Yep, I’m out of West Chester at last. Still plenty of sorting and setup to do, but lessons have started back up and we still have off-street parking! Plus, Jam Camps, which were shut down in 2020 (and afterwards due to lack of space) which shortly start back up again on Saturday mornings. Stay tuned!
Under the hood now! The aluminum shielding plate under the pickguard is stamped “Kaiser” in red letters. No ground wire was needed for the jack, since the shield is electrically a ground. There’s a waxy old original tone cap, and the typical cloth-covered Fender wire hooking everything up.
You can see how much these old pickguards can shrink and warp, when not held in place by the many screws visible in the first photo. This makes them no fun to remove, as they can be very tight around the pickups. You don’t want to crack a 1960 pickguard!
These guitars were designed with a separate set of volume and tone controls for the neck/rhythm pickup. These are the pots with the wheel-shaped knobs that protrude through the pickguard. After the Stratocaster, it has been reported that Leo and the Fender design team wanted to push the capabilities of the electric guitar even further, with a new vibrato (not tremolo!) bar design, and the expanded control set for more tonal possibilities, plus the design of a pickup that resembles the Gibson P-90.
The “tan lines” around the neck heel show how much lighter the original finish was!
Many players prefer the Strat and the Tele, but no doubt the Jazzmaster and the similar Jaguar are great guitars, with their own devoted followings.
WordPress won’t allow me to upload videos (at least not .mov types) and I have several that go even further into detail on this cool guitar. So, those will appear here in a Part 3 if I can figure that out, or I will upload them to my YouTube channel. Watch this space!
Here’s a very nice 1960 Fender Jazzmaster that a client brought in for minor adjustments. He also wanted an almost-total disassembly of the guitar to check out its condition “under the hood”, with me keeping an eye out for replaced parts or non-original solder joints.
This is real geek stuff, but you don’t often get to see details like these. I believe the neck shims were put in at the factory, because even back then, they didn’t always get it perfect. And the warping of the pickguard is always a joy to deal with!
In this post, I’m showing mostly exterior details, plus the neck pocket, shims, and neck date. The case is cool, too. We’ll go deeper in part 2!
This is my 2005 Les Paul, bought new from the guys at West Chester Music. It is weight-relieved, but not chambered, and was always a good-sounding and playing guitar. BUT…I can’t resist seeing if I can make a good thing better. I rewired it with RS Guitarworks pots and a set of Electric City RD-59 pickups. That much of the upgrade made a huge difference , and was well worth the time and money.
The next steps were more about function than tone. I put on new tuners, bridge, and tailpiece, all Tone Pros parts. And for good measure, I made a nice bone nut, since I always do that. And the guitar was a keeper, and a real pleasure to play.
After a while though, I started wondering if I couldn’t get even a bit more out of it. Sometime back, I changed out the bridge inserts on a 2004 SG Special that had had similar upgrades, pickups and so forth. But it always had a nasty spike if I picked a certain way on high notes. Changing the pickups (Wagner American Steele) helped a lot, but changing out the sloppy, loose-fitting Gibson inserts for replacements from Faber improved the tone even more than I had hoped! So I started reading up on Gibson bridges, and good replacements for them.
My LP came with a Nashville bridge, which worked fine and intonated well. However, the guitar shared some of the spikiness that the SG had had. The internet forums are full of opinions about the Nashville’s inferior tone, and the obvious superiority of the old ABR-1 style Tune-O-Matic. I was a skeptic: I’ve owned and and played many guitars with those bridges, and trust me, they are not perfect. Rattling retainer springs, in particular, were not a lot of fun. But, maybe, a bridge swap was worth a try?
By chance, Faber was recently running a sale on its ABR-style bridge and insert kits, which made it possible to convert the Nashville bridge to the the older style (not usually possible because of the different mounting hardware). I got one, and, as you see in the photos, easily pulled the old inserts, tapped in the new ones, and mounted the new bridge. The saddles were even adjusted for great intonation. And…no more spike!
This bridge has a locking feature that makes the whole assembly very solid. All the parts are made of the correct, old-school metals, as well. The locks don’t look vintage, so if you’re set on 100% accurate vintage appearance, you won’t get it. You WILL get more stable performance, higher quality, and, at least in my case…better tone! This guitar is done, and really sounds great. The sound is smoother and a bit more even. Plenty of bite without harshness. Not a night-and-day difference, but I consider it worthwhile. Check out the Faber hardware if you’re interested in similar mods. I’m a fan!
This is a very cool working mechanical model of a hurdy-gurdy that my wife gave me for Christmas, built from a kit offered by a Ukrainian company called UGears. All the parts are laser-cut on sheets of plywood. They snap together without glue, and with only a simple tool or two. There’s a picture guide to follow, and the first step is to build the hammer shown in the third photo. It is used to fit parts together, as well as giving you a taste of how the instrument is meant to be assembled.
As the pictures show, there are a few sub-assemblies to complete. The design has dozens of parts, and the laser was used for decoration, as well as to cut the parts out of the boards. Gears are lubricated with beeswax. Certain parts come with extras, which is a good thing; the parts aren’t too difficult to punch out from the boards, but a couple of little widgets split when I removed them, and I was glad to have the spares. The kit designers have obviously seen this happen before, so there’s no need to worry.
