A Leslie West devotee turned an '80s "pointy" guitar into a more playable companion with a hand-painted homage to his hero.
Name: Mike Murphy
Hometown: Tavares, Florida
Guitar: Flying Star
I've been building/modifying guitars for over 50 years. With the recent passing of guitar legend Leslie West (of Mountain fame), who was one of my greatest influences, I thought this might be of interest to your readers.
In 1987, I walked into the famous Manny's Music in New York City to drool over all the gear that I couldn't afford and came across this Guild X-88 Flying Star. They were selling them off at a 50 percent discount, including a custom-fit hardshell case!!! I couldn't believe my good fortune. Here was a name brand, 100-percent-American-made guitar with a Kahler pro whammy, ebony fretboard, and American-made "California" pickups (EMG humbuckers). I pulled out my wallet and bought it right on the spot!
Not being very fashion-conscious, I later realized the reason for the great discount ... spandex-wearing hair bands were on the way out in the late '80s, and demand for pointy guitars had dropped significantly.
I dressed and polished the fretboard to take care of some sharp fret ends. I changed the bridge pickup to a high-output DiMarzio X2N humbucker. (Leslie West used DiMarzios at that time.) I also changed the volume/tone pots to top-quality, smooth-taper Carvin pots and wired them '50s-style to preserve highs when rolling back the volume knob. (Leslie always fiddled with his volume pot to go from clean to crunch.)
The guitar now played and sounded great, but as time went on, I didn't like the look and balance of the guitar. Indeed, I would get a bit of ribbing, sometimes even laughed at, if I showed up for a blues jam with this pointy guitar. It's kind of like showing up for a formal affair in a ruffled shirt from your 1970s prom. Something had to be done. I decided to draw radiuses and cut off all the points on a band saw, and then primed/painted those areas. Next came the custom paint job, which was done freehand by my wife and is based on the album cover of Mountain's Climbing. A bonus is that the guitar is now perfectly balanced hanging on the strap—no more neck riding up due to an overly heavy guitar body.
This is now a total custom job that I find to be a good-looking, good-sounding, good-playing guitar. I have a modest guitar collection. Without fail, when I have musicians over, this is the guitar everyone gravitates to, asking questions about it, and they all want to play it.Thank you for providing a forum for us readers. Your magazine is excellent, and I look forward to every issue.
Send your guitar story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our columnist shares the devices and materials needed to do some of his favorite guitar maintenance tricks.
The problem with giving advice is that there are many different approaches to everything, and usually more than one "right" answer. With my five decades of taking guitars apart, and sometimes putting them back together, I take a lot of stuff for granted, and I admit that I'm still learning. But ignoring all that, I'll just forge ahead and share the inexpensive tools and materials needed to do some of my favorite little tricks.
The solvent, not day-drinking. Pharmacy grade isopropyl is a pretty good at most cleaning chores, and is fairly benign. It's great for cutting through the gunk that accumulates on guitars, and it won't harm your finish. If you've bought an entry-level Jazzmaster slathered with stickers, this is just the thing to get you back to a clean slate. You can usually degrease hardware and de-schmutz fretboards without fear of harming your prized axe. Isopropyl works great on sticky fingers, too.
When cleaning with alcohol fails, naphtha is a DEFCON-level higher. You may know it as benzine or lighter fluid. It's way more caustic than alcohol, and it's also carcinogenic, so wear gloves and a NIOSH-approved respirator rated for organic vapors when you're using this stuff. It's highly flammable (lighter fluid, right?) and dangerous enough that a half-dozen states have banned its sale. Oddly, it's mild enough to use on nitro finishes. I used this stuff for wet-sanding nitro for years, until a sander exploded in our shop. I immediately switched to dry sanding with open coat paper. I caution you not to use this solvent unless it's your last resort.
This is as close to a miracle as you can get for $15. A Tri-Flow pen is a great way to lube whatever ails your gear. Got a sticky truss rod nut? One drop on the threads and washer and you're off to the races. Noisy fan? Squeaky bearings? Rusty pliers? You guessed it, Tri-Flow to the rescue. Loosen up those case hinges and hasps. In Chicago, I put a drop in my shop door lock to keep it working when it was 25 below zero.
This is some old-school spray-painter tomfoolery. Want to get that dull matte or flat finish effect when painting your guitar? Don't pay for matte lacquers, just add a little of this stuff to your gloss clear and you're good to go. Build up the clear coats with your regular gloss clear, and then do a final coat with some flattening paste mixed in. You won't see it working when you spray, but when it dries, the effect kicks in. Experiment with the formula on a scrap piece starting with a mix of about 5 percent at first, and increase until you get what you want. The crazy thing is that if you don't like the way it looks, you can just buff it out to gloss like normal.
