10 Guitars You Need to Know #3: Rickenbacker

June 17, 2015 / Tagged: Beginner Lessons, Music History /

Author: Lucas Frost

3. Hollow & Electric: The Rickenbacker 330

The resilience of the Rickenbacker 330 hollow-body electric guitar

During the 1950s, the popularity of the Fender Telecaster and the Gibson Les Paul made one thing clear: the solid body was here to stay. But it did not make hollow bodies redundant. One guitar in particular illustrates the resilience of the hollow-body electric guitar, known today as the semi-acoustic: the Rickenbacker 330. Its chiming, almost hypnotic clarity and famous “jangle” became an essential component of the British Invasion sound, appearing on The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night and The Who’s My Generation. Even the world’s first psychedelic track, The Byrds’ Eight Miles High, based its groove on a Rickenbacker riff.

Rickenbacker was the 1st Company to Specialize in Electric Instruments

Rickenbacker is central to the story of the guitar. It was the first company to specialize in electric instruments, and pioneered the mysteries of electro-magnetic music throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Noteworthy is the Hawaiian steel guitar known as the Frying Pan (due to its shape). The entire guitar was made out of a single block of aluminium and as a result suffered from tuning problems, as the whole instrument expanded under the heat of the stage lights. Rickenbacker also made a standard electric guitar, the Bakelie Model B which was introduced in 1935 – made out of the same material as bowling balls, it was heavy and reduced the feedback problems associated with hollow-body electrics. In 1958, Rickenbacker launched its most successful model, the 330. It’s a semi-acoustic.

The Main Difference is in the Tone

So what is the advantage of semi-acoustics? Obviously they are lighter and give you less back-pain after hours on stage. And the fact that they are hollow limits the luthier’s creativity, lending these guitars a more traditional, classical aesthetic. But of course the main difference is in the tone.

3 Advantages of Semi-Acoustics

  1. Lighter in weight (less back-pain)
  2. A more traditional, classic aesthetic
  3. Tone (main advantage)

Good Vibrations

When you strum the strings, they transmit their vibration via the bridge to the body; the body will vibrate along too and influence the vibration pattern of the strings. Certain harmonic overtones will be emphasized, others are diminished. A thin shell, such as in semi-acoustics, responds more directly to the strings vibration and has a greater impact on the overall frequency distribution. In addition, the air inside the hollow body will vibrate too, which creates interplay between the vibrating strings, body and air. So the final tone and sustain depends on other variables such as type and thickness of the wood, volume of air and f-holes.

Semi-acoustics come alive in all their responsive richness, warm, ringing overtones and delicious sustain

This greater “vibrational sensitivity” has another effect: feedback. Semi-acoustics are infamous for their tendency to feedback easily, and solid-bodies were pretty much invented to reduce this effect – guitarists would stuff foam into the body or tape over the f-holes to control their guitar’s screech. But in the hands of great guitarists, their feedback can be used to marvellous effects. With the right distance to the amp and perhaps a hint of overdrive, semi-acoustics will come alive in all their responsive richness, warm, ringing overtones and delicious sustain. The creative use of the semi-acoustics feedback “problem” led to great experimentation of textured soundscapes.

The Rickenbacker gave its shimmering sound to some of the most innovative and experimental bands ever

The Rickenbacker 330 is a great example, an instrument that has give its shimmering sound to some of

the most innovative and experimental bands ever. It is in reality only half-acoustic, with a cavity in only the upper side of the body and a futuristic f-hole to provide a little resonance. It shines in a band context, especially when paired up with a solid-body. This is how The Beatles, Oasis or The Smiths got that full, rich tapestry of sound that retains its sparkle without going muddy. Even AC/DC get their sound by combining hollow with solid body, albeit not with a Rickenbacker.

This is how The Beatles, Oasis or The Smiths got that full, rich tapestry of sound

Standout Features of the Rickenbacker 330

And of course, the 330 has plenty of other features that make it stand out. Rickenbacker seems to have
doubled many standard features. Most Rickenbackers have two truss-rods, side by side, which allow you to regulate the straightness of your neck more accurately (but it also increases neck weight). Some of the earlier 330s featured two output jacks, one for each pickup. This gave you the option of playing through multiple amps to create new sound palates, and gives you versatility with effect loops and a stereo stage sound. And the 330 has two tone and volume knobs (one per pickup) with the addition of a “blend” knob, which allows for a smooth tweaking of your tone – a bit like a single band EQ. The thick, flat-wound single-coil pickups accentuate clear, mid- to upper range tones with good definition. And if you want even more harmonic richness, there was the option of the 12-string 360 model [as seen in image].

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John Fogerty Is Reunited with His CCR Rickenbacker After 44 Years. By Damian Fanelli February 16, 2017 Artist. Guitar World

Sometime around 1973 or ’74, John Fogerty was at Creedence Clearwater Revival’s rehearsal space in San Francisco.

The band had recently broken up, and the successful guitarist/songwriter didn’t really know what lay ahead—at least beyond his new album at the time, The Blue Ridge Rangers. Two 12-year-old kids—apparently named Rick and Louie—were hanging out at the rehearsal space, and Fogerty decided to give his 1969 Rickenbacker 325 to Louie.

“I was just detached and numb at that point,” Fogerty told Rolling Stone. “I think I gave it away to sort of end that chapter of my life.”

The Rick had been his main CCR guitar for several years; he used it for pretty much every standard-tuning song on every Creedence album from 1969’s Bayou Country through 1972’s Mardi Gras. It’s the guitar he played at Woodstock and on The Ed Sullivan Show, the guitar that can be heard on “Green River,” “Travelin’ Band,” “Up Around the Bend” and many more.

The Fireglo (what most other manufacturers and news websites call “sunburst”) guitar, which he bought at the Rickenbacker showroom in Los Angeles in ’69, had a unique look. Right after Fogerty bought it, he took it to his back yard, grabbed some yellow paint and wrote “ACME” in all caps on the headstock’s name plate. Some say he was inspired by the fictional corporation in the Warner Bros. cartoons he loved as a kid.

