The book includes a CD with snippets of interviews with Leo Fender about the early years of the Stratocaster including comments by George Fullerton, who used to be the Production Manager during the early period of the Fender company. Furthermore there is a section about different guitar-playingstyles using the Strat. This section is played by Greg Koch who is a master at mimicking many, many guitarstyles. Apart from that, the man does have a great sense of humour,this alone makes it worth to listen to this CD!!
Unlike most other books about the Stratocaster, this book illustrates the development of the Statocaster since the beginning of 1954 alongside the history of the Fender company. There are the Early Years, the CBS period, and the FMI period. All of these periods are illustrated with stories about the company, the guitarplayers who favour the Strat and details about their particular instrument. It is very unusual to see a book where you get close up details of most of the Stratocasters throughout the years. Anyone who has tried any of the recent Strats will have noticed that these guitars are all very consistent in feel, sound and vibe. This consistency can be found throughout most of the years of the Fendercompany, maybe with some glitches during the CBS years, but overal it is great to see that the vibe of the 1950s is still alive in the instruments Fender builds today.
The book is written by Tom Wheeler who has a love for his subject. Tom started out as a freelance writer for Rolling Stone. Later he joined the staff of American guitarmagazine Guitar Player and within four years he became Editor in Chief. In this capacity he undertook many interviews with artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B King, Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and many others.
The book will serve as a great reference tool for many years to come. It is a must for anyone who is serious about the Stratocaster and the history of the Fendercompany.
Stay tuned for more inspired reading about guitars and playingstyles in upcoming articles! Eddie
For anyone interested in Fender guitars and the Stratocaster in particular. Anyone who wants to educated themselves more on the subject of Strats, including beginners and advanced guitar players.
For the naked eye the Stratocaster has not changed much since they first started to come out in 1954 and it is here where one of the problems starts when you want to buy a Stratocaster today: What do I look for, How do I know if this is a real Strat if you are dealing with a vintage guitar. What makes one Stratocaster different from the other? What about the different models throughout Fenders history? Do they still produce some of these guitars today?
People interested in buying Strats will search the net, and yes there are a handful of great sites to browse through, but most of them have a similar issue: You have to read a lot, look at a lot of guitars to get to know what the early Strats look like, where they differ from the Strats of the 60s, 70s and early 1980s. With this book you have it all covered between these pages as the book deals with: What to look out for when you buy a second hand Strat, it provides serial numbers at the back of the book, goes into details about Japanese, Chinese and Mexican Strats. There are casestudies where you can learn in detail what a U.S.A Custom Shop 1954 Strat looks like. Is it only about those Vintage models, which are usually quite expansive? No, there are also casestudies about budget models and what you can do to make these guitars play-and sound great.
There is a chapter about how to set-up your Strat, how to maintain it and what kind of adjustments you can make to get it to sound-and play better. Last but not least there is a chapter devoted to well-known Strat players where you learn how Mark Knopfler has his guitar set-up or what makes Blackie (Eric Clapton’s main Strat for a while) so special.
True you need to be crazy about Fenders and Strats in particular to enjoy this book, but then which guitarplayer isn’t?, since the Strat is a fabulous guitar, there are quite a few copies and hot-rodded look-a-like guitars out there, but still the Strat is probably the best out of all of those.
For this article a short brief on how to improve the sound of your guitar and amp.
Stringgauge: Let us say you have been playing for a while and have not changed the gauge of the strings you use. In this case it may be an idea to go up a gauge, or even a few gauges in case you are using an 0.8 set. When you change gauge of strings you will notice the difference in feel and tone: Thin strings will give you more twang on your chords whereas thicker strings will give more body to your chords, single strings and bends. Whatever you do, you will loose something, so if you like to have it all why not set up your guitars differenty: have one where you use a thicker gauge, while you keep another one for thinner strings.
