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Ultimate Garage Band

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  1. Acoustic Guitars

    As earlier mentioned, acoustic guitars can be broken down into 2 distinct groups, steel string and nylon string. Let’s look at them in greater detail. Steel string acoustics are, by far, the most commonly played acoustic guitars. What’s funny is most actually use a bronze alloy string but they’re called ‘steel’ string anyway. There are several different kinds of steel string guitars and they are probably best described by the name given to the body style. The most common are: The Dreadnought The Jumbo The Grand Auditorium The OM The 000 The 00 The 0 The Folk The Parlor And many, MANY others some being copies or variations of the above. Now, for the sake of this thread, in order to not overwhelm with too much data, let’s sort of group these into 3 categories we can generally call, big, medium, and small. There is going to be a bit of overlapping but in very general terms, the dreadnought, the jumbo, the grand auditorium and the OM could be called ‘big’ guitars. They generally have large bodies, the necks join the bodies at the 14th fret, and they are ‘full scale’ guitars coming in somewhere around 25 inches in very broad terms. The dreadnought and Jumbo are the biggest of that group and by far and away the most popular steel string body style sold is the dreadnought. It a very large, loud guitar made for solid rhythm strumming and is best played standing up. It’s very commonly used in Rock, Country, and Bluegrass. In the medium group we could have the Grand Auditorium, the OM, the 000 and the Folk. These guitars will handle rhythm strumming but are probably best suited for finger picking. Many in this group do not have a pickguard. These guitars are also typically full scale and usually have the neck join at the 14th fret. They are more comfortable to play sitting down than a larger guitar and are often found in Rock, Country, Blues, and ‘fingerstyle’ jazz. In the small group we have the 00, the 0, and the parlor. Another type of guitar we could put in this group are ‘scaled’ guitars such as a ¾ size dreadnought. Small guitars usually feature a shorter scale, the body and neck join at the 12th fret, there’s usually no pickguard, and these guitars are best suited for finger picking and they are incredibly comfortable to hold and play sitting down. They are typically found in Blues and some fingerstyle jazz. There is another category of steel string acoustic and that would be the jazz guitar, either a ‘gypsy’ jazz or an archtop. These models typically exceed the entry level price point of a first time player so I’m not going to address them. The nylon string guitar is basically placed into 2 groups, the classical guitar and the flamenco guitar. There is not near the selection of body styles and sizes. Typically there is a full size and a scaled size as in a ¾ classical. There are some other models out there such as 2 models of Parlor sized bodies from the Godin company, but the focus is really on the full size models. I’ll use this opportunity to highlight some major differences between steel string and nylon string guitars. As I mentioned in the other thread, to just identify them by string type is shortsighted. Most nylon string guitars do not have an adjustable truss rod because the necks are under so much less tension from the nylon strings. This is one of the most attractive reasons many new players opt for a nylon string; they are much easier on the fingers in the beginning. The necks are wider and flatter than steel string guitars. They are played with the fingers not a pick. The guitar is held over the left leg and the left foot is usually on a footstool. They are never played standing up. They always join the body to the neck at the 12th fret. They often do not have as many side position dot markers and never have dot markers on the fretboard itself. The construction method is different than a steel string typically using a ‘fan brace’ method as opposed to the ‘X’ brace method of steel string acoustics. The strings tie onto the bridge whereas steel string guitars use a ball end string with bridge pins. Can you see how different these guitars are from steel strings? Here’s another remarkable difference. In the classical guitar market there is really no middle ground of models and prices. There are basically 2 groups; student models and performer models. Understand that in this realm, a $2000 guitar is still considered a ‘student’ model! Any classical guitar by a major guitar company like Washburn, Fender, Ibanez, etc. would be considered a student model. 99% of student models sell from $100-$1000. A serious performance instrument begins at around $4000. In the lower end of product offerings, nylon string guitars are not as loud as steel string guitars. Things to look for in ANY acoustic guitar: A solid top will have a more pleasing tone and a louder tone than a laminate top. Guitar companies do many things to make the unobservant purchaser think they are purchasing a solid top guitar when the top is actually a laminate. For instance: All spruce top 100% spruce top Vintage toned spruce top Beautiful spruce top Spruce top All of the above are LAMINATE tops! Unless the word ‘solid’ is next to the word ‘top’, it’s a laminate top. ‘Solid spruce top’ is a solid top. Anything else is a laminate. In an entry level instrument, expect to purchase a guitar with a laminate back and a laminate body/sides. I’m also not inferring that a laminate top does not have a place in the guitar world. They are more durable for kids that tend to knock them around a bit more, they hold up better to abuse/knicks when camping, etc. They fight feedback better when used in a louder, amplified environment. If your first guitar has a solid top, you’ll probably keep it longer. The longer you keep a guitar, the more value it imparts to you.
  2. Cleaning your fretboard/fingerboard

