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Elliott Capos

 

Customers often ask how they can get better intonation when using a capo and Elliott Capos are our go-to answer. Elliott Capos are handmade and individually crafted to fit a variety of guitar and banjo necks. These are the capos used by bluegrass, folk, and country musicians worldwide and chosen for their ability to center themselves on the fretboard- allowing for better intonation. We carry a number of different saddle and opening mechanism options which allow for players to choose the design that works best for them. Stop on by and we are happy to let you take an Elliott Capo for a test drive. 



     We Are Now Breedlove Guitar Dealers!   

We are proud to announce that we are now carrying Breedlove Guitars! The beauty on the left is an all Myrtle Wood Bourbon Oregon Concert with an LR Baggs pickup. Right next to it is their newest guitar – the Moon Light Concert. This one was designed to be as light-weight as possible and weighs in at only 3.5lbs! If you’ve ever wanted to try a guitar from this incredible line now is your chance!

Breedlove Guitars at the Denver Folklore Center 



How Do Ukulele And Guitar Tuning Relate?

Playing the ukulele is very similar to playing a guitar. The strumming and picking of the right hand translates easily between the two, as well as the fretting and chording that the left hand does. In fact, the way the notes are separated from string to string on the ukulele are the same intervals as the notes from string to string on a guitar. You can think about it like this: If you capo a guitar on the 5th fret and play the top 4 strings, those are the same notes as a ukulele! You can do all the same chord shapes and scale patterns that work on a guitar on your uke.


Here is a visualization of a uke neck compared to a guitar neck with a capo on the 5th fret

We Have The Best Selection of Ukuleles, Ukulele Books, And Uke Accessories In The Rocky Mountain Region


 

Banjo Pickin’ 101 – A Basic Breakdown of Banjos

“The banjo is such a happy instrument- you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.” ― Steve Martin

Bluegrass or Clawhammer? Openback or Resonator? What’s a “neck scoop” for? This is our brief guide to types of banjos, the music they might play, and the features that differentiate them.

What Is…
Bluegrass Banjo?

“I don’t think you’ll ever get enough picking.” -Earl Scruggs



-Pictured: Deering Golden Era Banjo-

Bluegrass Banjo…

This style of banjo playing is what most people think of when they hear the word banjo. It is a fast and rhythmic style popularized (and invented for that matter) by the one and only Earl Scruggs. It generally accompanies other instruments in a group as well as carries much of the melody of the song. In this context, a bluegrass banjo needs to be louder and more present to compete with the mix of sounds it is playing with. The construction of the banjo will often be heavier with more massive parts that add to the volume and sustain, and will feature a resonator cap that reflects the sound outward towards the audience.

What Is A Resonator For?

“With the popularity of dance bands in the “Roaring Twenties” more volume was needed and the banjo started being played with a flat pick, which required removing the 5th drone string. This gave birth to the 4-string Tenor and Plectrum banjo which also required using a resonator for increased volume. For the next thirty years, most banjos were made with 4-strings and a resonator. -OME Banjos”

Resonator Banjo at the Denver Folklore Center
-Pictured: Deering Eagle II Resonator Banjo-

What Is…
Clawhammer Banjo?

“If you want to play old-time clawhammer like the old-timers, listen to them play.” —Charles Faurot


-Pictured: Deering Goodtime Americana Banjo-

Clawhammer Banjo…

The word clawhammer refers to the shape and technique of the right hand in this old time style of playing. The fingernail and the thumb strum in a boom-chucka pattern that is generally slower and more melodic than the bluegrass counterpart. This style is often played solo or only lightly accompanied and therefore doesn’t require the same amount of volume and presence that a bluegrass player would need. The construction is in turn lighter and more basic to keep the sound more mellow. It is not uncommon to see clawhammer players using a soft rag under the head to dampen the sound even further.

What Is A Scooped Neck?

