Archive for March, 2012

My Answer: Just one more…

I know, haven’t posted a new guitar article in several months. Fact is, I’m a little broke, so I haven’t bought any new guitars, though I did manage to get my DV Mark Little 40. I’m also splitting up my discretionary funds between gear and fine wine, so my rate of acquisition has gone down this past year. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a hit list of axes I want to get. Here’s my current “to get” list:

  1. Gibson Les Paul Standard Traditional Pro
  2. Gibson Les Paul Supreme (I know, some folks don’t like these, but I love ’em. I want one)
  3. Fender HSH American Strat

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Sorry, this item has been sold…

Bought this guitar a few years ago for my son who ended up not playing guitar, so I started using it instead. Guitar has been occasionally gigged, but has mostly stayed in my smoke-free home studio. I even used it on my first album a few years ago, and it’s a great rock guitar! Plays and sounds great, the neck is straight and the action is low. No glaring dings except for the top of the headstock that is shown in the picture below. I got it this way from the original owner. Very light scratches on the back that don’t get picked up easily by a photo, but more importantly, there is no buckle rash. Frets are in great condition, with lots of life left in them. Selling it because I need to thin my stock, and I’m almost exclusively playing my Les Pauls and Strat, so my other guitars have to go.

Here are features of the guitar:

Alnico Classic humbuckers
Alder body with Korina veneers
Set Mahogany neck with SlimTaper “D” profile
Rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays
12″ fingerboard radius
Explorer-style headstock
LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece
Single-ply white pickguard
Amber speed knobs
Gold hardware
14:1 ratio die-cast tuners
2 Vol. 1 Tone
3-way selector switch (I replaced the original plastic switch with a gold metal switch. Looks better and is much more sturdy)
24.75″ scale
1.68″ nut width

Guitar comes with a Gibson Explorer coffin case that’s in great condition, though there are a couple of dings on it, but nothing significant. I’ve seen these in not as good condition going for $400 and up, with no case. All in all this a very nice guitar, and I’m hoping that it finds a good home!

Here are more pictures I took of the guitar (included is a picture of the back of the headstock so you can verify the serial number):


Price: $300 + $50 shipping (lower 48 states)

For other stuff I’m selling, check out my For Sale page!

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I know this is actually a couple months old and, truth be told, I actually started writing this on January 3. 🙂 If you want more details on it, you can read it here. But back when I was writing this article back in January, the focus of the article wouldn’t just be the announcement. You see, that guitar had a huge influence on me as well…

Back in the early to mid-’70s, I was starting to break away from listening to AM pop and really started to get into FM rock; what’s now considered “classic” rock – though it’s still contemporary to me, considering I’m 50. I started collecting vinyls of various rock bands like Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Queen, Santana, The Who… the list goes on… But the definitive album for me was Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive.” Looking back on it now, his playing wasn’t all that complicated, but his musical phrasing was unlike anything at the time. My favorite solo of all time is the solo in the middle of the song, “Do You Feel Like We Do.” Turns out that that is also Vinni Smith’s (of V-Pick’s) favorite solo as well. That solo made me think, “I want to be able to play like.”

Don’t know if I could come up with something like that on the fly now, but that solo had a huge influence on me, and it was the guitar that Frampton lost and now has back in his possession that was responsible for creating the sound.

I’m so happy for Peter Frampton, and I’m so glad that he was able to reacquire a real gem of a guitar that had such an influence; not only on me, but on millions of people around the world, as “Frampton Comes Alive” is still one of the greatest-selling live album of all time.

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Last night after church service, we threw a going away party for our long-time sound guy, Joe, who will be moving a couple of hundred miles to the south in San Luis Obispo. Joe has run sound for me since 2001, when it was just me playing solo for our fledgling service. Twelve years later, we’re playing to a packed house, and I’ve got a full band with several singers each week. While our growth has a lot to do with the band’s various participants, if it hadn’t been for Joe’s tireless efforts in making sure we had quality gear and a well-maintained PA system (which he spec’d out and even built many custom pieces), and even making sure our mics and monitors were set up before we did our pre-Mass rehearsal, we would be just another ho-hum church band, and probably a lot smaller. Joe even trained a team of teens and adults to take over his work, and the teens even run the board during Mass. He was a great mentor; he’s a great friend and he will definitely be missed.

For our venue, having sound reinforcement was and continues to be essential because we can’t crank up our amps. Our stage volumes can’t be too loud because we have people sitting pretty close to our performance area and we’d blow them out with volume. We even have to put a plexiglass cage around our drummer to direct his sound upwards, and he has to play with rods as opposed to full sticks – well, at least for most of the service. But we do open it up on the last song, which is usually a rocker. 🙂

The point to all this is that any band that has had a sound tech knows the tech’s value. In addition to helping maintain gear, they’re also responsible for making sure the band sounds good during performance. A band can have all the talent in the world, but if they’re not sounding good through the PA, talent doesn’t matter. Of course, the sound tech should be able to “hear” the mix and balance it out, but most I’ve worked with have been pretty good with that, and where they haven’t been that good, they’re open to input.

