A Brief History of Chorus

Guilty Pleasures: a Brief History of Chorus

Chorus. Is there a more polarizing word in the guitar pedal world? Maybe Ring Mod, but even then that’s a heavy seventy-thirty split against it. Its warm, warble-y, and often- cheesy sound has cringed and excited players alike for decades since its flagship introduction in the 1970’s.

Love it or hate it, you cannot deny the impact its had on music over the years. It basically defined the 80’s alongside gated reverbs, backcombed hair, and those horrible electronic drums that looked like someone cut the tops off some kind of Damien Hurst inspired bin set.
But what is chorus? Why do we use it? And what about it draws as many players in as it does turn them away.

Before we can decide on that, we first must learn about its origins. Where it came from and how it came to be one of the must fundamental effects in modern music.

You can argue that the earliest form of chorus came through in the 1930’s with the Hammond organ. Hammond organs have wheels and pull knobs that can add or remove extensions to the chords being played (3rds, 4ths, 6ths, etc.). They also had the ability to detune the notes being played to give you a fuller, more frequency dominating sound, i.e. chorus! But it wasn’t until the 1970’s that chorus started showing up on the guitarist’s radar.

Roland released two amplifiers in 1975, the JC-60, and the JC-120. More commonly known these days as the Roland Jazz chorus amps, which have a huge cult following amongst the alt guitar players of this world. But originally they were marketed as keyboard amps, providing built in chorus that could relieve the weight of having that tech built into your actual keyboard alongside a shimmering clean signal, seems strange to think about that now doesn’t it!

Guilty Pleasures a Brief History of Chorus

Guilty Pleasures a Brief History of Chorus

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Anyway it wasn’t long before Roland noticed the influx of guitar players who were using the JC amps and decided to bring some of that tech into the pedal world. Bring on the Boss CE-1, a clunky, heavy, steel box that provided the exact same chorus sound found in the JC-120. Sales were slow initially, due to its high retail price, but saw rapid growth once guitarists saw the potential of its stereo out function. Which allowed guitar players to run two amps at the same time creating previously unheard atmospheric sounds.
With Roland focusing their Boss division on the pursuit of more compact pedals, it wasn’t long before the CE-1 saw its successor. In 1977, Boss released the CE-2, arguably THE most famous chorus pedal in the world. The CE-2 had all the same functionality, minus the stereo outs, and the vibrato, and was used on countless records and guitar and keyboard sounds for the following decade and a half.

History of Chorus Pedals

Since its hay day, decade dominating stint in the 80’s, chorus has taken more of a backseat role in the effect world, finding purpose in more subtle pop applications on synths, or helping Metal and Alternative bands give their riffs and solos more of an edge. Still, there is no denying its contribution to music. But now we know its history, what is chorus?

Put simply, chorus is a modulation effect. Meaning that it affects the pitch and frequency of your guitar tone, rather than volume, gain, delay, or space surrounding your tone. It works by doubling your signal, then taking the double of your signal and modulating the pitch up and down at a chosen rate. This gives your guitar a fuller sound because your signal is not only doubled, but is also moving in and out of tune with itself. Don’t ask me why that makes it fuller, lets just say that there’s something about playing an instrument alongside the same thing but slightly out of tune with itself that makes stuff sound bigger. Its science, make your peace with it. What’s important is the result of this effect; modulated sonic magic. Chorus allows you to get anything

from lush 80’s pop magic, to gritty 90’s Sonic Youth/Cure era Alt-Rock and Indie, all the way to straight up weird.

At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself ‘Alright Dan, you’ve convinced me. Chorus sounds awesome and I want one of my very own right now. But I don’t know where to begin because I’m a complete gear noob!’

Well fear not gear noobs, once again I’ve compiled y’all a list of my three picks that will cater to any guitar players needs. Pro or no, steep or cheap, there’s a chorus pedal in here for you. So lets just all shut up so I can get on with this yeah?

Dan’s pick – Tone City Angel Wing (£40)

It’s actually such a shock for me that it’s taken me this long to mention a pedal by Tone City in these articles. They have an incredibly extensive range of really solid sounding pedals, most of them are super pedal-board friendly, and above all else, they’re like forty quid!

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What?! That’s right, forty pounds for a great sounding chorus pedal. Your entry into lush 80’s sounding guitar magic could cost you as little as forty pounds if you so choose. It comes with a super simple three knob configuration; level, rate, and depth, and provides lush chorus sounds. Is it the best chorus I’ve ever heard? No. But it’s bloody good for forty pounds. If you’re on the fence about whether you think chorus is awesome or cheesy, and need to own one to make a final decision on that. Then the Tone City Angel Wing is for you.

Dan’s Pick – Boss Super Chorus CH-1 (£71)

It was unlikely that we were going to do a list of best choruses without having Boss pedal in there was it? So lets talk about the CH-1.

Not as well known as its predecessor the CE-2, the CH-1 first came on the scene in the 1989 as the successor to the CE series, adding EQ controls, stereo outputs, and a less criticized knob layout. Sadly, this pedal has been stood in the shadow cast by the CE-2 pretty much since its birth, despite

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being used on countless records. Well guess what? Original CE-2s cost about two hundred-plus pounds; the Waza Craft CE-2s cost about two hundred-ish pounds, what does the standard CH-1 cost? £71. So you do the math.

People always say that the CE-2 is the sound of the 80’s, and in fairness it was used all the time during that decade. But for me personally I’ve never used a CE-2 and gotten that classic cheesy 80’s chorus sound that I’m looking, or managed to get that 90’s Cure/Sonic Youth chorus sound that I love either. Whereas the CH-1, it comes with ease. It’s simple, sounds awesome, and costs half the price of the coveted CE-2. Even the original analogue circuit CH-1’s cost less than any of the CE-2s. If you’re wanting classic boss chorus, classic 80’s chorus, or even just a good chorus for a decent amount of money. The Boss CH-1 is THE chorus pedal. Don’t believe the hype; believe me, a random guy on the Internet.

