Month: October, 2013

K. Yairi

K.Yairi YW-1000
The most beautiful Martin D-45 copies in the world, a 1976 K. Yairi YW-1000

I’m extremely happy with the two Morris I have and think that Terada is one of the better acoustic guitar builders in Japan. Having said that, I think everyone that is in to Japanese acoustics dream of owning a K. Yairi, at least I do. Unfortunately they are a bit too expensive for me, I’m sure they are worth it but you can get an old Martin, Gibson or Guild for that money. One thing that I really like with Yairi is that they use the year of the Emperor of Japan to determine the production year of their instruments, how awesome is that. See the list below.
Good materials are hard to find so it’s better to make guitars through limited production by hand instead of mass production. Trees are very important “precious” things so we should make good use of them. Guitars made with “heart” are the best use of trees.  Kazuo Yairi

When was my Yairi made?
By reading the number stamped on the heel block of your Yairi, you can tell in which year it was made. The first two numbers correspond to the year of the Emperor of Japan at that time, see chart below. The second two numbers refer to the month of production. Taken from The Fellowship of Acoustics

A.D.       Emperor                Year
1970      Shōwa                    45
1971                                      46
1972                                      47
1973                                      48
1974                                      49
1975                                      50
1976                                      51
1977                                      52
1978                                      53
1979                                      54
1980                                      55
1981                                      56
1982                                      57
1983                                      58
1984                                      59
1985                                      60
1986                                      61
1987                                      62
1988                                      63
1989       Heisei                    1
1990                                      2
1991                                      3
1992                                      4
1993                                      5
1994                                      6
1995                                      7
1996                                      8
1997                                      9
1998                                      10
1999                                      11
2000                                      12
End of Emperor Date Code
2001                                       01
2002                                       02
2003                                       03
2004                                       04

Emperor Shōwa and future Emperor Heisei on 10 April 1959
Emperor Shōwa and future Emperor Heisei on 10 April 1959

Muscle Shoals

Muscle Shoals (2013)

Last night Araceli and I went and saw the Muscle Shoals documentary at the In-Edit film festival here in Barcelona and we really liked it.

Rig Rundown

I really like Premier Guitar’s series Rig Rundown. Well there is an awful lot of pedals and crap that I don’t really care much for but I like to see the guitars and hear them talk about their equipment, or rather hear their guitar technicians talk about it. Here are just a couple but if you search for Rig Rundown in Youtube you can find a lot more. I have to say that I never cared much for Joe Bonamassa but after hearing what he brings on tour, two real 59′ bursts, and how passionate he is about vintage guitars, I’ve changed my opinion. I truly believe that old guitars were made to be played and I really like that Joe and his crew has been invited to see and often play 75 original 59′ burst so far, apparently only 643 sunburst guitars were made in 1959 and only 53% is accounted for. It’s a weird world we live in where collectors sit on guitars that never see the light of day and real musicians are too scared of taking anything else than re-issues on tour. Hats off to Joe Bonamassa for still playing the real thing and I do understand why people come up to him and lend him famous guitars to play, like when the Kossoff family let him play Paul Kossoff’s 1959 Les Paul.