Height of Pick-Ups: Pick ups can be adjusted in height, you can set them further away- or just closer to your strings. The height can be adjusted with the screws, which are on each side of your pick-up. Closer to the string will give you more output, whereas further away will diminish the output. Overal the pick-ups should be balanced: Not too loud and not too quiet. You can test this by playing a chord and while this chord rings switch to a different pick-up setting. Try all the settings, when the pick-ups are balanced the bridge pick-up should be a tad louder than any of the other combinations. Very useful for when you want to play solo’s on the fly while you break out of your chords.
When should you modify your pick-up and upgrade to a different set? This is a personal matter. If you have a quality guitar I would keep the stock pick-up in the guitar, unless you a very unhappy with how they perform. On a cheaper guitar it may be a good alternative to upgrade the pick-ups, as this will improve the overal sound. Talk to various people in the know and see how they feel about the matter before you decide you need to change your pick-ups.
Tremolo-Units: Or Whammy bars as some of us would like to call them! What about them? They should be able to move up or down, regardless of what kind of system you use, either vintage trems or any of the Floyd Rose types. If they can only move downwards (which is often the case with the vintage trem systems) try loosening the two screws where the springs of the tremolounit are attached to the body. This should do the trick, if you are not sure consult any of your local guitartechs.
Fretboard and Strings: Keep your strings clean by wiping them down from time to time with a plain cloth as this will prolong them. Keep the fretboard clean, you can also wipe it down with a cloth, maybe at the same time as when you change your strings. Make sure there is no finger grease left on the fretboard, all should be smooth and clean for an enjoyable playing experience.
Get your guitar set-up by a guitar tech!!: If you have had your guitar for a while and it never has had a set-up get it done by a professional guitar technician. If you live in the Leeds area you could use: www.factorystreet.co.uk/instrument-repairs/
I have know Alex for a long time and he is very knowledgable about guitars and overal is a great guy, I would highly recommand him.
This so far for guitars, now let us have a look what can be done for your amp:
Valves: If you have a valve amp, and have had it for a while, and the amp has never seen any new valves, get them replaced. The difference in sound will be like changing a set of strings for your guitar.
Get your amp set-up: Similar as with your guitar, a valve amp needs service from time to time, even if you do not gig that often. The values of the components do change over time and this will have an effect on the sound of the amp, it can even make amps go faulty, and then you may be in for an expansive job! To avoid high costs, you could get your amp serviced from time to time. How often? Depends, if you are gigging, maybe once a year, under other conditions maybe once every four-to five years, all depending on how you use the amp. If you live in the Leeds area here is a great place to get your amp serviced: www.astralsonictech.co.uk I can highy recommand Jas. He is very good at his job and is always willing to explain what is wrong with your amp and how it can be fixed in the best, possible way.
Speakers: In case you are using a amphead and a separate speakercabinet, you could look into changing the speakers. Speakers play a huge part in your sound, it is not only the amp, pick-ups and woods of the guitar, the speaker plays an important part as well. To test this for yourself: Some of your may have various small amps around. Just plug into them by playing the same idea on your guitar and see how your guitar responds to these amps. Changes are the sound will be very different, and this is partly because each of your combo amp uses a different kind of speaker.
Is it all about upgrading and changing parts of your equipment? No, pedals can make a huge difference in your sound as well, and in this case it is only a matter of connecting your guitar to a few boxes before the cable hits the amp. In future articles I will look into how Grapic-and Parametric EQ’s can sweeten the sound your amp.
For this article a short brief on the various methods you can use to get to know the fretboard of your instrument better.
Why is it so useful to know the fretboard? Isn’t it enough to play by feel? Having knowledge of where the notes and chords are on the fretboard of the guitar and bass is a must for any improvising musician. In improvised music you need to create music on the fly of the moment. Being able to visualise chordsequences will help you with your creative harmonic-and melodic ideas. Even if you do not play improvised music, having knowledge of the fretboard will help you with your composing of songs and musical arrangements.
When I ask students about a particular note on the fretboard most students start to count their musical alphabeth from any given string. Most people will be able to do this, but can you do this when you are playing? There are tricks to get to know your fretboard quickly: Make use of the fretboardmakers on your fretboard, work with associations: learn to recognise chordshapes, intervalshapes and inversions. Okay, most of your reading this article will have heard about these issues so let us get real now:
Tip Number One: Have Fun Fun Fun and more Fun!!!
