Gurn babY gurn

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I re­alise this is go­ing to be con­tentious, and def­i­nitely un­cool, but why do so many gui­tarists gurn? I’m now in my 60s and have played gui­tar since my teens. In this time, I’ve watched the faces that gui­tarists pull when solo­ing get more and more ex­treme. When I look at your ex­cel­lent mag­a­zine, I’m al­most scared by the vis­ages of pain, ag­gres­sion and gen­eral crazi­ness. I’ve seen pic­tures of Jimi Hen­drix and Eric Clap­ton ob­vi­ously ‘con­cen­trat­ing’ or ‘away with the fairies’, but noth­ing like what goes on now. Please can the gurn­ers among your read­ers ex­plain why it’s nec­es­sary? Don’t give me the ‘ev­ery note I play is like tear­ing a piece of flesh from my body’ mu­si­cal-mar­tyr rub­bish, as we all play gui­tar be­cause it’s fun. I don’t see other cre­ative types do­ing this so much. Ac­tu­ally, I don’t see many other (non-gui­tarist) mu­si­cians do­ing it. Come on, pack it in! We all know it’s to­tally not nec­es­sary, and not ‘be­yond my con­trol’. It doesn’t mean you’ll con­vince peo­ple that your solo is any bet­ter than it would have been with­out the gurn­ing.

Per­haps I’m to­tally wrong. Per­haps gui­tar shops should be sell­ing lax­a­tives next to the plec­trums? ‘And some­thing for the solo, sir?’ Steve Barker via email Ha! Well, a more char­i­ta­ble ex­pla­na­tion might be that the play­ers in ques­tion are sim­ply los­ing them­selves in the pas­sion of the mo­ment. But, to echo your thoughts, there was some­thing very cool about the way Frank Zappa used to keep a real poker face when play­ing even the most sav­age so­los. Where do other read­ers stand on the gurn­ing ques­tion?

TeLe TaLeS

In is­sue 436 you had an ex­ten­sive guide to mod­ding your gui­tar and asked for read­ers’ tales, so here’s mine. The gui­tar started as a black Squier Tele­caster Cus­tom II, as I wanted a rea­son­ably priced P-90 gui­tar and, al­though I gigged this for sev­eral years as my sec­ond gui­tar, I never re­ally got on with its neck – I al­ways pre­fer rose­wood fin­ger­boards.

I found a re­place­ment neck with a rose­wood fin­ger­board and abalone po­si­tion mark­ers from Ax­es­rus – 22 jumbo frets, 9.5in fin­ger­board ra­dius. This gave some prob­lems

with the fret ends per­sis­tently pro­trud­ing from the sides of the neck, so I kept fil­ing and pol­ish­ing them down un­til it all set­tled. It fit­ted the neck pocket per­fectly and, af­ter care­fully mark­ing the screw po­si­tions through the body and drilling the holes on a pil­lar drill to keep things square, I fit­ted it to the body us­ing the ex­ist­ing plate with nice tight screws, a new bone nut and a set of Wilkin­son lock­ing ma­chine heads.

Around this time the singer in my band sug­gested de­tun­ing to help his age­ing voice. So, giv­ing this some thought, I fit­ted some new 11-52 gauge strings, much heav­ier than any­thing I’ve ever played be­fore, the nut re­quir­ing some at­ten­tion to get it all work­ing. Bring­ing it into tune and try­ing it, I was amazed at the acous­tic res­o­nance, so loud and with so much sus­tain.

Af­ter re­peated re­lief, in­to­na­tion and ac­tion ad­just­ments, I have one of the best gui­tars I’ve ever played. The P-90s and the set-up en­able my style of bluesy/rock to re­ally push through my old JCM 800 Mar­shall. Tone, tone, tone – I love it! Phil Red­dick via email Thanks Phil, it’s amaz­ing how a change of quite ba­sic el­e­ments of our setup and sound can rock our world. Many of us are too con­ser­va­tive in stick­ing to our favourite habits. Go on, try some­thing dif­fer­ent, we reckon. The worst that’ll hap­pen is you learn a bit more about the build­ing blocks of great tone.

CaSe CLoSed?

