GUITAR TECHNIQUE SESSIONS .... EXERCISE OF THE WEEK ... KNOWLEDGE DATABASE
Each week a new exercise designed to improve the guitarist's left hand dexterity and stamina OR a technique session will be added to this site. Follow this link!
The year was 1950 and Leo Fender had just revolutionized the music world. The Telecaster, then known as the Broadcaster, the first solid bodied guitar to be mass produced, had been released. Country and Western musicians were the intended market, Leo had no way of foreseeing the impact his invention would have. By 1953, Leo Fender was feeling the need to upgrade and change his Telecaster. He'd been selling them for four years and artist opinions and suggestions led him to believe that the instrument could be improved upon. For one thing, the slab-bodied Telecaster felt and looked chunky, the hard edges dug into the player's ribs. The headstock had been described as having the aesthetic of a pretty girl in a bad dress. The Telecaster bridge, while
offering more range of adjustment than just about anything else on the market, was still only able to adjust intonation on string pairs, causing some upper-register tuning problems. Simple by today's standards, the Telecaster had been both ground-breaking and a solid workingman's tool. But, it was felt that things could be improved upon. Leo scratched his head and sat down at his drawing table.
How does one improve on a really excellent design? I believe Leo looked at his design goals and decided to start with a blank sheet of paper. He was looking for sonic flexibility, so three pickups would be incorporated into the design. The bass/treble slant pickup placement of the Telecaster was a winning idea, so it was retained. Two additional exposed pole pickups were placed in the neck
position and at the midpoint between neck and bridge pickups. The body--now there was a sticky issue. Players had suggested contouring the wood to afford more comfort for the player's ribcage. Leo removed wood from both the face of the guitar where the player's right forearm would rest and then scooped out the back, reducing body thickness in the waist to almost a knife edge. I believe this loss of mass forced Leo to add the now famous upper horn to compensate for possible neck-droop.
The bridge, now there was a stroke of pure genius. No production electric had a single piece vibrato unit that would return the instrument to anything like an in-tuned condition. Leo streamlined the bridge/vibrato into one sleek unit that utilized five powerful springs to balance string pull and return th e guitar to pitch after use. The bridge incorporated six totally
independent saddle pieces so that both intonation as well as string height could be set for each string. No other production
instrument could boast of this adjustability. The string arc could be adjusted to the camber of the fingerboard. No other guitar was so comfortable to hold and play. Here was a player's instrument!
Thankfully, Leo decided that the upgraded instrument would not replace the Telecaster, but augment the Fender product line. The Stratocaster was born. This has been the case in Fender history since. The Strat was meant to replace the Tele but didn't. Then, in the early sixties, the Jaguar and Jazzmaster were to replace the Strat and Tele, but didn't. Thankfully, we've kept the Strat and Tele, as Jags and Jazzmasters come in and out of style, the two workhorses don't!
This is strange in and of itself, as the Jaguars and Jazzmasters are
exceptionally fine instrument with character and appearance rivaling or
surpassing the strat and tele.
Although Buddy Holly, Dick Dale, Hank Marvin and scores of other professional musicians embraced the futuristic Stratocaster, by the mid sixties, the design was falling from popularity with players. Oddly, it was the design's huge success that almost was its downfall. Fender's only real competition in the solid bodied guitar market, Gibson, had produced the Les Paul model and, later, the SG series which did nothing to further guitar technology, but were merely overly complex 'me-toos' in most ways, good guitars in their own right, but hardly ground-breaking. (The ES series of semi acoustic arch top electric guitars were innovative designs.) In fact, because of their complex construction, they were much more fragile than a Fender.
In the early sixties, Fenders were more sought-after by guitarists, so when young aspiring guys in England like Eric Clapton and others of that generation couldn't get a Fender, they picked up and settled for the more frumpy and less desirable Gibsons. Of course, when these same guys hit it big in the States, American kids didn't want Fenders any longer! Their heroes played Gibsons. By the end of the sixties, Fenders were out of favor and basically to be found in the cut-out bins! I'm sure you've all heard the story of Eric Clapton buying a dozen Fenders in a music store in Nashville for a hundred bucks a pop! Then came Hendrix.
