Monday, 30 May 2011

The Art of Excellence

So, today, I decided to flick on the much music channel (similar to MTV in the States), and I tried to get into the music that was playing on that channel.  I was very disappointed with what I heard.  I can't believe some of the stuff that passes for music now a days and I guess that society must buy into it since it somehow finds the funds to continue to be (re)produced.  Its actually quite depressing.  The music that is fed to the masses is a sorry excuse for art.  So, after sulking and whining to myself, I changed the channel to the comedy channel and experienced a similar dissapointment.  While some of it was funny, mostly it was tasteless and unoriginal.  It was like when you were on the playground in elementary school and you said a 'dirty word' and all the other kids giggled, just geared at people who are older than 6 or 7.  What ever happened to the creative comedian?  I like to have to know something in order to get a joke rather than just chuckle at the discomfort produced by derogatory comments! What happened to the musicians who were proficient in an instrument (voice or otherwise)?  I'm not saying that all new music and comedy are no good but I have no use for the majority of it.  Personally,  I'll take the Bill Cosby, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and other of the time tested greats over the new 'entertainment'.  Why do you think that we still hear bands like Pink Floyd on the radio?  I think that it is because there isn't much new great media.
Maybe I'm just being too closed minded or perhaps there is a plethora of new good music that is just evading me.  Maybe I'm just an old fart set in my ways. Or maybe, I'm just hooked on excellence which is in and of itself, a dying art.
Comment and call it how you see it.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Where I get Equipment

I have an addiction to guitar gear and accessories.  There.  I said it.  The only thing is, that I don't even feel bad!  I have worked in music stores forever so I have always got my strings and winders cleaners and whatnot for cheep but, since I have been in school for the last year I have not been able to work at a music store for a while.  That means that all of my little music goodies are expensive again!  So I decided to take things into my own hands and I started an online store through amazon for all of the little things that I love and use on my instruments, and the best part is, they cost as much as, or less than what I could get them with my employee's discount.  Anyway, more than this post being just an advertisement for my online store, maybe its an idea for you to do the same with products that you like.

In my store I start with a huge directory that you can use the search to find what you are looking for, then I have tabs on the side for some of my favourite musical goodies.  Feel free to check it out here!


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

What do I do with a truss rod?

I have had many people ask me what the truss rod is for in a guitar.  While learning about the truss rod myself a few years ago, I came across a little post which I printed off and kept in my little 'how to' book that I made while I was a guitar tech at a music store.  Here it is!

(It all started, of course, with someone asking how to adjust a truss rod.)
XxStratxx wrote:
> I will tell you what everybody told me, dont mess with the rod,
> its like holy and if you dont have a doctoral degree you will
> ruin your life for ever and ever, (sic)

Paul Guy replied:

Dear Leo, who art in heaven...
If thou be Pure in Heart and Pious in Spirit, locate thou the Holy Truss Rod Nut - remove thou the Holy Truss Rod Cover if there is one. Take thou now thine instrument in praying position, this being the position in which thou dost hold the instrument to perform the Holy Rites of Rock'N'Roll, or whatever you happen to be into. Press thou now reverently thine E-string down upon the first fret and the highest fret simultaneously and inspect thou the Holy Gap, which hereinafter shall be named the Holy Relief, between the bottom of the string and the top of the seventh and eighth frets. At the seventh and eighth frets shalt thou look, and not anywhere else, save that thou mayest also look at the sixth and ninth frets, but there isn't really much point. At the other frets shalt thou not look, save for if you really want to.
Let There Be Light between the string and the fret, the light shall be in the amount of approximately one and one half times the sixtyfourth part of one inch, or about half a millimeter. Note thou well, howsoever, that not all Guitars are created equal and that some Guitars will need a little more and some Guitars may get away with a little less.
Shouldst the Holy Truss Rod require adjustment thou art constrained to obtain the correct Holy Implement, which hereinafter shall be named the Holy Truss Rod Wrench, or in certain cases the Holy Truss Rod Key, or in other cases, like older Fenders, The Holy Bloody Great Screwdriver. Verily, use of any other implement is heresy and may ruin thy Holy Truss Rod Nut for ever and ever, with the result that thy Holy Truss Rod will not perform its Holy Miracle of keeping the neck straight.
Thou canst do no damage by loosening the Holy Truss Rod Nut a bit in an anticlockwise direction if the string is touching the seventh and eighth frets, or if the Holy Relief is insufficient. If the Holy Relief is too large mayest thou gently turn the Holy Truss Rod Nut one quarter of a revolution or thereabouts in a clockwise direction. Check thou again the Holy Relief at the seventh and eighth frets and if it continueth to be too large have another bash. Shouldst the Holy Truss Rod Nut require large amounts of adjustment to achieve the required effect, something is FUBAR and thou shalt make Confession to thy parish Reverend Luthier for absolution.
(A very few Holy Truss Rods operate in the reverse direction, thusly, a clockwise rotation doth cause the Holy Truss Rod to add more Holy Relief, and an anticlockwise rotation doth cause the Holy Relief to diminish. Lo, these shalt thou operate with thy left hand. Or with thy right if thou dost feel like it.)
Now, if dost thou encounter resistance to thy ministrations that seemeth abnormal (if thou canst not easily adjust the Holy Truss Rod Nut without giving it some stick), or if thy ministrations seemeth not to have the prayed-for effect, or if the Holy Truss Rod shouldst make any rude noises, shalt thou cease and desist forthwith and immediately. Thereafter thou shalt entrust, without unseemly delay, thine Instrument to thy parish Reverend Luthier for His blessings and ministration of Holy Relief.
Thus is it written in the Book of Orville, whose Prophets at the Temple of Gibson were blessed with this wisdom many moons ago, when the faithful did wail that their necks did warp and bend, and that the ends of their fingers did hurt like merry hell. And thus it is,