Dan’s Pick – Walrus Audio Julia (£179)

Thought it was wise to pick a chorus that wasn’t the CE-2 for my big money pedal, seeing as I just spent two hundred words convincing you to not believe the hype surrounding it. To clear things up, the CE-2 is a fantastic chorus, it’s got a great sound, but it’s also spoken about all the time and there are millions of articles praising it so why add to that? What I’ve chosen for you is the Walrus Audio Julia, which falls in the boutique pedal category in so many ways, all of them awesome.

I don’t know about anyone else, but when people say modern chorus sound I used to think of cheesier, more 80’s sounding chorus, until now. The Julia is what all modern choruses should be aiming to sound like. It provides warm, organic sounding choruses, lush vibratos, and anywhere in between with its unique knob layout and functionality. It kind of makes me think of what kind of soundscapes fish would hear underwater, which is fitting because its name derives from mysterious sounds heard at the depths of the ocean. Will it give you an accurate chorus sound for the

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Purple Rain tone? I don’t know, probably not if I’m being honest. But then why should it. Boss pretty much have a monopoly on the classic 80’s chorus sound with their endless array of chorus models, and they were there first so why compete? What the Julia can do is broaden your sonic horizons and make you re-evaluate what chorus is, and what kind of tones you can get out of it. If you’re looking to invest big money into a chorus that is unlike its stereotypical predecessors, the Julia is everything you’ve been looking for and more.

By
Dan Tredgold

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Guilty Pleasures; a brief hisotry of chorus

Do I have to learn music theory to play guitar?

Do I have to learn musical theory to play guitar?

“Do I have to learn musical theory to play guitar?”

As a guitar tutor, this is a question I get asked on a regular basis and to my dismay, not one that has a straight forward answer. Depending on who you ask, you might be told its imperative and there is no other way to learn. Others will tell you it’s not necessary at all but ultimately it depends on you, your musical aspirations and what you want to get out of playing the guitar. 

I encounter a lot of people who have already decided that learning musical theory isn’t for them and their primary goal is to be able to play some songs that they like. The guitar is an excellent instrument to do this on because it allows you to learn ‘shapes’. A method of memorising where to put your fingers for different chords, scales, arpeggios etc. as opposed to learning what notes your playing. Even by learning as few as four different chord shapes you can already start to play hundreds of different songs, without having to learn the theoretical side of key signatures, chord construction and scales. 

Do I have to learn musical theory to play guitar?

Do I have to learn musical theory to play guitar?

 

In my opinion, this is a really fast and rewarding way to learn guitar. When you first start taking guitar lessons, there can be a lot to take in and remember. It can be overwhelming to get to grips with physically playing the guitar as well as concentrating on the theory at the same time. I think this can deter a lot of beginner students and can overcomplicate your initial encounter with a guitar. The fastest way to improve your guitar playing is to be inspired and motivated. We achieve that by learning things we are passionate about. So the ability to play the songs you love quickly, will make you want to learn more. Once you are feeling more confident with your playing and your ready to kick things up a gear, this is when the theory comes in! 

Musical theory is the universal language of musicians. Its a way of communicating with other musicians, through a definitive way of describing the music. Its the difference between ‘this chord sounds jazzy’ and ‘this chord is a C7#9’. When you get to the stage you’re wanting to play with other people, maybe write some music or just gain a deeper understanding of what it is you’re doing, this is the perfect time to fill in the blanks. You already have a base knowledge of how to play the guitar, now you can apply the theory to it. Its much easier to learn how a C major chord is made up, when you already know how to play it, what it looks like and what it sounds like. 

This is how I was introduced to musical theory. I self taught myself for a few years until I knew it was time to take things to the next stage and started taking guitar lessons. For me personally, learning musical theory was a really exciting time. It was filled with ‘light bulb’ moments and I was constantly having epiphanies as I learnt how everything was interconnected. The more I found out, the more I wanted to know. It gave me a new found confidence in my playing and allowed me to play more intentionally. Knowing new scales and how they were connected to chords gave me new ways to write more interesting music. I felt like my overall understanding of music was slowly falling into place. It was a very rewarding experience that gave me confidence to join my first band and start playing in public. For lack of a better word, I felt a bit more legit. 

I’ve also met a lot of guitarists who feel like they have left it too late to learn musical theory and I can get why they might feel that way. If you’ve been playing for years and not touched on any theory, it can seem like a daunting task, almost like starting from scratch. However, I guarantee you it will rejuvenate your playing! You probably know way more than you think, you might just not have names for things for the things you know or how to use them to their fullest. With a few basic theory lessons you can really start to see playing the guitar with a whole new perspective. You don’t have to learn the notes of the Phrygian dominant scale, but learning key signatures and how chords and scales are constructed will prove incredibly useful. 

There are some useful and simple things that you can do yourself, if you feel like its time to know some theory. Start by learning the notes of the strings and notes of the fretboard (you can find a fretboard diagram on the internet), learn the notes of the chromatic scale, find out the difference between a tone and a semi-tone, get yourself a beginners music theory book and start reading. If your having guitar lessons or thinking of taking some, all these things will prepare you, which will give you the best chance of success. It’s also important to find out the best way you learn. Some people find it easier to learn with the guitar in their hands and hear what they are doing, others like to see the theory written down and be taught in a more visual way. By communicating with whoever is teaching you, find the method that is going to help you make the most progress. 

There have been hundreds of famous and successful musicians over the years that haven’t had the slightest clue about musical theory and that hasn’t held them back. At its essence playing the guitar should be about creative expression. As long as the music is what you intended to create, it doesn’t really matter how you get there. Music theory is just a tool that can make you more knowledgeable and give you more musical insight. As a result it will enhance the music that you create!

By Adam Ward 

Playing the Acoustic guitar also improves your Electric playing

4 reasons why playing the Acoustic guitar, also improves your Electric playing!

I’ve been playing guitar for 12 years now! Unlike many beginner guitarists I started learning Electric guitar first, it was a couple of years later before I owned my first Acoustic. Like any 13 year-old who’d just got a new guitar, I was immediately obsessed with it and couldn’t put it down. As a result, I neglected my Electric guitar for a bit whilst I happily strummed along to the likes of Oasis and crew. As you do. 

