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Posts Tagged ‘es-335’

Click to enlarge. Sorry, phone pic


1987 Gibson ES-335 Custom St (St = Standard? Studio?) Summary: A rare beauty with a natural blonde finish with classic ES-335 tone!Pros: Absolutely tip-top shape for a guitar of this age. No major dings, but has been well-played. Sounds amazing!Cons: None.Features:

  • Mahogany neck
  • Bound carved flame maple top and maple sides and back
  • Bound ebony fretboard
  • Medium jumbo frets
  • Bone nut
  • Original chrome hardware (look like Tone Pros)
  • Original chrome pickup covers
  • 60’s-style lower profile neck
  • 50’s-style pickup wiring (either volume knob acts as a master, but the tone controls have a different cap value that doesn’t throw a blanket over your tone when you turn it down – this is crucial for playing in the bridge pickup).

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ This guitar sounds and plays like a dream! While the action is a just a tad higher than I like it, the guitar still plays ultra-smooth.

I already talked about how I happened to get this guitar, so I won’t bother rehashing the details. Suffice it to say that I got this guitar for an absolute steal. In a way, this guitar is sort of redemption for me having sold my original ES-335 a couple of years ago when times were tough. So getting this guitar is a real milestone for me.

Fit and Finish

For a 23 year old guitar, it is in absolutely amazing shape. The body has some very minuscule dings in it that fortunately don’t penetrate the finish. I didn’t notice any checking in the gloss either, though that may occur after a few more years if the finish Gibson used was a nitro lacquer. The hardware is aged as to be expected, though there’s a little oxidation in the brass stop tailpiece that can easily be removed. The pick guard has pick marks on it, but no scratches and all the joints are perfect. There’s some fret wear, but nothing major where the frets would have to be replaced. As for the fretboard itself, it’s gorgeous. I love ebony fretboards as they’re so smooth to the touch, and it makes bending a breeze. The back of the guitar has a few nicks that don’t penetrate the finish – and no buckle rash. All in all, for as much as this guitar has been played, I’m just amazed at its overall condition.

Here are some pictures I took with my cell phone. Sorry if the quality is low. I’ll have better ones later…

How It Sounds

This guitar has all the tone I was expecting out of an ES-335, but as it has been broken in and the wood aged, the tone is A LOT richer than what I remember with my original ‘335. As far as pickup positions go, there are three as usual, though I understand that some models did have coil-tapped humbuckers; not this model, though.

I’ve always loved the gorgeous, deep tones of the neck pickup on an ES-335 and this guitar doesn’t disappoint in that department. This is where the ES-335 gets very close to the deep, rich tones of an archtop, but it’s well, different…

Kicking in the bridge pickup in the middle position gives the ES-335 its distinctive “hollow” tone. It’s really hard to describe, but that I’m a firm believer that that middle pickup selector position is what draws people to this guitar. It certainly is one of the main things tonally that originally drew me to the ES-335 in the first place! With the bridge dimed and adding more or less neck pickup, you can get tons of great tones!

The bridge pickup is bright as to be expected – perhaps a bit too bright – but the wonderful tone knob nicely takes the edge off the brightness. I did notice that the bridge pickup is not significantly louder than the neck pickup, which leads me to believe that the original owner lowered the height of that pickup. When I get home from vacation, I’m going to raise it a bit because I prefer to have that dramatic change in volume.

In any case, here are some clips:

Neck pickup, clean

I love the haunting character of the neck pickup on and ES-335. The wonderful thing about this pickup is that it produces a very deep tone, without sounding like an acoustic. Adding a little reverb “grease” only accentuates the haunting effect.

Middle position, with some grind for rhythm; bridge pickup for lead.

In this, I have the bridge dimed, and the neck about halfway for the rhythm part. The lead is just the wide-open bridge pickup. Notice that it’s bright and almost twangy.

Middle position, clean; both rhythm and lead

I had to do a bit of a tribute to the great Andy Summers with this last clip… :) I added a touch of reverb and chorus to get that “Every Breath You Take” vibe.

For all the clips, since I’m on vacation, I don’t have an amp, but I always carry around an IK Multimedia StealthPlug to facilitate my songwriting or, in this case, create clips. I used AmpliTube Fender. For the clean clips, I used a ’65 Twin Reverb model, and for the crunchy clip, I used a ’59 Bassman.

Cool Funk Lead

There are two parts to this next clip. In the first part, I play in the neck position, then switch over to the bridge in the second part plus attack a lot more. Unlike a Les Paul, the 335 doesn’t sustain as much, but that’s not a bad thing. The net result is that overdrive tones tend to be much more tight and focused. BTW, the amp used here was an Aracom PLX18BB in its drive channel.

Overall Impression

This guitar really moves me. She plays so sweet and sounds so good that I truly am inspired. Of course, the price I happened to pay for it didn’t hurt at all, but irrespective of my price, I’d still give this guitar 5 Tone Bones. It’s really an incredible guitar! I can’t wait to get it home and to a luthier for a professional setup. The shop owner did a pretty good job of setting the guitar up, but he strung it with 11-53’s which, while certainly playable, aren’t really my cup of tea. I’ll have the shop put on a set of pure nickel 10’s.

