Shredding 6 Strings

Guitar Photos

Here are some photos of guitars taken by my roomate Scott. His photo blog is called Man-Bear.  

The Civil Wars “Poison and Wine”

This is the video for The Civil Wars song “Poison and Wine.” It is off their first full-length studio album Barton Hollow. They are a folk band that have elements of bluegrass in their sound.

The Civil Wars-Barton Hollow

There is a somber and minimalistic style to The Civil Wars’ first full-length studio album Barton Hollow. The simplicity of the album allows for a focus on the harmonies created by singers Joy Williams and John Paul White. Together, the folk duo provides a full, rich blend of tones that is simply pleasing for listeners. The finger picking White provides on his acoustic guitar does not blow you away like the licks of 50s blues guitarists, yet it provides the perfect complement to the nostalgic airiness of the duos’ voices.

The most important elements of The Civil Wars style are clearly evident to the listener. There are no distractions, nothing to take away from the lyrics and soft strumming reminiscent of midnight lullabies.

            The track “I’ve Got this Friend” takes you back to the bashful uncertainty of the first person you fell headlong into love with. Not as innocent as the first girl or guy that caught your eye on the playground; this song follows more mature yet just as hopeless romantics searching for something more than a surface level relationship. The guitar riff in the verses is deep and almost bass-like to provide a contrast to the higher pitched belting of Williams and White.

            The album turns to more honest account of love with the song “Poison and Wine.” The lovers in this song have been together for years and one can almost taste the half empty bottle of rich red wine which saturates and fills the living room where the couple explains that “I don’t love you but I always will.” There is no sugar coating of feelings in this song. Yet while there is undeniable strife, the listener can rest assured that this couple will stick it out till the end.

The guitar sound is muddied and it is difficult to distinguish tone which is distinctly different than the light piano which slowly moves the song forward.

The title track “Barton Hollow” and “Forget me not” are perhaps the greatest departures from the rest of the album. The Civil Wars show a diversity of sounds on these two tracks and never allow the reader to get to comfortable with one sound throughout the whole album. “Barton Hollow” is a very upbeat and driving song which carries with it a great passion and emotion that is a change from the other tracks. “Forget me not” has a bluegrass feel from the very beginning, opening with a fiddle that would fit right into the film Oh, Brother where art Thou. White also uses swells to give the song that old time feel of the prohibition era.

In Barton Hollow there is a sense of unity to the album, a clear distinction that The Civil Wars intended it to progress from one track to the next. Barton Hollow cannot be taken apart track by track and examined individually; the album is a complete piece and should be listened to as such. The Civil Wars provide a younger generation with the simple and passionate lyrics of the folk of old. The group is like watching a classic black and white movie that has been re-mastered; there is still the vintage feel yet the work appeals to a new, younger audience. Barton Hollow is simply a success.

Adjusting/Fixing Your Guitar


   Photo from        

              Adjusting, modifying and fixing your guitar can seem like an overwhelming experience at first. There are many factors that can greatly change the overall sound quality of your guitar; for better or for worse. It is important to take your guitar to someone who knows how to handle the subtle nuances that can improve your playing experience.

            Larry Wagner, based out of Maumee, Ohio has been playing guitar for over 50 years and has been customizing and fixing guitars for the last 30 years. Wagner owns his own guitar shop and is known in the area as one of the best at handling all questions and problems related to guitars. You can visit his website at

            Wagner has a few tips to fixing and maintain your guitar:

1.      Set up is very impotant

  • Intonation and string length have to be correct.
  • Factory set ups leave much to be desired and often need work.
  • The truss rod should be checked and adjusted, along with the action and bridge.
  • Fresh strings will always help the sound.

“All this will help the guitar sound better because it is in tune with itself and the player will be much more comfortable with it,” Wagner said

2.      How to fix fret buzz

  • First step is to adjust the action.
  • After that, the problem could be that the frets are uneven.
  • Commonly, there could be fret wear due to a groove created from pressing down on the strings.
  • Sometimes on a well-used guitar the frets come out of the fret board, especially if it has binding.
  • Frets then need to be reseated and high spots need to be filled and re-crowned.
  • Frets that are coming out of the fret board may need to be entirely removed and replaced.

3.      Fixing Cracks

  • Moisture needs to be introduced to the guitar using a humidifier.
  • A humidifier will swell the wood and will close the crack as much as possible.
  • If the crack is not too bad, glue or a tape clamp might work.
  • Small cleats of spruce may be added to the inside to reinforce the wood.

“Other times you may need an inside caul and a piece of Plexiglas on the outside along with a spreader clamp across the body of the guitar to hold things together while gluing,” Wagner said.

4.      How to care for your guitar regularly

  • Proper humidity of 45 to 50% is key.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • When finished playing, wipe the neck, strings and body of your guitar with a polishing cloth.
  • When not in use, keep you guitar in the case or on a proper stand, this will prevent accidents
  • When changing strings, clean the fret board and oil it once a year.

5.      Strings make a difference

  • Strings can greatly change the sound from mellow to heavy.
  • The gauge, outer wrap and inner core all affect the sound.
  • There is old flat wound, nickel round wound or stainless steel wound.
  • There is hex core or round core.
  • There is light gauge or heavy gauge.
  • GHS strings have a tone chat on their packaging. (

6.      Pickups

  • Pickups will sound like they look.
  • Single coil will sound thinner and brighter.   
  • Humbuckers will have more output and mid-range.
  • Cheap guitars usually have bad pickups that can be replaced to get a much better sound

All these factors will help your guitar sound better and help to keep it sounding great for years to come.

