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Archive for June, 2011

  • You can play your Guitar any time of the month.
  • Guitars don’t have parents.
  • Guitars don’t whine… unless you want them to.
  • You can share your Guitar with your friends.
  • Guitars don’t care how many other Guitars you’ve played
  • Guitars don’t care how many other Guitars you have.
  • Guitars don’t care if you look at other Guitars.
  • Guitars don’t care if you buy Guitar magazines.
  • You’ll never hear, “Surprise, you are going to proud father of a new Guitar” unless you go out to buy one yourself.
  • If your Guitar is flat you can fix it (well… that can be “fixed” on a woman too).
  • Your Guitar doesn’t care if you never listen to it.
  • Your Guitar won’t care if you leave up the toilet seat.
  • You don’t have to be jealous of the guy who works on your Guitar.
  • If you say bad things to your Guitar, you don’t have to apologize before you play it again.
  • You can play your Guitar as long as you want and it won’t get sore.
  • You can stop playing your Guitar as soon as you want and it won’t get frustrated.
  • Your parents won’t remain in touch with your old Guitar after you dump it.
  • Guitars don’t get headaches.
  • Guitars don’t insult you if you’re a bad player.
  • Your Guitar never wants a night out with the other Guitars.
  • Guitars don’t care if you’re late.
  • You don’t have to take a shower before you play your Guitar.
  • If your Guitar doesn’t look good you can refinish it or get new parts.
  • You can play your Guitar the first time you meet it, without having to take it to dinner, see a movie, or meet its mother.
  • The only protection you have to wear when playing your Guitar is a decent pick.
  • When in mixed company, you can talk about what a great time you had the last time you played your Guitar.
  • You can mute your Guitar and it won’t complain.
  • Your Guitar won’t mind if you bend its G-string.

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Yeah, yeah, shameless forward, but hey! It’s useful gear! Check out the press release below:

Korg MR2 Portable Recorder Giveaway

Korg and Blue Coast World, an independent music distributor for high quality audio projects have teamed up to give away a high resolution, mobile audio recorder – the Korg MR2 (list price $899).  The MR2 features extremely high end audio capture using the DSD format which can be converted to nearly any multi-bit audio format.  24-bit 192kHz resolution is also available.

The sweepstakes is active now and will run until July 16, 2011 at noon PST.  The winner will be announced at the California Audio Show on July 16, 2011 at 3:00pm.  You need not be present to win.  You must be 18 years of old and a resident of the United States.  Complete rules are available from the contest page.

For more information click here to enter the contest:  http://bluecoastworld.com/korg-mr2-giveaway.

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Usually I just don’t go for super-fast playing. It seems to me to be just too much information to process. And with lots of guitarists who are speed players, their phrasing doesn’t seem to make much sense to me, as if the only message they’re interested in conveying is, “Look! See how fast I can play.” But if you add musicality to speed, to me, that’s amazing. In my previous article, I had a video of Yngwie Malmsteen. But in this video, I’m showcasing Michael Angelo Batio. This dude is from a completely different planet.

‘Nuff said…

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I’ve played scalloped fretboards in the past, and to tell the truth, to me they feel pretty awesome. A few years ago, I almost bought a Tele that had a scalloped fretboard. But after playing primarily acoustic guitar for 25 years before making the switch to primarily electric guitar, my touch is simply way to hard to play a scalloped fretboard.

Believe me, I’ve tried to lighten up my touch, but I still unconsciously dig in. Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot better with my touch but I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where my touch is light enough to play a guitar with a scalloped fretboard. But who knows? Maybe if I try one in a few years, I’ll like it.

