|King of the Surf Guitar|
I am of an age where I can recall Surf Guitar being played on the radio. I am not certain how players learn songs anymore, but I grew up listening to The Ventures, The Surfaris and Dick Dale. I learned to play guitar by listening to those songs over and over until I could duplicate them.
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones|
|Misilou 45 RPM|
|The Fender Discussion Page|
In the late 1990’s, when I first got on the internet I used to visit The Fender Forum aka The Fender Discussion Page. Early on this site was not just a discussion page for fans of Fender guitars, but also received visits and comments from Fender employees, including Bill Schultz, the CEO at the time.
|Fender Facts Newsletter|
Fender had a newsletter back then and one issue featured an interview with Dick Dale. We thought it humorous that Dick Dale spoke in the third person throughout the interview and we poked fun of that.
|Dick Dale with his cats|
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones|
Indeed there are a number of Fender innovations that although Dale did not create, he was the impetus and drive behind them. For instance, most amplifiers in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were putting out 12 to 15 watts. There were a handful, including the Fender Bassman that pumped out 40 watts RMS.
|With the Del-Tones|
When Dick Dale first started playing music, he says he was in a 17 piece band, with horns and a drummer. He was playing Big Band Music and the guitar could not be heard.
|Town Hall Party cast in the 1950's|
Later he attempted to be a Country singer for a while and even got a gig on a popular west coast TV show called Town Hall Party where he played with a number of famous Country Music stars.
Then Rock and Roll came along and the band became a combo, but the still the guitar was pretty much a background rhythm instrument.
When guitar based Surf Music hit the scene around 1962 he needed to do something. Leo Fender was a generous man and provided amplifiers and guitars to California musicians as a form of not just advertising but to see what worked well and what needed improvement.
|Leo Fender in the 1950's|
Here was a guy playing his guitar upside-down and backwards, meaning the 6th string was on the top and the 1st string was on the bottom. So Leo Fender made a left-handed Stratocaster for him.
|Late 1950's Fender Pro - 18 to 25 watts|
|Dale's Original Showman Prototype|
|Vintage 15" JBL Lansing D130F|
|15" JBL Lansing D130F speakers|
|Early 1960's Fender Dual Showman|
The speakers were housed in a separate cabinet than the amplifier. This cabinet had what Fender called a "tone ring" that encircled the edge of the speaker and let more of the natural bass sounds come through.
The output transformer that Mr. Fender created emphasized the lows, mids and high sounds, something that had not been accomplished until then. The 100 watt amp and the cabinet were dubbed The Showman Amp.
The next step that Dale suggested was to place two of these speakers in a cabinet. The Showman Amp was born. When twin 8 ohm 15” JBL Lansing speakers were added to the cabinet to run in series it came to be known as The Dual Showman. Leo Fender had to upgrade the transformer to accommodate the 4 ohm load.
The version that Dick Dale uses is the one with cream coloured Tolex. Later the amp was rated at 100 watts and peaked at 180 watts. When the black Tolex models came out they were once again rated at 85 watts.
Dick Dale never set the amplifier on top of the speaker cabinet, since his intense style of playing guitar causes too much vibration in the speakers which can affect the tubes in the amplifier.
|Fender Reverb Unit & Controls|
By 1961, only a handful of amplifier manufacturers had installed reverberation units in combo amps, most notably Ampeg, with their Reverb Rocket. Though none of these amplifiers had been rated at 100 watts up until now.
Dick Dale state he took apart his Hammond organ and discovered the reverb unit had 9 springs, which the signal traveled through. He took this to Leo, who made a chassis with a small amplifier that contained a 6K6 power tube, a 7025 and a 12AX7, which are both preamp tubes. Dale plugged a mic into this and loved the sound.
|Inside the Reverb Unit|
Getting back to the Dick Dale guitar. Even early photos show that Dale stripped that guitar down to the bare essentials. He took out all the parts that he did not need on that guitar.
|Dick Dale with his original Fender Stratocaster|
|Dick Dale Stratocaster|
One would think that a Surf player would utilize the vibrato, but not Dick Dale. Though his guitar still has 5 springs on the back side holding the vibrato block (5 springs were standard on original Stratocasters) there is a wooden block wedged between the block and the guitars routed area to keep the block from moving.
Dick Dale’s Fender Stratocaster is a mid 1950’s model, which is odd as it has a rosewood slab fretboard. The body is finished in sparkle gold paint
|Dick Dale's Stratocaster|
|Late 1960's Fender Rhodes electric piano|
Around 1959 Leo Fender was interesting in adding a piano to his company’s inventory. He struck a deal with Harold Rhodes, who was a musician and inventor.
