Friday, June 30, 2006

Experimentation: Strings and Nails

OT: If you want to make it rain for three days in the desert, just buy a new iPod you want to go walking and jogging with. It's looked more like Seattle around here the last few days than Alpine. Sheesh. We needed the rain, though: Only about a half an inch has fallen since last October. Temps have been in the sixties and low seventies, which is positively bizarre for out here: Average afternoon highs should be in the high eighties and low nineties. I blame Al Gore.

Nice and sunny this morning, though.


The Glissentar has given me an idea. Well, actually, I have been thinking about this for years, but my experience with the Glissentar made me reach the tipping point, and I finally decided to try it on a six-string. What I'm talking about is a metal-wound G string: The glissentar sets use them, and I like the sound a lot. But there's more to it than just the sound.

As you know, the lower four strings on a guitar are tuned in fourths: E, A, D, G, low to high. Then there is the skip of a major third between G and B, and the final high E is another fourth up. Traditional nylon string sets have used metal wound strings for the lower three strings, and plain nylon for the "trebles." This causes a problem with the G and B strings: While the low E, A, and D strings and the high E strings all test out at about sixteen pounds of tension in a high tension set tuned to A= 440Hz at sea level, the G and B strings weigh in at only about twelve pounds of tension. This is particularly problematic with the G, because its diameter and mass make it sound quite weak in comparison to the other strings, and it's also the first string to feed back if the axe is amplified.

This entire mess can be corrected if you simply replace the unwound nylon G with a steel wound one: Then all of the lower strings which are tuned in fourths are circa sixteen pounds, and the high E is in the same ballpark. Only the B is then in the twelve pound class, and it is not nearly as problematic as the G due to it's pitch, thinness, and lack of mass to generate feedback loops with.

So, why hasn't this been done all along? Tradition is one reason, and many Flamenco players DO use wound G's (Which is how I was able to find them), but one of the problems is string life: The windings are very, very thin and have a tendency to wear through quite quickly.

We'll see how these last, but as far as the playability and tone is concerned, they... ahem... totally rock, dude.


I have, for quite some time now, used nylon nails on my p, a, and c fingers. I didn't use them on my i and m fingers because all of the nylon nails I found were overly curved, and my nails on those fingers are almost totally flat: They hurt! Well, I found a flatter set that are also thicker, and therefore less prone to cracking.

I don't care what the traditionalists say, natural nails suck. First of all, nylon against nylon produces a superior tone, and nylon nails are of a consistent shape, so the finger-to-finger balance is, for all practical purposes, perfect. Furthermore, maintaining nails for a guy is a major PITA. Especially for someone like myself who does "guy things," like working on motorcycles or shooting traditional recurve bows. If I want to do those things, I don't worry about damaging my nails. In fact, I just remove them so that they don't get in the way.

I love it.


"Encore" by DeCelle

I love how these off-center and far-away views give additional insight into the fractal generation process. The generating Mandelbrot set is to the right, and the structure on the left is like a re-generation from the thinest thread coming back into a confluence. Really, really, cool.


I've always loved archery.

Monday, June 26, 2006

iPod: First Generation 5GB vs. Fifth Generation 30GB

I was one of the "first kids on the block" with the original first generation 5GB iPod back around Christmas of 2001. When I first got the iPod, it was somewhat of a nuisance: Everywhere I went with it, people would stop me to ask about it and check it out. I wan't into the concept of being an Apple Ambassador At Large, but it was kind of amusing.

Eventually, the little jewel infiltrated my entire life. After discovering Etymotic ER-4 in-ear Earphones I took the iPod with me when I rode my motorcycle (Which was well over 10K miles per year for a while, since I owned no four-wheelers for nearly ten years), with the Etys playing the dual role of earplugs and entertainment. With a PowerPod auto AC adapter, I never ran out of juice, either (BMW motorcycles have accessory outlets, of course).

