Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Purchase Of Gibson Les Paul Custom

In December of 1980, a friend from Rawalpindi excitedly relayed to me extremely important news: “A foreigner is selling a Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar!"

In those days no worth mentioning music equipment store existed in this ‘Land of the Pure’. One could not walk into the kinds of stores they had in New York or London that sold shiny guitars and powerful amplifiers of all shapes and sizes. All we had here were dilapidated family workshops that manufactured eastern instruments. Hence, young musicians took very seriously all fair-skinned diplomats and sun-tanned hippies who even hinted they were selling their instruments to deprived brown buyers.
Guild D-40
“How much is he asking for the Les Paul?” I enquired.

Six thousand Rupees, but nobody is willing to pay that much!” he stressed.

Master of the universe

By then I was young and permanently employed, and whatever energy I was left with after work went straight into music. I had by then my first electric guitar, a German Höfner 173ii purchased from John and David Lewis of a band called ‘Just Purple’ who played at the Inter-continental Hotel Lahore in the middle 1970s.

A tall Yamaha TA-90 guitar amplifier graced the corner of my one-room residence in the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad. I purchased this great piece-of-history from Subuk Majeed of a Karachi-based band named ‘21st Century’. I then bought an American acoustic guitar, Guild D-40, in 1980 from Manny’s Music on W48th Street.

21st Century (keyboardist Subak Majeed & Yamaha TA-90)
On almost daily basis I penned English lyrics and produced even more English-sounding melodies on the guitar. Writing was like combing my hair; it came naturally and totally lice-free. Only the closest friends got to hear my pop-rock ‘stuff’. I imagined my songs would one day reach the coveted number one spot on the pop charts.

Martial days, civil nights

Those were the unhappy Martial Law years of MIL-DIC (military dictator) General Zeeah Owl-Hawk. He applied no eye makeup, was unfamiliar with how to trim moustaches and had dropped onto the political scene to make an elected Prime Minister drop dead.

Reagan with the 'Mujahideen' (Oval Office 1983)
War was in the air, peace had taken a backseat, Art was being looked down upon, and the Reagan-sponsored militant mullahs were flying high. Citizens who ‘did not listen’ were being publically flogged by the government. Artists contemplated committing mass suicide at the pearly gates of the PTV (Pakistan Television) and Radio Pakistan. I preferred being wild in private than ending up being officially sanitised for being un-Islamic or something close to my true nature. Discotheques had already closed down and the dancers were mere scattered moths. After Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979, I felt it was silly to dance to martial music played during Pakistan Day and Defence Day parades.

We'll give you democracy. Here!
After work when I returned home, two guitars and an amplifier waited to be played and loved, much like two dotting children and a good wife. They did not beg, “Daddy take me to the playground” or “Honey, take me out for shopping”. They just wished to be played, and play I did for hours.

Being pure man-kind, I was only beginning to discover woman-kind without understanding what the fairy-tale benefits of having a regular wife really were. Looking at men and their wives scared me; they neither seemed to be on speaking terms nor held each other’s hands in public. Because life was good to me, the thought of marrying had not yet gnawed at my brain despite mother’s persistent efforts. Looking at my father, I knew I could be a stronger freedom-fighter than him after marrying. Owning a house was still a few years away but thanks to a disciplinarian and supportive father, I became a proud owner of Pakistan’s favourite car: Toyota Corolla.

The neck designed to turn heads
Spell of the Black Beauty

Back to the story now: the news of ‘a foreigner selling a Gibson guitar’ took me to the bank the very next morning where I asked beautiful Miss Yasmin, “What’s my balance like?” She could not help but smile at the double entendre. I could not be distracted by fair damsels who were not in distress. It was decided that one more guitar, especially a Gibson Les Paul Custom, would not bring financial ruin but rather great joy to this account-holder.

Using a real pen and paper I sought details about the guitar from the seller, Charles David Welch, a Political Officer at the U.S Embassy.

“It’s a Gibson Les Paul from the mid-1970s, black in colour, comes with a hard case and will cost Rupees 6,000”, he replied.
A bit windy in Pindi

The job entitlement entitled me to a free return air-ticket within Pakistan. I called David from the airport. The house-keeper revealed, “Sahib has just left for the airport for a flight to Karachi”. Unbelievable bad luck, I thought.

