Fri

27

Sep

2013

What is a Single Coil Pick Up?

Single Coil Pick Ups consist of either a single central magnet, or separate magnets beneath each string. The magnet can be made of magnetised steel or a magnetic alloy – such as: Alnico, Samarium Cobalt, or Neodymium. However, in some inexpensive designs a ceramic magnet is used to energise soft iron pole-pieces placed in contact with it.

 

The most common form of single-coil pickups are found on Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters. These designs are a physically narrow pickup with a well-focused magnetic field, which pick up energy from a short section of the string, which results in a more extended high-frequency response than broader pickups.  

 

The P-90 is a single-coil pickup introduced by Gibson in 1946. They consist of a large flat coil with adjustable pole pieces for each string, and a pair of flat alnico bar magnets lying underneath the coil. P-90s are somewhat brighter and slightly fatter and warmer than Fenders single-coil pickups.  

 

Single-coils tend to produce great clarity and high frequency response, but are susceptible to picking up electromagnetic interference noise known as mains hum, or 50Hz / 60Hz hum. Mains hum comes from sources such as the wiring of a building, power transformers, electric motors, and lighting.  

 

0 Comments

Sat

26

Jan

2013

Setting-Up My Guitar - Part I

Ah, the mysterious guitar setup.  Especially to the beginning player, the guitar setup is something shrouded in confusion - at best, a little bit of mystery.  There are also pros who know how they like their guitar to play, but leave it up to a tech to setup.  Setting up a guitar can be such a detailed process, that I'm going to break up this blog entry into parts.  For this part, we'll cover action height adjustment, the most common reason why players get their guitars setup.  I won't be instructing on how to adjust your action, that might come later as a possible idea for a DIY instructional series.

 

I often hear players come into the shop saying "my friend told me that my guitar needs setup."  My first question usually goes something like this, "why do YOU think it needs a setup?"

 

Here's the deal, part of a setup can be adjusting the action to make it more comfortable.  Action height is determined by how high (or low) the strings are from the frets of the guitar.  Because action is more than anything a personal preference, it's easy to have confusion about the setup.  What one player would feel is 'high action' might not be the case for another player.  

 

Since most players like a low action for numerous reasons (easier to fret chords, doesn't require as much hand strength, faster runs up and down the neck due to more economy of motion with lower string height), setting up low action becomes a balancing act between getting it as low as you can while not having buzz.  This is because when strings are struck, they oscillate or vibrate.  When there is not enough clearance for the strings to vibrate, they will bang up against the frets on the fingerboard - hence buzz.  At the risk of complicating things - minimal string buzz isn't actually a bad thing, and sometimes it's unavoidable depending on the guitar.  Sometimes players don't realize a little bit of buzz isn't a bad thing, especially when you don't hear it once plugged into an amp.   

 

Here's another thing about personal preference and action height - playing style.  One person could have a lighter touch on the picking hand, so that he or she might not strike the strings as hard, resulting in less of a range of motion for the strings to oscillate or vibrate.  This means that the same guitar might not buzz for them, whereas for the heavy-handed player, it would.  Players with a lighter touch can get away with lower action - this doesn't mean they are 'better' than the heavy-handers, just different.  Which leads me to say that a low action setup is not better than a high action, it depends on the needs of the player.  Stevie Ray Vaughan played with heavy strings, and probably had a heavy attack - he required a higher action.  There are other pros who use light gauge strings, and a low action.  To say that a guitar with a low action has a better setup than a guitar with a higher action, is as much a personal statement as saying that heavy gauge strings have a 'better tone' than lighter gauge strings.  Tone and action height is in the eye of the beholder, or rather the ear and hands... 