About 20 years later, Fogerty stumbled upon the guitar at Norman’s Rare Guitars in Tarzana, California. However, the store was asking for a lot of money at the time. “I just looked at [Norman] and the guitar, shook my head and said, ‘I’m not doing that’,” Fogerty said.

Just last year, however, Fogerty casually mentioned to his wife, Julie, that he’d like to get that old ACME guitar back. Without telling him, she poured everything into a search to track it down—a search that led to Gary’s Classic Guitars in Loveland, Ohio.

Cut to this past Christmas morning. After opening most of the gifts under the tree, Fogerty noticed one more large box that was wrapped in paper but also covered by one of his trademark plaid shirts. Fogerty removed the shirt and wrapping paper and saw—you guessed it—an old Rickenbacker case.

“I was immediately struck dumb,” Fogerty said. “I turned to my wife and said, ‘Am I about to get overwhelmed here?'” It was his long-lost ACME Rick.

“I never imagined I’d see it again,” Fogerty told Rolling Stone. It didn’t take him long to plug in the ax for the first time in more than 40 years. “I started playing the solo in ‘Green River,’ and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. It was exactly that sound, 100 percent.”Fogerty will use the guitar March 3, when he resumes his John Fogerty: Fortunate Son in Concert residency at the Wynn Las Vegas. Stay tuned for a video!

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Gibson Guitar Greats: Steve Jones

Note-for-note, Steve Jones just may be the most influential rock’n’roll guitar player ever.  Whaaaaaat!? Did I really just write that? Yes I did, and here’s why. Steve Jones only made one album of any significance. But that album was the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks. And there weren’t even many notes on that – it was just 35 minutes long. But Jones’ blazing Les Paul roar  – together with the Pistols’ nihilistic attitude – continues to be the 101 for any “punk” act, and that guitar sound is a benchmark for a lot of metal players, too. Of course his playing was fundamentally Chuck Berry-licks reheated, but no-one had ever done it like this before. And not so dramatically since.

Of course, other guitarists have been more influential overall: Hendrix, Clapton, Chuck Berry, Les Paul himself, BB King, Tony Iommi, <insert your favourite artist here>… But you’re talking substantial back catalogs with those guitar heroes. In Steve Jones’ case, you’re just talking about those 35 minutes. He came, he saw, he conquered, he ****ed off. That, folks, is amazing work.

Even more so, as Jones became a guitarist by “accident”. In his teens, he decided to form a band – originally named The Swankers – of which he was singer, and he only picked up the guitar after [original guitarist] Wally Nightingale’s departure at the insistence of new manager Malcolm McLaren, and was then replaced by a vocalist whom Jones dubbed “Johnny Rotten.”

In a 2002 interview with Sex-Pistols.net Jones admitted, “I guess I learnt [guitar] properly about three months before we did our first gig. I didn’t really know anything on the guitar before that, maybe a couple of little bits and pieces. I didn’t know what I was doing. I still didn’t know what I was doing in those three months really. I just used to take a lot of speed and just play along to a couple of records over and over again, [The Stooges’] Raw Power and the New York Dolls’ first album.”

Jones’ actual favorite players were a little broader, even if he never attempted to emulate them. Jones told Gibson.com, “Mick Ronson was definitely a big influence. I was a mad Bowie fan growing up, with the glam and all that. And The Faces’ Ronnie Wood was one of the guys I loved growing up as a teenager. Pete Townshend was definitely an influence, but not as much as Mick Ronson and Ronnie Wood. The Faces were like my band. The Who had already been goin’ a long time. I’m not takin’ anything away from Pete Townshend; he’s a fantastic guitar player and brilliant songwriter. [With] Roxy Music, them three bands were my favorite bands growing up. I’d go and see them everywhere.

“And Mott the Hoople. Mick Ralphs was a great guitar player. And I liked Free, even though that was a little before my time. I thought Paul Kossoff was a great guitar player, too. Status Quo, there was another great band.”  So, pretty much classic taste for any English guitarist growing up in the ‘70s. But, somehow, the Pistols ended up sounding like none of them at all…

Essential Listening

It’s just the one album that’s truly essential. Never Mind The Bollocks was essentially recorded as a 3-piece, with the band doing their best to keep the newly-joined Sid Vicious away from the studio. Glen Matlock – although the co-writer with Jones of many of the band’s best riffs – had been pushed out over personality clashes,and Jones would later caricature Matlock’s unsuitability for the Pistols as down to his habit of washing his feet in hotels rooms!

Jones later explained, “Sid [Vicious] wanted to come down and play on the album, and we tried as hard as possible not to let him anywhere near the studio. Luckily he had hepatitis at the time.” To appease Sid his bass is in the mix to a tiny degree (“he’s fumblin’ around on ‘Bodies’”), but the majority, Never Mind… was recorded with Jones playing guitars and bass. And, looking back, it’s baffling that the Pistols were ever derided as a band that “couldn’t play.” Jones and drummer Paul Cook could play their asses off – eventually – even if they kept things simple. Session guitarist Chris Spedding, who had produced their early demos, recalled: “All that stuff about them not being able to play was rubbish. When [potential producer] Mickie Most heard them he presumed the guitar player was me. So did [eventual Never Mind…] Chris Thomas. But The Pistols could play.”

Jones told Yahoo! Backspin this year, “It was some of the best times, recording. I enjoy recording more than playing live. It was about creating a sound. It wasn’t a case of going in and just saying, ‘let’s roll it, who cares what the drums sound like.’ It wasn’t like that at all. That’s why we picked Chris Thomas. Me and Cooky were big fans of early Roxy Music and he’s produced a couple of their albums. He was fantastic, Chris Thomas and Bill Price, the engineer. I don’t know what he thought of us –  he’s just finished an Elton John record, or something – but they adapted to what we were doing. And when I first heard the finished version of ‘God Save The Queen’, I knew it was great. But I didn’t know how people would be talking about it 40 years later.”