When I eventually got tired of going through open chords and picked up my Electric again, I noticed something… my Electric playing had massively improved. I realised that playing the Acoustic had given some major benefits to my skills on the Electric.12 years on, I still practice and perform on them both and in this article I’m going to explain some of the reasons I think the Acoustic has vastly improved my Electric playing and my musicianship in general.

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Stamina 

All you have to do is look at an Acoustic and an Electric guitar next to each other to notice that the Acoustic is just physically bigger. It has a wide hollowed body, thicker neck and usually thicker strings. So it is no surprise it takes a bit more physicality to play it. Sometimes we have to press down on the frets harder to get that warm tone, other times we have to play endless bar chords until our forearm burns. However, this is a productive pain and will stand you in good stead. 

Developing stamina is one of the toughest challenges a lot of guitarists face, especially if you don’t get time to play as often as you’d like. Think of playing the Electric guitar as working out and the acoustic guitar as working out with a weighted vest on. It might hurt at the time, but the harder you workout the quicker you’ll get into shape. In my experience, after practicing on my Acoustic then going back to the Electric, my fingers are far more nimble and I can play for way longer on both. I also find playing my Acoustic for 10 minutes or so before starting on the Electric is a great way to warm up!

Playing the Acoustic guitar also improves your Electric playing

 

Rhythm

Playing Acoustic guitar has without a doubt, improved my rhythm playing and ability to keep tempo. Unlike the Electric guitar where you can find yourself playing lots of lead guitar lines and solos, the Acoustic guitar is more widely used as an accompaniment. So as nice as feeling your way through a melodic, tasteful solo on the acoustic can be, a lot of the time you will be providing rhythm guitar… and this should excite you! 

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about playing my Acoustic is discovering more ways to create interesting and intricate rhythms in my playing. If you’re like me, you’ll have those moments where you see someone do something amazing and become instantly inspired. One of those moments for me was seeing Andy McKee play his finger-style song Drifting (if you haven’t already, check it out) and being blown away by the way he created so much percussion and groove from his acoustic guitar. I instantly ran to my guitar and started working on my finger picking, trying to perfect the percussive thumb slap and integrate it into my patterns. The heavier gauge strings and hollowed body of the acoustic really helped me lock into the groove. 

After some time I moved these techniques over to my Electric. This is where things got interesting. I found that using my newly perfected, percussive thumb slap through a nice warm overdrive gave an amazing feel for lots of playing styles like Blues, Jazz, Soul, RnB and Hip-hop. Also, as my fingerpicking improved, it allowed me to tackle techniques that I had struggled with before, like hybrid picking (using your plectrum and fingers at the same time).

Adjust your musical mindset

I think what attracted me to the Electric guitar is the plethora of sounds you can create from it. There are so many unique pedals, effects and techniques you can use to be creative with your sound, but on the flip side, this is also a reason I love playing the acoustic guitar as well. Its simplicity. Sure, you can run Acoustics through pedals and can have great fun doing so, but at its core, the tone of the acoustic guitar is undeniably unique; like comparing a synthesiser to a grand piano. 

So to harness the tone, you have to play with other considerations. While I play my acoustic I find myself being much more aware of how I’m sustaining notes, using extreme dynamics, thinking more melodically in my musical ideas and doing anything I can to maximise the versatility in the sound. I also find due to the acoustic nature of the guitar and the fact you can hear every dead note, scratch and scuff clear as day, it has trained into me a perfection for clarity. Applying all this to my electric playing has been incredibly productive. Instead of increasing the reverb or adding more gain to hide potential scuffs behind the grit, it has made my playing more accurate and most of all, confident. Something as simple (and maybe obvious) as that has really progressed my playing. 

Versatility

Amongst all the other reasons discussed, for me personally, this has had the biggest benefit. Learning the acoustic guitar pointed me in the direction of a lot of new music. Exploring more acoustic dominated genres such as country, folk, classical etc. was not only great fun, but increased my musical knowledge and the understanding of how different styles are written. As a working guitarist, I’ve found it incredibly useful to be what I refer to as a musical chameleon. By learning how to play in different styles and knowing what techniques to use at the right time, It has given me the confidence to blend in to all kinds of genres and as a result, all kinds of opportunities.

So all in all, I credit a lot to my acoustic guitar. It’s taught me things about playing that I don’t think I would have discovered otherwise, at least not as quickly. The other thing to remember is that almost everything is transferable too, in one way or another. Whether it adds rhythmic patterns, melody ideas, chord progressions etc. to your playing, or makes you think of different ways to phrase and approach music, I’m positive you will see the benefits in your playing. 

By Adam Ward

A Brief Guide To Distortion

A Brief Guide To Overdrive & Distortion

In 1961, in a Nashville recording studio, producer Dan Law and engineer Glen Snoddy were recording Marty Robbins’ ‘Don’t Worry’ when a transistor in one of the channel strips of the console began to fail. This failed transistor produced a grainy sound that gave the bass an exciting and innovative tone that breathed new live into the recording. This was the precursor to one of the most popular guitar effects used in music today: distortion.
Fast forward to 1965 where Dan and Glen have teamed up with Gibson to develop a three-transistor schematic for a pedal that recreates the failed transistor sound and boom, we have the Gibson Maestro fuzz FZ-1, the pedal that started it all. Most notably used by Keith Richards on “(I Cant Get No) Satisfaction” the Maestro Fuzz and the birth of distortion brought new life to guitar playing and players alike, helping them push the guitar forward to create new genres of music.In 2018 there are thousands (and I mean thousands) of distortion pedals to choose from, ranging anywhere from low gain clean boosts to crunchy overdrives, all the way to the infamous Boss Metal Zone with its fizzy awfulness. As a young guitar player it can be hard to identify what kind of distortion you’re looking for when starting out on your sonic journey for the first time, so I thought I’d help out by breaking down distortion pedals into three distinct categories, and discuss what genres I feel they are best suited for, and maybe throw in a couple of my personal favorites to get you started.Overdrive:Overdrive is basically a fancy word for crunch, crunchy guitar sounds. The kind of guitar sounds that make you wanna rip a fat blues solo over pretty much any song you’re playing on, and in fairness that’s essentially where overdrive sits best in my opinion. Overdrive is basically a low gain version of a distortion pedal, meaning that the maximum gain increase you can get out of your pedal isn’t actually that high, think John Mayer, not Slayer. Overdrive pedals also tend to focus on boosting the mid frequencies giving your guitar a brighter more full sound for lead playing.Although there are no rules in the pedal world, overdrive is most commonly used in Blues, Country, Classic Rock, and Pop, although it can be seen used in pretty much any genre as its arguably the most versatile of the three distortions being discussed.

