Saturday, October 3, 2009

Words getting around...

Here's another amazing guitar from W. Jeffrey Jones. This model is called Proteus. It sports the new Saturn Set that were developed in a joint effort with Jeffrey. Here's is what Jeffrey had to say about the pickups.

One other defining feature of this particular instrument is the set of pickups, custom-made for this guitar by Clint Searcy of Searcy String Works. I can't say enough about them. I prefer a clean, clear pickup, especially in the neck position. The music I play myself consists of chords that are comprised of close harmonies and a pickup has to be capable of voicing those harmonies without turning them to mud. And the bridge pickup gets up and rocks when you need it. Clint never lets me down with his work. He also gave me black pole screws for an equally clean look, as well as full adjustability of all the poles spaced specifically for the string spread of the Proteus. These are incredible humbuckers that I plan on using regularly in many of my future instruments where humbuckers are called for. I can't say enough about them. They complete the whole package of this versatile guitar.

Check out more information about the guitar HERE

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Saturn Humbucker Set

We're getting the final production details worked out on some of the new pickups. Let me take a moment to tell you about the Saturn Humbucker set.

The Saturn Humbucker Set is comprised of the Anthe Neck pickup and the Janus Bridge pickup. Both of these pickup were born of a desire to offer a very evenly balanced and clear sounding humbucker with crisp response that was geared towards finger style players and jazz tones. Unlike the slightly mismatched coils on many of out rock humbuckers, the coils on the Saturn pickups are perfectly matched for dead silent operation. It was decided that these pickups would not be wax potted because many players feel that unpotted pickups impart a bit more touch responsive reaching to changes in the players approach. The magnetic structures on these coils are also identical to make sure the signal from each coils is a perfect mirror image. We decided to use screw poles in both coils to offer the player the ability to fine tune the poles to perfectly match their playing style and string choice. Four wire leads allow for many wiring options.

The Anthe uses an Alnico 5 magnet and has a DC resistance of about 7.5K ohms. The Janus is identical but weights in with a DC resistance of 13K ohms. Both are available in 50mm or 52mm string spacing. While some of our early prototypes and promotional units have been Zebra with chrome screws the production models will be double black with black screws.

More to come... Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Heart at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashviile 9-8-09

I got to see Heart last night for the first time. Ann Wilson is a Goddess if ever there was one. They did this tune and it was something close to a spiritual experience.

The Ryman Auditorium, on the other hand, should be ashamed of itself for selling wheelchair seats with a 100% obstructed view at full price. I think I'll be taking that little matter up with the management... Alicia got to look at the back of people's asses for most of the show.

Sneek Peek at the new Saturn Set!

I'm not quite done with the shop upgrades. These things never go as planned... but I wanted to show you some of the work that's has been going on in the shop while it's been "down".
There has actually been a number of projects going on when time permits - but today I just want to tell you about this one. It's a limited run of Zebra Humbuckers for the new Saturn set. This new line features the Janus bridge pickup and the An
the neck pickup. They are designed for exceptional clarity with perfectly matched coils, Alnico 5 magnets and 12 screw poles to insure an even magnetic response across all 12 poles and allow for exceptional string to string balancing. This is also the first production pickup from the Searcy String Works shop to feature unpotted coils. These new humbuckers are currently being featured in some of W.Jeffrey Jones' works. There will be more information on that as we get closer to the official launch of the set.

Alicia and I had a chance to hang out at the 2009 Summer NAMM show for a day and do some interviews for Six String Bliss. While we were there we got to
talk to TV Jones and Seymour Duncan for just a bit. If you would like to here the podcast we did for Six String Bliss go HERE and download #161.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Summer of Gibson Bass Pickups

What's up kids?

Well, things are typically behind schedule here at the old SSW. It's been a crazy summer with lots of non pickup related drama involving wisdom teeth and dead cars and plumbing and wiring issues.


I still have a lot of work to do in the shop but things are coming together. More o that later....

It's turned into a Gibson Bass Pickup sort of summer. I have this cool Gibson EBO pickup in that I'm told is a 1966. It's totally dead and I need to figure out why. I'm also working on some Gibson Grabber pickups and I'm working on some new models that will be direct replacement for a Ripper pickup.

The new guitar humbuckers are could along. We have tested out some sets with W. Jeffrey Jones and he is reporting back good news.

I'm waiting on some new parts for them. The new molds aren't ready yet but they soon should be.