I eventually filled up my old iPod, and when I got my new Mac Mini a few months back, I transferred my iTunes library to it, but I didn't bother syncing the old iPod to it: I wanted a new iPod to go with the Mini (The old one went with my dear, departed Cube). Problem is, there are so many iPod choices now, from the gum-stick sized Shuffle, to the sexy little Nano, and on to the 30GB and 60GB models. I couldn't make up my mind.

The tipping point was reached when video eyeglasses started to appear, and I realized I wanted those (Of course: I'm a gadget freak). So, I bought a new 30GB iPod. Why not the 60GB? Thickness. The 30GB is thin enough to wear in an armband when I walk or jog (And, I got the coolest neoprene sport armband, natch), but the 60GB is about as thick as my original, which was juuuust a tad to "clunky" to jog with. The 30GB is a little less than half as thick as the original iPod, and is lighter as well. I love that.

I'll post a full review later.

I like the black. Black is cool.


They are sort of yin and yang-like, huh? The old iPod will be relagated to motorcycle duity, while the new one will sex-up the rest of my life.


Video capability offers some... ahem... interesting possibilities.

Making a Piece Your Own: Arranging for Guitar II

I have Xodo to the point where it's playable now - It's been a long time since I put so much effort into one piece - and this version is the last one I'm going to blog about: The final fleshe-out version will take months to develop, I'm sure.


One thing I had to work out was "voice three": In measure two you can see a dotted half-rest in the interior, which I needed to get the tie to the dotted half-note in measure three. That avoided an impossible two-bodies-occupying-the-same-space-at-the-same-time clash at the end of that measure.

I also re-articulated the interior voices in measure five using the third voice, which is the only other place in the first section that I needed to use it. In measures twelve and sixteen, however, a signigicant notational improvement was achieved by using the third voice to get the dotted half-note open G's, which is much more like what the guitar is actually sounding.

In measure nineteen I did not re-articulate the D on the last beat - and I play it the same at the following similar points - which is kind of an electric nylon string guitar "thing": With the volume, sustain, and digital effects I work with, a lot of re-articulatioins you would really need to make on an acoustic guitar are simply not necessary and, in fact, the music has a better effect on the electric without them.

At twenty and twenty-two I repeated the B's in the bass versus playing D's on the second attack just because I liked the effect better and it is easier to play that way. I'm constantly making judgements between playability and what I "want" to hear: It's like doing a cost to benefit analysis. Sure, there are a lot of things I would like to add, but is the end result worth the added technical complexity? In this instance, I judged that it was not.

For example, I reallr, really wanted an A below the D in measure twenty-six, but it's a tricky point, and adding it in required several quick fingering adjustments that needlessly complicated the execution of the thing, so I just let it be (Hey: "Let it Be"; There's a song in there somewhere).

As you can see, I'm using the third voice to get the interior open G's again in measures twenty-four and twenty-five. Not only that, but I added it, along with an E, under the A at the beginning of measure twenty-eight, which is not problematic to execute and adds quite a bit to the musical effect.

This third hook section, by the way, is very similar to the hook in Classical Gas. So much so that I wonder if Williams and Dominguinhos are familiar with each other's works... I'm just sayin'.

I totally changed the fourth section. First of all, I deleated a measure that was between measures thirty-six and thirty-seven: It was just a repeat of the bass figure under the sustained notes above. I judged that this allowed the drive of the piece to flag, so I ditched it. I like the resulting transition and maintenance of the drive to be more to my liking.

What I did in the fourth section proper was that I traded the lower octave lead voice for the high D's in the bass. Again, with an electric nylon string your priorities are different: On an acoustic I might go back to Tim's arrangement for the added tension that doubled lead voice gives, but on the electric it isn't necessary, and keeping the bass line rolling carries more weight. No pun intended.

For the following lick that starts in measure forty-six I changed the alternating E's in the bass on the final beats back to D's because 1) It's so much easier to play this way, and 2) with the third measure I added to the sequence, it actually works better.

