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Stringed Guitars

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

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electric guitar

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

MXR Dyna Comp

Review of a classic… this pedal has been around for ages, more precisely it was released in the 70s and according to Wikipedia it instantly became a “Nashville Standard” I’ve only had this pedal for 6 months or so, so it’s not a classic for me but as soon as I plugged it in something snapped.

I first tried it with my Eric Clapton Stratocaster, as we all know compressors are sort of associated with chicken picking… and so are guitars with single coil pickups, the sound instantly becomes “studio” like, that was the first thought that came into me… everything just sounds tidier… compressed (of course), if you play “under the bridge” by RHCP with this pedal… you’ll think you are listening to the studio version, it’s pretty amazing.

So… first impressions were great I fell in love instantly and I said to my self “I’ll stuck this pedal to the amp with Velcro and never turn it off again”, however not everything that shine is gold, the pedal is a bit noisy, and what happens is there is a lot of noise when you are not strumming the strings and as soon as you strum.. the pedal compresses the sound causing a “volume difference” all the time which is a bit annoying but I do understand that this is the nature of a compressor, but it could have a noise gate of some sort.

I then moved on to the  SG (humbucker guitar) and tone was ok, the best thing about combining this pedal with distortion is the sustain you get out of it… however the sustained note seems to vary in volume as it sustains for longer and longer, making me think the pedal is not entirely designed for this task… however I did hear that Angus Young uses a bit of compression on his Schaffer Replica to get that extra sustain, but we’ll touch on that later since I’ve already pre-ordered a Solo Dallas Storm (mini Schaffer Replica).

I totally recommend this pedal by all means this should be in your arsenal, you can have loads of fun with it but I’m not sure if it would be the 1st pedal I would buy, I think the Ibanes TS9 or a Vox 847 Wah Wah should definitely come in first.

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!

bee hold

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.

My guitar bleeds?? [treble]

Modding… I don’t like that word, mainly because it’s been associated with atrocious modifications to anything… from cars to guitars you name it, however we are always thinking that our guitar can sound a bit (or a lot) better with certain modifications/enhancements.

I’m not a very good solder, in fact… almost 70% of the times I tried soldering something to my guitar it didn’t go well and I needed expert’s assistance, but this time it seemed pretty easy.

We are al familiar with the volume knob, right? if not… go back to your guitar and experience with using the volume knob to get less or more gain, it’s a whole new world. Anyway we might not all use it but we know where it is… but for those of you who use it, I’m sure you all noticed that when you roll down the volume not only you loose volume but the treble goes with it and the tone that we get is not very exciting, it goes pretty.. what’s the word?… unexciting.. yes, it’s just not great, So I started researching a found out that it is a very common “issue” and there is also a very common “mod” for it.

All you need is a resistor and a capacitor… which is basically two very small things that do something to the signal going through cables, this link explains it very well.

You can see in the picture the little blue fella (the resistor) and the green fella (capacitor), this is the inside of my 1971 Gibson SG Standard.

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It’s not very hard to install and if you checked the link above… you’ll see it for yourself, it’s a 5 minute job even for a very bad solder like me.

The results?… well it does it’s job, now when I roll down the volume I don’t loose any treble and I do loose gain and volume, which is my intention… using the volume at 6/7 for rhythm and all the way up on 10 for the solos.

The experience is very rewarding and mainly if you are a beginner on these things… it’s like getting a bit intimate with your instrument, knowing the inside… how everything is connected and understanding how stuff works, you also get some collateral knowledge from the research you have to do to install this little thing and this may sparkle some more exciting modifications/enhancements.

Just be careful when you solder.. don’t burn the wood on the guitar! I’ve done it way too many times.

I leave here a short video of myself doing the mod.

 

 

Headphones for practice??

Touching on the “guitar practice” issues again, sometimes having an amp is not even possible, because someone in the household might have a problem with us shredding away… and sometimes like in my case… it cuts your inspiration.

I’m a keen user of iPhones and its useful apps for guitarists, from tuners, to amp modelers to track recording, but it always seems that each one of those apps is missing something, but most of them have one thing in common… they won’t let you play Spotify while you are trying to listen to your guitar, except for Jam-Up (find it here) this little free app let’s you plug in your guitar (with the use of an iRig) and also play some tunes on Spotify which means you can play along your favourite records while blasting the volume away!.

I’ve been using this app for a week and I love it, it’s just simple and free, you can also pay and get more options, but the free version is pretty good, you get a few pedals, few amps, tuner, recording facilities, etc. and the amp modellers sound very decent, just try the JMP 50 Watt with any guitar and you’ll love it (even more with humbuckers). I’ve also bought some headphones for practicing, since the iPhone in ear phones are not that great in terms of sound quality, cable is too short and you can’t headbang because they’ll fall out of your ear, so I bought some AKG K77 for £24.50, that’s a steal! you can also find cheaper ones with studio quality, just go to guitar sites instead of fancy technology sites and you’ll find decent headphones with a decent price tag.

 

 

1979 Gibson SG Standard

This SG belongs to the loved/hated Norlin era.

This means it was built between 1970 and sometime around 1986, loads of guitar enthusiasts hate this era and they will swear that they are the worst guitars Gibson has ever built, but to be honest most of them probably have not tried a Norlin era Gibson, and this feeds the inflated price of the pre-norlin era gibsons, this is why a 1968 SG will set you back around £8k and a 1971 will cost around £1,5k.

This is a great guitar, it’s incredible how fast the neck is and how effortless you can go through the fretboard, this is the reason why they earned the nickname of “fretless wonder” this happens because the action is really low and the frets are not very tall.

