Frack it, I’ll Build My Own.


So long story short, I’ve decided to attempt building a guitar by hand- mainly because I’m an idiot. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or well formed or even sound good, I just want to make my own. So… I went to Lowes, bought some wood, bought some tools, and got to work.


  • 1″x3″x4′ Poplar board.
  • 1″x4″x2′ Poplar board.
  • 1″x6″x2′ Poplar board.
  • 1″x12″x2′ Poplar board.


  • Coping saw
  • 1/2″ chisel
  • Hammer
  • Miter box
  • Surform shaver

Note that the design I’m working on is lopsided-the bottom half is larger than the top half. The main reason was simply because I wanted to keep costs down and go with the 12″ wide board for the back.

Here’s the template I came up with- remember that I’m a lefty, so the horn would be on top and the ball will be on the bottom (and the strings would be facing us). Note that the big board here will be on the back, and the section of neck seen here will be tapering in like a heel cut.

The straight-through neck idea; I plan on gluing and clamping these three boards together, then clamping and gluing them on top of the larger board’s cutout, then sanding the edges down. Note the “teeth” at the bottom  of the lower board- that’s because I’m using a coping saw rather than a band saw, so I have to take small pieces off at a time.

The length you see here is the same as my Fender strat, so the scale should be correct. The small section of board above the neck was extra length from the neck.I’m debating using that as the headstock and attaching it at an angle like a Gibson.

Not pictured is the 1/4″ red oak laminate that I’m going to use for the fingerboard. I’m not sure what to do for the bridge, nut and probable pickups- I might just go buy a broken used guitar and strip out the electronics.

I’ll post more updates as I have them. So far I’ve put about 4 hours of work into it and <$100 in wood.

Suggestions for Rocksmith

After trying to contact Ubisoft to provide them with feedback on Rocksmith (and receiving little more than an automated response,) I figured I might as well put my feedback here for all the good it’ll do. So here’s a list of things that I think they could improve.

  1. Why do I have to press 3 buttons to get into the game? Press A, Press Start, Press A… come on, I got 10 minutes to get my fix, and it takes 2 minutes to load up and get to a song.
  2. Consistent UI- press start, press A, make some noise- choose one and stick with it.
  3. The ability to navigate the menu with the guitar: pluck red open to select, purple open to go back. slide to scroll left or right (remember us lefties though).
  4. After finishing a song, the ability go back to the library, centered on the song you just played.
  5. After finishing a song, riff repeating.
  6. More lives/ easier method to reselect that riff.
  7. You say intonation is important, but provide no way to check intonation. Give us a way to check it.
  8. A mode where you can use the controller to rewind or fast forward, even use the left and right bumpers to skip sections of the song.
  9. The ability to string a couple of sections together for riff repeater.
  10. More games- “Name that Tone” might be a good one for teaching note recognition.
  11. Remember, most users are playing with their guitars, not their controllers- I good portion of them are using their toes to operate the controller. Plan accordingly.
  12. $3/song? That’s a bit steep. Give me a discount for buying in bulk at least. How about a discount if you buy all new songs at once?
  13. “Favorite songs” option in the main menu, as well as a “recently played”.
  14. When doing technique challenges and such, after I see the video the first time, I don’t care to see it a second time, ESPECIALLY if it means another load screen.
  15. Speaking of loading, restarting in the middle or even near the end of a song is instantaneous, but after finishing a song and hitting “play again” it loads… that seems silly. I don’t give a crap about your menu, keep that song in memory if it means no load time.


I’m sure I’ll have more as I continue to play the game.


