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Stringed Guitars

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

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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!

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.

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

 

Keeping your guitars safe

We all love our guitars (main reason why you visit this great website) but one of the issues I had in the past was… storing them, because we don’t want to actually store them, we want to have them handy so we can pick them up and maybe play for 5 minutes and put them back in their place, but that urge of picking up the guitar happens when your guitar is visible, and for them to be visible… they have to be outside their case and easy to reach, not in your closet or under the bed.

Having your guitars visible sometimes means that you’ll use a stand and just have them in your livingroom or in your bedroom but those stands are not really safe… they have a few downsides…

  • They collect dust
  • Anyone can walk past them and knock them down (I appreciate Hercules do some pretty tough stands)
  • They just don’t look that nice

So I adopted a better and really cool solution… I have a guitar cabinet! and I love it. it also looks amazing! I found on ebay a really old piece of furniture for like £35 so I drove 1 hour to pick it up… and I engaged with the well known modern term “upcycling” which basically means picking up crap and making it look better.

I painted it white and added some guitar hangers and voila… masterpiece! I must say it’s not the tidiest work I’ve done on this… but I suck at DIY however it was a pleasure building this little “house” for my beauties.

I can now have my guitars in my living room (since the cabinet is cool enough for my wife to approve it) and I can easily pick up a guitar for 2 minutes if I want to, not only that… it’s also extremely easy to swap from one guitar to another one in matter of seconds without dealing with those pesky cases.

The guitars are really well protected, the don’t collect dust and for some reason they stay in tune for longer.

It even has spot lights inside! needless to say this has become the feature of my flat 🙂

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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.

_DSC7427 (2) _DSC7428 (2)

Schecter Demon 6 FR

First time I own a guitar from this brand, bought it a few years ago in a music store, I had very little budget and was looking for used instruments, the guy said “I have this guitar that has a few dings and it needs some TLC” when I tried it… I was impressed, £140 for an awesome playing guitar!

Schecter are more of a heavy metal / progressive metal type of guitar they are really fast and very easy to play. It has a few really nice features, Seymour Duncan Designed pickups (budget version of the Seymour Duncan pickups) Floyd Rose system, locking tuners and awesome inlays.

This is also the first time I have a Floyd Rose equipped guitar, it’s pretty good, you can just abuse it and it doesn’t go out of tune at all, however… changing strings it’s a whole procedure and you better schedule some time of your day for this… and build up the patience, but it’s definitely worth it.

The pickups are really good as well, of course they are active (so you need to buy batteries… eurgh) but they can burst out some Megadeth like type of tunes I love it (2nd time I mention Megadeth? maybe 3rd… anyone who’s counting).

This model is made in Korea so of course it’s not top of the line… but you can’t get anything decent for £140, you are probably thinking of Epiphones? Squiers? Yamaha? nah… not even close to this, Korean Schecter guitars might be the best entry level guitars ever, you may not be a heavy metal dude but they are really versatile, you can get clean tones as well so it’s great for any style even though you might be concerned about the shape but it’s not too bad… it’s not like it’s one of those BC Rich…

So if you find one of these on a good price… trust me and buy it you won’t regret it, give Schecter a chance :), I’m still yet to try an American made one, I can’t even imagine how good they must be!.schecter diamon demon side schecter guitar inlay schecter diamon demon

Marshall Class 5

The little beast.

I’ve always wanted one of these boutique looking Marshalls, I’ve had JCM 900, JTM30, etc. you name it. But this one just looks awesome.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s only a 5 watt amp, this thing can scream! I’ve used in on rehearsals and on pub gigs, and it held up pretty good without any PA assistance, I’m not sure why but it’s just too damn loud.

This is the first version they released which doesn’t have a master volume so it’s practically impossible to get a nice distortion without having your neighbours call the police, Marshall later released a 2nd version with an open back and a master volume which of course allows you to get a nice distortion at practice volume.

By the time I bought this beauty I was not aware of the existence of a 2nd version so I added a master volume my self to the back of the amp, it’s not the prettiest looking mod… but hey… it does the job.

This amp combined with any of my vintage Gibson SGs creates the classic AC/DC sound, great sustain loads of harmonics, the speaker is a “specially designed” Celestion G10-F, to my taste it sounds awesome, probably a Celestion Greenback will be the choice if I wish to swap the speakers, but for now I think this is one of my all time favourite amps.

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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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