Sounds logical eh? Anyone studying the guitar has fun in their own way. I ,myself, like to create things, things I made, things which come from my heart. That is one of my ways to have fun. How can you apply this to learning the fretboard? Easy! Play a riff of only a handful of notes. Play this riff in one particular area, let us say in first postion (avoid open strings for now!) Play this riff for a little while until you really know it. Now start naming the notes of that riff. In you need to you can write them down. You can even tab your own riff, then write the notes down of the riff. Next step is: To play the first note of that riff in another place on the fretboard. Maybe you can take it up an octave. Once you have that first, important note, then try to find all the other notes of the riff. Try to find them as close as you can, to all the other notes, just the same as the riff in the orginal postion. See how the shape of the riff has changed, (or maybe it has not!) Play this riff again for a little while. Go back to the orginal postion, then shift again to the new position, all on the fly of the moment. Very good for your technique and visual skills of seeing things on the fretboard. Whenever you work on something, keep things practical and real. This little riff you made here is of you! You came up with it, and you play it. Changes are that they form part of your musical integrity. It shows you something how you use your fingers and what kind of notechoise you have. This is something you need to develp and nuture. Once you feel comfortable with your riff in the two positions you can move on to a new part of the fretboard. Have you noticed how you forget time while doing this? You are having fun playing your little riff, but in the meantime (I hope!!) you are learning notes in different places on the fretboard. You can carry on finding new places on the fretboard where to play your riff until you start repeating yourself. For the less adventures of you: Just stop once you feel you have learned enough! Maybe one new postition for one week will do!
Tip Number Two: It is not about notenames but intervals!!
Without going to much into detail about how to define a musical interval, in short it is the distance between one note and the next note. You will find intervals in anything you play: Riffs, Melodies, Chords and Partial Chords. Musical intervals do have a shape, and a shape can be repeated in various places on the fretboard. A notename is just a name, without any further information you can not do much with it. A notename starts to get meaning in context of another note, another interval. As is often the case with studying theory, there are quite a few different intervals. Without bombarding yourself with a lot of information (Which you will forget soon!) just focus for now on your two chords: The major and minor. Major and minor chords do have a Root, a Third and a Fifth. The Third makes a chord major or minor: Major chords do have a major third: distance of four frets on the guitar—-play C on 3rd fret of A string, then go to E on 7th fret of same string. Now count the distance, or in plain English: How many frets from C before you hit E? Four frets is your answer! Now play those same notes over two strings: Play same C —3rd fret on A string— while you play E on the 2nd fret of the D string. Now you can play those two notes at the same time, whereas before we only played them ONE by ONE on one string (which you can not hear as a pair of notes!). As you play this major third interval, observe the shape and sound of the interval. Use this interval in simlar manner as the riff in first example: Play it in various places on the fretboard. You are on your way to become a improvising guitarplayer who uses double stops! Bonus: Once you play the third you can add another note to create a major chord. Add that note to all the various places where you play your major third to create a major chord. You see how much you have learned from this with such a simple task?!
Tip Number Three: For BassPlayers Only: Jaco Said: Play them over one string baby!!
The great Jaco Pastorius had increadible chops on the bassguitar. He was not only a great bassplayer, he was also a fabulous composer with an insight which instruments would gell very well in a particular composition. When asked about his fretboardknowledge he mentioned that he preferred to play his arpeggios along the fretboard instead of in postion. It is true that whilst playing in position (no matter how important this is!) you can feel your way around the fretboard. Also most players will use this mode of playing most of the time. Moving across the fretboard using only a handful of strings is simply a lot more work. You cannot fake it, hit a wrong note and you will hear it straight away! Guitar Players should play their arpeggios in a similar manner, it will give you a more legato (smooth) sound.