Rhodes had come up with a piano-type instrument that employed tuned metal bars called tines being struck by a hammer instead the usual piano action of a hammer striking of strings. The sound was then amplified. This instrument eventually came to be known as the Fender Rhodes piano.
By now Leo Fender considered Dick Dale to be not just a guitarist, but the ultimate test machine. If he could give Dale a piece of equipment and let him use it in concerts, then Fender could see if it was worthy. Apparently, the Fender Rhodes Piano passed the test and though it never became a substitute for an acoustic piano, it became a studio and concert mainstay.
|Fender Contempo Organ|
A company called Pratt Read, was manufacturing parts for the Fender Rhodes piano and was asked by Fender if they could put together a combo organ.
|Dick Dale's Prototype Contempo organ|
The Fender Contempo was one of the sturdier of the portable organs of that era. This was another product that Fender gave to Dick Dale to test for road-worthiness.
|Dick Dale Acoustic|
|Jimmy Dale Acoustic|
Since Dick's son, Jimmy, often travels with him and is a part of his act playing guitar and drums, Fender also built a Jimmy Dale Kingman SCE model. This guitar is a full sized with an all mahogany body. The set-in maple Stratocaster-style neck without the reverse headstock. Both guitars are no longer offered.
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones from Beach Party|
|Dick Dale in the movie Muscle Beach|
This is the guitar that he is still using today.
|Dick Dale in recent years|
|Dick Dale at 78 - same equipment|
Like I said before, I really admire Dick Dale. Dick is a viable part of the history of the electric guitar and all the equipment that changed the face of rock music and he deserves recognition.
Click on the links beneath the pictures to see the source and click on the links in the text for more information.
Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1952
I like to split guitar bracing material from billets of spruce or Douglas fir, usually I use a 2 inch wide registered mortice chisel for the task, but the chisel doesn't work as well as a froe.
During this past summer and fall I bugged a friend of mine to weld a piece of steel pipe to an old file I have to make a small froe for the shop.
Either he was too busy or I was, the froe never got made.
Then, lo and behold, there on the Tools For Woodworking website were three different sized froes made by Ray Iles! I emailed the web address to my wife and told her which froe to order for me, I was so very excited!
On Christmas morning I unwrapped a wonderful present, a six inch Ray Iles froe.
It's a nice froe, very much the length I need...
and today I cut up a length of a hickory pick axe handle, chucked it into the lathe and made a new handle for the froe.
Why should I do that when the Iles froe comes with a very nice beech handle?
It is my tool and I want a different shaped handle and the handle will do quite well for now.
Froes are tools that are very near and dear to my heart. When I was a kid, I helped my parents rive shingles to replace the worn ones on my grandparents' house in the Sierra Nevada of northern California. Shingle making had been a cottage industry for many folks that lived in the great forests of Northern California from the 1850's until the end of World War II. My great uncle, Frank, told me that my grandfather, Rufus, could rive one thousand shakes a day, if he didn't have to stack them. During the Great Depression, my grandfather often sold the shakes for a penny a piece.
In the above photos are two froes and a shingle bolt marking gauge made by my grandfather.
The froe on the right is a "checking" froe; you would mark the top of the bolt with the checking froe to see how many shakes you could rive from the bolt.
The riving froe, on the left, is what you use to do the actual splitting and riving. Notice how the end of the riving froe is upturned on the very end, I was told this little bend made it easier to get the froe out of the bolt. If I had made my own froe this fall, it would have looked just like this one, only smaller.
Notice that the handle on the riving froe has a curve to it, this curve help saves the knuckles of the hand that is hold the froe from getting hit by your froe mallet. California Live oak limbs were harvested for froe handles, they were placed into forms while green to set the curve and were sold once dry. Some where I read that live oak handle sold for as much as 10 cents an inch in 1900.
If you want to see how I make a traditional froe mallet, traditional to northeastern California, click here.
This historic photo comes from the CSU Chico Digital Collections, click here to see the original photo. These men were working near the Clipper Mills area of Butte County, California. Both men are using froes with French eyes, the gentleman to the left is riving out bolts, the gent on the right is splitting shakes and take a look at the brake he is using. When I was a kid, a similar, but not as fancy, brake that was used by my grandfather was out behind the wood shed.
The stacks behind the men are shake bolts, usually six inches wide by thirty six inches long. One implement I don't see in this photo is the baler, a device to squeeze the shakes down so you could wrap them with wire. If I remember correctly, it was 100 shakes to a bundle.
Here's a photo of me, from about five years ago, using my grandfather's froe splitting a cheek for a lathe poppet.
As for the Ray Iles froe, it is well made and I look forward to using it, a nice tool to honor a bit of my heritage. All I need to do now is to figure out some sort of board brake to use at the workbench when I split out guitar braces.