Since time was of the essence, the airlines counter-staff very kindly obliged me by making an announcement, “Mr. David, please contact the staff”.

Within a few minutes a lean and puzzled American emerged, “Yes? Who's looking for me?”

When I introduced myself, he would not believe I had flown all the way from Karachi just for the guitar. This actually went against me for he knew I wanted the guitar at any cost.

“Tell you what; I’m going off for a day. We could meet tomorrow”, said David.

Charles David Welch
Most men are serious about cars, those like myself are even more serious about guitars. I ended up staying with a friend. Without that guitar, it was like spending a wedding-night without a bride, or so I thought back then.

The next afternoon I called David sahib again. “Sure thing, come on over to my place”, he said giving directions to School Road.

Waiting at the main door, I could hear the man-servant inform sahib about my arrival. Stevie Wonder's song, He’s Misstra Know-It-All, spun over a turntable connected to a powerful amplifier feeding a pair of tall hi-fi speakers. Sipping a drink, I found David in the living room. He placed the guitar case before me. With trembling hands I opened the lid to find over plush-lining, a 1974 model Les Paul asleep like a true ‘Black Beauty’. I touched her, she winked; I smiled and said in my heart, “Baby, you’re mine!”
In 1980, one American dollar was equivalent to ten Pakistani Rupees, the F-ghan Jee-had was in full swing and the Taliban were being fully funded by President Ronald Reagan’s administration. I suspected David played Stevie’s song just to clarify that there would not be any Pakistani-style discount and that ‘$600’ did not mean $599.95. He surely seemed like a ‘man with a plan’ who respected my teetotaller status when I politely refused a ‘drink’.

With six years of guitar playing experience under the belt, I inspected the ‘axe’ like an expert; there appeared to be no visible defect except the price. At precisely 6:45 p.m. on 2nd of March 1981, after parting with money equivalent to two months’ salary, I shot out of the diplomat’s house with Lady Gibson by my side.

Envious little boys

By mid-1981 I was federally entrenched as a capitalist in Islamabad. Good guitarist friends thought my Les Paul Custom was a ‘big deal’ but then there were intensely jealous souls to contend with. When I jammed (played guitar) with the latter, they showed envy by playing louder and faster than I did.

Guitarist Gerard Vanderlowen at the Inter-Continental Hotel Rawalpindi owned a Tiesco (Japanese copy of the Fender Telecaster) and turning over my expensive guitar he asked, “Man, are you sure this is an original Gibson?” Insinuating that the guitar was an illegitimate child was enough to make me fume for weeks.

Then there was this skinny young man called Rohail Hyatt who came over just to look at my 'Black Beauty'; his band, Vital Signs would take five more years to form. The band, for reasons best known to them, have never admitted that I gave a two-bar intro bass lick to bassist Shahzad Hassan while Dil Dil Pakistan (at 00:29) was being created at Rohail’s Lal Kurti residence in Rawalpindi.

God, give ME a Les Paul
1981 to Orwellian 1984

Living in Islamabad I initially formed a band. The drummer, Naveed, for whom I brought a Tama Royal Star drum-kit all the way from Manny’s of New York, had the dangerous habit of holding his breath while drumming until he turned red. A quick pat on his back usually released the tension. We played a few shows at Taxila.

Then I down-sized to an oddly named duo: ‘Terry Billy Hurt’. We performed at fine restaurants such as Heer Ranjha (Super Market), Black Beard’s (F-7 Market) and Mr Chips. Initially I had Ali, a Bengali guitarist, playing with me but later keyboardist Nusrat Hussein (later with Vital Signs) joined me. I played mostly rhythm guitar in order to sing easily as a frontman but occasionally switched to lead guitar.

By 31st December 1982, I was using Nady Pro-49 wireless guitar system that allowed me to wow the audience. The lack of a long cable attached to an amplifier reminded them of eastern movies whose non-guitarist heroes never physically plugged into amplifiers.

