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Archive for March, 2011

Okay… hmm… what to say… How about OH MY F-IN GAWD!!! I recently wrote about Perry Riggs last week, and true to his word, he sent me out the guitar. It arrived this afternoon via FedEx. Funny aside, my wife called me up as soon as it arrived, and asked me, “Did you buy another guitar?”

I replied, “No honey, I didn’t. Why?”

She said, “Because a Gibson box just arrived from the FedEx guy. You bought another Les Paul didn’t you?!!!”

“Really honey, I didn’t. I promise!” I exclaimed, “It must be the guitar that I’m reviewing.”

“Well,” she said, “As soon as it arrived, I said, ‘He got another guitar!’ but the FedEx guy said, ‘You can never have too many guitars!'”

Gotta love it!!!

Anyway, as soon as I got home, I didn’t wait. I opened up the box, took the guitar out to my studio/garage, plugged her into my trusty Fender Hot Rod, and started playing. Didn’t do an inspection, didn’t make any measurements. “Lana” as she’s called is one of the most beautiful guitars I’ve ever seen in my life! She weighs something like six pounds, and her neck is perfect – really similar to a 60’s Les Paul neck, so I felt right at home, right away!

Well, I just had to share how she sounds, so here’s a clip (sorry for my little “clams,” I did this quickly in one take before I have to leave for tonight’s Sharks game at the Tank):

I played the first part of the clip in the bridge pickup, then in the second part of the clip, I switched to the neck and activated the coil tap to get that spanky, single coil tone. But unlike a single coil, the notes continue to sustain. Man, I love this guitar!

You have to be here to appreciate it fully, but Lana sustains for days! I can’t believe the natural sustain this guitar has! It’s as much as any Les Paul I’ve ever played, and she’s an absolute dream to play! Notes even bloom like a Les Paul, which is amazing.

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…without a pedal board. But last year, I started to going to gigs without my pedal board, and relying entirely on whatever amp I was playing to provide my tone. With just my guitar, amp, and an attenuator of course, I can usually cover all the tonal landscape I need to cover with just that. With a great amp, like my 18 Watt Plexi-style amp (Aracom PLX18-BB Trem), I just crank it up, set the attenuator to the stage volume I need, and just go to town.

It’s actually been quite liberating. Of course, the challenge of playing without effects is that if I make a mistake, I don’t have anything to hide behind. But that has just pushed me to practice more and make less mistakes – or find other ways to cover them up; usually the latter… 🙂

Now I have to admit that playing without effects wasn’t a calculated thing – well, it kind of is now… But I was kind of forced to do it once when I was running late to rehearsal, and forgot to load my board into my car. Instead of driving all the way home, I decided to just rely on my fingers. From then on, especially with my church gig, if I arrange a set that doesn’t need effects (which is actually a lot more often than not), I just load my amp, guitar and attenuator into the car. It certainly makes things interesting, but I’ve found that I’ve become a much better performer since playing without effects.

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Gretsch Electromatic G5122 GuitarSummary: Big hollow body Gretsch tone in an affordable guitar. This is one impressive-sounding axe!

Pros: Unlike higher-end Gretsch models, this guitar is pretty basic and straight-forward. But that’s okay because it has tone for days! And for the price, it just can’t be beat.

Cons: None.

Features:

  • Laminated maple hollowbody 16″ W x 2.2″D
  • Laminated maple top
  • Laminated maple neck (24.56″ scale)
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • 22 medium jumbo frets
  • 1-11/16″ (43mm) nut width
  • Vintage style machine heads
  • 2 Gretsch chrome-covered Dual-Coil humbuckers
  • #1 tone pot control setup
  • G-Arrow Knobs
  • Adjusto-Matic bridge on rosewood base
  • Bigsby® B60 vibrato tailpiece
  • Gretsch knurled strap knobs
  • Chrome-plated hardware
  • Urethane finish

Price: $675-$699 Street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~I’m all about value, but when you get value along with fantastic tone, I’m all over it! This is a SWEET guitar that also feels as good as it sounds!

I’ve never been one for pure hollow body guitars, but the Gretsch Electromatic that I just played during my lunchtime has completely changed my mind about hollow body guitars. I literally was blown away by the sweet sound that the guitar produces, and also by its incredible playability. For me at least, this is one guitar that I’m going to have to take a real serious look at.

Fit and Finish

There’s a reason why this guitar is so affordable: It’s made in Korea. But that shouldn’t stop you from considering a non-USA made guitar. Both PRS and G&L use Korean manufacturers for their affordable lines and for good reason: The quality of the workmanship is excellent. The Electromatic line from Gretsch is no exception. The finish is incredible, with the poly coat evenly applied over the body with no bubbles or gaps. I played the walnut stain model, which is a reddish-brown, and the thin, translucent stain brings out the gorgeous grain of the wood, producing and almost wine-red effect. Very sexy.

The Bigsby trem bar finishes the look to give the Electromatic that classic, vintage Gretsch look. Truth be told, I’ve never been into Bigsby trems, but it just works for this guitar. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

For a Gretsch, the Electromatic Double Cut is quite simple. Not sporting the filter knobs and switches that you normally see in the higher end models, the Electromatic has a pickup selector, a single tone knob (next to the bridge pickup), independent volume knobs for each pickup, then a master volume knob. That’s it. If you’re looking for simplicity, then this is a great guitar to have!

