Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - chip@chipmcdonald.com: December 2018

Friday, December 7, 2018

Vintage That Needs to Go Away: Fender, FIX THE STRAT OUTPUT JACK!

 At least once every 2 weeks or so, I have to give a little speech about how a student needs to make sure they keep the nut tightened on the output jack of their Fender What-ever-Caster.

Pure Evil!


 They put a flat washer under the nut, which is useless and obviously does not work.  For the uninitiated:

 The nut works it's way loose as you plug the cable in/out, and move it around.  I'd guess that after 2 months of  use is when they start to loosen, at which point depending how much and how aggressive you plug the cable into and out of your guitar, the two wires soldered to the jack under the jack plate twist around and around..

 Until one breaks, and the guitar stops working.  Sometimes one is near a music store that can repair it.  Sometimes it's maybe only $35 or so to fix, but closer to a standard bench repair fee of $75 is possible.   At least a week will be lost, maybe more.

 That's presuming the student/Stratocaster owner even knows this has happened and CAN be repaired.  How many people just stopped playing guitar because this happened to their Squire Stratocaster after a few months?  What impact does this have to Fender and other brands for people that end up never staying with it and buying more gear?

 This has been a scourge forever.  The "phono jack" is a design left over from literally 1948 or so, and really can be traced to about 1877.  It's primitive, inelegant, and failure prone.

 I can think of a few better ways of doing it, but I don't have money to patent and manufacture such a thing.  Fender, though - there's no excuses.  Why they continue to use this idiotic part is beyond me, aside from it's sheer cheapness.

 They could easily improve it a lot: simply use a serrated washer, or put a dab of Loctite on the nut.  Or both.  Either nobody at Fender has thought of this as an issue and a fix, or they just don't care.

 Until then, I'll continue to have to waste a student's lesson time explaining they need to keep the stupid nut tight, and that the shorting-noise they're hearing is the result of the jack being loose, and that when it fails they've got to get it fixed.  Ridiculous.



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

How Much Should I Practice This Chord?

Normally I can't specifically answer the "how long will it take?" kind of questions, but I suppose this isn't exactly one of those.

This student is doing it wrong.


  •  Let's say you've got to play a hypothetical song, and it's a slow one: a tempo of 60 beats per minute.
  •  Let's also say that you've got to play a chord every quarter note.  So in other words, 60 chords a minute.  A chord every second.
  •  Let's say the average length of a "song" is AT LEAST 3 minutes long.

 You've got to be able to play a chord 180 times in a row, at a pace of 1 a second.  Sure, most songs aren't based on 1 chord over and over, but you're still squeezing, releasing that many times at least.

 This is presuming a very slow tempo, mind you.  So conservatively, in reality - you need to be able to do twice that, in order to have a little bit of lee way in your ability to be able to say "yes, I can play this song".

 360 times, at a pace of once a second would be a nice target.

 "Man, Chip, that's a lot!"

 That's only 3 minutes.  99.9% of the people reading this won't bother to do this I realize, but I'm just throwing that out there: you NEED to be able to do this, AT LEAST.

 Maybe you press/strum/release a chord 50 times.  That's half what's really baseline.  A "nice workout" might be all of the open chords (G,C,D, Dm,A,Am, E, Em), 50 times every day.  Then there are the bar chord variations...

 The point being, to play an Average Pop Song you've got to get your musculature to the point where you're in that ball park figure.  So there you go: practice Said Chord 50x a day, at least, and aim for 180 as the goal.  360 to conquer it.  In reality, though - this is why you want to make playing along to recordings of songs your goal: you're "getting your exercise" by doing so, in a more interesting and entertaining way.