In any case, there are several fairly famous guitarists that have used scalloped fretboards. Most notable – at least to me – is the great Yngwie Malmsteen. Here’s a video of him playing what he calls “Arpeggios from Hell:”

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So much focus in the Les Paul world seems to be on the Les Paul Historics; especially the R7 through R0 models. Perhaps rightfully so, as those Custom Shop models are built to those specs. I myself have an R8, and it’s my go-to guitar. But before I got really interested in the Historics, I totally dug on the Les Paul Supreme – actually still do. I dig the look of it from the headstock logo to the brass hardware to the striped mother-of-pearl inlays. Plus, the AAAA figured maple top and back are simply gorgeous to me. I’m normally attracted to plain top bursts, but that figured top and back just ooze tons of mojo to me. I love the thick binding all around. This is a beautiful, artistic guitar.

Yeah, I know, I’ve heard the complaints about the Supreme not having control access panels on the back. I suppose that’s a big inconvenience for tweakers who’ll  want to swap out the stock pickups. Personally though, I have no problem with the 490R and 498T pickups. They’re ballsy and expressive. I have a 498T in my 2009 Nighthawk, and it rocks.

One thing that’s important to me with a Les Paul is that it has a 50’s-style neck; to be more precise, a ’58 or ’59 neck, and the Supreme has that style of neck – not the ’57’s baseball bat neck.

In any case, to me, it’s a fine instrument, and one that I would like to own sooner or later. Here’s a great video I found on YouTube showcasing the Les Paul Supreme:

I might’ve posted this before, but here’s a great video of the making of a Les Paul Supreme.

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Barron Wesley Guitars Alpha Summary: From new luthier Russell comes an amazingly affordable custom guitar that’s a joy to play, and has a unique sound without losing that classic tone that you’d expect from a PAF-equipped guitar.

Pros: All hand-made. I’ll estimate its weight to be around 8 lbs, so it’s easy on the shoulder. Position of the neck is perfect, making it easy to get into the high frets. Tung Oil finish is wonderful, giving the wood a real natural feel.

Cons: This is just a nit, but it would’ve been great to have independent volume controls for each pickup.

Features

  • Scale length: 25″
  • Frets: 22 (medium)
  • Color: Natural
  • Top Wood: Quilted Maple
  • Back/Neck Wood: African Mahogany
  • Finish: Hand-rubbed Tung Oil
  • Fingerboard Cocobolo Rosewood
  • Nut Material: Bone
  • Bridget TonePros AVT II
  • Pickups: Manilus Vintage/Modern PAF+
  • Controls: Master Volume / Push-pull Master Tone for coil splitting / 3-way Toggle
  • Tuners: Gotoh Magnum Locking
  • Build Completion: April 2011

Price: < $2000 (Yup, that’s right. A handmade guitar for less then 2 large)

Tone Bone Score: 4.75 ~ I’ve been testing out the guitar for the past couple of days, and it is a player, that’s for sure. This is just a super-comfortable instrument, and I could see myself logging several hours with it!

There’s always room in this world for someone who’s good…

About 25 years ago, I got kicked out of college for a year to get my act together. It wasn’t that my grades were bad, it was that I had three consecutive quarters of minimal progress, so my dean told me to take a break. When I was ready to come back, the dean was reluctant to let me back in. I was dumbstruck. “Why won’t you let me back in?” I asked him.

He replied, “Because as you know, I see you perform all over town. I’m not sure that the sciences are right for someone with your passion and talent in the arts. My son was in the same boat you’re in now and I told him, ‘There’s always room in the world for someone who’s good.’ He left his major, went with music and he’s now playing his horn in Les Brown’s Band of Reknown.” Long story short, I ended up getting back in and completing my coursework in Biology; didn’t do me much good as I’m now almost 20 years into my software engineering career. But those words have stuck with me since, and I’ve used them as a battle cry for both myself and others who may have doubts in their abilities.

Enter Russell LaRoche of Barron Wesley Guitars. He’s a newcomer to the luthier scene, and has only formally been in business since the beginning of this year. He’s the epitome of the saying that there’s always room in the world for someone who’s good, and I think he’s onto something with his guitars. If the model I played is any indication, I have no doubts that he should see some success.

Fit and Finish

There’s really nothing like a handmade instrument. Even though I don’t play my own handmade “Goldie” any longer, there’s a certain “mojo” in the look and feel of a handmade instrument, and the Barron Wesley Alpha has tons of mojo on tap. The quilted maple top is to die for! And though finished with oil and not lacquer, it still retains that three dimensional quality. Personally, that Tung oil finish is sexy as hell!

