Sep 19 2010

Acoustic Guitar Building…

by Josh

For the last few months, I have been cultivating an interest in the construction of acoustic guitars.  This started simply enough this summer once I finished my ukulele kit and continued after I saw Andy McKee perform in Denver.  After some research into his Greenfield guitars, I got interested in figuring out what it would take to start building acoustic guitars on my own.

I found a myriad of different kits, and this led people to send me links of other fingerstyle acoustic players including this one by Antoine Dufour.  Dufour plays guitars by Mario Beauregard, who apprenticed from a man named Ervin Somogyi.  As I investigated further, several other luthiers have apprenticed and raved about the abilities of Somogyi so I headed over to his website and found this excellent video.

It seems that Somogyi has written some of the best books available on the topic of acoustic guitar building, but they are very expensive.  After thinking it over for a few months, today I ordered my book and DVD set.  I plan to read them over the winter months and select a project next year to begin.  I plan to start with an acoustic guitar kit or two so I can get some of the mechanics of assembly down, and then attempt hand-building a guitar myself if that goes well.

I am excited about this new hobby, expect to see more here over the coming months!


Aug 18 2010

What’s been going on lately…

by Josh

Happily, a lot of guitar practice. I’ve been alternating between my Gibson Custom and my Seagull acoustic, mostly practicing songs that I am familiar with. I’ve been continuing on lessons over at Totally Guitars and slowly making progress.

I got the opportunity to travel back to my hometown thanks to my job, so I got to hang out and jam with my two cousins. It’s always cathartic to get to practice with family, and I always find it to be much more relaxing.

In the process of learning more about the guitar, I am also cultivating a strong interest in learning to build guitars myself. It will likely be next year before I execute on this interest, but we might end up with a new section at The Guitar Zero to focus on instrument building for the absolute beginner. I am still in the information-gathering phase, but luckily the Internet is filled with information from both amateur and professional luthiers. As the weeks progress, I will explore some of the more interesting websites that I have discovered lately.

In the meantime, I will get back to posting more about my guitar practice and some recent discoveries that have made playing more easy. More soon!


May 26 2010

Video of the new axe!

by Josh

EDIT: I removed the video so I could reshoot a replacement with better audio quality. Please bear with me while I fix this up. 🙂

This is the first time I’ve ever put a video of me playing guitar on YouTube. I made this video to show my new 1957 VOS Les Paul Custom Gold Top, specifically the differences in the pickups. I recorded this with my wife’s Nikon Coolpix camera, so the audio quality isn’t the best but it gets the job done. The amp I used is my Fender Blues Junior, and that’s about all there is to tell about it!


May 25 2010

My new ’57 VOS Gibson Les Paul Custom Gold Top!

by Josh

I decided earlier this year to buy myself a debt-free celebration present of a really nice guitar to continue my learning process on, so I picked the Les Paul Traditional.  However, those of you that have been following along over at my personal blog are aware of my recent dealings with MusiciansFriend regarding my order for a Les Paul Traditional that my order was delayed.  Shortly after my blog post was up, I was quickly contacted by a gentleman named Justin with MusiciansFriend that wanted desperately to make things right, and I am pleased to report that they have done just that.

They provided me an option to upgrade my order to a used Gibson Les Paul Custom (that they had in stock) and after a fairly long email chain they quickly had it to my door.  I’m happy we were able to work out a compromise that resulted in me ending up with a better guitar, despite the fact it was more expensive.  As anyone that has been near me lately can attest, I am very pleased.

The Guitar

I opted for a more cost-effective used model of the Gibson Les Paul Custom 1957 VOS Gold Top.  MusiciansFriend was advertising this guitar as used, despite the fact that there appears to be very little used about it.  They claim that the VOS finish was polished to a semi-gloss, however there is nothing to indicate that it wasn’t done by the Custom Shop or someone equally skilled.  One of my friends is a former Gibson employee and told me that people pay a lot to have their Gibsons finished in this fashion, so there was absolutely nothing wrong with it and I’m inclined to agree with him.

The Neck and Back

The neck on this guitar is rounded in the 1950’s style.  It’s the biggest neck I’ve ever held on an electric guitar, far surpassing my acoustic’s neck in fatness.  I wasn’t sure I was going to like this at the onset, but just a few minutes of playing it extolled the virtues of a large neck.  It fit my hands very well and put my wrist in the proper position very naturally.  Both the neck and the back of the guitar are solid mahogany, which gives this guitar excellent sustain.  It also makes it weigh a metric ton.