Diamond Nail Files
Luthier supply shops get serious coin for diamond-coated files because they work great and last almost forever. My suggestion is to get a set of German-made diamond nail files from Amazon. You can get a set of five different sizes for 10 bucks! I use them to deburr sharp edges on bridges, frets, and anything that needs a quick smoothing. Buy two sets and put some in your gig bag. You can also file your nails with them.
Notched Fret Cauls
Check out StewMac to pick up a set of notched fret-press cauls. These things won't get used that often, but if you have a lifted fret at a gig, or if you're just too lazy to take the strings off, this is the nazz. The cool thing is that, in a pinch, you can place the caul on the high fret (the strings go in the notches) and just hammer it lightly with a Shure 58 to reseat that buzzy fret.
Step up your fretboard prep to the pro level with Watco. Technically a penetrating varnish, it looks great and seals wood against moisture, which stabilizes your neck. Start with a cleaned fretboard, then apply natural Watco on your rosewood or ebony, being careful not to drip any on lacquer. If you're worried, mask off the sides of the neck. Follow the directions on the can. Apply with a soft rag or paper towel, and flood it with two or three liberal passes until it stops absorbing. Don't worry if you get a little on the frets, but generally try to avoid them. Wait 20-30 minutes—that's the secret, so go do something else for a while. Come back and add a light coat and buff to a shine with a cloth. Let it cure overnight.
There are a zillion little shortcuts and tricks you pick up with time and experience, and these are just some of the ones I use almost every day. Like I said, I'm still learning, so I'm passing these on to you. If even one of them helps you out, you've made my day.
A twisted look at how to up the twang factor on your next solo.
- Develop a more intervallic approach to double-stops
- Create ear-twisting, tension-filled solos.
- Understand how to imply chords with only a few notes.
In this lesson, we are going to cover a super important and very common technique. Double-stops are one of the pillars for defining a country guitar sound. I'll break down ways to approach this technique from an intervallic standpoint. If you feel it will require too much theory, don't worry… we won't go down that rabbit hole very far.
Double-stops are simply two notes played simultaneously. The difference between those notes is defined as the intervallic relationship. The larger the difference between notes, the higher the number or interval. In the following examples I specifically started with the most common and smaller intervals: major thirds and minor thirds. Then we will work our way to fourths, fifths, and sixths.
Any interval is fair game, but I decided to go with more common voicings for these examples. When picturing the sound of intervals just think of the emotion they reflect. Major is a "happier" sound and minor is "sadder," while augmented or diminished create tension. Make sure to use your ear as much as theory to gain your desired emotion when using intervals, especially in double-stop licks. In addition to focusing on double-stops for this lesson, there will also be articulations like slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and of course, bends. Let's get to the examples.
Ex. 1 is an ascending lick using primarily major thirds. There's a little chromaticism on the front end of the lick but it's pretty much a stock bluegrass lick that ends nicely with a slide and "safe" resolution. You could easily play just the lower note and it'd be a cool lick but the double-stop fattens things up considerably. I'd use pick and middle finger on the picking hand until you get to the 3rd and 2nd strings then use ring and middle. Make it snappy and a little muted to really get that "spanky" sound.
Ex. 2 is a descending lick over a D chord that uses major thirds as a focus but we shift gears and add a tritone or b5 interval at the end for some tension. Note the articulations—I'd roll the ring finger on the fretting hand when you're on the 12th fret of the G and B double note moving to the D string.
This "thematic" lick (Ex. 3) uses the same idea and then moves up the neck to do it again. It works best over a Bm chord and uses primarily fourths throughout the lick with major thirds kicking in on the G and B strings.
Fifths have a real open sound to them, and you'll hear that in Ex. 4. As you move up to the 12th fret on the 1st string switch from your index to pinky finger while keeping the middle finger on the 2nd string. I threw in some blue notes or b5 intervals and added a bend towards the end to spice it up. Use your ring finger to make that full-step bend and then use your index for the last slide.
Ex. 5 uses both major and minor sixths. This descending lick also sneaks in an open-string idea to add some rhythm and note displacement. You end the lick on adjacent strings and play a stretched-out fingering using pinky on 7th fret of the 4th string and slide your index from the b3 to the 3 (C#).
Ex. 6 is a bluesy sounding lick over G—and this one has a double-stop bend. I'd use my ring finger to bend both notes and push them down, not up. The end of the lick has a bluesy pull-off that completes the lick quite nicely.
Here's a lick (Ex. 7) that uses an E pedal tone against an ascending double-stop line that works great as a turnaround. Make sure to time the muted note on the 4th string and you'll end this one on the B7 approached from a half-step above. This lick works great over a blues, rockabilly, or swing feel.