Well.... that's it for now. It's good to be back!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The 8 String Guitar Obsession

So I decided to make some pickup rings for the 8 string Humbuckers before they left the shop. They look great. These pickups ended up being a modified version of my Obsession / Bolero set. The coils are wound to Obsession Bolero specs but we used Neodymium magnets for an better top and and more clarity.

This set of pickups has turned out to be rather significant as they will be the last "super customs" to leave the Searcy String Works shop. We really didn't start out trying to build they most insane pickups in the world. It just sort of happened.
Alicia and I really do 4 things here at SSW. First, we build our own line of pickups. Second, we build OEM pickups for several luthiers. Third, we do pickup restorations and finally we do the Super Customs pickups. This last category has gotten us the most recognition but it has also been the most difficultly to do. When word got out that we were willing to build just about anything... well.... folks started taking us up on it. It's been a fun and sometimes wild ride bringing everyone's dreams to life. There have been some great discoveries and some major failures. All of which has led to a much better understanding of what works and what really dosnt' The biggest drawback to all this custom work has been that I have to keep a massive number of different parts on hand so that I can be ready for they next crazy idea. For example I stock 16 different types of PAF style humbucker bobbins and almost 50 different sizes and shapes of Neodymium magnets. Then there is the issue of time. Most of the custom designs I get are for extended range instruments or just plane wacky things like the Altoids pickups. These orders rarely can be built with off the shelf parts. At the very least I will have to modify bobbins and base plates and covers and magnets. All of this takes up lots of time.
So like I said, it's been lots of fun building the Super Customs but the times, they are a changin'. With the massive tax increases being pushed in the U.S. against businesses big and small we have to start tightening the belt around here and the most obvious way for us to do that is to cut the Super Customs.

It's time to go back to our roots and focus on the original designs that put us on the map to begin with. As we get the new models ready to roll we will be writing about them here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thank You American Soldier

To see more about this great new CD from Queensryche check out this link to their video for "If I Were King"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Have a happy Memorial Day America, but do take a moment to remember its real intent. Remember those who gave so that you might have all you enjoy.

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste: Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow, For precious friends hid in death's dateless night, And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe, And moan the expense of many a vanished sight. Then can I grieve at grievances foregone, And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan, Which I new pay as if not paid before. But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored and sorrows end."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Raging Slab - Anywhere But Here

This one goes out to Timothy Franz Geithner.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

8 String Obsession / Bolero Set

I've been working this week on a set of 8 string guitar hum bucking pickups. The client and I went through several ideas and design changes before we arrives at this . It's a take on my Obsession / Bolero set and barrows many of the specs from those classics. The only real difference is that the magnets are different.
The client was wanting something different for his 8 string that was loaded with EMG bass pickups. He was looking for something more traditional looking and with a more vintage tone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Eight is enough?

Oh no... He's at it again.

That looks weird doesn't it? I wonder if it's just a trick of the light. Hmmm...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ellie Erickson and The MF7

My good friend Ellie Erickson has her hands in all sorts of things. The builds guitars, amp, pedals, pickups, mandolins, acoustics and hot sauce. And that's just getting started... She has a few bands she plays for. One is The MF7 where she holds down the electric guitar slot usually with her Roland Les Paul copy that she rebuilt into a hell of a player. It's sporting some Searcy String Works
Knuckleheads these days. Knuckleheads have some serous bite and punch with their neodymium powered magnet structure and they slightly hot coils.
Give them a listen as Ellie and crew tell you all about Miss Molly in this crazy video they did! Each member of the band made a puppet of them self and their instrument and jammed for the camera.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Obsession Humbucker Demo

Every guitar pickup maker eventually attempts to capture the vintage humbucker tones of yesterday. This pickup represents my attempt to satisfy this "obsession". Using Alnico 5 magnets and 1950's specs as a guideline, each of these pickups is handwound to 7.5k ohms. The design has been updated with a 4-wire lead, making the Obsession a perfect neck position match to the Bolero.

Here's a little demo tune I recorded of this pickup loaded into my 97 Les Paul and running through a vintage MXR 2000 Time Delay. To make things interesting I put it up with the video of some birds doing crazy stuff in front of my house.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pickup Guru Jason Lollar to Re-release Pickup Book on CD

Jason Lollar Announces The Re-release Of His Famous Guitar Pickup Winding Book On CD!

