Monday, December 21, 2009

O Tannenbaum by Vince Guaraldi

Here's a guitar arrangement of Vince Guaraldi's O Tannenbaum. Some chords rely on the use of the thumb on the low E string, and even on the low A string one or twice. Not everyone will be comfortable with this, but you can work out your own fingering based on what I have suggested. I didn't try to follow the exact voicing in Guaraldi's version. I find that when I play solo guitar I really like to hear the root of the chord as the lowest note.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

M-Audio Monitors

Audiophiles don't always have the highest opinion of M-Audio products. I am not a professional and they meet my needs perfectly. I have three M-Audio audio interfaces and one set of monitors, the Studiophile Dx4s. I only recently discovered the best aspect of the monitors--they can be repaired easily! I have a three-year-old son who took to poking the tweeter membrane on one of the monitors when I was out of the room. Needless to say this did not do wonders for the sound quality. A little searching on forums revealed a technical phone number. After little hold time, I spoke to a rep and ordered two replacement tweeters for $12.5o each plus shipping. This is ideally what you look for in any product you buy--you can buy parts for it and repair it. Yakima, a manufacturer of sport racks for cars, made a lifetime customer out of me about 10 years ago. I was given a set of Yakima towers, crossbars and bike mounts after a complete Thule rack was stolen off my car (while living in NYC, natch). The Yakima rack was missing certain parts--bolts, nuts, etc. I called up Yakima and told them what I had, what I thought was missing and they sent me all the needed parts--presto, new bike rack. So many modern products, especially electronics, are not repairable. When you find a product that is, it is a real pleasure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fender Mustang Dynamic Vibrato Setup

Here are a couple tips on setting up the Fender Mustang Dynamic Vibrato. My '65 reissue came with no instructions and I had to use the Great Gazoogle for guidance on setting up the vibrato. This vibrato unit is unique to the Mustang. Note that the Stratocaster, Jazzmaster and Jaguar vibratos are referred to as "tremolos" or "trems." I'll do the same here. The Mustang vibrato consists of a base plate, two threaded posts which go through two holes in the plate and screw into a stop bar which anchors the strings and the vibrato bar. Underneath the base plate are two springs that connect the posts with the plate and provide tension against the strings. There are two adjustments that the user can make to the vibrato.

The first is the height of the stop bar, which is raised and lowered via two Allen screws accessible through the top of the bar. Counterclockwise turns will raise the stop bar, clockwise turns will lower the stop bar. When I bought my Mustang the stop bar was raised pretty high, which resulted in an uncomfortable hand position (I was used to a Stratocaster tremolo which I have set up flush with the top of the body of the guitar). The stop bar can be adjusted up and down to adjust the position of the vibrato arm to make it more or less parallel with the top of the guitar body. Adjusting the bar up will decrease tension, adjusting the bar down will increase tension. You will have to re-tune the guitar after the adjustments are made.

The second is to increase or decrease the spring tension. This is accomplished by moving the springs from one groove to another on the posts. This can only be done by removing the tremolo. I usually make this adjustment when I am putting new strings on the guitar. After you have removed the five screws that hold the base plate, examine the posts. The posts from a '65 reissue have three grooves and thus three choices for adjustment. The groove furthest from the baseplate will produce the highest tension to counter string tension, the groove closest to the baseplate will produce the lowest tension to counter string tension. Usually this adjustment will be necessary if you change string gauges. If you use .11s or up, use the furthest grove, .10s or lower use the middle or closest groove. The springs can be tricky to remove. I needed to use needle-nosed pliers to get them off and to secure them again to the post.

Since I rarely use the vibrato, my preference is to have the highest tension on the vibrato as possible. I have adjusted the springs to give the most tension even though I string my guitar with .10s. This is akin to using all five tremolo springs in a Stratocaster and screwing in the trem claw as far as possible. This has the effect of increasing the sustain. Since I rarely use the vibrato, this is definitely a plus with the Mustang as the light body produces less sustain than a Strat or a Tele. I also screw the stop bar down until there is barely enough room for the strings to pass under it. The disadvantage of this approach is that you really cannot use the vibrato bar. Since the stop bar is screwed down the vibrato bar will be really high and the tension will be very high as well. When the stop bar is higher and the tension lower, you can use your palm to rock the bar for a gentle vibrato, a nice effect.

