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The Hottest Attenuator: Aracom PRX150-Pro

Looking for the “Doppler on the Dumble” series?

I’ve had a couple of custom guitars made for me. One was under my direction (Goldie, by Saint Guitars, to the left), and the other was like it was made for me, even though I didn’t specify anything in the build (“Katie May,” by Perry Riggs of Slash L Guitars). And even though I didn’t specify materials in Katie May, in order to write my review of her, I had to have a deep discussion on the materials and build process in order to understand the guitar better. At the end of the conversation, I told Perry that Katie May was built exactly how I would’ve specified. Anyway, I digress…

So you want to have a custom-built guitar made for you. There are lots of considerations. But to help you along, I’ll give you some pointers on what you’ll have to consider. Mind you, while I will cover materials and such, there are so many other things you need to think about, and I’ll do my best to share my experience.

Visualize

There are lots of reasons people choose to get a custom guitar. For me, it was to fill tonal or versatility gaps with the guitars I had and to create something that was truly unique to me. For others, the reasoning may be different. But whatever your reasoning, you should visualize what you’re after.

  1. First off, it’s helpful to visualize the tone you’re after. With both my own custom guitars, I was after a hybrid Strat/Les Paul sound. With that in mind, I was looking for either a P90 setup or coil-tapped humbuckers. It also meant I’d like to have jangle of a Strat but the sustain of a Les Paul. For me, versatility is a key issue.
  2. Next, think about what your application will be. I tend to be a lot more pragmatic about my guitars. I have to be able to gig with them. So my reference point for their use is in a live setting. Weight is then a concern.
  3. Do you like burst finishes? Opaque? Natural? What does that guitar look like to you?
  4. As far as body shape is concerned, do you want something with a more traditional body shape or something more avant-garde?

The point to this is that you should spend some time getting a mental picture in your head about the guitar before you go out and find a luthier.

Speaking of Luthiers…

There are probably thousands of luthiers around the world. The one thing I found with pretty much all of them is that they’re pretty creative people who, in general, do a good job of building guitars. Of course, some are just better than others. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a luthier:

  1. If you find an interesting luthier, call them. Better yet, if they’re close enough, pay them a visit if you can. Don’t email. Strike up a conversation. Establish a personal rapport. Pick their brains on how they approach building guitars. You want to gauge how well you can work with the builder.
  2. When researching builders, you might peruse forums like “The Gear Page” to see if you can get feedback on others’ experience. People might be satisfied with the end product, but in some cases have complaints about the process or the length of time it took, etc. Despite the negative feedback, you may still go with a particular luthier. But never go into a build blind.
  3. You might also want to consider how long a builder has been at it. My friend Perry Riggs hadn’t been building guitars for very long when I first reviewed one of his guitars. But he had some real talent from the get-go, but some builders need to more time.
  4. One thing you might consider as well if the builder is doing stuff that’s a bit off the beaten path and if that appeals to you. Again, with my friend Perry Riggs, I was intrigued by his “neck-through” designs. What this allowed him to do was create a thinner, tapering body, as most of the tone would be generated from the neck. The result is a much lighter guitar that still has TONS of sustain.
  5. Finally, an important thing to consider is how good of a business person a luthier is. I’ve met some luthiers such as Preston Thompson of Preston Thompson Guitars who is a great businessman. He spells out everything in detail. Many of those details can be handled online, but if you visit his shop in Sisters, OR, you can speak to him directly. On the other hand, you might want to stay away from builders who are a little “open-ended” with their business practices. You might luck out, but it is a risk.

What About Tonewood?

Here’s an excellent article on tonewood published back in 2008 by Guitar Player. It’s still relevant, so I needn’t rehash. This will give you an idea of what to expect out of the woods you can choose from. The thing about wood is that it’s a real personal thing. But whatever wood you decide on and subsequently discuss with a luthier, make absolutely sure that they’ve built guitars with that wood. For instance, some woods, such as cocobolo are now being used in place of Brazilian rosewood. It’s not easy to get, but the one thing about that wood is that it has a high oil content, which makes gluing an issue unless you know how to pre-treat the wood so it can be glued. If a luthier hasn’t worked with it and you’re set on wanting that wood, you should probably move onto the next builder.