I had a lot of fun building the kit, and went at it for several hours on Christmas day, getting it nearly complete. I guess the process pushed some of the same buttons as assembling my guitars does. I really like to put things together and get them working, and this kit is so cleverly designed and executed that it was a real pleasure to see how it would all come together. When it’s done and tuned (which takes a little experimenting), you can play it! Check out a video from the company, here:
Ardmore Music Hall presented Booker T. and his excellent band on their current tour to promote Booker’s new autobiography (“Time Is Tight”) and CD, (“Note By Note”). He read from his book, took questions (I got in on that), played a full concert, and signed books and CDs afterward. Not bad for a man who recently turned 75!
The band includes Booker’s son Teddy, who plays guitar (very well!) and sings. He played a healthy dose of Cropper licks and lots of his own stuff. A killer rhythm section, cool set list, and Mr. Jones signed my book. An excellent night!
Sign on to YouTube, and enter “Jay Scott Guitar” in the search window. You’ll see my black and white promo photo (above, from the days when I needed one) at the top of the list. Click on that, and you’ll be taken right to the page for my channel.
The videos are mainly guitar playing tips and lessons, some basic and some more advanced, in a variety of techniques. There are also prep videos for my Jam Campers, but those may also have some useful stuff for you even if you can’t come to my jams.
I’ve posted 16 videos in the last two months, and have plans for many more. I hope you will find things you enjoy and can learn from. Please subscribe, hit “Like”, and comment. Thanks!
More photos from my trip to the Met in NYC! The captions tell the tale. This was an amazing lineup of iconic gear. Eddie’s pedals (check out the mid-boost on the MXR eq!) and the Variacs that helped him develop the “Brown Sound”! Page’s setup with the Theremin and an ancient tube-powered Conn strobe tuner, not to mention TWO Echoplexes)! And the Boss’s Tele (which started life as an Esquire) can go head-to-head with the Jeff Beck/Yardbirds Esquire (previous post) anytime for gorgeous battle scars!
I can recommend the catalog highly for great photos and excellent text. Available from the Met, or everybody’s fave online seller. Enjoy!
A beautiful September Friday the 13th in NYC, and no better way to spend the day than to look at amazing rock ‘n’ roll, country, and blues instruments at the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum!
Here are photos I took of Jeff Beck’s Esquire, Rick Neilsen’s five-neck Hamer, Muddy Waters’ Tele, Keith Richards’ LP Custom, Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstein”, an early Bigsby, Chuck Berry’s ES-350T, Buddy Holly’s leather-clad Martin, and Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” Strat, for starters…and this was just scratching the surface.
The exhibition was beautifully presented and annotated, with several of the guitars in plexiglass boxes so that they could be viewed from every angle. The guitar geek in me loves the details: finish wear, setup details, modifications, and so on. Not to mention thinking of the amazing music that was played on these instruments. There are drums, basses, keyboards, a few horns, even some stage costumes as well. I had a blast!
This event took place at the Museum of the American Revolution (www.amrevmuseum.org) in Philadelphia, on August 10-11, 2019. I made it down for the second day and enjoyed meeting and learning from the people from Handshouse Studio (www.handshouse.org). They made the instruments, a few of which you see here, and are very well-versed in their construction, use, and history. The project is an amazing glimpse into the lives of enslaved people in the US, and more proof that people will find ways to make music, no matter where they go and who they are.
The gourds were grown, dried, cleaned out, and cut to shape. The necks, made from whatever wood could be found, extend through the gourd and bear the tension of the (likely gut, possibly made from vines) strings. The number of strings varied, and not much is known about their tuning. Bridges are wood and rest on goatskin heads. The cutout shapes were both soundholes and decorations. The sound is soft, and nothing like the modern banjo. Still, the African roots of the banjo are clear and unmistakeable.
Thanks to the MoAR and Handshouse for an inspiring morning! Here is their description, below. I missed Jake Blount’s performance on the Saturday, but you can find his music online (https://jakeblount.com), along with performances by Adam Hurt on his album Earth Tones. Great stuff!
“Join the Handshouse Studio on Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11, as they present The Banjo Project, a hands-on display of gourd banjos and the process of making them. The early gourd banjo is an object with a history in the Americas that dates back to the 17th-century. Having evolved from knowledge of West African instruments brought to the western hemisphere by the forced migration of peoples during the slave trade, these guard banjos are the beginnings of the culturally iconic sounds of the hoop banjos that are more commonly known throughout the world today. The sounds of these early banjos were resonating along the Eastern seaboard in the hands of enslaved Africans and African Americans at the time of the American Revolution, and their songs are embedded in the stories of race, labor, and class throughout American History. This special hands-on display will feature early gourd banjo replicas to touch and strum, examples of the raw materials that early gourd banjos would have been assembled from, live demonstrations of the processes used to make parts of the gourd banjo and how the instruments might have been played. On Saturday, August 10 at 2 p.m., listen to the sounds of early gourd banjo music with a special performance by banjoist and fiddler Jake Blount in the Museum’s Liberty Hall. This special performance is free with Museum admission.”