Even very nice guitars, brand new from the factory, can need some tweaks and adjustments. Unless you’ve worked directly with your luthier on a custom-made guitar where everything is to your preferences, most factory setups are a one-size-fits-all middle ground. By the time the guitar travels from wherever it was made to your climate, the neck may have shifted, or the body taken on or lost moisture, and adjustments to the action can be in order. This beautiful lefty Martin had action a little on the high side. More importantly, there were some barely perceptible buzzes coming from a few frets and strings, but also some kind of sympathetic buzz coming from the tuners. Some people might not notice them, but those kinds of little rattles can be the most annoying to players when the guitar is miked in the studio and they really come out through headphones. They can also be among the toughest to track down. Continue reading
Vintage Danelectro and Silvertone guitars have gotten a lot more popular in recent years as players have discovered their unique tones. These were always budget guitars, but as necessity is often the mother of invention, the original designers created some great sounds on the cheap. Thankfully for budget-minded guitarists, prices on these spare-parts beauties haven’t climbed as much as their vintage contemporaries, so you can still get into all the trashy grind and round cleans of those lipstick pickups without breaking the bank. Continue reading
Bassists especially, take note:
We’ve been doing a lot of work for bassists lately, and have frequently heard complaints that there isn’t much available for them in Portland besides the usual– Gallien Kreuger, Ampeg, SWR… and when it comes to pickups, Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan, and in the hand-built realm, Fralin and Lollar
Both Lollar and Fralin make excellent traditional passive pickups for Fender basses. What makes Delano and Nordstrand so cool are their innovations and offerings for bassists seeking something unique. In short: they make great traditional pickups, but also ask, why stop there?
Both companies offer active electronics; Nordstrand offers custom preamp configurations. If you’re considering moving beyond standard passive tone-shaping abilities to get more control and extended range from your bass, definitely consider these options– a great alternative to Alembic, Lane-Poor, Aguilar, Bartolini, and others.
Even more exciting to some might be some of the more unusual configurations that could fit a Music Man or Gibson EB series humbucker route– for one example, check out this Delano pickup that combines P and J bass-style pickups in one:
for another cool option in a more standard footprint, check out these Nordstrand hum-cancelling jazz bass pickups– a side-by-side dual coil!
Regardless of whether you’re looking for something specialized or adventurous, however, these pickups sound great, and are a really outstanding tonal improvement for most basses with stock electronics. I recently got to check out a set of the passive Delano JC 4 alnico jazz bass pickups, and they were simply awesome. Extremely detailed, remarkably balanced, and perfectly voiced for bass. Huge lows, crisp highs, and excellent string-to-string clarity. Full chords were rich and pianistic. They mated really well with a set of DR Jonas Hellborg signature strings, which use a single nickel wrap wire for a more even harmonic content. Both the pickups and the strings are most definitely worth checking out. If you have the chance, you can hear them in action by catching local rockers Sleepwalk Kid live– Nick also plays the only Soursound all tube bass amp currently out in the world.
One last thing I’ll mention that I’m excited about: DR’s new DDT “drop-down tuning” string sets. With players bringing me guitars and basses for low tuning setups on a weekly basis, I know these are going to be a really helpful addition in the shop. There are a handful of “drop-tuning” sets already available on the market (GHS, Ernie Ball,) and all leave something to be desired, as they are standard strings on hex cores in heightened gauges. The DR’s are hand-wound, and built using a unique process to stabilize the string at lower tunings. Not just a standard guitar string, but a string formulated from the core wire, to the wraps, with stable tuning and responsive feel at lower pitch in mind. I’ve already got several sets on the way, and if you play in lowered tunings, you should definitely plan to try them out. They might finally change all the compromises you’ve had to make to your setup to get a tight feel from your hybrid tuning setup!
Stop in or drop us a line to give some of this great new stuff a try! We’re always looking for ways to take your playing and tone to the next level, so be in touch.
I got an email from a friend recently asking this common question, and when I’d replied he suggested I re-post the info here, so here you go!
Q: My friend found this quote online and asked about it: “I have been using Dean Markley strings for over 20 years now. I’ve gone through all the popular brands like DR, Rotosound, GHS and Fender. I started with the Superwound series. I played those for years. I thought those strings were the best until I tried the Blue Steel series. I was completely blow away by these strings. They were very consistent from box to box. They kept their brightness and tone for a much longer period than the other brands. The thing I really like about them is their feel. Very soft. Other strings use a thicker core and that tended to be hard on my hands since I play so much and the fact that I play a lot of slap bass. Another benefit of these strings is that they come back great when you boil them. Well, I should say that I use to boil them, now I just run them through the dish washer. I have many vintage Fender Jazz basses and it is important to me to have a consistent feel from bass to bass. That is why I don’t mix and match. The only strings I use are Blue Steel – Light Gauge. Remember to only take one string off at a time when you change your strings. If you take them all off at once or if you put on a different gauge set of strings, the neck will check and throw off your action. Find the set of strings you like and stick with them. Your bass will be glad.”
Is that right? You should take the strings off one at a time — the above quote is from Anthony Vitti – Berklee Bass Guru – so I don’t doubt him but have never heard that before…. Continue reading