Hardware?

Again, this boils down to personal preference. But have a conversation with the build on what they prefer. With both my custom builds, the builders used my favorite hardware: Gotoh 510 bridge and tuners. I love the tuners as they not only keep their tune but they also have a very low gear ratio so you can tune in minute adjustments. As for the bridge, I dig the wraparound bridge. The string literally wraps around the bridge which seems to me to impart more of the string vibration into the bridge. It’s pretty cool.

Put Your Ego Aside

This is perhaps the most important point I’ll be making, so I saved it for last. Let’s say you spent a lot of time visualizing your custom guitar. You’ve researched wood and hardware and picked a color. You then find a luthier with whom you want to work. When you describe what you’re after, he tells you that your wood combination won’t work. At that point, just shut up and listen to their reasoning. Chances are that they’re giving that feedback based on personal experience. Instead, ask what a viable alternative might be. If you don’t like it, then move on. But the worst thing that you can do is get pissed and argue. I’ve heard of stories like this which is why I’m sharing it. It could very well be that your wood combination is something that doesn’t work with that particular builder’s designs. But hear them out, then see if there’s another luthier who has had success with it. But in any case, just play nice.

You may have probably expected something else with respect to this particular subject, but I wanted to offer a different perspective. Having a custom guitar built is a very personal decision and frankly, a little soul-searching is thrown into the mix. It’s easy to get hypnotized by your prospective new toy. So what I’ve provided are some pragmatic insights based on my own experience.

To me, a custom guitar is the ultimate expression and extension of who you are as a player. You want to get it right.

Maxon CP-9 Pro+ CompressorEven after all these years, I still ask that question. I used to use a compressor for my solo acoustic gigs to tighten up my dynamic range, especially if I played in large, open spaces or a venue with high ceilings.

But it also frustrated me a bit because even with light compression, that narrower dynamic range made me feel as if the subtle highs and especially lows just weren’t coming through. So in the end, I decided to not use a compressor, and simply adjust how I attack my strings with my right hand.

That has proven useful and actually has helped make me better at controlling my expression. But there are times when I’m in a crowded, loud venue where I really need my guitar to cut through the ambient noise and a compressor would really help do that.

So… to answer the question I posed as the title of the article, it really depends…

Great! That’s a really f’d up answer… 🙂 In all seriousness though, here’s where I’d use a compressor:

  • If you’re playing in a place with high ceilings and your amp/PA is on the ground, using some light compression will help get your sound out. You lose some low- and high-frequency definition, but it’s a good tradeoff. There’s nothing worse than having your vocals completely drown out your guitar. On the other hand, if your PA is elevated as it is in the restaurant I play in, compression might help, but you could probably do without it.
  • For large, open spaces, compression is a must. Again, it should be subtle. You don’t want to squash your signal because it’ll come out muffled and lifeless.
  • If you use a speaker array like the Fishman SA220 or Bose L series, or HK Audio system, a just little compression will help to define your signal as those kinds of PA systems are multi-directional. That said, if you’re playing in a smaller room, or one that has good acoustics, I wouldn’t bother with compression at all.

The danger of using compression is that you might over-compress your signal, and that’s a bad thing. Compressors by their very nature reduce the dynamic range of a signal. So over-compressing will make you sound like you threw a blanket over your amp.

As for the type of compression method, that really boils down to personal preference. However, I would advise using a “soft knee” compressor as opposed to a “hard knee” compressor. With a hard knee compressor, once you hit the dB threshold for the compressor kicks in, you get compression at whatever ratio you set. That might be useful if you’re playing quiet, then suddenly slam your guitar. But dialing in the makeup gain when the compressor is engaged is a pain in the ass.