Just last week, Frendly Gathering announced they will be moving their annual festival from Timber Ridge to Sugarbush!
The move to Sugarbush in Vermont allows Frendly Gathering to offer a new layout and more activities as well as car camping and an on site box office. The annual festival is the creation of professional Burton snowboarders and Martin Ambassadors Danny Davis and Jack Mitrani. Martin Guitar is a proud sponsor and attendee of the Frendly Gathering!
The 2017 Frendly Gathering at Sugarbush will be held June 29th through July 1st. Blindfaith tickets are now on sale here.
Martin Ambassador Danny Davis' Martin guitar of choice is a Dreadnought cutaway from the Martin Custom Shop. Martin Ambassador Jack Mitrani's Martin guitar of choice is a 000 Koa from the Martin Custom Shop.
Yet more very sad news in a year that has seemed crueller than usual to some of our most beloved musicicans. The latest to be taken from us is Rick Parfitt of Status Quo. He'd recently made the decision to quit playing live shows with Quo, and wasn't too keen on their recent preference for acoustic-biased material. He was however looking ahead to 2017 with a solo album and autobiography planned.
G L Wilson
© 2016, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - the blog that goes all the way to 11!
Please read our photo and content policy.
|Merry Christmas and Happy New Year|
On the eve of this Christmas, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a most Happy Holiday from The Unique Guitar Blog.
|Framus Christmas guitar|
Some of my favorite guitars were Christmas presents. Send me a note if you received a guitar for this Holiday season and let me know all about it.
|Fender guitar ornaments|
I want to thank you for reading the blog. I love reading your comments as much as I love writing about guitars.
I have some new articles ready to go for the new year. Speaking of which, may you all have a very Happy New Year.
Of course there continue to be moments of frustration but that’s what playing music is and should be about, along with the moments of triumph. Little things confound me from time to time. Sometimes I will have to start all over when I revisit a song that I knew quite well years ago. I wish I could get over my quest for the “perfect” guitar, which I most likely will never find. Nuts and bolts issues like my ongoing battle with my new SD/USB recorder and amplification problems – OK, I admit I’m probably too picky! – make me nuts. And the inexorable march of time that has left me with an annoying case of Renaud’s Syndrome, rendering my fingers useless if I don’t pay very close attention to keeping them warm. A recent pulled back muscle heaving my Fender Vibrolux into the back seat of my truck on the way to a gig. Knowing that I should spend at least as much time exercising my singing voice as I do my fingers so one of these days I can get back to playing with a band when more singing will be required. So it goes.
There were plenty of high points for me in 2016 though. My continuing residence at the wonderful local café the Daily Brew every Sunday morning is great. February will mark my 6th anniversary there and tt has inspired me to learn new songs and best of all, I’ve met and come to know many of the “locals” who frequent the place. Some turn out to be fascinating, like the older lady who comes in once in a while and repeats her stories of playing country music professionally many years ago. She showed me a couple wonderful photos of herself in full cowgirl regalia holding her 1956 Gibson L5, which she still cherishes even though she gave up playing long ago. I keep asking her to bring it in some time as I’d love to see and play it. Although I’m not involved with the local bar music scene, quite a few of the players who are have become friends and it’s fun to gossip with them about the scene.
Although I said above that my guitar quest will probably never end, right now I have two great guitars that will probably stick about for a while, a 1992 Martin HD-28 C.T.B. (Custom Tortoise Binding) that is one of only 97 made by Martin as part of their long-gone “guitar of the month” series. It sounds and plays great, very classy looking with gorgeous appointments. For gigging I’ve been using an Eastman AC422CE, which I had Fran Ledoux of Bay Fretted Instruments outfit with a K&K pick-up and I replaced the tuners with Gotoh 510’s, also added some Colosi bone pins. It is a joy to play, with the slightly rolled edge on the fingerboard that makes it super comfortable. The sound is remarkable – it surpasses any of the Taylor 16-series guitars I’ve owned or played, many of which cost three or four times as much. I’ve had a few students in the last couple years who own Eastmans and I am now of the opinion that they are the absolute best guitars coming out of China at this time due to their flawless fit and finish – and sound. Plus, I’m less concerned with bringing out on gigs than I would be with my expensive Martin. If finances allow I may just pick up the mahogany version of this model in the Spring. See what I mean? Never enough guitars….
I had the opportunity to hear some great live music in 2016, the highlight being Lyle Lovett and his Large Band at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. We had seats only two rows from the stage and as much as I love Lyle, watching from a few feet away the legendary drummer Russ Kunkel drive the band was worth the price of admission alone. It was a GREAT show, probably the best of the 10 or so times I’ve seen Lyle. He is a class act all the way and truly loves and appreciates his band mates and playing. See him if you can! I also heard some great music last spring in Key West (and some awful music too, but hey, that’s Key West!). I’m looking forward to two trips down there including one in the near future. I will report back.
