Thursday, February 23, 2017

Larry Coryell | Memorable Quotes

This article is dedicated to Larry Coryell who left us on February 19th 2017 at age 73. Thank you for the inspiration and the music, Sir.

On composing and improvisation: "We felt that we had to build the structure and then do the freedom within the structure, and if the structure was strong enough, the freedom within the structure would give us enough freedom to do what we wanted."

"I tried to change my philosophy and to make music first. But I know that very often I will fall back into 'guitaristics' and techniques, and I accept that."

"It's really hard to do an imitation of a Charlie Parker solo, but by the same token, it's not that easy to do an imitation of Eric Clapton when he was on the Bluesbreakers trip."
Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell (pic source: Wikipedia)

On studying Wes Montgomery's solos: "I would listen to Wes Montgomery and not have any idea how he did it. Not the technique but just the mind. Not because I wanted to play like Wes, because that would be like asking a Ford to be a Rolls Royce."

"I would go out with the boys in the old days and laugh at Paul Desmond, just because I wanted to go along with my peer group, and now I really listen to him, and he can make me cry."

"Jazz goes beyond music -- it's enlightenment. Enlightened to those things which cannot be seen or felt. Rather than, 'Oh man, I boogied all night, and I threw up and had a great time getting loaded."

"There's a big difference between performing and creating, and I feel the really great jazz performers, even though as a sidelight they may be entertaining, feel it their duty to create."

"That was what made Cream so great, they were considered a pop rock group but they were creators. When Cream came on, Eric Clapton never repeated himself, Jack Bruce never repeated himself, and Ginger Baker had to get some repetition going. But they were all creators."

"You can get down there and play four-four, but if you're not cooking, you're not creating."

"I think people are looking for enlightenment, not escape. And I think that enlightenment is just one degree beyond that musical escape that really gripped our musical fabric."

"That was Elvin Jones' philosophy, "You go up there and play like it's the last time you're ever going to play."  If there's one person in the club, he'll be up there playing up a storm."

"I've just been lucky enough to be around musicians who have given me the knowledge that I've gleaned from them. It lets me know who I am, and who I'm not."

On great musicians: "I think what they are projecting is the music which comes out of the cosmos and out of the earth, and they just allow themselves to be an antennae. All this music is in the earth, in the sky, and it comes through some people, their bodies, their hands, and their instruments, and what comes out is pure music."

On the ego: "Needless to say you've got to have some ego just to check into a motel, but ego is a double-edged sword. You can either fill a house with it or cut yourself."

"When I'm improvising I'm not conscious of anything I do, but when I'm practicing it's all mind. When I practice I'm all mind and when I'm improvising I'm all heart. I try to turn the mind off."

"You have to practice to use your mind in the woodshed in order to free your mind when you're up there onstage."

"Music is everybody's property."

"My calling on this planet is to be a searcher, in search of something new. But I won't be disappointed if on the day I die I don't find it -- at least I'll be searching."

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Les Paul Junior Kit Build

Our guitar wiring expert friend, Arnold, has always been a fan of Les Paul Juniors. And while browsing the net recently, he came across a seller offering a double cutaway Junior-style neck and body for a little over 300 bucks.

Taking the plunge, the beautiful raw wood kit that arrived featured an Indian rosewood fingerboard, mahogany neck, and a one piece mahogany body. Our luthier buddy, Luca Quacquarella, was tasked with assembly, painting and final setup.

Les Paul Junior kit mahogany neck and body
Raw mahogany neck and body

Arnold chose to not have the mounting stud holes for the bridge drilled. The kit maker would only provide metric sized screw holes whereas Arnold wanted to use a compensated MojoAxe bridge that came with Imperial sized studs.


Some Les Paul Junior History

Originally issued in 1954, the Les Paul Junior was Gibson's foray into the budget and student market. Featuring slab mahogany bodies and very simple electronics in the form of a single P90 bridge pickup and basic volume and tone controls, the Junior eschewed all accoutrements of its more expensive Les Paul solidbody cousins.  

No carved maple tops, binding, or fancy inlays for this little guy!

Les Paul Junior kit mahogany neck and body
Checking the neck to body fit

While the very first Les Paul Juniors were single cutaway instruments finished in a brown sunburst, Gibson later made available a TV Yellow finish model in 1955. In the days of black and white television, white guitars tended to 'wash out', appearing overly bright on-screen. The TV Yellow finish made the guitar appear a more natural white.

The double cutaway Junior, like Arnold's kit, was released in 1958 in response to player's requests for more access to the upper frets.

