Adding a Bigsby B3 to a Hagström Swede

So I had the thought today that hey, what about adding some more content to this site? Presenting the riveting tale of what I did on the afternoon of the day before New Year’s Eve 2013!

Swede

Guitar sans strings

First the strings come off. This was mildly annoying because I have been trying out the D’Addario EXP strings which are more expensive than regular strings and the set that was on the guitar were simply cut too short for a Bigsby installation.

The next step is to remove the existing tail piece. First the cover comes off, revealing the individual string anchors and their plastic riser.

Swede TP

The bridge laid bare of her cover, even

What can we see here? The anchors are obviously staggered with the front anchors sitting on two washers. This raises them a bit and gives all the strings roughly the same angle over the bridge saddles. The anchors were very well secured in the guitar with good long screws screwed in tight. Something that is less obvious from the above photo is the way the person drilled the wholes for the anchor and tail piece cover holes had not bothered to wipe off all the paint and wood flakes from the top before applying the considerable pressure of the plastic riser with hardware. Result? Lots of dents and little holes on the finish. Certainly not a big deal but a very strange thing to disregard at any price point. Some of the small paint flakes were stuck to the plastic riser after uninstallation:

Tailpieces

Tailpieces

Next bit, getting the actual Bigsby installed! Measuring where to put it turned out to be very straightforward and went so quickly I took no photos of it. I simply decided to first do a dry run to see where things would end up and how much room for adjustment there would be. I unscrewed the strap button, put the B3 over the end of the guitar and screwed the strap button back in. As it turned out there was no give up/down at all and very little room for rotation – pretty much ideal and no need to fiddle about at all. I made sure the felt rests on the B3 were as even on the guitar top as they could be and then made marks through the screw holes on the B3 with the actual screws, took everything off and drilled. Then everything went back on and I started to screw the B3 into place.

B3 installing

Screw insertion

At this point it turned out there was a small amount of adjustability in the angle of the folded-over end piece depending on which side of screws went in first. I tried to simply keep it at a right angle to the curve of the guitar (or is that “at an even tangent” on both sides? – something like that anyway). I covered the ugly area the old tail piece left with some black electrician’s tape – I would not call it unnoticable but it blends in very well and with the strings on I forget it is even there.

Swede B3 installed

(almost) Everything in place

After this the strings went on, the spring under the vibrato arm and the plastic washer under that, the strings were tightened and then slacked again and the plastic washer taken out (the arm was just way too high off the guitar body), everything was tuned up and roughly adjusted and that was that! It worked fine right off the bat and the next day when the strings had re-curved the neck again it was even better. The Bigsby unit is very smooth to use and causes no problems with staying in tune at all. I think it looks pretty cool too.

Swede complete

Done!

The astute reader will have noticed other modifications to my guitar – these will be discussed in a forthcoming post. Sorry about the iffy photo quality too, they were taken with a mobile phone during the Swedish winter.

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Guitar lineup

These are my guitars, from left to right:

Hagström Swede reissue, 2007. Upgraded with CTS log pots and .015 Sprague Orange Drops wired serial (or ’50s style). Neck humbucker is a 1972 Maxon, bridge pickup a Wolfetone Dr Vintage.

Ibanez Roadstar II RG140, 1986. All original/unmodified (the black knob for the vibrato arm is still around).

Schecter Tempest Custom, ca 2005. Rewired to master volume (push/pull to split the bridge pickup) and tone with a green Russian .022 PIO capacitor. Neck pickup is a Ruokangas P90 style single coil from a Mojo King model, bridge pickup a Baby ’71 from The Creamery.

Some tinkering remains to get the right feel with the volume and tone controls – there will be some potentiometer juggling. The Schecter probably needs better grounding and the Hagström will get a new neck pickup at some point. Variety is good!

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Making money with music as a paper thin excuse

A current Pitchfork article: Making Cents.

A couple of pertinent quotes from said article:

“The question of when we’ll be profitable actually feels irrelevant. Our focus is all on growth. That is priority one, two, three, four and five.” (Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify).

Indeed, music itself seems to be irrelevant to these businesses– it is just another form of information, the same as any other that might entice us to click a link or a buy button on a stock exchange.

Who are backing these companies? Would I be very far off if I guessed that they are various kinds of capitalists (venture-, investment- et al) who have found a quick way to generate capital? Who are running them? Would I be very far off if I guessed that they are various kinds of “boardroom professionals” as we call them here?

Look at the ownership of these companies. Why do the old “conventional” record companies own such great shares in for example Spotify? I suggest that control of assets is the key motivator.

All of this (and more) work to limit creativiy and suppress variety in the mainstream. None of it has the slightest thing to do with music.

Also, an interesting perspective from the world of books: I Tripled My Royalties.

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Audio demo of the Tech 21 Liverpool

I intend to use this mainly as a DI for recording, but also as a way to get close to my sound at rehearsals where I can’t bring my amp by plugging it into whatever amp or PA may be around. Sounds good, feels much better than Guitar Rig.

This was recorded with my Hagström Swede reissue through my pedalboard, into the Liverpool and then straight into the NI audio interface – the Liverpool is basically acting as an active, toneshaping DI box.