But for me 2016 also held moments of deep sorrow and the greatest joy. My mother in law passed away at the age of 90, not an unexpected event but I will miss her forever. She was a remarkable member of the Greatest Generation and a prime example of why it has that name. But my joy was the birth of my first granddaughter to my daughter and her husband. Little Clara is truly the light of our lives and as prefect a baby as one could hope for. I look forward to playing her some songs in the next few days. I did bring her a ukulele when she came home from the hospital but I don’t think she’s quite ready to play with me yet (!).
So, as I always say at the end of these posts: peace & good music. 2017 WILL be a good year because ultimately intelligence, compassion and grace WILL prevail. I absolutely believe that.
Happy New Year!
© 2016, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - the blog that goes all the way to 11!
Please read our photo and content policy.
Trivium’s 2003 debut Ember To Inferno is a landmark release that led to the band’s signing to Roadrunner Records and the worldwide success that followed. Out of print for several years, the band and 5B Artist Management have partnered with Cooking Vinyl to re-release the album, along with a deluxe edition titled Ember To Inferno: Ab Initium that includes 13 additional demos that have never been previously available. It’s a hugely important release for Trivium fans, filling in some gaps in the story of how they became one of the hardest-working and most self-reinventing metal bands in the world. I caught up with voclalist/guitarist Matt Heafy to chat about it.
What would the Matt Heafy of today have told the Matt Heafy of 2003 about what to expect from a career in music?
If I could look back and talk to myself now I would say ‘be prepared. There’s going to be a lot of good, bad and ugly. You will have good things happen and you will have bad things happen, but all those things will bring you to who you are today.’
How did you grapple with the attention being so young?
Back on Ember, we didn’t have fans at that point. When that record came out, with the distribution deal it had, you couldn’t really find that record anywhere. So we were excited to get signed but when we went to our local record stores, we couldn’t find Ember. When the release first came out it was kind of cursed from the beginning. That label eventually did get their distribution sorted out, but by the time it was sorted, Ascendency was coming out. Ascendency completely eclipsed the release of Ember. And when Ascendency first came out we still didn’t have fans yet. I remember going on tour doing Ozzfest and having people not knowing who we were. The first time we went somewhere new and had fans who were waiting for us was the UK. That was the first time we really experienced ‘Oh wow, people are into our band!’ But in the Ember days, from the beginning up until the Ascendency days, we’d play a couple of local shows in Orlando once in a while, maybe play a dive bar and get five or seven people.
One of the most revealing things I’ve heard in an interview is when Metallica came to Australia in 2013 and an interviewer on the radio asked James Hetfield ‘Did you imagine in 1983 that in 30 years’ time you’d be headlining arenas in Australia?’ and James’s answer was something like ‘Yes, of course. You have to have goals like that and believe they’re going to happen.’
For Trivium the goal from the very beginning has always been to be one of the biggest metal bands in the world. To be the kind of band that makes an impact on the music scene. It’s something that takes a lot of time and it’s always been the goal. When we first came out, when people first started hearing about Trivium and reading about us in magazines, we were known as that band with the cocky ambitions of world domination. People were taken aback by that because we were 18, 19 years old and they weren’t used to people talking like that at that age, but people have got to understand that I’d already been in the band for six or seven years at that point. I’d already been living with that goal of wanting to be a massive band. It’s been that same way since day one.
Take me back to the demo days.
With the Ember reissue it has the Red, Blue and Yellow demos. At the time of Red, that was our first time recording in a decent bedroom-converted local studio. When we went to do the Blue album with Jason Seucof, that was the first time recording in something a little bigger. It was Jason’s garage converted into a little studio. And for us that was the biggest thing we’d ever been in in our entire lives. We did Blue, Yellow, Ember, Ascendency, The Crusade, I did Roadrunner United and Capharnaum, this technical death metal band I have with Jason, and it’s really like a DIY home-made studio. Jason pulled off some amazing things. So by the time we were doing the Blue album it was familiar with us to be with Jason.
At what point did you feel that you guys found your voice as a band?
That’s a good question. From the beginning we always made the kinds of music we wanted to hear as fans of metal. We made the kind of music that we felt was either missing or that we specifically wanted to hear at that point in time, and I don’t recall exactly when we were thinking ‘Oh we’ve really hit our stride now,’ but I can say that looking back now and listening to everything very intensely, I used to love Ember as being a record that was similar to Ascendency, in the same style. But looking back now, it really isn’t. It’s so different from Ascendency. Yes, there is screaming and singing but musically it’s approached very differently. And what’s so cool is it truly is seven records of Trivium that are very different to each other. Some have a little more in common with each other than others but I feel like Ember falls into that category as well. It’s great to see the scale and breadth that the band has, with so much different material that can still fit together. Like today we can play a song like ‘Until The World Goes Cold’ and go immediately into ‘Pillars of Serpents’ and it makes sense. That’s a really great thing and it’s not a contrived feeling.