Now this may all seem a little silly but lots of useful things can be learned from this little post
1.  You don't want a neck that is perfectly straight - every guitar needs a little relief. 
2.  To Measure the relief, put a capo on the first fret, and press down on the 17th fret, and measure on the 8th fret with some feeler gauges (I know that the post says that you should press on the last fret but I feel like I can be a little more exact if I use the 17th and measure over the 8th - because the 17th fret is 8 frets from the 8th fret).
3.  You will probably want .010" ish of relief for an electric, .012" - .015" for an acoustic
4.  To add relief, generally an counter clockwise adjustment is necessary
5.  Always use the right tool for the job.  To strip out a truss rod nut is almost unforgivable.
6.  If you have any questions, ask someone!


Friday, 20 May 2011

Beginning A New Instrument

I love when people first begin to play a new instrument.  I think that its great to watch their frustration melt away into excitement!  Looking back I can remember when I got my first guitar how excited and then frustrated I was.  I remember I was 16 years old, and I had had it with piano.  I was sick and tired of playing these pieces that were composed long before I was born, by people who I had trouble relating to.  Also, I was fed up with being unable to play piano with other people.  Its tough to jam on pieces by composers like Beethoven, Telemann, Schumann, Mozart, and (most especially) J.S. Bach.  So, I went and bought my first guitar. It was a seagull acoustic guitar, and I Loved it!  I brought it home and went on the Internet and learned how to read tablature for guitar, and then printed off the tab for Metallica's Call of Ktulu.  Thats when the frustration began.  I sat for hours trying to master the intro for this piece, I played until my fingers were blistered and sore.  Finally after what seemed like forever, I began to recognize that what I was playing was not just a bunch of awkward notes but that Call of Ktulu was actually coming from my guitar!  I was ecstatic!  It fueled my musical hunger!  I needed more.  The internet became a very important resource for me as I blundered along in my little world of a new instrument, and I have learned a lot!  The better I got, the more visions of playing giant rock concerts flooded my brain and I was a Legend (in my own mind).  

Recently I have gone back to school for music and am taking piano as my principal instrument.  I have decided to approach the piano in a different way in hopes that it will produce a different outcome from that of the first attempt.  I realize now that for me, it is important for me to learn all of those pieces that I once despised.  Also all that technique that I loathed must be mastered in order for me to play piano with a group of other people.  But most of all, it is important to have fun and to convey that sentiment to others.

I guess the whole point to this post is this:  I think that by learning to play a second instrument I have become a better musician than if I had stuck to just one.  Now I realize that this is not the case with everyone, but I think that it was important for me to break away and learn to play the guitar, in order to improve my overall musicianship. 

If you play an instrument, what was the first song you ever learned to play?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

"Guitar Hero" VS Guitar Heroes?

I remember when the video game Guitar Hero came out a few years go.  I was walking through a store and there was a kid playing the guitar hero demo game and he thought he was so awesome.  I remember I felt some hostility towards that kid, and all of the kids who thought they were so cool because they could play these songs in this stupid video game, that I could play in real life!  A couple of years later, I got a wii which came with guitar hero.  I decided to give it a shot and actually liked it even though I was terrible at it.  My playing style has since changed so that now my wife plays and I just play along with the songs on my guitar.

So the questions are:
1. Are all guitar players terrible at guitar hero?
2. Do guitarists generally hate guitar hero and why (or why not)?
3. Generally do guitar players soften up to guitar hero after they play?

Since that time I have noticed that some techie stores like Best Buy and Future Shop now sell real guitars, and amps etc... I blame Guitar Hero. Who do you blame?

Monday, 16 May 2011

Once upon a time... I built a guitar!

I have had a few people ask me about how I built my abomination of a Les Paul, so I decided that I would make a blog about it.  In this blog, I'll be tossing around the names of companies that I used and am pleased with.  There are other companies for guitar parts that can be used, that are probably equally as awesome.