In Eagle Rock’s Classic Albums video documentary, Thomas recalls how he did work hard on “orchestrating guitar parts”, but the raw talent was already there. The late Bill Price, who’s main job as co-producer was to capture Jones’ multiple tracks, put it simply: “Steve Jones was, and still is, just about the tightest lead guitarist I’ve ever heard in my life”… and Price was a man who engineered/mixed The Clash, The Cult, Bowie with Ronson and Guns N’ Roses. Indeed, such was Jones’ superbly metronomic talents, he even laid down the bass tracks after his guitars: and they were still bang on. The rhythm tracks were replicate takes, left and right channels, leading Thomas to say it wasn’t so a much stereo, as “mono deluxe.” He argued: “that’s the Sex Pistols sound, really. Barre chords; bass doing the same an octave below. E chords. Panzer Division!”It’s still one of the greatest rock guitar sounds ever recorded.

Post-Pistols, Jones and Cook’s The Professionals cut I Didn’t See It Coming (1981) which is more new wave-y – solid guitaring, but lacking the brutality of NMTB. Elsewhere, Jones has played on albums by everyone from Bob Dylan to Iggy Pop (on Iggy’s 1988 “metal” album, Instinct), as well as cutting a few solo albums. The closest he’s come to the Pistols sound again was on the self-titled album by Neurotic Outsiders (1996), a mainly Jones-led album with GN’R’s Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan and Duran Duran’s John Taylor. If you want to read Jones’ own story, get his 2016 memoir Lonely Boy.

Steve Jones and Gibson

Jones was notoriously light-fingered, and numerous guitars found their way into his hands. The sound of Never Mind The Bollocks is all Gibson, though. His main Gibson was a ‘74 Les Paul Custom in off-white finish. It notably had two stickers of female figures on the lower body. Syl Sylvain of The New York Dolls had given the guitar to Malcolm McLaren, the Dolls’ manager at the time, in lieu of paying McLaren for plane tickets (a long story we haven’t got space for here!) McLaren gave the guitar to Jones circa 1975, when he took over managing them. That said, Jones has said that over the years that he’s had “five or six” cream Customs. Gibson Custom produced a limited-run replica of Jones’ main Custom, complete with lightly-aged gold hardware, in 2008.

Jones also played black Les Paul Customs, a double-cut Les Paul Special, a Flying V (in the studio, where there’s a picture of him wearing one of the Pistols’ notorious “I Hate Pink Floyd” tees), and at the Pistols last (‘70s gig) he played a Gibson Firebird V. Don’t expect a lofty analysis as to why he loves Les Pauls, though. “That guy Wally (Nightingale), I nicked him a Les Paul,” Jones told Sex-Pistols.net. “I was always attracted to Les Pauls. I like Les Pauls, they’re more chunky. I dunno. They sounded kind of chunky, more than anything.”

Ultimately, getting the exact gear isn’t going to help you play exactly like Steve Jones. (Note: he also credits retro-fitted Gauss speakers in his Twin Reverb amp for his sound, although his pal Billy Duffy of The Cult is sceptical. He calls it a “lie” adding; “I think [Steve] still has a Marshall inside his.”) Of his own guitar style, Jones has said, “You get hundreds of ****s who wanna play like me, but none of them ever sound like it. It’s the thieving dirty fingernails! Iggy Pop calls me the Robert Mitchum of punk.”

11-07-2018 Gibson Guitar

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The Common Heritage of the Les Paul and SG Models

Two timeless classics that emerged from the same early drive to establish a cornerstone solid body electric guitar, Gibson’s Les Paul and SG arguably have more in common than not, yet the elements that distinguish them result in two very different instruments. You can perform many of the same tricks on each, certainly, but there’s no mistaking one for the other, either in terms of looks, feel or sound. Laying out the essential elements of each can help us get a handle on where and why the differences exist, and how they can work to our advantage, but first let’s take a brief look at how Gibson’s flagship single-cut ever became a double-cut in the first place.

The Birth of the SG: Evolving Styles

Despite the fact that it would eventually become the most-revered electric guitar every made, Gibson’s Les Paul hadn’t really found it’s groove by 1960. The model’s iconic form had been established by 1958, when the PAF humbuckers of ’56 were joined by a new sunburst top, but sales had still failed to catch fire. Gibson records show that after shipping 920 goldtops in 1956 and 598 in ’57, the company only sent out 434 sunburst Les Pauls in ’58. That number rose to 643 in ’59, then declined to 635 in ’60.

Part way into ’60 Gibson reassessed the Les Paul conundrum: the model was, on one hand, just too far ahead of its time (about six years, to be precise), while on the other it was viewed by many players as being too traditional, too stodgy even. At the turn of the decade, the trend was for flashy, sharp, colorful, pointy, and with all due respect, the Les Paul was none of these. With a body made of solid mahogany with an elegantly carved solid maple top, binding on the body’s top edge, and other time-tested elements of traditional Gibson luthiery, it was also an elaborately constructed instrument—amid a field of slab-bodied, flat-topped competitors—and arguably not worth the effort amid lackluster sales.

Click to Enlarge

As such, it made total sense to kill three birds with one stone: transform the Les Paul Standard into a guitar that still sounded great and felt sublime to play, but which was both easier and less costly to manufacture, and which checked all the stylistic boxes for the trends of the day.

And Then There Were Two

The new model of ’61 shot off the line with a sleek double-cutaway body made purely of solid mahogany, with a pair of pointy and subtly asymmetrical horns that made it one of the sexiest guitar designs around. The body was also slimmer, and therefore lighter, than the chunky single-cut Les Paul that had preceded it—another bonus—and was finished in a bright cherry red, while its Custom counterpart came in flashy Arctic White, still with all the multi-ply binding and gold hardware bling.