 Guide to Guitar Distortion

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Dan’ Pick: Ibanez Tubescreamer Mini (£52)Arguably THE most famous overdrive pedal on the planet, the Ibanez Tubescreamer has been used on countless hit songs by countless artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, Noel Gallagher, Alex Turner, Carlos Santana, The Edge, and so many more. This compact affordable version is the perfect place to start understanding what overdrive can bring to your sound as a beginner and can continue to be used all way through your guitar-playing career. With is transparent tone and easy to play feel, the Tubescreamer is a must have pedal in any guitar players arsenal, end of story.Distortion:Despite the word being used as a collective term for all gain based pedals in the early days, distortion these days tends to refer to pedals that are capable of higher levels of gain than your average overdrive. Predominantly used in most forms of Rock, distortion pedals allows guitar players to achieve massive walls of sound by driving the transistors harder, which in turn overloads your signal giving you a bigger, more distorted sound. Distortion can be found anywhere from bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, ACDC, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Metallica, Slayer, just all Rock. If you wanna rock, buy a distortion pedal, it’s as simple as that.Pro Tip:Some of the most iconic riffs and solos in Rock history don’t actually use as much gain as you’d expect. Try experimenting with the balance between the gain and volume controls on you distortion to get a more classic sound!

A Brief Guide To Distortion

A Brief Guide To Distortion

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MXR Custom Badass 78’

Dan’s Pick: MXR Custom Badass 78’ (£82):Not the most famous of distortions granted, but this is a fantastic pedal at an affordable price and a great place to start for beginners. This pedal provides classic rock gain in a simple, easy to use box, and will cover most rock styles so you can get a feel for what you like and what you don’t like. It even has a crunch setting, which essentially gives you an overdrive pedal as well! Bargain.Fuzz:We’re back to where it all started. Since the Maestro FZ-1, people have been hunting for bigger, more gnarly distortion sounds, and boy did we find some. Fuzz works by changing the wave of the audio being passed through it to a square wave, which is jargon for making your guitar sound the most distorted that it can. They produce immensely saturated guitar sounds, screaming leads, and endless sustain, perfect for any guitar heavy band. No two fuzz are the same, but an important piece of info to know when starting with fuzz is the difference between Germanium and Silicon transistors. Essentially all that means is that the wiring that creates the distortion inside the pedal work differently, so the tone of the distortion is different. Put simply, Germanium Fuzz is smoother and emits are more classic tone and Silicon produces more gain and emits a brighter more modern sound. It’s not always that black and white but that’s enough info to keep you in loop as you start your Youtube pedal demo search.Fuzz has had many incarnations since its birth in the early 60’s, ranging from psychedelic fuzz used by the likes of Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck, to the epic fuzz sounds of the 70’s from guys like Dave Gilmour, right up to the 90’s and 00’s with bands like Queens of the Stone Age, The White Stripes, and Smashing Pumpkins. For anyone looking for an epic guitar sound that can shatter windows with its high gain endless sustain, then Fuzz is for you.

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Dan’s Picks: Electro Harmonix Big Muff mini range (£67-75) Dunlop Fuzz Face mini range (£90-£130)Two classic ranges of pedals on show here, the Big Muff and the Fuzz Face are both pillars in the Fuzz world. Their signature tones can be found scattered across countless records over the years, and the mini range allows for great tone in a more affordable price tag. The mini range also contains several variants on the original circuits, experimenting with different transistors and components to get different sounds, so there is a Fuzz for everybody!

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Distortion Pedals

 

2006 Gibson ES335 thin line

Repair log –  December 14th, 2006 Gibson ES335 thin-line double cutaway archtop guitar SN: xxxxxxxx made in the Nashville Plant, TN, USA

Copyright retained by Terry Relph-Knight 20/06/18

Current value range estimate –  £ 1,500 to 2,000

Weight =  kg. lbs.

Delivered with Gibson branded hard case

Strung with –  0.008, 0.010, 0.015, 0.024, 0.033, 0.046 ????

This guitar is an extremely well made, double cut away, thin line archtop electric. A classic Gibson dot neck, 19 frets to the body in cherry finished flame maple. In pristine condition.

Gibson ES335 thin-line double cutaway archtop

Body – Thin-line double cutaway arch-top semi-acoustic of laminated flamed maple ply with a maple centre block and two F holes. Finished in  cherry nitro with cream plastic binding back and front.

Neck – A one piece mahogany neck with a medium U’ profile and cream binding. 22 medium frets on a rosewood fretboard, 12 inch fret radius. Dot mother of pearl fret markers above the 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 19 and 21st frets. Truss rod adjustable from the headstock, 5/16 brass hex nut. The neck tenon extends half way under the neck pickup. 24 3/8inch scale length.

Hardware – The 2 Gibson humbuckers are ‘57 Classic’s (I unscrewed the pickups and checked the labels on the back). They have a replica black and gold Patent Applied For sticker (which is kinda funny) and a label – ‘57 Classic 1212060303 on the neck and ‘57 Classic 1212060237 on the bridge (made on the 12th of December 2006). They have nickel plated nickel silver bases and covers. So the two pickups appear to be the same. Gibson also make the ‘57 Classic Plus which has a few more turns on the coils for a higher output and you might expect to find it in the bridge position. That doesn’t appear to be the case here. The ‘57 Classic pickups, like the Burstbucker, are intended to mimic the best of the old 1957 PAF pickups. They have the lower strength Alnico II magnets and, unlike the Burstbucker, the two coils are balanced, which offers maximum hum rejection, but a slightly warmer tone than the Burstbuckers. In this guitar the ‘57 Classics do sound great, warm and smooth with great definition.

