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Showing posts from June, 2016

A project acoustic guitar?

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I'll buy instruments on occasion because of the potential I see, and not just because of how they play. So, here's one I grabbed a while back that I've been meaning to get to for a while now.

It's an acoustic with a really gnarly wood pattern on the back. It's had the neck broken off and had a bad repair job done, has the old school small frets, tuners that don't work, pegs that are missing and generally just needs fixed up. However, that wood is just so beautiful I couldn't help but buy it.

I guess I've got some work to do. This could take a while. If you have any advice on making it totally wicked when done, I'm all ears.

Build Monday : El Capitan - "Explorer" style guitar build

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I've had a long love-hate relationship with Explorer guitars. I love the way they look, but hate the price. If I'm buying a guitar for looks instead of performance, it better be inexpensive. So, when I spotted a kit version, I naturally had to have it.


After applying grain sealer and doing some sanding, this looks ready for priming and painting. Should be fun, and I have a special finish planned for this one which has already earned it a name. "El Capitan" shall be magnificent!

And, consider this the start of a new weekly feature... Build Monday.

Gear Friday: PA Speakers - Shure SX500's and Grundorf Subs

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At the heart of the band is the PA system. That's what people are supposed to hear, but guitar players like to turn up their huge guitar stacks while the bass player turns up his 8x10 cabs and somewhere in there the vocals get lost. If that doesn't happen, what people hear are the PA speakers like they should. This is what I'm currently using.

For low end, I have a pair of dual 18 Grundorf speakers. Not really a well known brand, they're built just over the Missouri River from me in Iowa. That means they show up around here a little more regularly than in other areas of the country. They handle 600 watts continuous each and pack plenty of punch.

On top, I use EV SX500's. The 15" / horn combo provides plenty of highs and is quite efficient. I usually only run 375 Watts to each one, and I have to turn them down a bit to get a decent balance between them and the subs. Those things are amazing workhorses that just don't give up.

So, that's what I run for …

My dad's first guitar build

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As a few of you know, I got my start in guitars from my dad. He had played in bands back when the Beatles were first becoming popular, but didn't have a whole lot of playing time since. He seemed interested, so I bought him a kit and he put it together with a bit of help.

Since it was a strat kit, and Fender likes to patent headstock shapes, it came with a pretty square looking headstock. First step was to make a cut. He didn't really like the Fender look anyway, so he opted for more of an Ibanez shape.


Sanding, sanding, sanding. That's most of the finish work on these kits.


Add some blue stain and some clear coat, and this is the finished product. I always think they look a little boring without a headstock logo, but that's what it is... a pretty standard looking guitar.

As for playability, there is a little to be desired. While it looks nice, it's incredibly light due to the swamp ash body. After adding some shims, the action isn't bad, but it's really, …

My first guitar build

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Since posting about my most recent guitar build, I've been getting questions about what my first build was. Here's the kit, still in the box.

As you can see, it's just a mess of parts in a bag with a few pieces taking up the majority of the box.


The body was made to look similar to an Ibanez Jem, although materials weren't the same. Still, it was the look I was wanting to attain.


Before doing any finish work, here's a view of it assembled. The finish didn't turn out how I wanted on this one, so I am planning on redoing it soon. I was trying one of those fancy swirl finishes, but the paint wouldn't float and it ended up running quite a bit, making for some bubbles and drips. It's not all that pretty, but it was my first attempt.

As for playability, it's not awful. The neck feels more like a Gibson than an Ibanez, though. The bridge is ok, but not the greatest. The electronics are adequate, but if I were going to play it much I would be swapping thos…

Gear Friday: Guitar Cabinet Stands

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Using a pair of 1x12 cabinets, the sound can get lost on stage. I wanted to point them more towards me, so I bought some stands.

These are sort of your typical stands. While quite functional, they take up a lot more space than what I really wanted not only on stage, but in my gear bag. In fact, they didn't really fit, so I ended up with a larger bag, and that just makes it harder to pack in my car.


That's when I came across these little gems. They are the Ultimate Support Amp-150 Genesis Amp Stands. That's a long name, but they're seriously cool. Not only do they have an adjustable angle (3 settings) for the cabinet, but they have a microphone stand attachment on top so you can use a boom arm to mic the cabinet properly without taking up more floor space in front of the cabinet. I don't know about you, but I've never come across a stage and said "If only I could put more stuff up here because there's so much room!" Nope, it's quite the opposi…

One that got away... Little Lucille

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As I've hinted at, I don't generally get rid of guitars. I tend to buy more and keep them. However, I did let one get away a while back, and I'm still not sure if I made the right choice. Probably not. It was a Gibson Little Lucille, which is the BB King signature series of the Blues Hawk. They were only made a couple or three years from what I recall, and this one was from 2000.

