Legendary surf rock guitarist Dick Dale, RIP

Dick Dale, the "King of the Surf Guitar," has died at age 81. RIP, maestro. Dale's pioneering sound was inspired by his Lebanese uncle who played the oud and taught his nephew the tarabaki, a goblet-shaped drum. Dale's 1961 instrumental "Let's Go Trippin'," recorded with his band The Del-Tones, sparked the vibrant surf rock scene that spawned the Beach Boys. Dale was shredding right up until his death. RIP, maestro. From The Guardian:

Born Richard Anthony Monsour in May 1937, Dale developed his distinctive sound by adding to instrumental rock influences from his Middle Eastern heritage, along with a “wet” reverb sound and his rapid alternative picking style.

In 2011, he told the Miami New Times that the hectic drumming of Gene Krupa, along with the “screams” of wild animals and the sound and sensation of being in the ocean inspired his sound.

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"Bohemian Rhapsody" cut together from single guitar notes plucked with chopsticks

Ralph Jay Triumfo's official title for this piece is "1% Guitar Skills 9% Chopsticks Skills 90% Editing Skills."

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A brief history of guitar distortion

Over at Riff Magazine, my old pal David Gill looks back at the birth of distortion and its position as "central to rock and roll as the sex and the drugs." From Riff:

In March 1951, a 19-year-old Ike Turner was recording his saxophonist Jackie Breston’s song “Rocket 88,” an ode to the Oldsmobile 88 (and later inspiration for Public Enemy’s “You’re Gonna Get Yours”). (Listen above.) Turner played his guitar loud, so loud, in fact, that his amplifier couldn’t handle it. The resulting distortion is the stuff of legend in the fable of rock and roll, giving voice to the intensity of the times.

The 1950s in America were the best of times and the worst of times. A victory in World War II and the spoils that came with it led to a baby boom, sprawling suburbia, rising standards of living, and a new thriving middle class, while at the same time racism, sexism and economic exploitation lingered in this landscape of opportunity. America also clung to its puritanical origins, cultivating a Victoria-era disdain for exuberance and physicality into a repressed and buttoned-down society that mocked, scorned and punished deviation from the norm.

As the 1950s progressed, the rising wave of progressive hedonism embodied by the new musical phenomenon of rock and roll crashed on the limitations of American culture. That tension is evident in Turner’s guitar tones, in its refusal to obey or to conform.

"Professor Music: Like ‘This is Spinal Tap,’ this column goes to 11" (Riff)

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Michael Jackson's "Thriller" masterfully covered by a single guitarist playing two guitars at once

Luca Stricagnoli has the funk of 40,000 years.

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Fantastic electric guitar built from 1,200 colored pencils

Flyjumper crafted this magnificent Stratocaster-shaped guitar from 1,200 colored pencils and a lot of grit. He's posted many more photos and GIFs of the build here.

"I saw a lot of people online making bowls out of colored pencils and I wanted to take it up a notch and make something that I can actually utilize and enjoy more so than a bowl," he writes.

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A fantastically fun looper pedal cover of The Cure's "Close To Me"

I've been researching looper pedals for my 12-year-old guitarist son and happened upon this video of Mick Bishop using his Boss RC-300 Loop Station to create a very fun cover of "Close To Me," perhaps my favorite song by The Cure.

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You can buy Sonic Youth's old music gear and records

Sonic Youth is selling a couple hundred pieces of music gear and a slew of rare vinyl records including test pressings of their own LPs and other fine platters. The Official Sonic Youth Reverb Shop opens for business today. From Reverb.com:

One of the guitars included in The Official Sonic Youth Reverb Shop is a '70s Fender Telecaster Deluxe used by Ranaldo, Jim O'Rourke, and Mark Ibold from 1987 to 2009, and Ranaldo's Travis Bean TB1000A Artist. The Travis Bean was stolen in 1999, but Ranaldo got it back in 2002 and continued to play it until 2011.

After that same theft, Kim Gordon used a replacement blue Fender Precision Bass until 2004. This P-Bass, as well as a copper sparkle Ibanez Talman, was used by Thurston Moore and Gordon from 1999 to 2010, throughout Gordon's solo SYR5 gigs.

Befitting a band that helped popularize offsets—a candy apple red Fender Jazzmaster used by Moore for more than a decade and a sunburst Jazzmaster used Ranaldo will also be available in Sonic Youth's Shop. In addition, there are more than 100 vintage and used effects pedals used by all members of the band, including Ranaldo's Klon Centaur Silver Overdrive.

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These guitars are made from former Detroit landmarks

For better or worse, Motorcity ain't what it used to be. But, having survived bankruptcy, corruption and bad luck that nearly broke its back, Detroit is making a slow comeback. While most of the city's residents are looking to the future, anyone looking to hold on to a piece of the city's long, colorful history would do well to take up guitar lessons.

Wallace Detroit Guitars builds their axes from wood they've reclaimed from Motorcity landmarks. Founded by Mark Wallace in 2014, the brands use reclaimed wood from sites like the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center where fighter Joe Lewis trained, and the former headquarters of the Detroit Fire Department. The wood is collected by Detroit nonprofit groups,  providing training and employment to local residents. Occasionally, the company accepts materials reclaimed from other sources within the city too:  contractors doing renos on historic properties drop off high grade, decades-old wood, perfect for making guitars. The resulting product, as you can see, is both badass and classic.

