Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby Rick Turner » Mon Jul 16, 2012 3:22 pm

I have no idea if that's the same 335. Bigsby equipped?

As far as mods, it was usually just simple stuff like Clarostat pots, shielding where we could, good setups, sometimes brass string nuts, etc. Nothing major. We did a lot of that kind of thing in the early days when we were on Judah St. and then on Brady St. where we had the full recording studio for an eyeblink in time. We wound up selling the studio to Elliot Mazer and the store to Ron Armstrong and Gerald Mattoi, and that became Stars' Guitars.
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby mijknahs » Mon Jul 16, 2012 5:04 pm

Thanks Rick for your firsthand info. This is really a treat for us gear heads!

I know that at some point, Garcia's "Alligator" strat had an Alembic "Blaster" installed in it. Did any other instruments (in the 1970-1972 period) have one or was this the first Grateful Dead instrument to get a Blaster? I believe you were using active electronics as far back as 1969 (as evidenced from that "pretzel" guitar I saw at the NAMM show a few years back).

Thanks,
Jim
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby Rick Turner » Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:55 pm

You have to understand that everything and every instrument were works in progress in those early days. I built the Pretzel in 1969, but the full electronics with those early preamps didn't go in 'til 1970 at about the same time that I was building Jack's bass and the Crosby 12. Ron had been putting emitter followers on Starfire pickups before that, but those preamps were the first on PC cards (well the Crosby circuit might have been, too...Ron was etching one-off PC cards in the bathroom), but we did a number of guitars and basses with them. Then came the Stratoblaster, and there's no telling how many we did of those. For my ears, the best examples of 'blasted Strats were Lowell George's and Lindsey Buckingham's. Listen to Waiting for Columbus and Rumours...

There is a tendency here and elsewhere to try to capture and solidify something that was, in fact, constantly changing...and a big part of the joy of working with all those musicians in those days is that the gear was as much of an improvisation performance as was the music. We had a basic framework, but many of the notes changed every day and every night. We were jamming with the gear as much as the bands were. You can't possibly understand the spirit of the gear and the music if you try to ossify it. The whole point was to keep changing and to keep getting better at it all...to bring in new knowledge and new ideas and churn that into a stew of old and new, tradition and innovation. If you look too hard at any of those momentary illusions of the past you'll miss your present and you won't get to the future.

To think that you can capture Jerry's spirit by duplicating his preamp (for instance...) is a guaranteed losing game... He would have changed it by now...
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby Smolder » Mon Jul 16, 2012 7:44 pm

Rick Turner wrote:There is a tendency here and elsewhere to try to capture and solidify something that was, in fact, constantly changing...and a big part of the joy of working with all those musicians in those days is that the gear was as much of an improvisation performance as was the music. We had a basic framework, but many of the notes changed every day and every night. We were jamming with the gear as much as the bands were. You can't possibly understand the spirit of the gear and the music if you try to ossify it. The whole point was to keep changing and to keep getting better at it all...to bring in new knowledge and new ideas and churn that into a stew of old and new, tradition and innovation. If you look too hard at any of those momentary illusions of the past you'll miss your present and you won't get to the future.

To think that you can capture Jerry's spirit by duplicating his preamp (for instance...) is a guaranteed losing game... He would have changed it by now...



well said. there are a lot of guitar players looking for the 'best' so that they can conclude the journey. that's a shame.
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby mijknahs » Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:10 pm

Fair enough Rick!
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby waldo041 » Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:16 pm

Smolder wrote:well said. there are a lot of guitar players looking for the 'best' so that they can conclude the journey. that's a shame.


or are they looking at it as a starting point to begin the journey?

~waldo
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby Smolder » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:47 am

waldo041 wrote:
Smolder wrote:well said. there are a lot of guitar players looking for the 'best' so that they can conclude the journey. that's a shame.


or are they looking at it as a starting point to begin the journey?

~waldo



one would hope
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby Rick Turner » Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:38 am

The journey itself is the goal, and it has no end. The trick is to get on the journey in the first place.
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby mijknahs » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:09 am

Rick Turner wrote:The journey itself is the goal, and it has no end. The trick is to get on the journey in the first place.


It kind of reminds me of the surfboard shaping industry in the late 60's and early 70's. Surfboards went from 9' and 10' down to 7' and below almost overnight. People were chopping down their old longboards and reshaping them. There was a lot of experimentation going on and many new designs developed.

There were also many designs that were "left behind" and neglected in the flurry of the era. Some of these "overlooked" designs have been and re-evaluated in the last 5-10 years and have been rediscovered with renewed enthusiasm and enjoyment with some modern refinements (the twin keel fish for example). Other designs were best left alone because they didn't work and still don't work.

Anyway, the part that seems similar is the expansion of new ideas in the late 60's that pushed the evolution of technology to new areas. But also in the rapid growth, some ideas were passed by too quickly and could still have some use and application today with some modern improvements.