Legendary pickup maker Jason Lollar single handedly launched an entire generation of boutique pickup makers with his book. “For the Guitar Enthusiast, Basic Pickup Winding & Complete Guide to Making Your Own Pickup Winder”. The book was only in print for a few years and has subsequently become the Holy Grail to those looking to break into the pickup making world. Since then old copies of the book have gone way up in value. However, Jason has recently noticed a rash of folks selling bogus copies of the book on line for hundreds of dollars. “I am sick of chasing down people selling bogus copies of my book,” says Jason Lollar who has worked hard to combat the rip-off artists. “ So I am going to re-release it on CD in the next couple months…” Jason asks that those who are interested in the book-turned-CD not contact him about it. Instead you can keep an eye on his website where the new CD version of the book will be announced. In the meantime DO NOT pay big bucks for the old book as it might not be real and you will be kicking your self in a few months.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The story of two 1930's Kay Kraft Guitars (Part 6...)

So…. Now I have two of these. The one on the right is the one I have had for 20 years and now I'm thinking I might finally start collecting info on what it needs to be playable again. The one on the left is the “New” one. I adjusted the neck (which is adjustable!), lowered the bridge, and removed the shim someone had installed under the nut. It’s actually in very good shape for a nearly 80 year old guitar. The "new" guitar is 100% original accept for a re-fret it got sometime in the 50’s or 60’s judging by the tiny fret wire used and the fact that they are warn down too. It's missing about 2" of binding on the body and the whole treble side binding from the fret board is gone. I'll track down a new one.

These guitars are officially called the Kay Kraft Venetian - Style B. They were made by Stromberg-Voisinet for the Kay Musical Instrument Company in Chicago. They were built from 1930 to 1935 and were absolutely revolutionary for the time. Actually, some of the features are revolutionary even today. I guess I'm not exactly objective here but I don't think there has been a more beautiful guitar ever made. The Neck joint is unlike anything I am aware of any where else in the industry. But using a radiused neck block and a bolt and wing nut one of the most tricky and expensive

repairs in luthiery, a neck reset, is now as simple as loosen the string, loosen a wing nut, adjust neck joint, tighten... Brilliant!

The arched back is not braced at all and after nearly 80 years neither guitar shows any damage of distortion of the back. The top has a kind of hybrid X bracing system not unlike those on Martin guitars.

LittleBrotherBlues.Com has some great pictures of how the bracing in these great guitars work along with a few other Kay models that were based on these ideas. You should check them out.

Although the two guitars have different bridges they are both original as this guitar was offered with both types over the 5 years they were made. The bridge on guitar #2 has a very fancy bridge made of Bakelite and is reversible. It is straight on one side and compensated on the other for better intonation. There is also some small difference in the pick guards and clearly the left guitar is much darker in color than the right guitar. The #1 guitar on the right has replacement tuners from the 60's I think. It still has the original bar frets. The tails are slightly different as well but again they are both original as there are no additional holes inducting one of them may be a replacement. The tuners on the #2 guitar are original and come from the Guitar Prod. Co. in Cleavland Ohio.

My plan is to restore one back to original and make the other more of a player.I may use the binding from the trashed fretboard of the #1 guitar to fix up #2 and then just make a new fret board for #1. Well see what the next 20 years bring...

If you would like to hear this guitar just click on this picture below.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

1930's KayKraft Guitar (Part 5 of the Kay Guitar Story)

The next day was Friday. It was a crazy day that had Alicia and I running errands all over town. We finally stopped to eat lunch. While enjoying my hamburger I started thinking about the Kay again. If Barry was selling his privet collection he might be in real trouble. I hatched an evil plot and ran it by Alicia. I would offer him a stupid low-ball price and see if they would take it. We were only a few blocks away at this point. Then I would be able to sleep soundly knowing I had offered them a good price and they were simply too foolish to see. I walked in and headed straight to the old guitar. I snatched it up and plunked around on the high action a little bit making sure the half-fretted notes and out of tune strings spoke clearly about what a junk heap this guitar was to anyone within earshot. Then I looked at the guy behind the counter and said “Hey… take $300 for this old thing?” “He looked back and said…. “Well…. If you pay taxes on it. $330 and you're out the door.”

Damn…. He called my bluff!