You guys are in a category that I would put an artist like Devin Townsend in too, which is that you have fans who trust you with their ears, y’know? Whatever you do, they’ll find their personal way to connect with it and they don’t necessarily want it to be the same thing all the time. You’ll always get the people who latch onto one album and want you to make it over and over but they’re probably not the ones with Trivium tattoos.
Exactly. And one of the cheeky things we always say about us not making the same record every time is, there are enough bands that do that, where it’s pretty much the same record every time. We would never be content to do that. And if you even look at Red to Blue, they’re very different to each other. Blue to Yellow, very different.
How have your gear preferences changed over the years since doing Ember?
I know the Blue album, we recorded with something weird. What was that gold BOSS rack preamp thing?
Yeah! I think we used that into an Alesis PA power amp or something really bizarre. I think that was the sound of the Blue album. I could be wrong. With Ember I want to say it was maybe some version of a Peavey 5150 or a XXX head. If I think of all the record it’s always been some form of a 5150 I, II or III into something with V30s or something similar. It’s always been that with an overdrive in front, whether it’s been Ibanez or Maxon or MXR. It’s always worked for us.
It’s so interesting that when Eddie and James Brown designed the 5150, the genres it went on to be used in didn’t exist yet but it’s such a perfect amp for really extreme metal.
It’s crazy! Y’know, there’s actually a scene in Full House where Jesse and the Rippers were trying out new guitar players and there was a 5150 there. And there was a 5150 onstage with Jesse and the Rippers in a lot of scenes! But every record we’ve done has been some version of a 5150 head. I think with Ascendency, Sneap used maybe a Mesa Dual Rectifier for the leads.
Ember To Inferno is out now.
This Martin Monday post is especially close to our hearts as we introduce you to the Two Millionth Martin Guitar.
To commemorate this milestone, Martin Guitar partnered with America's premier watchmaker RGM Watch Co. (http://www.rgmwatches.com/) to create this one-of-a-kind model that features a custom working RGM timepiece built into the head stock of the guitar.
The Two Millionth guitar has a D-45 style body with back and sides constructed of Brazilian rosewood. The top is crafted of highly-figured bearclaw Engelmann spruce. The use of the watch motif marks the anniversary and includes decorative gears, guilloché, decorative inlays, and a working watch embedded into the head stock.
Martin Guitar and RGM will also collaborate on the limited edition D-200 Deluxe. This collector's model will be limited to only 50 guitars and each will feature a watch theme throughout the design, including a pick guard that has pearl inlay watch gears. The D-200 will also include a custom RGM watch. You can learn more about the D-200 Deluxe here.
I enjoy working with scrapers and files. Sanding is messy and time consuming.
There was a time when most luthiers did not do much sanding. The finished instrument did not have a perfect, homogeneous surface. It looked like wood that was worked by hand with edge tools.
The tool marks and slight unevenness in finish and texture of a scraped and filed instrument is beautiful in my eyes. In our current industrial society many people think wood should look like a photograph of wood more than wood itself.
So I sand my dulcimers.
Still, there will be the occasional tool mark that I don’t sand out. I made this dulcimer. I made that tool mark. And to me it is beautiful.
By “tool mark” I am referring to a subtle witness that a plane, chisel, scraper or file had been used to work the surface. By “tool mark” I don’t refer to marks left by the sawmill, the bandsaw, a dulcimer-making machine, etc.
For years I have thought of making a sandpaper-free model. I’m sure some people would like it. Or not. Maybe someday.
That’s dulcimer #157 on the bench. The old shaving brush is great for sweeping away dust from all the nooks and crannies.
Not in the photograph is the dust mask I wear while sanding and and air cleaner that sucks the dust out of the air.
You can see photographs of work in progress regularly by following me on Instagram.
“Your left hand is what you know. Your right hand is who you are.”
Wow, I can’t think of a better way to express the reality of making music on the guitar. (This assumes you’re right-handed of course!) When guitarists reach the intermediate level of playing and on into advanced technique they need to consider the next step beyond pure replication of a piece of music. In classical music there is an entire dictionary of Italian terms to convey what the composer wants beyond the playing of the notes. But in popular music it is rare to find such notation in printed music. Why is this? Perhaps because the writer of the music doesn’t really expect much interpretation, assuming someone learning their music is mostly concerned with getting the right notes and/or chords. Who knows?