Bridge Pins

Most guitars come with plain plastic bridge pins and I never really thought that changing them would effect the tone, but it does. To be honest I wasn’t sure how much difference it would make to change the nut or saddle either but there I was proven wrong straight away. I’ve heard so much talk about how superior bone is to plastic and thought it was nonsense, until I actually tried for myself. Now most of my guitars have bone or Tusq nuts, both electrics and acoustics. I changed to Tusq on my Claescaster and was sold straight away, it really felt and sounded different. The only acoustic I’ve had to change nut on was the Suzuki and that guitar sounded way better with a bone nut. It’s weird but acoustics for me, up until the last couple of month, have always sounded good or bad but without any nuances. I guess what I’m trying to say is that just like with a fine red wine you need train your pallet to really understand and appreciate all the flavours and subtle differences. I have been buying more acoustics lately and really listened to them while playing and have come to realise more and more what I like and not like with acoustics. It’s not just down to brand, shape and woods, no guitar sounds the same and there is a lot subtle differences. I think that age is very important factor, I really do believe that wood needs time to open up and that it affects the sound a lot, hence why a lot of modern guitars sounds more or less the same to me. I ordered 12 bone bridge pins and 12 ebony from rockcarvings a Chinese eBay seller that was really cheap, $9.90 for 12 ebony pins. I changed the pins on my Morris W-40 first and made a little sound clip with the plastic, bone and ebony bridge pins to really be able to hear the difference. There is a difference, maybe not as big as changing the saddle to bone, but still. In my opinion the bone pins sounded too clear and sparkly on that guitar, they lacked a bit of bottom which could be more about the quality of these Chinese pins than the material itself. The Morris has a lot of warmth and bottom, which is the reason why I love that guitar so much, so I wanted to keep that rather than give it more treble. The ebony pins were perfect, they just gave such a solid tone, both playing chords and solo. I changed my dad’s Levin LT-16 to ebony as well and put on a new compensated bone saddle, which made wonders to the tone and playability. I will try the bone pins on some other guitars but I have a feeling that I will order more ebony pins in the near future. Here is a list from Maury’s Music with the tonal qualities of different bridge pin materials. I wish I could have found Mammoth or Walrus because that seems awesome but eBay only allowed for Tusq, bone, ebony and horn.

  • Tusq can add a moderate amount of treble, sustain, clarity and volume to your guitar.
  • Bone offers everything Tusq provides, but in bigger doses.
  • Ebony can add bass and warmth to your guitar, along with a signifigant increase in sustain and volume.
  • Buffalo Horn sounds almost identical to bone, and is a great choice if you want a dark looking pin with bone tone.
  • Walrus Jawbone offers the fundamental tone of bone but with better overtones and fatter harmonics.
  • Mammoth Ivory can add sustain, volume, and a transparent richness to your guitar, with an increase in harmonics and overtones.
  • Walrus Ivory provides the greatest increase in volume, sustain and clarity among all the pin choices.

1973 Morris W-40 and 1966 Levin LT-16 with new ebony bridge pins
1973 Morris W-40 and 1966 Levin LT-16 with new ebony bridge pins

Movie of the day

Hank Williams
Hank Williams, one of country musics early super stars

Araceli and I watched this BBC documentary last weekend and it was pretty good. If you are not much of a country fan it could work pretty well as an introduction to, The Joy Of Country.

Fish glue

Fish glue
My newly glued Levin LT-16

My dad’s old Levin LT-16 has quite a few crack, well it had, because now most of them are fixed. I tried to figure out what type of glue would be best for repairing wood cracks and all the articles I read said the same thing, warm hide glue. The only problem is that I didn’t feel too intrigued by the idea of having to have melted horse hoves and other animals parts on the stove so I was desperately seeking for an alternative. Then my new found guitar building friend Roger in Sweden told me about fish glue. It has the same awesome properties as warm hide glue but can be used cold. It took some time to locate someone selling fish glue but eventually I found die-moebelwerkstatt, a German eBay seller specialised products for furniture restoration. I got myself some Canadian fish glue made from a recipe from 1870 and it’s amazing. I practised on my Francisca Montserrat and some other old guitars that had cracks in them before I dared to touch my Levin. It has gone pretty well so far, no major difficulties, but I wished that the glue pulled a bit more. I read that the special thing with warm hide glue, and apparently cold fish glue too, is that it is pulling the wood together when it dries, hence why it is so good for cracks and similar repairs. It might be my glue that is a bit old, or just the recipe from 1870 not being the best, but I wished it pulled a bit more. It still works really well, way better than I expected. I feel a lot safer now, not only when it comes to buying old guitars that might have a crack or two, but to dare to use mine because if I happen to crack them I can always repair them with my fancy new fish glue.