1974 Les Paul Custom Reissue
In those days I had two guitar students who learned more than a thing or two from me. One was Rauf, the son of PPP’s former Minister for Religious Affairs: Maulana Kausar Niazi, popularly known as 'Maulana Whiskey'. The other one was Rizwan-ul-Haq, son of a strict Navy officer, who later joined the pop band Vital Signs. I still have in my record Rizwan’s hand-written and signed application form. Because he gladly paid for the lessons, I have reason to believe he atoned for his boyhood sins by laying eyes on my Les Paul guitar. A quarter of a century later he would show me twenty-five Les Paul guitars at his Islamabad apartment. One can shake off a woman but never a Les Paul.

Money for something and kicks for free

As my job made me move to other cities, the Les Paul moved with me and starred on several studio recordings at my home-studio: Sound on Sound. I actually had the best of both worlds: generous job promotions fattened my bank account and bits of fame gladdened me.

1974 Les Paul Custom Reissue (black & red)
Thanks to the internet, I rediscovered Charles David Welch recently. He finally struck gold. From being Misstra Know-It-All, David became Misstra Do-It-All. After reaching a high office in the U.S State Department under Condoleezza Rice and enjoying postings at key capitals within the Middle East, he resigned his post to work as President of Bechtel's three divisions. In 2000, this company partially owned the water utility in Bolivia. To watch the story of the combined greed of Bechtel and the World Bank, click HERE.

Getting my baby fixed

In the next article I will tell you about the emotional problems my Les Paul Custom guitar later had, how I got her treated by a psychiatrist under a couch, and reveal other confidential details. Until then, keep playing.

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2017

Read more music-related articles HERE

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Crescent Observation Predictions For Shawwal 1437 AH (2016 AD)

I hope all of you are enjoying the holy month of fasting (Ramadan). While you cleanse your body of toxins, do not ignore getting rid of things that harm your soul.

Special Moon Events in 2016

Super New Moon: 7 Apr
Micro Full Moon: 22 Apr
Super New Moon: 7 May
Blue Moon: 22 May (third Full Moon in a season with four Full Moons)
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse visible in Lahore on 16 Sep – 17 Sep
Black Moon: 30 Oct (second New Moon in single calendar month)
Super Full Moon: 14 Nov


Do it yourself

The accurate data and visibility curves given below will help you cross-check official claims and appreciate the wonders of scientific reality. However, no amount of science can cover the flaws of human observation or compensate for cloud cover. As usual, those who live at extreme geographical locations might find it difficult to look for the crescent.

Through those who had the knowledge of such calculations, the last messenger of Allah and his companions could have simply announced the starts and beginnings of Islamic months but instead they preferred VISUAL sighting of the crescent (hilal) so that there remained no doubt in any believer's mind.


A few years ago when I spoke with religious scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi over the phone, he opined: "There was absolutely no need to form committees since a sighting report from any part of the world should suffice as evidence. The Muslims should not celebrate Eid on different dates".

There are two problems Muslims face today:
  1. For determining various prayer timings, countries have varying descriptions of sunrise and sunset (with reference to the number of degrees the sun is below the horizon).
  2. Countries do not have consensus on the idea that if the crescent is sighted anywhere over Earth, will its sighting be acceptable to the entire Muslim ummah? For example, will crescent sighting in the southern latitudes (Australia) be acceptable to Muslims in Europe and America considering the vast time zone differences? It is clear, the difference in dates could be one or perhaps two days but never three days (as it sometimes happens in Indonesia).
It is an astronomical impossibility to report the moon's conjunction (birth) as 'sighted' in Arabia when nobody else on Earth has seen it.

Data and visibility curves

Let us first focus on Jeddah (Arabia) and Peshawar (Pakistan). Each year, Peshawar reports seeing the crescent by ignoring its own horizon and follows the distant Arabian one. Traditionally, Afghanistan follows Arabia when it comes to lunar affairs.

Then we have the data and visibility curves for Karachi, Lahore and London. From the coloured legend (bottom right hand side of the graphics) you will be able to easily see if your location falls within one of the visibility curves on a given date. Click on any image to see its enlarged version for 4th and 5th July 2016.

Lunar calendar


The lunar calendar will always remain a necessity for determining occasions such as Ramadan, Hajj (pilgrimage at Makkah) and the two Eid festivals.