 

Back to scenario I mentioned at the beginning of the article with the person who came into the shop for a guitar setup.  Depending on how experienced the player is, or how in touch they are with their playing style and their necessary action height requirements, I might ask them to play their guitar for me and show me why they think they need a setup.  Keep in mind I'm not giving our customers a hard time, just trying to make sure they know what they want, so I can serve them better.  If an individual can't tell me why they need a setup, and if they're comfortable with their string height, I usually leave it be.  Or, maybe I'll make a suggestion for raising or lowering the action based on how I see the player plays.  More often than not, for a beginner that doesn't know what they like yet, I'll lower it more just to make it easier to play for them.  And here's a critical part of action height adjustment when you take your guitar to a shop that doesn't know how you like your action (assuming YOU know how you like your action), you should be encouraged to try it after the work as been completed.  Any guitar tech worth his wages will make sure the job has been done.  Minor tweaking might be necessary if the guitar still buzzes for the player.  This doesn't mean the tech wasn't good enough to nail it the first time, unless the player gives the tech the exact measurements of the string height, it's somewhat a guessing game for the tech.  Which is why I ask the player to play for me before the setup, and after the setup.  Adjustments are made till it is done right for the player.

 

As a player, your action height might change as you develop your playing style.  I haven't even covered other aspects of action height - like how a slide guitar will usually require a higher action for the same player that will have a lower action setup on a different guitar.  I didn't mention that string gauge will also determine how low an action can go - not just if the player is heavy or light handed.  The quality of the guitar has a say in the matter too.  Guitars that are not built as well might have uneven frets, or some frets that are higher than others, this prevents how low you can go.  This can be fixed, but it usually is an additional fee to the setup.

 

Don't lose any sleep if you don't know how you like your action height.  Chances are, if you're not noticing a difference, it's not a big deal.  Some players are more sensitive to it than others.  Besides, like I mentioned, your action preference might change over the years.  If you notice that your guitar is a little more difficult to play those barre chords on during the winter time, as opposed to the end of the summer, it's because the changes in humidity/temperature has affected the wood of your guitar - this will happen.  Take your axe into your local guitar shop, and get 'er setup.  

...more to come with Part II

 

Bill Wray Jr

3 Comments

Fri

03

Aug

2012

Selling My Used Instrument

"Where can I sell my used instrument?  How do I sell my old violin?  Are there risks in selling my vintage guitar on Craigslist or eBay?"  These are questions frequently asked when you have a used instrument but don't have experience in music retail.  Before the internet, people would take out newspaper ads in the classified section, or just bring it to the local music store.  Unless you know how to price your instrument, and what to look for when determining if the instrument should be repaired before selling it, trying to sell your used instrument can be a daunting task.  Or, you could think there's nothing to it, and then wonder why your instrument doesn't sell.  And yes, unfortunately there are potential risks selling your gear on Craigslist or eBay if you don't know how to protect yourself.  

 

We live in an information age.  The internet can be a powerful resource to use when learning about what your instrument is worth, or finding a buyer.  The trick is to be able to know how to use the information - to chew up the meat and spit out the bones.  There's a lot of disinformation out there.  More often than not, I see over-priced used instruments on Craigslist, because some people do not realize how to properly price their instrument.  This can lead to some buyers paying too much, or some sellers sitting on their used gear.  

 

Market value or street price is determined by a few things.  This is not an economics lesson, but if you want to know what your used piece of gear is worth, one of the best ways to find out is to look for a history of completed sales.  eBay is a valuable tool for this, but you need to have an eBay account, and you need to know how to interpret the information.  

 

At Billy Wray Music Shop, we make it easy for you.  We give you three options for your used gear - trade in, consignment, or selling to us.  We'll be the first to tell you that you will always get more for your used instrument by selling it yourself.  If you just want to sell immediately, or don't want to deal with any hassles by selling on Craigslist (e.g. spammers, strangers coming to your home, people not showing up), we'll gladly take a look at your gear.  If you're not in a rush to sell, don't want to deal with selling it yourself, but want to get more than a wholesale price for your instrument, we can consign it for you based on a mutually agreed contract.  We can even sell it for you on eBay since were are a registered trading assistant in PA.

 

Selling your instrument doesn't have to be difficult.  This blog was written for the person who doesn't know how to go about selling their used gear, or wants an easy avenue.  People can have success when selling their used gear on their own, and that's because they found the right buyer.  If you want to sell on your own, you can do yourself a favor by increasing your odds of finding the right buyer.  Do this by properly pricing your instrument, taking great photographs if selling online, and disclosing any defects or issues it might have up front.  As far as protection, one of the safest ways of not getting burned when selling privately is to only receive payment by a USPS issued money order up front.  If the USPS clerk cashes your money order, you're as good as gold.  Not many people would be willing to pay up front though.  If you're leary of selling on your own, or think it might be a hassle, we'd be happy to give you some options!

