Of Redemption and Hope

Redemption: (noun)

  1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. atonement for guilt.
  5. repurchase, as of something sold.
  6. paying off, as of a mortgage, bond, or note.

www.dictionary.reference.com

Bringing good news is imparting hope to one’s fellow man.  The idea of redmption is always good news, even if it means sacrifice or some difficult times.
– Patti Smith

Hope.  It is trust with regards to the future.  It is the expectation that what is to come is worth the hell you’re going through now.   I do not say that lightly.  I have a very uneasy relationship with hope and her kindred: love and trust.  I do none of them well, but I’m trying.  And so must you.

You are stronger than you realize.  You are more than the sum of your scars, your pain.  But do not despise the lessons they have taught you.  This, too, is strength and beauty and of great worth.

A superior blossom, you, and more than worthy of a resurgent season.  That, I promise you.

But first, you must endure the winter.

 

Zelinsky, Dean

Z

It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars.  Care to join me?

Zelinsky, Dean

Dean Zelinsky, founder of Dean Guitars and, more recently, Dean Zelinsky Private Label, is another fairly recent entry into the ranks of guitar manufacturers, but has he ever made a splash in the world of heavy metal and hard rock guitar.  Dean Guitars are characterized by very distinctive headstock and body designs.  In addition to the more “standard” shapes made popular by Gibson and Fender, Dean has designed some very aggressive designs that have become iconic for the brands he’s been associated with.

Dean ML

Dean ML

Dean Zelinsky left Dean Guitars in 2008 to form DBZ Guitars before forming Dean Zelinsky Private Label in 2012.  The same edgy design that characterized Dean Guitars and DBZ Guitars is evident with his Private Label brand.  He has also introduced an innovative neck design (the “Z-Glide“) that is said to allow the player’s hand to slide up and down the neck with greater ease.

 

His designs have wound up in the hands of the likes of Dave Mustain (Megadeth), Dimebag Darrell (Pantera), Zack Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Billy Gibson of ZZ Top (anyone remember the fuzzy guitars in the “Legs” video?).

 

DBZ Bird of Prey

DBZ Bird of Prey

I have to admit, his designs aren’t my cup of tea.  I am an acoustic girl at heart, all curves, warm tones, and soft caresses with enough bite and spice to keep things interesting.  A lot of his designs are far too aggressive for my taste, although his Private Label models are much more organic and I like them very much.  I can see how his more aggressive designs would appeal to a certain kind of player, though.

 

Lavoce

Dean Zelinsky Private Label Lavoce

And so we come to the end of the A to Z Challenge.  I thank you for indulging me while I drooled over my favourite players and manufacturers.  If I have done nothing else during the last month, I have reminded myself of how wide the world of guitars really is.  There’s room enough for all kinds of tastes and styles and players.  And isn’t that absolutely wonderful?  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

 

 

X Bracing

X

 

It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars.  Care to join me?

X Bracing

So I’ll have to do a little remedial guitar anatomy to explain this one.  If you remember from Guitar Anatomy 101, I mentioned that what gives the acoustic guitar its “voice” is the face of the guitar.  The face is very thin piece of wood, as thick as a nickel or as thin as a dime.  When the strings are plucked or strummed, the face vibrates, and, voila!  The thing is that the strings are anchored to the face of the guitar by way of the bridge and, consequently, the face is subject to a great deal of stress, which would tend to distort the sound.  To counter the stresses on the face, it has to be supported, but how to do that without dampening the resonant qualities of the face?  This has been the question luthiers have tried to answer ever since the first gut strings were stretched across the face of the earliest instruments.

The strings of classical guitars aren’t under quite as much tension as their steel kindred, so the stresses exerted on the face aren’t as great.  If you could turn a classical guitar inside out and look at the bracing under the face, you would see a series of “fingers” extending towards the bottom of the guitar, much like the ribs of a hand fan.  Not surprisingly, this is called “fan bracing”.