Is there a con­sen­sus on whether gui­tars should be kept in their cases when not be­ing used? I laid claim to an un­used bed­room and keep my mu­sic gear in there – sort of a home mu­sic stu­dio. The house is pretty well in­su­lated and the door to the room is kept closed, iso­lated from air-con. I col­lected some gui­tars over the years, be­fore I re­tired, and most of them just sit in their cases in the cup­board, rarely com­ing out. The ones out on the rack con­sist of electrics (PRS, Strat, Tele, a hol­low­body, a thin­line, a steel string and ny­lon string acous­tic). The ones with nitro fin­ishes are kept from mak­ing con­tact with any rub­ber bits on the rack, but I’m won­der­ing if I should be keep­ing these play­ers in their cases when I’m not us­ing them? I see lots of pics of gui­tar col­lec­tions hang­ing around the walls of rooms and yet have heard else­where that they should be stored if not in use. Jerry Atrick, via email For­give us for won­der­ing if you’ve writ­ten to us un­der a fake name, Jerry! I think the an­swer is twofold. Gui­tars sound bet­ter when we play them reg­u­larly. So if leav­ing the gui­tars in the rack for a few days en­cour­ages you to pick them up more of­ten, so much the bet­ter. They won’t come to any harm in the short term. On the flip side, if any of your gui­tars are re­ally just gath­er­ing dust in the rack, give ’em a good clean with ded­i­cated gui­tar care prod­ucts and place them in the case un­til the next time you want to play. If they never get played? Sell them and get some­thing you do play, we reckon.

gor­don bLeu

It was great to get to catch up with Gor­don Smith gui­tars in your Sum­mer is­sue. I had the great plea­sure of work­ing with John, Chris and Linda when they built me a gui­tar in 2012 [see pic­ture above]. Peo­ple may have thought of Gor­don Smith as dyed-inthe-wool tra­di­tion­al­ists, but I found them to be any­thing but. There was in­di­vid­u­al­ity and in­tel­li­gence in what they did and ex­cite­ment in pro­duc­ing great Bri­tish in­stru­ments at a very fair price, con­sid­er­ing the qual­ity.

The team at GS were al­ways so po­lite and ap­proach­able. John was gen­uinely en­thu­si­as­tic about build­ing my gui­tar (al­though Chris hated wiring it up!) and he seemed so proud to present it to me. What I wanted was a gui­tar that sounded like a Strat, but played like a GS, and to that end he built what I be­lieve is the only GS-3 gui­tar (it cer­tainly was at the time). We added GS in­no­va­tion with the bril­liant GS Vi­brato and the Volumax pas­sive boost. John se­lected the po­plar wood and we kept it re­ally plain – no carv­ing and a satin fin­ish, and all the way he worked with me to in­ter­pret my needs. What I got was ex­actly what I wanted, for the price of a Mex­i­can Strat, which says it all.

It is great to read that the new Gor­don Smiths have the same val­ues and I wish them all suc­cess in the fu­ture. And maybe I can buy an­other one... Richard Sten­tiford via emal Thanks for shar­ing the im­age of your unique Gor­don Smith, Richard, and your mem­o­ries of the de­voted way it was built by John, Chris and Linda. We loved the new gui­tars we re­viewed – but the orig­i­nals are a very tough act to fol­low.

bLue Hori­zon

As per your sug­ges­tion [in is­sue 436] at­tached are the pho­tos of my ‘Blue Jewel’ [see pic­ture above], built by my­self to my spec­i­fi­ca­tions. All the parts that were re­quired to build the gui­tar were based around the Amer­i­can Fender Stra­to­caster Deluxe, as it was felt that this model of gui­tar would be the clos­est I would ever get to ac­tu­ally be­com­ing the owner of Cus­tom Shop gui­tar.

This project build was com­pleted on 17 March 2016 – my ‘Blue Jewel’ was fi­nally cre­ated. The foun­da­tion for the build was an HSH body in Mys­tic Blue, made from alder in the Stra­to­caster de­sign with a mod­ern two­hole bridge. Nigel Vine via email Con­grat­u­la­tions, Nigel, the Blue Jewel is a real di­a­mond. Keep send­ing your mod­ded gui­tar pics in, folks, we love ’em.

Right: Nigel Vine’s strik­ing Strat-in­spired ‘Blue Jewel’ Far right: Richard Sten­tiford’s unique Gor­don Smith gui­tar fea­tures a GS Vi­brato and Volumax pas­sive boost

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