The onus of responsibility clearly falls on those who falsely report crescent sightings or believe aged observers and outright liars. This institutional wrong means that Muslims get wrong dates for performing the Hajj, starting the holy month of Ramadan (fasting) and celebrating Eid festivals.


The idea behind writing about lunar astronomy is to help one look with precision at the sky and to appreciate the inner workings of God's System (Nature). Astronomy must be studied by each Muslim, as was done during the zenith of Muslim rule.


Observation matters need not be left to the experts with telescopes; even novices can enjoy watching the sky in order to fulfil God’s Will and the sunnah (practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace on him).


Muslim unity and the moon


A simultaneous global sighting of the crescent is an astronomical impossibility due to the moon’s eccentric rotation and orbital behaviour. Hence, celebrating Eid on a single day across a huge land mass (USA, China, India) is not a religious requirement but rather an idea propounded by the religious globalists.


It has now become a fitna (trial, tribulation), frequently leading to disagreements and discord that serves to divide Muslims further on non-issues. We need to first agree on how many degrees below the horizon must the sun be for Fajr, Maghrib and Isha' prayers. Why must so many different criteria exist?


A few important points need to be borne in mind for 04 July 2016 at Lahore:
  1. The birth of the new moon (conjunction) will take place at 11:01 UTC (16:01 Pakistan Standard Time) during the day.
  2. Sunset at Lahore will take place at 19:11 LT, and the moon will set at 18:58 LT (or 00:13 minutes BEFORE sunset).
  3. During the bright sunlight, it will be impossible to sight the crescent as its location will be below the horizon (at -2°18').
  4. The Shawwal crescent will be only 03 hours and 10 minutes old at sunset. Hence, it will be invisible even if viewed with a telescope.
  5. The crescent will be seen on 05 July, therefore in Pakistan, Eid al-Fitr should fall on 06 July 2016—unless someone in the Rooyat-e-Hilal Committee of Pakistani errs or the Riyals blind us completely.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
04 July 2016 visibility curves (notice Arabia in RED )
Jeddah, ARABIA (Monday, 04 July, 2016)

Sunset:  19:11 LT

Moonset: 19:08 LT
Moon Age:  05 hours, 10 minutes
Moon Lag Time: - 03 minutes (moonset BEFORE set)
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): -00°:38':54" (negative angle)
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +289°:52':46"
Distance: 372,680 Km
Crescent Visibility: The crescent will NOT BE VISIBLE even with binoculars.

On Tuesday 05 July 2016, the moon (at sunset) will be 00:45 minutes old and the time lag between sunset and moon-set will be a comfortable 00:50 minutes. The crescent will easily be visible with naked eyes, hence Eid will be on Wednesday 06 July. And the best time to observe the crescent on 05 July is: 19:33 LT.

04 July 2016 visibility curves (notice Arabia in RED )
Picture of the sky (notice moon under the sun on top right)
The Saudi Supreme Court confirmed there will be 30 days of Ramadan this year meaning Tuesday will be the last day of Ramadan. as the moon was not sighted on July 4 (Monday). Eid al-Fitr will be on July 6, 2016 (Wednesday). Currently, out of 116 countries, 41 appear to be following Arabia's crescent so-called sighting reports which are based on a published calendar called the Ummul Qura System. Just because the calendar shows (without actual sighing of the crescent) Eid al-Fitr falling on 6 July, must not mean that the entire world must blindly follow it.

Peshawar, PAKISTAN (Monday, 04 July, 2016)

Sunset: 19:29 LT

Moonset: 19:14 LT
Moon Age: 3 hours, 28 minutes
Moon Lag Time: -14 minutes (moonset BEFORE sunset) 
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): -02°:24':09" (below the horizon)
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +293°:58':45"
Distance: 372,408 Km
Crescent Visibility: The crescent will NOT BE VISIBLE even with binoculars (but then who knows!).
However, the best time to observe the crescent on 05 July is 19:45 LT, when a 27 hours 44 minutes old crescent will be 4° above the horizon in a direction of 287°:30':09". It should be visible either with naked eyes or with binoculars.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
* * * *

Karachi, Pakistan (Tuesday, 05 July, 2016)
Sunset: 19:25 LT
Moonset: 20:09 LT
Moon Age: 27 hours, 43 minutes
Moon Lag Time: 00:44 minutes
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): +05°:20':05"
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +286°:04':24"
Distance: 376,687 Km
Crescent Visibility: The crescent will be VISIBLE with or without binoculars. Best time to observe the crescent is 19:44 LT.