“Most OME Open-back banjos now have a fingerboard S-scoop to facilitate frailing and clawhammer playing styles. This allows the player to “stroke” or “frail” the banjo further up the neck thus obtaining a mellower, old-time banjo sound. -OME Banjos”

Ome Scooped Neck Banjo
-Pictured: Ome Wizard Banjo-



The Ukulele Craze

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a whole lot of uke-in’ going on. Ukes are everywhere. From movies to TV and radio commercials to popular artists (Eddie Vetter, Paul McCartney) to high school lunch rooms ukes have become the hottest instrument since the guitar. We think this has gone far beyond a fad(think hula hoop) and ukuleles are here to stay.

There are many factors that have contributed to the huge popularity of such a humble little instrument.

Ukes are user friendly.

There is no other instrument that is so easily picked up and played by first time musicians. This includes children, failed piano lesson folks, grown ups who never thought they had a musical bone in their body and everyone in between. It has four strings and most folks have four fingers and a thumb. Right there you’ve got an advantage, compared to ten fingers and 88 keys on a piano or 21 frets on a guitar! Here at the Denver Folklore Center we often show people their first chord or two and within minutes they are strumming a uke and their faces are saying, “Maybe I can play a musical instrument.”

Ukes are affordable.

We have very decent ukuleles starting in the $60 to $75 range that can get anyone well down the path of playing music. There are countless sources of learning materials available so you can quickly improve your playing.

Most of these a very Do-It-Yourself-able.

We have lots of great books (most with an accompanying CD) that cover everything from total beginners to Elvis For Ukulele. There are literally thousands of “how to” videos on YouTube. Just search “beginning ukulele” and you will be amazed.

For folks who would like someone showing them hands-on how to improve their uke skills we have some excellent teachers here at the store. One of the most powerful factors that have made ukes so popular is “The Cute Factor”. People are just drawn to the little guy. They think, “How can something so little and cute be hard to play?” And they’re right.

 

It’s fun to strum.

Down here at the store we would love to help you with any of your uke questions. We’ve got the largest selection of ukuleles on the Front Range and we’d love to have you strum a few. Take a look around our website to see the different makers of ukes we have or feel free to give us a call to see if we have that special instrument you’re looking for. Aloha!


 

Some Thoughts On Acoustic Guitar Tonewoods

When guitar makers and players talk about tonewoods they are referring to the woods that are used on the back and sides of an acoustic guitar. Traditionally, the most used tonewoods have been rosewood and mahogany. Some other woods that have been used for many years are maple, koa, walnut, sycamore, and cypress. The latter two have most often been used on Flamenco guitars.

More recently, in the past fifteen years or so, guitar makers have sought out a wider variety of woods like sapele, ovangkol, cocobolo, myrtle, lacewood, cherry, and a host of others. The two main reasons for builders searching out different woods are; a growing shortage of quality traditional woods and the never ending search for different sounds.

It Sounds Like What?

Using words to try to describe differing subtleties of sounds in various tonewoods is not terribly satisfying compared to listening to them but we will make an attempt.

Brazilian Rosewood

This is the grandaddy of all tonewoods for steel string guitars. It has been used since the 1800’s for its tonal qualities as well as its workability for the craftsman. It is extremely resonant across the tonal spectrum but is best known for strong, rich bass response. It is a dark brown wood with many subtle shades of red and green visible in the grain. Traditionally, very straight grained Brazilian Rosewood was the most desirable to make guitars. These days, however, highly figured pieces are used to make exotic looking high end guitars. Brazilian Rosewood has become extremely rare as it is considered an endangered species. These days in most countries, including the United States, it is very difficult to either import or export.

Indian Rosewood

This is a close cousin to Brazilian Rosewood and it has many of the same characteristics both visually and tonally. These days, if you hear that a new guitar is rosewood it is almost a certainty that it is Indian Rosewood.