Jimi Hendrix saw the potential of the Stratocaster in a way Leo Fender would have imagined impossible in 1952. He single-handedly put Fender back on the map. Soon Eric Clapton chucked his fat little 'Paul and went to a Strat--and in the thirty three years (as of this writing) since, he's never looked back! It is a legend that Jimmy Page recorded mostly with his Yardbirds-era Tele. I think it is a safe assumption he either retired the Tele from the road when it became too beat up, or that he went to the Paul to eliminate feedback inherent with the single coil pickups. Since the Woodstock Era, taste in popular music has changed, some styles come and go, some styles just disappear, but the Stratocaster has been there for all of them.
Even though the Stratocaster has represented guitar-perfection from day one, and the BASIC design has gone unchanged for almost fifty years, there have been design changes over the years. These changes have often stemmed from a desire to improve the instrument, others, unfortunately, were schemes hatched purely to cut production costs. Some model years are considered inferior. While you can find some genuinely horrible Strats out there, these are truly few and far between. A decent Strat from any year is a good guitar. Walter Trout, famed blues guitarist, loves his early Seventies Strat. Yngwie Malmsteen plays Strats mostly from the late sixties early seventies period, both these men play guitars that some Strat players wouldn't touch. Check out the vintage Fender ad above. I've only seen this ad once, in a scholastic rag I received in 1973! There is a school of player for whom the late fifties, early sixties--up until the CBS take-over in 1964--are the only guitars to play. Indeed, Rory Gallagher would only play one Strat, his Strat, a 1962 model he purchased at the age of fifteen in 1963!
I own or have access to six Strats. Why? Each one is representative of a different style of construction and era of Fender 'style'. I find the early sixties reissue to be a great guitar for R&B, blues and contemporary Christian. My '94 and '95 Strats are ideal for most styles of music and are the only ones, out of the box, that were truly comfortable for metal and contemporary 'heavy' music. My '72 (see photo at head of page, that's me in 1974 with a '73 Strat) was just great for funk, but with the addition of Texas Special pickups, is now better suited to blues, traditional 70's and 80's rock, and the adult contemporary sound. Maybe it's me, but the 1968 Strat has a great vibe for Stones, Beatles, and sixties-era hippie stuff. My favorite Strat (at the moment) is my Rory Gallagher Tribute model, which is actually not really a Fender at all, but a home-brew of genuine Fender parts as well as aftermarket replacement parts and hardware from my sock drawer! PLEASE CLICK HERE to read about various Fender construction techniques
Stampede - Bronx Garage Band
Of course, I didn't begin with a Strat, In the beginning, I was a Telecaster man. In fact, I still am -- I've still got my original 1971 Tele purchased new from Manny's Music on 48th Street in Manhattan, August 1972. This guitar, still in regular service, is a year older than the lead vocalist in my current ensemble. Some mornings I feel so old... Here's a photo of me and my Tele at a Valentine's Day dance in 1973. I was sweet sixteen and never kissed. (Ahem, well hardly!) Man, I sure wasn't a snappy dresser! At least my trousers matched the drums! The band was called Stampede, and existed from April of 1972 until June of 1973. The original lineup was Anthony Pernice on guitar, Mark Berlingeri on guitar, and Peter DiRoma, drums. I came along in May of '72 as the bass player, but replaced Pernice on guitar when his family moved out of state. Bert Muriello replaced Pete DiRoma soon after. Victor Minei was added on Saxophone as well as Joey Pane on keyboard (a Hammond Porta-B) and Ray Davis vocals and cowbell. [And again, the internet reunites old friends. Anthony Pernice came to a book signing at the Nyack library--the first time Harry and Anthony had seen each other in thirty one years!]
Mark Berlingeri and Victor Minei during our rendition of Brown Sugar . Vic was probably the most musically trained of the lot of us. He was excellent at transposing whatever the two lame guitar players were yelling at him by way of chords and structure. Vic played in the Mount St. Michael marching band as well. The Telecaster you see Mark playing here is a 1966 model that he bought used for $125.00 in 1971. It had the coolest alligator skin case. He played the Tele through a SUNN Solo II combo amp --a very high-powered transistor unit with not too much tone. He managed though.
Mark and his Tele. That's the one that got me hooked on the Fender sound and feel. Here's a shot of Mark playing up a storm while Ray rings his bell. All these shots of Stampede were taken at the same gig (like you couldn't have figured that one!) at Redeemer Lutheran Church on Barnes Avenue in the Bronx -- a Valentine's Day dance for junior high kids in February of 1973.
