Guitar thing

This finely crafted guitar body was made from plywood with a mildly figured masonite top. The construction is much like the Danelectro guitars from the early sixties. The body shape is a Gibson Melody Maker, the neck and bridge are from a Fender Telecaster. The pickup arrangement and wiring will use three pickups and a five position switch like a Fender Stratocaster.

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Guitar pickups that promise everything

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I just read this quote about a pick up called the Nazgûl. I love the name. I need to install one of these in my +2 Axe!

“The Nazgûl was developed for extreme metal players who required a massive and aggressive tone that still maintained plenty of articulation. The Pegasus was developed for prog and modern metal players who needed plenty of aggression but required enhanced dynamics, more harmonic richness and defined string separation so individual notes don’t get lost in the mix. The perfect compliment to both these pickups is the Sentient neck pickup which is also now available in a 6-string version. It’s voiced to capture a blend of vintage PAF and modern tones with enough output to deliver harmonically rich distorted lead tones but subtle enough to give you deep, detailed cleans. Think of it as combining the best qualities of the ’59 Model and the Jazz: clarity, detail, depth, attack and expression.”

So let me get this straight. Not only is this pickup give you the “old school” PAF sound, it also sounds “modern”. Besides having “massive agression” it also has “enhanced dynamics.” While it gives “harmonically rich distorted leads”, it also provides  “jazz clarity.”

No doubt it’s a great pick up. To be honest an ad like this promises so much I’m not sure what it sounds like. This pickup would be the only pick up you might ever need. I suppose it doesn’t mention crunchy and organic.

I wonder how often words like vintage, modern, clarity, aggression, enhanced dynamics, depth, detail etc. appear in pick up descriptions? Are there words that describe pickups uniquely? Seems the ad copy is so subjective you can’t really trust it entirely. While some of the words hold a specific meaning that can be quantified to a degree. Dynamics, high or low output mean something to me, or at least I expect something when I read these words. Many other words have less meaning, or I expect they mean different things to different people. Words like massive, are we talking more low end, more output, or both.

I propose a discuss and definition of a few words that have specific meaning in the world of pickups. Something you can count on.


Guitar Progress

Here’s a few pictures of progress on my guitar. I’ve cut and routed the body to shape.

The neck fits pretty good. Radius on the corners on the neck are something smaller than 1/2″, the size of the router bit. I think I’ll round these off so the neck fits snug against the heel of the pocket. For a cheap no name neck from asia the quality seems pretty good, of course we’ll have to see how it plays…

 


Baritone Guitar

I had gotten this itch to get a baritone guitar. Not sure where it came from, maybe I was listening to to much Ennio Morricone? I must have bought it in the early 2000s. I found this on sale for $199 and thought it looked like a pretty good deal. It’s a Squier Sub-Sonic. The guitar is a baritone tuned to low B. The body is basswood and constructed as a neck through design. It has 24 frets with a rosewood fret board.The body is a dark blue almost black with a metallic or sparkle finish. The headstock is reversed with the smaller strat outline. The neck has a 27″ scale.I’d say the guitar was well made for the price I paid.

It plays pretty good. The strings are much larger than a regular guitar about half way to a bass guitar. The neck through body construction makes playing the upper frets very comfortable and natural. The frets are large. The guitar has a nice balance to it like other guitars in this body style. The body has the strat style cutaway.

Read on!


Sustainers

I was at the DIY swap meet last weekend where I was shown a DIY “e-bow”. It consisted of an electric motor, 9V battery and switch. The shaft of the motor had what looked like a propeller made of electrical tape. The idea was to turn the motor on and hold the device so the spinning “propeller” of tape brushes the strings of your instrument thus creating a sustained sound. (If you left this at my table at the swap let me know and I’ll try and get it back to you)

Sounds pretty kooky at first, but this is not the first device to use this idea. But, before we go any further an explanation of sustainer and e-boy are in order.

The name sustainer, I’ll guess, comes from the sustain pedal on an organ or piano. The idea is to add sustain to the instrument. With stringed instruments you need something to drive the strings. Violins, violas etc, use a bow. I seem to recall reading about some type of hurdy gurdy that rested a spinning wheel on a string to act as a infinite bow. (Feel free to chime in with some details if you like.)  When it comes to guitars, electric guitars that is, the classic sustainer is amplifier feedback. The sound coming out of the speakers begins to drive the strings, which in turn creates more output from the pickups. I have often seen guitar players control feed back in various ways, one method is by pressing the headstock against the amplifier cabinet, which is a good way transfer the sound vibrations directly from the amp to the guitar.

Beyond feedback people have come up with very clever methods sustain. These fall into two methods: Physically vibrate the string or magnetically vibrate the strings. (Note that there have been several stompboxes called “sustainers”, but these are really more in the compressor limiter category).

Magnetic sustainers work on the concept of using an electro magnet to drive the strings. Really this is almost the same as driving a speaker cone. A signal from your amplifier is used to create a fluctuating magnetic field. This field pulls or pushes the speaker cone towards or away from a magnet in the speaker. The field itself mirrors the audio.

Magnetic sustainers use the same concept as a speaker. The difference that magnetic field is pulling at the strings on your guitar. Magnetic sustainers can be either hand held, like the E-Bow, or mounted in the Instrument like the Sustainiac.

The E-Bow is a small hand held device that contains small pick up similar to a guitar pickup and magnetic driver. The signal from the pickup drives the driver which makes the string vibrate. The more string vibrates the more signal is generated at the pick up which in turn creates a stronger signal at the driver. Sounds a lot like amplifier feed back in some ways.

The Sustainiac is system that replaces the neck pick up on an electric guitar. It works with the bridge pickup, amplifying the signal and powering the driver in the neck pickup. Sounds a lot like the E-Bow, except the Sustainiac mounts in the guitar. Moog music makes a guitar that has six magnetic sustainers, one to drive each string.

The next category of sustainers are mechanical sustainers. These would work by physically vibrating the strings. There was a device called the Gizomtron (love the name) that mounted on your guitar and used small wheels to drive the strings. Sustainaic also makes a sustainer, called the Model C, which attaches to the head stock and provides mechanical sustain by vibrating the headstock. Which brings us back to the motor and the 9V battery. Can you make a sustainer with an electric motor? The Gizmotron proves this is possible even if their device was never popular and had some problems. You really just need some way to get the strings vibrating. Here’s a video of Van Halen using an electric drill as a slide. The spinning action of the chuck is obviously creating some of the sound. Many times the simple solution is the best. There’s probably many off the shelf products that double as sustainers. Here’s the Lips from Anvil using a Dildo. Of course anything that effects the length of the string will effect the pitch. This has been done a few times by various others.

Not sure what else to say on the subject. It seems ripe for experimentation. If you don’t fancy expensive Moog guitar you can probably whip up your own sustainer from parts around the house!


New Guitar

Sometimes you have to buy a new guitar. Sometimes you just give in. I saw this and was inspired. Not sure why, it does have a unique look. I figured the expense was not justified. After thinking about this for a week, I came up with the idea to hawk some old junk on ebay. Which in the end worked well.

I had not bought an Agile guitar before. I had heard good things about them. They get high reviews on the internet. I have to say this instrument lives up to the hype. It’s well built and plays great. Overall the instrument looks great. There are a few tiny flaws in the finish, you need to really look to find these.

A few features I like. Single pickup single control strips everything down to the bare bones. The plain top with out a lot of clutter has a nice unique style. The pick up is a P90 style. I don’t own a guitar with one of these so it adds a new sound. The pick sounds good. Its’ got some “twang” that you don’t get with humbuckers.