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Stringed Guitars

Created by a passionate guitarist, containing a bit of gear reviews and news

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AC/DC

Marshall 1987x

We are in constant search for our sound… and I don’t think it’s a one way journey… it’s got many many curves, loops and we sometimes go back to places we’ve been, it’s definitely something that characterizes us musicians, there is always something we are missing, but I don’t want to come across as “hard to please” there are many many moments were you feel you have¬† the perfect rig, the perfect setup, the perfect tone, that moment during rehearsal or a gig were you just feel you are sounding exactly as you think you should.

But the journey must continue :p. what’s the thing that we bump into a lot of times in our journey? Amps… and which brand? Marshall…. there is just nothing like it.. I’ve tried many many brands and models in fact I went ahead and tried a Friedman… and a Victory… and you know what they all compare themselves to? a Marshall… and what is everyone trying to sound like? a Marshall… but don’t get me wrong… Marshall was at the right place at the right time, anyone could’ve done it… but Jim was there in his shop when Eric Clapton came in looking for an amp, and that is the sound my generation relates to, not Eric.. but Marshall.

But… which Marshall? would any of them do? YES! try them all please, some are crap.. some are awesome… some of them work for different stages in your guitar life.

Anyway…. yes.. as the title says this is about the 1987x a Marshall that looks as good as it sounds and as loud as your mom calling out for lunch while you were out playing with your friends.

I owed it to myself… a Marshall with no master volume, were the distortion would come from turning that bastard all the way up to 11 (actually.. anything above 3 or 4 just creates more distortion and not volume.. 7 is about right for AC/DC) I knew that this amp would only be useful in a rehearsal with a really loud drummer or in a gig…. (stadium gig) but I wanted it anyway, even if I didn’t have the right attenuator.

This amp sounds so good! it’s just so 70s in your face guitar distortion… not too distorted, not too clean.. just about where you want it. I bought mine used… as like everything I buy because it’s cheaper and it’s just as good as new or even better… it has been broken in already ūüôā

This is probably the purchase that I did more research for…. I’ve tried as I stated above… Friedman, Victory, JTM 45 and Cornell Amps (British made), the 1987 is the one that I liked best…. the one that represented the tone I was after… the Cornell one was awesome.. that came in second.. but I always knew that I would’ve still wanted a Marshall after buying¬† a Cornell.

it’s got the basic controls but the difference here are the inputs.. it’s got 4 inputs… but.. what for!! well.. they are actually 2 + 2… two of them are high and 2 normal…. brighter vs less bright….¬† but you can combine them… I only use the high input, but you can connect a short cable between a input 1 and input 2 and then you can mix high and low so you have a bigger spectrum of sound.

I’m currently using it with a Torpedo Reload, it’s an attenuator with a lot more functions…. apparently it is also awesome for recording… but I haven’t tried that part yet.. I can say the attenuation bit works like a charm… you can control the volume with a normal knob…. and not with those stupid decibel steps like the Palmer or many others… it also has a multiple OHM selector… so it will work with 4,8 and 16ohms, easily changeable.

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If you are into Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Hendrix, Ac/Dc or¬† any thing that uses an electric guitar and has classic distortion… do not hesitate.. and try this amp.. it is Loud! you WILL need a good attenuator.. and they are not cheap so you need to budget at least half of what the amp costs for an attenuator.

Gibson SG Classic Custom

I’ve chosen the SG as my type of guitar since I saw the VHS of the Ac/Dc Show at Donington on ’91, I was in love with the band and the SG, what a powerful beast! those devilish horns yet so sexy with those feminine curves.

I’ve been trying to purchase all of the models I’ve seen Angus using… but the one that was harder to find was the Custom SG he uses on the back in black tour… and that he still uses every now and then, the black and white SG… such an iconic instrument that I’m still struggling to understand why Gibson hasn’t released a Angus Young Signature of that specific model.

Anyway…. I’ve been after this guitar for quite sometime. I know that I could’ve¬† just purchased a 70’s custom with 3 pickups and make some mods… but… I wouldn’t feel too comfortable with that… I would’ve kept the 70s custom with 3 pickups and try to buy another one with 2 pickups :).

I finally stumbled upon the Guitars of the Week. something Gibson did back in the mid 00’s, I remember vividly these¬† models coming up… one of the most sought after is¬† the Diablo SG, but I didn’t remember the Guitar of the Week number 38… this is an almost exact replica of Angus’ black and white…. apart from the fact that it is not Black… it is Dark aged cherry or something like that.. but it really looks the part.

