Teresa’s 40th Birthday gig

Good times last night with the Drop Daddies!

Teresa’s 40th Birthday


Blackhawk Auto Museum Gig

Played a gig with the Drop Daddies at the Blackhawk Auto Museum last night, surrounded by priceless cars.  Fun!

Stafford’s 40th Birthday at Blackhawk Auto Museum

Happy 100th Birthday Les

lespaul43Today, Les Paul would’ve been 100 years old.

One of the many inspiring stories about Les Paul: at the young age of 33, he was in a terrible car accident and shattered his right arm and elbow.  They couldn’t rebuild his elbow and he was offered the choice to amputate.  Instead he had them set his arm permanently at a 90 degree angle so he could still play guitar. Despite the long recovery and his “handicap”, he continued to play guitar until his death at age 94.  That’s dedication!

I still play my Les Paul every day, and am thankful for Les’ numerous contributions to our musical world – from his innovations with the electric guitar and multi-track recording, to his love of making and sharing music.   Happy Birthday Les!

Pedaltrain-Inspired DIY Pedal Board

Pedal Board Mid-2012

This was my old SKB PS-25 pedal board, mid-2012.

After the pedalboard power supply died last year, I purchased a Visual Sound 1 Spot, and continued using the old SKB just as a convenient velcro surface to hold my pedals.

Pedal Board Mid-2013As the Drop Daddies’ repertoire of cover tunes has expanded, so has my need to produce an ever-increasing variety of sounds.  So my complement of pedals has gradually been expanding.  I’m generally not a big fan of modelers, but I added the Zoom G3x for flexibility with delays, choruses and phasers, etc.  It has a fairly sizeable footprint, so I pulled off my Ernie Ball volume pedal, since I could use the G3X for volume if necessary.

Pedaltrain Pro

Even so, I needed more space.  I have been intrigued by the Pedaltrain Pro– but the price is high for such a simple thing.

Time for some creative woodworking!  I rarely get a chance to combine my woodworking and guitar hobbies.

How much more black could it be?Assembled, and ready for finishingI was planning to paint it black, so the wood didn’t need to be beautiful.  I chose poplar because it’s a strong hardwood, and  it’s relatively inexpensive since it tends to be an ugly shade of greenish yellow.


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Pickup Measuring Techniques

Pickup Measuring TechniquesI often refer to (and recommend) Helmuth Lemme’s article The Secrets of Electric Guitar Pickups.  The author succinctly describes the guitar circuit and discusses how each component of the circuit contributes to the resulting guitar tone.

Mr. Lemme recently got in touch with me, and forwarded me a new article Pickup Measuring Techniques that he wrote for Sustain Magazine.   The author discusses methods of characterizing the quality of pickups- from the useful (inductance) to the not so useful (DC resistance).  He also describes a Pickup Analyzer device for measuring pickups which generates an alternating magnetic field across the entire audible frequency spectrum and captures the results from the pickup, with a selectable load capacitance.  Neat!  Click here to read the article.  Thanks to the author for permission to share his article here with you.

Helmuth Lemme also has written a book- Electric Guitar Sound Secrets and Technology.

Pickup Magnetic Polarity and Phase

In this article, Pete Biltoft at Vintage Vibe Guitars explains how the magnetic orientation and winding direction of single coil pickups affects their phase relationships and hum cancellation.

Thanks again to Pete for the permission to post this here!



In this newsletter I would like to cover how to “match” two single coil passive magnetic pickups.

Consider all of the possibilities for magnetic polarity (north up or south up) and winding direction (clockwise or counter clockwise) for each of the two pickups as well as series or parallel connection of the two pickups and the possibility of the pickups being in phase or out of phase with each other and things can get a little complicated.

Let’s try to sort it out.

Most players just want three good and useful tones from an instrument with two pickups:

  1. Bridge position pickup only
  2. Bridge and middle position pickups both on (and most often connected in parallel)
  3. Neck position pickup only

In switch positions 1 and 3 all is good- no phasing issues are possible as there is only one signal from one pickup, but in switch position 2 the possibility exists that the two signals from the two pickups could be in phase or out of phase with each other.


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The Overall Guitar Circuit

Guitar Circuit as Second Order FilterI’m often asked for advice on choosing volume/tone pot values for a particular guitar/pickup combination.  My answer is usually “get a selection of component values, and experiment until you find what you like”.

