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Archive for October, 2008

GOOFYDAWG!!!

One of the regular visitors to GuitarGear, Joel Klampert, recently moved his site from CEC Worship to klampert.com (http://klampert.com), and to help promote his new site, he’s holding a contest. Check out his site!

I have to admit, I love free stuff, so I am wantonly following the guidelines Joel gave so I could be eligible for the grand prize (you’ll have to find out what that is yourself…).

Seriously though, Joel has a lot of good things to say, and I’ve linked to his site and followed his blog almost as long as I have IGBlog (which sadly, no longer exists). So whether or not I win a prize, I definitely want to give Joel’s new site a plug.

BTW Joel, really nice layout! Love the new look!

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IG - Ignacio Gonzales

IG - Ignacio Gonzales

One of the things I’ve looked forward to each day when I open my browser for almost two years is going to IGBlog, Ignacio Gonzales’ guitar blog site. I stumbled upon it early last year, and have been a faithful reader and occasional contributor. Ig is an awesome guy, but in September, his posts started becoming less and less regular, until they finally stopped altogether. As Ig explained in a post, his area of Texas got hit hard by hurricane Ike, and posting was not a priority.

I guess it must be really bad, because I went to the IGBlog (http://igblog.wordpress.com) this evening to find that it no longer exists!

Ig, if you’re out there, just know that your friends only wish you the best, and more importantly, wish that you and your family are safe. If and when you decide to come back to the guitar blogging community, you’ll certainly be welcome wholeheartedly!

By the way, if you know Ig, please send him my regards, and let us know how he’s doing!

GoofyDawg

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GIG-FX Mega Wah

GIG-FX Mega Wah

I never thought that I’d say this, but I’m now looking for a wah pedal. I was working on a song recently and was using my MicroVibe to add a pulse to my signal, but it just wasn’t happening for me. The tone was kind of okay, and as a demo, would’ve been okay. But I realized that I really wanted a wah sound. So I started researching wah pedals.

I tried out a few and really liked the Fender Fuzz wah, dug the sound of the Dunlop GCB-95F Fasel Cry Baby, and liked the Morley Vai Bad Horsie Wah (didn’t know if I wanted to wait for Vox and Satch to come out with the Big Bad Wah). I was just about to pull the trigger on the Cry Baby, when I ran across the GIG-FX Mega Wah. GIG-FX claims that the Mega Wah is six wah pedals in one. That sounds promising, but the problem I’ve had with multi-function pedals in the past is that their voicings have sounded like a collection of compromises, resulting in mediocre tone at best.

But the Mega Wah seems interesting enough, and the reviews on Harmony Central have generally been favorable, for as few of them as there are. From my point of view, having a variety of wah sounds is quite useful. Sometimes you want that big Fasel wah, then sometimes you want the wider sweep of a more modern type of wah, or anything in between. The Mega Wah may just deliver. Of course, I have to try it out to really be sure, but that’s what I love about this hobby of mine!

The only thing that would probably hold me back from buying it, if it indeed sounds great is the price. At $199, it’s not cheap, whereas at $99, the Cry Baby is very well positioned for my budget. But it’s all about bang for the buck with me, and I’m willing to pay a bit more for much more capability. We’ll see…

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Durham Electronics Crazy Horse Fuzz Distortion Pedal

Durham Electronics Crazy Horse Fuzz Distortion Pedal

If you’re not a Neil Young fan, read no further. But if you dig that big fuzz drive sound like I do, you’ll love the Crazy Horse Fuzz Distortion pedal. I haven’t personally played this one, but from what I’ve heard, it’ll serve up that “Crazy Horse” sound! But wait, there’s more!

This pedal is very cool in that it is a drive AND a fuzz pedal in one. So not only can you get the Crazy Horse sound out of this, but by varying the mix of drive and fuzz, you can achieve all sorts of different distortion characteristics. But in addition to drive and fuzz level controls, plus the standard tone and level knobs, a VERY cool feature of this pedal is the voltage knob, which will allow you to “starve” the pedal of its voltage, so you can vary the output from thin and fizzy to thick and ballsy!

Being a boutique pedal though, this kind of functionality comes at a price: $249.00. It’s not quite as steep as others in its class (think Fulltone, Mad Professor, etc.), but it’s also not cheap. View the video below for a great demo!

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SAINT Guitar Company - Faded Blue Jean Benchmark Guitar

Saint Guitar Company Faded Blue Jean Benchmark Guitar

Saint Guitar Company Benchmark

Summary: Introducing a pure tone machine, with sultry, sexy lines to boot!

Pros: Dense walnut body and maple top give this guitar a natural brightness without sounding “tinny.” Coil tapped humbuckers enable you to serve up a huge tonal palette.

Cons: Nit: Volume and tone knobs are a bit too easy to turn. High-gloss finish on the neck was a little sticky until I got some body oils on it – my personal preference is a satin finish on the neck – this is just a nit as well.