This guitar remained the Les Paul Standard in Gibson’s catalog, while it’s fancy partner was the Les Paul Custom. After ’63, though, when Les Paul’s endorsement deal was on a temporary hiatus, it became known as the SG Standard, the name we’ve associated with the double-cut ever since, while earlier examples are now often referred to as “Les Paul/SGs”. In any case, the change-up worked, and the new design clearly sparked interest from a much wider swathe of players. Gibson shipped a whopping 1,662 units in the new version’s first year, not far short of three times the number of Les Paul Standards sold in 1960. The new Les Paul Custom, which now came with a white finish and three pickups, saw an equally copious upturn in production, with 513 shipped in 1961.

Common Ingredients

Other than the new chassis, the new double-cut Les Paul still received all the same hardware and electronics that the single-cut had had: Kluson tuners, Gibson’s Tune-o-matic bridge, and a pair of humbucking pickups, which were (for now) still the same PAF units with which the last of the ’60 single-cut Les Pauls had been equipped. The guitar’s neck was essentially the same, and the scale length was the same 24.75″ familiar to Gibson players. Given the extent to which pickups, hardware, and scale length play a role in forming any guitar’s sonic signature, these were certainly significant.

Most examples of the new Les Paul Standard and Custom came with one very different piece of hardware, however, in the form of the Deluxe Vibrato, often referred to as the “sideways vibrola” for the way it was operated. Little loved by Gibson fans, this unit was often simply ignored for fear of putting the guitar out of tune through too much use, and many early Les Paul/SGs were special-ordered with stopbar tailpieces (or converted to such) to bypass this vibrato’s inconsistencies altogether. By the time the Les Paul officially became the SG, the Deluxe Vibrato was fading from the picture, and SGs came standard with much more player-friendly tailpieces.

A Tale of Two Tones: SG vs Les Paul

Side by side, as configured today, there’s really very little between the Les Paul and the SG other than the shape of the body, and the thickness and composition of the wood. So why such distinct personalities?

The answer to that question shows us just how significant that thinner, all-mahogany body is in the equation. The classic single-cut Les Paul is best known for its thick, rich, warm tone with ample lower-midrange grunt and excellent clarity throughout the range, plus its singing lead tones when injected through a cranked amp, a high-gain channel, or a good overdrive pedal.

While, however, we think of thicker all-mahogany guitars as being “warmer” and “darker” than the Les Paul Standard’s maple-mahogany construction, the SG’s thinner body and higher neck/body joint lend the model a snappier, janglier voice that has a little more chime to it. The SG still has good warmth and depth, but it trades some of that lower-midrange grunt for brighter upper-midrange cut. Crank it up, and it will still wail and sing, of course, but it’s lead tone often leans a hair more toward “bite” while the Les Paul’s tilts slightly more toward “thick”.

Fraternal Twins

All that being said, there’s a ton of crossover between the Les Paul Standard and the SG Standard, and, practically speaking, you can easily substitute one for the other for a good, oh, let’s say 78.35% of your playing without anyone taking a blind bit of notice (that figure was not arrived at under laboratory conditions, but you get the idea). Massive rock crunch and power-chord goodness? Check for both. Trenchant clean tones with full-bore humbucker body and girth? Check for both. Wailing rock-godliness when your solo comes up? Check for both.

Let’s just say, then, that the Les Paul and SG share a common soul, and they both have a lot of heart. When you need the added sonic nuance of some extra lower-midrange thump or that extra ounce of sustain, give a Les Paul a try. When you want a slightly more eviscerating breed of lead tone or a little more chime in your jangly semi-clean arpeggios, grab an SG. Otherwise, there’s no reason not to let your sense of esthetics—or what the heck, you probably need one of each anyway.

Dave Hunter   11.12.2018
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How to Choose Electric Guitar Strings

How to Choose Electric Guitar Strings

Everything you need to know about Fender’s collection of electric guitar strings.

By Mike Duffy

There is no doubt that strings greatly affect the tone and playability of your electric guitar. Let’s face it, if you don’t want it to be just another percussion instrument in your collection, you need strings.

And when it comes to Fender electric guitar strings, there are a lot of factors to consider as you decide which set to purchase, such as the musical genre you want to play, how often you play and your guitar’s scale.

For Fender’s slate of electric guitar strings, these things will impact those factors:

  • – Gauge
  • – Materials
  • – Core
  • – Winding Method

In this piece, we’ll break down everything you need to know to ensure you’ve got the right strings on your Stratocaster, Telecaster or any other electric guitar.

String Gauges

“String gauge” refers to the size of the string, as in how thick, measured in thousandths of an inch. The gauges for a six-stringed guitar range from the smallest on the high E string and level up to the B, G, D, A and low E strings.

Generally, lighter gauge strings are easier to play, brighter, allow you to bend strings and fret notes easier, and exert less tension on your guitar’s neck.

On the other hand, lighter gauges offer less sustain and volume, and can break more regularly.

Meanwhile, heavier gauges give you more volume and sustain, allow you to dig in and play harder, and are typically preferred for drop-tunings and alternate tunings. Still, the increased size adds more tension and can be more difficult to bend and fret.

As a rule of thumb, if you want to play fast leads and chords, light gauges may be the way to go (metal players with a preference for drop-D tuning would still need a heavy gauge for the lower strings or wound strings). Lots of blues and rock guitarists land on medium gauges that offer the benefits of both worlds, while jazz guitarists who don’t bend a lot of notes tend to use heavy gauges, sometime with a wound G string.