How It Sounds

Most reviews of the guitar’s sound are very good, though there are some who don’t like it. I think it really depends on the amp you play it through. I played it through a Mesa Royal Atlantic at a local shop, and it sounded absolutely gorgeous! In fact, the tone was incredibly acoustic. The G5122DC is generally known for its “twang.” But dialed in correctly, I could see using this guitar in my acoustic sets. Really. The neck pickup was definitely my favorite, with the middle pickup, which allowed me to blend the two, coming in a close second. The bridge pickup’s tone is definitely twangy. Overall, tonally, this guitar is very versatile. I could see using it in a variety circumstances, not just limit it to blues and rockabilly. I love it! I’m going to get it! 🙂

Update May 13, 2011 – Since I’ve been seriously evaluating this guitar (and am picking it up today, as a matter of fact), I played it through a few amps and also directly through a PA board, and my Fishman SoloAmp. It’s going to do the job and then some for my solo gigs!

Playablity

Gretsch’s have always been known for their playability, and the G5122DC is no exception. Didn’t matter where I was on the neck, I could get great tones out of this guitar, and it always felt incredible. The action was perfect on the guitar I played, and frankly, I just don’t have a single complaint about the guitar; not a one. I love the thinner profile of the neck, and the gentle “C” feels like a 60’s Les Paul neck. Not sure what kind of rosewood they used, but it’s very smooth to the touch, and digging in feels amazing!

Overall Impression

Here I was all GASsed out after getting my Les Pauls, but this Electromatic G5122DC is a clean machine. Add a little ‘verb and some slapback delay, and you’ve got a great rockabilly tone. Take out the delay and add just a touch of ‘verb and back off the volume knobs, and you’ve got an incredible acoustic tone. How incredibly versatile!

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…or “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Many have probably heard this saying, though it’s not real Latin. But who cares? It’s a cool saying, and something I always remember when I visit gear forums. The great thing about the Internet is that it has made the world a lot smaller, but the darker side of it is that it has allowed people to exercise a certain anonymity, and some folks use this anonymity as a license to be an asshole. It’s really too bad because the Internet after all was meant as a way for people to collaborate. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad; and in fact, you can gain lots of useful information on the various forums – I belong to several – that can help you in your buying decisions. But just remember: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

In light of this discussion, the Internet and web forums are great resources for learning about gear. But here are some rules of thumb to consider when doing a search for some new gear:

  1. Never ask an open-ended question: “What is the best __________?” That’s just going to invite lots of useless discussion, and oftentimes lots of argument. Instead, phrase it like: “I want to achieve __________ kind of sound. In your experience, what would help me get there?” With your question framed like that, you’ll still get a lot of answers, but they’ll be much more focused.
  2. Just because someone “sounds” or gives seemingly intelligent responses, doesn’t mean they’re knowledgeable about a particular subject. On the Internet, you have to remember that until you’ve proven someone’s bonafides, everything they say is an opinion.
  3. Verify, verify, verify. This simply means what I say over and over again: You have to play something to truly know if it “fits.” Going purely off the word of someone – even someone whom you trust – could be an expensive learning experience. Believe me, I’m quite familiar with this. 🙂
  4. Take what you hear or read from manufacturers with a grain of salt, and don’t get pulled in by their bombast. There’s one manufacturer in particular that I won’t call out by name that is notorious for this, claiming things about his product and charging a super-high price, and he uses a $10 part that does most of the heavy lifting. Instead, get opinions from other users and see if they’ve made comparisons between competing products. That’s more valuable than the hyperbole of a manufacturer.

There are probably more I can think of, but these should suffice for now…

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As you know, I’ve had a guitar custom built for me by Saint Guitars. It’s a thing of beauty. Well, another custom guitar builder contacted me about doing a review on one of his guitars, and I have to say that that is an absolute thing of beauty! Made by “part time” luthier Perry Riggs out of Houston, TX, I have to say that just based upon the looks of the guitar in the pictures below, that if that’s the result of a part time gig, then this dude is onto something!

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I’ll provide more details once I have the guitar in hand, but here are specs on the guitar above:

  • Through neck – flamed hard maple with mahogany center
  • Pau Ferro fretboard – 24 frets, Gotoh mini tuners
  • 25.5 string length, bone nut
  • Gold tint jumbo frets
  • 1 Âľ neck width
  • .88 at nut
  • .94 at 12th fret
  • Abalone dots, both side and position
  • Mahogany body with a ½ inch quilted maple top, tinted cobalt blue
  • PRS style “binding no binding”
  • Fralin unbuckers – Coil splitting available via the tone cntrl
  • Gotoh wraparound bridge
  • Approx. weight: 6.5 lbs

I absolutely DIG that Gotoh wraparound bridge! It makes setting action and intonation so easy, plus string vibrations seem to transfer so much more efficiently to the body with just a single point of contact.

Stay tuned for a review!

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