Bill Jr.

5 Comments

Wed

25

Jul

2012

Buying Used Instruments and Gear

One person's junk is another's treasure - we've heard that before.  This is especially true with musicians and collectors of instruments!  If you're not concerned about a manufacturer's warranty, or getting a 'virgin' instrument, then buying used is something you should definitely consider.  

 

At Billy Wray Music Shop, we love getting in used gear.  We take instruments and gear on trade-in, consignment, and purchase used gear for resale.  For us, we get more opportunity to provide you with quality gear at a good price, plus we can stock name brands on used gear that we might not be a dealer for.  For you the buyer, the trick about purchasing used, is you want to make sure the instrument has been looked over and is playable.  This is especially relevant for those that are buying as a gift or don't know what to look for when making sure an instrument is in good, working condition.  We look over not only all of our new gear from the manufacturer, but our used instruments and gear as well.  Plus, we offer our 14 Day "No Questions Asked" Return Policy on our used gear!    

 

Don't pass up on the tremendous value of purchasing used.  Our used inventory is consistently growing since we've had our new location.  Check out our website, give us a call, or stop in if you're local!  Here's our current selection of used instruments and gear - and remember, it's always changing with the ebb and flow of what's made available to us by our walk in customers.

Bill Jr.

0 Comments

Sat

21

Jul

2012

Review: Reverend Guitars Sensei HB Goldtop

Get ready for a golden age of tone...
Get ready for a golden age of tone...

  What do you get when a relatively small guitar manufacturer decides to make unique looking guitars that play like butter, sound great, and easily rival the big name axes costing much more? A Reverend of course!

 

  Seriously, their quality control (Whose name is Zach Green. That's right, one guy inspects every guitar to make sure they're up to snuff) is amazing, the build quality is frankly unrivaled by anything else in the price range, and they also don't look like all the copycat LPs, strats, and other familiar models. Simply put, they are the best guitars you can get your hands on if you're spending less than a grand, and in some cases you might want to go with the Reverend even if you are willing to spend more, they're just that good.

 

  Today I'm focusing specifically on the Sensei HB in Metallic gold. It looks like a Les Paul and an SG had a baby, and they decided to make it a gold top. With a set-neck design it has the great singing sustain of a Les Paul, but lacks the vertebrae-crushing weight. As always, the electronics are top-notch, and the slightly hotter than average bridge pickup really cranks out the crunch. It’s the perfect axe for someone who wants Les Paul tone and playability, while managing to stand out from the crowd and avoid bankruptcy.

 

  Here in the shop, when someone gets their hands on a Reverend, nine times out of ten the first words out of their mouth are, “This feels great.” The contoured back on the Sensei and perfectly placed waist make is super comfy for playing sitting down, and it’s not heavy enough to make you wonder if someone has replaced your guitar with a cinder block after standing for long periods of time. The neck is very fast without being “skinny”. It’s a pretty standard oval contour, but the precision of the fretwork and the excellent set-up makes for blindingly fast runs.

 

  The pickups were designed by Joe Naylor himself (as are pretty much all the Reverend pups if I remember correctly, don’t quote me on that), and sound fantastic. The neck is clean and clear, while the bridge is bright and hot. When they’re combined you get a great full sound with bite, body, and clarity. The bass contour knob lets you roll off the low frequencies if you find yourself in need of some super bright spank and/or twang. All in all, it’s a lot more versatile than most dual humbucker solid bodies around.

 

  The other components are of equally high quality. Locking tuners adorn the headstock, and the tune-o-matic style bridge and the stop tailpiece are very finely crafted. The only minor bone I have to pick is with the fretboard inlays, there are a couple very small sloppy patched up areas around the border of the inlays. But honestly, I only noticed that when I had my face about 6 inches from the fretboard, so maybe I’m reaching a little.