Fender string gauges can be summed up thusly (from the high E to low E strings):

  • – “Extra Super Light:” .008/.010/.015/.021/.030/.038
  • – “Light:” .009/.011/.016/.024/.032/.042
  • – “Light-Regular:” .009/.011/.016/.026/.036/.046
  • – “Regular:” .010/.013/.017/.026/.036/.046
  • – “Regular Heavy:” .010/.013/.017/.032/.042/.052
  • – “Medium:” .011/.014/.018/.028/.038/.049
  • – “Heavy:” .012/.016/.024w/.032/.042/.052

String Materials

Fender electric guitar strings are made of steel, so they properly transmit the string vibrations to the magnetic pickups. The low E, A and D strings are wound with various alloys, while the G, B and high E strings are tin-plated.

Below are the common materials used for wound strings in Fender’s lineup:

  • – Nickel-Plated Steel: A popular option with balanced tone between warmth and brightness and a fast attack.
  • – Vintage Nickel: A little more warmth than nickel-plated steel.
  • – Stainless Steel: Very bright tone with excellent sustain. Also resistant to corrosion, so they will last a long time.

String Core

String cores are also made of steel in most cases. The core refers to the center of the string, with windings going around it to create larger, wound strings.

Hexagonal-shaped wires have been used in more modern string construction, as they hold the outer windings in place and hold tune well.

Click to Enlarge

String Winding Method

A roundwound string uses a round wire to wrap around the inner core of the string, while flatwound uses a flat wire (think tape).

Roundwound is the most popular way of string winding, as they are available in the widest selection of gauges and materials. They are said to have a brighter tone with great sustain.

Flatwound, which are favored by many jazz players, tend to have a smoother playing feel and darker tone. Because of their flat surface, they can also be easier on the fingers.

Click to Enlarge

String Ends

Fender offers strings with ball ends and Bullet ends.

Ball end strings work on all electric guitars. On ball end strings, the core wire of the string wraps around a separate piece, a tiny metal “ball.” This creates a small V-shaped area of “slack” fit in the two places where the wire loops around the ball. At normal string tension, this “slack” wire loop is taut and unbent, and the ball end is prevented from completely abutting the bridge plate.

Bullet strings attach a tiny cylinder of brass shaped like a bullet to the end of the string in a one-piece construction. There is no loop and hence no slack, and the business end of the bullet makes tighter and more uniformly solid contact with the bridge. Further, the nature of the precision-machined Bullet end design meant that the string returned to the exact same position every time, greatly improving tuning stability even after heavy tremolo use.

The string design was specifically made for Stratocaster guitars because the Bullet ends fit far more precisely into the tremolo block, closely fitting the circumference of the string channel, adding sustain.

Click to Enlarge

What to Look for When Caring for Strings

Because electric guitar strings are made out of steel, they contain iron, which corrodes when exposed to oxygen. It won’t be overnight, but humidity and the residue left behind by your hands can speed the process.

Luckily, regularly cleaning your strings will keep them stronger longer. Use some string cleaner with a special wipe, or simply a polish cloth, to keep things properly maintained. Fender also offers the Speed Slick guitar string cleaner applicator that restores and extends string life with a few swipes up and down the string.

Finally, don’t forget to wash your hands before playing to rid your fingers of potentially damaging oils.

Here are some things that will tip you off that it’s time for a string change:

  • – You are having trouble staying in tune.
  • – The strings have visible corrosion.
  • – Your tone sounds dull.
  • – You can see the windings coming apart.

For a proper tutorial on how to change your guitar strings, take a look at the video below.


The good thing about having a variety of strings for your electric guitar is that you have options. The best way to find out which is best for you is to try several types before you pinpoint your favorite.

Then once you have your strings picked out, just make sure to monitor them regularly so you’re always sounding great.

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5 Tips to Move from Guitar to Bass

5 Tips to Move from Guitar to Bass

The guitar and bass might be similar instruments, but you need to know these things to make an easy transition.

By Mike Duffy

There are many similarities between the electric guitar and bass.

For one, they are both instruments that utilize magnetic pickups to register the vibrations of metal strings and create sound. Secondly, the lowest four strings on a guitar are the same as the four strings on a bass.

The bass is tuned to a standard EADG, while a guitar‘s six strings are tuned EADGBE (a bass is tuned an octave lower). And, the notes are the same on both, as well!

Even though they’re similar, however, there are several differences between the two that you should consider, whether you’re moving from the guitar to the bass or have never picked up either. Getting a handle on these differences will expedite the process of becoming a good and even great bassist.

Luckily, Fender Play recently launched an essential curriculum for any beginning bass player or a bassist looking to hone their chops. Here are five tips to help you along your bass journey:

Get Used to the Size of the Bass

It’s obvious that basses tend to be larger than guitars. Even though there are fewer strings on a bass, they are much thicker because they need to be tunes so much lower than a guitar’s strings. These large strings exert greater tension on the body and neck. This generally results in a slightly larger body, a thicker neck, longer scale length and larger hardware when compared to a guitar (a Mustang Bass PJ is a good choice should you want a shorter scale and smaller body).

Another decision to make is whether to play fingerstyle or with a pick. Fingerstyle is the most common method of playing bass. It’s versatile, intuitive and offers more subtle dynamics and tonal variety than a pick does, plus it allows you to play slap bass. Prominent fingerstyle bassists include James Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Geddy Lee and Flea.

Playing with a pick changes the string attack, which changes the overall sound when compared to fingerstyle. It can produce a brighter, more abrasive tone that couples well with certain rhythms. Many notable bassists, like Megadeth’s David Ellefson, Guns n’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and Paul McCartney, use a pick.

Practice Restraint to Support the Song

While the guitar tends to be a busier instrument, with multiple duties (lead, rhythm, etc.) throughout a song, the bass tends to be more economical.

But the role of a bass player just might be the most important in a band. The bass sets the foundation of the entire band and sets the pace of the song by locking in with the drums and percussion, even if you’re playing a bassline of single notes. No matter how simple or complex the bassline is, it is a critical element that the rest of the band refers to along the way, so it must be reliable.

Essentially, bassists are responsible for establishing and maintaining the groove, and giving the music depth.