This lick (Ex. 8) is a cool walkdown in F. It's a rhythmic sequence that works nicely moving from a major chord to a diminished sound to a dominant chord before resolving. Here, we're going from a I chord to a Idim before hitting a V7 and then a resolution to the tonic. Any way you cut it, this functions nicely going into F.
Double-stops can fatten your sound and add tons of possibilities by creating tension and release from using different intervallic patterns. Obviously, I've only scratched the surface on the possibilities. I encourage you to find some intervals you like and experiment to find your favorite licks. It's a staple of any country player and I highly advise you to follow your ear hear and equate what you're doing to an emotion. The best players tell a story with their solos. So what's gonna be the story you tell the next chance you get a chance to rip a solo?
TOOL have announced a mammoth 2022 tour, with the Los Angeles-based band spending 3 months traversing the U.S. followed by a month of European dates.
TOOL elected to kick off the highly-anticipated trek in Eugene, Ore. as a nod to the abrupt halt to their 2020 Fear Inoculum tour. Slated to play the Matthew Knight Arena on March 12, 2020, the show, along with the band's remaining tour dates, was canceled as nationwide lockdowns began to take effect that evening.
"It is with great pleasure I get to announce our return to the road," said Danny Carey. "These past 18 months have been trying to say the least but from great trials come great lessons and great rewards. We are genuinely looking forward to sharing them with you."
Tickets for all dates are on-sale this Friday, Oct. 1 at 10 am local time (UK and Irish dates are on-sale at 9 am local time). TOOL Army members can purchase pre-sale tickets for European dates on Sept. 28 at 10 am local time (24 hour pre-sale window), while U.S. pre-sale tickets are available on Sept. 29 at 10 am local time (36 hour pre-sale window). A selection of exclusive packages, which include a pre-sale ticket, will also be made available to TOOL Army members on Sept. 29 at 10 am local time.
January 10 Eugene, OR Matthew Knight Arena
January 11 Tacoma, WA Tacoma Dome
January 13 Boise, ID Ford Idaho Center
January 15 Sacramento, CA Golden 1 Center
January 16 San Francisco, CA Chase Center
January 18 Anaheim, CA Honda Center
January 19 San Diego, CA Viejas Arena
January 21 Phoenix, AZ Footprint Center
January 22 Las Vegas, NV T-Mobile Arena
January 25 Salt Lake City, UT Maverik Center
January 27 Denver, CO Ball Arena
January 30 Tulsa, OK BOK Center
January 31 Dallas, TX American Airlines Center
February 2 San Antonio, TX AT&T Center
February 4 Houston, TX Toyota Center
February 5 New Orleans, LA Smoothie King Center
February 8 Orlando, FL Amway Center
February 9 Tampa, FL Amalie Arena
February 10 Miami, FL FTX Arena
February 19 Boston, MA TD Garden
February 20 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center
February 22 Washington, DC Capital One Arena
February 23 Belmont Park, NY UBS Arena
February 26 Newark, NJ Prudential Center
February 27 Buffalo, NY KeyBank Center
March 1 Pittsburgh, PA PPG Paints Arena
March 3 Detroit, MI Little Caesars Arena
March 4 Louisville, KY KFC Yum! Center
March 6 Columbus, OH Nationwide Arena
March 8 Grand Rapids, MI Van Andel Arena
March 10 Chicago, IL United Center
March 12 Omaha, NE CHI Health Center Arena
March 13 Minneapolis, MN Target Center
March 15 Kansas City, MO T-Mobile Center
March 17 Moline, IL TaxSlayer Center
March 18 St. Louis, MO Enterprise Center
March 20 Cleveland, OH Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
April 23 Copenhagen, DK Royal Arena
April 25 Oslo, NO Spektrum
April 26 Stockholm, SE Avicii Arena
April 28 Hamburg, DE Barclaycard Arena
April 29 Frankfurt, DE Festhalle
May 2 Manchester, UK AO Arena Manchester
May 4 Birmingham, UK Resorts World Arena
May 6 Dublin, IE 3Arena
May 9 London, UK The O2 Arena
May 12 Paris, FR AccorHotels Arena
May 13 Antwerp, BE Sportpaleis
May 15 Berlin, DE Mercedes-Benz Arena
May 17 Cologne, DE Lanxess Arena
May 19 Amsterdam, NL Ziggo Dome
May 21 Krakow, PL Tauron Arena
May 23 Prague, CZ O2 Arena
May 24 Budapest, HU SportAréna
Blonde Redhead opens on dates from Jan. 10 to Feb. 10. The Acid Helps opens from Feb. 19 to March 20.