2006 Gibson ES335

2006 Gibson ES335

Gibson ES335

According to Jim DiCola, master luthier at Gibson USA, the ’57 Classic is made to Seth Lover’s original specifications, to the exact letter, in particular the two coils are very closely matched, while the Burstbucker is a consistent version of how the production PAF pickups were actually made, with an imbalance between the two coils. The Burstbucker version 1,2 and 3 also has Alnico II magnets. The legendary pickup maker Tom Holmes apparently worked for Gibson on the design of the ‘57 Classic. Holmes has built guitars for Billy Gibbons and is perhaps the first person to produce an accurate reproduction of the original Gibson PAF pickups.

In the original production PAFs the coils were used as they came off the winding machine, with no attempt at matching and the magnets used might be Alnico II, IV or V, depending on what Gibson happened to have purchased for each inventory period.

The controls on this guitar are the usual Gibson two volumes, two tones and three way toggle switch. I don’t know if the volumes are 300K linear or 500K log. The controls are fitted with Gibson small black witch hat knobs and metal pointers. Floating three-ply black pick guard. Nickel plated zinc alloy Gibson ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop bar.

Grover three on a side sealed nickel plated tuners with metal kidney buttons.

Gibson ES335 thin-line double cutaway archtop

Bridge height – guitar top to top of the thumbwheel – 8mm on the bass 8mm on the treble

Stop bar height – guitar top to underside of the bar – 6.5mm on the bass 3mm on the treble

I’m not sure why anyone would choose to tilt the stop bar like that. The two threaded bridge supports are screwed quite far into the body. Their tops are around 3mm below the top of the holes in the bridge.

The threaded bridge support posts are UNC 6-32 thread by 1 inch (25.4mm) long. Around 7/16 (12mm) of an inch is driven in to the top of the guitar. This leaves very little of the post within the post holes in the bridge.

Delivered strung with  – Ernie Ball Nickel wound Super Slinky’s 0.009, 0.011, 0.016, 0.024, 0.032, 0.042.

Problems – In for a general check and setup. Needs a good clean and polish. Exhibits the usual tuning instability of nut stick for a Gibson instrument with 3 on a side tuners. Customer also wanted to try a vibrato on the guitar. Originally a Bigsby, but by the time the necessary modifications were added to avoid drilling holes in the guitar and to stabilise the Bigsby tuning problems, this would have been a very expensive option. I suggested a Duesenberg Les Trem II vibrato.

Work done –

Guitar cleaned and polished. Frets level checked with a fret rocker. Frets and neck cleaned and polished. Polished the corian nut with metal polish on a toothbrush, including flossing the the string slots with string offcuts, to reduce friction through the strings slots as much as possible. Also sprayed on a coat of beeswax and buffed the nut to a high gloss. Tuning still wasn’t stable so I also fitted a String Butler (later upgraded to a String Butler Tremolo model).

Fitted the Duesenberg Les Trem II vibrato in place of the stop bar.

The Gibson 6-32 bridge posts are an acceptable fit in the Goldo bridge post holes so I stayed with them rather than removing them and drilling to fit the Goldo inserts and posts. I stabilised the Gibson posts by fitting 6 washers underneath the thumb wheels, drilled and tapped the Goldo for M3 locking screws and then locked the bridge in place. I had to fit the Goldo bridge with the locking screws and intonation screws facing towards the bridge pickup otherwise access to the screws is blocked by the Duesenberg vibrato. The bridge pickup height can be dropped down to improve access to the intonation screws while intonation is set.

Re-strung and set up the action and intonation. I tried winding the strings with one turn below the string through the post hole then two turns above the hole. I wanted to lock the strings and minimise the break angle over the nut to help tuning stability by reducing friction over the nut. In practice this didn’t work very well because the coils of the string didn’t settle smoothly around the post. The easiest way by far to get a tidy string wind around the post is to allow the right amount of slack for two or three winds around the post and then to feed the string on from the bottom.   

Diagnosis

This guitar suffers from the same problem that all recent Gibson’s with a corian nut suffer from – the strings do not slide smoothly through the nut. As a result any string bends result in the string going slack when the bend is released and the tuning goes flat by around 10 cents on every string.

Adding a vibrato system of course just makes things a lot worse! One difficulty is that with the vibrato the string tension of all six strings interacts because they are coupled together by the vibrato balancing spring. If even one string jams in the nut then this change in net tension affects the tuning of all six strings. When using a fixed stop bar, rather than the vibrato, any nut jamming problems with each string are confined just to that string.

Rather than replace the unpolished Plek cut Gibson corian nut straight away I wanted to try to get the existing nut to work. Extreme care is needed when making any adjustments to a Gibson nut because Gibson choose to set the Plek to cut the slots as low as they will go before buzzing on the first fret. Added to that the nut is shaped to a sharp edge to minimise the amount of cutting the Plek machine has to do. Unlike many other guitars, there just isn’t much leeway in the Gibson nut slots.

First I tried polishing the nut with metal polish on a toothbrush. Although this did a fine job of polishing the surface of the nut, it seems it did not get right down into the string slots. Next I tried flossing the slots with offcuts of guitar string coated in a few dabs of metal polish.  To my vast surprise this actually seems to have worked!

   

Intonation as received

Low

E -5

A -7

D +10

G +5

B +5

E+6

Tuning stability

This test consists of first accurately tuning each string to pitch, depressing each string behind the nut until it touches the headstock, then releasing it. The pitch is then measured (and recorded). If the string is sticking in the nut the string will go sharp.

If any problems are found the nut slots are filed and lubricated and the test is repeated.

The second set of numbers are from tuning up to pitch then applying a whole step bend to each string.

Behind nut bendWhole step bend Bend – After all modifications

E +10 -10 0

A +11 -10 0

D +22 -3 0

G 0 -10 0

B +15 0 0

E +10 -3 0

Note – There is still some tuning instability for extreme use of the vibrato.