 

  I can recommend this guitar without any hesitation. It’s extremely well made, it sounds really really good, and looks like nothing else out there. If you’re in the market for a set-neck solid body with two humbuckers, save yourself the many hours it could take to decide on which LP clone (or original for that matter) to purchase, and blaze your own trail, with the Reverend Sensei!

 

0 Comments

Fri

20

Jul

2012

Reverend Guitar Bass Contour Knob

Ahhhh...The Reverend Bass Contour Knob.  And what does this mysterious knob do?  Here you can see it conspicuously located on the upper bout of the Six Gun.

On other models, like this Sensei - the knob is inconspicuously located amidst the tone and volume knobs.

Either way, the impact of the Bass Contour Knob - should you choose to use it - can affect your tone slightly, or will really alter the sound of your pickups in a drastic manner.  Basically, the Contour Knob is the exact opposite of Fender's Greasebucket, which takes out the high frequencies.  Reverend's patented Bass Contour Knob (thank you Joe Naylor) will roll off the low or bass frequencies.  Since it is a knob and not a switch, you can simply roll off to your liking.

 

Some practical examples of how this will affect your tone depends on the pickups you have on your Reverend guitar.  For a humbucking guitar, like the Sensei HB, you can actually use the Bass Contour Knob to act like a coil split.  Coil splitting or tapping is usually done by flipping a switch on a guitar with humbuckers to make it approximate the sound of single coil pickups.  What usually happens, and this seems to be across the board with many different manufacturers, is the guitar loses some of its output or volume.  While it can definitely thin out the humbuckers, it doesn't quite nail the sound of single coils, and you lose the volume.  Reverend's Bass Contour Knob will thin out humbuckers, WITHOUT LOSING VOLUME!  Now, I'd agree with those that say it still won't make your humbuckers act like single coils with all their idiosyncracies, but you won't lose your output.  And it will do the trick to at least give you a tone that somewhat sounds like single coils.  

 

On Reverend's Six Gun guitar - which is their stratocaster / telecaster - the Bass Contour will actually make the Six Gun sound more like a traditional single coil guitar once turned down or rolled off.  When left fully on (best way I can describe that), the Six Gun sounds like a very beefy single coil guitar.  The same goes for Reverend's Revtron pickups.  They are like mini humbuckers - and are compared often to TV Jones or Gretsch pickups.  When the Bass Contour is left full bore, without rolling off, the Revtrons are like a beefier version.  

 

The Bass Contour can also be creatively used with distortion.  Albeit with moderate levels of distortion you might get a little more noticeable impact.  With the knob rolled off about 3/4 (and this will be relative to your settings and type of pickups), you can have your clean sound, but when you roll the knob to full bore, you can gradually increase your gain.  Players have traditionally used a volume knob for this effect, but with the Bass Contour, you're not losing as much volume when your knob is rolled back.  The amount of distortion is being more controlled by the frequencies you're introducing, or taking away.  

 

I hope this little blurb was helpful for those looking for answers on what that extra knob does on Reverend guitars - even better, I hope it piqued your curiousity to go and try a Reverend guitar out if you've never played one!  I find myself reaching for that Bass Contour Knob on other guitars now, but sadly they're only on a Reverend.

Bill Jr.

0 Comments

Sat

14

Jul

2012

Review: Full Custom Kraken Overdrive

TENTACLES OF TONE!!!
TENTACLES OF TONE!!!

   So last Friday, I wrote a review of the new Kraken Overdrive from Full Custom Music, and the cruel gods of the internet made it disappear (I'm thinking it may have been Poseidon, or possibly Calypso since she likes to take stuff and keep it on an island for a long time). To make a long story slightly less long (despite having to start from scratch) I'm going to try and recreate it to the best of my ability because this pedal is worth it!

 

   The Kraken Overdrive is a completely original design from Full Custom Music, and is the second in a series of three boxes. The first, the Barnacle Fuzz, is on my pedal board right now, and you’d be hard pressed to convince me to replace it. Based on the same framework, the Kraken looks very similar, and features the same four control knob setup, but replaces the fuzz circuit with a genuine class “A” preamp you can overdrive until your ears start doing the “we’re not worthy” scene from Wayne’s World. Overall, it’s easy to operate, sounds good with a variety of settings, and really shines when you start pushing it to it’s limits.