A couple final tips. On the posts just below the threads there is another groove similar to the ones for the tension springs. This groove serves as the knife edge for the base plate. Make sure that the edge of the base plate is resting in this groove and not on the post threads. I usually have to pull up on the stop bar before I start bringing the strings up to tension in order to make sure that the base plate is in this groove. Finally, when you reassemble the vibrato, use a tiny bit of grease on the post threads to ensure easy adjustment.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

VST Oscilloscope

Here's a nice free vst oscilloscope from Progress Audio Products available here. The download includes another product which you do not have to install.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Duncan's Tone Stack Calculator

This little program allows you to simulate the tone stack on several different tube amps and effects. Super helpful if you are trying to figure out what a flat or neutral setting would be for a particular amp. Page and download here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Joe Pass plays a Jaguar

From The Jazz Guitar Blog here's a video of Joe Pass playing a Fender Jaguar. Apparently he played a Jazzmaster during rehab and this was not long after. It's very unusual to see a Jazz player use a Jaguar (or a Jazzmaster for that matter).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fender Jaguar Wiring

Here's a diagram of the original wiring for a Fender Jaguar.

Fender Jaguar Wiring Mod

Here's a schematic taken from the forum for rewiring a Jaguar such that you have series/parallel switching and out-of-phase switching using only the three DPDT switches on the lower bout. You can choose to keep the strangle switch or replace it with and out-of-phase switch. The rhythm circuit on the upper bout is not affected. This is a great mod that allows all switching possibilities for two pickups.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

DIY Tremolo Pedal

I finally got around to adding tremolo to my guitar setup this past weekend thanks to the EA tremolo kit offered by General Guitar Gadgets. The kit included the resistors, caps, transistors, LED, PCB, jacks, pots, knobs, footswitch, wire, and case--everything to put together a complete stomp pedal. The instructions are downloaded from their site. The build took about 4 hours from start to finish with a couple breaks and was a lot easier than it first appeared when I opened the box. The most time-consuming part was figuring out the resistor values. I have red-green colorblindness and it took a magnifying glass. The pedal sounds great. It has a volume control which allows you to match the volume when the pedal is bypassed. The speed control has a wide range, as does the depth control. The led flashes at the speed rate when on. I have an 80s-era Fender solid-state amp that has a great clean channel and spring reverb but no tremolo. The amp has an effects loop located before the power amp so I patched the tremolo pedal in. At first I thought that something was wrong in the build, as the pedal only worked when in bypass, but I realized that I had reversed the cables into and out of the pedal. So I quickly fixed that problem. Make sure you use a new battery--I used an old one and didn't realize how great the pedal is until I switched it out. Highly recommended. I am not a great solderer, but this actually wasn't too hard. I used small diameter solder for the first time which works great. It also helped to clip off the extra length of the components as I went along to make more room to get at the next point. Once you start cramming everything into the case the soldering gets a little harder, so measure all the wires carefully to make as much room as possible. I might swap out the red LED for a blue or green one just for fun. I don't have any interest in finishing it--nothing wrong with raw aluminum and masking tape.

Fender Stratocaster Rewiring

Here's the wiring I'm currently running in my Stratocaster. It is based almost entirely on the Strat Lover's Strat wiring available at GuitarNuts here. The basic premise is to use a push-pull pot on the volume knob which adds the bridge pickup in series to whatever you have selected via the 5-way switch. It only works for the first three positions, neck, neck and middle, and middle. Positions 4 and 5 just select the bridge pup by itself. This creates some really interesting humbucker-like sounds. I especially like the combination of the neck and bridge pickups in series. Not a sound that you can usually get out of a Strat. The other change is to use a push-pull pot on the tone knob to allow switching the middle pickup out of phase, which works both in positions 2 and 4 in normal switching and when the bridge pup is added in series. I always like the out-of-phase sound and this offers, in my opinion, the most flexibility. The only other major wrinkle is that I have used the Fender Samarium Cobalt noiseless pups and there is an extra ground wire coming out of each. Purists might balk at these pickups, but I love the lack of noise and they sound a lot warmer that the Fender-Lace pups which were standard on the Strat Plus in the late 80s and early 90s.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Drive Time Skywave

Old technology can be fun too. I have a weekly commute between Chicago and Ohio and this week I decided to run through the AM radio dial. I haven't done this in a long time as there usually isn't much worth listening to. Tonight a combination of favorable atmospheric conditions and the phenomenon of skywave, which I sort of remember from a physics class years ago, allowed me to pull in stations from all over the country on the factory radio in my Honda Civic. Here's a list of cities I managed to receive in my four hour drive:

New York
St. Louis
Des Moines
Cedar Rapids
San Antonio

The last two really surprised me. It was hard to believe that I could get a station from Boston and San Antonio at the same time. I lived in NYC and Philly each for a few years and it was vaguely disturbing hearing the traffic reports highways that I hated driving on. Chicago is bad enough. The whole experience reminded me of when my father bought my mother a shortwave radio sometime in the 1970s so she could listen to Spanish language radio from Latin America and Spain. I remember going through the sw bands and trying to guess where different broadcasts were coming from. Before the internet it was one way connect with distant corners of the globe. Fun stuff.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fender Mustang Wiring

Here's a diagram of the original wiring for a Fender Mustang.