For those unfamiliar with Tung oil, it is the oil that comes from the nut of the tung tree, and is what is generally called a “drying oil” in that it cures and hardens upon contact with air. It also ages very well, and doesn’t darken over time, making it a perfect finish for fine woods. It is also used as a sealant for marble to protect the stone. For wood, it gives it that satiny, wet wood look. I love it! I imagine that the finish will wear, and unlike lacquer, will be susceptible to scratching, but the cool thing is that the finish can be re-applied (not sure how often, but I don’t anticipate that it would need it that often).

Russell’s attention to detail in the finish of this guitar was spot on. No crooked or uneven joints; everything fits well together. The guitar also “feels” sturdy, though it’s probably only about 8 lbs. in weight. This is a guitar that could be gigged with on a regular basis.

Playability

In a word: Awesome. The neck shape is much like a 50’s Les Paul neck, so I was right at home with it. Mind you, if you don’t like that deep C, then Russell can probably shape it to your specifications.

The cocobolo rosewood fretboard is a dream. Though harder than Brazilian and Indian rosewood, to me, it feels like ebony as it has a lot of oil content, but with a rosewood texture. This makes it VERY easy to move around the fretboard.

The body shape is also perfect, and it is super-easy to get into the high frets. I like the 25″ scale length as well. It’s very close to a Les Paul, so again, I felt right at home playing this guitar.

How It Sounds

Of course looks and playability mean nothing if the guitar doesn’t sound good, and this is where the guitar absolutely shines. The Manilus Vintage/Modern PAF+ pickups are a bit more aggressive than traditional PAF-style pups, but that’s okay. It’s clear that this guitar was meant to rock. But being that they are PAF-style pups, they have that honk and a bit of bite to them that’s absolutely pleasing to the ears. In fact, the tone reminded me of my ’59 Les Paul re-issue, but with a deeper tone.

Here’s a clip I recorded of it. The rhythm riff was played in the neck pickup, and I played the lead in the bridge pickup with the ‘bucker tapped to get a slightly spanky single-coil tone. My Timmy pedal provides the drive for the lead, and both tracks were played through my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe in the clean channel – completely clean, mind you. I added a bit of spring reverb from the amp to each track.

Man! What a sweet sound! In fact, I had been playing the guitar over two hours before I decided to record that track. In fact, the main riff has inspired me to write a new song. You gotta love how a great instrument can sprout the seeds of creativity!

Overall Impression

Fantastic guitar from a new, talented luthier. It’s a great combination!

For more information, check out the Barron Wesley Guitars web site!

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EWS Little Brute Drive

Summary: Proving the old adage that “big things come in small packages,” the EWS Little Brute Drive is an absolute distortion machine, capable of mild crunch to face melting distortion. Don’t let the “drive” in the name fool you. This ain’t an overdrive – but who cares? 🙂

Pros: Though it has output level and treble controls inside the enclosure, the pedal is set to unity gain, so no need to mess with output volume. You just set the gain knob where you want it, then turn it on. It’ll instantly turn your guitar a fire-breathing dragon!

Cons: None. Absolutely none.

Features

  • Single gain knob. All the way left gives you about the max overdrive of a soft OD pedal like the Timmy. All the way right is evil – very evil – distortion. 🙂
  • True bypass
  • Runs on either a 9V battery or 9V power supply (I use a 1-spot).

Price: ~$129 Street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ I could barely pull myself away from playing this evening to write this review! I was having way too much fun with this pedal!

I have to admit that I haven’t been too much into distortion pedals in the past, but since I got a Strat, none of my overdrive pedals could give me the kind of creamy crunch that I love for playing rock songs. It’s not a problem with my Les Paul, and though my new Strat does have some higher-output pickups, it’s still not the kind of gain that a Les Paul produces. So I figured that I’d try a distortion pedal. Enter the Little Brute Drive.

