory, will determine what the instrument looks, sounds, and plays like. Charvel is excited to add 5 new “au natural” models that incorporate a variety of different woods and finishes to enhance the guitar’s natural brilliance.
The understated San Dimas Style 1 HH HT E Ash utilizes an ash wood body that gives this guitar a snappier tone. Accented with gold hardware, the Natural finish combined with a 12”-16” compound radius aged ebony fingerboard and Charvel HT6 string-through-body hardtail bridge makes for an even snappier look.
Our San Dimas Style 1 HH FR E offers the same awesome wood combo with a Natural finish ash body and killer streaky aged ebony fingerboard, but with a recessed Floyd Rose® FRT-01000 double-locking tremolo bridge system in chrome.
Set the stage ablaze with the San Dimas Style 1 HH FR E Ash in Charcoal Gray. The surface of the ash body is accentuated by the scorched finish, preserving the intricate detail of the wood grain. The distinct aged ebony fingerboard and black Floyd Rose® FRT-02000 double-locking tremolo bridge retains this guitar’s dark demeanor.
Long set? No problem! The new San Dimas Style 2 HH FR M Okoume has a single-cut body made from the exotic and lightweight tonewood okoume which won’t break your back on stage when playing for an extended period of time. The Natural finish is front and center thanks to the modest black hardware that includes a Floyd Rose® FRT-02000 double-locking recessed tremolo bridge system.
The San Dimas Style 2 HH HT M Okoume is the same brilliant guitar as its tremolo equipped brother but built with a Charvel HT6 string-through-body hardtail bridge and Charvel-branded sealed die-cast locking tuners. The okoume body provides tight low-ends with a touch of brightness on top.
Bold. The only way to describe the latest and greatest colors and wood options added to our incredible Charvel So-Cal and San Dimas models. With a myriad of new tints, hues and shades plus new fingerboard options, we’re certain we’ve got a finish that fits your style.
Our ever-popular So-Cal Style 1 HH FR M is now available in a Matte Blue Frost. Don’t be fooled by its Frosty exterior, the So-Cal’s Seymour Duncan® TB-6 Distortion bridge and SH-6N Distortion neck pickups with black bobbins will warm you right up with their scorching tone.
Forged for rocking, the So-Cal Style 1 HH FR M’s new Satin Silver color option looks like a medieval axe ready-made for battle. Add in a 12”-16” compound radius maple fingerboard, Floyd Rose® FRT-01000 recessed tremolo bridge, chrome hardware and a black pickguard, and you have a guitar that’s built for anything you can throw at it.
T-0 seconds. We have liftoff! Ignite the stage with the Rocket Red So-Cal Style 1 HH FR E, featuring an alder body in our popular vibrant scarlet finish with black pickguard and black hardware. This model now gets an even edgier, road-worn vibe with its new aged ebony fingerboard. A heel-mounted truss rod adjustment wheel and bolt-on maple neck with graphite reinforcement seal the deal.
The San Dimas Style 1 HH HT M will instantly grab your attention with its Snow White finish and glamorous gold hardware including a Charvel HT6 string-through-body hardtail bridge and Charvel-branded sealed die-cast locking tuners.
Love the Matte Blue Frost finish found on our So-Cal model, but prefer it sans pickguard? We’ve got you covered with the San Dimas Style 1 HH FR M, complete with chrome Floyd Rose® FRT-01000 double-locking recessed tremolo bridge and white pickup bobbins.
The subdued styling of the San Dimas Style 1 HH FR M in Satin Black with gold hardware is the quintessential axe for those wanting both daring and discreet.
No restraints! The showy San Dimas Style 1 HH FR M QM adds a gorgeous, wave-like turquoise and blue Chlorine Burst quilt maple top to the alder bodied guitar.
Stand out on stage with the Purple Phaze finish on our San Dimas Style 1 HH FR M QM featuring a beautiful, rippled quilt maple top.
With years of experience to draw upon and an endless wealth of creativity, Charvel Custom Shop Master Builder “Red” Dave Nichols went above and beyond for the NAMM 2018 Custom Shop event, bringing 8 one-of-a-kind masterpieces to the auction.
Go ahead and drool over all of the stunning, master-built guitars below. We sure did.
San Dimas® Style 1 HS White Angel Dust
This San Dimas® Style 1 HS is clear as the driven snow with its immaculate White Angel Dust finished alder body. To fit with the exquisite theme, Red Dave threw a beautiful 12”-16” compound radius flame maple fingerboard with 22 frets on top of the quartersawn maple neck. This heavenly guitar is topped off with gold hardware, including a Floyd Rose™ Original tremolo bridge and Gotoh tuners, and white DiMarzio Super Distortion and Seymour Duncan Flat Start pickups.
San Dimas® Style 1 HSH FR M 3-Tone Sunburst
As bright as the morning sun, the San Dimas® Style 1 HSH FR M’s 3-Tone Sunburst gradient brightens a cooked basswood body capped with a flame maple top. A light relic job and chrome hardware give this axe vintage style while the worn-in Charvel Custom pickups, Floyd Rose™ tremolo bridge, and 24 jumbo frets come together for a hard-rocking machine.