I prefer to use soft knee compressors that kick in gradually and only get to their maximum ratio once you hit a certain gain level. This means that you’ll always get a bit of compression, no matter what volume you play, but you don’t get the full squish until past a certain point. And as long as you don’t get too over-zealous with the ratio, you’ll notice a definite “kick” to your sound.

With respect to the actual compressor type to use, again, that’s personal preference. There are pedals and rack mounts available that offer different types of compression. Personally, I’ve always gravitated towards optical compressors for acoustic. I used the venerated Maxon CP 101+ for a number of years before I sold it. This is a great optical compressor that is also very subtle. Maxon makes a CP 101 reissue that’s based on the original design.

As for other types, I’ve only used them for recording. Here’s a great article on the different types of compressors. For recording, I’ll typically use VCA compressor plug-in since that is very flexible. But for mastering, I may use a FET compressor plugin for the overall mix as that seems – at least to my ears – to liven things up a bit.

As always, try before you buy. A compressor is not really something you specifically NEED, but it does come in handy for some real-life applications, and can make the difference between stumbling with your sound and putting your best foot forward.

5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

Peterson StroboClip HDTM High Definition Clip-On Strobe Tuner

Summary: Peterson is the pioneer in strobe tuning and this new version of the highly-acclaimed StroboClip is a huge improvement over the original StroboClip which, in my opinion, just couldn’t be beaten. But add to that a larger, high-definition, and a high-contrast screen, then throw in a high degree of accuracy, then add Peterson’s unrivaled “Sweeteners,” what’s not to like?

Pros: I said pretty much everything in the summary. This thing just works and it’s accurate – very accurate. But it’s really the Sweeteners that have always sealed the deal for me.

Cons: None for me as I used the original for a long time (until some a-hole stole it at a gig), but using a strobe tuner will take a newbie a bit of time to get used to. But that shouldn’t discourage anyone.

Price: $59.99 street

Features:

  • 0.1 cent accuracy
  • 50+ Sweeteners for different kinds of instruments – thank goodness the guitar ones are first. 🙂
  • Comparatively larger, HD, backlit LCD readout.
  • Tuning Range: C0 to B6 (very wide)
  • Concert Pitch Range 390-490Hz

Tone Bone Rating: 5.00 ~ After my original StroboClip got stolen last year, I went with a cheap Snark tuner. It did the job okay, but there was always something special about the sound of a guitar tuned with my StroboClip. It just sounded better. And with this updated, upgraded version, I’m a very happy camper!

 

What could be so special about a tuner?

Believe me, not all tuners are made the same. An accurately tuned guitar can make the difference between sounding just okay and sounding incredible. So it stands to reason that the more accurate your tuning, the better you’ll sound. So tuner manufacturers have strived to get as accurate as possible, getting into the tenths of a cent (or even the hundredths of a cent). The StroboClip is super-accurate at 0.1 cent, which is pretty incredible. And that’s great – you might be thinking that at this point, there might be a “but” in there… Yes, there is…

As James Taylor puts it, because of how guitars are constructed, and how the strings vibrate, the actual sound that they produce when plucked is not actually in tune if you tune the strings to their exact tuning. According to JT, strings will ring a little sharp, so he actually tunes each string down a few cents per string – not evenly – as each different string requires a different adjustment.

And this is where Peterson tuners have always stood out. They’ve gone to great lengths studying the actual sounds that come off a stringed instrument and have come up with special tuning algorithms for different types of instruments that they call “Sweeteners.” A Peterson rep shared with me that for their acoustic Sweetener, JT’s tuning influenced their algorithm. Hey! If it’s good enough for JT…

In any case, the Sweeteners are extremely subtle, but the first time I used a sweetener for a recording, I noticed that my guitar just sounded better. The difference is like wearing a nicely shined pair of shoes. People don’t necessarily know that you’ve shined your shoes, but they notice that you look a bit sharper. That’s the best analogy I can come up with for Peterson’s Sweeteners.