Stromberg-Voisinet Kay Kraft Venetian - Style B (Part 4 of the Kay Story)

I was near Barry’s on other business and thought I would just drop in. I didn’t even notice at first that the old privet collection of guitars was not up on the wall any more. My eye made it’s way down the line of “for sale” guitars. There was a nice Alverez, an Epiphone an Ovation and a pair of old Yamahas 12 strings, some banjos, lot's of junk electrics, a new Fender Tele, cool stuff … but nothing I had to have… until I saw the old KayKraft hanging with all the other “for Sale” guitars. It even had a price tag on it. I took a peek… $500.00 “wow…” I though, “Barry is selling his privet stuff… times must be hard. But this old Kay can’t be worth that much.” I picked it up and played it a little. The action was way too high, as if someone had been playing slide with it but I knew it could be adjusted. The intonation was off a little but that could be fixed too. Then there was the sound. It sounded like a thousand old blues records I’ve heard over the years. It sounded like the opening run to “Black Queen” from Stills first solo record. Not as much bottom end as Steven's Martin but tight lead run tone.

I wanted it… But $500 was a little too high and I had never had any luck haggling at Barry's so I hung the guitar back on the rack and walked out telling myself that the guitar was too old and too beat up for that much money.

I got back in the car and told my wife Alicia about it. “Is it playable?” she asked. "Yes…well, it could be. ” I said “You should go get it. You have the money. I love that guitar!” We talked about the old Kay Kraft we had at home. We talked about doing to Ed's with it all those years ago. ABout the plans that I had that never seemed to come to pass. We have been working on some music together that could use some acustic guitar. She was right, I did have the money but I couldn’t pay that much for the guitar so we just drove home and I tried to forget it. But I found myself looking up at the wall. At my old pawnshop find from 20 years ago. She was still pretty but she been silent for over 10 years. I had forgotten what she sounded like until this afternoon. But $500... that was just too much money.

1930s Kay Kraft, Recording King, Deluxe (Part 3 of the Kay Story)

In 1993 Alicia and I moved to Nashville and old habits followed us. It could be hard to find a good guitar deal in a guitar store in Nashville before Ebay came along. So I would check pawnshops and thrift stores for deals. One day in 1995 I walked into Barry’s Pawn and I couldn’t believe my eyes. There on the wall hung the exact same 1930’s KayKraft guitar that I had at home. It was hanging high up on the wall with about 7 other old guitars. I couldn’t see it well but it seemed to be in good shape. I asked the guy at the counter, “Hey… How much for the old Kay?” He didn’t even look up from his paper, “Sorry man… Those aren’t for sale. They are part of Barry’s privet collection.” Oh well. I figured if I pushed too much he would want way too much for it so I just let it go. It probably wasn't any good anyway.

Over the past 20 years I have only seen two more of these guitars person. One in a high-end vintage guitar shop on Ft. Laud beach and the other at a Nashville guitar show. Both were way out of my price range for a nostalgia trip. As time went on I forgot about playing the KayKraft, it just became a thing on a wall to me like so many other little knick-knacks that sit around a house. They just sort of fade into the background with time. When I ran into Barry’s on my regular bargain hunts I didn’t even look up on the wall at the old guitars any more. Just stroll in, look at the amps and the stomp boxes. Maybe see if they have a fretless bass this month. Then on to the next shop.

Until this month...

Friday, April 24, 2009

1930's KayKraft (Part 2 of the Kay Story)

The guitar sat in a box for a week or two while I talked about all the crazy things I could do with it. Finally Alicia said "You should let Ed have a look at it. He might know more about it." So we decided to take a trip down to see our friend Ed Oleck, owner of Ed’s Guitars in Miami. I had bought and sold a lot of gear with Ed over the years and always valued his opinion where instruments were concerned. Ed told me I really had a neat guitar there and I shouldn’t mess it up by painting it. “In fact, check this out… “ Ed wet a little bit of cloth and rubbed on the top a bit. Under the caked on dust and attic crud there was a fantastic sunburst with a gold guild work. “…See? Just clean the guitar up and put it back together. Then if you don’t like it I’ll trade you something for it.”

Thus began my first trip into restoration and vintage guitars. I polished all the crap off the guitar with some Meguiar's classic car polish. I put all the parts back together and played it for a few years. She was a good guitar. She had a small crack along the bass side of the body and at some point someone had carved the initials J.M. in to her finish. But even so she sounded good and loud. Alicia taught me chords with it and it got dragged all over Florida. Eventually we moved to Nashville and the old Kay went too. But my early amateur attempt at a restoration was far from perfect. Over time the old, original bar frets wore down, the fret board warped and the arch top started to slightly sink in. I started to worry that the top would crack some more so I loosened the strings and retired the guitar to wall hanger status. I told myself I would rebuild it someday when I had more knowledge of what to do about that top. But the years ticked by and I never did rebuild it.