Fan Bracing

Fan Bracing – common on classical guitars

There are two additional problems when considering steel string guitars.  The first is the significantly greater tension the steel strings place on the face and the bridge, which will tend to torque the neck significantly.  The second issue is that steel strings have small balls at the end that help anchor the strings to the guitar (remember that the nylon strings of a classical or flamenco guitar are tied to the bridge).  These “ball ends” have a tendency to damage the underside of the face.  Definitely not a good thing for tone quality or overall sound.  Strengthening the face of the guitar enough to protect the face from both of these stressors would seriously diminish the tone quality of the instrument.  That will never do.

Widespread use of “X bracing” has been attributed to the C.F. Martin Company, who first utilized the technique in the mid 1800s.  In X bracing, the sound hole sits in the cleft of the top portion of the “X” and the arms extend down almost to the bottom of the guitar.  The bridge plate, a kind of reinforcement for the bridge, is “hugged” by the lower two arms of the “X”.  This configuration gives the face an enormous amount of support while minimizing the dampening effect.  There have been other variations on this design, but X bracing seems to be the industry favourite.

X Bracing

X Bracing

What this bracing pattern has done is to allow the guitar to endure greater tension on the face without distortion, instability or damage.  Without this bracing design, the modern steel string acoustic guitar would not be possible.  The instrument would sound very different and not nearly as resonant as we’re accustomed to.

Yamaha

Y

It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars.  Care to join me?

Yamaha

Yamaha is, quite frankly, a humongous corporation, manufacturing everything from motorcycles, boats, outboard motors, swimming pools, pianos and keyboards, golf carts, and, oh yes, electric and acoustic guitars.

Yamaha first got started making musical instruments in the late 1880s with an organ, expanding to pianos in the early 1900s.  Yamaha introduced its first acoustic guitar model in the early 1940s, and by the 1960s, they had a fairly robust offering of acoustic folk instruments and was beginning to make forays into the electric guitar market.

For the longest time, Asian guitar manufacturers had a bad reputation for substandard workmanship, sacrificing quality materials and solid construction process in favour of a lower price point.  They began copying Fender Stratocasters and the Gibson line of Les Paul models and SGs, but without the quality of Fender and Gibson.

But Yamaha transcended that reputation.  They carefully selected and blended the tone woods to enhance the tonal quality of the finished instrument.  From the method used to join the neck to the body of the guitar, even to the varnishes used, Yamaha constantly seeks to improve the quality of their instruments.  As part of that effort, they have sought collaborative relationships with guitar designers, artists, and luthiers across the world to develop their instruments.  That philosophy continues to drive their design efforts.

By the 1970s, Yamaha had expanded into the realm of electric guitars and bases and have found their way into some of the most famous musicians in the world, including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and Carlos Santana.

My own association with Yamaha started with a plastic recorder, the kind most kids receive in the third grade as an introduction to instrumental music.  I really do like playing the recorder, although I have long since given up my plastic models for wooden ones.  More recently, and more pertinent to this topic, I was gifted a Yamaha 12-string guitar I affectionately call “Boomer” because of his big, rich sound.

Twelve-string guitars aren’t small.  They can’t be.  The necks have to be wide enough to accommodate six pairs of strings, albeit the courses (set of pairs) are set very close together, so the sound box has to be similarly large enough to handle all that energy.  But for all of that, Boomer is a remarkably smooth instrument to play.  I have really enjoyed relearning songs I’ve enjoyed for years, and hearing them in a deeper, more resonant voice, the trebles of the higher pairings shimmering over the top.  It brings a smile to my face every single time

Wendy Woo

W

It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars.  Care to join me?

Wendy Woo

What?  You thought I was done with the Girl Power?  Oh, no, no, no, no, no!

Wendy Woo is local to the Colorado Front Range, though marriage has taken her 70 miles or so north of Denver, to Fort Collins.  She’s settled down now, married, with kids so her heavy touring and gigging days are behind her for now, and she rarely plays outside of Colorado anymore. She used to be a fairly regular visitor to California, New York and Nashville, so if you hever do get a chance to hear her play – DO IT!  You won’t be sorry.