I noticed it especially with recording my acoustic guitar. With standard, equivalent tuning, it sounded okay but tuned with the ACU (acoustic) Sweetener, it just seemed to ring so much better. That said, you have to get used to the sound because up close, it might sound a little off. But when I listened to the recording, wow! It was truly a revelation.

Fit and Finish

All Peterson products are built rock-solid. And even though they’ve gone with a plastic body, it doesn’t feel at all cheap.

The kicker for me is the comparatively large screen to other tuners. Damn! That thing is readable! And with the higher number of pixels, the readout is super smooth. And for my aging eyes, I love it!

The clip’s springs are pretty tight, but not so much that you can’t squeeze the clip open, and combined with the silicon pads will ensure that the clip stays put on your headstock.

Ease of Use Tuning with a Strobe Tuner

It has three buttons. The middle turns on the unit and acts as the menu selector. The + and – buttons scroll through choices. Doesn’t get much easier than this.

Tuning with a Strobe Tuner

I have to admit that the first time I used a strobe tuner, it was a little weird. I was so used to seeing a needle sweep over a gauge. With a strobe tuner, what you get is a checkerboard pattern that sweeps left and right to indicate the sharpness or flatness of your string. If it moves clockwise, the string is sharp and vice-versa if the string is flat. When the string is in tune, the checkerboard stops moving. The bigger screen really helps.

But there is a bit of a trick to tuning. You have to get used to moving in much smaller increments than what you might be used to. Also, the tuner is so sensitive that once you make an adjustment, you have to remove your hand from the tuning knob because the slightest pressure will affect the tuning. But believe me, once you get used to tuning this way, it’ll become second-nature.

One feature that I didn’t mention is the Drop/Capo setting. If you drop your tuning or use a capo, you can get into the Drop/Capo mode, set the number of semitones you’re going up or down, and then tune accordingly. That’s a really powerful feature, and as I often use a capo, knowing that my strings are all in tune with the right compensations for each string is comforting.

Overall Impression

You can probably tell based on the rating I gave and the review, I love this tuner! I know that Peterson’s marketing push is for the HD screen, but to me, this tuner has always been about the underlying technology. It’s second to none. But I do have to say that the larger screen is simply awesome!

At $59.99, it’s not a cheap tuner, especially compared to something like a Snark 2 that you can get for under $25 (I got mine for $21 on sale). And you know me, I’m not one to say that just because you pay more for something, it’s better. But in this case, it’s totally worth the extra money.

You might be wondering why I might be so excited about this. After all, it’s only a tuner. But once you tune with a Peterson tuner and hear the difference in your sound, you’ll become a believer.

What About Other Strobe Tuners?

The only one I can think of is the Turbo Tuner with an amazing .02 cent accuracy; yes, you read that right. But as I said before, while extreme accuracy is great, what makes the Peterson technology stand out to me are the Sweeteners. They really make a difference. And at some point, I’m wondering if our ears can actually hear the difference between 0.1 and .02 cent. I’m not so sure. It’s almost like a tube amp. The more gain you throw at a tube, the less effect it’ll have on volume. But to each their own. If extreme accuracy is your thing, that’s awesome. And that’s the beauty of having so many choices out in gear land. There’s bound to be something to please any taste.

For me, that taste is the Peterson Sweeteners!

316415932-rogerfedererreachesintofinals_6Early this morning, I woke up to catch the Wimbledon Men’s final. Though I no longer play tennis, having played a little competitive tennis in my younger years, I have kept up with professional tennis.

Growing up watching the likes of Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, then Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, it was hard to imagine there’d be yet another phenom. Then Roger Federer hit the scene in 2001.

Yeah, I know he’d been around prior to this and had a couple of wins under his belt. But at the time, at least to me, he was to tennis as Ricky Fowler is to golf. Good player, nice guy off the court, but no majors.

