Thursday, 15 May 2014

7 + 7 is

So you want to be a rock and roll star?
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
Then take some time and learn how to play

For obvious reasons, I was a little obsessed with 12 string guitars last week. After sending mine off to the repair shop on Thursday, Friday Night's BBC4 documentary and "Acoustic at the BBC" programme struck a few chords*.

Roger McGuinn was shown performing an acoustic Eight Miles High during the latter programme and for some reason I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. He was playing a six string but it sounded like a twelve string. A closer shot at one point made me think that perhaps old Rog was playing with a slightly more enhanced instrument than the rest of us have to hand**.

It looked to me like he had an extra peg at the bridge end. Here's proof at the end of this post that I wasn't a few miles too high myself. At least some musicians spend some of their hard-earned cash back into their art.

I understand from various sources that Mr McGuinn can be a curmudgeonly old bugger - well, who isn't? - but I thought he comes across as a bit of a laugh. Some nice playing there, Mr M. Shame about the camera work.

  * pun intended
** count the innuendos

Monday, 12 May 2014

perfectly good guitar

There oughta be a law with no bail
Smash a guitar and you go to jail
With no chance for early parole
Ya don't get out until you get some soul

It's been an interesting few weeks. The move to the new build has not been without its problems. When the new build was initially proposed there was to be some £36 million set aside for it. By the time it finally got the go ahead, there was £18 million on the table. Shades of the Spinal Tap Stonehenge leap to mind.

Still, in other news . . . back in January I decided that it really was time to change the strings on my 12 string guitar. It has always been a daunting task. For a while it sounded fine. However, I often leave it hanging on the wall for weeks at a time as it's more of a luxury item than a serious tool. When I picked it up one evening last week to tune it and have a quick strum, it seemed a little harder to play than usual. I shrugged and went to put it back on its hanger.

Something about it didn't look right - I wasn't wearing glasses so needed to get a bit closer to it. Imagine my language surprise when I realised that the bridge had practically lifted off the soundboard. "Oh dear," I thought - or words to that effect. Although I was aware of the tension being more on a 12 string than a 6 string but it's always been fine. I guess the new strings I put on may have been to high a gauge for it. I'd put what was called a "light gauge" set on but hadn't realised that they were too heavy duty for the model I have.

Now, the guitar itself isn't particularly an expensive model so it's made of laminate rather than a solid top. There's no point having a broken guitar hanging around so I checked on the internet about how to fix it. I watched an excellent video on bridge repairs on 12 strings. Having instantly realised that my DIY skills, such as they are, are far too rudimentary for such an undertaking, I decided to check around for a local repair man. Even here in a small seaside town such craftsmen exist. In fact, a year or two back I had met one at a local festival. Still, being unable to remember his name or find his card, I noticed that the first one that came up on a Google search was an old colleague of mine. An ex-Maths teacher who left the teaching world after a few battles with a major illness.  I know his work is well thought of and he was around that evening to pick the poor beast up. This man makes guitars and violins. A guitar made by him would cost two thousand beer vouchers.

He had told me to whip the strings off and he'd be around within the hour. Indeed he was. That was Thursday, and he had phoned a few times over the weekend to let me know what he'd been doing to it. It seems that the bridge had been pulled forward - the rather out of focus snap just about shows how bad it was getting. The glue had moved and the whole thing could have justflown off - given all that tension, I'm rather glad I spotted it first! Anyway, he returned it tonight fully repaired and looking much healthier. It seems to have been a bit of a major undertaking to get it back into a decent shape.

What Dave did was to take off the bridge, get rid of as much glue as possible - the laminate was slightly damaged - glue and screw the bridge into place. Where he's drilled into the bridge he's put mother of pearl over the screw-holes. This has finished it off nicely. There's plenty on the guitar already so it doesn't look out of place. Then he's put REALLY light strings on and suggested that many people tune down a whole step to help reduce the stress. He's also diddled about with the truss-rod and set it up better. Unfortunately, as it's a cheapish guitar, he was unable to totally match the lacquer but it looks fine. My Fylde is covered in scratches and dents.We're all showing a bit of wear'n'tear after all this time.

Of course, all this has nearly  cost an arm and a leg. I thought I'd go with the leg. There aren't too many one-armed 12 string players about. Mind you, that does offer the opportunity for job sharing.

Still, he's done a good job and it does sound and play better now. I'll have to find a source for really light strings. Maybe I'll try tuning down. It's not the end of the world.  

Late at night at the end of the road
He wishes he still had that old guitar to hold
He'd rock it like a baby in his arms
Never let it come to any harm