Update (20111201)

I have a couple more I’d like to add to the list:

  1. Ghost mode- Show the full note patterns, but at 30% opacity. If you play a section correctly, your mastery is adjusted accordingly.
  2. Assessment mode- If I know a song 90% of the way already, it’s infuriating waiting for Rocksmith to “catch up” to my knowledge. This was a major turnoff for an excellent guitar player that I showed the game to. One note every three seconds for someone who knows the song by heart? (I hadn’t played the song yet myself.)
  3. Riff repeater, Riff repeater, play full song, continue journey, songs, song x, riff repeater. The bolded sections shouldn’t be required- I should be able to go from the finished song back to the riff repeater without all that other crap. Actually, Riff repeater after any finished rehearsal should be available.
  4. Saved playlists- I’d like to be able to select several songs and queue them up so I can play them back to back without it being an event. I’d also like to save that queue for use later.
  5. Rehease any song for an event- I see 4 songs for an event, 1 is qualified, 3 are not. I’d like to rehease those three. It should be trivial to navigate and select them- get a cursor on that list and let me select any of them right from the main menu.
  6. Rehearsal Reversal – ever screw up part of a song and be upset about it? Imagine being able to use the controller to reverse the music like a tape player.
  7. Better communication- I just downloaded a 4 meg update and have no idea why. Did it fix something? Communicate that info- I’m a big boy, I can take it. Gimme technical details.
  8. Open Tuner mode – Some times I just want to mess with my tuning. The current setup is very restrictive.

Again, great game, but I’d like to see some of these warts removed and make it an exceptional game.

Update (20111203)

Add to the list:

  1. When you finish a song, show your score, your last score, and highscore. Gimme some stats man, show me that I improved!

What’s up?

So I’ve been pretty quiet since I hit 100k words- what’s been going on?

  • Round of layoffs at work
  • Friend diagnosed with cancer
  • Another round of layoffs at work.
  • Jackie became a pampered chef consultant
  • Finances have been wiped out from christmas and getting her PC stuff off the ground.
  • 10% paycut at work
  • Guitar lessons are now done because no one can afford them.
  • Have been reading Manuscript Makeover for ways to improve my book
  • Decided to do an initial cleanup of the first draft of my script, then rewrite the outline before starting draft #2
  • started yet another opensource project- this time it’s a collection of Nagios Plugins.

So I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve finished the cleanup of the first two chapters of book 1; hopefully I’ll finish the rest shortly, but it’s very slow going. We’ll see where things head in the next few months- I expect more crappiness.

Guitar Lessons

So I’ve started teaching guitar again- This time the cash will go directly towards the G-400. As you can see on the sidebar, I’m now a hair closer. My new student is a coworker who is very excited to learn, so that makes things easy on several fronts (schedules, payment, attendance, etc). At this rate, I should have the guitar by next fall- sooner if I pick up another student (which is a possibility).

that said, I’m still accepting donations 😀

Reading Guitar Tab

So some of you may know that I’ve been working on a second book- this one is music-based. Anyways, I have a few friends who are new to guitar and my book is more or less aimed at them, however some of them don’t know how to read tab- hence this post. So here’s the rundown:


The above is a sample of some tablature. Each of the 6 lines represents a string on the guitar, each number represents a fret on that string. The lower case (small) e represents the “high e” string on the guitar (the thinnest one), and the rest fall into place from there. In the example above, to play the first note you’d place a finger right behind the 5th fret on the A string (second fattest string), and pluck the string with a finger or a pick.

Above I’ve also laid out some basic notation, as listed below:

  • /: indicates a slide between two or more frets, e.g. 5/7 says start on the 5th fret and slide to the 7th. A forward slash usually indicates sliding up, while a backslash indicates liding down (e.g. 5/7\5\3).
  • x: Indicates a muted string. This is usually done with the fleshy edge of your palm on the pinkie side. In the instance above it’s used to set rhythm.
  • h: Indicates a “hammer-on”, where a note is struck and you hammer a finger on the next fret without actually striking the string a second time. By quickly pressing the following fret you retain the vibration from the previous note. This is often paired with p, pull-offs (e.g. 5h7p5 is 5, hammer on 7, release back to 5).
  • b: Bend a note. By stretching the string slightly sideways on the fretboard you can change the pitch of the note. Notes are usually only bent one or two step (frets), and are occasionally bent back, which is signified by an r (e.g. 7b9r7 means bend the 7th fret to sound like a 9, then back down to 7)
  • ~: Vibrato. there are two ways to do this- slightly vary the pressure on the string of a struck note so it wabbles back and forth, or bend it back and forth using the technique above very slightly, like a quarter of a step. It produces an effect similar to a whammy bar on an electric guitar. The more of these in a row, the longer you do it.