But my opinion changed when he beat Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001 to advance to the quarterfinals. No, he didn’t win that tournament, but he got my attention. I remember thinking to myself that this guy was a special talent. Where Sampras was a powerhouse serve and volley guy, Federer was… well… kind of everything. He could rally from the baseline, he could attack the net, and his defensive game was otherworldly to me.

I remember turning to my buddy as we watched that match, “If Federer continues like this, he’s going to be the Bruce Lee of tennis.” My buddy asked me to explain and I replied, “What made Bruce Lee a master wasn’t because he was an expert at Kung Fu. What made him a master was that he didn’t obey the forms. He called his particular brand of martial arts the art of expressing the human the body. This is what Federer seems to be doing. He’s good at all aspects of the game. He hasn’t mastered it all – yet. But I’d like to see what happens when he does.” This segues into what we could all learn from “Fed” with respect to our beloved instrument, the guitar.

Humility. I believe that a driving force behind Roger’s success has been his incredible humility in approaching the game. Listen to an interview, read an exposé on his life, and you’ll never hear him brag. Take, for instance, his post-win interview yesterday. He spent more time talking about Cilic than himself and showing incredible empathy for Cilic’s physical condition.

For gear sluts like us, it’s easy to fall into the trap of getting big-headed about the gear we have; especially if we’ve paid a pretty penny for it. But in general, the gear doesn’t make the player. As for me, I keep pretty humble about the gear I have. I have some really great stuff, but I never speak about my gear as if it somehow makes me better than someone who has different or less-expensive stuff.

Open-mindedness. The fact that Roger Federer can win on any surface and more importantly, to mix up different styles of play informs me that he didn’t want to be known as a certain type of player. The fact that he can serve and volley, rally from the baseline, attack the net mid-game and have such incredible touch to be able to hit drop shots that are DOA is simply stupendous. As Jimmy Connors said of Roger Federer, “You’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist. Or you’re Roger Federer.” Damn!

In the guitar world, there are a couple of guys that never cease to amaze me. The first is John 5 from Marilyn Manson. That dude can play all sorts of styles. Of course, there’s also Paul Gilbert who’s simply incredible. Finally, one of my all-time favorites is Phil X. Not only can he play a bunch of different styles, he’s got shitloads of personality to boot! All these players haven’t gotten fixed into playing specific styles.

If that’s not your thing, I get it, and that’s perfectly okay. But opening yourself to being proficient in a multitude of musical styles can make you so much more expressive in your playing. For me, I’ve been focusing on reggae as of late. But what I’ve actually been experimenting with is applying modes and major scales to my solos to see where they lead me. It’s been really interesting and fun to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Focus. To be able to do what he has done for so long… To me, that just takes immense focus. Of course, as a professional tennis player, he has the luxury of applying all his focus. But to maintain that for close to two decades. Wow! Same could be said for Serena Williams. And she’s like Roger: So gracious and kind.

Focus is something that helped me get over my GAS. At one point, after I had acquired tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear, I just said STOP! I realize that I just wasn’t spending enough time on the gear I had. And what I realized is that the unicorn I was chasing was right there in front of me all along. I just had to quiet my mind, focus on playing, and let the beast out. 🙂

I could go on and on about what I could learn from Roger Federer, but three points is enough. ROCK ON!

The Law of Holes

I was reading a technical article on microservices architecture to corroborate points in a presentation I’ll be giving next week, and I ran across a reference to a saying I’d heard a long time ago: The First Law of Holes. It basically goes like this:

“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

Attribution to the origin of this saying is a bit murky, though, according to a Wikipedia entry, it can be found in an article published back in 1911 in the Washington Post.

The first time I heard the saying was from an old priest, Father Bob. I forgot exactly what the conversation was at the time (this was back in the mid-1980’s), though I believe it was probably me venting my frustration with my career plans (I really didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do back then and it REALLY bothered me). To that he said, “You know, as they say, if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Such sage advice, and frankly, it caused me to just relax and let the universe work things out. But I’ve digressed…

That saying can be applied to just about anything; especially gear. When I was overcome with GAS a few years ago, what helped me snap out of it – besides running out of money – was remembering that saying, or a corollary. I had spent so much time, effort and money trying to chase that unicorn of tone, that I was never happy with the gear I had and would sell or trade off gear on a whim, or purchase more stuff to layer onto my rigs.