Measure fifty-five is the analogous place to where I deleated the measure earlier, only this time allowing the tension to relax is fantastically effective before returning to the top.

I've actually added two measures exactly like measure fifty-eight to the coda to wind it down, and I've also changed the voicing of the final D major chord to allow for a six string thumb strum. Other than that, this is the version I'm going to start performing, and we'll see how it grows from there.


Since I'm going to continue posting fractal art I like, I've decided I ought to credit the artists. Today's image is by Paul DeCelle who has twenty galleries of excellent art on his site. Check him out.


It reminds me of a fractalized version of the desert mountain environment that I call home. Note the tiny generating Mandelbrot figure to the left of center. Nice.


I'm betting this is the kind of "sweetheart" those Brazilian Cowboys are looking for.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Making a Piece Your Own: Arranging for Guitar

As I have mentioned previously, my performance set is organized around a series of Preludes I wrote that proceed around the circle of thirds starting in A minor. So, the main body of my set goes through eight suites from A minor to A major. While the Preludes begin each suite, the end of each suite is a "Crowd Pleaser" type of piece: Classical Gas by Mason Williams for A minor, The Desert Song by Eric Johnson for C major (Yes, it's in A minor, but I use the Guardame Las Vacas variations to re-transition: There are SO MANY great pieces for guitar in A minor, for obvious reasons, and I've never found anything "cool" in C), Spanish Fly by Eddie Van Halen for E minor, A Day at the Beach by Joe Satriani for G major (I had to transpose it down a whole step from A major to make it fit on a standard classical guitar neck), Scherzo in B minor by yours truly, Huckleberry the Bald, for B minor, and then comes the "dead zone."

There are three pieces I have collected for the D Major Suite so far: The requisite Prelude in D major, the Bouree II from the 3rd Cello Suite by J.S. Bach, and finally another prelude of mine in D minor. All three of these pieces use a dropped D tuning, so I have been shopping for a drop D tuned crowd pleaser. I was planning on playing Steve Morse's Modoc here: He plays it in an open E-flat tuning, and playing it in open D would be no problem. Well, not exactly no problem, because I'd have to re-tune the top three strings between pieces. As much as I love the piece, that would cause an unacceptable pause in the flow of the set with the Multiac, and it would positively be a nightmare with the fretted Glissentar.



While mindlessly surfing World Guitarist to see, well... what the World of Guitarist's was up to one night, I stumbled across the home page of guitarist Don Witter Jr., which was featured. In Don's sound clips section was a positively ripping version of a Brazialian/Portuguese Cowboy Song called Eu So Quero Um Xodo, which positively slayed me. (As an aside; before I came to classical guitar I composed just a TON of Latin Jazz, so I am quite familiar with the idiom and predisposed to be smitten by it).

Well, I had to find out about the piece, so I used the contact information to e-mail Don about it. Mr. Witter very graciously replied to my inquiry within, like, a couple of hours, and informed me that the piece was an arrangement by another guitarist, Tim Sparks.

Again, an enquiring e-mail to Tim was responded to forthwith, and he - amazingly - sent me a PFD score of the music! What a guy!

And, of course, the piece uses a dropped D tuning.

I love the internet.


Not only does Tims PDF have the music for Xodo, but it also has the tablature and, and some fascinating background about the piece!

Turns out that the north-east of Brazil is not the rain forest we norte Americanos usually think of when Brazil comes to mind. Rather, it is a sprawling grassland with cattle and cowboys, and the native language is Portuguese. It is from this culture that this song originates, and the title translates roughly as, "I am Looking for a Sweetheart." Anastasio Dominguinhos is the original composer, and it turns out that Mr. Sparks spent some time down there, and so this arrangement.