The Duesenburg Les Trem II

The Duesenburg Les Trem II won’t fit this guitar without modification because the inserts for the stop bar fixing studs are on 82.5mm centres. The DLTII requires the fixing centres of the stop bar mounting studs to be 81.5mm apart.

The nickel plated stop bar from this guitar looks like a standard Gibson part, but has no identifying marks. The distance between the inside faces of the two stud hooks is 73.6mm and the hooks are 7.9mm wide. So the fixing centres should be 81.5mm. Unlike the Les Trem II there is enough clearance left in the Gibson stop bar for it still to fit with the studs at 82.5mm.

Drawings of the Wilkinson stop bar show the centres as 82mm, Allparts shows it as 82mm and AxesRus Gotoh as 82mm, AxesRus aluminium as 82.5mm and AxesRus zinc as 82.5mm.

So the only way to fit the DLTII is to file or drill out the holes in its base plate to gain the clearance for the two bolts. Seems dumb that Duesenberg didn’t elongate the holes to allow for variations in the insert spacing.

I had thought perhaps that the guitar wouldn’t fit in the hard case with the DLTII installed, but I have done a test fit with it attached by only one of the stop bar bolts and there seems to be plenty of clearance.

Eventually I filed the outsides of both fixing holes just a little and managed to get the DLTII to fit the stop bar insert spacing on this guitar. I fitted just one washer under each end which was enough to clear the top curve of the guitar. The entire assembly with the arm fitted seems to go inside the case just fine, even without any string tension pulling it down.

Another possible drawback of the Les Trem II is that the spring and bar pivot are quite close to the bridge and some players may find that this protrusion gets in the way, depending on playing style.

The Goldo roller bridge

The Goldo bridge has 4mm holes at either end (the holes in the ABR-1 are close to that) and is supplied with solid posts with integral thumb wheel that screw in to press fit inserts. The guitar has an ABR-1 bridge with two threaded posts screwed in to the top of the guitar. So the option is either remove the two posts and re-drill the top of the guitar for the Goldo inserts, or keep the threaded posts and fit the Goldo to those.

With lock screws fitted to either end of the Goldo bridge, once those are tightened, the bridge will no longer be adjustable for height through turning the thumb wheels. I decided to stabilise the bridge and stop the thumb wheels coming loose and rattling, by fitting a stack of washers under each thumb wheel. The Gibson ABR-1 measures 12.1mm and the Goldo roller 13.3mm from the curved base to the top of the centre two saddles. So the Goldo is 1.2mm higher than the Gibson. To fit the Goldo subtract that 1.2mm from the previously measured 8mm thumb wheel heights and set them at 6.8mm to arrive at around the same action. Which is 6 x 0.63 mm thick washers = 3.15 under the 2.72mm thumb wheel.

Re-stringing – Three wraps of the strings around the Grover tuner posts requires 52mm of string. This is more than enough for the wound E, A and D strings. The lighter strings can be allowed a few more wraps. Unstable loops of string around the tuner post will contribute to tuning instability.

I experimented with different methods of stringing such as winding the string upwards above the string through the tuner post (to reduce the angle over the nut) and one turn under the string through the rest above to help lock the string in the post. Eventually decided that winding the string onto the post neatly for two or three turns below the hole is the easiest, most efficient and most stable way to do it.

Note also that the brass ball on bridge end of the strings is attached with a simple twist. This can and does, act like slip knot and settling in this twist is one of the main causes of tuning drift when new strings are fitted. At worst slipping in the ball end twist can be a long term cause of tuning problems. The more expensive strings tend to have more reliable twists. D’Addarrio NYXL for example have solder bonded twists for the plain strings.

With this guitar it is very important to guide the strings in to the centre of the bridge rollers and rollers on the String Butler.

The String Butler

The String Butler is device that is intended to stabilise tuning for guitars which have 3 on a side tuner headstock’s, such as Gibson, by deflecting the strings into a straight path over the nut. It is attached using the barrel nuts on two tuners. It consists of a metal plate with an attachment forks on either side that clamp under the two tuner nuts. The plate carries four rollers on short vertical posts. The A, D, G and B stings are passed around the rollers, pulling them into a straight path across the nut. This helps to reduce friction in the nut slots, particularly on the D and the G strings which normally angle both downward and to either side and almost always exhibit tuning problems due to nut stick.

On the standard version of the String Butler the rollers have perhaps 2mm of vertical movement. This in itself can be a source of tuning problems. The ‘tremolo’ version has small rubber O rings fitted above the rollers to reduce vertical movement. Sven Dietrich at Sting Butler sent me a String Butler Tremolo version, which I ordered to replace the butler I borrowed from my Les Paul and a packet of eight 4.5mm outside diameter, 2.5mm inside diameter O rings. The String Butler Tremolo version ships with a single O ring fitted above each string roller, limiting the slack vertical space on the roller posts.

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Successes

When I first started experimenting with DADGAD

Alternate tuning DADGAD

As a teenager I was so cool that most of the music I listened to was recommended to me by my dad. This was often in the shape of classic British and American singer songwriters such as James Taylor and Steve Earle, and while I have since diversified somewhat, the influence that this sound had on my development and style have been really important to me as a musician. I found there to be something soulful and joyful about this acoustic sound that seemed to have depth in antiquity as well as feeling effortlessly contemporary, even decades after release. I would spend a lot of time carefully listening through particular tracks so I could then attempt to work out the pieces on my guitar, trying wherever I could to replicate certain stylistic riffs and movements. Whilst I usually had little trouble working out faithfully accurate recreations, there were a few guitarists that would more often than not leave me stumped, and totally unable to recapture the mood and tone of their songs. This was made all the more annoying by the fact that I almost invariably had this issue with the guitarists whose style I most admired. They were, at the time, Stephen Stills, John Martyn and Richard Thompson. What I heard when listening to them was to me rich and engaging, and despite being able to find the correct structure and chord sequences, I just could not make my guitar sing in the same way. 