 

   Down to the nitty gritty... Let’s start with the basic design and controls. Like I mentioned before, it’s an actual class “A” preamp jammed in a box with some deceptively simple controls. It also features an internally-switchable bypass which can be set to either full-bypass, or buffered bypass, to make sure this monster “plays nice” with your other pedals. The “Volume” knob provides 6db of clean boost if you need it, and is more than enough to push your amp into overdrive if you like that overdrive-stacked-with-more-overdrive thing. It’s also just great to be able to match levels with other effects or use as a solo boost. Moving on to the next set of controls you find the glorious EQ knobs. I say “glorious” because they are what make this overdrive stand out from the crowd. You get independent control over your Treble and Bass with a center frequency of 800Hz. Each knob gives you an amazing +/- 15db of adjustment, more than enough to fatten up those single coils, or add some razor sharp bite to your humbuckers. Last but not least, the Gain control has a great range without going to full-on-insanity mode. It has a nice bluesy breakup and crunch below 12 o’clock and gets into some great slicing drive and lead sounds with lots of sustain when you get up to around 3 o’clock.

 

   So now you have a basic understanding of what the Kraken is all about, but what is it really useful for in the real world? In my humble opinion, the best tones this pedal can generate are created by really cranking the gain, boosting the bass pretty heavily, and running some humbuckers straight to the input. It has the potential to become a signature sound for someone out there. Like many low wattage, high-end, boutique class “A” amps, there is very little loss in clarity as you crank the gain almost to the limit. Even at settings around 4 o’clock (where I generally find that overdrive/fuzz/distortion boxes become useless for anything besides a “special effect”) it still lets the fundamental of each string ring through while adding layers of harmonics above and below. If you’re looking for a traditional blues overdrive ONLY, it might not be for you, but if you need something that can do it all, and has some really unique higher gain tones, you’ll struggle to find something better than the Kraken.

 

   Man, I feel like I’ve typed this all before... weird. :) In conclusion, I give the Kraken the Billy Wray Music Shop seal of approval! It’s a great overdrive that can do a little of everything, and has a great personality all its own. Stop by the shop some time to check it out, and I promise I’ll do my best to keep the nautical puns to a minimum.

 

-Adam

 

0 Comments

Thu

12

Jul

2012

How Do You Learn A New Song?

Type in Google a search for "how do you learn a new song?" and you'll get plenty of hits.  Truth is, how I learn a new song might not work as well for you, but...I can offer some suggestions from my own experience and things I learned from other people.  These tips are not instrument specific, and can be applied to most types of music or tunes.

 

Melody.  Melody is King (or Queen if you REALLY want to talk about authority - yes, I am happily married).  Even somebody who doesn't know how to play an instrument, and who might not be able to sing in pitch, can still recognize the melody of a tune they like.  For our purposes here, you could also substitute the word 'melody' for hook, or riff, or a 'catchy phrase.'  It doesn't have to have lyrics with it - I could say 'Smoke On The Water,' and most people now have that famous (or infamous) riff playing in their head.  In case you don't know the riff by name, let me reacquaint you... 

So, if you learn the melody of a tune on your instrument, or that catchy riff that defines a song, you've already come a long way.  Next you need to know the chords that are used in the song.  Little bit of music theory - chords and melodies both come from scales, you know, that boring part of music lessons - or the fun part for guitar shredders that like Yngwie Malmsteen.  Ok, this isn't a theory lesson, but if you can play the melody of the tune you're trying to learn, there are chords that match the melody, or back it up.  To find the chords, you can either use printed music or tab that has the chords written down.  If you can learn to develop your ear and match the chord(s) you hear in the song with chord(s) you know, then even better!  That's a little advanced though, and this blog entry is for people who are trying to learn a new tune and get it to stick, mostly beginners.  

 

Try to play the chords through the song while having the melody playing in your head, better yet, sing or hum it while playing the chords!  If there's lyrics, you can sing the lyrics - that will distinguish a tune that might have a similar melody line from another.  