I often stress with my students the importance of “making the music your own.” What I mean by that is not being afraid to divert from spending all their time just trying to play a tune “right” whatever the heck that really means. Of course – we all want to play a song as the artist intended it on a purely nuts-and-bolts level. But by adding subtle elements or even more radical departures it’s possible to come up with something that is not only satisfying but in many cases, more interesting to the listener.
Let’s start with the simplest one of all: dynamics. If you’re unfamiliar with that term it means playing parts of a song softer or louder, or with more or less emphasis. I’ve seen hundreds of people playing in bars and lounges as solo acts, duos and larger groups and I can say with certainty that very few if any vary their dynamics at all. OK, I understand this may be on purpose; if you’re playing in a rowdy bar and banging out rock, country or Irish drinking songs you’d best be loud and energetic or you won’t have the gig very long. Loud and rowdy = more drinks sold = more money in the cash register. I get that.
Conversely, if you’re playing a nice restaurant where your function is to help set the mood and never, ever intrude on conversation you’d better keep that amp turned down low. I’ve had instances in these kinds of places where patrons would ask to change tables as soon as they saw me show up with even the smallest amplifier, before I even turned it on. Again, I get it.
But in both the above scenarios some subtle variation in dynamics at certain points in certain songs will make the music more interesting and compelling if those subtle variations are surrounded by what the crowd expects.
Next element in making a song your own is variation of tempo. This can be quite radical if you’re bold enough but also quite effective. Jazz guitarists do this all the time. One of my favorite players, the Brazilian master Romero Lubambo often takes jazz standards and plays them in bossa nova or samba style and it is way cool. The great Stevie Wonder routinely takes the vamp in the middle of his “Superstition” and begins slowly it down more and more, then gradually increases the tempo back to the original speed and the crowd goes crazy, every time.
Now, these are radical examples. A more subtle way is to let the music “breathe” just a bit. When you get to significant phrase in the lyrics perhaps slow down just a tiny bit for effect, or even pause for a few beats before returning to the original tempo. This has to be done judiciously and not too often. The idea is to not be entirely predictable but at the same time compelling. Little (intended) variations of tempo make for a more interesting listening experience. Of course, if you are playing in a band be sure to rehearse these little variations and close listening to other members while playing is essential. Nothing with make a drummer’s head explode quicker than a player who is unpredictable and can’t keep the beat!
Then there is the structure of the tune itself. Things like playing a piece in a different key than is used in a familiar piece music can really open the door for some interesting variations. Even non-musicians’ brains “remember” keys of familiar songs, even if they have no idea what a key is. Shake ‘em up a bit. There is a risk that some listeners won’t like it but making music is and should be about taking risks! You might even take it a bit further and change the chord structure a bit. Try inserting a Am7 where the original music call for a straight Am. Add some scale-wise motion in the bass end between chords. Add an occasional hammer-on or pull-off here and there. Or even try substituting relative chords in a few places (G Major instead of Em, or vice versa; Am instead of C major). You may or may not like the sound and too much substitution risks changing the tune too radically to be recognizable but it may lead to some other ideas, too.
These are just some of the things I mean when I say, make the music your own. And who knows? Making someone else’s music your own may inspire you to write something. Which means making music that is entirely your own.
Peace & good music,
We always knew the 00-17S Whiskey Sunset was a winner but Guitar & Bass Magazine just confirmed it!
Guitar & Bass Magazine released their Gear Of The Year 2016 issue this month which honored the 00-17S Whiskey Sunset with the highest honor. The review states "the slim neck contributes to easy playing feel and string-to-string balance that can make some of us sound like better acoustic players than we really are." Who doesn't love that? You can read everything Guitar & Bass Magazine has to say about the 00-17S Whiskey Sunset here.
The captivating sunburst finish features a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. The Grand Concert model is strung with Martin Retro Light strings. You can learn more about the 00-17S Whiskey Sunset here.
Ready to experience the 00-17S Whiskey Sunset in person? You can find an authorized Martin dealer near you here. Already know the 00-17S Whiskey Sunset is the acoustic guitar for you? Order right now from a certified online Martin dealer here.
The auction lasts for only five days, that way you can get the plane by Christmas!
If I remember correctly, I typed it out as a Type 13 plane. A good 85% of the original japanning remains; the knob and tote are nice rosewood are gorgeous, the only flaw to the wood is a few scratches and there is a small chip on the upper left hand side of the tote which you can see in the photo. I lapped the back of the blade, tuned the blade cap and did some lapping on the sole, there is still plenty of storage patina left on the metal. This is a great user plane and needs a good home! Please ask questions and I can email more photos to you if needed.
The new D-16E, one of three new models from Martin's new Americana Series, will be hitting an authorized Martin dealer near you in 2017! The Americana Series uses American grown and harvested Sycamore and Cherry wood.
