Wednesday, October 31, 2007

1983-1986 Squier Stratocasters and Telecaster

In 1986, I bought a Squier Stratocaster, made in Japan, in Lake Placid Blue. It was my fourth strat, with the first being an Ibanez copy, then a 25th Anniversary Fender and lastly, an early 1983 Fender 1957 reissue. I sold or trade all those away and was strat-less for a few years. This guitar was bought for around $250. Who knew that in 2007, these Japanese-made guitars would be nearing collectable status? Of course, very little of the original guitar remains, as I stripped the LPB finish off, replaced the weak pickups with Texas Specials and put in new pots, switches and bridge saddles. It is now a matte white with a black pick guard. The body is poplar, which works just fine.

Early 1983 Squier Stratocasters, which were 70’s era copies, are going for over $500. A friend of mine had a black Squier strat, with a rosewood neck. He first stripped off the damaged black finish to reveal a highly figured ash body. He also installed Fender Vintage noiseless pickups. It was a fantastic guitar that was later, unfortunately, stolen. He later bought another one off of e-bay, and after keeping it a few years, sold it for over $500.

These guitars are as good as any American made Strat of that time. That is reflected on today’s market. My 1986, an E-series on the serial number, is collectable, but not nearly as the early 1970’s-style copies or the JV series.

I bought another Squier Strat in late 1987 that was made in Korea and was made to be similar to a 1957 model. It was ok and could have possibly been better if I had taken the time to fix it up.

Another friend has a 1983 Squier Telecaster, in black with a maple neck. It has the vintage styling’s, with the 3 brass saddles and small frets.

By far, it is the best Telecaster I have ever played and has the classic Tele sound. This guitar outdoes any American or Mexican Telecaster I have played in recent years. I made an attempt to get my Mexi-Telecaster to sound like that by ordering a vintage style GFS pickup. It comes close, but is not there yet.

I would seriously consider buying the new Squier Thinline Telecaster. I have always wanted a thinline and have thought about building one with parts. This is priced below $300 and looks like a great guitar. Note – link to Fender site.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rush Concert and Guitar Building Links

I saw my second Rush concert a few months ago when Rush rolled into St. Paul. I had seen the Vapor Trails concert years ago. I have been a Rush fan since the first LP back in 1974, but had never seen them in concert until the Vapor Trails tour.

They are supporting the new release, Snakes and Arrows this time around. The three were in great form and hit the stage with "Limelight." Alex used Les Paul guitars for most of the show, with the exception of using his white 355 for the encore. I am amazed at how tight they are as a band. Many of the new songs were featured in the second half of the show. Snakes and Arrows is not a bad CD at all. I have not really listened to it much yet but my initial impressions are positive.

This guy on Harmony-Central is building a Les Paul copy by hand. He is a woodworker by trade and has the tools and expertise to pull it off.

Here is another person building pine-bodied Telecaster copies from old end tables. I would love to play one of these and really like his concept of an "organic" guitar from reclaimed wood and parts that were lying around the shop.

Gibson is finally releasing information of the routing of chambers in production Les Pauls to reduce weight. All of my now-gone Les Pauls were heavy, Norlin-era. The weight is just part the guitars charm, so to speak. Gibson claims that the chambers have very little impact on the trademark sound of a Les Paul. I recently played a new one, and it was very light. I have no opinion on what it would sound like through an amp, as I have not had the chance to hook one up. I would think that since the famous Les Paul sound is rooted in the late 50’s era, that this chambering is not a good idea. I have been reading on Fender Forum and The Gear Page that the sound is almost in ES335 territory.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Remembering Duane Allman

Today marks the death on the person who most influenced me on the guitar – Duane Allman.

I was all of 12 when I awoke at 1 am in the morning and turned on the radio to KAAY, Little Rock. From 11 pm to 6 am, the radio show "Beeker Street" was on. They played all the music you would never hear on AM radio. I awoke to the most incredible guitar playing. I did not know who it was. My brother had been listening and said that maybe it was the Allman Brothers Band. I had never heard of them, even though "Ramblin Man" was a hit at the time. Later that week, I bought the Beginnings LP, which had the first two LPs repackaged. I did not hear the song, but I still loved what I heard on the record.