Obviously, I'm doing an "arrangement of an arrangement" here, and not an arrangement of the original. This is no matter in this instance, as I want an instrumental version anyway, and I plan to elaborate on it quite extensively. By contrast, when I arranged Bach's Jesu I went to the original Cantata, and arranged it in the original key with the original form so that the guitarist could perform it solo, or along with the original ensemble and singers. For Xodo, I plan to make three versions: A transcription "in my head" from the original, which I will present today, a fingered version with all the articulations worked out, which I am currently half-way through, and finally a quasi-improvisitory extemporization which will be much closer to Don's fabulous version than to Tim's basic original.


Here is Tim Sparks' original arrangement:

If you think I am in any way disappointed that this version is so simple compared to Don's wildly improvised take on it, think again: The goal for any arrangement of any piece by any guitarist should be, by my philosophy, to make it his own. As a result, starting off at the beginning and modifying the piece to suit your taste and your technique should be the focus. None of the crowd pleasers in my set are exactly like the originals; they are all modified in some way, and a few, like Spanish Fly, I have virtually re-composed. My encore piece, for instance, is... Are you ready for this?... Stairway to Heaven, but over the years I have worked large segments of the original guitar solo and vocal lines into it so that now, it is mine (And, people do love it in a funny, "I can't believe he's playing that!" kind of way).



I stayed as true to the original as possible the first time through, changing only those things which seemed most obviously desirable. The primary focus of this version is the physical layout of the music: In order to get my notation program's sequencer to play the form properly, I had to re-do all of the endings. In the first section, for instance, I had to move the first ending back to measure six from measure eight "on account of the ties" (Bonus points if you get that obscure movie reference). Likewise, I had to move the first ending of the third section back to measure thirty-one of Tim's version to get the Coda phrase to play properly. Finally, I had to make a one-measure adjustment to the end and Coda as well: Now, it plays in the sequencer just as Tim's score indicates it should.


Here is my version one of three:

Because of the layout changes, the measure numbers do not match between the two versions, so I'll henceforth be using my measure numbers to point out the few musical changes.

In measures eighteen, nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-three Tim had open D's, which I changed to fretted E's because I wanted to hear a root position E dominant seventh at those points: The third inversions just sounded too dense and tense to me, and the change is a simple one to execute on the instrument.

The sequence that begins on page three in measure forty-seven has been improved: Measures forty-nine and fifth-three were previously exactly like measure forty-seven. By adding a third element to the sequence and playing with the previously exposed juxtaposition between the G-sharp and G-natural the overall effect is indubitably better.

That's it for this version. The next one has quite a few changes already, and it is really enjoyable to play. As it so happens, the program for the D Major Suite in my Lexicon MPX-G2 is one of the "largest" of my set, so on the Multiac Grand Concert this thing positively rocks!

Props to Don Witter Jr. and Tim Sparks for being so cool and gracious to me in this prioject!


From the same friend who sent me the awesome pics of the albino whitetail deer fawn comes this:

That's right: That circa twenty-pound orange tomcat chased that circa two-hundred pound black bear up the tree. We don't usually think of cats as being as territorial as dogs, but they are. I about busted a gut when I saw this.


Having spent a lot of time on farms and ranches in my life hunting and whatnot, I know that this scenario is *not* funny: Bulls are dangerously territorial, and I almost had to shoot one once to keep it from killing me. My grandfather kept a shotgun loaded with rock salt rounds in his Model T truck to discourage a couple of particularly ornery Holsteins he had!

Friday, June 16, 2006

My Ex-Wife Wouldn't Have Allowed This

I moved my small venue rig into the livingroom for a few days to fine tune the sounds for the fretted Glissentar.

"But honey, it's the largest room in the house, and I need the space to work the sounds out!"

Nope. That would never fly.

Of course, she wouldn't have let me hang my classic 1970's Damon Howatt Hunter recurve bow on the wall either.

I wasn't cut out for marriage. That was a liberating revelation when it first occurred to me.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, of course, I was married at the time. LOL!


