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This month, HBO released a new documentary about Kurt Cobain's life called Montage of Heck. Unlike past documentaries on the legendary guitarist and singer, this one highlights his humanity and shares perhaps the most intimate look at his life that his fans have ever had. Director Brett Morgan worked with Cobain's family, including his daughter Frances Bean Cobain, who provided home movies, photographs, and journals. At times funny and at other times deeply sad, Montage of Heck manages to gi
Although many people thought rock and roll would be a passing fad, by the 1960s it was clear this music was firmly rooted in American culture. Electric guitarists had become the superstars of rock. Live performances in large halls and open-air concerts increased the demand for greater volume and showmanship. Rock guitarists began to experiment, and new sounds and textures, like distortion and feedback, became part of the guitarist's language. Jimi Hendrix was rock's great master of manipulated sound.
Almost all guitars have frets, which are metal strips (usually nickel alloy or stainless steel) embedded along the fretboard and located at exact points that divide the scale length in accordance with a specific mathematical formula. The exceptions include fretless bass guitars and very rare fretless guitars. Pressing a string against a fret determines the strings' vibrating length and therefore its resultant pitch. The pitch of each consecutive fret is defined at a half-step interval on the chromatic scale. Standard classical guitars have 19 frets and electric guitars between 21 and 24 frets, although guitars have been made with as many as 27 frets. Frets are laid out to accomplish an equal tempered division of the octave. Each set of twelve frets represents an octave. The twelfth fret divides the scale length exactly into two halves, and the 24th fret position divides one of those halves in half again.
Guitar chords are dramatically simplified by the class of alternative tunings called regular tunings. In each regular tuning, the musical intervals are the same for each pair of consecutive strings. Regular tunings include major-thirds (M3), all-fourths, augmented-fourths, and all-fifths tunings. For each regular tuning, chord patterns may be diagonally shifted down the fretboard, a property that simplifies beginners' learning of chords and that simplifies advanced players' improvisation. The diagonal shifting of a C major chord in M3 tuning appears in a diagram.
Archtop guitars are steel-string instruments in which the top (and often the back) of the instrument are carved, from a solid billet, into a curved, rather than a flat, shape. This violin-like construction is usually credited to the American Orville Gibson. Lloyd Loar of the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co introduced the violin-inspired "F"-shaped hole design now usually associated with archtop guitars, after designing a style of mandolin of the same type. The typical archtop guitar has a large, deep, hollow body whose form is much like that of a mandolin or a violin-family instrument. Nowadays, most archtops are equipped with magnetic pickups, and they are therefore both acoustic and electric. F-hole archtop guitars were immediately adopted, upon their release, by both jazz and country musicians, and have remained particularly popular in jazz music, usually with flatwound strings.
The neck joint or heel is the point at which the neck is either bolted or glued to the body of the guitar. Almost all acoustic steel-string guitars, with the primary exception of Taylors, have glued (otherwise known as set) necks, while electric guitars are constructed using both types. Most classical guitars have a neck and headblock carved from one piece of wood, known as a "Spanish heel." Commonly used set neck joints include mortise and tenon joints (such as those used by C. F. Martin & Co.), dovetail joints (also used by C. F. Martin on the D-28 and similar models) and Spanish heel neck joints, which are named after the shoe they resemble and commonly found in classical guitars. All three types offer stability.
A slide, (neck of a bottle, knife blade or round metal or glass bar or cylinder) is used in blues and rock to create a glissando or "Hawaiian" effect. The slide is used to fret notes on the neck, instead of using the fretting hand's fingers. The characteristic use of the slide is to move up to the intended pitch by, as the name implies, sliding up the neck to the desired note. The necks of bottles were often used in blues and country music as improvised slides. Modern slides are constructed of glass, plastic, ceramic, chrome, brass or steel bars or cylinders, depending on the weight and tone desired (and the amount of money a guitarist can spend). An instrument that is played exclusively in this manner (using a metal bar) is called a steel guitar or pedal steel. Slide playing to this day is very popular in blues music and country music. Some slide players use a so-called Dobro guitar. Some performers who have become famous for playing slide are Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Ry Cooder, George Harrison, Bonnie Raitt, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Duane Allman, Muddy Waters, Rory Gallagher, and George Thorogood.
Guitar Chords are a group of at least 3 notes played together, this means three different notes, i.e. notes with 3 different pitches. If, for example, you select an E major chord on the guitar chord generator on this page, you can see the 3 notes E, B and G# (Ab) make up this chord. Some notes can be expressed as either sharp or flat (enharmonic spelling), the notes sound just the same but the naming of them is decided by which key the song is in. You can find out more about this in our music theory section.
When you play a guitar, bass, ukulele, mandolin or any other instrument in this big family, it's the vibration of the strings that creates your sound. That's common knowledge, of course, but have you ever stopped to really think about the implications? It's all too easy to dismiss your strings as just another part of your instrument, but the truth is they're more like its heart - and since playing the instrument means touching its strings, they also have a huge impact on the way it feels to play. With all that in mind, it's easy to see why the choice of strings is such an important one: it can make a massive difference in every aspect of your instrument, especially playability and tone. Picking out a new set of strings involves a number of choices, and those will depend on the specific instrument, so don't forget to filter the lineup by selecting a category. In most cases, that'll leave you with an easy-to-browse range of options - although if you're a guitarist or bassist, you'll still have hundreds to look at... and it might take a little more filtering to narrow things down further. Choosing your gauges will go a long way, not to mention material, which ranges from nylon for classical guitars to phosphor-bronze in acoustics and steel, nickel or even cobalt for electric guitars. Another aspect of strings to consider in your decision is coating. Traditional coated strings have a smoother feel than their uncoated cousins and usually last much longer, but they're also wider and that can make them sound different. If you like the idea of coated strings, but don't want to give up the tone you get with uncoated ones, then check out Elixir and Cleartone strings: these two manufacturers have mastered the art of ultra-thin, "barely-there" coatings that behave more like traditional strings. We've only just scratched the surface of what's available in this section, and there's a lot to see no matter what instrument you play. Different materials and gauges, coated or uncoated - it's up to you. You can buy your strings one at a time, go for a set or even stock up with multiple sets of strings at once. Still not sure where to begin? Try starting with the top-selling and best-rated strings and go from there. Finding the perfect set will probably take some experimentation, but there's no better guide than other musicians to get you on the right track.
The top, back and ribs of an acoustic guitar body are very thin (1–2 mm), so a flexible piece of wood called lining is glued into the corners where the rib meets the top and back. This interior reinforcement provides 5 to 20 mm of solid gluing area for these corner joints. Solid linings are often used in classical guitars, while kerfed lining is most often found in steel string acoustics. Kerfed lining is also called kerfing because it is scored, or "kerfed"(incompletely sawn through), to allow it to bend with the shape of the rib). During final construction, a small section of the outside corners is carved or routed out and filled with binding material on the outside corners and decorative strips of material next to the binding, which are called purfling. This binding serves to seal off the end grain of the top and back. Purfling can also appear on the back of an acoustic guitar, marking the edge joints of the two or three sections of the back. Binding and purfling materials are generally made of either wood or plastic.
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