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Stringed Guitars

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

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pickups

Guitar volume pots are important!

This next experience is related to a few gibson SGs and humbucker pickups.

Do you know what’s inside your guitar? It’s safe to say that we all know more than before… you can find anything on the internet about your guitar specs and whether they are good components or not.

Pots are often ignored, we look at wood, pickups, tuners and of course guitar brand, however pots are critical, think about them as the wheels of a car, you can have the best and biggest engine ever… but if your wheels are worn out or cheap quality then your car will just spin out of control.

CTS. I’m sure you’ve all heard of this brand, it’s probably on 90% of guitars out there, and they are the best of the best, however… they can be even better… there’s a company called RS Guitarworks that worked with CTS to develop a more authentic vintage taper and a more realistic value of the pots, humbuckers almost always are installed with 500k pots, however… they are not always 500k, they can be 450, 510, 460, etc. And even though the number is not really important… there’s a reason why they need to be 500k, and this is how the pickup was designed to work, with a 500k pot, because that’s just how it sounds like the developer wanted.

I was tired of having different tapers on the guitars I use live, the taper defines how steep the volume increase/decrease is when you turn the pot. This can be ok for your home guitars because they can all have a different character and you might actually like this, but for live performances you want to be able to switch guitars and at least for me… hoping for a similar performance when using the volume, I manage how much distortion the guitar gets by using the volume on it.

So I bought 4 RS Guitarworks superpots for my main SGs, after 2 hours of dealing with my not great soldering skills I was able to test the first guitar, I was blown away and I don’t say this lightly, I don’t often go around changing things in my guitars. The guitar sound just became more clear and more alive, the old pot probably with a below than 500k reading was holding the pickup down.

The volume taper was amazing, the sound of the pickup was amazing instantly, I was now able to get a crunchier sound by setting the volume to around 5 and then getting an angrier sound when I turned it up to 10.

By the way… I’m not associated with them in any way.

I play in an AC/DC tribute band called Meanstreak, and being able to use the volume on the guitar to control distortion is key and absolutely necessary, to cut a long story short… I can’t recommend them highly enough, they are a bit more expensive than regular CTS but they are totally worth it! Give your guitar a treat and get one of these to try out.

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:

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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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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1971 Gibson SG Standard

Iconic guitar and of course my favourite.

This is not just a great example of Gibson’s craftsmanship but it is also Angus Young’s first SG, featuring the addition of the volute to the headstock and the “made in USA” stamp, this guitar is the one we can hear in many AC/DC songs.

I’m sure everyone remembers Angus’ lightning bolt model, well… the first version of that guitar was created by John Diggins (Jaydee Guitars: http://www.jaydeecustomguitars.co.uk/) using this exact same model.

John used to fix Angus’ guitars, to the point were the only original part left on the guitar was the headstock, and when he had to rebuild the fretboard he decided that some lightning bolts might look cool, so he added them to the 1971 SG Standard, making it the base for Gibsons’ later Angus Young signature guitar.

This is my 1971 Standard after many years of playing I finally was able to find one and actually buy it this time around.

It doesn’t have any modifications, of course it has some dings here and there but nothing major and it all just adds character to the instrument, the only noticeable “issue” is a small hole on the pickguard which I covered with black tape (I know.. not ideal), I’ll probably buy a 1971 pickguard of ebay at some point.

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gibson sg 1971 standard

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