Make Friends with the Drummer

The rhythm section provides rhythmic and harmonic foundation for the lead guitar and singers to build upon. So, the drummer and bassist need to be on the same page at all times. Think about it, you don’t get on the dance floor for a ripping guitar solo. It’s the rhythm and groove that gets people moving. It’s the “engine” of the band.

A good rule of thumb if you’re just starting out is to stay tight with the kick drum (a.k.a. bass drum) and snare drum. You can use octave root notes – the low octave with the kick drum and the high octave with the snare – to construct a solid backbeat.

Walk It Out

A “walking” bassline refers to a way of playing connecting notes between the roots of a song’s chords. This helps the bass parts flow more smoothly by moving from one chord’s root note up or down to the next. Traditionally, walking bass was used in blues or jazz music, but they are becoming more common in other genres, as well.

These transitional notes, also known as “leading tones” since they lead to the next note, can be diatonic or chromatic. Diatonic leading tones take notes from a specific scale or key to conect the dots between different chords. The easiest way to make those steps is to use every fifth chord. Meanwhile, chromatic leading tones don’t necessarily come from the scale or key, but rather fall in between those diatonic notes.

Figure Out When to Fill

A fill is a short musical passage, or riff, that is played between phrases to break up the groove and make things a little more interesting. Basically, you’re embellishing the bassline with a little expression to move the song forward in between a verse and a chorus, for example.

Now, the above note must be put into practice with restraint; it is tempting when it comes to bass fills. While they do let the bassist stand out, you never want to sacrifice the groove and distract from the song.

To ensure the groove remains tight, be aware of the number of beats to fill before the groove comes back around so the transition is seamless. Many of the best fills end on the first beat (and on the root note) of the next measure.

Naperville Music – Your home for everything Fender

Contact: matt@napervillemusic.com

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7 Reasons to play the Ukulele

7 Reasons You Should Play the Ukulele

This fun and entertaining instrument is easy to learn. If you’re not playing one already, these reasons might get you to start.

There’s no denying the ukulele‘s charm. Its happy tone has helped it make a comeback in recent years, and you’ve no doubt heard it featured in popular songs on the radio, with artists like Grace VanderWaal, Ingrid Michaelson, Eddie Vedder and Merril Garbus of tUnE-yArDs showcasing the ukulele in recent hit albums.

The ukulele is a great instrument to pick up, whether you’re a guitar player looking for a little variety or even if you’ve never played an instrument before.

Here are seven reasons to start playing the ukulele now:

It’s Easy to Learn

The ukulele is easier to learn than the guitar and other stringed instruments like the mandolin. Its soft nylon strings are gentler on your fingertips and don’t create finger pain like guitars do. The small size reduces wrist tension because the notes are reachable without stretching. Plus, it only has four strings, which makes chord shapes and scales easier to learn.

It’s Affordable

Buying a ukulele won’t strain your wallet the way other instruments do. You can buy a nice new uke for around $100, and there are different body sizes (soprano, concert, tenor, baritone) to fit your needs and budget so you don’t have to stress about it getting damaged.

It’s Portable

It’s the ultimate travel instrument. You can take it virtually anywhere. Toss it in the back of your car. Take it to the beach. Bring it on a plane. Drummers and tuba players should be so lucky!

It’s Fun and Friendly

The ukulele is an incredibly social instrument because it’s not intimidating at all and can be played by anyone, young or old, musician or non-musician. Its happy, joyful tone make it a delight to play and accessible to everyone.

They Just Sound Great

The ukulele has a rich, warm sound that is sure to put a smile on your face and those around you. It’s a perfect pick-me-up whether in your bedroom by yourself or at a party with friends.

Songs Easily Adapt to the Ukulele

You can play most popular songs on the ukulele in a variety of genres (yes, even metal). And even those songs with complex chords can be pared down to the ukulele to make them easier to play because of the instruments four strings.

Guitar Technique and Knowledge Translates to the Uke

Guitar players can switch back and forth between the uke with ease. All of the scale and chord shapes that you learned on the guitar can be used on the ukulele, they just have different names.

By Dan Macy and Mike Duffy

Naperville Music – Your home for everything Ukulele.

Contact matt@napervillemusic.com



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Guitarology: Solid, Layered, and Laminate Acoustic Guitar Woods


Body Materials

Like a good meal, with a quality guitar, good ingredients matter. Let’s focus on the materials used to construct the guitar body. At its essence, the body is a shapely sound box that functions as a natural amplifier for the strings. You strum a chord, the taut strings vibrate and channel that energy into the contoured box created by the assembled top, back and sides, and push that air out through the soundhole as, well, sound.

While different types of materials can be used for the body, the most common is wood. In fact, the particular species of wood used for the top, back and sides of a guitar will play a significant role in “flavoring” its sound. We’ll save our tonewood comparison for another post. Let’s take a closer look at wood and other material components.


Solid Wood

One of the widely recognized distinguishing features of a premium or professional-grade acoustic guitar is the use of solid wood panels for the top, back and sides. Solid wood construction tends to express a wood’s tonal personality in the fullest, most complex way, resulting in a superior musical sound. The particular species of wood, and the properties associated with it, will also impart the most sonic color or flavor to the sound when made with solid wood.

Another appealing payoff with solid wood is that the guitar’s sound will improve with age and extended playing as the cell structure of the wood naturally changes over time, making the guitar even more resonant and responsive. (Think of a fine wine’s flavor profile improving with age or the way a baseball glove or a pair of jeans gets worn in with use.) This is one of the rewards of owning a well-crafted solid wood guitar and why, if well cared for, it makes an heirloom-quality instrument.

Because of the premium tonal response of solid wood and the cost associated with sourcing, conditioning and carefully processing the exotic tropical tonewoods favored for guitars, solid wood acoustic guitars tend to be the most expensive. But they typically deliver the highest level of musical fidelity.