The F hole cutouts were always striking to me. The gold hardware and knob tops really set off nicely against the black body. The soap bar pickups (P90's) were very bluesy, but never what I was really looking for. I really did like that there were fine tuners like a Floyd would have even without having any sort of tremolo. However, once we get past that, I started to lose interest in what the guitar had.


Even though it looked cool, the low output and strange control configuration (master volume, master tone, 3-way pickup selector, and 6 way rotary Varitone control switch with "pull to byp…

Guitar kit finished

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Yay... I got a project finished! Only ____ million to go.

So, at last check, I had glued the neck to the body and was waiting on a drill press. Well, it arrived on schedule, so I got it assembled and started seeing what I could do about making some holes.


I opted for a WEN, mostly because of the price and features. 10" press with 5 speeds and laser cross-hairs. Seemed like a winner for about $100. That led to the next thing, though... I needed to get the body held sturdy enough to drill. Hey, I got a clamp for gluing the neck that could work for that!


You can see, I got the spots marked ahead of time. You can even see the laser X in the picture if you look closely. I wasn't sure exactly what size hole I would need, but it turned out I didn't have the right size bit on hand. It was between the 3/8" and the 1/2" that I had in my set of bits already, so a trip out to the only place open at that time of night was in order. Wal-Mart got the business.


This drill index…

Gear Friday: Triggered CB Drums

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As I stated last week, I had previously used a Yamaha kit that had pads. Since the feel and cymbals were always an issue, I took an old CB kit and modified it.

To start with, I bought mesh heads. That gave a more realistic rebound feel. I added in piezo elements as trigger sensors, mounted them below the head itself with pieces of felt pulled tight, and then put 1/4" connectors on them in the vent holes. The result was an acoustic looking kit with an electronic sound.

Since I was intending to get rid of the Yamaha kit, I bought 5 cables to hook up the pieces and then got an Alesis Sample Rack. I'll have another post about that at some point, but it has some pretty nice sounds that come standard, and with the SD slot you can use your own sounds. Adding in some vintage Zildjian Avedis hardware made for a much better sound as well.

If you'd like to hear them, Alex's first four videos were shot using this kit. Cymbals were swapped out with his for the recordings, but the…

Decode by Paramore - Drum Cover

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Alex is at it again... this time covering some Paramore. We opted to use a real drum kit this time, and the sound is quite a bit different as a result. We also found a drum-free backing track, which adds to the clean sound. I find it at least somewhat amusing that I'm using 7 microphones on a 4 piece drum kit.

Guitar Wing issues SOLVED!

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As you may recall, I've been having issues getting the Guitar Wing to work with my guitar head. After a few more times of banging my head against a wall, I downloaded Cantabile 3 to see if it would do anything with the midi input. At first, again it was total frustration, but that software offers something that other software does not - an amazing developer that actually reaches out to see how you're doing with his software.
After a bit of back and forth, he had his software seeing what I was doing and passing it along via my USB midi cable to the guitar head, and pretty quickly I got it working as expected. I now have a slider to change volume (volume pedal version, not channel volume as I first did), I can change channels with 4 buttons, engage the tuner, turn on and use the wah, and adjust a few other parameters.

Not only does it work cool, but it looks pretty cool. And when it looks cool and works cool, I'm a whole lot happier.

After getting it working with the comput…

Gear Friday: Yamaha DTxpress III

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Wanting to get some decent recordings and lacking enough microphones, I purchased some electronic drums about a decade ago. That marked the end of me having a band to try recording with, but it also allowed me to practice in private so to speak, and I rather enjoyed playing these drums.

So, what did I think of them?

Well, for starters, the cymbals didn't ever sound real to me. It's very hard to get the hi-hat to feel like you can play it slightly open, and they just don't have that natural ambience of a real hunk of metal.

The pads, as most of you could probably guess, didn't have the same rebound as a true drum. While that wasn't really an issue for me starting out, any drummer that came over immediately hated them because of the feel.

But, as for the toms, snare and kick, it sounded great. In fact, some of the recordings I did with Grindstone Remedy were using this set (we had one drummer that knew the ins-and-outs of using them) and it turned out pretty nice. H…

New Guitar Build Progress

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I finally got around to buying the correct clamp and getting the neck set today. For about $10, I now have the right tool for the job. Yay for Menards.


After letting it set up and dry, I wiped the excess, let it finish drying and then had to see how it will look in its permanent home. I think it'll fit in nicely. I can't wait to hear how she sounds.

Next step needs to wait a few days, though. I just ordered a laser guided drill press so I can drill the bridge properly. It's getting closer. :)