Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gibson’s 5 Freakiest Guitar Designs of the ’70s and ’80s

Gibson’s R&D departments in Kalamazoo in the 1950s and ’60s, and in Nashville in the ’70s and beyond, have turned out some of the most celebrated electric guitars of all time. But even the creators of iconic designs such as the ES-175 and the Les Paul Standard are allowed a false start now and then.

As often as not, these models had plenty of creative new features and bags of design integrity, but just didn’t take off with players. In earlier decades these guitars were often just ahead of their time, too radical for players of them to take to heart (see Part One: Gibson’s 5 Freakiest Electric Guitar Designs of the ’50s and ’60s.)

In the ’70s and early ’80s, however, these hit-or-miss ventures were far more miss, and have yet to be celebrated with the high vintage values and Custom Shop reissues that have brought many underappreciated early experiments back to life. Some of these even sold in very respectable numbers in their day — far more than the legendary Flying V and Explorer, certainly — but somehow remain products of their time, somewhat dated perhaps, and arguably less appealing to today’s players than other more timeless Gibson models.

We’re actually starting with a model from the very end of the ’60s, and that’s because the general failure of the Les Paul Personal — and the Les Paul Professional and Les Paul Recording that followed it — represent a certain irony of guitar design and endorsement. Les Paul, a jazz and pop artist of the 1940s and ’50s, was Gibson’s first major endorsement, and the Les Paul Model to which he both gave his name and an element of design consultation is arguably the most iconic electric guitar of all time. Shortly after putting his John Hancock on this legendary instrument in the ’50s, however, Paul — an inveterate inventor and tinkerer — further developed his own ideas about the form this model should take. Paul had long been a fan of low-impedance pickups, which do offer certain advantages of fidelity and clarity but which have never superceded traditional passive, high-impedance pickups with the majority of players. He was also fond of adding extra gadgets and preamps and switches to his own guitars. In 1969, shortly after the return of two more traditional Les Paul models to the fold, the Les Paul Personal appeared, with a wider mahogany body, oblong low-impedance pickups, phase switching, and 11-position Decade control, and even a microphone socket on the upper bout of the guitar (with its own output and level control!). Needless to say the model never really took off, and only 370 were ever produced.

George Fullerton dies at 86; musician helped Leo Fender create his unique guitars

George Fullerton, a longtime associate of Leo Fender who played a crucial role in the electric-guitar innovator's extraordinary success through his broad-based skills as a musician, artist and technician, has died. He was 86.

Fullerton died Saturday of congestive heart failure at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, said his son Geoff.
While Fender tinkered away, coming up with improvements in guitar design that led to the creation of his revolutionary Telecaster and Stratocaster electric guitars, Fullerton was charged with making those innovations practical for mass production in their Orange County factory that opened in the late 1940s. Nearly 1,000 people were working there when Fender sold it to CBS in 1965.

"Leo's domain was the lab: innovation, getting ideas together on the conceptual level. George's domain was the shop," said Richard Smith, curator of the Leo Fender Gallery at the Fullerton Museum Center and author of "Fender: The Sound Heard Round the World." Fullerton "made the machine that threaded the guitar necks. He came up with the neck shaper and all these unique tools they used. If Leo had problems, [Fullerton] needed to solve them."

Fullerton's lifelong interest in art allowed him to create sketches of new designs based on his conversations with Fender, whose background was in accounting and electrical engineering.

George William Fullerton was born March 7, 1923, in Hindsville, Ark. He was one of six children in a family in which "everyone was musical," Geoff Fullerton said. "There was definitely a music gene going on there."

Fullerton moved to Southern California shortly before World War II. He picked up technical skills working in an aircraft manufacturing plant during the war, after which he periodically ran into Fender, who ran a radio repair service and retail store.

Fender had begun making guitars -- originally focusing on steel guitars -- and amplifiers with Doc Kaufman (under the K&F brand), but their partnership ended quickly because of differing ideas about how to run the business.

Going it alone, Fender offered Fullerton a job helping with radio repair, but he soon shifted over to provide warranty service on Fender's steel guitars and amplifiers. Fender was as impressed by Fullerton's musical credentials -- he was playing in two bands at night after work -- as by his technical know-how. Fender was confident in his own technical expertise but often hired employees who also were musicians because he could barely play a note, much less a song.

In the late 1940s, various guitar makers were experimenting with ways to amplify the sound of a guitar to allow it to be heard in larger dance halls and ballrooms that featured live music. Fender wasn't the first to come up with a solid-body electric, which could handle a much greater degree of amplification without the sound feeding back, but his innovations in design allowed the instruments to be mass produced affordably -- something no one else had then figured out how to do.

