Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hotrodding a Samick HJ-650 Archtop Guitar

Samick HJ-650 hollow body guitar
   Here's a rare bird for you. What's so rare about a Korean made jazz box? It belongs to me,marking the first time one of my guitars appear on Guitar Omnivore. It is also the first time in at least a year one of my guitars made it into the shop. Working on my own guitars means either 1) I'm ignoring a customers guitar (not going to happen!) or 2) I come in to work on my day off and skip some sort of menial household chore I should really be doing instead. I got this guitar new in the late 90's and I've always wanted to hotrod it. This is how I did it.

Read on as I trick out this hollow body Samick with new pickups,pots and tuners. Plenty more pictures too...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 03/29/2011

Alex Skolnick Trio - Veritas
   With the AST more than ten years old now and Skolnick back in the Testament family,it should be pretty clear he is not a guitarist interested in labels or categories. With credits that include appearing with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra,the original touring version of the Broadway show "Jekyll and Hyde in Concert" and composing music for the video game "Hot Wheels Turbo Racing" it should be pretty obvious the guy has range to spare. Veritas,the new Trio album,shows Skolnick bringing some of that diversity into the jazz realm,keeping the jazz spirit but widening the scope of past efforts. "Bollywood Jam" gives it's Indian soundtrack inspiration away right in the title and "99/09" dives right into Mike Stern and John Scofield funky jazz territory.The AST has also been relying less and less on jazz versions of metal tunes with each album and Veritas continues the trend with nine strong originals and only Metallica's "Fade To Black" keeping the cover tradition alive. This is the most diverse collection in the trio's history and another impressive effort in Skolnick's long list. (Skolnick is also a fellow blogger,check out his SkolNotes on his website!)

More Cd Reviews below!!!...Acoustic slide,big band heavy metal and...blues mandolin!?...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trey Anastasio is dating Jimmy Kimmel?...and Paganini,the guitarist?

   I had a great score at the Goodwill recently. (You guys support your local thrift store,right?) I found a whole bunch of great classical stuff for $1.99 a Cd. There was a great version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons by the Amsterdam Guitar Trio and a whole bunch of more modern stuff like Elgar,Bartok,Glazunov,Purcell,Hol and Prokofiev. Classical is the style I know least about and is the weakest part of my vinyl and Cd collection so to be able to go exploring on a budget is a real treat. Of the bunch,the Cd that I've been playing the most is also one that has a cover that makes me smile. Take a peek and tell me that doesn't look like Jimmy Kimmel and the dude from Phish having some sort of romantic encounter. Sure they could be meeting for coffee to discuss some musical arrangement,after all they've got instruments with them,but look at the way they gaze into each others eyes!
   Ok,obviously that's not really Jimmy and Trey having brunch. For the record that's Gil Shaham and Goran Sollscher playing some excellent Paganini duets on violin and guitar. Like many guitar players,I first became aware of Niccolo Paganini in the 80's,when his 24 Caprices inspired the new wave of shredders like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai,both of whom mentioned the composer in interviews. He was a virtuoso violinist and composer who lived from 1782 to 1840. His 24 Caprices is a piece written for solo violin,first published in 1819 and each caprice is designed to display an advanced  virtuoso technique. It was really the only piece of his I was really familiar with.
   Paganini was not only a violinist but also played and wrote for the guitar,including violin/guitar duets and guitar string quartets. Certainly the best violinist of his time,he was arguably the first "rock star". He liked to wear black clothes and was rumored to have gotten his virtuoso skills from the devil way before Robert Johnson ever walked over the crossroad. I will be exploring Paganini the guitarist and hope you are inspired to do the same and forgive my cheap little Jimmy and Trey joke!

It's not $1.99 but if you want your own copy of the Cd that inspired me:

Prior to my recent purchase,the only Paganini I owned was the awe inspiring Itzhak Perlman doing the 24 Caprices. Also recommended!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Want more guitar photos? Check out Guitar Omnivore on Tumblr!