to be continued...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

20 Years with the same guitar (Part 1 of the Kay story)

This may be hard to believe but not everything around Searcy String Works is about guitar and bass pickups. Once in a while I actually sit down and record music. Sometimes is just for fun. Sometimes it's for a project like the Six String Bliss records. Once in a while it's just because I like to do fun things with my wife Alicia who I have been with for 20 years. She and I have been through a lot. Take this old guitar for example.
It all started in a pawnshop in 1989. Alicia and I weren't married back then. We were broke as broke can be. That's what started our habit of looking in thrift stores and pawn shops for deals on the things we needed. That’s why , when I neded a drill one day we headed to the local Ft. Laud pawn shops to find a deal. I managed to find an old one at a decent price but I also found a 1930's Kay Kraft guitar that was totally disassembled in bits in a box. Now, I didn't know it was a 1930's KayKraft guitar. The guitar had so much dust on it you couldn't even tell what color it was. The fret board was off the neck. The neck was off the body. The binding was off the body. The pick guard and bridge were off the body. It was a mess but
Alicia loved the lines of the thing and I didn't have an acoustic at the time and thought maybe I could paint this pile of junk and make it playable. I asked the guy what he would take for it and he said, “If you buy that drill I’ll give you that box of guitar parts. It came out of some old ladies attic.“ and that’s how this bass player came to own his first old guitar.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Don't bother Star Grounding your guitar (Buzz Kill?)

Every once in a while I get an email from someone asking me about the wonders of the Star Grounding wiring system featured on the GuitarNuts website. Now I like the Guitar Nuts site and there are loads of great information there but this one article is starting to drive me GuitarNuts. The original claim was that by adding shielding and removing ground loops from a guitar or bass equipped with single coil pickups you can drastically reduce hum and noise. But like any good myth the claim has been embellished by time and repetition. Now I'm getting emails from folks claiming that Star Grounding can totally remove all noise from single coil guitars and even help guitars with humbucking pickups. On the other side of the fence there are those who now claim that Shielding and Star Grounding your guitar is a "tone suck" that will harm your carefully crafted tone.
So, is this Shielding and Star Grounding practice worth while or is it just a lot of B.S. ?
Well, just like any good myth it has elements of truth and exaggeration. Let's start with shielding the guitar. Shielding is a conductive enclosure around one or more signal conductors ( pickups, pots, switches ect...), used to keep out electrostatic fields that can cause hum, buzz, or other noise. Shielding is often a good idea on many single coil guitars. Particularly Strat copies that often didn't come with much shielding to start with. A good practice for shielding a Strat type guitar is to use either copper foil tape or conductive paint to shield the pickup cavities and the control cavity including the back of the pick guard. Then this "Shield" is connected to the guitars ground. It's pretty simple and very effective at getting rid of noise. But it will never make your single coil pickups hum free. When folks tell me they have fallowed the Shielding and Star Grounding instructions on the web and noticed dramatic improvements, well, this is why. Shielding helps!
On the other hand trying to reduce noise by hunting down and removing "Ground Loops" inside the guitar via the Star Grounding method is a waste of time. Why? Well let's start by looking at what a ground loop really is. Ground loops are real and they can be noisy little buggers that occur when you can trace a loop in the ground connections between separate pieces of AC powered equipment in your signal chain. Hank Wallace wrote a great article about this over at Atlantic Quality Design. So why can't a guitar have a ground loop? To put it simply it's because a guitar only has one ground path. That being the cord. Because every component in a guitar or bass is grounded at the output jack it was already "Star Grounded" when you bought it. No matter how you wire the guitar all the grounds must converge at the output jack. So basically there is no way to wire it that isn't "Star Grounded". In fact the only way you can get a ground loop inside a guitar is to wire it up with two separate outputs that run to two separate amps and star grounding the wiring inside the guitar won't fix that either.
Some like to argue that the neck pickup lead might be longer then the bridge pickup lead causing a voltage drop that could create a ground loops. But there simply isn't enough wire or voltage inside a guitar to make this a reality. Want to test that assertion? Find a stock Fender Jazz Bass that has RWRP single coil pickups and is noise free with the volume on both pickups all the way up. Now open it up and measure the pickup leads. See? The neck pickup leads are much longer.
So, will shielding your single coil guitar or bass help reduce noise? Possibly. Will it kill the tone of your instrument? Not unless you wrapped your pickup coils in cooper foil. That can cause you to lose some of the high end.
Will Star Grounding your single coil guitar help reduce noise? Absolutely not! No way. It's a total waste of time and should be avoided. Am I being unclear? The problem is that most of the folks who attempt the Star Grounding system on a guitar or bass are electrical novices that might not be too skilled at avoiding cold solder joints or over heating pots or capacitors.So why trip them up by giving them a pointless project to fallow that just adds to the confusion?

