What’s it like to be a guitar tech?

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a concert guitar tech?  Well, it’s really fun!  I tech’d for Bob Mould last month, and kept remembering listening to Zen Arcade on my cassette Walkman.  God I’m old…  Anyway, the gig was at the Fillmore, so I showed up at 3 to help unpack the gear.  Jason Narducy, the bass player was there and helped me with the amp and mic positioning.  The guys in the band have very specific placements for the equipment – amps directly behind the mics, mics between the wedges a certain distance from the side-fills – so once everything is set up, including the pedal-boards, it’s all spiked with tape to save the locations.  When testing Bob’s rig I ran into the first problem.  His distortion pedal, which is undeniably the most important pedal in the rig, had a broken Virtual Battery lead.  The Virtual Battery allows an effect with no external power supply to use one, eliminating the battery.  Problem with this one?  The lead had been pinched between the cover plate and the casing, causing it to break.  I had brought a full complement of tools, so I was able to solder the wires back together, and to insure that it wouldn’t happen again, I used a nut file to make an exit hole between the cover plate and casing.  Once that was fixed I checked Bob’s and Jason’s rigs for functionality.  Bob runs a Blackstar head through two Marshall cabs.  It’s a devastating rig.  Bob showed up and we rehearsed the guitar hand offs and ran through the particulars of the set, then they ran through sound check.  Both of Bob’s guitars are Fender Stratocaster Plus with Lace Sensors and an LSR nut.  I’m not usually a big fan of the Lace Sensors, but with his rig and melodic chord style of playing, the tone was cutting but not brittle.  The power chords punched with good note separation on the picked lines.  After sound check we tore the entire stage down so Churches could get their rigs on stage.  As I was just about to grab a bite, I got a call from my quite pregnant wife to run home and help get our daughter down for bed.  Rock and roll!

Upon arriving back at the Fillmore I got the set-list which had notes for guitar changes and song order, and I had time to sit and watch one of our customers, Dominic East, play with his band Churches.  After the set it was all hustle to get the stage set for Bob.  The spiking I had done earlier made it easy to get the pedal boards, mics and monitors back in place, but there was not much extra time to dilly-dally.  Last thing was to check levels for the drums, mics and guitars.  The Fillmore looks huge from stage when the room’s full, and I got to be that guy who plays all the instruments before the band comes out.  After the thumbs-up from the sound man, I took my post stage left to be ready with Bob’s blue Strat.  Out they came and I made the hand off.  The band was playing Sugar’s album Copper Blue in its entirety, which made for a great show.  There were only two guitar swaps during the show, with Bob needing his grey Strat for the song “The Slim” and then the blue one for the rest of the set.  When I got the grey one back, I put it in standard tuning in case there was a problem withe the blue one.  At that point, I stayed ready to help but really just enjoyed the show.

When the show was over I de-tuned and packed Bob’s guitars, packed Jason’s bass and all the effects, cables and amp heads.  They have a great crew at the Fillmore so everything was smooth and of course, the sound was great.  After everything was loaded I headed up to the after party and ran into a few customers and a couple of friends of mine.  All in all the night was plenty of work, but the band was very gracious and helpful, put on a fantastic show and was a lot of fun to work with.  So, the night of a tech is one of problem solving on a tight timeline and working to see that the band has everything they need all the time.  And apparently rocking a 3 yr to sleep.  No problem!

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Acorn inlays

Inlays can make or break the look of a guitar. Of course taste is a big factor but so is craftsmanship. This guitar was handmade by Joe Lazar, a customer of ours, while taking a class with Charles Fox at the American School of Lutherie. You can see the build process here bloodfretandtears.com.  The headstock looked empty so we were asked to make a design before it went off to finish. The owner has a thing for squirrels and acorns. After some discussion Aaron and Joe finalized the design and Aaron did the inlay work.

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The finished product looks great but don’t forget making inlays is a lot of work. Here is how the process goes down.

Draw design on tracing paper and super glue the paper to some pearl.

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Patiently and carefully cut it with a jewelers saw.

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Take the shape and trace it onto the wood with a mechanical pencil.

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Use a dremel with a router base. Set depth a few thousandths  shallower than pearl. This is so when the pearl is set in it can be sanded level.

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We usually route with a 16th inch bit for the bulk and a .020″ for fine details.

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Place the pearl in the recess. Glue it down with super glue. We mixed ebony dust in the glue to match the color. Black super glue would also work.

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Sand it flat with a sanding block. Increase grit successively up to 800 then hit it with steel wool.

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Now it’s ready to be sent to finishing!


Labor Sale!!!

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As you may or may not know our fearless leader Geoff and his wife Heather are about to have another child. The due date is October 29th but who knows when the baby will actually be born. To celebrate this we will be offering 10% off labor on all work that comes in until Heather goes into labor! So bring in your instrument now because once the baby is here the sale is over.

John’s new Luttrell

John picked up his new Luttrell Guitarworks a few weeks ago and has been loving it.  I made his with a Les Paul style control layout, light swamp ash body and maple neck.  He wanted a really spanky tone, so we decided on Lindy Fralin Twangmaster P-92’s.  They are basically a split, hum-cancelling P90 but they have magnetized poles like a tele or strat pickup for extra bite.  It sounds great.  Since I used the Plek for the fingerboard planing and fret slot cutting, I was able to cut pocketed fret slots.  This type of slot is impossible to cut by hand, and it gives the appearance of binding but is really the uninterrupted fingerboard edge.  I built the guitar with a 6 bolt neck joint, half-length truss rod and asymmetrical carbon support rods in the neck to keep it stable and light.  I’ve got a couple in the shop if you want to come check them out.  Thanks John!  Geoff

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Hasilesque P90 acoustic

As you all know we love an interesting project. This fender acoustic came in with a P90 screwed into the soundhole like Hasil Adkins.

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Already this guitar had an unconventional modification, and it also had a hole in the top. What was wanted was a volume and tone control for the pickup, so we figured the cool thing to do would be to make a tele style control plate but with a volume, tone and output jack. Aaron traced a plate we had here and drilled the appropriate holes, after some mapping and measuring.  Matching holes were drilled in the guitar for the pots and plate.

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Aaron wired it up, installed the plate and strung it up. Some guitars are fancy and some just have a lot of character. And, yes, it did sound good. Here you have it.

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