Laminate Back and Sides

In an effort to offer customers other more affordable options, many builders also make guitars featuring laminate back and sides. Using solid wood for the top is still preferred by most builders because the top plays a major role in translating the initial energy of vibrating guitar strings into rich acoustic sound. That’s why the top is referred to as the soundboard.

Laminate refers to a multi-layered construction. You probably know the term from the flooring or cabinet industries. In the guitar world, laminate construction refers to thin layers of wood or other material that are bonded together, sometimes featuring an outer layer of exotic, visually appealing veneer. (Picture the rich-looking burled wood trim found on a luxury car’s dashboard.) Laminate construction enables builders to reduce their material cost, streamline the production process, and conserve wood resources. For example, in cutting solid wood panels for acoustic guitars, the yield is about four pieces per inch of thickness (the typical thickness of a back/side panel is about 3/16 of an inch). The cutting process also produces a certain amount of material loss from the sawdust generated. By contrast, the thin sheets of wood used for outer veneer of laminate back and sides are cut differently — they’re sliced or peeled with a fixed blade, almost like a deli slicer cuts thin pieces of lunch meat, or like peeling an apple. The yield is usually between 30 and 40 slices per inch, without generating any loss of material in the form of sawdust.

The laminate construction process can also yield greater structural resilience, since the layers are typically arranged using alternating grain directions. This durability can help the guitar remain structurally stable in the face of fluctuating humidity conditions — which is nice if you plan to travel with the guitar — and leave that part of the guitar less vulnerable to the possibility of cracking in dry conditions (which is an important consideration for acoustic guitars). At Taylor, the wood lamination process also allows us to bend an arch into the back of the guitar for added strength, which eliminates the need for internal bracing to support the back.


All Laminates Are Not Created Equal

Where things can get murkier is the nature of laminate construction. While some laminate construction, such as our approach at Taylor, features a three-ply all-wood laminate — a  core wood panel (poplar wood) with a layer of wood on either side — in recent years, modern laminating techniques from other industries, such as the countertop manufacturing industry where Formica originated, have also been deployed in the construction of acoustic guitars.

“What a lot of people call laminate isn’t really wood,” says Taylor master guitar designer Andy Powers. “Or it’s just one layer of veneer laminated to Formica, phenolic, plastic resin, or some hard, dense material that isn’t really wood. This is common in the flooring industry now. For years and years floors were just boards, whereas now they’re strips of plywood with the nice veneer on top. They call these engineered floors.”

Once that approach caught on, manufacturers started making flooring out of MDF (medium density fiberboard), which is compressed sawdust — think of most IKEA furniture — held together with heat and resin.

“It looks like plywood but costs way less,” Andy says. “Producers will apply shelf paper on top and they call it laminate. Formica, or HPL (high-pressure laminate), is compressed craft paper with a printed veneer on top. Many of these aren’t even wood; they’re just printed with wood grain on top.”

In one sense, this approach might seem eco-friendly because it makes good use of the material, but in reality it isn’t because of the glues, the resin process, and the chemicals used. Using plantation-grown and -managed wood is actually far more environmentally friendly.


Layered Wood

To avoid confusion with the array of laminate products in the marketplace that are made with synthetic, non-wood materials, at Taylor we use the term “layered wood” to identify Taylor guitars built with laminated backs and sides. (All Taylor models feature solid wood tops.) In home construction products, all-wood laminates are seen as a more premium product compared to other laminates, as they should be in guitar building, as more wood equals better tone.

To be clear, the composite nature of layered wood back and sides won’t produce quite the same level of sonic detail as solid wood backs and sides will. “The veneers will still color the tone, but the guitar becomes more of a reflection of the design,” Andy says. “But with HPL or other laminates, there are no sonic differences.”

That said, the tone of Taylor’s layered wood guitars will still improve as the guitar gets played in and ages, due to the solid wood top. And keep in mind that the quality of the materials is just one element of a guitar’s construction. There are plenty of other design strokes that contribute to a guitar’s sound profile, including the body geometry, internal bracing structure, and more. That’s why the nuances techniques of a skilled builder matter. In fact, Taylor Guitars co-founder Bob Taylor once built a guitar out of repurposed wood from a beat-up shipping pallet to prove that very point. (And yes, it sounded good.)

Within Taylor’s product line, our all-solid-wood guitar bodies range from the 300 Series and up. Guitars featuring layered wood back and sides with a solid wood top include the 100 Series through the 200 Deluxe Series, along with the Baby Taylor, GS Mini, and Academy Series.

Naperville Music, your home for everything Taylor!

Contact:  Connor@NapervilleMusic.com


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Taylor 101: 5 Things You Get with a Taylor



Top-Notch Craftsmanship

A tour of the Taylor factory in El Cajon, California (weekdays at 1 p.m. if you find yourself in the San Diego area) reveals our proprietary blend of precision engineering and hands-on craftsmanship. We’ve pioneered the use of laser mills, robotic finish application, and other high-tech processes, which help ensure consistent build quality on all of our acoustic guitars, but we also believe in the value of the human touch. Every Taylor guitar ships to a store after being carefully built and inspected by our skilled craftspeople, with the highest levels of quality assurance.

One thing you’ll notice about every Taylor acoustic guitar you find in a store, no matter what series or price point, is that it has a solid wood top. A guitar with a solid top will produce better sound—typically more dynamic range and a more expressive tone—than one made with a laminate top. Plus, the sound of a solid top actually improves as the guitar ages and is played in, creating a richer, more resonant tone over time.



If there’s one term that you’ll hear used to describe Taylors more than any other, it’s “playable.” From the beginning, we’ve sought to build guitars with easy-playing necks, which help musicians play their best.

It starts with our sleek, hand-friendly neck profile and continues with our patented Taylor Neck, which is featured on most of our guitars (with the exception of Baby and Big Baby models). One of our major innovations as a guitar company, the design allows us to consistently set the ideal neck angle for playability. The design also lends itself to easy micro-adjustments in the neck angle over time (think of it as a minor tune-up as a guitar settles into its environment), which will preserve that playability for decades to come. If you’re a seasoned player with particular playing preferences, the neck design also makes it easy for a Taylor service technician to perform a custom setup to help you dial in the right feel for your playing style.