Well, I guess that's it for now. Next time we'll tackle the "Aged Magnets" myth.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Queensryche - If I were King

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Magnus Fredholm Bass Humbucker

Jared over at JC Basses is working on another of his fantastic master work basses. This time it's a 5 string Black Widow that is just staggeringly beautiful. The guy who ordered the bass is from Jared is Will R. , a long time Searcy String Works pickup user. Will has a Benford guitar with some SSW pickups and wanted to be sure his new bass was just as packed full of tone.
I am extremely proud of the Magnus bass humbucker. Originally introduced in 2004, this brilliant pickup design was the result of a discussion with Swedish bass player Magnus Fredholm. Magnus was looking for a 5 string bass pickup that would offer a modern humbucker sound but that could also be split to offer a vintage J-Bass sound. The more I thought about this project the more excited I became with it.
To fully realize this concept I decided that vintage components would be used. The bobbin shape was made to fallow vintage specs exactly. They are loaded with Alnico5 magnets, and then wound to around 7.k ohms with vintage style magnet wire. Each pickup contains two of these coils arranged in reverse wound / reverse polarity manner. This is all wired up to a four-conductor lead that allows for a wide array of switching and phasing options. Finally the entire assembly is wax potted and cast in wood grained epoxy for a feed back free pickup that looks as great as it sounds.
The do require a propriatart rout and are not exact replacments for anything. I have gotten them to fit into EMG routs with some slight clearancing but if that bothers you I am working on a more direct replacment option.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ben Prevo and his Duo Sonic

Remember the Duo Sonic pickup that went out to Ireland last week? Well that pickup belongs to Ben Prevo. Ben Prevo is probably one of the greatest guitarists you have never heard of. He has performed with such legends as Jaco Pastorius,Brian Downey,Noel Redding,Levon Helm and Pee Wee Ellis and held the coveted second guitar seat in Jorma Kaukonen's band. Whether playing a sweet soulful blues,a raucous rockabilly rhythm or a Hendrix inspired ride Ben does it all, tastefully and with superb phrasing and feel.

Keep the Change...

"I can make a firm pledge, under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.... you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mad Season - Lifeless Dead

Remember the 1972 Jazz Bass pickups I fixed a little while back? They were microphonic and the neck pickup had the wrong magnetic polarity. Well, I got a letter back from Nelson who owns the bass and it turns out the bass has a little history that you might find interesting. It was once owned by Mad season bassest John "Baker" Saunders.

Here is part of the letter I got from Nelson.

Clint, you are awesome. Thanks for fixing up my pickups... By the way, I thought I would let you know that these pickups are from a bass with a little history. I bought the bass on ebay a few years back from a guy who was roommates with "Baker" the bass player for Madseason. Madseason was a side project band by Layne Staley of Alice In Chains and Mike McCreedy of Pearl Jam. I confirmed this after buying the DVD "Madseason live at the Moore. Sure enough it is the exact same bass and hes playing it on stage. According to the roommate, "Baker" died of heroin overdose, not unlike Staley himself... I feel lucky owning a piece of history, but even luckier playing such a great instrument. Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains were my idols when I first started playing music.

How cool is that? I grew up a Metal Head and I made the full jump to Grunge when Heavy Metal pussied out and became Happy Metal. I remember these guys well as being the first Grunge super group. They had a radio hit with "River of Deceit" but I like the groove of "Lifeless Dead" better.

So, want to hear this bass in action? Here it is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

1950's National Pickup.

Here's a crazy pickup from a 1950's National Town and Country. One of them is dead and needs a rewind. They sort of look like humbuckers at first but with they covers off the magnetic structure looks more like a mini Charlie Christian. They don't have much magnetic force. The good one shows that the coils are wound to a little more that 9K. I'll have to install these in the test guitar when there done to see what they sound like. Cool pickup!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1972 Fender Jazz Bass Bridge Pickup.

I got in a set of Fender Jazz Bass pickups this week to work on. They were microphonic and had all sorts of copper shielding tape stuck all over them. The owner said he was disappointed in the 1972 Jazz Bass because it just didn't have the punch that a good jazzer should. He wanted me to look the pickups over and see if I thought there was something we could do with them to get them sounding right.
After giving them the once over I figured out that the non original neck pickup and the original bridge pickup both had south facing poles! The magnets were improperly phased and that's what was causing some of his issue. The neck pickup also had some of the magnets shoved down too far in the bobbin. I corrected the magnet on the neck pickup, got rid of the shielding tape and potted the pickups. They will be heading back home in a few days.