You’ll read through guitar tablature like the old pianos with the punch-card sheet music on a reel, playing each note as you go. Tab is meant to be a rough guide, so don’t expect exquisite timing details. Generally speaking, the farther apart the notes, the farther the pause; the closer the notes, the quicker the interval. Notes that appear on the same column are usually chords, and should be played in a single strum. Some tablature will define a set of used chords at the top, and simply refer to their name later on.

So that’s a quick intro into guitar tab. Let me know if I missed anything.

An Epiphany.

I’m the first to admit I’ve been slacking on my scales practice, mainly sticking to pentatonic (because I’m lazy). So while reading through my Scales and Modes book and I stumbled across something obvious, yet I’d never recognized. Each scale has a mode for each note in the scale- Major scale having 7, pentatonic scale having 5, etc. That I was remotely aware of, but didn’t think much of it.

I never really bothered with the major scale since it’s sorta boring, and felt overwhelmed by all of the basic scales (ionian, dorian, phrygian, etc) knowing that I’d have to learn their modes as well. Then the book pointed out that the first mode of the major scale was called the Ionian scale- wait, what? It turns out that all of those scales I feared learning didn’t have modes- they were modes- of the major scale!

So here’s the following:

Ionian In C:   C D E F G A B 
Dorian In D:     D E F G A B C
Phrygian In E:     E F G A B C D

This means, rather than learning 7 scales with 7 modes each, I just have to get down the 7 modes of the major scale. So simple, yet I never put it together.

Writing another Book

So I’ve started on another book- this one however isn’t a novel, it’s a notebook for guitar students. The first two pages contain a layout of notes on the fretboard, commonly played chords (open, barred and power), pentatonic modes, and relationship of the guitar and tablature to standard musical notation.

The rest of the book will follow a simple format, allowing notes, sketches and some notation on the left page and the right containing 6 tab staffs similar to this:


I suspect it will be around 80 pages, about the same size as a black and white college-rule journal-type notebook. It'll be US-letter size paper and spiral bound (so it'll lay flat).

If you can think of anything else that should be added to the first two pages of cheat sheet, let me know. I also need a name for this beast, something better than "Morgajel's Guitar Notebook".


Doing another annual recap this year like I did last year.

2006 was a pretty rough year- move from DC Metro back to Grand Rapids, got a crappy job, found out jackie was pregnant, got laid off from crappy job, spent 3 months unemployed, and at the end of November was offered an awesome new job in Troy, MI (the other side of the state). Other than Ian, and the new job, the best good news is we finally have a decent couch- two of them, actually.


I enjoyed working at CSX a lot, but Virginia started getting to me- a guy threw himself in front of the orange line and it was on the news down there, and I realized I could sorta understand why he did it… that was my hint that I needed to get out of there. The result was taking the first job that could get me back to Michigan.

I ended up taking a contract-to-hire job back in Grand Rapids that paid poorly, treated me like crap, and generally made me come home and curl up in the fetal position. Part of the agreement to even get close to the payrange I was looking for was I had to work 55 hours a week. The problem was I spent all 55 hours each week for 3 months putting out fires and stressed myself so badly that the doctor told me I had to cut back. Five months(August) into the 3 month contract (oh, it was open ended, didn’t you know that?) I was laid off. No severance, just a boot out the door. I wasn’t the only one laid off since the company is apparently not doing as well as they thought they were, but there’s still a lot of bitterness there.

The recruiter flat out lied when he said the Grand Rapids job market had improved- the unemployment rate is still 7% and companies are closing down left and right. I spent 3 months searching for a job in the area when our friend Chris P. offered to hand my resume off to a friend of his who was looking for a linux admin. Three interviews later, they offered me the job for a decent amount of money and benefits. The down side was it’s in Troy, so we’re moving again. This place seems great tho, and I don’t have any of the doubts or negative feelings I had initially about the job in GR.


In July, Jackie and I found out we were going to have a child. It’s a boy, and he’s due on March 10th. We’ve decided on Ian Hawthorn for a name. We’re really excited about it, but to be honest it didn’t help the stress level when I was laid off a month after finding out. We’re looking forward to it, but the new job is complicating issues like lamaz classes and doctor changes.