The new D-16E is a classic Martin Dreadnought with a 000 depth. The new guitar has a Sitka Spruce top and Sycamore back and sides. The silver binding and heel cap makes this new guitar a real stunner! It is also constructed with an ebony fingerboard and mother-of-pearl diamond and square inlays. The D-16E is an easy to play guitar that is equipped with Fishman's Matrix VT Enhance electronics. The guitar will be strung with SP Lifespan medium gauge strings.
You can learn more about the D-16E here.
|Elvis, That's The Way It Is|
|Elvis with Gretsch Country Gentleman|
|Early Elvis with Martin D-28|
|Elvis Tossing a Martin guitar|
|Broken Martin D-35|
His style of strumming was very rough. Perhaps this was due to the lack of adequate amplification during his early days of fame that he played so aggressively that he damaged the top of his guitars. His huge belt buckles attributed to a bad case of “buckle rash” on the back of a number of his instruments.
As I already related, we see Elvis changed guitars quite often and no doubt the damage that he inflicted accounts for some of this reason.
|1946 Kay Guitar|
Elvis received a Kay guitar in 1946 for his 11th birthday that his parents bought for either $7.00 or $12.50 from a hardware store in Tupelo, Mississippi. Accounts tell us he wanted a bicycle, but instead received a guitar. And his fans are grateful. This Kay instrument may have been the guitar that he took to Sun Records to make his first recording. There are several stories about the history of this guitar.
One states that Elvis gave the guitar to his friend, Red West when he (Elvis), enrolled in Jones County College. Then Red gave it to his friend, Ronnie Williams, who bequeathed it to his brother William. The other story states that Elvis traded the Kay guitar at the O.K. Houck Piano Company in Memphis when he purchased a Martin guitar. This story goes on to say upon selling Elvis the Martin guitar the store promptly threw the Kay instrument in the trash. Whichever story is correct the guitar still exists, and is held together by tape and has no strings. It was offered for auction in 2002, but due to the lack of provenance to document it, failed to attract bidders.
|Elvis with Martin 000-18|
In 1954 Elvis purchased a 1936 Martin 000-18 from the O.K. Houck Piano Company in Memphis, Tennessee. This guitar was purchased for $5 down and $10 a month which cost $79.50 in 1954. Included with the purchase was a set of “autogram” Metallic letters that spelled E-L-V-I-S. Presley put these on the body of the guitar.
|Recording King Guitar|
|Elvis' 1942 Martin D-18|
Elvis apparently was not happy with the sound of the Martin 000-18 that he had purchased from the O.K. Houck Piano Company and in November of 1954 he traded it for a 1942 Martin D-18, which was a larger bodied instrument. He immediately put the same metallic lettering on this guitars body to spell out his name.
|1955 Martin D-28|
|1956 Gibson J-200|
He was supposed to visit the store in person to pick it up, but was unable to get out of other commitments, so Moore picked it up for him.
|1956 J-200 with cover|
The Gibson J-200 became one of Elvis’ favorite guitars. And it still is a gorgeous instrument. Within a year, Elvis had a hand-tooled leather cover made for it by Charles Underwood. (This was not the high-end leather manufacturer of the same name.)
It was 1958 when Elvis was drafted into the United States Army. While stationed in Germany his friend Lamar Fike, purchased a German guitar for Elvis called an Isana. This was a jazz style archtop instrument with soundholes that resembled the letter “S”. Elvis may of owned a couple of these guitars. One had a floating pickup, but was constructed in a way to be played without amplification.
Elvis used these guitars during his military service and when he was discharged gave them away to some local men he had befriended.
|The modified Gibson J-200|
Elvis used his newer 1960 Gibson J-200 for the next eight years including on the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special.
|Elvis with borrowed Hagstrom Viking|
In 1968 for this same show Elvis borrowed a 1968 Hagstrom Viking electric guitar from session player Al Casey. During the taping the shows producer asked if any of the musicians had a flashy looking instrument that Elvis could use. Al Casey had this guitar in his cars trunk.
The background of the scene was red with silhouettes of guitar players and Elvis was dressed in all black with a red bandanna and was holding this bright red Hagstrom Viking. It was a very striking combination.