When I first started experimenting with DADGAD

When I first started experimenting with DADGAD

DADGAD tuning

Around this time, and during a family get together at the home of an uncle of mine who is an excellent guitarist himself, I did the done thing for a teenager and eventually sloped off for a bit of space away from the people I love. It was then that I found a guitar magazine and came across an article about the alternate tuning DADGAD. I followed the instructions, tuning both the low and high E strings down by a whole tone to D, along with the B string also down a tone to A, then picked through a couple of the riffs that were tabbed out in the piece. Suddenly something clicked, and I found there to be something familiar to me about this sound. Over the next few weeks I spent my practice time discovering more about this tuning, using my ear to find chords and patterns within these new parameters. I found it very exciting to be exploring this new way of playing, as there now seemed to be a new and greater depth and tone to almost everything that I tried. I then had the idea of going back to many of the songs that I had before struggled to learn, as now I was able to try them from a new angle, and with much more success. Suddenly I could emulate the dry twang of a Stills song, or the rhythmic strut and swing of John Martyn’s playing, all while keeping the sound rich and full. 

It is almost limitless what you can already achieve on a guitar in standard tuning, but when you discover the use of alternate tunings it is almost like being introduced to several new instruments. The quality and timbre of each string can be manipulated in many ways, to help you to discover a plethora of new voices within your guitar. When I first started experimenting with DADGAD, I initially placed my first finger on the second fret of the 3rd string, and strummed all 6 of the strings, giving me a D5 chord. All I had with this chord was a D in three different octaves, and an A in two octaves, but what enticed me about this sound was a deep hum and buzz in the strings; there was something much more alive about this simple D5 chord. From there I began to explore songs in the key of D, and found that the richness and simplicity of the chord shapes gave me much more freedom to play around with the rest of the fretboard, generally finding more ‘diddly’ bits on the higher strings, while still allowing low tones to ring out and mingle underneath. 

Music is so often about exploration and discovery, and I find that many guitarists can lose much of their interest once they feel that they are repeatedly playing the same pieces and running down the same dead ends. While it is very important to be meticulous in practice, and to perfect anything that you begin to work on, musical motivation can often falter with the loss of discovery and excitement. This is where alternate tunings can become invaluable. Changing the voicing and tones available to you is a great chance to start again, and to experiment purely through what you hear as opposed to what you know. Whenever I am faced with a tuning that is entirely new to me, I frequently begin by trying to forget what I know about scales, progressions and intervals, and simply begin by picking out various strings and placing my hands along the fretboard, attempting to follow feelings and voices, and seeing where it leads me. This can be a massively liberating way of learning, as pleasing moods and patterns will begin to emerge through your own, totally independent discovery, and the sound that you create will feel unique and personal. 

Alternate tuning DADGAD

Alternate tuning DADGAD

So next time you find yourself falling out of love with your guitar, look up some new tunings, and find one that sits well in your ear. Take your time then to discover it, and you may find yourself to be captivated by a whole new set of voices, and then to be compelled to spend more time with your guitar, not working through a tab or following a YouTube tutorial, but instead just getting to know it all over again. The use of alternate tunings has since become integral to the development of my style and ability, and I often find myself returning to where it all began with the DADGAD tuning. Even now after all this time, it still has so much for me to discover. 

Arthur Randle

Martin D28 rosewood back and sides

Repair Log: 1998 Martin D28 rosewood back and sides, figured spruce top dreadnought SN: xxxxxx

23/06/18 Copyright retained Terry Relph-Knight

New D28s list at $3,299

Current value – £1,089 to £1,479

Supplied with a Martin ABS hard case.

Serial number is on the inside face of the heel block.

A classic Martin D28 14 frets to the body, with one piece mahogany fake bridal joint dart neck, with rosewood headstock veneer, rosewood fret board (20 narrow frets, mother of pearl dots) and bridge, bone nut and saddle and Indian rosewood back and sides. The guitar has had a headstock repair at some point. A small crack is visible just below the volute and the area has been over sprayed in a dark brown. Top is of highly figured spruce with a black scratch plate. I contacted Martin and they confirmed the date of the guitar, but said they had no special notes on its construction and that the highly figured top must just be luck of the draw. 6 ply binding/purfling back and front of the body. The two piece rosewood back has a dash pattern centre stripe. The Martin name and est. in 1833 is stamped on the top of the headstock in gold ink.

The 6 white bridge pins look fancy with a central abalone dot, but they are in fact soft plastic.

Bone nut and saddle. The saddle may have been replaced since it does stand quite high and contributes to the high action. Removing the saddle from the bridge reveals a pencil line 2mm above the bottom, so it looks as though it was marked to be cut down, but the cut was never made.

The guitar has a high action due to a combination of a belly bulge and the high saddle. If, as suspected, the high saddle is a replacement that was never cut down then this itself will put extra tension on the top and be contributing to the degree of belly bulge.

The bridge has been drilled at either end for an under saddle pickup and the body is fitted with a wooden end pin with circumferential scratches in the finish, well below the waist of the pin. This may indicate that the guitar was at one time fitted with an under saddle pickup and an end pin jack which have now been removed. This would explain why the saddle had perhaps been replaced and never properly fitted. 

Martin D28 rosewood back and sides Repair Log

A tap test on the body shows it is very lively and resonant. As you might expect the back has higher, harder pitch than the boomier front. 

Stamped onto the liner strip that spans the join between the two halves of the back is the instruction – USE MEDIUM GAUGE STRINGS OR LIGHTER ONLY

Small sealed chrome plated tuners branded Martin, probably made by Ping. 

The truss rod adjusts inside the body at the end of the fret board, accessed via a cut out in the top brace just inside the soundhole. A large L Martin 3/16 inch hex key is usually required (supplied in the case). Owner says this is jammed – he is right, it won’t move.

Problems – High action. Needs a good clean. Is missing the heel cap. The guitar has a fair bit of belly lift. We agreed the first thing to try would be to lower the saddle by 2mm (fit a new saddle and keep the old one just in case). Owner likes ease of play and a bright punchy sound so agreed to fit a set of Elixir 11 to 52 bronze. These are light gauge for acoustic so they will put less stress on the top and feel easier and slicker to play. The brass wound strings gives them a brighter sound.