Playing these “fretless wonders” does require some time to get used to, it does challenge your ability to perform bends and you have to get rid of the “heavy hand” habit (if you do have it) but once you get used to them, they are great.

Of course this guitar is also part of Angus’ arsenal, (and this the reason why I bought it) you can see him using it on the “Flick of the Switch” video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWKcJwuZnzE) and he also used it live on some occasions.

On this model Gibson implemented 2 curious changes: the inlays changed to a rectangular shape and the output jack changed from the top of the guitar to the side. Personally I love these inlays, they do look great and you get an extra one! (the 1st fret gets an inlay as well, where as before only custom guitars would bring an inlay on this fret). It also has the “speed knobs” not sure how “speedy” they are, but they move smoother than the black top  hats.

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1984 Squier Bullet by Fender (Japan)

This is definitely an odd one, it is a Squier by fender (like all Squiers claim to be) but it’s not only that. The guitar just looks weird doesn’t it? well.. there are a couple of reasons for that.

Back in the 80s when Fender was switching manufacturers (I think they were moving production to China) they had shortages of guitar parts, so word on the grapevine is that they just combined stuff, and this model is a perfect example of this, the neck pretty much gives it away right? it’s a Telecaster neck! and who doesn’t love a Tele neck, and even more when it’s maple (yes I do like maple for Fender style guitars and Rosewood for any other brand/type of guitar). The body also looks odd apart from being somewhat deformed (fatter) on the bottom it also has only 2 knobs and a weird (maybe Gibson style?) input jack, I actually like this design I always felt that Fender inputs are somewhat annoying because you can’t use L shaped cables, so you need your L shaped for your Gibsons and your straight ones for your Strats, this just takes care of that situation, and the 2 knobs instead of 3? also a great idea! who uses 2 tone knobs when you only have 1 volume control…. just doesn’t make sense.

Pickups… probably not the best, but… they are covered! and white covers! makes the guitar look just a bit cooler right? (and yes it matches with my EC Strat) they actually don’t sound that bad at all, they are a bit muddier than normal Squier pickups so it’s like you almost don’t need a fuzz pedal, just crank up the volume, add some distortion and you are sorted.

This guitar was a bit of a project for me, and my first “real” guitar project, I only paid £70 for it (such a steal!) but it was in a very poor condition, I took the frets off and added Dunlop 6100 (the same SRV used to use), I also sanded the neck to take all the gunk off and leave it nice and clean, it’s not the most tidiest job because to be fair changing fret is a nightmare! and it’s extremely easy to damage the fretboard, but after a few attempts and a fret levelling tool it now plays really nice and it has got quite a unique sound, even though I barely use it… I like it because it has survived my DIY so it just feels special.

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Epiphone SG Prophecy EX

So… Of course your question is… “what the hell is an Epiphone doing here?…” Well, I like Epiphones, and let’s be honest… loads of us have started this amazing hobby/profession using an Epiphone or a Squier.

But this is no ordinary guitar, this is the angriest Epiphone of them all, it’s got world class features such as: ebony fretboard, Grover tuners, flame maple top, and last but not least EMG active pickups (models 81 and 85). This combination is a killer, also the fretboard is quite chunky like an SG standard so it’s great for shredders which I’m not one of them but I do enjoy every now and then picking up my axe (keeping the shredders lingo) and play a bit of Megadeth or Judas Priest.

Apart from all the amazing hardware this guitar is beautifully made, the transparent black flame maple top is very neat and let’s not forget about the inlays which now they have taken a blade type of shape… they just add up to the sort of dark theme going on, and this is the reason why I got this guitar. I used to play my Heavy Metal/Trash Metal tunes on my SG or on my Strat, but that just doesn’t feel right, I’m not sure if it’s just me but certain types of guitar make you play certain types of music, is like trying to play Back in Black (yes… by AC/DC) with a Sratocaster, it just doesn’t work.

So, now I can plug in this beauty to my Marshall TSL, hit the third channel and shred away (ahem… pretending to shred) with a nice biting sound.

These are not that easy to find and I like to think of them as bit of a unique guitar and probably one of the best ideas Epiphone has had, so if you can find one… buy it! and keep it! I’m not sure how they were able to produce this amazing guitar and still maintain the Epiphone budget but hey… I only buy and play guitars, I don’t make them, at least for now! _DSC7450 (2) _DSC7449 (2) _DSC7443 (2) _DSC7441 (2)

1989 Eric Clapton Fender Stratocaster.

Apart from the Gibson SG (of course) this is probably my favourite guitar.

Eric Clapton used this exact model on his tour around the late 80s.

The main difference with a normal Stratocaster is the pickups and the wiring, it features 3 active Lace Sensor pickups which are amazing! best pickups a Stratocaster can have, they don’t make a lot of noise and they are just really versatile.

The wiring consists on having a mid-boost, and it’s really useful when you are playing leads, just crank up the tone knob and you get extra loads of distortion, of course you can also use the volume knob for this but who doesn’t need a bit of extra gain when everything is already at 10???

The colour is also quite unique, “Pewter Grey” is the actual name, and I believe it came in other colours, the neck is absolutely beautiful being maple you can actually see the pattern, but it does come in glossy mode… which I dislike, but I used a really thin sanding paper and took that right off, it doesn’t affect the guitar in any way but it improves the payability, otherwise your finger sort of drags on the glossy finish and it just feels slower.

The tremolo is quite useful and it does not go out of tune, however due to Eric’s specification this model has a small piece of wood in the cavity which blocks the tremolo so you just need to take the back cover off and remove the piece of wood, and it works just fine.

They are not too expensive…usually around £1,200 but if you are looking for something similar but don’t want to spend that much, you can always get a Stratocaster Plus, which are pretty much the same thing.

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