Name the Guitar Hero! Nuggets From The Guitar Player Archives.

February 25, 2011

GP0211_backpage_nr“I HEARD MICKEY BAKER OF Mickey and Sylvia playing ‘Love is Strange,’ and I was hooked. I was completely awed by the imagery surrounding the electric guitar. It sounded so tough and so cool.”

After a year of classical study, he got a used Danelectro for $31, and laid his nylon strings aside. Three days after he got the guitar, he started his first band.

His interest in guitar design and construction goes back to when he first began to play. “I had been painting, and thought I was going to be an artist, so I decided to combine music and art by sculpting electric guitars. I’ve always been impressed by functional art, and all the existing electric guitars seemed to be pretty shoddily built. At first, I tried to do all the work myself, but I couldn’t handle the tools. I kept cutting my hands up so bad that I finally had to make a choice. Now I farm most of the actual construction work out, but I still have an old Stratocaster that the rhythm player in the Deacons gave me that I’ve been reworking for a long time. I’m doing all the work on that one myself, and I still do my own necks and actions.”

A current project is what he believes will be the world’s first electric flamenco guitar. He started with a completely stripped Telecaster neck and body. When it’s finished, everything will be inlaid or ground flush to the top, and the neck will be widened to 2 1/8" (wider than a classical neck) to make it complementary to classical fingering. It will have planetary pegs, and will be wired like a stereo Stratocaster. One interesting accessory might be a cigarette lighter.

“When I drew up the final design some time ago,” he says, “I included a small preamp for guitar effects. I’ve since found that effects belong on the floor— not on the guitar—and it’s a shame not to use that preamp for something. I consider myself an electronic musician, and I really believe that electronics is music. Electronic effects—when added carefully in context to a mood or chord change or something—can create another facet to the music.”

It is his effects and amplification system that allow him to implement his electronic ideas. He and his equipment people have been modifying the same basic setup for five years, as he finds what he needs, and what he can get from it. Everything is wired for stereo and tri-amped. That is, he has three sets of amps—each of which can handle a separate frequency range. Two Standels carry the low frequencies, and a Fender Twin Reverb carries the highs. A third amp—a Fender Dual Showman controlled by a floor switch— powers six, high-throw Wurlitzer horns for registers above 3,000 cycles (a place he often likes to play). The floor switch also houses a reverb, an Astro Echoplex, a Standel Modulux, a Gibson Maestro Fuzz, and a Vox wah.

“I’ve had a lot more stuff than that,” he claims, “and I’ve always been aware that my love for electronic gadgetry has been a shaping influence on my playing. The trick, however, has never seemed to be how much one can use them. The trick is learning how to use them just a little bit.”

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