Price: ?

Specs:

  • Reserve Stock Curly Maple Top (“Faded Blue Jean” stain)
  • Walnut Neck and Back (Medium natural stain)
  • High-gloss Finish
  • Koa Headstock Plate
  • High, Wide Frets
  • Handmade Rosewood Nut
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • Gotoh 510 Tuners
  • Gotoh 510 Bridge
  • Neck Pickup: Seymour Duncan SH-2 Jazz (coil tapped via Volume)
  • Bridge Pickup: Seymour Duncan SH-12 Alnico II Pro (coil tapped via Tone)
  • Master Volume/Tone knobs.
  • 25 1/4″ Scale

Now I know how a guitar made to my specifications plays and sounds! If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve known about my relationship with Saint Guitar Company, a little manufacturer in Fresno, California. A couple of months back, Adam Hernandez (luthier) contacted me and asked me to spec out a guitar he was making for inventory. The body and neck woods were already picked out, but he said I could spec the rest. I finally got the guitar this past Sunday, and have had a hard time pulling myself away from it!

This is simply a pure tone machine. Unplugged, the resonance and sustain are simply incredible. All the pieces are pressure fit together (Adam claims the fit is so tight, he doesn’t even need glue – though, of course he uses it). 🙂 The net effect is that the sound waves just resonate through the tone woods, and produce a wonderfully rich tone that you can get lost in for days. Then you plug the guitar into an amp, and you have to catch yourself for fear of fainting – the sound is so incredible. But enough flowery phraseology. Let’s get into some particulars!

Playability

Adam likes to make his fretboards wide, but he compensates for this by not making the neck cut too deep. The end result is an extremely fast neck. In fact, when I gigged with it, I was able to move around the neck so easily that I was messing up! Mind you, this was not a bad thing because I was able to relax my left hand a lot, and play with ease. Add to that the tactile feel and feedback of a rosewood fretboard, and you’ve got one playable guitar.

The fretboard also features wider and higher fretwire, with nice, wide frets. Talk about being able to dig in and create ballsy vibrato! OMG! It’s simply insane!

From the standpoint of the right hand, controls are super easy to reach, and I just love the position of the pick selector! Switching pickups was literally as simple as reaching out with my pinkie – the same with the volume knob; though I did mention in the summary the volume knob is a bit too easy to turn. In the middle of a fast riff, volume adjustments are not easy when they’re that easy to turn. You almost always adjust too much!

An interesting thing I discovered with the guitar is that pinch harmonics were extremely easy to generate on any string – even the first and second strings. While I don’t use them much, I was amazed at how easy I was able to generate them.

Finally with respect to playability, I was afraid that with the walnut body and neck that the guitar would weigh a ton. To my overwhelming surprise, this was not the case. It wasn’t as light as my Korina Explorer, but it was way lighter than my Strat. Just a real comfort hanging from my shoulder strap!

Sound

As I mentioned above, this guitar is a pure tone machine. The tone was a bit brighter than I originally expected, but it was bright without being too trebly. The SH-2 Jazz in the neck position produces rich, deep cleans, and amazingly gritty, growly grind, while the APTL-1 Alnico II Pro in the bridge position can produce ringing cleans to gnarly drive. My favorite position is the middle position, which produces a gorgeous, complex, chimey clean tone, and serves up a nice, smooth drive when you have the master volume dimed. Speaking of the volume knob, this guitar is extremely responsive to volume knob changes, cleaning up nicely around 3 or 4, then adding progressively more grit as you turn up.

Interestingly enough, played through my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, this is the first guitar I’ve played with that amp that really sounded great in my drive channel. Normally, I just keep the amp in its clean section and add grind via my Tube Screamer and OCD. But for some reason, the guitar played through my clean channel sounded kind of hollow. Once I switched over to my drive channel, my power tubes just sang!

As far as pedals are concerned, the guitar produces enough grit so I only had to use my Tube Screamer set to about the 12 o’clock position for the drive once I reached unity gain (around 9 to 10 o’clock). If I chained my OCD, the tone became way too dirty, so I just used my OCD as a booster for when a song went into a lead break.

I mentioned above the copious amounts of sustain the guitar produces. With the Tube Screamer, I was able to achieve practically over-the-top sustain; especially in the upper registers where it really counts. In one lead break, I did a bend/vibrato at the 18th fret, and leaned back with pure joy from how the guitar just sang as I bent and wiggled the string. It really was an ecstatic moment.

October 22, 2008 Follow-up: As Chris pointed out, the bridge pickup is an Alnico II, not a Screamin’ Demon as I originally worte, so I wanted to refine the sound section above. This guitar is definitely NOT a guitar made for heavy metal. When I spec’d the guitar, I had a blues/classic rock guitar in mind, as that is the style of music I write and play. I was a bit surprised when he told me it was Screamin’ Demon, because that is a fairly high-gain pickup, but hey, it’s all about tone, and to my ears, it really didn’t matter what pickup was in there: It sounded GREAT! But I do want to be accurate… In any case, my original description still stands.