Because of the historic value of the wood and the amount of work it takes to lay hands on it, a Wallace Detroit Guitar doesn't come cheap: One of the guitars on the site is listed at $2,400. As each guitar the company produces is made-to-order, prices will vary--but don't expect to get a screeching deal. Each of these guitars is a work of art made with the guts of a former work of art, especially for the purpose of making new art. Owning anything that can lay claim to that's gonna cost you. Read the rest

Guitarist demonstrates beautiful tonal differences in "The Four Seasons" Guitars

Master luthier John Monteleone created a series of four archtop guitars, one for each season. Anthony Wilson of The Met shows how and why each sounds different than the others. Read the rest

Guitarist takes an in-depth look at Nick Drake's unique tone

I'm not a guitar player (though I did take lessons in my youth), but I am a huge Nick Drake fan and have always been haunted by the very unique, dark, and moody guitar tones that he achieved. In this fascinating video by YouTube guitar teacher, Josh Turner, he presents and demonstrates his theory for how Nick got his signature sound.

Spoiler Alert: He identifies these four characteristics that he thinks are the most significant contributors:

1. Small-bodied guitar (probably) 2. "Dead" nickel strings 3. Medium-length fingernails, long thumbnail 4. Classical guitar-style hand position with bent wrist and thumb angle (and playing over the sound hole)

At the end of the video, to demonstrate the sound, he launches into the first part of Things Behind the Sun. It sounded so beautiful, it made my eyes want to roll back in my head. And made me immediately run to the original as soon Josh's video was over.

If you are also a fan of Drake's, you'll want to check out Remembered for a While, the the lovingly curated scrapbook of all things Nick that his sister, Gabrielle Drake (perhaps best known as the purple-haired Lt. Ellis on the cult-fave 70s British TV series, UFO) put together. Here's the review I wrote of it here on Boing Boing. Read the rest

How astrophysicist and Queen musician Brian May made his own guitar

Brian May, the lead guitarist and composer for Queen, is a multitalented guy. A Guitar World readers poll ranked him as the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time. He also has a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London was on the science team for NASA's New Horizons Pluto mission. He also made his own guitar with his father in the 1960s, which he called The Red Special. Hackaday has the build notes.

Every part of the Red Special was a process of trial and error. This is the true hacker spirit behind the guitar. Most trials didn’t work the first time, but Brian and Harold iterated until they reached their goals. An example of this is the pickups. Brian’s experimentation with pickups started with his Egmond guitar. He bought some Eclipse Magnetics button magnets from the local hardware store. These formed the core of the pickup. Harold then helped him build a coil winding machine, which allowed Brian to manually wind thousands of turns of fine copper wire around the pickups. It even had a wind counter built from a bicycle odometer.

Brian didn’t have an amplifier yet, so he plugged into the family’s radio. The pickups worked! They were very bright sounding, but had one flaw. When bending notes, Brian found there would be an odd sound as the string moved across the pickup. He attributed it to the North-South alignment of the disk magnet poles. Cutting the magnets was beyond the tools he had, and custom magnets were out of the budget.

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Who knew vintage oil can guitars would sound so great?

Hayburner Guitars makes guitars from vintage oil cans, and they look as great as they sound. Read the rest

Understand the history of heavy metal by watching this single song

Ben Higgins takes us from blues rock through thrash, black metal, prog metal, and djent. You can even learn to play it yourself. Raise those horn hands high! (via Laughing Squid)

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1908 Gibson style U guitar in amazing shape

This amazing Gibson is for sale, a mere $11,999USD. Beautiful, but my guitar addiction syndrome has been cured.

Via Reverb:

Freakishly clean 1908 Style U harp guitar in near mint all original condition, serial number 8618 batch number 1004 with original hand tooled rear loading leather case. By far the cleanest century old Gibson instruments we've seen. Purchased originally by the school teaching matriarch of a homesteading family from the Southwestern United States to entertain her students. The size was too much to deal with and the instrument sat unmolested at home in her closet, on her dresser until the death of her only son from old age. The caregiver attending to the dying needs of the now elder son claimed she was gifted the guitar before his death and that the conversation went something like this. Dying son says "what about my Moms' guitar? Caregiver says, what guitar? Dying man points to the closet and she sees the case on top of the dresser, that's for you, you take it." She sold it to me a few days’ later, perfect provenance, perfect guitar and perfect deal. It’s slightly difficult to covey how clean and original this instrument is, there will probably not be another of these, this nice ever. Spectacular varnished finish displays perfectly normal varnish shrinkage, patterned in a way only varnish does when not French polished out. A better example cannot be found for sale anywhere. All instruments are examined, cleaned and set up before selling. No modifications or repairs, no cracks or breaks.

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Polishing a National guitar

My National guitar is a treasured personal artifact, but it was crusted with 17 years of crud. I tried a lot of stuff to get it clean, and in the end Simichrome did the job. Read the rest

Guitar made from shotgun that still shoots

Rev. Peyton of the Big Damn Band plays a three-stringed "Guitgun" that he designed and Bryan Fleming fabricated.

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Finger Ease is guitar string lubricant that smells nice

I really like Finger Ease guitar string lubricant. While I doubt the spray does a thing for the sound of my strings, I find it allows me to play for quite a bit longer. Read the rest

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