This is icon for social networking website. Th...Image via Wikipedia   That's right,I've opened a Tumblr account. Who cares,you ask? Fair enough. I will be using it, mainly,to post guitar pictures. I take far too many pictures to include here. As an amateur photographer,I use the "take dozens of pictures,then pick out the three decent ones" approach to photography. I also see a bunch of guitars that I don't necessarily want to write about,but sure look cool. So,if you can't get enough guitar pictures,or you wish I'd just shut up and show the guitars,give it a look.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

RS Guitarworks Les Paul Upgrade Kit: Product Review

Inexpensive pots and fake bumblebee caps. Boo!
    This is a long one so if you want the quick version,skip to the bottom.With so many great guitar mods around today,I couldn't possibly try every one on my own. Sometimes I just have to wait until a customer brings one into the shop. RS Guitarworks is a company that offers upgrade kits for various types of guitars,mostly stuff like Teles,Strats and Les Pauls. I was very interested when a customer brought in a Les Paul upgrade kit. I had read about them and many of their ideas were things I'd been preaching about for years; the taper of the pot is important,the value and type of the capacitor is important! Hallelujah brother! The reality of mass produced guitars is,they...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 03/22/2011

Joe Bonamassa - Dust Bowl
   With Dust Bowl, Bonamassa makes his best effort yet to be a "real" singer and songwriter,without downplaying his hotrod guitar slinger status. Hot of the heels of the successful Black Country Communion, released just six months ago,Joe must be a busy lad. Even winning a Billboard Magazine #1 Blues Artist of 2010 didn't give him reason enough to take a bit of vacation. As you would expect,the album is focused on the blues. Keeping the music rooted in the blues helps keep the two guest spots from Vince Gill and John Hiatt,seem less like a bid for attention from country music fans and more like a talented guy just inviting a couple of other talented guys to be on his album. If there's one quibble,it's that their take on Hiatt's Tennessee Plates,is a bit too close to John's own version. Even the album closing ballad,that sounds like a shot at radio play (assuming there are still radio stations that play current music from gifted people) is well done. Every song includes some great guitar work with a variety of thick,burnished tones and virtuoso chops that never take away from the song or the melody. I expect 2011 will add a few more awards to Bonamassa's collection.

More Cd reviews below!!!...Organ Jazz,doom metal and a slew of reissue and vault material...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Some more fun photos from the guitar shop

Here's a bit of lightweight nonsense for you. It's FUN to work in a guitar store!
I'm a BIG boy!

Guitar bear is watching you!

Hey,Epiphone,the dot goes over the "i",not the "p". Sure,we could blame the non English speaking Indonesian guy who did it but what should be on the back of the headstock...
...%100 Inspected and Set-Up in the USA by 4. Good eye # 4!
Hoping to achieve the ultimate expression of craftsmanship? Bad news,Ibanez has beaten you to the punch. It,apparently, involves poorly placed decals,which is where you and I have been going wrong all these years.  Who knew?

Yep,I work with a guy who has a Misfits lunchbox. You totally wish you worked here.

Want some more goofiness? You can see a previous instalment of silliness here .

Friday, March 18, 2011

Paul Motian Quintet - How Deep is the Ocean (1995)

   Well,it's been a couple of weeks since I've posted something about Bill Frisell; just in time,someone posted these fabulous Paul Motian Quartet videos on YouTube. Filmed in 1995 at the Umbria Jazz Festival,the rest of the group is made up of Marc Johnson on bass and the incredible pairing of Lee Konitz on alto sax and Joe Lovano on tenor sax. It's not often you get five guys of this caliber in one group. Frisell is playing his Klien electric, a guitar part of me wishes he would put back into the lineup now and again because he got some great tones out of it. Frisell,for all his gadgets and gear changes,is one of those guys whose tone is really in his hands and I also enjoy his current exploration of the Telecaster.
   I hope these videos inspire you to check out more music by these musicians. Motian and Marc Johnson in particular have a very "guitar friendly" attitude throughout their careers. Be sure to check out Motian's Electric BeBop Band for a particularly guitar heavy take on bebop. Marc Johnsons Bass Desires album marks the first on vinyl meeting of Frisell and John Scofield. For more Konitz and Frisell,I recommend Kenny Wheeler's Angel Song, also featuring Dave Holland in a unique trumpet/saxophone/double-bass/guitar lineup,especially if you like ECM style jazz. Joe Lovano not only plays with Motian and Frisell in a trio format but also frequently appears with Scofield. Enjoy:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Refretting a Martin Micarta Fingerboard

Worn frets = bad tone!
Too much relief + low action = squishy guitar.
   Here are a few (OK a whole bunch of) photos from a recent refret on a Martin acoustic guitar that,instead of a wood fingerboard,had one made of Micarta. This material wears very well and with slight modification to my usual style,made for a pleasant refret job. This belongs to a professional musician and as you can see from the fret wear,he gigs five or six times a week! While it played reasonably well,it was getting worse and was starting to play out of tune. The fret wear was the cause of some of the intonation problems,but it was compounded by a poor setup. At some point in the past,someone had removed too much material from the saddle. To compensate for this, the neck had .018" of relief. This creates a bowl between the nut and 14th fret,leaving the guitar playable but kind of rubbery or "squishy" feeling.