Work done – Replaced the original bone saddle with a Graph Tech saddle shaved to produce the 2mm height reduction and lower action. Fitted a set of brass bridge pins replacing the old plastic pins. Brass pins are harder wearing and add a little mass, improving sustain. Soft plastic pins damp some of the string vibration. Cut and glued on a new rosewood heel cap. Cleaned and polished the body and neck. Checked the fretboard for high frets, buffed the frets and cleaned and oiled the fretboard. Loosened the jammed truss rod, lubricated the truss rod nut and re-adjusted for a little forward bow. Fitted a set of 10 to 47 Elixir (bronze) brass winding on the wound strings.

Straightened the bend out of the case lid, cleaned the outside of the case and vacuumed dust and grit out of the inside.

Analysis – 

This guitar does seem to have a particularly flexible top and it may at some point have been fitted with heavy strings, which Martin warns against with the internal stamp – USE MEDIUM GAUGE STRINGS OR LIGHTER ONLY. This may account for the belly bulge (see below).

 Rosewood back and sides 1998 Martin D28

Evidence suggests that at some point it may have been fitted with an under-saddle pickup, with the original saddle shortened. If so the pickup has been removed and the saddle has probably been replaced with a new saddle that was never trimmed to height for the correct action.  

Martin D28 rosewood back and sides Repair Log

The guitar has a fairly pronounced belly bulge and the bridge noticeably tilts forwards. With the strings off and therefore tension off the guitar most the bulge relaxes and the bridge and top flattens out. None of the bracing seems loose. A JLD Bridge Doctor could be fitted to completely remove the bulge.

Even without the belly bulge the action seems a little high. With only the low E string replaced and measured ‘open string’ there is 7/64s of an inch between the top of the twelfth fret and the bottom of the string. 

Apparently the Martin guitar factory considers the action to be within specification if the distance from the 12th fret to the bottom of the low E string is between 2.38 mm (3/32″) minimum, to 2.78 mm (7/64″) maximum. So without the belly bulge this guitar would meet that spec. 

The high ‘e’ treble string should measure between 1.59 mm (1/16″) and 1.98 mm (5/64″) at the maximum.

Fitted with the 10 to 47 Elixir and with the new saddle lowered, the guitar meets the Martin specification, Low E is at 7/64 and the high E is at 1/16.

The truss rod was adjusted so the neck was dead flat, there may even have been a little back bow. The owner says he has tried adjusting the truss rod, but it seems jammed and won’t move. Eventually managed to unscrew it (anti-clockwise). It had been turned clockwise as tight as it could go, probably in an effort to reduce the high action. Seems to be a single action rod and the adjustment nut feels like it will come off altogether. It does – hex tube or rod nut 9mm diam by 30mm long. I lubricated it with a little grease in the threads and replaced it. Tightened it by 2/3rds of a turn from slack.

Martin Acoustic strings run from 10 to 47 extra light, through 11 to 52 custom light and 12 to 54 light, up to 13 to 56 medium. String makers seem to have stopped using the description ‘heavy’ for strings, so ‘medium’ is now the old ‘heavy’.

As delivered the guitar was fitted with a set of 

0.011, 0.016, 0.025, 0.032, 0.042, 0.054

Re-strung with Elixir 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb

0.010, 0.014, 0.023, 0.030, 0.039, 0.047

It will have less bulge and be easier to play with the set of 10 to 47 as detailed above.

Mark Knopfler Sultans of Swing

Mastering the Pentatonic

Article 4 – Mark Knopfler; “Sultans of Swing”, adding the 2nd, and flirting with Harmonic Minor.

The Pentatonic Scale is the holy grail for guitarists. It’s easy to play and it sounds amazing.

Mark Knopfler Mastering the Pentatonic

This series will show you how to get the most out of our favourite scale, and how making small modifications will get you sounding like the pros and their signature sound.

With any scale, it is important to learn the shape starting on the E string (like in previous articles) but also starting on the A string. This article will be using the D minor pentatonic at fret 5 on the A string (see right).

You will notice an extra note added in blue, this is the 2nd, a note Knopfler often uses in a trill with the minor 3rd (see in the licks below).

Achieving the signature Knopfler sound isn’t just about note section but also articulation and phrasing. You will very rarely (if ever) see Knopfler using a pick. He employs a “claw” technique between his thumb, first and second finger. This means he plays lines that you might not think up with a pick. This also leads to the heavy use of double stops; playing two notes at the same time, and rakes.

“Sultans of Swing” licks: 1. Intro

“Sultans of Swing” licks: 1. Intro

This opening lick perfectly shows the 3 main ingredients to Knopfler’s playing; the pentatonic scale, finger- style, and the use of the 2nd.

Bar 1 & 2 is made up of a classic pentatonic lick with lots of vibrato. Bar 3 has a “rake” in it from the G string to the E string, quintessentially Knopfler – assign a finger to each string and make it snappy! It’s also worth noting that these notes make up a D minor arpeggio and highlight the chord underneath perfectly, another Knopfler move. Finally we have a hammer-on-pull-off between the 2nd and m3 on the B string.

2. Verse double stops

Verse double stops

 

Here we see how Knopfler uses double stops. They reinforce the harmony but also act as a rhythmic device. The syncopated pattern help push these couples bars along. Play these using your 1st and 2nd finger, with the final triad being played with thumb, 1st and 2nd finger.

Below is a lick that is made up of all the ideas we have discussed so far.

Mark Knopfler Sultans of Swing

 

3. Verse Harmonic Minor use.

Although very much in D minor, “Sultans of Swing” throws in an A dominant 7 chord every now and again, a chord “outside” the key. If you were to play a D minor pentatonic over the A7, the C (m7) of the D minor pentatonic would clash with the C# (3rd) of the A7 chord. To get around this, Knopfler dips into a D Harmonic Minor scale, which is a D minor scale with a major 7th:

Verse Harmonic Minor

Mark Knopfler Sultans of Swing   PDF available. Get you GUITAR LESSONS LONDON here!

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