As a pickup for doing the style of solos I play, the Alnico II Pro is simply amazing. I have to admit that I’ve never been one to use the bridge pickup by itself for leads because almost all the guitars I’ve had just sounded way too thin for my preferences. And while in the bridge position the Alnico II Pro does register a more trebly sound, it’s not thin sounding; it’s VERY complex, and it sustains for days! I just loved digging in and letting a note wail away!

As for the SH-2 Jazz, it’s hard to describe the sound it produces. The clean tone is simply magnificent; rich and thick and well-balanced between all the frequencies; almost like a cup of pure Kona coffee: Not light, not dark, and not even right in the middle. It’s really a conglomeration of different flavors all served up at the same time. Nice.

Wrapping It Up

Granted, a guitar like this isn’t for everyone – even for me. I just can’t afford the money to pay for something like this. But to have the honor to test it, along with having a guitar that was made to my specifications, what can I say? It looks like I’ve got to mortgage my house to get this friggin’ axe! 🙂 Seriously though, there’s nothing like playing a custom-made guitar, and if you’re in the market for one, Adam Hernandez and the Saint Guitar Company will make your guitar dreams come true.

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Like most people, I’m intrigued by controversy – especially when it has to do with our beloved instrument, the guitar…

Les Paul is generally credited with creating the first solid-body electric guitar he called “The Log,” though it was Leo Fender who made the solid-body electric guitar available to the masses through mass production with the “Fender Broadcaster.”

Interestingly enough, there’s a lot of controversy that surrounds just who actually invented the solid-body electric guitar, some documented, and a lot of it not. I’m going to stir the pot a bit here, and share something that I just heard this morning from a friend of mine.

Every morning before heading off to the office, I go to a local coffee house to go through e-mails and review my day’s calendar. By the time I finish that, a couple of friends usually join me and we shoot the breeze before we all head into our respective places of work. This morning, I brought along the guitar I spec’d out for Saint Guitar Company (don’t worry, I’ll have pictures and a full review in the next couple of days…) to show my friend Phil from Phil ‘N The Blanks, a local cover band here in the Sillycon Valley.

Phil and I were discussing the guitar, when our friend Kim sat down with us. She noted the beauty of the guitar, and said, “Hey! You wanna know a cool story?” And she then recounted a tale of how her grandfather, Kenneth Clark, had known Les Paul back in the day, and had shared with him his ideas behind building a solid-body electric guitar. Soon after, Kenneth contracted a disease that left him in quarantine for five years! Yikes! But during that time, Les apparently ran with the idea, and successfully created what is generally recognized as the first solid-body electric guitar.

Who knows whether or not this is true? None of this is documented, but it sure stirs the pot, doesn’t it? Of course, let’s not take anything away from the venerable LP. Without him, we wouldn’t have multi-track recording or reverb. Even Leo Fender is accused of stealing ideas for creating the Broadcaster, but he created an industry where none had existed. Is this an apologia? Not really. But it does go to show that the people who are attributed with inventing something usually are the ones who’ve gotten their invention to the public first.

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Electro-Harmonix #1 Echo

Electro-Harmonix #1 Echo

Over the years, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with delay pedals. My first taste of delay was an analog EchoPlex in the early 80’s. But focusing on acoustic guitar – actually only able to afford an acoustic guitar – at that time, I didn’t see the need for a contraption like that. Then U2 and The Edge entered my musical radar a couple of years later in the early eighties, and I of course had to get a rig where I could use a delay. So with what little money I had, I purchased a 25 Watt Roland amp, a Boss CE-2 Chorus, and a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay.

Little did I know that you had to have some technique to play like The Edge, and I quickly became disenchanted with trying to play like him. I just didn’t have the technique nor experience! So I held onto the amp, kept the CE-2, and sold the DD-3. I’m kicking myself now for getting rid of the DD-3 as it was a “Made in Japan” model that still had some hand-wired circuitry that makes it much-sought-after delay. Oh well…

Fast-forward to today, and I’ve owned several delay pedals. Again, the operative word is “owned,” because I don’t have one now. But I do have the technique, and I’m thinking that some of the stuff I’m writing could actually use some delay. Enter the Electro-Harmonix #1 Echo.

I’m normally a little leary of EH pedals, but this one seems promising, at least from the reviews I’ve read and the sound bites I’ve heard. Reviews are generally pretty good, but one thing’s for certain: All this thing does is delay. It doesn’t do any modulation or phasing. It just delays, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for! I’m going to have take one out for a spin, but it certainly seems like it will serve the purpose. And for a $99, it’s certainly not a huge investment. Let’s look at features:

  • True bypass (Yowza! that’s cool)
  • up to 2 second delay
  • Wet/Dry Blend for blending the amount of dry and wet signal – very cool
  • Feeback control – kind of like decay

Check out the videos

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