I went ahead and pulled the trigger, and man… is this a great guitar or what! I know it might not be the best investment I have… because no one really is after this specific model.. but who cares… this instrument is stunning in every way, I could make a few more adjustments to make it more similar to Angus’… but I choose not to… I even left the string gauge it came with it… ’10s even though I’ve been using 09’s for years… I fell¬† in love with the ’10s again.

I sort of believe in leaving guitars¬† as original as possible because that’s the way it was designed and intended to be played, every component and even the setup were carefully thought to work together

The guitar itself is a Standard SG built with Custom Shop parts, so for example you get:

Grover Tuners and an¬†Ebony Fingerboard, the previous owner had replaced the bridge ’57 pickup with an Angus Young model, I’ve read mixed reviews about this pickup… and of course Angus does not really use it but I like it… it’s a hot bright pickup it’s pure raw hard rock.

I almost forgot to mention… who doesn’t love a split diamond on a Gibson :).

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The 61 Reissue, best SG out there?

Why is it always that guitar manufacturers do reissues of the first year they released a¬†design? 61 Reissue for SGs, 52 for Telecasters, 54 for Stratocasters, Les Paul is probably the exception…

Whatever the reason is, it works. I’ve always found the 61 reissue to be the easiest to play, with a thin neck but a flat fretboard it’s just butter.

It sports two 57′ humbuckers, which for me are ¬†the finest pickups ever produced by Gibson, they have a really smooth tone and crazy sustain, almost Les Paul like. The hardware is nickel instead of chrome, that means it’s not annoyingly shiny so you get this sort of faded metal colour which ages very nicely.

These where produced until 2013 where they were replaced by the SG Standard, the Standard from 2013 is not the exact same guitar as a 61 reissue.. but it comes pretty close, they use 57′ humbuckers and half pickguard, although the hardware is all chrome instead of Nickel.

The 61 reissue actually started under the name “62 Reissue”, which wast first produced somewhere in the 80s and around mid 90s the name changed to 61 reissue, I think the specs and hardware were maintained.

If you are in the market for an SG standard… which will set you back roughly 1200 US dollars.. try to find a used 61 Reissue… they will hold their value a lot better than a standard and for me… it’s a superior guitar, just be careful with the fretwear.

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Marshall JMP 2200 & vintage Celestions

I was in the market for some Celestion Greenback speakers (G12M) which are supposed to be the holy grail of speakers… together with the GH12.

Browsing on ebay… -as you do- I found someone selling this odd looking Marshall supposedly from circa 1976 which some Rola / Celestion speakers designed for Jim Marshall.

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The seller was claiming that these speakers were in fact the famous GH12 -50 watts in this¬†case- so I started doing my research, there is almost nothing about the JMP2200 all the Internet¬†knows is that it’s a mid 1970¬†Marshall and it appears to be one of the first Solid State amps created by them.

I then moved on to researching the speakers, checked the serial number.. and boom! again.. 1976 Rola Celestions, I was so¬†excited! long story short.. I went ahead and purchased the amp. It is probably the heaviest amp I’ve ever carried! after 3 days my arms¬†are still in pain.

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I plugged in my Gibson SG tinkered around with volume and… it was pure magic, the tone that comes out of this thing is unreal, I’ve owned probably around 20¬†Marshalls from different price brackets including of course 100% valve amps… and to me this JMP 2200 is the best thing I’ve heard, you get Ac/Dc tones without any effort, just plug in and play.

These beasts are not easy to find… but if you do see one on sale, do yourself a favour and purchase it! I paid around $180 US dollars for mine but I would’ve paid a lot more knowing it sounded this good.

Controls are pretty simple, the only thing that stands out are the inputs, it’s got 2 + 1 inputs, being bright¬†and normal (?)¬†-at least that’s how they sound to me- and one that combines and a volume for each.

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Going custom

“Custom”… that is such a sexy word for¬†guitar players, for some of us getting a custom is just reaching the top! -of guitar shopping that is-

So 2 years ago I decided to give myself a birthday present… and this in fact was¬†a Jaydee guitar, made by John Diggins, who is the genius who came up with the Lightning bolts on Angus Young’s guitar, -our good friend¬†Solo Dallas has this info covered on this link– back in late 70s and early 80s John used to repair Angus’ guitars, to a point were¬†Angus’ original 1971 Standard only had the Gibson headstock left from the original guitar… everything else had been rebuilt by John.

So to me… ordering this guitar wasn’t only a big deal because it was custom made… but also because it’s something very unique that was ¬†built specifically for Angus’ and he toured with it during the tour of ’81, and they are not that many out there, in fact there are only 4, so it is pretty unique!.

The whole experience of ordering the guitar is such a surreal thing,¬†you feel special… the fact that you are talking to the guy who is a legend and will be building your guitar is just… incredible.