Fender Duo-Sonic makeover.

Here is that Fender Duo-Sonic I was telling you about. It's a newer guitar that had a dead bridge pickup so the owner wanted to see if we could get a little Tele style twang out of it while fixing it. I wound it up with 43 ga wire like a Tele would have. Then I made a steel base plate for it to help give it a little more of that Tele flavor.
As soon as it's out of the wax pot it's getting boxed up and shipped back home to Ireland. I can't wait to hear what the owner thinks.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Single coil Madness!

The shop is full of Fender and Fender inspired single coils this week. I have built a set of vintage style Strat pickups for Benford Guitars. I'm also reworking a cool Fender Duo-Sonic to get a more Tele type sound out of it. More on that later this week. Got some custom J-Bass pickups going together. There's a Tele humbucking bridge pickup on the bench right now.

It's a busy week!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Big Screen Bliss

The new CD from Six String Bliss featuring movie songs we all know and love has just been released on their web site for FREE! Click on the Big Screen Bliss picture to go to their web site and down load the full 14 track CD. Or better yet down load episode # 142 of the Six String Bliss guitar podcast and hear the guys go through each track and comment on them.

Oh, and the very first track on the CD is your truly doing a cover of a cars classic.

Here is how Pipes and PT introduced the CD to the world...

First the Bliss community covered some of the most memorable theme songs of the small screen with the album Stay Tuned. We couldn't stop there! Now we moved on to our big screen debut with the Album Big Screen Bliss where we take on the movie themes you know and love.

According to Pipes, co-host of the Podcast: “Movie soundtracks are designed to be pure emotion. They are designed to make you feel. This was a perfect fit for the Six-String Bliss community”. Stated PT Hylton, the program’s other co-host: “One of the most rewarding parts of putting this album together was seeing the growth of the musicians in our community. This album is focused, confident and just plain fun!”

Check it!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Keep the change...

"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." -Winston Churchill

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Unkel Mike's Operation

I got a note today from Jason who is the son of our own UnkleMike. I did a little pickup work and built a left handed tone circuit for him just last week. Mike has been waiting a long time for a double lung transplant. I'm not going to post the entire thing but here is an abridged version.

If you didn't receive the first email, this is Jason, Mike's son. I will be typing up some updates for you until dad is able to use a computer again. The transplant happened at about 1:00 am Thursday morning and was finished at about 10:40 am. Everything went well as expected! When we first came in to see him around 1:00 pm on Thursday, he was pretty incoherent but he was able to twitch and move his eyes underneath his eyelids. You should have seen all the needles and tubes coming out of him...quite the site. Yesterday was an enormous day of recovery for him. He went from simply being awake and alert again, to sitting up in a chair later in the day, to actually eating meatloaf and mashed potatoes for supper (which by the way was the first time he'd eaten since about noon on Wednesday). I came in to visit him earlier today and his color was better than I've ever seen it. His cheeks and nose are no longer the purplish color they used to be. Currently dad still has quite a few tubes in him, although I would say he's got about half as many in now as he did on Thursday....

...Dad's been keeping himself busy by thinking about what he wants to do when he gets out...I don't think I've ever seen this side of my dad...he's so ambitious! He told me he's looking forward to fishing and golfing again and wants to finally take my mom on their honeymoon (they never had's been 25 years!). He said today that he thought he would be doing
more reading to keep himself busy but I guess he can't get comfortable because of all the tubes in him. If all goes well he could be out of the intensive care unit by tomorrow or Monday. Following that he will begin the long road to
rehabilitation. I'd like to thank everyone for being so supportive throughout this whole process. All of your prayers and thoughts have helped make this a reality finally. I know it's a huge burden off my mom's shoulders. I will try to keep everyone posted in the upcoming days as his recovery continues to progress. Again, thank you all and god bless!