I may also mention some general principals for working with passive guitar circuits: lower pot resistance will sound darker, while higher pot resistance will be brighter; larger tone capacitance will result in a darker sound; higher resistance pickups will be hotter but darker; etc, etc.

But why?  Honestly, you don’t really need to understand why the different component/value choices make a difference in the sound, as you can generally just experiment until you find a sound that works for you.  However, you may be interested in electronics and want a deeper understanding of why your component choices affect the sound.

I have written before about the tone circuit as a low pass filter, but to understand the bigger picture, it’s important to think about the overall guitar circuit: the pickups (which are coils of wire acting as inductors), the volume pot (which is a resistive load), the tone pot and cap (which comprise a first order filter on their own), and even the cable between the guitar and amp (which is a capacitive load).

I’m no electronics expert, and this stuff can get pretty deep and confusing.  So allow me to direct you to some excellent resources from the experts:

There’s also some interesting examples and discussion here:


Three Les Pauls

Three Les PaulsI’ve been playing an Epiphone 1960 Les Paul Tribute Plus for the last couple years, and loving it.  On a whim, I recently tried a couple of these unbelievably inexpensive Monoprice Route 66 guitars.  A couple weeks ago, my birthday rolled around, and I ended up purchasing a new Gibson 2013 Les Paul Studio.  The Gibson is twice the price of my Epiphone and nearly ten times the price of the Monoprice.  What are the differences?  How do they stack up?

There was a brief window of time before I returned the Route 66, where I had all three guitars on hand- my trusted Epiphone, the low cost Route 66, and my brand new Les Paul Studio.   So being the obsessive guitar nut that I am, it seemed like a good opportunity to film a comparison:

Three Les Pauls

Les Paul 1952 Ad

Ted McCarty and Les PaulThe Les Paul. 

It’s an iconic guitar- first introduced in 1952 as Gibson guitar’s response to Fenders solid body telecaster.   It was Gibson’s first solid body, and was designed by then Gibson president Ted McCarty in collaboration with the man himself, Lester William Polsfuss

As with most things, this guitar is available at all different price points and quality levels.  Today I’m taking a look at three Les Pauls, at three different price points.  First up is  this beautiful 2013 Gibson Les Paul Studio, at around $1100.  Next is this gorgeous Epiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute Plus, at around $600.    And last is this Monoprice Route 66 imitation Les Paul, which can be had for a mere $100. 

Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.  

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Birthdays with Les Paul

Gibson 2013 Les Paul Studio Vintage SunburstGibson 2013 Les Paul Studio Vintage SunburstGibson 2013 Les Paul Studio

A couple years back on my birthday, my family gave me a 2012 Epiphone 1960 Les Paul Tribute Plus.  I love that guitar – and have played it nearly every day for two years.   Aside from some cosmetic issues, the only real negative about the Tribute Plus is that it’s heavy- it’s a solid body with no weight relief.  I’ve been playing many long gigs and rehearsals with my band the Drop Daddies, and the weight really does takes its toll.

This year for my birthday, my wife again suggested I get a new guitar.  I like this tradition!!  This time, I chose a Gibson 2013 Les Paul Studio. I purchased it from Sweetwater– they had a great “last year’s model” price – under a grand, with a hard case.  And their photo gallery selection process took a lot of the gambling and guesswork out of the online purchase.  Their service was awesome, the guitar arrived exactly as pictured, and it was nicely set up (though for some reason they had put 9’s on it, so my first job was to change it to 10’s and redo the setup).

Contrasting mahogany neck and granadillio fretboardThe Les Paul Studio is a very effective compromise in features vs. price.  It’s very similar in quality and playability compared to the higher-end Gibson’s- only really lacking some cosmetic fanciness.  With Gibson Les Pauls, you’ll pay 2 or 3 times the price of the Studio before see body/neck bindings, figured top woods and elaborate inlays.

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Vox Throwback

Vox 2000 Catalog

“Classic Vox Sound- standard on all Vox amplifiers” –  Yes!

I saw this 2000 Vox equipment catalog on ebay, and had to share the pics.

They were going for a throwback, misogynistic vibe with this catalog.  Amusing, horrifying, yes, all that and more.

“Lonely?  Amazing new sound attracts Devil Women!”

“What a lovely pair” (referring to the pair of Alnico Blue speakers in an AC30)

Vox 2000 Catalog Outside

Vox 2000 Catalog inside

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