Assembly and Paint

A little bit of play was evident in the neck to body joint when the kit arrived -- they could have cut it more precisely for a snug fit.

After gluing the neck to the body, Luca proceeded with applying a light dark stain to bring out the grain of the wood a little more under the final paint. Three coats of nitrocellulose lacquer, closely matching Gibson's original TV Yellow, were then applied, with the paint allowed to dry thoroughly between coats.

Les Paul Junior kit TV Yellow
Spraying the first coat of TV Yellow

On the black painted headstock face, Arnold chose to go with a smaller, stylized Luca Custom Guitars logo for simplicity. 
Les Paul Junior kit headstock face
Luca custom logo and Kluson tuners


Hardware and Electronics

In the spirit of the original Les Paul Juniors, Kluson button vintage-style tuners were chosen, along with a black, single-ply pickguard. Luca also installed a bone nut he cut and polished from scratch.

Next came the tricky task of drilling the screw holes for the bridge studs.

Because the Junior used a simple stopbar tailpiece that functioned as a bridge, the measurement had to be very precise as there are no individual saddle screws for intonation adjustment. The MojoAxe stopbar bridge is compensated for better intonation by way of subtle ridges molded into the top, but its placement is still crucial nonetheless.

Instead of measuring from nut to bridge, Arnold suggested attaching a high E and a low E string to an anchor point on the workbench. Sliding the bridge along the body and checking with a strobe tuner until intonation was achieved, the stud holes were then drilled and the bridge mounted. No room for error here!

Les Paul Junior kit Porter P90 pickup
Porter P90 hot wound pickup installed

At Luca's suggestion, a hot wound Porter P90 pickup was chosen, with Arnold supplying his own wiring harness for the electronics -- Emerson pots, in values of 500k for the volume control and 250k for the tone, with a .022uF paper-in-oil capacitor. Apparently, pot values of 500k for volume and 250k for tone are the magic numbers for P90 equipped guitars.

Les Paul Junior kit wiring harness
Emerson volume and tone pots and paper-in-oil capacitor
Relic'ing

To give it that lived-in, played for decades look, Luca gave the guitar a tasteful relic finish.

Les Paul Junior kit relic TV Yellow finish
Relic'd TV Yellow finish

So many guitar manufacturers these days use templates to map out wear spots and dings on new guitars. It saves a lot of time, but one can't help feeling a little cheated that almost no thought went into relic'ing the instrument. Not to mention that you would have guitars with about the same wear spots in the same places.

Les Paul Junior kit relic TV Yellow finish
Nitrocellulose TV Yellow finish

Luca still does it the old fashioned way -- artistically and with much deliberation for where a guitar might receive its dings, scrapes and wear spots after years of gigging.

And damn, does this thing look like a real Les Paul Junior from the 50's!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Refinishing A PRS Custom 24 Part 2 | The Final Reveal

In our last article, Refinishing A PRS Custom 24 Part 1, we detailed the removal of the guitar's cloudy green lacquer and extensive prep work for the big refinish -- entirely in nitrocellulose lacquer -- by luthier Luca Quacquarella.

In my humble opinion, our Italian friend really outdid himself on this particular job.

The following pics were taken by Reggie Tan at Luca's workshop on the day he went to pick up his newly refinished PRS.

As always, click on the pictures to enlarge. Enjoy!

PRS Custom 24 refinished top
PRS Custom 24 refinished top. This guitar was finished entirely in nitrocellulose

PRS Custom 24 refinished top
Stunning flame maple top on this PRS Custom 24 Artist model

PRS Custom 24 Artist abalone bird inlays
Artist models like this one also feature choice abalone mother of pearl bird inlays

PRS Custom 24 scraped binding
Another view of the top and 'scraped' maple binding

PRS Custom 24 Artist headstock abalone inlay
Inlaid abalone PRS logo and Indian rosewood headstock veneer

PRS Custom 24 refinished back
Back and neck also refinished in nitrocellulose lacquer

PRS Custom 24 refinished headstock back
A view of the back of the headstock. Note distinctive quarter sawn grain pattern

PRS Custom 24 refinished back and neck
PRS's distinctive neck joint

PRS Custom 24 refinished top
Final view of the top. Note light shading of violet mixed in with blue on the edges

PRS Custom 24 refinished
Happy owner, happy luthier! Luca (on the left) with Reggie
(Photographs of this PRS Custom 24 courtesy of Reggie Tan. All rights reserved)

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