Songwriting credits

Chest Fever, Claes Gellerbrink and Araceli Perez
Chest Fever, my first band without any issues regarding who wrote what, maybe because it’s just the two of us

A big discussion in all bands I have ever been a part of has been, who is going to get credits for the songwriting? Since I have never been a part of a successful band that has actually made any money this hasn’t really felt too important in the past, especially since I didn’t use to write music. However, over the years my opinion has changed quite a lot. I started to write music seriously when I moved to Spain in the spring of 2010, before that I just expected others to supply the band with songs. I think I wrote one or two songs for The Caper Story, the last band I played in when I lived in London, well I came up with the riff and then the singer sorted the lyrics. In those cases I felt it was more of a collaborate effort to create music and didn’t mind if the others had an equal share in the credits of writing the song. After all we were a band and we all added something to the finished sound of the song. When I arrived to Barcelona I was unemployed for the first two month and decided to write a song a day however bad it was, just to get used to writing songs and especially to get used to write lyrics. It went pretty well even if I didn’t managed to write a song a day I probably came up with 10 songs at least during this period, some of them I still play today and think are pretty good songs. These songs I consider being 100% mine, not only because I wrote them on my own without the influence of others, but because I have tried to be in 3 different groups during my 3 years here and played those songs in all three bands. If I would have given credits to the others in the first band I played in but recorded it with the last, how would that have been? The drummer kept the beat, the bassist came up with their own bass lines and the guitarists added a fiddly bit or two in every band but to be completely honest, they didn’t sound that different. The songs sounds like they do because of me, what I had in my mind when I wrote the songs still guides anyone who I play it with and therefore the credit should, according to me, be solely mine. It might seems like a egoistic way of seeing music and I can understand that, but if you change this from songwriting to any other form of artistic creation it would seem fairly obvious. I’m a photographer by trade, well nowadays I’m mainly a retoucher but still, I would never give away the copyright of my images or share the credits with anyone else and I don’t think others should either. If you have a few beers and jam up a song, that’s a different story, anyone adding anything to that song should of course have a part of the credit. I’m referring to when you bring a finished song to a band and they expect to get songwriting credits just because they changed the drum beat or added a bass line. This is not even a matter of money, well I haven’t made any money out of my music yet, it’s just a matter of freedom. I don’t want to end up having to share my credits with someone that I might not even be friends with any more just because we used to be in a band together at one point. Or having the possibility that someone decides to play a song that I wrote in his new band without my consent just because they got a share of the credits and therefore can partly call it their own. I need and want the freedom to be able to do do whatever I want with with my own music, now and in the future. It’s perhaps a silly matter until money comes in to the picture but I still think it’s important to make up your mind before greed starts to influence and cloud peoples judgement. A song you have written will be with you for the rest of your life while band members tend to come and go.

I thought of all this because I was listening to Boris the Spider, a song written by John Entwistle for The Who’s 1966 album A Quick One. I read somewhere that they all contributed with songs to the album because they realised that a lot of the money lied in getting royalties for the songwriting. If this is true or not, maybe Pete Townshend was just tired of supplying all the material, it’s a good point. If you want some royalties you better start writing songs.

Lowden guitars

I’m not a huge fan of the look of the Lowden guitars, a bit modern and fat looking for me, but the sound is very impressive. Here are two clips where George Lowden talks about different tone woods which I found very interesting. It’s amazing how different combinations of wood can change the sound so much.

“Designing and building guitars is a matter of the wood choice first, the design second and the workmanship third. All woods give slightly different tonal responses and I will often advise players which might suit them best according to their playing style.” George Lowden

Gibson SG

Gibson SG Gibson advertisement Solid Hit 1961

Gibson SG Custom and Gibson SG Standard 1961 catalogue
Solid hit. Gibson SG Custom and Gibson SG Standard from the 1961 catalogue, They looked a lot less evil back then

I have always had a weird love – hate relationship with the Gibson SG. Even though I really like both AC/DC and Black Sabbath the SG has kind of been ruined, or rather over exposed, through Angus and Toni. A bit like the Fender 52′ Telecaster which feels a lot like Bruce Springsteen and Keith Richards, even though neither actually plays a 52′. I have just seen too many young boys playing rock riffs on a Cherry SG Standard or SG Special for considering owning one myself. On top of that my woman thinks they look evil, EVIL I tell you. Then again, imagine an early Seventies walnut SG Deluxe or Custom in it’s worn wood colour. That’s pretty sexy, or even sexier a fancy pants white SG custom with gold hardware. The only problem is that they tend to come with 3 pickups and I can’t play guitars with 3 pickups, I end up hitting the middle one all the time. That’s why I prefer Telecasters instead of Stratocasters, even though I love the sound of the Strats middle pickup, I just keep hitting it and I it’s in the way when I’m trying to chicken / hybrid / whatever you want to call it, pick with my fingers.