It turns out that only the major mode triple time syncopated Reductios work on the guitar vis-a-vis fingering: I was afraid of that. I could change the duple time major mode versions' syncopation chains to follow the pattern of the triple time ones, but it kind of wastes the entire idea if I do that, and all of the minor mode versions are still out of bounds. So, I'm just going to stick with the four basic versions and forget about all of the versions with the syncope chains for the time being. Pity: They sound very nice in the sequencer. But, I learned something about four-voice contrapuntal writing for the guitar in the process: The fingering limitations are nearly crippling, which makes the challenge all the more alluring. I'll let this experience ripen in my subconscious, and return to it at a later date.


I had a major breakthrough with the fretted Glissentar's MPX-G2 programs: By adding a little more stereo detune chorus I was able to significantly broaden the sound, and it smoothed out the touchy dynamics to boot. It's kind of bass-akwards to be dealing with too much dynamic response, but such a thing is possible with the Carlos CP-1A. One thing I did not want to do was to have to resort to any compression or limiting: I took years to expunge all of that from my sound, and I ain't goin' back.


John: If I were to recommend just one counterpoint book, it would be Kent Kennan's Counterpoint, ISBN 0-13-184235-8. That being said, I have almost every counterpoint book that exists in the English language, and I've studied them all. Not only do each of them have some nugget or other to contribute, but counterpoint is a subject that requires three things to master: Repetition, repetition, and repetition.

Remember that there are two generas: Modal or Strict Style Counterpoint, and Tonal or Free Style Counterpoint (Also called seventeenth and eighteent century counterpoint, respectively). Kennan is free style. Mann's translation of Fux is indespensible for the historical perspective on modal counterpoint (Alfred Mann The Study of Counterpoint, ISBN 0-393-00277-2), and Benjamin has good books on each style.

Try to go for a variety of sources. That helped me a lot. Good luck.


Nice 3-D effect on this Mandelbrot image.


So profoundly true.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Reductio ad Absurdum: The Series

One of the things I stress to my students is that they should write a lot of miniatures, and preferrably several series of miniatures. It is especially useful if the series can fulfill dual purposes, and be both technical studies for the guitar and compositional studies as well. An added bonus - and one of my personal requirements for any studies that I write - is if the resulting series of studies are "good enough" to be worthy of performance.

Over the years I have written almost ten series of miniatures, and these little sets of studies invariably lead to increased technical mastery of the guitar, increased compositional technique, and - perhaps most importantly - larger and more significant works. I'm not sure where this series will lead compositionally, but I do know all of these pieces will end up in my performance set.


As I mentioned previously, this set deals with dualities: The duality between the major and minor modes, the duality between triple and duple time, and the duality between 4-3 syncopes and 2-3 syncopes. The resulting twelve pieces are only about thirty seconds in performance time, and they are all on the pitch level of A (Which is the only place these four-voice contrapuntal studies will work on the guitar due to fingering considerations).

The set with the first two variables is ordered as follows:

01) Modus et Tempus Perfectum, or A major in triple time.

02) Modus et Tempus Imperfectum, or A minor and duple time.

03) Modus Imperfectum et Tempus Perfectum, or A minor in triple time.

04) Modus Perfectum et Tempus Imperfectum, or A major in duple time.

As you can see, the time alternates between triple and duple, but the mode has two minor versions sandwiched between the majors. This allows for the beginning and end of the series to be in the major mode, though the opening tempus is perfect, and the closing tempus is imperfect. This is cool, because the imperfect versions - in both modus and tempus - are the more "interesting" ones, as you will see.


So, here are the four basic templates:


Once this is worked out, the next step is to apply the syncopation chains. Please note that I have not added the left hand fingerings to these yet, and I may have to add a rest or two if I can't maintain the purity of the music due to fingering considerations. I was fortunate that the basic major and minor fingerings did not require any compromises to the purity of the musical conception, but adding the syncopes may end that string of luck. This is one of the nice things about this project: My idea of fingering possibilities on the guitar - already at a high level of understanding after thirty years of playing - will take another step forward.