After watching some very good videos and listening to some sound clips of the pedal, I knew it would do the job. I wasn’t mistaken. This freakin’ pedal has more gain than anything in my arsenal. I was amazed that at even with the gain all the way down, it was more than the gain that my beloved Timmy produces! But the even cooler thing is that even at the highest gain setting, note separation is incredible! I was concerned about that because my past experience with distortion pedals is that they get really muddy and compressed at high gain settings; not the LBD. The distortion is tight, but it never gets muddy, and the EQ response is pretty flat to boot.

Fit and Finish

Though it is diminutive in size, it’s built like a tank, and it is definitely gig-worthy. It has a nice red powder coating – almost like a warning that this thing breathes fire!

How It Sounds

Make no mistake: This is NOT a low-gain pedal. It is meant for crunch and face-melting. So if  you’re looking for something milder, best stick with an overdrive pedal. But if you’re looking for lots of gain and sustain AND clarity, this is a pedal that will do the job in spades.

I recorded a couple of quick clips to demonstrate the pedal. I had the gain knob set to noon on both clips. I used a Barron Wesley Alpha with humbuckers – though I played both clips in split coil to at simulate a single-coil guitar, and I used my Fender Hot Rod purely clean. With the first clip, I do a comparison riff. The first part is the guitar with no effect, then I switch on the LBD. The second clip is just me noodling.

Yowza! I really had to have a much lighter touch on the fretboard playing this pedal, and since the guitar I was playing is so resonant, I had to mute the strings I wasn’t playing because the pedal picks up EVERYTHING! It’s incredible! And to think that I was able to get that kind of gain with the gain knob set at noon!

Overall Impressions

I love it. ‘Nuff said. The sustain, the drive, and most importantly the note separation and clarity make this pedal a winner.

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I just got done practicing some new material for tomorrow night’s gig and was about to put my guitar on a stand and call it a night when I started playing a chord progression – just a couple of simple chords. Then I added a bit more to it, and my creativity sort of took on a life of its own. Once I had the full progression down, I immediately recorded it so I wouldn’t forget it, then I layered a lead to explore various melody ideas. Here’s the result of my noodling:

Frankly, it’s nothing special, but it occurred to me that it’s important to noodle because it sometimes takes you to places – a musical dreamland, you might say – that you’d normally not explore, and you discover musical phrasing that your normal alpha-wave, mind on work, mind on life waking mind wouldn’t allow you to think about.

I may never turn that “idea” into a song, but just from that little noodling session, other ideas have surfaced, and I’ll definitely be doing some exploration of those ideas.

Bear in mind that when you’re noodling, you should detach yourself from self-judgment about what you’re playing and especially how you’re playing. It doesn’t matter. The point is to explore. You never know what may turn up.

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I recently sold one of my guitars “The Ox” (’59 Les Paul replica), and have been getting it ready to ship. Luckily I had a Les Paul box on me that had some of the original packing material in it, so I could use it. The rest, I packed with wadded newspaper. If you’re curious about how to pack a guitar, check out this great video:

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SWR California Blonde I

Summary: This amp is a classic and loved the world over for its great sound.

Pros: Great acoustic sound, but it’s versatile enough to use as a clean amp for solid-body guitars.

Cons: This is a nit: It’s heavy at 50lbs.

Features:

  • 120 Watts
  • Speakers: 200 Watt 12″ and a 25 Watt high-freq tweeter
  • Instrument Input Jack
  • Stereo Input Jack
  • Tuner Out Jack
  • Balanced Mic Input Jack
  • Gain Controls with LED Overload Indicator and Pull Phase
  • Aural Enhancer Control (Channel 1)
  • Two independent channels
  • Two independent effects loops with independent effects blend knobs for each channel
  • On-board reverb – it’s nice and subtle

Price: ~$300 – $600 Street (if you can find one)

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ I’ve used this amp in a variety of settings, and with a variety of guitars, and it has NEVER let me down. The sound is rich and full, no matter what guitar you put in front of it, but it doesn’t take away from the natural tone of the guitar.