So-Cal Style 1 HSH FR M Daphne Blue Relic
This righteous rig screams Southern California thanks to the ocean vibes stemming from its Daphne Blue finish. The heavy relic’ing reveals the So-Cal Style 1 HSH FR M’s natural alder wood body, giving it an awesome vintage vibe. The bolt-on quartersawn maple neck’s fingerboard is scalloped between the 22 jumbo frets for fast action and playability. Despite its chilled beach-vibe, this guitar rocks hard thanks to its HSH layout, which utilizes a pair of Seymour Duncan™ humbucking pickups and a RWRP Flat Strat single coil pickup in the middle position.
San Dimas® Style 1 HSH FR M Black and Green
With its wild but understated Black and Green finish, the custom-built San Dimas® Style 1 HSH FR M is in your face without being obnoxious. The roasted quartersawn maple neck is topped with an ebony fingerboard, scrupulously hand-scalloped by Red Dave. Green DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups and an inverted headstock complete the “out there” ensemble.
San Dimas® Style 2 HT M QM Antique Burst
Style 2 fans will be stoked to see the San Dimas® Style 2 HT M QM custom shop build from Nichols. Like a fine piece of art, this single cut guitar’s Antique Burst finish preserves the pristine quilt maple top that sits above its alder body. A roasted maple neck is met with a 12”-16” compound radius ebony fingerboard. The solid playing machine is powered by dual DiMarzio D Activator humbucking pickups, and is finished off with a Hipshot hardtail bridge and Gotoh tuners.
San Dimas® Style 1 FR M HSH Relic Surf Green
Nichols’ San Dimas® Style 1 FR M HSH Relic looks like it was pulled from a beachside shipwreck. The cooked basswood body and flame maple top peeks through the Surf Green veneer courtesy of some expert Charvel Custom Shop relic’ing. A bolt-on roasted maple neck and reverse matching headstock take this incredible guitar to new levels.
San Dimas® DK HT M QM 1H Dark Trans Amber
This gorgeous San Dimas® DK H FR M QM is the only Charvel custom guitar at this year’s NAMM showcase to feature a single pickup design. A powerful DiMarzio® Super Distortion humbucking pickup lives within the alder body, topped with quilt maple. The Dark Trans Amber paint gives off a honey-like appearance that is matched nicely by a bolt-on maple neck and a 12”-16” compound radius roasted maple fingerboard that leads to an inverted Tele headstock. A Floyd Rose™ Original hardtail bridge, Gotoh tuners, EVH high friction 250K pot, and chrome pickup bobbins finish off the custom build in sleek style.
San Dimas® Style 1 HS Sustainer FR M Orange/Red Stripe
The speed-demon San Dimas® Style 1 HS FR M Sustainer is slashed by a slick looking Orange and Red racing stripe paint scheme. Matching its quick looks, the alder body is met with a bolt-on quartersawn maple neck with a 12”-16” compound radius maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets for fast fingering. For a truly unique sound, the custom build incorporates a Sustainer Driver neck pickup and an EMG 81 bridge pickup. Wow!
I have found one place, however, where inexpensive instruments, not bottom-of-the-bucket VSOs, are useful, and that is in the fractional violins that go out on rentals. Even then, I don't just pull them out of the box and send them on their way. Typically, new (real) violin strings, work over the pegs, adjust or replace the bridge. Throw the bow away, substitute in a Glasser or something similar that has a chance of surviving.
And my rentals are rent-to-own, so I move the kids up through various sizes as they grow. If the kids stick with it, the parents are well into paying for a decent full-size fiddle by the time the child has grown to that size, and has learned, through various mistakes, how to take care of a fiddle.
The other day, this poor 1/4-size violin came in, brand new, from a reputable supplier. The fingerboard was a ski-jump. I debated sending it back, but didn't want that hassle. I debated asking the supplier for a new fingerboard. That just seemed too demeaning to all of us. So I decided to waste more time.
Here's the old fingerboard --
And here is the new one --
After all my reading and work with Hardanger fiddle design, I started to get a little interested in the inlay process, something I haven't done much of. So I found a piece of bone, a cut-off from a guitar-nut blank, cut it quickly to a rough diamond shape, laid it out on the center of the fingerboard in a random spot, and started the inlay.
I didn't notice at the time, but I drifted a bit to one side during the inlay process, something to be on the look-out for if I do more of these things.
I also did a little bit of simple engraving, which is a bit crude, but I think it looks better than just the bone diamond.
Also cut a new bridge, installed new Prelude strings and a Wittner tailpiece. For a cheap little fiddle, it ought to work well for someone.
On a sad note, my long-time friend, Stephen Shepherd, passed away yesterday. He had suffered a stroke a few years back, and went from being a vital historic cabinetmaker and author to a semi-paralyzed invalid. Early on, it looked like he might come out of it. He didn't. When I visited him in Salt Lake this past Thanksgiving, he was basically bedridden and bored, starving himself to death.