2/32" is too close to the edge.

  The players other complaint was one I get once in a while on Martin guitars (sorry Martin,still love you). On some models they cut the slot for the high E string just 2/32" from the edge of the fingerboard. While many players have no problem with this,some players find the high E falling off the side. Between the worn frets,the low saddle and the widely spaced strings on the nut,it was time to clean house and start over.


Here's the fingerboard,buck nekkid!

  The first difference for me on a Micarta fingerboard is,because of it's resistance to wear,I didn't need to true up the board at all.That was a nice time saver. Because of it's uniformity,the fret slots all behaved the same down the board. That's not always the case with wood.

  The other difference was my choice of glue. I usually use Original Titebond or hot fresh hide glue. For this job I used cyanoacrylate aka Super Glue. Using glue at all was probably unnecessary but CA's gap filling capability would help improve the tone a bit. When using super glue for fretting,be sure to wear latex gloves and keep a small rag and Acetone around for any squeeze out or other clean up.

   I used Stewart MacDonald's "Jaws" tool to press in most of the frets. They make another similar tool for pressing in the frets over the body and while I own this tool,I don't really care for it. For this part I did it the old fashioned way,with a hammer.

    After years of using my own home made device,I did recently get myself a"Fret Dolly" from Luthiers Mercantile. This nifty little tool goes inside the guitar and helps support the wood while I'm hammering away up there!

  After the frets were in,it was time for a new bone nut and saddle. There are some good choices for nut and saddle material out there but in most cases,my choice is still bone.


All better!
  All this guy needed now was some new strings and he was ready for several more years of gigging!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 03/15/2011

Al DiMeola - Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody
   Alright DiMeola fans,I know you're already in so sit back for a minute and let me talk to the non-DiMeola fans for a moment. If you haven't heard Al in a while,please do yourself a favour and check him out. I've been a DiMeola fan from the start and was lucky enough to see the Return to Forever reunion. The biggest surprise of the evening was how much better an experienced DiMeola fit the RTF music than did a young (21 at the time of Romantic Warrior) DiMeola did. His phrasing,impressive right from the start of his career,now had a depth and maturity that detracted not at all from the impressive chops one immediately associates with Al DiMeola. That same nuanced quality is on display on Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody. Songs cover the spectrum of his influences from the tango and flamenco side to the distorted leads and complex harmonies,while still sounding cohesive. Some of the world class guests include Charlie Haden,Peter Erskine and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

More Cd reviews Below!!!... Blues, Metal, Jazz, Steve Martin playing the banjo and...a cornet player!?...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

1968 Gibson Les Paul Standard

1968 Gibson Les Paul Standard
   Last year I had the pleasure of working on one of the best sounding and playing Les Paul guitars I've ever seen. It was your classic case of a guitar played for a couple of years then stuck under the bed. You can see my article on repairing it's collapsing bridge here. I'd love to show you some of the ways we decided it was a 1968. Many Gibson serial numbers are hit or miss at best and are just a starting point for determining when a guitar was made. Codes on the volume and tone pots are helpful as well and you can read my article on how to read potentiometer codes here. It's also a pretty fine excuse just to share some pictures and let you look "under the hood" of a late 60's Gibson.
The binding,deeper near the body,is a big clue that this is 1968 model.

Kluson Deluxe tuners with double ring keystones are correct for a '68.

The small peghead is right,the wider peghead wad introduced in 1969.

The underside of a Tune-o-matic bridge

Check out the tooling marks on this tailpiece!

Big ol' 60's style capacitor!

This picture shows the era appropriate low frets. Aside from the collapsing bridge and needing a setup,this single lifting fret was the only thing wrong I could find.

