6-String Diplomacy

I recently returned from a week in Beijing. Hearing folks like this gentleman casually fiddling in parks and alleyways was a highlight. While out on the town one evening in the Houhai neighborhood, I was also heartened to see just about every bar on the lakeside strip featured a guitar-strumming songster or songstress. A local cover band was even belting out an admirable rendition of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” a la Guns N’ Roses. What’s that about a U.S.-China trade deficit? I guess some exports are less easily monetized.

Local music shops were also packed full of guitars — mostly Asian brands like Fernandes, Ibanez, and Yamaha (not surprisingly), though one shop (below) boasted a sweet selection of Fenders. A luthier friend once had the opportunity to visit a Chinese guitar factory, where the guide noted the facility was cranking out several thousand instruments per day. Granted, most of those were probably destined for foreign markets (including the United States), but clearly a significant number of China’s youth share an affinity with Americans for all things guitar. I like to think that bodes well for U.S.-China relations; if nothing else, at least we can maybe agree that Use Your Illusion II was GNR’s high water mark.


I’ve spent much of this summer on the road, travel-caster in tow. Abu Dhabi is probably the furthest afield I’ve huffed my tele. It’s a worthwhile diversion when venturing outside the hotel feels like waltzing face-first into a blast furnace.

My post backlog is bursting at the seams. Coming attractions include the latest in premium plectrums, DIY pedal assembly, music reviews, and new vintage-style tuners for my Martin. Stay tuned, and stay cool!

Frequent Flyer-caster Redux, Part 2

In Part 1 of Frequent Flyer-caster Redux, I wrote about my search for a more substantial neck for my travel tele. I eventually settled on an Allparts TMO-FAT model, which merges a vintage 1.625″ nut width with a beefy 1″ U-shape neck profile. The neck arrived unfinished and undrilled for hardware, providing me with an opportunity to once again test my novice lutherie skills.

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Back in the USA

Just got back from a long business trip. Among the highlights was the first trans-Atlantic flight of my travel Tele (happy to say no hitches getting through customs). As you can see, the butterscotch blonde went well with my hotel room. Between work commitments, I managed to catch some live blues and jazz in Prague and Vienna; it’s always fun to hear American music interpreted in other countries.

I’ve got a few posts in the making, so stay tuned.

On the Road Again: Vox Amplug AC-30 and Line 6 Pocket POD Reviewed

I recently published a series of posts detailing my effort to turn a budget Squier Affinity Tele into a respectable travel guitar. I’ve taken that instrument on several trips now, and am happy to say it’s admirably serving the cause. On my first trip, I hauled the instrument sans amplification. While the guitar resonates loudly enough to practice acoustically, I was soon pining for more righteous amplified tones. Thankfully, there are no shortage of affordable headphone amps on the current market, a far cry from the time when your only option was the venerable Tom Scholz Rockman.

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Weekend Mod Project: Frequent Flyer-caster, Part 3

Now we come to the end of my travel Tele odyssey. In Part 2, I provided an overview of the the mods I envisioned for this guitar, including crucial changes to the electronics, bridge, and general look of the instrument. The electronics and hardware were fairly simple changes, given my past experience working on guitars. However, the cosmetic changes — including a vintage-tinted neck and body finish “relicing” — were new territory for me as an amateur luthier.

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Weekend Mod Project: Frequent Flyer-caster, Part 2

The mod saga continues. In Part 1, I related my need for a gig-able yet affordable travel guitar. The solution was to adapt a Squier Affinity Telecaster, poached used off Craigslist for well below retail. I noted that the guitar was quite playable in stock form, but I nonetheless had a few mods in mind to bring it up to my exacting standards. By now, this probably all sounds like a roundabout excuse for buying guitar parts and starting a project. Oh ye of little faith.

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Weekend Mod Project: Frequent Flyer-caster, Part 1

My day job requires quite a bit of travel, with the frequency having gone up significantly in the past year. Until recently, the travel has created a conflict with my resolution to get back into music. As anyone who plays an instrument knows, constant on-and-off gaps in a practice routine do not facilitate progress. Unfortunately, getting anything oddly shaped – like a guitar – onto an airplane these days is a challenge. I see other travelers doing it from time to time, but the idea still makes me nervous. It only takes one stubborn gate agent to relegate your number one axe to the hold and the mercy of the baggage “throwers.” So I needed a solution for getting a playable (and ideally gig-able) guitar with me from Point A to Point B.

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