The Pickups

I made a concession on the pickups.  I really wanted to get a guitar that had the ’57 Classic pickups, but the more research I did indicated that I was actually trading up here too.  It seems that Gibson pickups are one of those “holy war” topics where it is very difficult to be right, you eventually have to end up going with what you want.  My new guitar has Burstbucker 1 and 2 pickups, which are considered “precise replicas” of the original Patent Applied For pickups (if you believe the marketing materials).

Not being extremely well versed in Gibson lore, I had only a few reference points.  One of them is my buddy Paul’s Gibson Les Paul Standard, which has Burstbucker Pros.  My pickups sound mellower than his, but they still sound great when they have some gain put on them.  Personally, I prefer the mellower sound so once again I’m happy.

Playability

The thing that gets me the most about this guitar is the big leap in playability.  The action on this guitar was very good right out of the box, making it easy to get up and down the neck without a lot of effort.  In addition, the frets are both tall and wide, which cuts down on the amount of pressure needed to make a clean note.  Add these things together with the fat neck, the extra sustain from the solid neck and back, and the vintage-style pickups and it all adds up to one incredible instrument.

Thanks to MusiciansFriend for making this situation right, and thanks to Gibson’s Custom Shop for making a superior instrument.  This sure is one great debt-free present!

Wanna see more pictures?  Get a fairly large zip file here and check ’em out.


Jan 1 2010

Happy 2010!

by Josh

Happy New Year from all of us at The Guitar Zero!

One of my personal goals is to complete TotallyGuitars.com‘s Acoustic Genius program, and while I won’t post details about the specifics of the program I will generalize my progress and post it here along with any realizations that come to me as I go through this training.  For those of you that are interested, I highly recommend their paid content over at Totally Guitars.  To learn more, check out Neil’s informational video.

Over the coming year, I look forward to working through these courses, ripping into some of the books of tablature my family got me for Christmas, working on playing technique, and jamming with my friends more.  I just got done tuning up my guitars for a long year of exercise, happy new year everyone!


Sep 21 2009

My Digitech Brian May pedal arrives!

by Josh

My Digitech Brian May Red Special pedal arrived today!  I’ve gotten to play with most of the models and they sound pretty cool, I can’t wait for my new amp to show up so I can hear them on a decent tube amp.  The neat thing about the pedal is how you can control the effects.  On certain models, they’ve also put in things like tape flanger effects which you can control with the pedal itself.

In addition, they thought of some cool touches like including a embroidered satin bag to put the thing in, and a sixpence to use as a plectrum (just like Brian May uses).  I’m very satisfied with the purchase, I can’t wait to practice with it and work on that Bohemian Rhapsody solo with the right tone!


Sep 15 2009

The Amp Search is over!

by Josh

I decided on a Fender Blues Junior amp with a Digitech Brian May pedal to go along with it!

The reasons for this decision are many.  First and foremost, it was a result of good advice I received from many of my friends.  In fact, it was about the only solution that incorporated the advice of pretty much everyone I talked to.  It was a decent tube amp, good volume, and strong enough even for simple gigging should I want to do that at some point in the future.

Instead of going for a tube amp with onboard effects, I opted for a stronger tube amp that is more stripped down.  Several people (my cousin John included) recommended that I go with this approach because most people are unlikely to use all of the modeling that is available on amps that support that type of thing.  I certainly am not to a level where I can use all of those fancy features, so I oped for the “less is more” approach.

Why the Brian May pedal, then?  Simple: Brian May kicks ass, I love Queen, and it saves me the trouble of getting a Red Special replica guitar (for awhile).  Check out the pedal demo from YouTube.

Expect to hear more about both of these items once they arrive and I’ve given them a workout!


Jun 1 2009

New guitar is showing up today!

by Josh

My New Guitar!

I was lucky enough to come across a good price for this lovely used 60’s reissue Fender Stratocaster in three-tone sunburst!  The shipping notice says it should show up today, so with any luck I will be getting it set up and ready to rock shortly!

Aside from the price, I selected this guitar at the advice of my cousin John.  He knows what type of music I like and recommended this particular model of guitar.  He likes Fender stuff and has his own truly excellent David Gilmour relic stratocaster.  He’s even got some YouTube videos playin’ the thing.  He knows a quality guitar when he gets his hands around one!

Paul, one of my coworkers has recommended the book Fretboard Logic as a good starting point to help learning how to play solos, so I’ll be getting that to help with my skill building!