 

Learning a tune by knowing the melody and finding it on your instrument will help a tune stick a lot faster than reading tab or sheet music.  You can rehearse the same song over and over by reading it, but once you step away from the written music or tab, and play from memory, it will stick a lot better.  I've known beginners and advanced players who grow to depend on reading their music so much, that when they step away from the written music, they can't play the song - even if they've been playing it for years!  The same goes for remembering lyrics.  I'm not anti-reading music or tab, but if you're trying to build your repertoire, learning to play the songs without depending on reading is somewhat liberating.

 

To recap - I've found the best way to learn a song is to play the melody on your instrument, learn the chords while being aware of the melody, and not to become dependent on robotically reading and playing. 

Bill Jr.

0 Comments

Mon

09

Jul

2012

The Kraken Has Been Released!

Full Custom Music Repair's new Kraken overdrives are in stock!

 

It's basically an awesome class A preamp in a stomp box that you can drive the beans out of, or use it to add some grit and EQ before slamming the front end of your amp. The two band EQ with +/- 15db is so incredibly useful for refining your sound, it's really what sets Full Custom's boxes apart for me. Plus the sounds they make are creamy and delicious!  It's built to last and easily competes with (and in a few areas outshines) the standard overdrive pedals on the market.

 

We'll be doing a more in-depth video review sometime in the near future, so keep your eyes on the horizon!  Ok, I'm gonna stop now before the maritime puns get out of hand...

 

 

0 Comments

Mon

09

Jul

2012

Review Jay Turser JTLTRW Telecaster Style Electric Guitar

For the money, it's really hard to beat Jay Turser's version of the telecaster.  The JTLT models come in different colors, this specific review mentions the JTLTRW - RW for rosewood.  With a look like Mr. George Harrison's rosewood telecaster, the JTLTRW delivers classic single coil tone.  Tried and true features of a tele are reproduced with the JTLT series - the RW has a rosewood laminate body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, chrome hardware, 2 single coil pickups, a three-way pickup selector, and a gloss finish (except on the neck, which is satin).

At the price, some folks will grab one of these JTLTs and put in name brand pickups, or do other modifications - it can actually be cheaper to do that than buy a DIY kit!  Personally, I like the stock pickups.  They aren't high output, and I really enjoy the neck pickup for some sweet telecaster jazz tones.  Companies like Turser have to cut corners somewhere to sell a guitar for such a low price, and it shows on the pickup selecter toggle switch (a little flimsy), but it's nothing that would prevent me from getting one myself - in fact I own one and didn't change any parts.  

 

We're not the only ones that dig the JTLTRW (or any other color of the JTLT), here's a quote from Jay Turser's website:

 

When awarding their Editor's Pick, the December 2011 issue of Guitar Player Magazine said, "Excellent workmanship, playability, and happening tones make this guitar an impressive choice. Price makes it an unbeatable deal."

 

I agree with Guitar Player Magazine - this is a guitar with great playability and classic tones for the price, you could even scratch out that 'for the price' part.  

Bill Jr.

0 Comments

Sat

16

Jun

2012

Our New Website & Facebook Page

We finally got our Facebook page up and running.  Adam's been doing a great job with posting new items we've added to our shop - new and used.  'Like' us and check in frequently to see our current specials and featured items!

 

We decided to do an overhaul on our website and are happy with what we've done so far.  We're going to be able to offer more with the features we've set up, like blog posts and videos focusing on product reviews, updates on exciting events within our shop, an easier check out process, and much more.  Let us know how you like it, and we welcome any suggestions you might have for us on how to improve it.  We are in the process of adding our inventory and rebuilding our online store catalog.  Because we've been increasingly getting more used gear in, we probably won't have everything added to our website that our shop has to offer, so don't hesitate to call us at 717-610-0048 or email us at billywraymusicshop@gmail.com if you're looking for something you don't see on our website.  

1 Comments

Billy Wray Music Shop LLC

10 S. Pitt. St.

Carlisle, PA 17013 US

info@billywraymusicshop.com

Tel: 717-610-0048

 

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Monday-Friday 11-5:30 PM EST

Saturday 12-4 PM EST

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