So, first thing's first, I decided that I needed a new guitar and here is what I wanted.  I wanted a les paul shape and I wanted it to be white because my other guitars were black and were more of the strat or soloist shape.  I also wanted it to be more versatile than most les paul guitars which are mainly rock only. In addition, I wanted a floyd rose style bridge which could be used for vibrato or dive bombs.  Lastly, I am kind of a scrawny guy so I didn't want it to weigh as much much as a les paul.  Since I wasn't able to find such a machine, I decided that I needed to make it myself.

The Neck!  Upper frets were scalloped,
Just as I requested.  Warmoth suggests
giving new necks a fret job but this one
didn't need one.  The workmanship was
I gathered all of my tools together (which consisted of a sorry assortment of screwdrivers files hammers and other stone age implements) and discovered that I lacked the technology to fabricate the guitar of my dreams.  So, I turned to the internet and found a few companies that sold pieces of guitars.  After several minutes of searching, I came to a website where I would submit what I wanted, and they would build me the pieces that I needed.  The website I used was  This used to be "boogie bodies", used by Eddie VanHalen in the making of his Frankenstrat.  It was perfect.  I decided that they would build me a Les Paul shaped body, out of mahogany which was to be chambered (for weight reduction) and routed for 2 hum-buckers and a floyd rose.

The neck was made out of q-sawn maple and indian rosewood for the fingerboard with extra huge frets and fret scalloping between the 12th and 21st frets, finished with a satin laquer.

Pickups, knobs, bridge or neck were not installed yet...
I just couldn't help laying everything wehre it belonged.

Once the guitar chunks were taken care of, the Pickups were the next order of business.  I wanted something that could tear your face off but could be tamed just in case.  So I went online and read reviews, and listened to sound bytes and tested hundreds of guitars with different pickups in them and I found that the only way I could get what I wanted was through super powerful pickups and wiring tricks.  I decided on the DiMarzio X2N for the bridge and the D-Activator X for the neck with series and parallel wiring for the versatility.  I made the orders and waited... Then one lovely day, my guitar pieces came!  The finishing job was exceptional.  I Loved my new guitar and it was still in pieces!
Push Pull pot on the tone knob.
I used door bell wire, which was all I could find

... Then the work began.  I had to lay everything out and start sticking things together.  First, the pickups were installed.  This was a little tricky.  I decided that the series and parallel wiring for the pickups would be accessed by  push/pull guitar potentiometers (pots).  They would sit in the tone position.  The Seymour Duncan website has great wiring diagrams which is what I used for the instillation of my pickups.  With the wiring all done, I bolted on the neck, adjusted the angle, installed tuning keys, and set up the floyd rose.  The appropriate adjustments were made, (like intonation, bridge balance, etc.) installed a jack and some strap buttons and just like that, a monster was born!!

After a little while, I changed the strings and refinished the headstock changing the colour from clear to white.  The result was amazing!  Here it is!

There you go! *warning* before you rush out and build your own, know that its not as easy as slapping things together.  It takes time and you should know what you are doing BEFORE building a guitar like this.  If not, you could waste a bunch of money and have a guitar that has a different scale than the neck purchased  I worked in a guitar custom shop for a while before I decided to go ahead and build one for myself, however there are a few good books out there that you can consult.  Have fun!

Friday, 13 May 2011

And that's what its all about...

These posts will be the mad mutterings and musings of a music student.  In this blog it can be expected that a number of topics will be addressed but mainly focusing on music and musical instruments; primarily the guitar and the piano.  Don't be surprised if blogs about video games, biking and geocaching or other nerdy but universally enjoyable pass-times pop up in blogs from time to time.   Friendly discussion is welcome and appreciated!

Now... a little about myself.  My name is Jake.  I just finished my first year at a university in Canada in a music program.  At first I thought that I wanted to teach music at a high school level but soon realized that I don't have the patience for the willfully ignorant (and God bless those who do), and their meddling parents.  So I decided to peruse a career in musical education at a college or a university.  This course of action demands a higher level of education than that of a Bachelor's degree so here I sit looking down a long tunnel of schooling and not being quite able to see the light at the end.  I am primarily a piano player and this is the instrument that I am taking through university.  I also love to play the guitar.  I am fascinated and bewildered by and in awe of anyone who has made themselves a master of their instrument.  I also love the construction of instruments and all the details that go into it.  I have actually built a guitar (which I Love) and have worked on hundreds upon hundreds of them as a tech at a music store.

Thats what its all about really... I am open to address questions about building guitars or any of the above topics on which I have a limited expertise and who knows! some of the questions here may turn into full blown blog posts!  Enjoy!

Now to announce the creation of this blog to those who probably care the least:  My Facebook Friends!
(it should be noted that not all of my facebook "friends" will not care - I'm sure that Grandma does)

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