I’ve heard of people fighting with their sound guy; especially guitarists. 🙂 I’ve debated with them in the past, but I do realize that they’re out there, and I’m not, so I tend to trust what they’re hearing.

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Kinman is generally known for its excellent – and I mean really excellent – single-coil pickups. My Strat American Deluxe Standard has a set of Kinman HSX single coils, and they’re the reason I went back to playing a Strat. They’re a bit higher output than the stock single-coils, and are also much fatter and smoother in tone. You still know you’re playing a single-coil with them, but you don’t get that “ice-pick-in-your-ear” tone that I just couldn’t deal with my other Strats.

A year ago, I went to the Kinman site to see if Chris made humbuckers, as I wanted to replace the pickups in my Epi Korina Explorer. Unfortunately, he didn’t make them. But he sent out an email to his mailing list this morning, announcing his new humbuckers. I may have to try a set out. In any case, here’s a video that he provided demoing one of his models.

The pricing is fantastic on these pickups. A single pickup costs just $139. That’s really competitive. Check out the new ‘pups here!

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I was in my local Guitar Center this afternoon seeing what I could get for one of the guitars I’m just not playing any longer. As soon as I walked in, I was painfully greeted with some dude playing a Gretsch Country Gentleman absolutely  cranked through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe Blues Deville 4 X 10 combo. He was playing clean, for cryin’ out loud! He just didn’t need to be that loud. It was so loud that I had to practically yell to the sales guy in front of me who was THREE FEET AWAY!

This is a story we all know well. The shitty show-offs crank the amps, while the real players get the level to where they can evaluate the tone, then just… play… being respectful and considerate of the other people in the store. For instance, while that dude was hammering away on his cowboy chords on the Fender, this Japanese dude quietly took one of the new Ibanez guitars with the neon colors, plugged into a Line 6 Spider, then started RIPPING out Jazz lines – all at a volume where only he could hear.

A lot of people complain about the high schoolers that come in and do that. But the dude today was in his 30’s. It’s like, “DUDE! What do you have to prove?” And worse,  he had this air about him that made him seem like he was God’s gift to guitardom! When he tried to play lead lines, he flailed all over the place! Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against people of any experience level trying out gear. But I do have a problem when it’s done without consideration for other people.

Circling back to the title of this article, I’ve only witnessed this in big-box retail stores. It’s almost as if it’s a policy to let people crank it up that loud. That would never happen at a place like Guitar Showcase in San Jose, or Gelb Music in Redwood City. The sales folks there would tell the perpetrator to chill; nicely, but they’d be pretty emphatic. Or in the case of Gelb, they’ll put you in the back room. For instance, I needed to test my Gretsch at gig levels through a Fishman SA220 SoloAmp, so they set me up in back so I wouldn’t disturb anyone. That’s just good customer service.

I think the big-box boys do their customers a disservice by not controlling people’s volume levels, or if they have to be loud to test out an amp, at least limit the time they can be above 100 dB. Oh well, that’s why my Guitar Center experiences are short and sweet, in and out. Kind of tough to put up with wankers.

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There’s something about “Fender” and “high-gain” that seems like an oxymoron. Most people equate the Fender tone with lush cleans and open, low-gain overdrive. They’ve tried to break into the high-gain market in the past with the ProSonic and SuperSonic models, and they haven’t fared too badly, considering the likes of Matthias Jabs of the Scorpions uses a ProSonic. But it’s hard to break through an image, decades-long in the making.

To help “cut” (pun intended) through that image, Fender recently released the new Machete. This is a two-channel, 50 Watt, 1 X 12 combo that has the capability of producing the classic Fender cleans we all know and love, to some very high and over-the-top high-gain tones. Each channel has independent 3-band EQ. But there are other features that will help players dial in their tones such as an input pad switch for use with guitars with active pickups; a Notch control that changes the midrange point, and a Damper control to roll off highs.

All in all, this is a pretty smart offering from Fender. Here’s Fender’s official demo video:

It’s very cool-looking with that 60’s-70’s, black, retro styling. But it does cost around $1900. That’s actually not too bad of a price, but it’s not cheap either. That’s the other image thing with Fender. They’re known for inexpensive gear relative to their competition. I suppose if they’re competing against the boutique manufacturers, then they’re staying true to that practice. However, most popular boutique amps follow a more vintage path to tone.  I suppose they could be going after Soldano and Hughes & Kettner for high-gain.

No matter, it’ll be interesting to see how this amp fares in the market.

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