My brother Jamie is off being a park ranger/professional bum, Brian is still in school, parents are doing good, inlaws are good, grandparents are all doing well and the cats still haven’t been set on fire- can’t ask for more than that.


I finally finished my chainmail shirt. The age difference between rings resulted in some bad discoloration which I tried to fix by treating with vinegar- Unfortunately that completely removed the zinc coating on some resulting in rusting- once I get the cash I plan on rolling it in a bucket of sand to remove the rust, oiling it, and then putting it in a tupperware container.

I played with my guitar quite a bit early in the year, but slacked off later on. I also realized that learning to play the keyboard is going to require more than 25 keys, so I’ve put it off until I have the time and money to get a real keyboard and take lessons. I did manage to pick up a trumpet and restring my violin- I can play a scale on the violin (barely) and can annoy the neighbors with the trumpet. I also bought some new reeds for Jackie’s clarinet and learned how to play a scale.

I got back into ruby and finally checked out this whole rails thing- it’s very cool. I wish I would have kept up with ruby way back when and ignored the nay-sayers.

I’ve also taken up walking- yes, walking. I’ve been walking about 3 miles every other day since we moved back to Grand Rapids- once around the block. Now that we’ve moved, that’ll probably go by the wayside due to the lack of walking partners and Jackie’s general roundness (from Ian).

Hopefully 2007 will see us getting back to where we were last year this time.

Guitarday Thursday, July 13th, 6:30PM

ok, having another guitarday- looks like thursday is the day of choice from now on. 6:30pm till whenever. Let me know if you’re interested and bring an instrument.

Thursday, July 13th, 6:30PM

There, now you know.


Hrm… I think I’ll try something new this year. As some of you know, 12/31 is my birthday, and I’m 26 now. That makes it twice as good to look back on my life and reflect. So what’s changed? Quite a bit. I always had a goal growing up, that when I was 25, it would be the one of the best years of my life. Looking back, I think that it very well could be.


This was my first full year in Virginia. Went with jackie back to visit friends in Michigan a couple times and realized how much I dislike Virginia. Growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of michigan… now that I’m here I want to go back. That was quite a shock.

I worked at SPX(I still don’t use their full name here) for a full year, and went from junior developer to developer to webmaster to system admin to lead developer, which those last 3 all happening at the same time. I left the company over money issues and ended up with CSX(again, no full name), where I’m a full time Linux System Administrator. The job is great. I’ve been with them for 3 months as of christmas eve. It also allowed us to afford a new bed- the original move down here did a number on my back, and has been messed up for the last year. I went and saw a doctor and got some anti-inflammitories about the same time as we got the bed, and for the first time in a year, I was able to sleep 8 hours straight. I just ran out of the naproxin, but my back is in much better shape than it was.

We’ve been at our apartment complex for over a year now- This is the first time I’ve stayed at a single apartment this long since I started college. It’s not a huge apartment but it is quite expensive. We’ve also been digging ourself slowly out of debt. We did end up taking on a new debt- my Ford Tempo finally died, and we bought a new Toyota Corolla (my first foreign car; has a lot more meaning to someone from MI). The car is great, but we added a whole lot more debt to our lives.


Family has been good and bad, lots of interesting things going on. Jackie spent a good chunk of the year working 70 hours/week in New Jersey working on a case that her lawfirm ended up being disqualified for. The big bonus she was promised? well, she got 1/3 of it. She’s the 3rd person I’ve talked to this year who got screwed on a year end project based bonus through no fault of her own. From now on she ONLY works 40 hours a week. If they don’t like that, she can go elsewhere and make 50% more.

