Archive for November, 2016

On the evening of November 25th, 1976 at San Francisco’s famed Winterland concert venue, the lights dimmed, and a hush fell over the crowd as The Band took the stage for one last time before they dissolved into the annals of history. This historic farewell concert was documented for posterity by filmmaker Martin Scorsese, but guitarist Robbie Robertson—the man who used his trusty Fender to back up Dylan when he went electric—thought the moment deserved more commemoration. He had his favorite guitar, a red 1954 Stratocaster, dipped in bronze to commemorate the life-changing moment. He proceeded to play this now one-of-a-kind instrument during the course of the concert, cementing its place in legend.

The Last Waltz Stratocaster is a rare, unique glimpse into the history of guitar modifications, specifically ones commonly performed in the ‘70s. During this time period there was no such thing as a valuable vintage guitar—there were only “old” guitars that were the perfect platform for experimentation. Pickup swapping, wiring modifications, hardware replacements—nothing was sacred, and everything was tried.

Master Builder Todd Krause replicated this classic instrument as closely as possible to the state it was in when the concert was filmed. From the NOS tone capacitors and knobs with the same tension as the original, to the airbrushed headplug and “wear beneath the wear” on the back of the neck, every element was reproduced as meticulously as possible.

The pickup configuration reflects Robertson’s own idiosyncratic style. Originally a die-hard fan of the Telecaster, Robertson discovered the Stratocaster’s middle pickup got in the way of his picking stroke, so he simply replaced it with a left-handed pickup and relocated it adjacent to the bridge pickup.

The Last Waltz Stratocaster’s gleaming bronze finish was applied “Old World-style”; the guitar was actually dipped into the bronze instead of the contemporary process of forming the bronze around it. The result—a thin coating that penetrates the body wood, revealing the wood grain through the bronze.

Not only did Krause precisely replicate the Last Waltz Stratocaster’s unique neck profile and headstock shape, he even matched the “wear beneath the wear” on the fingerboard of the neck. “Wear beneath the wear” means that the neck had been refinished at some point in its life and then absorbed even more playing miles, requiring a multi-step process of finishing/aging, refinishing/aging. Every dent and ding was reproduced as meticulously as possible, even down to the headplug that was airbrushed at the factory to cover a manufacturing flaw.

“String Theory” is a web series from Ernie Ball that explores the sonic origins of some of music’s most innovative players. In this episode Ernie Ball of the series, artist and guitarist for influential rock band Dinosaur Jr., J Mascis

The Dinosaur Jr frontman/guitar hero J Mascis is talking about how he first gravitated towards guitar playing, and how it’s his main form of musical expression today.
“Guitar playing to me is, like, my main musical expression these days. Playing leads especially, I really can convey what I’m feeling in that moment. Singing, a lot of times, I don’t improvise. I’ll just sing the same thing and play the same chords. But solos are always different. They’re always me expressing myself at that moment, which is my favorite part of playing,” J says in his usual deadpan.

He also mentions why he started using Ernie Ball strings: “I remember seeing Ernie Ball strings in the store as a kid. The graphics and the way they wrote all the letters and stuff, it appealed to my more psychedelic side. And they just looked like strings for making rock music.” The video also has several clips of J soloing, which is reason enough to watch.