Category Archives: Music
49 years ago I bought the guitar of my dreams, a brand new Martin D35. In those days I was in love with Gordon Lightfoot songs, the Beatles of course, and all that music that sounded great on a big flat top guitar.
But the years passed and so did my taste in music, so 24 years ago I sold the D35 and moved on to jazz. However, the circle of life comes around like the seasons and so I recently decided it was high time I had a big “folk” guitar again. The Martin dreadnought, or D type guitar is the most copied guitar in the world, because it is like a battle ship that fears no man or woman. But it is big, a bit too big for me now that my shoulder and arm can’t take long hours of being draped over a huge guitar. I checked around and found the next best thing – a Taylor Grand Auditorium. This guitar has a narrow waist that allows it to sit lower and thus is less painful on the strumming arm. It was designed to compete with the Dreadnoughts, and by and large it can, although it’s a little smaller. The D size guitars are very large and in the opinion of many guitarists the 000 Martin is the acme of flat tops. While I tend to agree, I had already built one of those many years ago, and I wanted something different. Hence the latest guitar – my version of a Taylor Grand Auditorium, complete with the “all new, improved V bracing”.
Here is my latest guitar, #37, successor to my long gone D35, which I expect is still out in the world being strummed somewhere.
Taylor is converting their guitars to this v shaped bracing system, away from traditional x braced tops. They claim to have invented it, but it’s been around a long time in one form or another. I just copied their design however, figuring they had already done all the testing for me. I played a few examples and while they were no better than some of their x braced guitars, it seemed like an adventure to try a new design. I already made several ukuleles with v braces and I knew they sounded really good, better than the fan braced ones I had made before.
The guitar sounds great for folk music, no good at all for jazz, which is how it should be. I already have a dozen jazz guitars!
For the record: cypress top, cypress braces, African mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, ebony bridge. Tuners are Gotoh 510, 1:21, the smoothest damn tuners on earth and worth every cent of the hundred bucks they cost. Strings are D’Addario EJ15 phosphor bronze, extra light. Even with extra light strings this thing is loud. I might up the gauge when I change strings, but the trade off is more volume for more work, and I have lazy old fingers.
Body is 16″ x 20″ x 4 5/8″ deep, same as Martin D. The nut is 1 11/16″, exactly the same as my old D35, as is the bridge. Scale length 25.5″, just a tad longer than Martin’s 25.4″ scale, so it feels like a D35 in my hands. Now to go practice “Did She Mention My Name”. Today’s pop music is so banal and crappy it’s not worth listening to, so thank heavens we have Gordon Lightfoot, who is still alive! He should have got the Nobel Prize, not Bob Zimmerman… the worst performer I have ever seen. But BZ wrote some good songs. I may play one of those later.
I just added another old Eaton’s phonograph to the collection, the Eaton’s “Roamer’ (model 50-26), made by Dominion Electrohome Industries, the company that I assume later became simply Electrohome. A previous post covered the Eaton’s 703. Presumably you could roam about with this neat little unit in hand, taking it over to a friend’s apartment to listen to the latest music:
It’s hard to determine the date it was made, but my guess is the 1940’s, before the advent of the LP, since this machine is made to play 78’s. It was on the shelf with the electronics at the thrift shop, where I spotted it immediately from the old style box and handle. The power cord was cut off so there was no way to test it, but for twenty bucks I decided it was worth a gamble. I saw from peeking into the underside that there were two vacuum tubes, so I figure that if it didn’t work I could convert it into a 5 watt guitar amp. However, after I soldered on a new power cord it did indeed work. The tubes began to glow and a loud hum was heard from the speaker. I put some silicone lube on the platter spindle and the platter began to turn very fast.
Looking at the pickup I noted an offset stylus with some sort of dark point, that I assumed to be the sapphire, or some such thing. The pickup itself was made by Shure. With it humming and the platter spinning around quickly I reached for the nearest 78 album, and grabbed the first disc in the set – Xavier Cugat’s Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra playing Begin the Beguine.
How appropriate – my parents spent their honeymoon at the Waldorf Astoria in 1947. Maybe they even danced in the ballroom while Cugat’s orchestra played this song. Compared to my much older windup 78 phonograph, this one is high fidelity. It certainly does explain how those recording engineers managed to get decent quality edits from old recordings that exist only on 78’s from that era. They manufactured these discs with the highest technology of the time, as explained here:
Now here is – Begin the Beguine.
Yesterday we gave away 15 cubic feet of vinyl LP’s which we rarely ever listen to. One of them was the unmemorable last work of John Lennon’s, Double Fantasy, featuring the amazingly talented genius of Yoko Ono,
which I only purchased because John had been murdered. I might have kept this but for the fact that I get disgusted by any reminder of You Know Oh-No. To cleanse my heart we listened to side 2 of Abbey Road, and thought wistfully of what they might have come up with next, but for their tragic demise. So we mourned the Beatles all over again, but were grateful that at 50 years old, this now ancient LP still has the magic. Among the treasures we discovered while sorting through the collection was another LP, which shall go down in history alongside the opening scenes of the TV show Mission Impossible. From 1973, I give you:
I should mention that just like many Beatles albums, this LP came with bonus goodies, in this case a free Webster XL747 typewriter!
Now that was almost as good as the poster than came inside the White Album!
I know, this has been done, but so what? I thought I would try it out. What I would really like is to get a grant to go to Venice and do it beside the Grande Canal, watching the occasional dead dog carcass float by. If anyone is interested I will frame my work for a reasonable sum.
typewriter: Royal Caravan (same name and brand as Bob used, but not strictly the same model, since I don’t own one of those)
subject: Like a Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan NL (Nobel Laureate).
choice of subject matter: LARS has been voted to be the greatest song ever written, in the pop genre (modern era). Its author has been recognized for this too (see above).
I was 11, and had been learning the guitar for less than a year. My guitar was bought for me by my Mom at a cost of $10, which in retrospect was a fair sum then. However, it was a real piece of junk. The neck was huge, the action way too high, the tuners impossibly stiff, flat fingerboard, bridge coming off. But I learned on it despite all its faults. I was crazy for music then, and I’m still at it. But this isn’t about the guitar, it’s about the music that inspired me, and specifically one incredible song. This song I loved, and it was the first one I learned to play (and still love). It has a number of interesting and catchy twists, the product of uncanny musical creativity, which of course is now known by every living being. Anyhow, here it is live from this day: November 4, 1963 – 53 years ago. Ladies and gentlemen…. THE BEATLES!