Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tilting saddle on a rare Gibson Starburst

Gibson Starburst
   Here's a great example of a cool acoustic guitar that Gibson only made for a couple of years: The Starburst. A peek at the inlays quickly reveals the source of it's name. This one came into the shop with the complaint that it buzzed and played out of tune.  The guitar owner was confused because he had taken it to his buddy (who,invariably has been "playing for years") who had just set it up for him. Folks,if you take anything away from this,please understand,playing guitar for years doesn't make you a good guitar tech any more than driving a car for years makes you a good mechanic. For every good amateur tech in the world,there are dozens of well intentioned guys who know just enough to be dangerous.

Tilting saddle = bad intonation!

  A quick inspection of the guitar revealed the biggest problem right away. The saddle was tilting forward. An ill fitting saddle can cause loss of volume and tone and when it tilts forward like this one does,the intonation goes out as well. To make matters worse,this guitar has an under saddle pickup.Having your saddle make questionable contact with the pickup is asking for all kind of string to string volume issues.The well meaning buddy had removed the original saddle and replaced it with a "better" one.
That's better!

A new saddle and a good setup with fresh strings and this guy was back in action. A good fitting saddle is absolutely essential for good tone and doubly so on any guitar with an under saddle pickup! An excellent rule of thumb for good saddle fit is it's tight enough to stay put if you turn the unstrung guitar upside down and its loose enough to pull out with your fingers.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

70's Fender P-Bass workhorse gets a face lift

    Here's a little quickie to remind us that not every vintage guitar or bass is a collectors piece. Many of those fine instruments are out in the field doing what they were made to do...make music! This is a 70's Precision Bass that does duty at a local high school as the jazz bands workhorse. It regularly takes a beating from teenage students and I've already replaced the broken stock pickups a few years ago with some Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders (yeah!). As you can see, the pick guard has seen better days, despite reinforcement from super glue,shielding tape below and electrical tape above,it's falling apart. Time for a pick guard that can take 40 more years of high school jazz band: a metal pick guard! Looks cool and will definitely do heavy duty work.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 02/22/2011

Jeff Beck - Rock 'N' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul
   Huh...a tribute concert that is filled with people that actually have something to contribute instead of the latest pop star lightweights. Whoever you are Mr. or Mrs. decision maker,you get a huge "Thank you" from me. Anyone who's heard his album "Crazy Legs" knows Jeff Beck has the right chops and perfectionist nature to honor Mr. Paul. I have no idea who Darrel Higham is and had only a passing acquaintance with Imelda May and Trombone Shorty but I'll take unknown excellence over incompetent flavor of the month any day. You have my permission to forgive yourself if your reaction to Gary U.S. Bonds is "Uh..he's still alive?"  Brian Setzer is his usual stellar self and can't be blamed for the fact he's the most obvious choice of guest. (What's that? Rockabilly?...Current artists? Get me Brian Setzer,pronto!) For us guitar fanatics,Beck is of course,the highlight here, but I appreciate that making this an all instrumental show wouldn't have truly honored the full legacy of Les Paul's music. Having Imelda May prerecord vocal parts to sing live against to pay tribute to his multi-tracking genius and his pop hits with his wife Mary Ford was truly inspired. What better way to pay tribute to Les Paul than to follow his example and use technology to further your art. It's also available as a DVD.

Plenty more Cd reviews below...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bet you've never seen a Peavey T-60 like this!

   The Peavey T-60 is a favorite "pawn shop prize" of mine.I've wanted to write an article about this underdog of a guitar since beginning Guitar Omnivore. So,why haven't I? I found out about  back in August 2010 when they linked to my article about the rare Schon guitar model that had just come through the shop. They were among the first to discover this article and it remains one of the most visited here to this day. You'll see a link to that article here: Rare Schon Guitar . When I hopped over to,what should I discover just under the link to my article but an excellent article about the Peavey T-60. It said everything I wanted to say about it and said it as well or better than I could. You can check out that article here:

Thank you for being one of the first blogs to link to mine! Folks,there are more excellent articles there,so help me return the favor and check them out.

  Now,as for that T-60 like you've never seen before... What's the number one complaint about the T-60? It's heavy! While that didn't seem to stop the Gibson Les Paul from becoming a music staple,the T-60 didn't have a seemingly endless stream of guitar heroes making it an iconic image.It may be just a coincidence but it didn't surprise me when I found out that T-60 is also a kind of armoured tank!  This is a T-60 a regular customer brought into the shop. It didn't need any work,he was just showing it off and let me snap a few photos. The only thing missing from this one,aside from a whole bunch of wood,is the phase switch. Personally,I would miss the phase switch,I think it's the only guitar that has ever gotten useful out of phase sounds. (I think Jerry Reed agreed with me.) The potentiometers were converted to concentric pots,so each pickup retains it's own volume and tone. You can see the signature of Chip Todd (co-designer with Hartley Peavey) near the bass side of the bridge. Chip did the wood removal. Let's take a look:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stryper Vs. Deicide - Phil's Christian Metal Rant!