Here are the four versions with the 4-3 syncopation chains added:


In the second and eleventh measures of the above versions, you'll notice that the shorter rhytmic value comes first in the leading voice: I did this to get the 7-6 syncopes in measures eight and seventeen (The second of which is, obviously, a multiple suspension), the resulting resolution and rhythm of which provides for a better end to the phrases. Just setting that up taught me that a rhythmic point of resistance near the launch of a melodic trajectory is a compelling device: You hardly ever hear this in western music (Or, at least, I can't recall any examples of it at the moment).

Note here that the counterpoint is generating the rhythm, and the palindromic nature of that rhythm - combined with the palindromic canon(s) - creates a solid inevitability to the overall effect. Though simple, these rhythms are compelling precicely because they are being generated by the music: The rhythm is organic on a very basic and inescapable level.

Remembering that I said that the imperfect (2/4) versions were "more interesting": The 3/4 versions simply launch into a surface rhythm of constant quarter notes, and dissolve back out of that; but the 2/4 versions create a more complex cumulative rhythmic palindrome, which creates a superior rhythmic cadential effect.


Here are the four original versions with the 2-3 syncopes added:


I have more hope that the 4-3 syncopes will be more easily executable on the guitar, as seconds are notoriously problematic. However, I am dealing with a lot of open strings, so I could yet be pleasantly surprised. The next step will to be to play through the versions with the syncopations to see.

As I said, I plan to add these - or at least some of them - to my set. Since I have my set organized into suites, and since these suites begin in A minor and follow the circle of thirds, these little mini-fugues will act as interludes and an axial ground to my set. The prelude to interlude (fuga) group for my set from beginning to intermission will look like this:

01) Suite in A minor/Reductio in A major

02) Suite in C major/Reductio in A minor

03) Suite in E minor/Reductio in A minor

04) Suite in G major/Reductio in A major

05) Suite in B minor/Reductio in A major

06) Suite in D major/Reductio in A minor

07) Suite in F-sharp minor/Reductio in A minor

08) Suite in A major/Reductio in A major

Cool, huh? I love it when a plan falls together. After my break the set continues on to B major, so I could get all twelve in if they happen to work out, but the A minor to A major segment is really nice with this organizational device thrown in.


This fractal is not a Mandelbrot set, but its duality fit in with today's theme nicely.


How about some variations on this theme?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Huckleberry the Bald...

... playing the fretted Glissentar with the Carlos CP-1A in it at my gig tonight.

The Yamaha AS-108 II mini-PA speakers in my small venue rig require very different tone settings because - like all Yamaha speakers - they are overly bright. It will take a while to fine tune the sound, but it is SO much better than before. I'm ordering the top o' the line CP-1 for one of my Murrays, and then I'll have an acoustic I can play through my sound systems too.

Will wonders never cease?


Classic Mandelbrot:

As you can see, the traditional rendering eliminates the three-dimensionality of it.


Plenty of three-dimensionality here!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Review: Carlos CP-1A Professional Acoustic Guitar Pickup

Here's a prediction: I'm going to run out of superlatives and descriptive adjectives before this post is finished: This pickup is THAT good.


From the American Guitar Center website:

The Carlos CP-1A Professional under-saddle endpin-jack acoustic guitar pickup is the brainchild of guitarist, luthier, technician... Let's just call him a Renaissance Man, OK?... Carlos Juan. According to everything I read on his websites (His personal site and the American Guitar Center site), the coaxial pickup he designed mated with his proprietary preamp circuit is designed to provide previously unavailable dynamic range and fullness of tone.