Left to right, back row: Ray Davis, Mark Berlingeri, Joey Pane. Left to right front row: Bert Muriello, Harry Pellegrin, Victor Minei.
Jim Abbott was our roadie -- and he did an amazing job considering that he was the only guy doing it! (Photo courtesy of Michael Giga, who I never could convince to become our bass player.)
In 1975, I returned to Mount St. Michael with another Class of '74 grad, Jay Monaco and played a couple of tunes with him and Tommy Manna, class of '75 and a bass player named Kevin (out of frame.) I was using an SG in my own band, but found that my Tele contrasted and complimented Tommy's Les Paul much better . Here we are in a dress rehearsal early in the evening. Well, I was dressed... I wish I had worn a pair of jeans and a tee shirt!
Same night, same rehearsal. Had to get our bass player into the picture. Photos courtesy of Mike Giga, who was kind enough to document much of my early years on film. This guy should have become a famous rock or combat photographer. He was always excellent at capturing an image despite any and all obstacles--weather, security, inadequate light, cheap beer...
Here I am with the 1971 Telecaster in April of 2004. I wish the old man looked as good as the old Tele !
Of course, the old man has his 1972 Strat in Olympic White to relieve the need for a seventies issue Strat. Having grown up with seventies era Fender's, that particular (and unpopular) vintage seems the most natural and comfortable. So what can I tell you?
By Harry George Pellegrin. The
first in the Gary Morrissey series of mysteries. Dealing
with modern subject matter in the classic style of the 1940's
Mystery Noire masters--think Raymond Chandler in New York in the
1980's... LOW END is the story of a drug addict who is
murdered after he believes he has found evidence of a major
government conspiracy. Is it only drug-induced paranoia?
Might be, except his paranoia could be considered justified: he
was murdered, after all. Friend Gary Morrissey takes it
upon himself to find out just what happened and lands himself in
See more info...
Classic Guitar Method
written, transcribed, edited and arranged by Harry G. Pellegrin: Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored with enough detail and insight that the student will wish to keep this book handy years to come as a ready reference source.
See more info...
DEEP END: The Wreck
of the Eddie Fitz
Harry George Pellegrin. A mystery novel. Involving a
semi-professional musician and a Kreyol death cult, DEEP END
takes the reader from the bottom of Long Island Sound to the
steamy streets and Blues clubs of New Orleans. Alternative
spirituality does battle with the common working man. Published by
PAB Entertainment Group in association with LULU.com.
See more info...
Original Music by Harry G. Pellegrin:
is a departure for me
as it is totally keyboard. Well, the guitar did show up on one
"...Reflecting Pools is a notable first album [for
Mr. Pellegrin]. A dramatic sense of tonality and mood are
propelled by exemplary musicianship and exciting compositional
...And containing nine tracks that are relaxing, inspirational
-- sounds like a snooze. Not really, this is great stuff to
listen to on a rainy afternoon, while with your significant
other (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?)
Please visit the Reflecting Pools
page on this site or
AVAILABLE NOW !
The Classic Guitar Method: Now in one volume, much
of what the novice classical guitarist will need to
know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From
proper instrument care and maintenance to the
necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and
the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored
with enough detail and insight that the student will
wish to keep this book handy years to come as a
ready reference source.
With the aid of a good teacher, the student will
rapidly progress through The Classic Guitar Method
attaining technical proficiency and musical
This method stems from the need to incorporate a
number of schools into a single cohesive curriculum.
Years of honing a logical approach to the guitar and
the creation of music culminate in this volume. As a
self-proclaimed Disciple of Valdés-Blain , much of
that famed teacher's focus can be found in Mr.
Published by PAB Entertainment Group, P.O. Box 2369
Scotia, New York 12302
Please go to www.lulu.com to order.
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What's New? The The Two New Albums!
Hey, the new albums are out! That's right, finally a follow-up to the reissue of my old album from the late 1980's and its sequel as well.
Reflecting Pools is a departure for me as it is totally keyboard. Well, the guitar did show up on one track... Reflecting Pools is an ethereal journey into the realm of relaxation. In That Zone is a more classically structured exploration of mood and personality.