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Or… you never know what you’re going to find on vacation…

Click to enlarge. Sorry, phone pic

I’ve been up at Clear Lake, CA since this past Saturday, and wouldn’t you know it, on Sunday morning when the family and I stopped off at a Safeway in Lakeport to get some provisions, the shopping center just happened to have a musical instrument store called Bandbox Music. Of course, gear freak that I am, I couldn’t pass up looking into the window to see what the shop was like. As Lakeport is a small town, I wasn’t expecting to see much, but what the heck! You never know what you may find!

As I walked up to the window, I noticed a gorgeous, natural-finish Gibson ES-335 in the shop’s front case. I could tell that it was used, but it was in practically pristine condition, save for the pickup covers and stop tailpiece which were tarnished; otherwise the guitar looked great. I could tell that it had been played a lot, but the original owner had taken care of the finish for the most part as from the distance of about 6 feet that I was standing from the case, the only wear I could see where pick marks on the pick guard. Unfortunately, the shop wasn’t open on Sundays, so I made it a point to return to the shop the next day to check it out.

Couldn’t make it Monday, but we were going to Lakeport on Tuesday so the family could check out the town. So on the way to downtown, I had them drop me off at the shop. I walked in and was greeted by a bunch of elderly gentlemen sitting around, shootin’ the breeze. I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, so I waited patiently until the shop owner asked me if I needed help. I pointed to the ES-335 and said that I’d like to give it a whirl. He graciously responded and removed the guitar from the case, and instructed me to grab a cord.

Ron, the shop owner, proceeded to tell me about the guitar in that it was a 1987 ES-335 Custom Studio. He got it from the son of the original owner (more on that sad story later). He showed me the case, which was the original case it came in, along with the Gibson warranty papers, and the original Guitar Center invoice. While he spoke, I did a visual inspection of the guitar. There were a few miniscule dings on the back, and a couple on the front, but nothing that penetrated the finish. I remarked to Ron that the guitar was in remarkable shape, and he said it was owned by a player, and that guy took care of the guitar.

It probably sat for quite awhile in a closet somewhere, as the metal was tarnished – the original owner probably played it so much that he never bothered to clean it. Ron said he spent a lot of time cleaning the guitar when he got it, but was really surprised at the shape the body was in – so was I! Anyway, I plugged her in, tuned her up, tweaked the amp, to a nice clean with a little reverb “grease” and was immediately greeted with that distinctive rich, full tone that only an ES-335 can make. I was in tonal heaven!

The ES-335 and I have a history. When financial times were rough for my family, I had to sell my original 2003 ES-335 for some cash. When I did that, I swore that I’d never sell one of my guitars again. Hearing that guitar and how it sang reminded me of “Rusty.” Rusty was my first high-end guitar. I was so proud to have him, but putting food on the table was more important at the time, so I had to let him go. This ’87 would be redemption if I got her.

After playing her for well over an hour, I finally asked Ron how much the guitar was. He said $1200, but he knew it was worth far more than that as he had seen the exact same model in similar condition going for almost triple the price on EBay. I was taken aback by the price! I keep tabs on many guitars, and I knew he was in the ballpark with how much it was worth. He said he didn’t get it for much (I didn’t ask his buying price out of politeness), so he was willing to move it for far less than its market value.

I didn’t do the impulse buy right then and there, and told him I needed a couple of days to think about it, and I’d roll the dice and let it go back into the case. Over the next couple of days I did some research on the guitar. The first place I looked was on EBay, and sure enough, the same make, model, and year ES-335 has an asking price of $3500! I looked at several ES-335’s from the surrounding years, and they’re also going for similar prices!

So I made my decision, and called up Ron this morning and asked him to put the guitar aside, as I’d go to the shop later today. Ron repeated the price of $1200 and I said, “That’s the price you quoted Tuesday.” So I got it for $1200 OUT THE DOOR – no tax! OMG!!! I can’t tell you how jazzed I am about this absolute steal, but I think the best thing about it is that I didn’t have to make a lowball offer. Everyone won in this transaction, and that really pleased me as well!

Wow! Sorry, I got a little carried away… But I do want to tell a little history of this particular guitar…

Don’t know the name of the original owner, but he was a apparently a smalltime pro player. He passed away last year, and left his son his two guitars, a Les Paul (which Ron sold), and the ES-335, which is apparently what he played the most. According to Ron, the son came in to sell the Les Paul first, then a couple of weeks later returned to sell the ES-335. Ron doesn’t know exactly what the son was going to do with the money, but as there’s a real crystal meth problem in the area, he could make a fairly educated guess. That’s sad to me, and it’s this lesson that I want to pass onto my kids: Don’t sacrifice your family’s heritage to satisfy a personal craving. You’ll just end up regretting it.

By the way, I’ll have pictures and sound clips in my next post. :)

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