Color me skeptical: As an electric nylon string player for over fifteen years, I can assure you that ALL undersaddle transducers have limited dynamic ranges - they sound like there is a compressor or limiter in the signal path - and a sound that is thin in comparison with the sound of a good acoustic classical guitar. In fact, it was my disgust with the thin and pinched sound of the L.R. Baggs piezoelectric ribbon transducer system that came stock on my Glissentar that lead me to perform this experiment. I was hopeful, but not overly so.

Man, was I in for a surprise.

As soon as the new strings had settled down enough that I could play a few pieces before needing to re-tune the axe, I started playing it through the programs I had previously worked up for the fretted Glissentar (Using the Baggs system) in my Lexicon MPX-G2 (Which I run through a Bryston 3B-NPB and a pair of Tannoy's in my studio). Good Lord! The thing sounds HUGE! I mean, GARGANTUAN!

The first thing I had to do was adjust the settings on the CP-1A's preamp. There are to mini-pots: One for gain, and the other for mid boost. I ended up with the gain wide open - it's got more output than the Baggs system, but not quite as much as the RMC Polydrive (I wanted to match them as closly as possible, since I switch guitars during my set) - and the mid boost on about 25%. Any more than about half-way with the mid boost and the sound became harsh on the Glissentar (But never did it get the irritating nasal quality that virtually all piezoelectric units suffer from in their midranges).

Next, I had to adjust the tone settings on the Lexicon's preamp. Interestingly, both the Baggs and the Carlos "wanted" the tone control settings in the same ballpark: For the Baggs it was Bass= +7, Mid= -1, and Treble= +3, while the Carlos settled in at Bass= +9, Mid= -3, and Treble= +1. That is the only thing that is even remotely similar about these units, though.

Even though the Baggs system has onboard tone controls, I could NEVER get it to sound "big" at all. It always sounded anemic, small, and like it was suffering from a head cold. With just gain and mid boost, the Carlos sounds infinitely "larger." Larger on a cosmic scale! And the TONE! The tone is round, smooth, full, and rich; and yet somehow... SOMEHOW, the sound allows for the perfect seperation of the strings into individual voices (Something VERY important to me, since I play a lot of countrapuntal music). And remember, this is a fretted eleven-string Glissentar, so we're talking about double-string COURSES, and the sound is still perfectly defined. I can even concentrate on a SINGLE STRING within a course, if I want to!!! It is simply a stunning piece of work, this pickup.

Carlos wasn't lying about the dynamic range, either. From the softest pianissimo fingernail whispers to the most agressive string snaps, the CP-1A responds by telling the most intimate secrets, or with shouts which sound nearly like explosions. NO PICKUP - not for electric guitar, not for steel string guitar, not for any kind of guitar - can match this unit's dynamic range. Period. Hell, a lot of mics aren't nearly this good.

At first, the sensitivity of the thing confounded me - I felt kinda klutzy with it - but within an hour I was achieving expressive nuances that were formerly in the realm of my dreams alone. Simply... marvelous.

The problem with this unit? The problem is that there is no problem. This means, of course, that my decades old dream of amplifying my two Anthony Gaillard Murray concert acoustic classicals is now within reach. Nothing I've ever heard up to this point was even CLOSE to sounding good enough to consider modifying one of my treasured acoustics for. Carlos Juan has changed my thinking about several things, and I cannot thank him enough for GIVING me this CP-1A to experiment with in the fretted Glissentar. I'm very grateful. Beyond grateful.

I'm afraid to even ask how much two of these are going to cost me:



Since the preamp had to be inserted from the outside, I had to glue it in (After I made the preamp adjustments, of course). I used wood glue that is water soluable so that if I ever need to remove it, I can.

I can actually adjust the gain mini-pot through the old battery holder cutout, but the mid boost is hidden within the channel I drilled out for the preamp. I just ended up applying a strip of velcro tape to the back of the large plastic cover for battery placement: It's big enough for both batteries. By replacing the stock plastic battery housing with a simple cap-type 9v connector, I was able to enable both pickup systems to function simultaneously, as I previously intended.