My first exposure to the California Blonde was through a church bandmate who would use it for our services. My initial impressions of the amp were NOT good, mainly because this guy just doesn’t take care of his gear. The knobs were scratchy and the jacks were loose and would occasionally crackle. But one thing was for sure: When he had it working, it had a great tone. I was always impressed by the sound of that amp, and REALLY impressed by its ability to project – it is a LOUD amp.

SWR now has a second edition of this amp, and the original is no longer available, but I got mine through my friend Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps who acquired one from an estate sale. He had a bunch of gear to sell, and one of the items was this classic California Blonde.

I wasn’t planning on getting an amp at the sale. I just wanted one of the many guitars he had, and ended up getting my gorgeous Strat. But just for shits and giggles, I checked out the amps. The ‘blonde immediately caught my eye (blondes have a way of doing that to me 🙂 ), so I asked Jeff if we could hook it up. Luckily I had my acoustic in the back of my SUV so I could give the amp a proper test. So we hooked it up, powered it on, I strummed a chord, turned to Jeff and said, “I’ll get this too…” I did play through it for about 15 more minutes to really go through its controls, but from having to adjust my buddy’s ‘blonde in the past, I was pretty familiar with the amp.

Since I purchased it, I’ve used it with my acoustics, as a clean amp for my Strat (and using a distortion pedal with it – it rocks), and just last night, I used it for its intended purpose: as my guitar amp for my outdoor gig, using my Gretsch Electromatic. As I mentioned above, no matter what I’ve thrown in front of it, this amp has delivered the goods.

Fit and Finish

Despite the amp being several years old, it has withstood the test of time. That’s a testament to how solidly built this amp is. Even my buddy’s amp – despite being mishandled – was still rock solid. My amp was and is in absolutely pristine condition. This thing is built like a tank. The enclosure, though made with a combination of plywood and particle board is THICK. Chrome-plated corner protectors adorn all the corners (this amp was made for gigging). No stray joints here folks, the build quality is fantastic.

The tilted control panel is an absolutely nice and convenient touch, allowing for quick access to the knobs. This is much better than the Genz-Benz Shenandoah 150 upright that I’ve played that has a flush control panel. Makes it hard to adjust. The metal speaker grille on the ‘blonde demonstrates again that this amp was meant to be gigged.

The only nit that I have with the amp is that at 50 lbs, it’s really heavy. But that’s understandable and forgivable considering the thick wood of the cabinet and the magnet of the 200 Watt speaker, which must be pretty big (I haven’t taken off the back panel). I’ll trade weight for ruggedness any day; besides, that’s what hand carts are for! 🙂

How It Sounds

The California Blonde has a rich, deep tone, but as I mentioned above, it doesn’t take away from the natural tone of the guitar. And though I mentioned that the amp is loud, the cabinet really disperses sound at a wide angle, creating a three-dimensional effect that makes the sound seem to float in the air.

I used it outdoors at my gig yesterday, and it was fantastic! I ran chorus, delay and reverb through the loop, and I have to say that the effects blend knob is a god-send, allowing me to mix as much or as little of my board signal into the dry signal. Because of how the amp disperses sound, I used very little reverb, and many times just had it off. For ambient tones, I used my MXR Carbon Copy delay set to a mild slap-back. That seemed to work best with the amp.

The tweeter’s effect is subtle, but a very nice addition indeed, as it provides just a touch of shimmer to the tone. I tried the amp with the tweeter switched off, and just turned it back on because I wanted the shimmer. With a Strat, the tweeter is a necessity in my opinion.

Last night, I started out running my guitar signal only through the amp, but then later added some signal into my Fishman SA220 PA so I could get even better sound dispersal. The line out is great on this amp, and reproduces the signal very true to the original. In fact, when I’ve used this amp at church, we run it right into the board, and the sound is very nicely balanced.

Overall Impression

This amp is a workhorse. I really couldn’t be happier with this amp. It totally delivers the goods for me!

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