Fast forward 12 months, and I started getting updates via their Facebook page and you see how these guys create a masterpiece from just a piece of wood.

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And you also see your name on that wood! might not mean much to some… but it does mean a lot to us!.

Fast forward 2 months and I got this:

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All sanded and ready for spraying!

and just 2 weeks later I get this:

Step by step… built, paint, finish!

I was so excited! of course…I drove up to their office in Birmingham that same Saturday to pick her up:

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It was such a mix¬†of emotions… because you wait for so long you get the updates and then that’s it… it’s done… and¬†you are there… playing it… it feels that it doesn’t still belong to you… feels like you need to tame her… for me it is such an iconic guitar… that I felt I need to gain her respect, which I’m still doing… and playing her as often as I can.

It’s such a massive¬†experience, I don’t know why it has hit me so much, I think the combination of such a great instrument but also being one of Angus’ guitars… is just too much to take in.

The instrument itself is flawless, the craftsmanship that goes into this thing is out of this world, but I think what I enjoyed the most was the whole treatment I got, the way these guys deal with you.. they make you feel like a rock star, they reply to your emails in record time, they send you updates via Facebook and also.. you get to meet them and have a chat with them at their office. I got to hear some stories from Mike -John’s son- ¬†of when he was in the show that Angus’ received this guitar from John and jumped on stage… you find yourself talking to someone that is part of rock history, and also… you get to be in a place where Tommy Iommi’s been… he is local to Birmingham, UK and John builds guitars for him.

Waiting 18 months is not easy… but the reward is so big… you’ll be wanting to wait another 18 months pretty soon!.

If you do have the chance… treat yourself to something special.

 

Reading material

It’s pretty obvious that I’m a Gibson SG fan, and as soon as I saw this book coming out I had to have it.

The best thing about it it’s that it’s new… so¬†you’ll find up to date info ¬†and great quality pictures, the data seems to be correct ¬†as well, I know the history of the SG quite well and I didn’t find any mistakes which is a good thing.

The book takes you on the journey since the SG was designed and went on the market for the first time, it also tells us about the most famous guitar players that use the SG as a main guitar, giving us detailed pictures on their custom models and also what was different about their guitars.

This book is intended for someone that:

a) wants great quality pictures of SGs

b) is really into the history of the SG

With this I’m not trying to say it’s a boring book… but you have to be a keen SG person to¬†fully enjoy the book as it takes us through every change on the model over the years, and that is the main reason I love it.

I recommend the book for any Gibson SG fans out there, it’s a great read and also a very good reference book to have, if you are someone that collects SGs this will help you identify your new guitar on the Gibson timeline

Ohhhh the pick!

I’m not trying to be “picky” ¬†but… plectrums are important.

They are the ones responsible of translating our amazing right hand ability to our strings, and we can never have enough of them.

I’ve decided a few weeks ago to buy all sorts of different picks, I’ve always played with Gibson’s medium/heavy until I discovered the Dunlop Tortex (1.14) they are for me the best picks available, they are very rigid but not thick… the strength of your picking action translates straight to the string without much effort and they last a lot longer than other normal picks, and most importantly they just feel right for me, and that’s the key here… It’s not about what someone else uses it’s about what makes you feel comfortable because when you are on that stage and the pick falls out of your hand in the middle of the solo… You are pretty much living every guitarist’s nightmare.

But… What is it that is right for us? guitarists are usually very mood dependent, anything wrong with our rig can throw off our¬†mood for that perfect solo.

There is a great variety of picks out there, and it’s very hard to choose, so just buy them all! fortunately picks are cheap (compared to your vintage TS9!) and we can test them out as we please.

This is what I got from Ebay.


From left to right and top to bottom:

Carbon Fibre Dunlops, Bone, Beehold (back and front), Coconut shell (back and front), Dunlop Tortex (1.14, 1.0, 0,9 and 0.79)

They are all different and yes… They produce a different sound, I was very sceptical of this but different materials affect the tone.

Dunlop small

The Dunlop Jazz¬†carbon fiber:¬†They are very hard but too small… They have a pattern¬†that helps you keep them on your fingers, but because they are so small they are not very comfortable and it’s very easy to drop them.

 

bone

Bone (made by Steve Clayton):¬†I really liked these¬†the sound is so warm and natural… but you can still get harmonics…they are good for blues and any kind of strumming… so I’m sure they must be a killer for any acoustic guitar, really worth a try!

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Beehold (made by Steve Clayton):¬†I didn’t liked them as much.. it’s got an hexagonal hole to enhance grip but the hole it’s too high for me… the actual pick quality is decent… but the sound you get is a bit trebly and the pick is flimsy.