Many classic Mandelbrot renditions tend to downplay or even elominate the three dimensional nature of the geometry, but not this "Buddhabrot" image.


My townhouse is a bit messy. Think I'll do a bit of housework.

Some help would be nice, but I think my mind might turn to things other than housework.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Some Days ARE Better than Others

Got up at 5:30; Practiced for a couple of hours; Did 1,680 reps in two hours twenty minutes on my Bowflex, and then the doorbell rang. It was the mailman with a package from Stuttgart, Germany...

I guess I need to rewind a bit.


A couple of posts back I mentioned that I was planning to install a B-Band electret transducer in my fretted Glissentar because I had come to hate the stock L.R. Baggs piezo ribbon transducer so much. Well, as fate would have it, I was telling this to my lifelong friend Mike Brannon of the Synergy Jazz Quartet, and he said, "Why don't you use a Carlos; They re the best under-saddle transducers in the world." I had never even heard of them.

Mike went on to tell me he uses one on his steel string acoustic, and another friend of ours Robert Cordero, uses one on his Flamenco guitar. I had no idea, but evidently this is THE unit the Flamenco cats swear by. Well, Mike and I go back over twenty-five years and I trust him, so I paid a visit to Carlos Juan's American Guitar Center website.

After reading up on all of the various units, I saw that the CP-1A endpin unit would probably be the best for my application, but I still had some doubts about it (They are much more expensive than the B-Band units are, and while a $109.00 mistake is liveable, a $300.00 mistake is harder to swallow). So, I decided to use the contact form and e-mail the American Guitar Center guys and explain my situation.

After letting them know I was working on an experimental eleven-string guitar, they very generously offered TO SEND ME ONE FREE OF CHARGE TO TRY OUT!!! You could have knocked me over with a feather.

OK. We're back to today.


The Carlos unit is on the left. Oh yeah: One of my students lent me his John Stowell book and DVD to chack out. He's an amazing jazz guitarist; one of the top ten of all time by my reconning.

There was no way the stock battery housing could stay, so... *snip*... it's gone.

No way I could keep the screw-on housing on the Carlos either because I had to insert it from the outside in, versus the inside out. So... *snip*... I had to detatch the battery connector from it too. I left the Baggs ribbon transducer in place: I just drilled another hole at the high string end of the saddle and put the Carlos unit on top of it. Not too often a guy gets to take a power drill to a guitar. It was fun.

The Carlos unit is about 1/8" thick, so I had to sand the saddle down. I was wanting to raise the action a tad anyway.

As is always the case with the Glissentar, the real pain in the patoot was changing the strings: That took twice as long as installing the pickup! The combination I have now works great: Savarez Alliance High Tension Carbon Fiber B's and E's, the regular Glissentar wound A's, D's and G's (Made by D'Addario), and a Hannabach .047 Super High Tension low E.

The tubes of glass beeds are for the treble strings: I knot them behind the beads, and they never slip out of the pins.

Strings are on. Almost done.

As you can see, the housing for the stock battery had to go. I think I will move it to the middle of the large plastic plate, and then both systems will be available should I want them. Not sure where the new battery will end up, but it works fine in my lap for testing purposes. The battery cuttout also allows me to reach the micro-pots for gain and mid boost easily while I work out the gain, effects settings, and EQ's in my Lexicon MPX-G2. I want to match the level with the RMC Polydrive in the Grand Concert SA, which the Baggs was too wimpy to do. With this set on 50%, it's already much stronger than the Baggs!

When the strings settle in, I'll have a review of how it sounds.

Not TOO many leftover parts. LOL!


Two super-massive, super-dense bodies on a death spiral into each other in the heart of a neighboring galaxy. The color is artificial: Blue is super-heated plasma that surrounds the bodies for over a lightyear (!), while pink represents the polar jets of ejecta from the "black holes." There are positively gargantuan forces at work in the universe!


Every now and again, life is all sweetness and light.