I’ve updated my volume/tone control boxes. Both have a very convenient standard 1/4″ cable output jack. No more dongle hell!
Volume/Tone control box
The design now more closely resembles the original DeArmond Rhythm Chief boxes, with the omission of the “Rhythm” toggle button. To be honest, I’ve had ones with this button and I’m not really sure what it does. If it changes the sound, the effect is VERY subtle, though maybe mine was broken. Do comment if you know.
I can make them with a 1/8″ input jack for the pickup too, in case you want to add a plug to your pickup and make it detachable. Otherwise, you need to solder the cable directly from the pickup yourself. See picture below for an example using a Krivo pickup:
Note: this is not a super-easy soldering job. There are tight clearances and tricky angles. If you’re not experienced with this kind of work, you may want to seek an expert to help.
Pry the panel under the box off with a flathead screwdriver.
Strip about 3/4″ off the end of your pickup’s cable and separate the hot and ground wires. The ground wire is either the shielding wire woven around the middle hot wire, or it will be colored black.
Thread the pickup cable through the hole on the side of the unit
Solder the pickup to the correct terminals:
Tone/Volume box: You’ll be soldering to the closest potentiometer from the hole. Solder the hot wire to the furthest terminal on this pot (the same one as the capacitor), and the ground wire to the closest terminal. Do not solder anything to the middle terminal.
Volume-only box: Solder the hot wire to the closest terminal on this pot, and the ground wire to the metal back of the potentiometer or the ground terminal of the input jack (it is on the angled side of the black housing), whichever is easier.
Secure a ziptie tightly around the cable on the interior-side of the unit and cut off the extra tail of the ziptie. This will prevent the cable from putting strain on the solder joints when pulled.
Put the panel back on and press around the perimeter to snap it into place. (If it has trouble staying, you can also put a dab of glue on the black input jack housing to keep it in place.
If you’re here you probably just acquired an earlier vintage DeArmond Rhythm Chief (RC1000 or RC1100) archtop guitar pickup, got all excited to plug it in, then looked at the volume/tone control box thought, “huh? what the heck is this weird screwy connector?”
Well I’ll tell you what that is: it’s a very antiquated microphone jack that isn’t really around anymore. And to save you the time, the part number is Switchcraft 5501FX, and you can get them at Mouser, Digikey, or Angela Instruments. You supply your own guitar cable, chop off one end, and attach this instead. Done.
Well, actually it’s not that simple. It’s a very unconventional connector and not really a “unscrew some stuff, then solder two contacts” sort of affair. But I’ll get to how to install one of those in a bit.
Another option is to just buy the whole dang cable. Archtop.com has them here…. for $49 + shipping. And I see them on Reverb for more or less the same.
Now, I don’t know about you but something doesn’t sit right about spending over $50 on on a cable (sorry, readers who work for Monster). Sure, if you’re a busy multi-thousandaire you will probably think nothing of snapping one up, but chances are you’re a dumpster-diving jazz guitarist wondering if there’s an alternative.
So is there a cheapskate, DIY, stuff-around-the-house solution? Well, as it turns out… yes there is.
So I originally designed this to keep my cat from knocking all my steel guitar picks and bar onto the floor and batting them into her secret black hole portal… and it does a fine job of that.
But the real killer feature is I can put on all my thumb picks in one quick motion. Often the hardest part of regular practice is getting started. Less friction = more practice.
On my Fender dual pro, I have a smaller version that I stick on to the guitar with mounting putty, which helps me get ready to play in no time at all. The bar can just rest in the tuner pan, as has been the way for generations before me.
I started with volume/tone control boxes, then volume-only control boxes, and now it only seems natural to go the “purest” form: a simple 1/4″ input jack enclosure for the various pickups you might encounter. And if you’re like me, you no doubt have a dusty drawer full of them: Krivo, DeArmond, Stimer, Kent, and so on. Why do we do this? Who knows.
Edit: I have discontinued this model. See this post for the most recent version.
More news on the DeArmond control box front: I started making these more compact volume-only control boxes. Available in the store.
Why? The original DeArmond FHC pickups only had a single volume control knob. Minimalism at its best. After all, you can set tone on the amp. Personally, I don’t mess with tone much in the middle of my playing… too complicated. I’ll leave that sort of thing to Jerry Byrd and Danny Gatton.
Every gypsy jazz guitarist knows this video well. It’s 1939. Joseph and the fellas are getting a card game in before the show. Stéphane’s having a cigarette in bed (tsk!). And Django Reinhardt’s lounging on the couch playing just about the most beautiful intro to J’attendrai imaginable.
I used AI upscaling to bump this video up to 1080p. The AI also did a great job of removing noise, and a decent job sharpening up edges. I then used some old-fashioned video editing to enhance the colors. Nothing I could do about the fact that someone forgot to turn on the lights halfway through!
The audio was also processed. The source video was a bit out of sync. I did better, but it was tricky to get right for reasons I’ll get into later. Also amplified the audio, added some EQ, and removed the hiss from the background.
Anyway, I didn’t work miracles, but it’s still way better than any other version of it out there. It’s fun to see the furrow of Django’s brow as he plays his legendary solo.
A few realizations working on this video:
This video is not, in fact, live. At least not all of it. You can hear a clear splice when Django’s solo begins.
There’s also a part in the guitar intro that’s impossible to sync with Django’s fingers. My only explanation is that it’s dubbed.
Have you ever wondered what Django Reinhardt looked like in color?
I’ve been very fascinated with AI image processing, specifically upscaling and colorization of old black and white photos. Having looked into a few open-source libraries, DeOldify kept coming up with the most impressive results.
The first images I thought to throw at DeOldify were those of my hero Django Reinhardt, of course. There are few color photos of him. In my obsession with his music, I’ve stared at these images a lot and seeing them in color is truly surreal for me. I hope it is for you too. Enjoy!
First a couple of stills from the classic 1939 J’attendrai video: one of only two known live videos of Django. Fans know it well:
Next, some of my favorite shots of Django, where he’s uncharacteristically playing an Archtop in lieu of his usual Selmer petit bouche:
If you’re a jazz guitarist you’ve probably experienced this: a band member calls a tune, then casually looks over at you and asks, “got a little intro for this?”. In a matching casual tone you respond, “yeah, sure,” hiding the swift internal panic you are, no doubt, really feeling.
An “intro”? Now what? There’s an endless galaxy of possibility and now it’s your job to come up with a succinct, crystal-clear, improvised micro-composition before the band starts looking at their watches.
To be honest, I never really formally explored the matter until now. But having transcribed a few nice intros from the masters, I may have some suggestions on the business of starting a song.
In a Coronavirus pandemic world, working on guitar-related projects suddenly seems a bit… frivolous. Thanks to some cool 3d-printed life-saving solutions hitting the news during this time, my mind has shifted towards PPE (Personal protective equipment). Specifically, protective face masks which are difficult to come by these days.
Now before I get the lecture: no, these are no replacement for N95 masks, which are designed to filter airborne particles of down to .3 microns. I see this as more of a solution for people trying to navigate in public without infecting anyone else and lowering your chances of inhaling large droplets from other folks coughing or sneezing. Also, if you make your own masks, you don’t have to go out and buy them reducing stock that should probably go to medical professionals. Finally, it’s better than nothing.