05 July 2016 visibility curves (notice overall GREEN)
Lahore, PAKISTAN (Tuesday, 05 July, 2016)

Sunset: 19:11 LT

Moonset: 19:50 LT
Moon Age: 27 hours, 27 minutes
Moon Lag Time: 00:39 minutes
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): +04°:25':37"
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +287°:03':09"
Distance: 376,635 Km
Crescent Visibility: The crescent will be VISIBLE with or without binoculars. Best time to observe the crescent is 19:28 LT.

LATEST NEWS at 9:30 pm (05 July, 2016)

Despite my best efforts with binoculars in hand over the roof, I could NOT sight the crescent this evening. The Rooyat-e-Hilal committee, after cross-checking of sighting reports and the credentials of witnesses, finally declared that the 'crescent was sighted'.
Elsewhere on the internet, members of crescent sighting committees did not sight the crescent themselves yet filed others' reports. How can this be admissible evidence of sighting?

Why cannot the members of the Rooyat-e-Hilal committee have reliable witnesses spread all over Pakistan? Why must observers take so long to report their findings when the moon has already set? Why is there so much delay in announcing the official results? Are people too busy with iftaar and prayers and which prevent them making timely reports? These are questions that need to be answered during talk-shows on national television.
05 July 2016 visibility curves (notice overall GREEN)
London, United Kingdom (Tuesday, 05 July, 2016)

Sunset: 20:21 LT
Moonset: 20:46 LT
Moon Age:  33 hours, 31 minutes
Moon Lag Time: 00:25 minutes
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): +01°:48':23" (very low)
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +294°:19':29"
Distance: 377,820 Km
Crescent Visibility: Visible only with binoculors. Best time to observe the crescent is 20:32 LT.

And finally

I thank Allah and remain indebted to my astronomer friends whose accurate predictive software programmes and research have lit up my path of lunar astronomy.

I welcome your questions and comments on this important subject, and hope that you will attempt to not only understand what I have provided here but also help others understand matters for their own good. If you would like prediction data for your location, please email me at: writersblocktgh.gmail.com

Once you wish to be guided by taking a few essential steps in the direction, Allah's Promise will come true: you will be protected and guided.

They will ask thee about the new moons. Say: "They indicate the periods for [various doings of] mankind, including the pilgrimage." (Qur’an 2:189)


Have a lovely Eid al-Fitr.


Acknowledgement
The two brightly coloured curve-graphs were copied from http://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/
The picture of the sky comes from http://www.moongiant.com/
©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Höfner Shorty - DIY modifications

If you've missed reading my review Hofner Shorty - Test Drive, I suggest that you do before diving into this article that is specially written for handymen.

Tools required for donkey-work

  1. 18" straight-edgfoame (or a steel ruler)
  2. Feeler gauge (Metric)
  3. Small Phillips screwdriver
  4. Large Phillips screwdriver
  5. Small flat-head screwdriver
  6. Large flat-head screwdriver
  7. Foam rubber tubing
  8. Teflon grease
  9. Teflon tape
  10. Fish-wire
  11. Scissors
Breathe down my neck, baby!

The neck came straight as an arrow from the factory; some
players would prefer this. I wanted a slight relief (dip in the middle, back bow) for the strings to vibrate freely during hard strumming.

Access to the adjustable truss-rod was difficult; at least two strings needed to be moved aside to unscrew three Phillips screws of the 
head-stock's plastic cover.
Using the supplied Allen key, the truss-rod was loosened by a quarter turn in the anti-clockwise direction (looking down from the head-stock).

With a capo placed at the first fret, the strings were held down at the 17th fret. Using a feeler gauge, 
a satisfactory gap of 0.10 mm was  achieved (measured between the fret's top and the string's bottom at the 7th fret).