It really was the case of digging a deeper hole for myself. In the end, I climbed out of the hole, just stuck with the gear I had, and made it work. No, I wasn’t just settling. What I did was take the time to do a deep-dive into my equipment. I also spent a lot more time practicing to increase my skill and expressiveness.

A few months later, I found my sound. It was literally a breakthrough moment. I was recording a new piece and laying down a solo. The way I usually record solos on my recordings is to do several takes, then pick the one I like best. What I realized is that even though my phrasing might be different from take to take, I sounded like me every single time.

That really sealed the deal for me with respect to breaking me of my GAS because it changed my perspective on my gear. Instead of my gear defining my sound, my gear merely added texture and color to what I had all along and didn’t realize I had it. From that point on, I didn’t see a need to keep on adding new stuff, and when I did, it was to add a feature to my sound, not be my sound.

Now I also realized that when I had the funds to spend on gear, it was REALLY fun. I was on the boards all the time. I went to local guitar shops and played everything that I found interesting (which was a lot of stuff).

What about now? I just gig. I have my solo acoustic gig, play lead guitar for an old farts band, and have recently been asked to sit in with a buddy’s blues band to sing and play rhythm guitar and keys. I have six pedals on my board. I used to have twice as many. But most of the time, I only use my Soul Food and my Big Bad Wah. I also use my booster for solos, but I don’t use my mod pedals all that much, though I keep them there just in case…

So if you find yourself in a hole similarly, stop digging.

And here’s my Second Law: Climb out.

To the left is “Pearl,” my 60th Diamond Anniversary Strat. Until recently, Pearl had been sitting in her case because I just wasn’t playing her. I actually would’ve sold her a long time ago, but that guitar is earmarked for my youngest child.

One day, about 10 years ago, he was sitting quietly in my home studio, listening to me lay down tracks. I finished a section and put down my guitar, at which point, he got out of his chair, and reached up to me for me to pick him up. He gave me a big hug, then said, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to play just like you.” OMG! I started tearing up right then and there. I gave him a big kiss and a hug and thanked him. Then he pointed to Pearl and said, “And can I have Pearl when I’m a big boy?” How could I refuse?!!

I played Pearl quite a bit for the next couple of years, but then I got my first Les Paul and a couple of other guitars and I just let her sit. And she sat in her case with little play time for over five years. I know, what a shame, but that’s how it goes sometimes. But a couple of weeks ago, I was going through my stock and took her out of her case. Just feeling that neck compelled me to use it at my next band rehearsal. So I did a quick setup to make sure the neck was straight (it wasn’t), and gave her a nice rub-down.

I really didn’t know what to expect because I literally hadn’t played Pearl for years. But I lugged her out to my rehearsal, set up my rig, got my volume and tone set up on my amp and pedals, then started playing. Oh man! I had forgotten how tonally versatile a Strat was!

It helps that I’m a much better player now than when I put her away those years ago. And even though I was playing leads and solos at the time, my role as both bandleader and lead guitarist kind of limited the scope of what I could do with soloing. But since I joined my classic rock band where my role is strictly lead guitarist, I’ve really had to work on my soloing chops over the last couple of years.

What this has meant as far as playing Pearl is that I have a new perspective on her because I realized that I just didn’t have the chops to take full advantage of what she had to offer. For instance, I really didn’t know how freakin’ awesome that middle pickup was! A few years ago, I was like, “Meh” about it. But now, it’s one of my go-to positions. A few years ago, Doug Doppler told me that for real Strat players, the middle position was the “secret” position. I was still like, “Meh” at the time. But truth be told, I just didn’t know how to take advantage of it. I know, it sounds a bit silly but I really had no idea about its sound until literally a few weeks ago! Well, better late than never…

The point to all this – as I’ve entitled this article – is that sometimes you just have to take a break, and as long as you’ve got the patience, that break could be good. But now it makes me wonder if I should’ve sold my American Standard. But no, I won’t second guess myself on that. It was a great guitar and had a gorgeous rosewood fretboard, but I never really bonded with it for some reason. It was weird, but I just couldn’t dial in a pleasing tone with my rig with it.