Mahogany

There are many varieties of mahogany but the best kind for guitar makers comes from Honduras and other parts of Central America. It is a brighter sounding wood than rosewood. Some people describe it as a “more immediate” sound. It is a light brown colored wood with very homogenous grain. It is extremely strong and also physically lighter than rosewood. As a result, it is often used in necks of guitars so the guitar has a good balance from the headstock to the body.

Maple

This is a very hard, light colored wood that has been used by instrument makers for over 400 years. It can have very beautiful lines running across the grain that are referred to as tiger stripes or highly flamed maple. It is a very bright and bell-like tone. Violin makers have been using maple for centuries. It first became popular in the steel string guitar world in the 1920’s when it was used by the folks at Gibson Mandolin and Guitar Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It just so happened that they were surrounded by forests of old growth maple trees which made some great sounding instruments. These days, because of its bright, trebly sound, maple is often used on jumbo bodied guitars so they don’t end up sounding too tubby.

Koa

A very exotic looking wood with multi-colored grain patterns and a gorgeous overall deep caramel color. It is grown only in Hawaii so there has never been large quantities of it available to instrument makers. It is characterized sonically by a strong mid-range and treble response. Koa has always been the go-to wood for traditional ukulele builders but it also make a great sounding(and looking) guitar.

But That’s Not All

Naturally, the kind of tonewood used is just one of many factors that determines the overall sound of a guitar. Other factors include:

  • The top wood (soundboard)
  • The shape and overall size
  • The bracing pattern of the top and back
  • And, of course, the individual maker.


Common Repairs for Acoustic Guitars & Instruments

Since the early days of the Denver Folklore Center, we have had a acoustic guitar and stringed instrument repair shop. For the past fifteen years our instrument repairman has been John Rumley. John has worked on thousands of stringed instruments in that time and his knowledge and experience of his craft are vast.

The Set Up

By far, the most common procedure that John does on a daily basis, especially for an acoustic guitar repair, is what we call a “set up”. This includes addressing all the different factors that go into putting an instrument into it’s optimal playing condition. Some of these factors include:

  • adjusting the truss rod
  • filing high frets
  • filing fret ends
  • adjusting the height of the nut and/or saddle
  • filling or filing the nut slots for optimal width
  • adjusting intonation

Along with several other factors that can affect the playability of an instrument.

Another thing that often has to be taken into account is the player’s ability and style: beginner or experienced, flat-picker or finger-picker, heavy or light handed player, etc. A set-up is usually what is needed when a customer says to us, “I don’t know what’s wrong with my guitar, it just doesn’t seem to be playing right.” Sooner or later, any string instrument can use a set up.

Sure Is Dry Around Here

Unfortunately, our dry Colorado climate, is the cause of some of the other more common repair problems that we see. Some of these dryness related issues include:

  • cracks (usually in the top or back)
  • bridge lifting
  • cracks along the bridge pins
  • string buzzing due to low action
  • painfully sharp fret ends
  • cracks in the fret board

All of these problems are fixable and we are always happy to give you a firm estimate before commencing with any repairs.

Humidify That Thing

Many of the problems your instrument may suffer from due to dryness are either partially or completely preventable. The first thing to know are the signs of a dry instrument. The next step is humidifying your instrument if you see any of these signs with your instrument. We go into this subject in more depth in one of our other blogposts, Humidity, Colorado and Your Instrument.

Pick Up Line

Another very common procedure that our repairman, John, does is installation of all types of pick ups. We carry a fairly large selection of pick ups in our store (Fishman, L.R. Baggs, K & K, Barcus Berry) and John can install one of these or one that you have gotten somewhere else.

We Can Fix It (Probably)

Sometimes we will get a broken instrument in the store that looks hopeless, like a guitar headstock completely broken off from the neck. But, given some time and effort, we have been amazed at some of the magic that John has worked on these types of hapless instruments. If you have a problem with your stringed instrument there is never any charge for us to look at it and give you a firm estimate of what it would take to fix it. Then you can make an informed decision as to whether you think it is worth it to you to proceed with the repairs.