Watch Jaco talk about the study of arpeggios himself in this video here. It starts at 6.37
When you watch the whole video observe how Jaco moves around on the fretboard, he hardly stays in one area on the fretboard. He just moves along with the music he hears in his head. To try some of those ideas for yourself—yes you guitarplayers as well!!— grab a few notes, play them on one string, set up a groove and play, Try sticking first to playing over a few strings, ask yourself what notes you are playing. Move along postions, try developing your first idea by exploring other ideas, and add them to your orginal idea, this is how the compositon grows. If you do this often you will learn to play these ideas on the spot. Very useful and musically satisfying!!
Because I can only give you tips here I do not know your own personal situation: Find out your weaknesses, do you know the musical aphabeth? Do you know what an interval is? Which ones are commonly used in the music you play? Which chords do you play often? Build up a list of what you do not know, and in relation to the fretboard get to work with some of the suggested ideas above. Do not forget to have fun, and whenever you read about theory have your guitar in hand and go through it on the fretboard whatever the book (or website) tries to explain to you. Needless to say it is a good habit for guitarplayers to learn to read music. Again this will help you, and will aid you to explore other kinds of musics which you did not consider before. Be patient and enjoy. If you have never read any music before I would suggest to start with a simple beginners method. They are quite a few around on the market. They will introduce you to reading by learning simple tunes and musical ideas. Once your reading progresses you can try books from various composers in the Classical or Jazz field. Again these compositions will give you ideas for your own writing and development as a player and musician. Enjoy, have fun and hope to see you very soon.
For this article a short brief on this wonderful book called “Hotel California” by British musiccritic and writer Barney Hoskyns.
The book outlines the upstart of the Singer/Songwriter scene in LA during the late 60s until the mid 70s. Hoskyns describes in fluent detail why this scene started in LA, what were the particular circumstances which gave birth to this scene, the recordcompanies and venues who were backing these artists to make the scene become successful worldwide and why the scene died off. In the Coda Hoskyns gives an update of the some of the artists who used to live in Laurel Canyon, what the Canyon is like now and how the musicscene anno today operates in comparison to the scene of the early 70s.
Laurel Canyon gave birth to artists such as: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the supergroup CrosbyStillsNashYoung, The Mamas and the Papas,The Birds, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Gene Clark, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Jimmy Webb, Warron Zevon, Randy Newman, James Taylor, Carole King, Crazy Horse, Tom Waits, Little Feat, Lowell George, Judee Sill, J.D Souther, Chris Hillman, Richie Furay, Bonnie Raitt, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche and Ricki Lee Jones.
Anyone who does have an interest in any of the artists mentioned above will have noticed that a lot of these people used to play on each other’s songs and recordings. Something which is unique for that period in time, something which created a very organic style of playing. Most of these artists have influenced other artists from outside the LA scene, I am thinking in particular of the Rolling Stones and the country influences they adopted for their music between the period of Beggars Banquet up and till Exhile on Main Street. Another example is Fleetwood Mac during their mid 70s period with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Both of them used to live at some point in Laurel Canyon.
The crosspolination of particular styles of music related to country, folk, blues and other traditional froms of music started during the heyday of the late 60s. What we call today Americana is a direct influence of what started then. Some of the well-known artists of the late 70s like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen carried the tradition forward to the scene of today.
The book comes complete with a extensive discograhpy of artists covered in the book including a list for further reading on the subject and a detailed list of references used for the content of the book.
Brian Jones, the one who formed the Rolling Stones. Brian Jones, the one who had the vision of what he wanted the band to sound like. Brian Jones, the one who was behind giving the Stones different sounds when they were needed at a time the music was changing. Brian was only with the Stones until 1969, at that time the Stones were on their rise to get even bigger, their music was changing and their status as a band would become iconic over the years to come. Would the Stones have achieved this success without Brian? Hard to tell. For this article I want to focus on the early years of the Stones, the time of those early hits and innocent pop songs which they would no longer produce after “Between the Buttons”.
For those of you who are not aware of Brian watch this great video, which gives you a brief overview of his life and his years with the Stones. At the end of the video there is an overview of who was interviewed for this programme.