Actually, that was a concern about Pearl when I took her to rehearsal. My amp is a vintage-Marshall-style amp made by Aracom Amps. My American Deluxe just didn’t sound right with it and I realize now that that was probably a contributing factor to my putting Pearl away for so long as I thought that Strats, in general, wouldn’t work. But Pearl sounds amazing through that amp! It just goes to show that certain rig combinations work and some don’t.

After I wrote my article on the Slow Secret Death of the Electric Guitar, it really got me thinking about guitar heroes of today. So…

To start this discussion, I’m going to throw out a question: Can you name five guitar heroes that are under fifty years old? Forty years old? Thirty years old? And mind you, I’m not talking about the child prodigies like Sungha Yung, but actual guitar heroes that have defined or redefined their genre.

If you roll back time thirty years, these questions would be easy to answer. I could name guitarists in several genres. But today, it’s not so easy. And it’s not too hard to see why. If you look at pop music today, while the guitar is still an integral component of the music, it doesn’t take center stage like it once did. When was the last time you heard a guitar solo in any pop song? And frankly, even if you can name a song, can you name the guitarist? Chance are you can’t because that guitarist is a session musician. Most probably it’s going to be someone like Steve Lukather or Phil X who’ve played on tons of hits, and we never know about it.

When was the last time you heard a guitar solo in any pop song? And frankly, even if you can name a song, can you name the guitarist? Chance are you can’t because that guitarist is a session musician. Most probably it’s going to be someone like Steve Lukather or Phil X who’ve played on tons of hits, and we never know about it.

Of course, the guitar, and specifically the electric guitar, will always be THE rock instrument, but just how popular is rock and roll now? For someone as old as me, the rock that pleases me is the rock of my era, namely the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. So forgive me if I don’t know much of the new music. However, in my day, even my mom and dad, who watched Lawrence Welk and thought that Johnny Mathis was a radical singer knew of Peter Frampton and Eric Clapton and Jimi and Santana (my mom actually liked Santana because of the Latino sound).

That’s the point, guitar heroes back in the day were just well… known.

Today, that’s just not the case. A lot of that has to do with the fact that every type of music is immediately accessible to anyone with a computer or smartphone. iTunes originally led the charge, but Spotify now dominates the industry (I can’t live without my Spotify premium). So instead of music being controlled by the DJ’s like it was back in my day, young people have the ability to discover a plethora of musical genres. And while it pleases me that my own kids have discovered acts from my day, they’ve also got their own stuff. And to be completely honest, they’re the ones who’ve turned me on to contemporary reggae.

Speaking of contemporary reggae, this is a branch off of the traditional Jamaican Reggae, which I still love. Here are some awesome bands that I listen to:

Jawaiian Reggae

J Boog
Jordan T
The Green
Kolohe Kai
Common Kings

“White Boy” Reggae

Rebelution
SOJA
Tribal Seeds
Sublime
The Expendables
Slightly Stoopid
Iration

You might be wondering why I bring reggae up, and specifically why I’m naming contemporary reggae. It’s simply because the guitar as the primary instrument is still alive and well in this genre; not as much in Jawaiian (though Jordan T is a f%^king fiend on his Strat), but especially with the “White Boy” reggae, the guitar is central and you get some incredible solos. In particular, I love the guitar work of Rebelution, The Expendables, and Slightly Stoopid. The guitarists in these groups rival anyone in rock.

If you still want to hear guitar-centric music, you’d do yourself a big favor checking these bands out. And by the way, most of these guys are about as freakish about their gear as we are!

Maholo!