Please note that this is by no stretch of the imagination a showcase of my playing, I’m basically just fiddling around with a bunch of sounds. It’s one stright take, unedited.

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New looping video

Did this yesterday, a few new tricks and techniques this time and not quite as “nice” sounding.

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Review: The TC Electronic Flashback delay for live looping (new video and sound samples)

To my great joy (and the slightly lesser joy of my neighbours I imagine) I finally have a device that allows me to do live looping. As seen here previously I have started to do some very basic videos of this and the latest one will be linked at the end of this post.

Edit, 17 oct: Please note that I’ve added some later thoughts at the very end of this post which modify some of my original opinions.

The pedal itself sounds good but has some user interface issues – most notable is the abscence of a dedicated tap tempo switch which I have grown very used to having with my Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Boy. It does have a “strum tempo” feature but it is nowhere near mature. To begin with you have to step on and hold down the switch for two seconds before you can strum the tempo you want, and doing so mutes the signal. In effect, if you need to sync or re-sync with the beat mid-song, you will have to be quiet and not contribute to the music for ca five seconds. And do you want your delay to be a subdivision of your strummed-in tempo, say a dotted eight? First you must be in quarter note mode, then set the tempo as above, and then change the switch from quarter note to dotted eight. Imagine going from one stummed tempo to another between songs, both in dotted eight mode – madness! And also somewhat beside the point for me as I don’t use this for “normal” delay duties but those are some crazy oversights.

Another strange mistake is that when I set the pedal to be in buffered mode, so that the delayed signal “spills over” when disengaged and the loop keeps playing, the reverse delay can no longer be set to wet signal only. In other words, the straight and the reverse-delayed signal are both heard whether you like it or not. This is not how I would like to use a reverse delay.

If you are not a guitar player and pedal user, much of the above will make no sense at all. Bear with me just a little bit more and soon we will get to the pretty sounds!

As I said, I use the Flashback as a live looping device. “Live looping” is the act of performing and/or sampling music and/or sounds and repeating them live, as a performance. In contrast, to copy+paste a drum segment in a piece of software to get an ongoing drum groove  is still a form of looping, but not live looping. It began in the mid 1900s with tape loops with Terry Riley being one of the most common pioneers you hear about, and in the 1970s tape live looping had as much of a commercial and audience awareness breakthrough as it could ever hope to get with Fripp & Eno’s No Pussyfooting. Fripp later started touring and recording with a more mobile version of that setup called “Frippertronics” using two Revox tape recorders. The number of players using similar techniques has grown since then, especially with the emergence of digital equipment which is easier to move around and suffers little to no signal loss compared to tape loops (unless you want the sounds to degrade of course).

In practical terms, I set the delay time knob at ca 3 o’clock and the feedback knob at max or slighty less. “Feedback” in this context simply means “number of repeats”. The Flashback is a digital modeling delay which mimics the sound and behaviour of several types of delay – for looping I use the “2290” and “Tape” settings where “2290” is the name of TC’s legendary old digital delay and “Tape” mimics the sound degradation of a tape based delay unit like the Echoplex.

So how does it sound? Well – good! It sounds really nice. The “tape” mode probably degrades the sound a bit sooner than I like but the “2290” is great. It is also possible to get a loop going in “tape” mode and then very quickly switch over to “2290” to in effect “store” the tape loop without the tape degradation effect (I do this in some places in my videos and it can cause a small hiccough to be added to the loop).

Here are some brief and simple samples, recorded with my phone held up to the guitar amp:

The first and second are in “tape” mode, the third in “2290” mode.

All things considered this is a pretty good pedal that does just what I want it to at the moment. For me it lacks versatility and has very limited possibilites for making adjustments while playing so I would not use it as a regular delay pedal as such. The various sound voicings also can not be changed in any way – like how much degradation the “tape” mode causes or how much modulation is added in the “Mod” mode. The Toneprint feature is nice and it is quite surreal to completely change the sound of your delay by holding your mobile phone up to your guitar pickup!

The next step for me as a live looper, equipment-wise, is to add another guitar amp for stereo and then to look at some kind of multi track unit for even more fun! Thanks for reading this and please enjoy my latest looping video:

Follow-up, 17th october. I have now worked with this pedal for a while. To begin with, the reverse delay suddenly does mute the dry signal – or at least it did when I tried it again the other day. I have no idea why as I have not changed anything. The same goes for subdivided strum tempo, it suddenly works as you’d imagine it would. I can not remember whether I tried these features before or after I did a firmware update on the pedal, so it could be that which corrected these flaws.

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Youtube debut!

A spur of the moment recording I did while playing the other day. Came out pretty well I think.

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Regarding the UMG/EMI merger

For anyone remotely interested in the current and future state of the music business (as opposed to music itself), here are some interesting things to read:

Declan Colgan on Universal’s EMI bid

Simon Raymonde on Universal’s EMI bid

This is a subject for careful and considered discussion, but I lack the insight to do so myself with any credibility. I suggest to anyone with an active interest in music to look deeper into the issues of copyright, digital distribution and skewed market influence in the music business today.

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