Coconut (made by Steve Clayton): it’s ok… I think it might be good for acoustic guitars, the main issue is that it’s curved, they are gorgeous though.. but it takes some time to get used to them and they are fairly big.

Dunlop

And finally my favourites!

Dunlop ULTEX Sharp: oh man, these picks are incredible, I prefer the 1.14¬†they are very stiff but thin, you get great control of the pick because the size is just right¬†and it’s¬†very hard to wear them out. If you want an ULTEX but you are more of a soft/medium pick guy/girl… I recommend 0.73 or 0.9 they are great as well.. but too soft for my taste.

 

So there you go,¬†get a few picks and try them out, don’t just settle with the ones you get for free at the music store, picks are important to your tone and it will help you shape your signature sound.

Is it worth buying the real deal?

We choose this “profession” because we like music… and we¬†probably have a favourite band and a favourite musician, and this guy/girl will use¬†certain type of gear, so when we start our guitar playing journey we always try to sound like someone and we use all sorts of excuses like “when I get my proper Gibson SG my technique will improve, everything will be easier”, and then we have the amplifiers…. “I can’t get that sound because I don’t have a Marshall JTM45 with Celestion green backs ” and so on…

The list of gear is immense and infinite but there is one thing we can’t buy or get as fast as we would like… and that is ability which needs practice… which is achieved by being a disciplined guitar player and practising a couple of hours per day.

But do we really need all this gear to sound like our guitar hero? debatable… I don’t think we actually need the big brands but I do think it adds mojo to our playing, for example…. an Epiphone will cost ¬£200, the same model built by Gibson will cost ¬£1000, does that mean there is an extra ¬£800 of quality? or, that our tone is going to sound ¬£800 better?

Not really…. yes they use better quality electronics and better wood…. but I’m sure one of the reasons why American brands are so expensive is due to¬†salary wages, an average Chinese factory worker earns 1/3 of their American colleagues, and this is all translated to our beloved Guitar/Amps cost, not only the employees but also management, real estate, etc.

The first time I picked up a Gibson I couldn’t believe it… the smell of the wood.. the¬†quality of the finish, and of course… the similarity with Angus’ guitar, which I think is the most important aspect of my Gibson, because let’s face it… we need to be in a good mood to be able to perform well and what gets us in a better mood than having a real Gibson and a real valve driven Marshall, I don’t know what it is but they have a different mojo and when I pick up my Gibson I feel in heaven and I just play better… maybe it’s because there are no excuses why I should make mistakes? since there is no where to hide in a pro guitar, ¬†you can’t get anything better than what you already have.

It takes loads of time and money to find your tone and if you are just beginning this process of buying stuff… enjoy it… and buy as many guitars and amps as possible, all of them will sound different and all of them will have a different effect on you, and try not to sell your old gear, although in my case I had to keep selling to keep buying but this allowed me to go through tens of different guitars and amps.

On the images you’ll see all the gear I have owned throughout the last 15 years, unfortunately I only own a fraction of it now, but everything I owned as helped me shape my sound¬†and way of playing.

It’s a beautiful journey but it is expensive and sometimes frustrating, but as I previously said… enjoy it because¬†you will only go through it once.

Guitar ListAmp List

 

Marshall Code

So, a few weeks ago Marshall posted on their official Facebook account that on the 21st of January they where going to “change the world” again or something like that, when I saw that¬†I got really anxious and I honestly had no idea what could they possibly launch, they don’t need much do they? it’s like Coca Cola… they got the brand and the recipe… nothing needs to be improved, no matter how many flavours they launch you always go back to the regular Coca Cola, however they’ve launched something called “Code”, which is effectively a modelling amp.

Marshall has been smart about this, let’s be honest.. there are tons of amp modellings… but they are from Line 6 or VOX, and to be honest they are not the most popular amps out there… but they offer modellings that “recreate” the sound of the classics, however… nothing gets more classic than a good old Marshall tube amp, and if you’ve tried these modelling amps I think it’s fair to say that they are excellent… but you still want a Marshall.

The idea behind this is brilliant, it’s a cheap-ish (¬£169 for the 25w combo version) solid state amp that can recreate pretty much any other amp in the Marshall range, but it’s not only that… for those of you that are crazy about tubes/valves this little amp lets you combine pre-amps with output amps using different combinations of tube types on either of one of them, and this is great¬†because this is something that’s hard to achieve when you have a tube amp, you can’t just go around¬†changing tubes without re-biasing or buying adapters.

I don’t know about you but I’m thrilled with this and can’t wait to get my hands on one, I’ll certainly be sharing the experience if I do so!

Main photo is from Marshall official website: link

here is a cool video from Marshall showing the features of this product:

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