Friendly Service

Taylor is a full-service company, which means not only do we produce high-quality instruments, we also support them with a dedicated customer service department staffed with experienced guitar experts. Our service department is renowned for being responsive, quick, and most of all, effective in helping you with your needs, whether you need help finding the right guitar or taking care of your existing Taylor. Our guitars carry a lifetime warranty against defects in construction, materials, and workmanship, and our service department offers a range of additional service packages to revitalize your guitar beyond the warranty coverage at a reasonable price within a quick timeframe.


Reliable Cases & Bags

We’re one of the only manufacturers that provides a carrying case with every guitar we sell and includes it in the price of the guitar. All guitars made at the El Cajon factory (300 Series and up), plus the 200 DLX Series (made in our Tecate, Mexico factory) ship with a Taylor hardshell case. We make our hardshell cases in-house, using proprietary molds that are custom-fabricated to securely fit each guitar shape we make, for maximum protection.

Our other guitars ship with either a soft gig bag or a hard bag (GS Mini, 200 Series), both of which provide excellent protection and carrying convenience for your guitar. Many of these are also produced in-house. All of our cases provide some measure of protection against changes in climate and humidity.


Environmental Responsibility

As we’ve grown as a company, we’ve assumed a leadership role in the pursuit of sustainable forestry initiatives to preserve the tonewoods we use in our acoustic guitars. We recognize our responsibility to help preserve the supply of natural resources for future generations. The world’s forests have given us so much, and our goal is to leave behind much more than we take, which is why we’re investing in innovative replanting programs with species like ebony in Cameroon and koa in Hawaii. When you purchase a Taylor guitar, you can feel good about supporting the highest levels of ethical, eco-conscious business.

Naperville Music, your home for everything Taylor!

contact: Connor@NapervilleMusic.com

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The Guitar That Launched The Beatles

The Guitar That Launched The Beatles

Andrew Vaughan

“Love Me Do,” The Beatles’ first-ever single, announced a revolution in rock and roll. The fresh-faced Liverpudlians — Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr — sounded like nothing else on British radio in October 1962. As Harrison remembered in The Beatles Anthology: “First hearing ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio sent me shivery all over. It was the best buzz of all time. We knew it was going to be on Radio Luxembourg at something like 7:30 on a Thursday night. I was in my house in Speke and we all listened in.”

With its Everly-inspired harmonies, strident bass and thumping drums and that distinctive, bluesy harmonica riff, “Love Me Do” stood out amidst a sea of early ’60s British pop mediocrity. And high in the mix is Lennon’s chiming acoustic guitar, played on his new and highly prized Gibson J-160E.

1962 was a crucial year in Beatles history. Liverpool businessman Brian Epstein signed on as manager in January, Lennon’s art-school pal and the band’s original bass player, Stu Sutcliffe, died in April and, after being turned down by pretty much every label in town, they finally signed a record deal in June with Parlophone. They made their first test recordings with George Martin in June. In August, Lennon got married and The Beatles finally became The Fab Four when, Ringo Starr joined the holy trinity of John, Paul and George.

With Pete Best still on drums, the group had gone to Abbey Road for some test recordings in June and had been told a few home truths by the studio engineers and Mr. Martin. Engineer Norman Smith told Mark Lewisohn in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions that the band were given “a long lecture about their equipment and what would have to be done about it if they were to become recording artists.”

Taking the recording studio advice to heart, George Harrison and John Lennon, remembering Tony Sheridan’s impressive Gibson ES-175, decided they needed some Gibson power and finesse of their own and both fancied a J-160E acoustic. The only problem with that was the price. England, in 1962, was still recovering from two World Wars. The economy was still precarious and the average yearly wage was only £800. The Gibson J-160Es cost a cool £161 apiece, a steep price for even a successful live band of the time. Fortunately, The Beatles had a relatively wealthy manager in Brian Epstein and he co-signed for their payment plan at Rushworh’s music store in Liverpool. But even Epstein took a year to pay off the guitars!

The famous old music store was one of a select few Liverpool stores for U.S. guitars, which were still tough to acquire in England in 1962. It was the store where Paul McCartney’s father bought the 14-year-old Macca his first guitar. The Beatles purchased a lot of their early band instruments from Hessy’s music store in Liverpool, but their tab had passed £200 when Epstein came into the picture and he had to pay off the debt with a personal check.

So Rushworth’s it was for the Gibsons. A photo-op ceremony was set up from Bill Harry’s Merseybeat paper, and John and George were both presented with their prized sunburst Gibson J-160Es by James Rushworth. Peter Kaye took pictures for Merseybeat and the shot was printed in the paper with the caption, “John Lennon and George Harrison of The Beatles, seen at Rushworth’s when they received their Gibson guitars–the only ones of their type in the country–which were specially flown to England by jet from America.”

The J-160Es arrived just in time for the historic London recording sessions the next day, September 11, when at EMI Abbey Road Studio Two London, Lennon played his brand spanking new Gibson J-160E on the sessions for The Beatles’ first single.

Their record was released just three weeks later, on October 5th, 1962, on the Parlophone label. “Love Me Do” made it to #17 on the U.K singles chart. The Beatles had arrived.

Lennon used his Gibson J-160E extensively over the next year for recordings, radio and TV appearances and live shows. But in December 1963, just after Epstein had made his final payment for the guitar, the 160E was stolen and never found again. It was, in fact, George Harrisons’ J-160E that Lennon played in scenes in A Hard Day’s Night.

Later in 1964, Lennon picked up a replacement Gibson J-160E, almost the same but with double white rings around the sound hole. This is the guitar he took with him on their historic visit to America in 1964, the beginning of the British Invasion.

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