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Tuning Stability Checklist

Tuning stability with tremolo bridges can be problematic and very frustrating, especially when recording. Solving these problem is not rocket science but with such a complicated mechanical system it can certainly can seem like a black art.  But there is a simple way of thinking through tuning problems which might help...

Your Own Personal Fret Buzz

It is a myth that buzz-free low action is always possible. People frequently read manufacturers' specifications and assume those numbers are a goal rather than a guideline. They assume such a setup will suit their personal playing technique without any string/fret buzz. In my experience, that is just not the case. I'll explain why.

It fell of the back of a truck…

[caption id="attachment_487" align="alignright" width="150"]Strat in pieces Re-gluing the fingerboard, ready to work on the innards.[/caption]

Usually, in English, that expression would imply some level of theft or underhand dealing. In this case it really is just a guitar that fell off the back of a truck. The truck was moving too. Quite fast, I was told, on a French motorway. Mathieu, a great double bass player, wanted his beloved Squier Strat ready for a punk gig that week and between our existing schedules it meant that I didn't have much time to work on this. Naturally, I was expecting something of a disaster.

Lost in the dark?

What to do when playing in the dark and you can't see the frets? Or, even worse, temporarily blinded by stage spotlights? Nothing worse than a screaming bum-note or wrong chord 'cause you can't see what you're doing, right? I'm sure we've all had a moment like that at some point in time. But what can we do to avoid it?

Game Changer, the Giggle Maker

The-Game-Changer blue logoIt's not often that I read something that makes me giggle and laugh with excitement but Music Man have managed to do exactly that with the new Game Changer. It was first announced last year as a system for re-wiring your guitar's pickup selector any way you want it, in real time, right from your computer screen and yet maintaining an all-analogue signal path. On a guitar with 5 coils (e.g. HSH) and piezo, all the various combinations of series/parallel and in/out-of-phase leads to, quite literally (and I'm not kidding you) millions of tonal possibilities.

Tuning – the Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #45

[caption id="attachment_393" align="alignright" width="111"]"American Lutherie" Journal Cover "American Lutherie", the journal of the Guild of American Luthiers[/caption]

The following is a reprint of data sheet #45 from the Guild of American Luthiers. They don't know who wrote it and it never made it into publication. But it's so incredibly useful that it's one of their most requested articles (you can download a PDF version from them here). To anyone who ever gets frustrated when tuning their guitar, this article explains why and I strongly advise you to read it. I promise you that accepting the information presenting here will make your guitar and your music sound better and your life much easier.

To Shim, or not to Shim?

People often wonder why two seemingly identical electric guitars sometimes require noticeably different bridge or saddle heights to achieve a similar string action and feel. The answer has to do with manufacturing tolerances when making the neck and body. Let's take a look at the issue and explain why shims are often used in guitar construction.

Choosing a Mandolin

A few months back on one of the guitar forums I frequent, a guitarist asked for advice, wanting to buy a cheap mandolin for a country/rock band. Here is my reply, which I've expanded on for this blog.

Those pesky little problems…

...that vanish as soon as you go looking for them!

As well I know from my experience as a physicist, poking around with large amounts of electricity can be as much fun as it can be dangerous and scary. Particularly with high powered laser systems where high voltage, high current, and running water (for cooling) are often in close proximity. Guitar amplifiers are pretty tame in comparison so I have no problem opening them up and poking around.

The Great John Simms – part three

(continued from part two)

John's cremation was held the following week at Paris's Père Lachaise cemetery. It seemed like half the musicians in Paris, certainly most of the ex-pat musicians,  turned out to see John off. Throughout the service, a gospel choir that John was involved with sang selections from the songs that he had written. It was quite an experience, intensely emotional yet a rich vein of joy ran through it too, albeit one with an unintentionally humorous end.

The Great John Simms – part two

click here for part one

John1_160x200John and I never worked together again after the Marrakech trip. Though we often didn't see each other for long stretches, our friendship never seemed to fade. There were a few occasions when I would sometimes stop into one of his gigs and sing harmonies for him on a song or two, or help him tweak the sound system so the show would sound its best "out front". He always appreciated that. "The doctor is in the house!", he'd cry, smiling his big smile and laughing his big laugh.

The Great John Simms – part one


John7_200x238I don't remember when I first met John. I do remember that I first heard of him when he was recording his album, "My Acoustic Soul", as a friend of mine was playing mandolin on the recording. That may have been 2004 or 2005.   Perhaps I was a little late to the party but having heard his name once it seemed that everyone was suddenly talking about this great soul singer, John Simms.

Music is social, so be social!

A buddy on private forum recently asked advice about meeting musicians to jam or start a band with and what internet sites anybody could recommend.  His question got me thinking about my experiences over the 11-odd years  I've been in Paris.