How To Buy the Right Instrument

Here at the Denver Folklore Center we think that buying an instrument—a acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin or ukulele—should be a fun, relaxing experience. This experience though, can be very different depending on the customer. Let’s face it, not all people shop for something in the same way. We have a small, friendly, well trained staff that has years of experience in helping all kinds of customers find the right instrument for them.

Our Knowledgeable Staff

We have been working with folks for decades so you, the customer, can rest assured that we are not going to push you into some instrument that we don’t think is right for you just so we can make a sale. That has never made sense for a small, local business like ours. It seems to work because, believe it or not, for some families we’re on our 3rd generation of instrument buyer!

Beginners Can Feel Confident

If you’re new to music we would love to help you make an informed decision when it comes time to buy an instrument. Beginners can feel confident when they come in our store that we will show them reasonable options (including renting an instrument for a month or two) and answer any questions they may have in terms that make sense to them. Very often we have answers to questions that they have not even thought of. In more recent years, we have customers who have been doing their research online but need someone like us to help them make sense of some of the conflicting comments they have been reading.

Take It for A Spin

We encourage people to come in and strum a few instruments to start getting an idea of the differences from one to the next; whether it be the feel, the sound, the playability, or the looks. We’re happy to play on them for you if you would rather just concentrate on listening to the different sounds each instrument has to offer.

This Is Fun, Right?

We also try to encourage our customers to keep it fun! We see quite a few people who tend to agonize over their instrument decisions. We try to help these folks keep a good balance between “facts” and listening to your ears, eyes, fingers and heart when you play the various instruments. Remember, you’re not not shopping for a house or insurance, your shopping for a little wooden friend. Keep it fun!


 

Humidity, Colorado and Your Instrument

It has often been said, “‘Tis a privilege to live in Colorado”. However true this may be, unfortunately, there are some drawbacks for instrument owners. The main problem we deal with in our dry climate is trying to keep our instruments properly humidified.

Why Humidify

Wooden instruments, especially all solid wood instruments (i.e. expensive) are susceptible to problems from temperature and humidity changes. Even more stable instruments, like guitars with laminate backs and sides, can show signs of excessive drying in Colorado.

Wooden instruments are meant to “breathe”. There is no finish on the inside of a guitar, mandolin, fiddle, etc. As a result, they will take in and give off moisture from the surrounding environment.

In the dry climate of Colorado this usually means that the wood cells of the instrument are trying to take moisture out of the surrounding air because they are dry. If they can’t get the moisture then the wood cells start to shrink. This can lead to lower action, finish problems, and ultimately, cracking of the wood.

You May Be Dry If…

Your first (and best) line of defense to problems caused by excessive drying are to recognize the various signs of a dry instrument.

One of the first symptoms of a dry instrument that most players notice are buzzy strings. They might start hearing some buzzing on certain frets that was not there a week or two ago. This can be caused by the wood cells in the top of the instrument shrinking. The result is that the top will sink under the pressure of the strings and this lowers the strings enough to allow the strings to vibrate against the upper frets and the fingerboard.

Another symptom that players often notice is sharp fret ends. They will pick up their instrument to play and notice that the fingerboard along the edges feels rough and prickly. This is due to the fact that the wood in the fingerboard is shrinking but, of course, the frets aren’t. The result is that the fret ends will stick out just a little bit but, this is certainly enough to make for some uncomfortable playing.

The Solution is Simple

All these problems are reversible with proper humidification. There is a very good article covering these symptoms on the Taylor Guitar website.

What should you do with a dry guitar, mandolin, ukulele, etc.? HUMIDIFY! You can use a soundhole humidifier, a case humidifier, a room humidifier or a combination of any of these. In an upcoming blog posting we will explore these various solutions in more depth. In the meantime, if you have specific questions about your instrument, feel free to bring it by the store and we will be happy to look at it.