    I get asked this so many times I'd figure I'd make it a sticky. Cleaning Your Fretboard In general terms, I'm referring to a rosewood or ebony board. If it's sealed maple you can still do all this but you could go with another form of cleaner as opposed to lemon oil like denatured alcohol. That evaporates quickly and it SHOULDN'T be a solvent on MOST sealers used for fingerboards, but TEST IT FIRST if you're not sure. I'll describe what I do to the most gunked up fingerboards I see and I mean mildew is growing on them, ok? Take the strings off. Tape a cover over the pickups if it's an electric or the soundhole if it's an acoustic. Moist gunk is easier to get off than dry gunk, but it's messier. I'll start with a small bowl of lemon oil and a soft toothbrush. Dip the brush in the oil and then start scrubbing the finger board. I work from the nut towards the bridge. It's ok to go right over the inlays. Now I'll take a clean rag and kind of using my fingernail underneath I wipe straight across in the creavace of the fret and board to get out built up gunk. Use the rag to wipe off the whole fingerboard. Still got gunk? Use can use a soft scraper like a credit card edge. Is it still in the pores of the wood? Time to break out the 0000 steel wool. You want to avoid rubbing too hard and across the grain of the wood. But, if you HAVE to go across the grain to get very stubborn build up next to frets, that's ok, just do as little as you need too and then work it with the grain to remove those marks. You can also use the steel wool to do any minor fret dressing you might find like a small nick or if they're just dull and need to get a little layer of oxidation off. The steel wool will produce tiny steel fibers as it's waste. This is why you covered your pickups because the magnets in them really attract them. When you're all done w/the steel wool, wipe it all down again w/a clean rag using a little more oil if you have too. If it's an acoustic I'll also use oil on the bridge at this time. Carefully remove and discard your taped barriers, string 'er up and you're good to go.
  3. I want to learn guitar, which one to get?

    'What kind of guitar should buy to learn how to play?' I’ll bet that question gets asked 1000’s of times a day around the world. It gets asked here a lot too so I’m going to bang out at least 3 threads that I’ll make ‘stickies’ to try and answer this upfront. Start with this thread before you move on to the other ones. I’m going to try and compose them in a natural order of progression that will allow you to be on the road to a well informed choice. The first thing I want to tell you is that there are 3 distinct kinds of guitars that most people new to guitar are not really aware of. Most know there are electric guitars and ‘not electric’ guitars. The ‘not electric’ guitars are called acoustic guitars, however there’s two very different kind of acoustic guitars, steel string and nylon string. It’s almost not fair to only classify them by the string type they use because they differ in so many other important ways that what most people don’t understand is that as different as an electric guitar is from an acoustic guitar, a steel string guitar is as different from a nylon string guitar. Dilemma I – Should I learn on an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, and if acoustic steel string or nylon string? I’m not going to tell you what to do; here are a few items that you need to answer: Why do you want to play guitar? What do you want from playing guitar? How much time and dedication will you have for this? In other words, will this be another activity in addition to sports, school, travel, etc., or will this be the SOLE focus of your recreational time? What is your attitude about the fees associated with starting a new hobby? Do you look for the cheapest thing betting you can make it work? Do you go straight for the most expensive/best thing betting that will give you a short cut to good results? So, in order to answer your question, I’ve just asked several myself! These are important. This will help you focus your selection and feel GOOD about the guitar you have purchased. A positive attitude is priceless when learning something; an ongoing session of self doubt of ‘Did I get the right guitar?’ ‘Did I pay too much?’ or ‘Is this really what a good playing guitar is supposed to feel like?’ will drag your progress down and even contribute to you quitting guitar. Yes, people quit guitar. I am convinced that the 2 most common reasons people quit guitar are either they selected a guitar that will for whatever reasons not give them satisfactory results or they just don’t put in the effort needed to learn. If I say my goal is to run a 5k race and as I type this I’m 100+ lbs overweight, I’m fooling myself if I think I can go purchase the cheapest pair of athletic shoes I can find, walk/run for 5 minutes a day as ‘training’ and succeed in running a 5k three months from now. As easy as that is to understand, many, MANY people buy the cheapest guitar they can, practice 5 minutes or so two or three days a week, and then come to the conclusion they “can’t play” guitar. Which is more sensitive; the feet in my cheap running shoes or the fingers on a cheap guitar? Both will let us both down. So, let’s choose RIGHT and feel GOOD about it!! So, electric, steel string acoustic, or nylon string acoustic. The easiest way to answer this question is what guitar players are motivating you to learn? What do they play? Here are some very general observations: Electric guitar- Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues Steel string acoustic – Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, Folk Nylon string acoustic- Classical, Flamenco, Jazz Obviously there’s some overlap here, a lot, and that’s what makes choosing a guitar so confusing. So, again, answer the question about which guitar players or what type of music is motivating you want to take this on and start there. The next two sticky threads I’m going to compose break down electric and acoustic guitars.
  4. Electric Guitars