United States glam metal musical group Stryper...Image via Wikipedia    OK,let's admit right away,this is a bit of a gimmick to compare these two bands. Having said that,when both these albums came out this week and perfectly illustrated my problems with Christian heavy metal,maybe it's not a gimmick after all. This is,in no way,meant to make fun of anyone beliefs. This blog is about guitars and music,religion and politics are not things I'm interested in writing about.

Stryper - The Covering
    I went into this album with a big anti-Stryper bias. As someone who went through the 1980's as both a metal fan and a guitar player in a metal band I witnessed the best (too many to list) and the worst (hair metal) that the 80's had to offer. I wanted to like Stryper very much. People always assumed a heavy metal fan must be a knuckle dragging simpleton and any band that I could point out that disproved that stereotype was a good thing. Stryper,however...always sounded too slick and glossy,too corporate and commercial. Those outfits didn't help anything either. In an era with plenty of awful costumes,the yellow and black stripes were among the worst.
   Christianity seems to want to present two images to the rest of the world. In one,they are the moral majority,keeping out the influence of that minority trying to turn you astray. In the other,they're the valiant little guy up against the evil big guys of newspapers,television,movies and mainstream culture. I find it odd that a metal band would take the first route and make music so bland and pandering. Wouldn't it make more musical sense to take the second route to better fit the underdog image of heavy metal? Wouldn't music made straight from the heart be a better representation of your faith? If (assuming that for this argument,metal fans and Christians are entirely separate things) you're truly trying to convert metal fans to Christianity,why wouldn't you make heavy metal that metal fans would like, and not some bland Amy Grant version of metal that Christians would like? You're fishing with the wrong bait.
   "The Covering" is Stryper's new cover album. First,the good news. The coating of 80's cheese that covered their early work is gone. The drums sound like drums,the guitars sound like guitars. My gripe with Stryper has never been the musicianship and these guys all perform well throughout. Vocalist Michael Sweet,in particular has never sounded better. The bad news? Recording an album of stone cold hard rock and heavy metal classics that you have absolutely zero chance of bettering is a poor way to point out you've never sounded better. Covering Black Sabbath,Judas Priest and Iron Maiden? You're out of your mind! How about some Van Halen,Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple? Good Luck! Even taken in the context of a "tribute" to their heroes I'm not sure what these guys are thinking. This will probably get Stryper some attention but I'm not sure it's the right kind. Their website says tour plans are underway for 2011 but no dates are listed yet.

Deicide - To Hell with God
   Back when I was in high school witnessing the rise of thrash metal, my friends and I all liked the first few albums from Metallica,Anthrax and Megadeth but found the Satanic lyrics of Slayer a bit...dopey. Once again,I don't mean to make fun of any ones beliefs but they just seemed so silly. It wasn't until Slayer laid the masterpiece that is "Reign in Blood" on us that I realized I had to get over any anti-Satan worship feelings and just listen to the music. By the time Deicide rolled around with their ground breaking self titled album in 1990,I didn't really care about the personal beliefs of a band. As with most death metal I couldn't understand a word without a lyric sheet anyway. That's an inherent part of the style and it wouldn't be death metal without it.
   After a band has been around for more than 20 years (or 5 or 10 for that matter) a band tends to loose some steam. For every exception (Motorhead anyone?) there are dozens of bands were you can say "They haven't been good since..." That's what makes "To Hell with God" all the more surprising. Glen Benton and the boys sound absolutely invigorated. THIS is what death metal sounds like! These guys play with conviction and passion. Arizona metalheads,Deicide is coming to The Clubhouse in Tempe on 03/10/2011 with Pathology,Belphegor,Blackguard and Neuraxis!

   These comments were intended as serious reviews of both these albums. No offence was intended. Thanks for reading. -Phil Clark

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 02/15/2011

g3 live, Massey HallImage via WikipediaMr. Big - What If
   Available in Europe for several months,Mr. Big's latest album finally sees a domestic release. Recently reformed,musically it's as if the boys have never been apart. Paul Gilbert has the sense of humor that Ritchie Kotzen never had,throwing in a ridiculous shred lick with a wink and a nod. Billy Sheehan also provides plenty of his usual "how did he do that?" moments. Song wise they stick with the melodic hard rock with virtuoso solos and vocal harmonies they are known for. I think this does an excellent job of being what you'd expect without sounding formulaic. This is a worthy addition to the discography without even a hint of "in it for the money" about it. Currently there is only one U.S. show planned,at House of Blues on 04/02/11 then it's on guessed it, Japan. Hopefully they will make some more appearances in the states in 2011.

Plenty more Cd reviews below...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jeff Hanneman with a severe infection and a replacement guitarist for Slayer!??