And to round things up:

  • Chaos, the cat who lives up to her name, turned 1 and has calmed down. She isn’t quite… “domesticated,” but she’s calm enough now that I don’t want to throw her off the balcony.
  • Toby still hides under the bed.
  • My brother Jamie broke his hand punching a guy, then got his ass kicked a few months later by a mob.
  • My brother Brian is still playing trumpet at UofM- his second year there I think.
  • My mom has been bowling a lot
  • My dad shot Bambi in the spine. He says Bambi is delicious.
  • My good friend Jeff got married to his girlfriend Corrie
  • my Mother in law Rhonda got married to her boyfriend jerry


It’s been a Good year for hobbies- or bad, depending on how you look at it. I’ve been hitting the guitar with a renewed passion after finding the Guitar Grimoire series of books and Rockhouse “Learn to Play Guitar” DVDs. Before this year I could only play chords and single notes- I was a rhythm guitarist essentially. Now I can play all 5 modes of the pentatonic scale and the first mode of the F major scale. I still got a ways to go, but this was a big hurdle for me; one I thought I’d never get past. Now I’m to the point of being able to understand music a whole lot better.

I’ve gotten back into art with the purchase of a Wacom graphic tablet. I’ve started working on several drawings, mainly pictures of old DnD characters I’ve played. lots of fun and interesting stuff.

For writing, I finally decided to write a story about the DnD world I created- Willis. since I can’t play DnD, I figured I could at least write about it. I got about 10k words in and realized that my outline had stopped being an outline. went back through and started writing a first draft, got about 1500 words in and got sidetracked with other projects.

One thing I’ve wanted to get into since I was 10 was electronics- never got the chance though. Well, the last 2-3 months I’ve decided it would be cool to make my own guitar pedals, so I picked up “Demystifying Electronics” and started learning. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting there. Right now I have a 130 in 1 electronics kit, and I plan on getting a real breadboard in another month or two (to make sure this isn’t another failed hobby).

And of course there’s my programming. I’ve been working on a bot named Ziggy who is based on one of my favorite DnD characters. He’s become quite a source of amusement to me, though I think he’s wearing a little thin on others. I’ve also started working on a Streaming Radio interface to allow me to tag and catagorize songs and create shows. It’s called Ridllr. If I can get this up to a certain level, I’d like to place it under a GPL license and sell support for it (though I doubt there’d be many takers). The hardest part was coming up with enough music to stress test it with large loads. Fortunately there was a used CD store down the block from me at SPXwith cheap CDs.

Linux is of course my bread and butter now, so I’m continually learning about new services and such. at CSX, I’m using Redhat, which I’ve honestly not had much experience with- I’m relieved to learn that it’s reall not much different, it just has some minor annoyances. the updates and security issue is really the most annoying. I’ve done a lot of work with apache, subversion and bind this year, and quite a bit with perl.

Lets see, hobbies that are going into stasis… Jow Gar is obviously since 1) there’s no place to practice and 2) my teacher is still in MI. Chainmailing is as well because I’ve always got my hands full with my other hobbies….


As I mentioned in the section above, Jeff got married. Shabbs got his wife pregnant and she popped out little zsolt …”skullteddy”.. ugh I’m horrible with spelling that, so phonetic will have to do for now. Made some new friends- Pete(dendrite) who I actually met in 2004 but we’ve kept in touch after both leaving SPX. There’s also Tony, who’s well on his way to a bright music career. Worked with him at SPX as well. Met William(shaldannon) and Ben(ben) who we hired at SPX right before I left- I keep in touch with them to help them when I can.

Of course there’s my new coworkers, but I differenciate between coworkers and friends to keep the lines unmuddied.

I also spoke to porter for the first time in over 5 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that being pissed off at people, no matter what crime (real or imagined) isn’t worth keeping up the hate. I doubt we’ll ever be close friends again, but at least it’s less thing I have to deal with. being mad at someone is entirely too much work. That said, he hasn’t continually annoyed me like other people I’ve put on a mental banlist. He’s never claimed to own my friends; he’s never threw temper tantrums and forced me to remove him; etc. Perhaps next year I’ll bury another hatchet.

I’ve spend a lot of time back in the #asp channel, so now I have a place to focus and vent my anger and hate. Met VP in real life, and he’s just as scary in person as he is to a clueless noob who wanders into #asp. But they’re all good guys generally and a very valuable information source.

All in all, it’s been a very good year. I have a pretty good idea how I’m gonna top it next year, but that’s my secret… for now.

Enjoy 2006 and happy birthday to ME, MUAHAHAHA.

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