I bought a $10 folk guitar from a classmate – I was in the 6th grade – and started to figure out how to play. My sister gave me a few lessons and I learned G, C, and D chords. A few weeks later, I bought the Fillmore East LP. I then heard the song – You Don’t Love Me – I had heard the part when it was just Duane playing by himself. Within a few months, I had all the Allman LPs, thanks to my mom, who was nice enough to buy them for all of about $7.00 each. By then, I was absorbing all I could from Beeker Street – Robin Trower, Hendrix, Marshall Tucker, Rush, Mahogany Rush, Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, Yes…the lost goes on and on. My LP collection grew quite a bit that year. I spent hours playing along with records trying to learn it all. I got a Teisco electric guitar and amp by the time I was in 7th grade, and continued to buy a new guitar every year, using my money from weeding the bean fields during the summer.

Those few moments over the Christmas holidays in 1973 changed my life. I never did really play professionally, and I can’t play at all like Duane Allman. However, it has been a lot of fun and I still love to play and listed to music of all kinds.

Thanks, Duane.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Playing slide the Duane Allman way on a 1997 strat using a Peavey Classic 30 amp

Friday, October 26, 2007

Changing Necks on Stratocasters and Other Things

Two of my Stratocasters area 1994 with a rosewood neck and a 1997 with a maple neck. I thought it would be interesting to switch the necks on the two. The removal of the necks was easy enough. The 1994 was greatly improved with the maple neck. The action was low right away and required very little adjustment. The alder/maple combo works well together. My 2001 Strat is a ash/maple combo. I find that the 1994 is not quite as bright, but sounds much more full and louder with the maple.

The 1997 Strat got the rosewood neck. For some reason, the action is much higher and the high E string is hitting the first fret. The body on this guitar, a candy apple red, is heavy, which leads me to think that it may be ash and not alder. Fender usually does solid colors as alder so I am not sure. The sound of this guitar is very close to the 1986 Made in Japan Squier strat, i.e. very SRV like. I am not sure I really like this combo, and think that a set-up by a pro is needed. I like the action high on a few of my guitars to accomdate slide.

Over the years, I have learned to play almost all with my fingers, forgoing a pick. I saw Derek Trucks up close and finally figured out the correct way to play slide in the Duane Allman way. That changed everything for me. I get much better harmonics from my fingernails and find that that playing with dynamics is much easier. You almost feel like a part of the guitar. I mute the strings I am not playing and can move from slide to regular playing very easily, while keeping the slide on my third finger. I recommed anyone trying to learn slide to watch a clip of Derek Trucks.

I am thinking that any new guitar I get in the future will be made with parts. I want to customize a Telecaster in Surf green, rosewood neck and a humbucker in the neck spot. That would be a great combo.

After years of playing Fenders, I have found that they suit me best. A Gibson or any guitar in that scale feels strange to me. I own an Agile AL2000, a Korean made Les Paul copy bought on a $100 blowout from RondoMusic.com. They are the direct distributors of Agile and sell them without a middleman or any advertising. The prices are low for these. I have been very impressed by this guitar. As a previous owner of 4 Les Pauls, I have to say that it does not come close to one. But it will get you in the ballpark. With a few mods, it could get there.

There are very few imperfections on this guitar. The frets are perfect, the finish is spotless, and the hardware works fine. The pickups are ceramic, and will be replaced with a set of GFS Alnicos next year. The ceramics are fine, but I do like the Alnicos better. The only flaw on this guitar is on the bottom, with a few finish streaks that are barely noticeable. The body is a three piece mahogany, the top is a slab of about 1/4" maple, with a thin flame top maple laminate, which is not a photflame. This guitar works great as a slide guitar, and may be even better with the new pickups and a pro set up. Not bad at all for $100. I have not seen them go that low since December of 2005, when I got this as a christmas present.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Geocaching

We have been doing geocaching as a way to get our kids outside. It does seem a bit silly to search for tupperware hidden in the woods. However, it is a great way to get exercise and challenge ourselves to find the cache. Our GPS unit, which cost around $150, does a good job of getting us to the area. We stay mostly around our home in Carver County, Minnesota. It also takes us to areas, mostly parks and trails, we have never been to, in Victora, Chaska and Chanhassen.

I will be looking for places to explore the next time we travel. We have been all over the west, around the Great Lakes, and to Canada the last few years. Last year at this time, we drove out to North Dakota to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Since it was snowing, we had the place to ourselves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

This is about music and guitars. I started this journey way back in 1973, after hearing Duane Allman play on the Fillmore East Lp, at 1 am in the morning on KAAY, Little Rock. I picked up many interests in my youth, but the music and love of guitar playing still has a hold on me.

Sometimes the interest goes away for a bit. I took a break from guitars from 1994-2000 when my kids were really little. I picked it up again and found I had lost some of my skills. Picks were hard to find around the house, so I started using my fingers, Jeff Beck style.