So just remember Mike and wish him well. All his prayers have been answered but he's still got a long year ahead of him.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Six String Bliss #140

The guys over at Six String Bliss has really upped their game lately. If you haven't listened lately you have missed a lot. Their coverage of 2009 Winter NAMM with guest corespondent Snoozy Shrugs was out of sight. The rough but rapid shows launched from their hotel room every night were shows 132 through 136 and they were great! Some how in the middle of all this NAMM coverage they found time to sit down and do an interview with a guy who was arguably the worlds first rock and roll guitarist Ernest McLean who played with cats like Fats Domino and Little Richard back in the day. That ended on being episode #137. Then in show # 139 Pipes does the solo interview thing with modern blues rocker Eric Sardinas live from the sound check.
This week is show # 140 where they interview amp builder Adam Grimm of Satellite Amps. These are kicking boutique tube amps that are priced right in line with many factory production amps. Oh.... I happen to be on this show as well doing a little segment about tone they some of you have heard me go on about before.
I'm going to try to start recording one segment a month for the guys to use if they want. Subjects could be pretty much anything. Here's one I did for them a while back that I converted into a youtube video. It's a review of the Electro Harmonix POG. I've bought a better mic since then.

Monday, February 23, 2009

“When all little as in great things, shall be drawn to
Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks
provided...” Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Malmstrom lap steel pickup rebuild. (The Long Strange Trip... )

Over the years countless pickups have made their way through my little shop. Everything from dead 1950's Fender Strat pickups and 1960's FilterTrons needing to be rewound to the Katrina pickups that were nearly tossed out as unusable. Yep... it's been a long strange trip.
But not one of those pickups has sparked as much interest, intrigue and even a little bit of controversy like this strange pickup from Finland that I rebuilt a few years ago. I have written about it extensively and the other day I decided to present the story in a more modern medium. Check out this video.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Guitar tone? Pickup Tone? Pedal Tone?Your tone?

So.. I was talking to a couple of cats in their late 20's a little while back and we were talking about how to get different tones from a guitar. One kid says, "How do you get that ACDC tone?" and the other piped up right away. "That's easy... just crank everything to 11 and rock!" Now.... I've been listening to ACDC since about 1977 and never has Malcolm or Angus tone struck me as over the top super distortion. Even on a tune like "I'm a rocker" or "Hells Bells" the tone is well defined and smooth and breaks up with the picking dynamics and aggression of attack. I made them listen to "Ride On" as homework.

One thing to think about is this. If your running a signal chain looks like this...
Squash-o-Matic compressor > Wonder Wah > 12 band EQ > Super Skull F#@%er Mega Distort Pedal > Flang-o-tron > Echo-
Zilla Analog Delay and then run all that into a 200W Mega Colossus Distortus Maximus amp with everything set to 20 you have sort of negated the subtle nuances of your expensive boutique hand made pickups or your vintage NOS tone caps. At some point the guitars effect on the tone starts to become a moot point if you don't keep it simple.

Now.... don't get me wrong. I'm not
hatin on stomp boxes. I have over 50 stomp boxes and I'm adding and swapping and modding new ones all the time. I've heard the guys that yell "If you need a stomp box your guitar or amp must suck!" But that just ain't so. It's one thing to get that 15 watt valve amp to sound good in your bed room. It's another matter all together to get it to sound good in a bar, or an out door stage or a warehouse. For those type of situations it can be handy to have a good EQ pedal or a distortion pedal with a good EQ built in. And the simple truth is that if you're going to try to sound like Warren Haynes you will need a Boss Metal Zone pedal. If you're trying to sound like Tom Morello you'll need a Digitech Whammy and if you're trying to sound like Michael Schenker you'll need a CryBaby.

You really have to decide what you want to do with your sound and build it from the ground up. Ever bit of your rig, from your finger tips to your speakers are going to play a part in you tone. How much? Well, that depends on your musical style. If your playing through 4 distortion boxes then I wouldn't worry too much about the tone cap you have on your

I ask you to think about these things when you are
considering a new set of expensive hand made pickups. It will help me direct you to the right pickup or perhaps even recommend not replacing your pickups at all.

Oh... and that ACDC tone? Try a well made guitar built in the Gibson or Gretch style with vintage spec pickups (ie, not hot) and run that into a good tube amp and set most of the knobs on about 5. Try it out and tweak the amp from there.

"If you know what I mean..."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Searcy String Works Bolero Humbucker MP3

Without a doubt the most popular guitar pickup I have made is the Bolero Humbucker. First introduced at the 2007 Winter NAMM show it was an instant hit and has remained so ever since. The Bolero is a nod to the hotrod humbucker sounds of the '70's. With a DC resistance of 14.8k ohms, the hotter, wax potted coils give it a great bite for driving your amp. The vintage style Alnico-5 bar magnets ensure a controllable output that can clean up nicely when needed. The 4-wire lead allows for coil splitting and phasing switching.

There's nothing like hearing though is there?

High Gain Metal Tone MP3

Country Chord Tone MP3