Throughout his life Brian (and not only Brian for that matter) was being picked on by the authorities and the media. Think about how the world was in the early to mid 1960s: The whole idea of rebellion, use (and abuse) of substances was relatively unheard of. Certain parts of the establishment felt they had to crack down on some of the abusers. There were the drugbusts around Brian, Mick and Keith. Overal the media did their very best at keeping up the image of the Stones as the bad boys. Indeed Andrew Loog Oldham (their producer during those early years) thought it was a good idea for the Stones to play around with that image, but after a while it may have felt like a silly idea to keep this image up.
When you listen to Brian, in this early interview here, you can notice how articulate he is and what kind of ideas he has about marriage in the modern age and his ideas of using other media for his creations. Do his words sound like here is a wild man at work?
Here is another video from those early days where it is clear who is the outspoken of the Stones:
Throughout their career the Stones were very keen to use other musicians on their recordings. It is the help of those other players which pushed the music even further, added that much needed detail to make it stand out from the ordinary. The credits on those early alblums (and even on the later albums!) were often missing or very poor. In the beginning it was Brian who added much of that musical detail. Listen to Buddy Hollies’s “Not Fade Away”
Now have a listen to what the Stones did with that song:
How much impact did Brain have on the arrangement of this song? Hard to tell, as the Stones also had assistance from Phil Spector, Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Gene Pitney during the batch of songs they were recording at that time. The fact that Brian plays the harmonica on this song tells the tale of a whole story.
Even though Brian did have so much impact on the sound of the songs during the early years, his voice is not heard often with one exception: the backing vocals on the studioversion of “walking the Dog” from the first album. His voice sounds more raspy and edgy than Keith’s who can usually be heard on backingvocals. Maybe Keith was absent for that particular recording session, who knows??
When it comes to songwriting why did Brian not show any of his songs to the Stones? Did he feel his songs would not fit in the setting of Stones? We will never know and we can only guess. As time moved on Brian was playing less and less guitar with the Stones, he became more interested in ethnic instruments and how you could mix them in the setting of a traditional pop/rock/blues instrumentation. Was he his time far ahead? It would be years later when World Music would be mixed with Pop and Rock. The Stones would have a go at this later on in 1973 with the “Ghost’s Head Soup” album and “Steel Wheels” from 1989
In 1966 Brian created the music for the German film “A Degree of Murder” This video shows some of the highlights, there are quite a few more on Youtube, check it out for yourself if you are interested……….
When Brian died in 1969 there was a lot of mystery around the circumstances of his death, and this mystery remains with us even today. There are a lot of different theories and new evidence seem to appear from time to time. I do not want to go into detail in any of these theories as you can check them out for yourself. Truth is, it remains a sad fact that Brian left us all to soon.
Today it is hard to think that there was ever a world without electric bassguitar and without roundwound strings (the “normal” type of string you may know from your guitar).
When Leo Fender developed the first Percision Bass, back in the early 1950s, all he had in mind was: To create a lightweight electric instrument compared to the heavy and big acoustic double bass, which had frets (hence the name “Percision”) and which would be louder than the acoustic bass. When it came to strings the Fender team was still experimenting, because there were no dedicated electric bass strings on the market at that time.
Don Randall ( a Fender Distributor from the early 1950s) “In the beginning it was trial and error. We used gut strings off the upright bass, and wrapped wire over the part of the string that would be vibrating over the pickup. Later on Mapes or Squier (that is where Fender had the name from when they set up production in the Far East in the early 80s!) would produce strings for us”.
Usually those strings would have been flatwound strings. Flatwound strings sound duller and less powerful. The music was changing rapidly during the late 50s and early 60s. Most electric bassplayers (read Fender- Precision or Jazz players) would use flatwound strings because…………….well they had not much choice. Then John Entwisle of the Who went to Roto with the request for a different kind of string and there we are. Right now we still use that same string.
Over time I ,myself, have been using different kind of bassstrings but I feel that the Jazzbass and the Roto Swingbass string are a great combination: Excellent feel and a well balanced tone: Not too bright, but at the same time not too dull as well. Just how I like my sound to be!!
For next article a special about Brian Jones who had set up the Rollng Stones, and acted as the leader during the early years of the Stones.