They started working out of Fender's small shop in Fullerton, then expanded to two buildings. The early Fender team also included Don Randall, originally a salesman who became Fender's chief sales and marketing executive. At its height before the sale to CBS, Fender was turning out a guitar a minute from its 27 buildings in Fullerton and Anaheim.

Fender said he never regretted the sale, but he did have reservations about leaving many of his associates behind. Fullerton stayed on for about five years, but was disheartened by what he considered the new owners' bottom-line mentality.

"Quality issues were always at the forefront of his mind," Geoff Fullerton said. "The people at CBS would tell him 'We can save a nickel by doing this,' and his response would be 'Yes, but you'll screw the guy who's playing it.' So immediately there was a conflict there."

He teamed again with Fender at the Music Man amplifier company, creating a new line of guitars, then they created G&L Guitars around 1980.

In recent years, Fullerton had served as a consultant to the Fender Custom Shop in Corona, the company's high-end division that crafts upscale custom guitars for superstar clients as well as meticulous recreations of celebrity guitarists' favorite instruments. "George was very passionate about music, as a lot of the people who worked at Fender were," Smith said. "They thought they were doing something great for musicians, and they were. That whole spirit originated with Leo, that spirit of building better instruments to help musicians."

Besides his son, Fullerton is survived by a daughter, Diane, and two grandchildren. A memorial has been scheduled for 10 a.m. July 25 at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. Instead of flowers, the family has asked that donations be sent to the St. Jude Memorial Foundation.

Building the perfect electric guitar

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - When University of Maryland Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Bruce Jacob played guitars in the past, he just wasn't satisfied with its sound.

His solution? He chose to design his own.

Jacob's guitars differ from others because they include a great range of tones, allowing performers to forgo switching instruments.

His new guitars go on sale this week through his company, Coil LLC. Guitars are priced from $1,000

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

vintage electric guitar

“Negative Boy is what I am. Destroyed by fear and nerves within; internal battle until the end. The time I’ve wasted is a sin. At last I think my time has come. To rid these demons, I’m duty bound. Laugh it off, or stay and wallow: I think I’ll live and fight the battle.”

But the songs appear to be the work of somebody outgoing, who is introspective enough to analyse any misgivings that may have occurred throughout his life. Be that as it may (psychoanalysis over!), the songs are well crafted works that blend everything from the genres of pop, punk, and rock. To say there is something here for everybody is an overstatement, but you would be hard-pressed to locate anything unsavoury.

Album opener Monkey is a contentedly upbeat pop/punk romp, while dealing with personal issues (a recurring theme on this album): “I’ve got a monkey on my back. I’ve got a monkey on my head. I’ve got a monkey in my life...” It’s enjoyable, as opening tracks go, but on first listen it appears clumsily thrown together, and could benefit from a little extra overdrive on some guitar parts. At times it simply feels as though it is lacking in something, but it’s difficult to put a finger on what exactly.

Gillick lists some of his influences as the works of Nirvana and Oasis, and it is apparent at times where their stylings tie in. But for the most part, if you were to analyse his sound, it would be a heady mixture of The White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, The Dandy Warhols, and some of Queen’s later efforts.

What You Want From Me is probably the most definitive track on the album as regards this combination of styles. It opens with a jangly, acoustic riff accompanied by some descending harmonised vocals and successive fifths on the piano. Some might find the lyrics to be ludicrously simple, following a steady rhyming pattern.

Several lines are awkwardly phrased due to this pattern, and as such the timing can seem a little off. But this only seems to add to that same indie vibe. At 2:20, the song dips into a stripped-down, vocal showcase. There’s nothing dazzling here, but it is a nice contribution to the overall structure of the song.

All Alone

All Alone breaks up the tedium nicely though. While the previous three songs were almost riotous in getting their message across, this track holds little more than an electric guitar on a clean channel, bass and drums. The vocals over the instruments make this an interesting little ballad, which is perhaps more reminiscent of The Raconteurs or the Foo Fighters. Or even Tom Waits and Nick Drake, depending on where your musical loyalties lie.

There are really so many features which complement each other, that I can safely leave it in your hands to decide on the influences.

In any case, it’s not too difficult to figure out where the lyrical content of the last song originated when you listen to All My Friends. The verse is centred around the lines “All my friends are idiots. You know, when they get drunk they make no sense. All my friends, they broke my heart... All my friends are good to me. When I was down, they broke me free.”

This song is definitely in the top five of the album in terms of craftsmanship and structure, oscillating from love to hate in the lyrics like a pendulum in full swing. By Your Side takes a stranglehold on the lounge and soul genres, and forces them towards each other on a course for collision, with an inebriating dose of jazz trumpet for good measure.

To sum it all up: Broken Son isn’t really my cup of tea. Yes, it changes styles rather well between tracks, but at times the performance feels lacklustre to my ears. It can be difficult to decide whether or not an artist piques your interest through reading a review when you have no prior knowledge of their work.