Wendy is a phenomenal singer/songwriter with a style that is reminiscent of a lot of influences but which is so distinctly her own that it seems it sprang up out of her bohemian upbringing in Boulder fully fledged, a kind of acoustic Pegasus taking flight as soon as it took breath.  With a guitar style that is both melodic and percussive, she can play a mean cover – “Son of a Preacher Man”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, and “Blackbird” are among my very favourites – but it is her original tunes and her “slaptap” fretboard technique that just sends shivers of sheer delight down my back.

She has shared the stage with some pretty impressive musicians, from the Indigo Girls to Sarah McLachlan to Carly Simon, to Sheryl Crow and James Taylor, and I have no doubt she has held her own with each of them.

I think I’m just going to let you judge her abilities for yourself.

Blackbird

Late Night Sunrise/Surprise Me (I was actually at this taping)

Knowledge

Walking the Skyline

Down and Dirty (I wish this video had a better angle so you could see her “slaptap” technique, but I think you get the idea)

Footprints In the Rain

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Son of a Preacher Man

Crisis

Van Halen, Eddie

V

It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars.  Care to join me?

Van Halen, Eddie

Okay, hands up – who DOESN’T know who Eddie Van Halen is?  The truth is, if you listened to pop/rock radio at all during the 80s and 90s, you couldn’t escape the distinctive sounds of Van Halen.

The trials and tribulations of the band are well-documented and, quite frankly, I’ve never been interested in the soap opera that seemed to dog the band, particularly where lead singers were concerned.  As long as EVH strapped on his “Frankenstrat,” I was (and continue to be) one happy camper.

Eddie Van Halen is famous for his aggressive fretboard tapping technique as well as his use of harmonics and a tremolo picking technique very similar the fingerstyle roll used by classical guitarists.  Tricky stuff, to be sure, but Eddie Van Halen handles all of it with a mastery that just leaves me shaking my head.  He cites both Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page among his influences, but it’s clear that whatever debt he owes to both of them, he has more than paid it off.

As to his famous “Frankenstrat” – I have no idea what he started with but what he ended up with was a bodged up concoction of pickups, and body parts that would have made the good doctor jealous.  What came to life under his fingers was a wall of guitar sound that could leave your nerve endings jangled but your ears blissed out, particularly if your mood just demanded screaming rock guitar noises.

I think I’ll let his music speak for itself:

Eruption – fretboard tapping taken up to 11

You Really Got Me

Panama

Running With the Devil

Jump

Ultimate Guitar

U

It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars.  Care to join me?

Ultimate Guitar

So, I’m not a trained musician.  What I know about music theory probably wouldn’t amount to much more than a five hundred word blog post.  I know just enough to be very dangerous and to get myself in a whole heap of trouble.  When it comes to finding songs I want to play, I either have to find a song book that has the song I’m interested in (and hopefully a lot of other songs I want to play), I have to find a sheet music download (Sheetmusicdirect.com, musicnotes.com or sheetmusicplus.com), or I have to find a guitar-friendly site with loads of TAB (tablature) for me to explore.

Enter Ultimate Guitar (ultimate-guitar.com).

Ultimate Guitar is more than just an awesome collection of guitar TAB.  They also have ukulele TAB, Bass Tab, and for those with the interest and spare cash to do it, there’s a “pro” version which pretty much amounts to “Learn the song directly from the artist.”  I haven’t tried that feature but I kind of like the idea that it’s available.

The TAB that’s available on Ultimate Guitar have been submitted by other guitarists and represents their own scholarship and study.  I’m not a gigging musician, so this is just my way of being able to play songs I really like and wouldn’t be able to play otherwise.  And while I’m at it, I might learn a little more about song writing and (*gasp*) music theory.  Who knows?

But Ultimate Guitar doesn’t stop there.  Reviews, news, lessons, forums, Ultimate Guitar is pretty much a “one-stop shop” for all things guitar.  Is it comprehensive?  Of course not, but it will touch on a lot of the major things you might be interested in.  And if you download the Ultimate Guitar app, you’ll have access to TAB, a tuner, metronome – pretty much anything a wannabe guitarist (and perhaps even real guitarists) might need in a pinch.

Check out Ultimate Guitar.  I think you’ll find it a helpful tool in your guitar playing life.