Right hand technique comes on very slowly, it does need a lot of work and it is one of the main areas which will make your playing a lot better. Typical beginners will work on their left hand technique as it is obvious that this hand does need work: Fingering chords is not easy and takes time, to play some simple melodic ideas with the fretting hand takes effort to make it sound good. What about strumming? Usually people feel this is easy, well is it?
One thing you should concentrate on when working on your right hand technique, is to keep the motion going ALL THE TIME, regardless of what kind of rhythm you are playing. Once you can do this you will be able to add all kind of rhythmic accents in your playing which will make your strumming more funky and fluent. Listen to some funk players, also listen some Jimi Hendrix: You never hear his strumming hand stop.
Once you are aware of your weakness of your right hand technique it will still take a lot of time and effort to improve it. Use a mirror to watch what your wrist and underarm look like when you are strumming: The movement should come from both wrist and underarm. Most beginners only use underarm which results in a stiff sound. Watching a mirror really does help, as it will make you aware. Once you know it, then it is about correcting it and FEELING it.
A Common error for intermediate students of the guitar is: Once they feel they can play they think they need to work on scales, modes and what note to play over which chord. True this is very important if you want to stand out from the crowd, but concentrating on your rhyhm playing is an absolute most. Once you can play with a band, and play all the different harmonic sequences at will at any speed and at any rhyhmic twist, then you know you are on top of your game. For those who do not play with other people, or are sloppy at doing so, I would advise: Play along with your favourite artists, learn all the parts of the song, and play along at the speed they play. Keep at it and make it sound GOOD. Once you feel you know the chords, start chanching the postion where you play these chords, and start playing with different shapes, play these shapes along with the recording and keep at it until you can really make it swing.
Enjoy your playing and hope to catch you very soon,
Scales are useful to learn, they are good for improving your technique, will help you to visualise the fretboard (probably one of the most important skills in guitar playing………) and will generate melodic ideas for your own solos and songs.
Most students of the guitar get introduced to scales by learning shapes. Some teachers will give hand-outs to their students which will contain all the most useful scalepatterns. Good but…………………as it is a hand-out made by someone else there is no thinking involved from your side. It may be better to understand what governs the scale, learn one fingerpattern of this particular scale, start playing with it and………………once you feel you can make music with it, find other fingerpatterns on other parts on the fretboard and start using your new found patterns.
Understand the Scale:
See if you can find out how to play a particular scale over one string. One string, why? Because the scale will run in a linear fashion, similar to when you play a scale on a keyboard. A bonus is, playing the scale over one string will make the scale visable. Now that you can see your scale, find out how many frets one note is away from the next one. One fret is half a tone, two frets make a whole tone. Write down for yourself the pattern of whole and half tones which create the sound of the scale you are playing. This pattern can be played anywhere on the fretboard, and by applying this method you create your own way of learning the fretboard and your scales.
Stay with one scale as long as you need to, learn just one key. Once you know one key in all its shapes and forms you can easily apply it to all the other twelve keys. Still not happy……………..?? Use the keys which are used in most Indie, Rock, Blues, Folk, Punk Pop/Rock songs: C, G, D, A and E
The key to any of your scalestudies is: Be able to play musical ideas for yourself, and to become free, be able to play without any handouts and other supports you may need to help you geting around the fretboard, listen to what you play, play what you hear in your head and enjoy.
Successful students are those who have ideas, can apply them and know where they want to go with their playing.
In need of inspiration and motivation? What about this one here?:
Ronnie has been running his show since the back end of 2011. He plays a great mix of 60s and 70s tunes mixed in with his own comments. From time to time he introduces a song on his own guitar. Excellent!
Ronnie brough some new fire to the Stones. Without him the albums “Some Girls” “Emotional Rescue” and “Tatto You” would have sounded different. True, Ronnie is not Brian or Mick Taylor, but still, Ronnie is the one who is Keith’s partner in the “ancient from of weaving” which is Keith’s own, unique take on how to play the guitar.
Radio listeners in the UK are able to listen to the show on AM radio, for the rest of you your PC may be at rescue!
For next article an update how to study and approach scales on the guitar. Stay tuned,