1961 Gibson SG/Les Paul Custom
An original 1961 Gibson SG/Les Paul Custom

GIBSON SG 1970 catalogue
GIBSON SG 1970 catalogue

GIBSON SG 1972 catalogue
GIBSON SG 1972 catalogue

I’ve been quite tempted for a while to get myself an old Greco, Ibanez or Tokai SG, ideally white and gold but with just 2 pickups, as explained above. The problem is that most of the Japanese SG’s that shows up on eBay are early 1970’s ones and I don’t think they will live up to my expectations. I doubt that a bolt on neck cherry Avon or Columbus SG copy will stand a chance next to for an example my Greco EG-600 Les Paul Custom from 1980, which makes it a bit silly even if you could get one for 150€.

1972' Greco SG-400
Greco catalogue from 1972, just look at the white and gold Greco SG-400

Keith Richards playing Midnight Rambler on a white Gibson SG Custom at the Nicaragua Benefit, Jan 18th 1973 © Lynn Goldsmith
Keith Richards playing Midnight Rambler on a white Gibson SG Custom at the Nicaragua Benefit, Jan 18th 1973 © Lynn Goldsmith

Jimi Hendrix on a white Gibson SG Custom
Jimi Hendrix on a white Gibson SG Custom

Now we are talking, Keith and Jimi on a white Gibson SG Custom. The guys below looks pretty cool too, even if they went for the more classic Cherry instead of Walnut or white. Well I guess Eric Clapton doesn’t count since he went bananas and had someone on acid paint his.

Duane Allman Gibson SG 1961
Duane Allman with his 1961 Gibson SG

Pete Townsend Gibson SG
Pete Townshend playing a Gibson SG in 1966

George Harrison from The Beatles’ 1964 Gibson SG
George Harrison 1964 Gibson SG

Eric Clapton's
Eric Clapton’s “The Fool” a 1964 Gibson SG

Goya T-18

Goya Model 163, Goya T-18, Levin Model 13, Levin LM-26, Levin Model 65, Levin LT-16
The Levin family, Goya Model 163 (1968), Goya T-18 (1966), Levin Model 13 (1950), Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 65 (1941), Levin LT-16 (1966)

Last week I received my latest project, a lovely Goya T-18 made in Sweden by Levin in 1966. It sounds really nice and works great for cowboy chords but there are a few things that needs to be sorted before I can play her properly. First of all there are two dents on the back of the neck, it almost seems like the lacquer has melted or reacted with the the leather flap for the accessory department in the case. It came with what seems to be the original hard case and who knows, maybe she has been stored in there for decades. So these dents or groves needs to be filed with lacquer and evened out, let’s see how that goes. I also need to re-glue the pickguard, but that shouldn’t be too hard as soon as I receive my fish glue that I’ve ordered from Germany. The Van Gent machine heads looks almost new and it could be the original nut and saddle but not bridge pins. There is a few marks on her but overall she is in really good state for her age. The lacquer on the top has cracked a bit but that seems to be standard on these late 1960’s Goya T-18, but not on the Levin LT-18 so they must have used different lacquer for them. The big thing that needs to be done is to try to reset the neck. I have never done anything like it but since these are quite cleverly bolted on maybe it wouldn’t be impossible, if I just find the right square key to loosen the bolts inside. The Goya T-18 sounds a lot bigger and fuller than my dad’s old Levin LT-16 which could be down to the size more than the materials, I’m not sure. She sounds bright but still with a lot of bottom which I like, I actually think this is my best sounding acoustic after my Morris W-40. I’m trying to get the biggest Levin collection in Spain, well I might already have it, who knows.

Update: December 6, 2013
I finally managed to get my beloved Goya T-18 sorted and now it plays beautifully

Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966
Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966