Bridge under troubled body

The chunky Schaller look-alike nickel-plated bridge was placed too close to the pickup. It was moved back to achieve the 24.75" scale length for which the Shorty is designed (Gibson Les Paul's scale length is the same). Fender guitars usually come with a longer 25.5" scale, hence their twangy sound.

By fiddling with the two large flat-head screws on top of the bridge and the two Phillips side-screws, I was able to move it back to 
achieve the following gaps:

Bass side: 5.50 mm
Treble side: 5.00 mm

That's where the action is

First I adjusted the bridge height for 
a comfortable playing ACTION (height of bottom of string from top of fret at 12th fret). At the bridge, base-to-body heights of the studs was adjusted to get the following:

Bass side: 5.50 mm
Treble side: 3.50 mm

Although Höfner's suggested ACTION is 2.00 mm (bass side) and 1.30 mm (treble side) at the 12th fret, 
I set it for the following:

Bass side: 1.60 mm (lower than recommended)
Treble side: 1.40 mm (slightly higher than recommended)

ACTION measured at the 1st fret (
Bass and Treble strings): 0.45 mm.

The above-mentioned adjustments might seem tedious and difficult but if left uncorrected, a player will end up applying greater force to press the strings and sounding out of tune higher up the fret-board. Both things are undesireable.

Strap buttons

Although the buttons are large and very useable, the rubber washers under the strap buttons sat with their bellies sticking out. I adjusted them to look proper.

Tuners won't tune her

The Shorty's tuning tended to drift a lot. Now
 before you spend money on more expensive tuning machines, look at what I achieved for free.

At the head-stock, I unscrewed the hexagonal top nut of one tuner and found its centre-post wiggling merrily. After unscrewing one Phillips screw from the rear of the head-stock, I was able to take the tuner off completely. The centre-post required a few turns of Teflon tape and after reassembly felt snug in its place.

Since the lose Phillips side-screws of the tuners' knobs also contributed to tuning problems, I tightened them somewhat for firm turning and stability. The Shorty now stays perfectly in tune all the time.

Grease monkey

With just a touch of Teflon grease I lubricated the top of the individual bridge saddles to make the strings move easily over them. I also lubricated each string's slot on the nut to make the strings move easily inside them. Instead of grease, some guitarists use powdered graphite from a soft pencil.

Are you nuts?

Although Höfner claims the nut is made out of bone, I was unable to guess which animal donated its horn to such a great cause. The nut 
looks and feels like black plastic.

The heights of strings at the first fret, as they passed over the nut, were fine. If these are high on your guitar, the action there can make playing uncomfortable. You will need to have the slots filed down 
by a guitar repairs-person using special nut files.

Odd harmonics are bad for love


Odd harmonics (overtones) generated behind the nut tend to colour the sound in a negative way. To control these, strips of hard rubber were strategically placed behind the nut to mute all the strings.

You'll see players as old as Elvis Presley using devices to dampen unwanted vibrations for a better tonal balance between open and fretted notes.

Foam rubber can be stuck between the bridge and a tailpiece (as on Les Paul) but the Shorty has no such need as it comes with a combination bridge-tailpiece.

To find out how much difference no dampening makes, strum between the bridge and the tailpiece (or nut and tuners). Those loud off-key pitches can interfere with synthesizer tracking in case you're using a MIDI device.
Pinkie-pad and wrist-pad added
Slap my wrist, twist my pinkie

A Fender guitar's large pick-guard and a Gibson's floating one help guitarists anchor their right hand fingers for comfortable playing. The Shorty's low pick-guard makes the right hand automatically move towards the neck where it remains oddly suspended in air to make 
picking difficult.

I tried resting my right wrist over the bridge but its sharp saddle edges hurt. Something needed to be done. I could easily slide my pinkie under my other 'normal' guitars's thin 'E' string but the abnormal Shorty had a thumb's worth of space underneath.

At least a 3.40 cm high wrist-pad is required to provide comfortable anchoring while playing.

Occasionally I require anchoring my right pinkie on the pick-guard. Again this could not be done on the Shorty. So I stuck at the bottom of the pickup frame an adhesive stick-on furniture protector. Its thickness of 1.40 cm was just right for the job.

The humbucking bugger

I played the Shorty through various amplifiers and found the guitar's humbucking pickup sounding harsh and treble-heavy. The bass lacked clarity and punch.