Black Keys “Everlasting Light”

This is a video of “Everlasting Light” by The Black Keys. It is off their latest album Brothers. 


The Black Keys: Brothers

Where did the driving, heavy electric guitar riffs of the 70s go? Where are Jimi’s pervasive, explosive solos? What happened to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s bluesy rhythmic masterpieces? Well don’t look now but a revival is afoot and The Black Keys with instruments ablaze will take you back to when rock really, well … rocked.

The album Brothers hits like a sledgehammer from the beginning. This two man band’s music will wash over you like spring’s ocean waves and refresh your memory of what rock music is supposed to sound like. On the first track “Everlasting Light,” Dan Auerbach belts an almost Prince-esque falsetto melody while drummer Patrick Carney pounds the bass drum relentlessly, keeping the forceful beat.  A simple, yet powerful riff oozes from Auerbach’s guitar and hits like something from The Doors debut album.

There are clearly elements of early, more blues-like rock, which adds to the cool, laid back feel of the album. The drumming and guitar playing on the track “Howling for You” sounds similar to The Trogg’s “Wild Thing,” and Auerbach adds a chorus that is just as catchy as the famous one-hit wonder.

Towards the middle of the album the mood changes to a more eerie and haunting sound, oddly familiar but spooky none the less. It’s like walking into your favorite dinner late on Halloween night, the setting is commonplace, yet when the door slams closed behind you, the ghoulish eyes become fixed and they add a new dimension to your beloved breakfast haven. Auerbach’s mystical licks mirror the sorrowful contemplation and longing of his lyrics.

The last few songs on the record head toward a slower paced slickness saturated in smooth. A smoky dive bar is where you find yourself now, sipping whiskey in a plaid chair with the stuffing bashfully emerging from the seams.  “Unknown Brother” has two distinct guitar sounds within the same song. The glossy, sleek solo style cuts through the rough, unpolished rhythm guitar sound and create a dynamic contrast.

If you love rock music, you need to add Brothers to your collection. To quote a sample from producer Jake One, “Hear this, steal money from your grandmother’s brazier, from your grandfather’s underwear, from your mother’s purse and from your father’s pants pocket. Take the money and buy the damn record.” Do whatever you can, within reason, and go buy the album. It’s just that simple.

Guitar Slideshow

Here is a slide show of different parts of guitars. There are four guitars that are used, a Martin Custom six-string, a Mitchell 12-string, a Indiana Scout six-string and a Gibson Les Paul Studio electric guitar. Two of the guitars are unfinished while the other two have a glossy finish. All of the guitars have unique tones which makes each of the guitars sound very different from the others.

Andy McKee

Andy McKee is an acoustic guitarist who uses finger picking and a percussive style to his playing. He simultaneously plays and keeps a drum rhythm at the same time. He is from Kansas and is part of the record label Razor & Tie.


Blues Guitar


            Many modern genres must tip their hats to the blues. Since the start of blues music, jazz, rock n’ roll and alternative music have come to fruition. If you want to start playing the blues there are certain characteristics in a guitar to look out for.

           “Most blues music requires a lot of bending or pulling the strings to add that soulful vibrato sound,” Ken Strittmatter said, who builds his own guitars. “Larger radius necks make string bending easier.” Chris Baney, a guitarist and worship leader at Basic Truth Church said that he finds semi-hollow bodied guitars to be the best for the blues. He said that Gibson and Gretsch provide a full, rich and deep tone that is perfect for the blues. Baney also noted that many blues greats used a solid body Fender American Stratocaster because it can provide a raw cut through solo sound. In his opinion the Strat has the fastest fret board around the guitar world.

           “With blues music there is a really raw sound that is made from the guitar itself whereas other genres use multiple amp effects to sculpt their sound,” Baney said.

            No matter the style played or the level of skill, finding the right guitar does not have to be a daunting experience. Find out what you want to use your guitar for and what kind of music you will be playing. Pay close attention to the wood used to make the guitar and how it is set up. And the first few times you play get a bunch of buddies to play along with you so you cannot tell the mistakes you are making.

            “If a lead guitarist is on stage with a drummer, percussionist, keyboard player, rhythm guitarist, four horn players, three backup singers, and a lead singer, you really cannot tell if he is playing a $189 Fender Squire or a $2,000 Fender American Stratocaster,” Corky Ballard, a longtime guitarist said half joking.  “The important thing is that you are playing man, experiencing music.”

Setting Up Your Guitar

Electric guitar pickups

So once you have your guitar, what is next in the process? Setting up the guitar is vital once you have the model or body style that you like.

Lowering the action is an easy way to make the guitar easier to play. The action of a guitar is the amount of space between the fret board and the strings on the guitar. You usually want a lower action if you want the playability to increase. If you go to any guitar store that does set ups and ask to lower the action, the guitar technician can usually do it for relatively cheap. What they do is file down the bridge of the guitar, so that the strings sit lower, making it easier to press down on the strings.

Chris Baney, a local musician, said that once you have the desired electric guitar, the first thing you should do is get new pickups. Pickups send an electronic signal to an amplifier to create the sound we associate with electric guitars and give it a distinctly different sound than an acoustic.

“New pickups are relatively inexpensive and can enhance the sound of a guitar tremendously,” Baney said.

Making sure the action of the guitar, the bridge, the pickups and electronics are all set up correctly is huge according to Ken Strittmatter, who has been building his own guitars and amps. “Many beginners give up because the guitar is set up wrong and they cannot figure out why their guitar sounds bad,” Strittmatter said, “You have to make sure that your guitar is mechanically solid.”

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