    So, you’ve decided to play electric guitar, great! The kind of music you'll want to play on it the most will determine what's best for you. Identify bands or players who's songs you want to learn. When you know what they play, that'll give you a better idea of what guitar to get. Essentially, there's 2 camps of electric guitars with some sub groups; single coils, ala the Strat and Tele and humbuckers, ala the Les Paul, PRS, etc. You can get Strats w/humbuckers and you can get Les Pauls w/single coils, but a different type of single coil than a Strat pickup. A Strat and Tele sound the way they do because: 1. The scale length is 25.5" and requires more tension to tune than a shorter scale w/the same gauge string. 2. The single coil pickups. 3. Where the single coil pickups are placed under the strings. 4. Construction materials/methods; typically the necks are maple and bolted to the alder bodies. Les Pauls/SG's sound the way they do because: 1. The scale length is 24.75" meaning the strings are not under as much tension. 2. The humbucker pickups. 3. Where the humbucker pickups are placed under the strings. 4. Construction materials/methods; typically the necks are mahogany and glued or 'set' into a mahogany body and often with a maple cap/top surface. Most electric guitars are ‘solid body’ guitars meaning that the body of the guitar is solid wood; there is no acoustic chamber inside the body. Popular models of solid body electrics include: The Stratocaster The Les Paul The Telecaster The SG The Flying V The Explorer And many, MANY others including copies and variations of the above mentioned models. Solid body guitars are predominately used in Rock, especially hard Rock and Metal. Because they don’t feature an acoustic chamber they resist feedback at much higher volume levels. They are also commonly found in Country and Blues. Another type of electric guitar is the ‘semi-hollow body’. These guitars do feature a small acoustic chamber. Popular models include: The Telecaster ES 335 ES 137 And many, MANY others including copies and variations of the above mentioned models. Semi hollow body guitar are used quite often in Rock, Country, Blues, and Jazz. A final type of guitar, for this discussion, is the ‘hollow body’. As the name would suggest, these electric guitars feature a large acoustic chamber. Popular models include: The L5 ES 175 Several models by Gretch including the White Falcon And many, MANY others including copies and variations of the above mentioned. Hollow body guitars are used quite often in Jazz as they are the most prone to feedback in high volume situations, however, some Rock guitar players are known for this using this body style such as Brian Setzer and George Thorogood. There are obviously many variables to the electric guitar: scale length, pickups, materials/methods of construction, body styles, etc. The more you move away from a clean tone the less any of these factors is apparent. Ultimately, w/pedals, amps, and processors you can make any guitar sound like anything BUT a guitar. For the sake of this discussion, I'm not going to cover active electronics.