So I’ll leave you with this closing sentiment. This is a fledgeling recording artist who genuinely deserves to be heard by those who have a taste for all things vintage rock, with a dash of the newer music scene. This album is available to buy in Multisound, Main street, Cavan, and is well worth the purchase price if you’re interested.

Broken Son can be heard playing at Origins, in McGinnity’s bar on Friday Nights, and can be contacted at

bossa nova guitar

I have the VHS version, it is good and will teach you a few things, but all you find is etudes and they are "short". You won't find this, or any complete song there. A bit dissapointing if you ask me. Most Bossa books and videos all do the same, teach you some rhythmic comping, some chords, and good luck! you are stuck with the task of creating your own arrangements I guess. I wish someone would write a book with just bossa songs, not jazzy wannabes either

how to read guitar tabs

The following tutorial will help to explain to you the basic concept of reading guitar tab. Although it may seem complex, learning to read tab is quite simple, and you should find yourself reading tab easily in no time.

Guitarists are a unique breed. Chances are, if you play guitar, you are either self-taught, or have taken a small number of lessons via a friend or guitar teacher. If you were a pianist, however, you almost assuredly would've learned to play the instrument through years of private study, which would include both music theory lessons, and heavy focus on sight reading.

Nothing wrong with taking the more informal approach to learning music, but it does create some inherent problems when it comes to laborious duties like learning to read music. Learning to sight read takes a reasonable amount of work, without immediate benefit, and it is these sort of duties that self-taught musicians tend to avoid.

It's never too late to learn to read music... if you want to get serious about a career in the music industry, it really is essential. However, guitarists have created their own method of music notation, guitar tablature which, while admittedly flawed, provides a simple and easy to read way of sharing music with other guitarists.

A tab staff for guitar has 6 horizontal lines, each one representing a string of the instrument. The bottom line of the staff represents your lowest "E" string, the second line from the bottom represents your "A" string, etc. Easy enough to read, right?

Notice that there are numbers located smack dab in the middle of the lines (aka strings). The numbers simply represent the fret the tab is telling you to play. For example, in the illustration above, the tab is telling you to play the third string (third line) seventh fret.

Note: When the number "0" is used in tablature, this indicates that the open string should be played.

This is the concept of reading tab, at it's most basic. Now let's examine some of the more advanced aspects of reading tablature notation, including how to read chords in tab.


guitar scales

The February issue of Metal Maniacs features an interview with CANNIBAL CORPSE bassist Alex Webster about the band's new album, "Evisceration Plague", and the legendary diminished fifth. Excerpts from the conversation follow below.

Metal Maniacs: What's the darkest scale in metal?

Alex Webster: Believe me, we've asked ourselves that question… I would say that the scale we use the most, because we have found that it can be used in a way that makes the darkest and most sinister-sounding riffs, is the diminished scale, which is a half-step, whole-step; or, it could be whole-step, half-step. I guess you would call it a symmetrical scale as opposed to a more traditional church mode diatonic kind of thing like major/minor. Any scale we can, we'll mess around with and try to find a way to make it sound dark, but a diminished scale is pretty much guaranteed to sound dark. We tend to keep going back to that one a lot.

Metal Maniacs: Why do you think that is?

Alex Webster: It's the intervals. What makes music sound dark is the order that you put the notes in; if they're played together, they sound a certain way. Like when you play a major third, it generally sounds happier than a minor third. A diminished scale has both of those in it, so if you're trying to make stuff dark, you have to beware of implying a major tonality; but it also has the triton — the diminished fifth — which is the darkest-sounding interval you're going to find. It has minor thirds in there, major sixths, which are inverted minor thirds — you're dealing with a lot of the darker-sounding, more mysterious-sounding intervals. It just lends itself to death metal. If some musicologist ever cared to study our band or other death metal bands, they'd probably just see that scale popping up all over the place, because it works so well.

Metal Maniacs: Is that the scale that's used in "Black Sabbath" by BLACK SABBATH?

Alex Webster: Yeah, I mean it's a diminished arpeggio, I guess you could say — "Bomp Boomp BAAA" — there's the root, the octave and then it goes to the diminished fifth, the third note; it's a root diminished fifth octave arpeggio basically, in that song. It's gotta be one of the most, if not the most evil-sounding riffs in metal history, and it's the song that kind of ushered in the dark side of rock…

Metal Maniacs: I hope we aren't getting too technical here. But it is very interesting…

Alex Webster: Honestly, as much as CANNIBAL CORPSE is a band known for controversial lyrics, artwork and that sort of stuff, what we're really focused on is music. We're probably more of a musician's band than a lot of people would think at first glance. Get me started talking about intervals, scales and rhythms and things like that, it'll take a while to get me to stop.

The February issue of Metal Maniacs is on sale January 27.

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