I will miss him.
Here we are, the Three Musketeers, at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, in 1974. Stephen is center, I am to the left, and George Stapleford to the right.
Continuing one of PRS’s longest collaborations, PRS and Mark Tremonti have announced the new signature Mark Tremonti amp, called the MT15:
The MT 15 is a commanding two channel amp with balanced aggression and articulation. Powered by 6L6 tubes, the MT 15 has a large, bold sound, so you can dig in heavy with rhythms but also get singing lead tones out of one amp. Whether recording, practicing, writing, or playing a small room, this amp has everything you need.
The MT 15’s design started with heavier players in mind, but in the end, it has a lot to offer players of all genres. Like the PRS Archon amplifier, the MT 15 features five gain stages before the Master for full, lush distortion. The gain channel gets big, chunky tone with massive, tight low end, but it never loses its articulate note definition or great lead tone. The clean channel is bright and chimey, good with chords and fingerstyle playing – whether with a pic or not. The clean channel also features a push/pull boost control that adds a little overdrive for old school crunch. No matter what tone you dial in, the MT 15 stays balanced across the spectrum with a sweet, smooth tone that won’t bite your head off.
Additional features include an effects loop and bias adjusters that are accessible from the back panel for ease of servicing. Despite its 15 watts, the MT 15 sounds more like 50, so a half power switch that takes the MT to 7 watts is a welcome edition. Bottom line, the amount of features, the hugeness of the sound, and the raw horsepower of the circuit make the MT 15 an impressive lunchbox hero.
This amp manages to pack a lot of features into a relatively low price point ($650 street). It’s a little surprising that it’s a lower watt amp given that Tremonti plays fairly heavy music. Maybe a higher watt amp is in the works? At any rate, this looks like a solid starting point. I’m interested to hear how versatile it really is.
I haven’t spoken about Chase Bliss Audio much on here, but Joel Korte makes some really great and unique pedals. He just announced a new delay pedal called the Thermae, which is a pitch-shifting and harmonizing delay pedal:
Thermae represents a radically new approach to analog delay and harmonization. The pedal digitally manipulates an analog signal path created by 4 re-issued versions of the legendary MN3005 bucket-brigade delay chips. This creates the ability to change delay time in musically interesting intervals which allows for innumerable options for harmonizing and other sonic madness. These intervals can be sequenced through automatically, or triggered manually for ultimate usability in a musical context. Thermae can also be used as a more standard analog delay with unprecedented analog modulation options. Every knob and switch is connected to a little digital brain while your guitar signal stays 100% analog and never gets digitally processed.
Fender recently announced that they’re discontinuing the American Vintage line and replacing it with the American Original series. An updated version of the American Vintage series, the American Original guitars feature a modern fingerboard radius, narrow, tall frets along with features such as vintage-voiced pickups and a nitrocellulose finish. The series includes Stratocasters, Jazzmasters, Jaguars, and, of course, Telecasters, as well as new Jazz and Precision basses.
The Telecaster is especially interesting to me because it brings back the double-bound body from the ’62 American Vintage Reissue that was discontinued several years ago. I think a double-bound Tele looks great, so this is a welcome addition in my opinion.
Here are the details of the new American Original 60s Telecaster from Fender:
The American Original ’60s Telecaster combines period-accurate sound and style from this electrifying decade with modern, fast-playing feel and pickup switching. The Pure Vintage ’64 single-coil Telecaster pickups are as period-correct as possible, from the enamel-coated coil wire to the cloth-covered output wires, fiber bobbins and alnico 5 magnets. The bridge pickup’s copper shielding plate adds some zing to your tone, while the pole pieces are staggered for balanced volume between the strings. The mid-’60s C-shaped neck profile gracefully fills the fret hand, while the 9.5″-radius round-lam rosewood fingerboard will feel familiar to any player.
Other authentic touches include vintage-tall frets, original-era body radii, vintage-style hardware—including three steel saddles—vintage-style hardshell case and a lacquer finish that not only lets the wood breathe naturally with resonant tone, it also wears in a distinctively appealing way.A legendary instrument, the American Original ’60s Telecaster is the best way to experience the performance, style and tone that made Fender the foundation of modern music.
If you have 48 minutes to spare, the folks at Andertons have a pretty good overview of the entire American Original series:
One of the anticipated releases being announced tomorrow is Fender’s Parallel Universe series. Basically, the series contains several guitars that combine features together to create something interesting. One of the more interesting to me is the Troublemaker Telecaster.
From the leaked picture, the Troublemaker Telecaster is basically a Les Paul in Tele form. It purportedly will have a mahogany body, maple top, two wide-range humbuckers, 22 frets, a mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard, and classic LP controls (2 volume, 2 tone, and 3-way toggle). The rumors are that it will have the traditional 25.5″ Fender scale. It’ll be interesting to see what actually gets announced tomorrow.