Gurn babY gurn
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?
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.
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.
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.
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