And though Elvis did not own the guitar, it became a great prop. By the way, Al Casey was one of the top California session players of the 1960's and '70's.
|1968 Black Gibson J-200|
In 1963 Elvis was given a black Gibson J-200 during a recording session in Nashville. He used this guitar on stage during Las Vegas shows throughout the 1970’s. Elvis had a decal put on the guitars top that was for Kenpo karate, to honor his friend Ed Parker, the founder of Kenpo karate.
|With Scotty Moore's Super 400 CES|
During the Elvis Comeback Special, Elvis borrowed Scotty Moore’s 1963 Gibson Super 400. This guitar had a Florentine cutaway, twin humbucking pickups and gold-plated hardware. During this scene in the special, Elvis played the Super 400, while Moore played Elvis’ 1960 J-200.
|'64 Gretsch Country Gentleman|
Elvis also owned and played a 1964 Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar that was quite similar to the one that George Harrison played. This guitar had a dark walnut finish on its flamed maple veneer top. It also came with double flip-up mutes which worked by turning two knurled knobs on opposite sides of the lower body.
|'64 Gretsch pickups|
|1969 Gibson Ebony Dove|
|Close up of inlay|
The inlay work was done by Gruhn Guitars , since Gibson Guitars was in a time of transition and had no craftsman that could accomplish fancy inlay work at the time the guitar was ordered.
|1969 Ebony Dove|
Elvis dropped this guitar during a 1972 show and had it repaired.
A year later he handed to an audience member that had been looking at the guitar and told him, “Hold on to that. Hopefully it’ll be valuable some day.” Mike Harris, the audience member and guitars owner, put the guitar on eBay in 2008 and rejected a bid of $85,000.
|Elvis with Guild F-50|
|Elvis tossing the Guild|
|Elvis - Martin D-35|
In 1976 Elvis purchased a Martin D-35 of that same year and utilized from 1976 until February of 1977 when he damaged it during a performance. Part of the lower end of the guitars top cracked and split off. It could have been a simple repair.
Instead Elvis gave this guitar to an audience member who had camped out in a lawn chair to see The King.
The guitar sold it at auction in Guernsey’s of NYC for $20,000 in 2002.
|Elvis with 1975 D-28|
Elvis’ last guitar was Martin D-28 that he used for his last 56 concerts including his final show on June 26, 1977. Ironically this is the same model of Martin guitar that he used when he started his career back in 1955. Less than a month later Elvis had left the building for good. He passed away on August 16th, of 1977. The Martin D-28 remains on display at Graceland.
|Guitars on display at Graceland|
Elvis owned many other guitars, some he was intrigued by, while other he collected or was given.
Elvis starred in 31 movies and played. or used at least 28 different guitars in these movies that were property of the movie company and he was given some of these guitars.
Please click on the links under the pictures for sources and additional information. Also click on links in the text for additional information.
A while back I reviewed the Dragon’s Heart Hardened Guitar Pick. With an interesting and innovative design, I really enjoyed it’s tonal flexibility, thanks to it’s three different picking points, as well as it’s durability. They aren’t the cheapest guitar picks, and a number of players called for a thinner design, and with this in mind, Dragon’s Heart released a new series of picks, the Wyvern series.
The Wyvern series come in two different shapes, with four variants in total. The Wyvern’s Heart are styled like the original Dragon’s Heart picks, and the Wyvern’s Scale, which are a little more conventional looking in shape. Each come in standard and XL sizes, all are 0.75mm thickness. Unlike the orignals, the Wyvern series use a more standard plastic material, helping bring the costs down.
I tested the Wyvern series with my white custom Stratocaster, strung up with Ernie Ball Cobalt 9-42 Slinkies, and compared the picks against my staple Black Jazz III XLs, and the yellow 0.73,, Dunlop Tortex picks.
The first, maybe most noticeable thing when using either of the sharper tips is how snappy the tone is with the Wyvern picks. There is an excellent attack that makes each note stand out. The Wyvern is only 0.02mm thicker than the Tortex, but the material used feels more solid, with less flex when playing, and a similar feel to the black Jazz III XL, despite the difference in thickness. Strumming with the Wyevrn’s rounded edge provides a more mellow tone, but not quite as much as you would initially expect.
Grip is fantastic with the Wyvern picks. The combination of etched logo, and the almost powdery feeling surface ensures that there is no slippage what so ever. Each size is comfortable in the hand, but each player will have their own individual preference. I preferred the Wyvern’s Scale size due to it’s similarities to my staple Black Jazz III XL.
The Wyvern picks are quite durable when it comes to standard strumming and picking, and should last most players a good amount of time. My playing involves a lot of pick sliding or scratching, which is a fairly punishing technique on guitar picks. The pick scrape test has similar results to the yellow Tortex picks. The material starts to ship away pretty easily, leaving a rough edge that makes for slightly hampered picking. It’s not really different to most picks, but it’s something to be aware of. The Black Jazz III XLs are a little more robust in that department.
Overall the Wyvern series picks are a nice addition the Dragon’s Heart range. Their attack, tone and flexibility with the multiple point options makes them an excellent tool for guitar players. Their low price-point make it a very viable option for any player, and definitely worth checking out.