Enjoying the journey is one aspect but there are certainly short term and long term goals as well in learning to play music and getting a "good tone". Our idea of "good tone" grows and changes as we get better and our ear becomes more discerning. This is not to say that things always get better and better...

Even though some may argue that all beauty is subjective, hardly anyone would argue that the Grateuful Dead sounded "better" in 1994 than they did in 1974. This goes for their gear and their playing.
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby Tennessee Jedi » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:25 am

Smolder wrote:
Rick Turner wrote:There is a tendency here and elsewhere to try to capture and solidify something that was, in fact, constantly changing...and a big part of the joy of working with all those musicians in those days is that the gear was as much of an improvisation performance as was the music. We had a basic framework, but many of the notes changed every day and every night. We were jamming with the gear as much as the bands were. You can't possibly understand the spirit of the gear and the music if you try to ossify it. The whole point was to keep changing and to keep getting better at it all...to bring in new knowledge and new ideas and churn that into a stew of old and new, tradition and innovation. If you look too hard at any of those momentary illusions of the past you'll miss your present and you won't get to the future.

To think that you can capture Jerry's spirit by duplicating his preamp (for instance...) is a guaranteed losing game... He would have changed it by now...



well said. there are a lot of guitar players looking for the 'best' so that they can conclude the journey. that's a shame.

Bottom line is we need to play thru something.
If you are not playing thru the best gear you can afford you are just robbing yourself of enjoyment.
I dont think anyone here thinks that gear = Jerry

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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby strumminsix » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:43 am

Thank you, Rick, for sharing some of the awesome history!
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby Rick Turner » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:56 am

Well, I am still on the journey and yes, I stick with some of the things that simply work, and they become reference points to further exploration. Some of the new directions don't work, many do, as per my ability to type on this keyboard and disseminate my thoughts almost instantly. A lot of the audio circuitry of the '60s and '70s still holds up as sounding good to me, and I don't think it's because of hearing loss. But I remain very open to the new stuff, too. Digital audio, for instance, has come an astoundingly long way in thirty years, and we are at the point where the best digital recording systems truly rival the best of analog...even my pal Kavi Alexander's 1" 2 track custom Studer.

I'd just suggest that nobody get too hung up on any of the road houses on the journey and simply stay there, never seeing what is down the road. You never know where the next insight will come from...

For instance, I learned as much about how acoustic guitars really work in a year and a half of working on a DSP modeling preamp design (D-TAR Mama Bear) as I'd learned in decades of working on acoustic guitars. I had to think deeply about what was going on in the frequency AND time domains that made each acoustic guitar have it's own signature sound. That in turn allowed me to understand a lot about how to shape the tone coming from wood and wire, but the understanding came from having to translate that into a stream of ones and zeros...with the help of some brilliant engineers, Kevin Beller and Cliff Elion. I'd never have made such progress on that acoustic guitar path were it not for being open to something completely different...Digital Signal Processing.
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby mgbills » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:34 pm

I find that starting from a good "fundament" changes so much. We take for granted much of the work done in the '60's & '70's. Would any of us with modded Strat's go back to a non-shielded model? I certainly wouldn't. Noise begets noise. That might even be in the Bible. Does anyone see a sonic advantage to have a 20% hiss factor in your signal path?

Guys come up to me constantly saying "What did you do to that amp?" Well...first I turned the bass down, and the mids & treble up. Then amps with preamp gain...add a little at a time. Rocket science. No. Start from clean, and then add what you want. Attenuate the high frequencies a bit if you like (Unless you play jazz...then choke them to death.) Basic stuff. Most of my amp tweaking came from this board, with some remedial help from Waldo & Brad.

Players are sold equipment, and seemingly recieve very little tone "education" from their local music shop. Mind boggling. No wonder the attrition rates are so high amongst those who aspire to play guitar. Bad setups, and little assistance to help a perspective player get the tone they hear in their own head.

Thanks Rick. I love the history.
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby Pete B. » Tue Jul 17, 2012 2:32 pm

Rick Turner wrote:... He would have changed it by now...


I'm thinkin' had the Man made it, he'd be playing something like this by now:
http://www.alembic.com/info/fc_7stringthing.html
Image

fwiw, I think it's perfectly fine for any Novice/Beginner Jerry-head wanting to play guitar like Jerry to get a full blown Jerry-rig from the era they like.
It's a hobby that is great fun!
:hail:
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Re: Alembic photos in new Fretboard Journal

Postby mijknahs » Tue Jul 17, 2012 2:55 pm

Pete B. wrote:
Rick Turner wrote:... He would have changed it by now...


fwiw, I think it's perfectly fine for any Novice/Beginner Jerry-head wanting to play guitar like Jerry to get a full blown Jerry-rig from the era they like.
It's a hobby that is great fun!
:hail:


That's another factor in the equation. If you're not a full on "Jerry-head", you probably wouldn't understand why anyone would even WANT to play and sound like Jerry. It probably looks pretty ridiculous from the outside looking in on us. Like some kind of fringe cult obsession? Oh well...
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