Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The question of string choice has been on my mind for a good while now. I decided to re-string the Ibanez archtop, as the original strings were far too light, the top string (.010) sounded very thin. So, not really knowing much about it, I got a round-wound 'Jazz Medium' (D'Addario), but the low strings were too bright for my taste. They also kept giving this rubbing noise, making it sound almost like an acoustic guitar, and that just irritated me. So I changed the wound strings for flat-wound chromes. Now this is more like it, but perhaps a bit too dark. However it gives the guitar a great feel as your hand just slides on them. The downside is that they a bit harder to play, they seem stiffer and require more force. I suppose it will be good for practicing on them.
On my solid (Godin xtSA), I am still using the original light (.010) strings, but when I change, I will try half-round (.012), which is what Godin fits their semi acoustic (Multiac Jazz). They might actually be what I am looking for: a good tone, not too bright, a bit mellow, well 'jazzy'. I will keep on experimenting.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This is my arrangement of Misty, by Errol Garner. I normally do a chorus of improvisation, but here I just played it once, straight. This was my firstattempt at self-videoing, so i did not try too hard. A couple of mistakes here and there, but I guess it gives you an idea of the piece. The sound is quite bad, as I had to do a bit of noise reduction, the camera's mic is awful. I hope to do a better video and get a decent mic then, too, later on.

The violas (Amarantina & Caipira)

Here they are, the two violas. The one on the right is the Amarantina and the other one is the Brazilian.

The tuning I use is the one I learned in Portugal: from the bottom up, a fifth, a major second, a fourth and a fourth. I am giving the intervals, because as the viola sizes are different I actually tune them in two different keys. The Brazilian is in A: A,E,F#,B,E. The Amarantina, being smaller sounds brighter and better if tuned in C: C,G,A,D,G. However, I think in Portugal they tune it in A,to go with the other instruments of the groups it is used in.

This tuning is quite nice and gives good scope for the full open-string modal treatment, while also making some simple tonal chord sequences easy (in two or three keys). Interestingly, while the Brazilian viola has several different tunings in use, this particular one, which feels just right to me, is not known (or at least not mentioned anywhere) amongst the violeiros ('viola-players'). I must also say that while this tuning seems to be OK on the Portuguese instrument, there are a few intonation issues in the Brazilian one. I wonder if that is because the instrument is 'tempered' to go with the more usual Brazilian tunings. Or it might be just that it was not built that well (it is a factory one, with a fixed bridge, while the Portuguese has an adjustable 'floating' bridge). I have not investigated this matter
too deeply, though.

Tuning is an interesting subject, which I shall come back to later on.

Why another Jazz Guitar Blog?

Originally, I was a pianist, but eventually I got tired of the typewriter feel of the instrument and wanted something more tactile. I wanted to be able to shape the sound vibrations more directly, rather than just push keys. Now, since I could not entertain the idea of playing woodwind or brass, simply not having enough puff or not being up for the challenge of learning how to breathe properly etc, the guitar turned out to be a nice way out. I would have preferred the bass, but I figured out that I would not have much chance of playing within a group, given my work and family commitments, so the guitar was better because at least I could arrange and
play tunes on my own (as I would have done on the piano).

Also, I have had an on and off relationship with the guitar, always picking up one if it's available, playing a few chords etc. I used to have a 12-string acoustic, but I only dabbled. In 1995, I bought in Portugal a 12-string (5-course) viola Amarantina, which I did because it was different and I like unusual instruments. So I learned a few tunes and tricks on it and in 2005, I bought a Brazilian 10-string viola caipira, which seemed to make sense as an additional unlikely instrument.

So in 2007, I took the plunge, after borrowing an old electric off a friend for a few months, I bought myself an archtop, semi-acoustic, the Ibanez AK95. Then I started building up a small repertory of tunes and slowly trying a few solos. So that is what this blog is all about, my experiences and impressions as I learn stuff about guitars, their sound and the music I try to play.

So tune in, if you are interested. I'll try to make it useful.