Jeff Hanneman of Slayer at Tuska-FestivalImage via Wikipedia    I just found out that Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman was hospitalized with a severe infection and is now home recovering. Slayer plans to temporarily replace him. Even though Dave Lombardo spent his time away from the Slayer fold,replacing Hanneman,even temporarily,seems strange. Best of luck Jeff,get well soon!
03/30/2011 UPDATE: Pat O'Brian from Cannibal Corpse will be filling in for Gary Holt (who is filling in for Jeff!) as Gary leaves to return to Exodus. Gary will play with Slayer through April 4th in Padova Italy. Pat's first show will be on April 6th in Croatia. As always,get well soon Jeff!

SLAYER – To Bring On “Fill-in” For Ill Jeff Hanneman

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eric and Roy Epps - Custom Guitar #1 (Part One)

   How many of you have dreamed of making your own guitar? My friend Eric and his dad Roy have done it! When this guitar came to me,it was it was pretty much done and it was up to me to put on the finishing touches. That meant wiring up the electronics,making a nut,doing a setup...and some fun surprises!
   Surprise number one was the fretboard. It was a prefabricated fretboard purchased on Ebay far ahead of the building of the guitar. That gave it plenty of time for wood to dry out,causing the frets to start coming loose. A few of the frets actually fell right out! It was also one of those heavily inlaid pieces made by someone in Asia. They look good in the picture but close inspection reveals that the inlays are paper thin and very fragile. That means I couldn't do any corrections to any humps or bumps I might find. I also noticed the fretboard radius seemed awfully curvy. A quick check revealed a radius far in excess of 7.25",the most curved radius in common usage. To add to the fun,when I removed the old frets,the fret slots averaged about .028",the tang on most fret wire is between .020" and .024"! So,I had to re-fret this fingerboard,but I couldn't level it,couldn't re-radius it and had to over radius the fret wire to an absurd amount,while also bending exaggerated new barbs into the tang. Lets look at some pictures...
Check out those lifting frets!
Yep,frets falling out is a sign of trouble!
That's curvy!
With a .028" fret slot,the new fret will fall right back out!
Here is my exaggerated fret barb next to some normal fret wire.
Here is a new fret about to be hammered in. Over radiusing the fret wire is a normal technique but this is far more than usual. Having the fret curved like that helps it go into the slot in a curved line so it can't pop right back out.
   Well, I've already spoiled any kind of suspense by showing you the finished guitar but obviously this guy isn't done yet! How did the frets turn out? What about the nut and the electronics? How do you set up a guitar with such a crazy radius? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 02/08/2011

Soprano singer-songwriter Ruth Moody, a member...Image via WikipediaThe Wailin' Jennys - Bright Morning Stars
   Made up of three vocalist/instrumentalists,the Wailin' Jennys play folk with a wide array of influences. Ruth Moody is classically trained and brings a Celtic influence while playing guitar,banjo and accordion. Nicky Mehta, already a Canadian Music Award winner as a solo artist, brings her taste for alternative pop while playing guitar and harmonica. Heather Masse brings bluegrass and jazz into the mix while playing upright bass. Masse is also familiar to regular listeners of A Prairie Home Companion,a show you're likely to here if you happen to stop by my shop at the right time on a Saturday.Mixing in pop and Americana (is it still Americana if they're Canadian or does that make it North Americana?) the Jennys also have excellent support from some of Canada's best backing musicians,including session ace Bill Dillion (Robbie Robertson,Joni Mitchell,Nanci Griffith,Peter Gabriel) whose shimmering chordal work and volume swell tricks take up much of the space a keyboard player would normally inhabit. If you enjoy three part harmony performed by singers who can actually sing (what?) backed up by excellent musicianship,give this a listen.

Plenty more Cd reviews below...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Greetings,StumbleUpon Readers!

This is icon for social networking website. Th...Image via Wikipedia   I got a nice surprise today when I checked out my statistics for Guitar Omnivore. We had record high of 1896 readers yesterday,many of them coming from StumbleUpon. That's still small potatoes in a bloggosphere where popular blogs get millions of views a day but it's a big deal around here! The stats also showed most people stuck around and read a few things. Thank you to StumbleUpon and everybody who stopped by,I hope you come back to visit again. If you want to check me out at StumbleUpon,philipclark5 is my user name and despite sounding like it,is NOT the name of a Dave Clark Five tribute band! I try to recommend all the cool guitar related stuff I find,not just my own articles.
Thanks again,Phil Clark

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 02/01/2011

Bob Marley and the Wailers
- Live Forever, September 23,1980, Staley Theater, Pittsburgh PA
  Recorded on the "Uprising" tour,this two Cd set is a bit less guitar intensive than 1978's "Babylon by Bus". The keyboards are a bit louder in the mix and there is less soloing all around. In reggae,however,the feast for guitar players is in the rhythm guitar. There aren't to many rock guitar players who wouldn't benefit from a few weeks,months or years studying reggae guitar. If your collection only has a "best of", this would be a good second purchase.The band is in good form here and the song selection adds up to a greatest

More Cd reviews below...