By adjusting its height from both ends, I was able to alter the balance between bass and treble. T
he middle Phillips screws on both ends of the pickup frame were adjusted until I got the following heights (measured from the pickup's plastic frame):

Bass side: 0.50 cm
Treble side: 1.00 cm

I think this humbucker contains ceramic magnets with excessive machine-wound copper wire around the bobbins. Since there is nothing smooth or classy about the Shorty's sound, perhaps changing to a pickup of choice will inject new life into this guitar.

As of this writing, I'm considering a very special hand-wound pickup that's made in England but before doing so, I must replace the stock strings to hear what the Shorty really sounds like with a better set.


Hard rubber pieces for dampening beyond the nut
Since there's a gap of 9.00 cm between the fret-boards' end and the humbucker, installing one more Tele 'lipstick' pickup (with circuit modifications) might provide greater tonal variations on the Shorty.

Tone and Vallium controls

Nothing in the world is sillier than slippery knobs under sweaty conditions. Thankfully, the Shorty comes with 
round knurled metal knobs that are exceptionally smoothly. Just like for vintage wiring, the tone remains intact when the volume is turned down (something that doesn't happen on many 'modern' guitars).

The humbucker only sounds treble-heavy when the tone control is left wide open; when turned down the tone is quite controllable. One could also try inserting a resistor in the circuit to make this guitar less shrill.

Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton and Jeff Beck have shown us how to do tone and volume swells on Fender guitars not with volume pedals but with pinkies; you can easily do the same tricks on the Shorty. I feel the volume and tone controls could have been placed a bit farther apart for greater flexibility.

The ratings of the capacitors and potentiometers (pots) used are as yet unknown.

0.022μF for humbucker (normally 0.047μF is used for single coil pickups)
500K for humbucker (normally 250K is used for single coil pickups)

The innards

A bit of hum is always heard when the Shorty is plugged into an amp. I suspect the pickup and pots cavity is unshielded and could benefit from copper-tape lining. Thus far I haven't inspected the interior.


Unbalanced personality

When you wear the Shorty with a guitar strap, its head-stock drops and renders it unwearable. If you are seated, it behaves like a very restless infant. A ballast weight of approximately 1.20 Kg is required at the body end to keep it properly angled for playing. My idea still needs to be implemented.
Is that a bone nut?
Louis Vuitton soft-bag

I cut a sheet of 1/2" foam, folded it inside the bag, glued the bottom end together and added a foam strip at the bottom end for the guitar body to rest upon. I also created a 2'' thick neck support out of the same foam. With this done I could afford to bang around this soft-bag without worrying about stress on the neck or the head-stock.

The original Made-in-Germany Shorty

This baby came with hardware, tuners and a humbucking pickup made by Schaller of Germany. If you had the same goodies on the Chinese Shorty (let's call it Chorty), it might cost U$D 250 extra.

Like some of their current more expensive Höfner guitars, the company could offer a German model with all the bells and whistles attached. Would you believe, it once also offered Shorty with a built-in amplifier and speaker, and came in kit form for assembly at home? Gone are the days when quality oozed from objects of desire for much less money.
Watch my back, Fraulin
In conclusion

Even pricey guitars tend to emerge from factories without being properly set up. Today manufacturers save time (money) and leave you to struggle with guitars that sound awful and feel uncomfortable. This is a huge conspiracy against the consumers; the manufacturers had better clean up their act. New guitars must have documentation that certifies that each and every item has been properly set up. Just affixing 'QC' or 'passed' stickers does not do justice to musicians.
Original baby from Germany

Most people are not even aware of the kinds of faults I have highlighted here and end up spending more money on 'better' guitars. A guitar technician may charge as much as GBP 65 (U$D 100) for doing what I did—and that will not include modifying the tuners.

So, go ahead buy a Shorty and experiment like a mad scientist.

And don't miss reading part-I of this article: Hofner Shorty - Test Drive

Model code: HCT-SH-RD-O
My guitar's S/No: P0408H323
All pictures by the author, except that of 'donkey with a guitar' and Mid '80's Shorty Super-181 (Wolfgang, Germany)

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2016