I think guitar department manager Patrick Schwab likes it! Please don't get the idea I let other people touch guitars in the shop but this thing played so wonderfully,I had to get a second opinion.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

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

Just a little off the top,please!
  So in part one (available here) we've gotten our frets into our Epps custom electric,despite having fragile,paper thin inlays,wider than usual fret slots and a super curvy radius. Because I was unable to level the fretboard in any way,that meant if I wanted to turn our radius to a more playable 7.25" radius,it had to come out of the tops of the frets. Jumbo frets would give us enough height to take some of the radius down in the middle but it's extra width would exaggerate the flattened look in the middle of the fret. Luckily,Stewart MacDonald offers a medium fret wire (part # 0155) with a .080" width and a whopping .050" height. This would allow me to file in the radius we wanted and still look normal.

T.O.M. style Bridge

  The Tune-O-Matic style bridge was intended for a guitar with a 10" or 12" radius. That meant our 7.25" radius would have to be filed into the saddles. Luck was with us yet again,because there was enough height in the saddles to get the job done,without the string hitting the saddle behind the bridge.

Slot for zero fret.

    I would also have to route a slot for the nut. The fingerboard came with just a slot in the "nut" position,leaving the choice of a zero fret or different styles of nut. There are several ways to achieve this kind of thing and despite having some cool machinery around,sometimes it's just quicker to do things by hand. I slid a feeler gauge into the fret slot as a fence and used a nut seating file to cut the nut slot.
   Stay tuned for part three,where I'll show you the unique wiring and some pictures of the finished guitar.
Finished nut slot.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 03/08/2011

R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
   It's official, R.E.M. has remembered they used be in this cool rock band called R.E.M. that used to,you know...rock n' stuff. Over a bunch of great songs,they display strength after strength. Michael Stipe's compellingly heartfelt vocals singing wonderfully odd lyrics are in force. Mike Mills crafty bass lines are always supportive but never ordinary and his background vocals are as important as ever. Peter Buck,whose guest spots on the new Decemberists album still gets daily play in my Cd player,is clearly back at full force. We haven't heard this many of his guitar textures on a single album in a long time. Psychedelic sounds,big power chords,ripping guitar solos,feedback,chimey Ricks,shimmery acoustic,he's even remembered he owns a mandolin! The guest vocalists are a bit hit or miss for me. Patti Smith is used to good effect but Eddie Vedder? Seriously,Eddie Vedder? Thankfully, his background vocals are truly background enough to not be too distracting. I'm a grownup,so I'm not sure who Peaches is. I also like that there are 12 songs over a shorter span. Tacking on 3 or 4 more mediocre songs just because they fit on the Cd has tarnished more that a few Cds in my collection. This one,however,has a great chance of making my year end list of favorites and it's been a long time since an R.E.M. album did that!

More Cd Reviews Below!!!... Loads of Stuff this Week! Jazz, Blues, Viking Metal, an instrumetal version of "On Top of Old Smokey"?... Read on Below...

Monday, March 7, 2011

R.E.M. - ÜBerlin Video (Out Now) and new album tommorow!

 So, with music business being what it is currently,R.E.M. has wisely leaked the music from the new album a little at a time and like most of you,I've already heard the whole thing streamed on NPR,but I'm still actually excited about this album. Come on back to check out my review tomorrow. This has the feeling of the first post Bill Berry album I think I'll still be listening to when it's a year old.The video for UBerlin...Hmm,I'm not sure about the video part but I'm really enjoying the song.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Quick and dirty neck repair on a childs guitar

   I run a clean,professional guitar repair shop and charge accordingly. People expect things to be done the "correct" way and so they should. Sometimes,however,you have to know when another guitar in the hands of a student is the better way to go. I came in work to find two guitars in for restrings. They were pink,child sized and identical except for the name of the guitars owner in purple glitter stickers emblazoned on the front. Identical except that one had crazy high action because it's neck was coming loose from it's body. I could call up the owner and tell them they could pay me more than the cost of the guitar to fix it or they could try to find a new identical guitar (and new purple glitter stickers!)... or I could take one for the team and just fix it in a quick, cost effective style. I tied a strap to the ends of the guitar,one at the strap button,the other at the headstock. I'll use a piece of scrap wood to apply pressure to the neck and pull it into place. Using Original Tite Bond (Original only please!) I squeezed  in as much as possible with my palate knife,cleaned off the spill out and left it over night. I strung both guitars the next day and they were good to go. I didn't charge for the repair,just the restring. Remember:
More guitar players =  A better world
 Gluing something at home? Don't forget my tips about using fresh glue found here: Date Your Glue!