SAINT Guitar Company - Faded Blue Jean Benchmark Guitar
…but it will also make you a better player!
Pictured to the left is the very first Saint Guitar that I ever played. Even though she wasn’t mine, I nicknamed her “Baby Blue” and the name kind of stuck; she’s technically called the Faded Blue Jean Benchmark. But to me, she’ll always be Baby Blue because I spec’d her out, and it will always be a special guitar to me. But that’s not the point of this article. The point is that Baby Blue is a great guitar, and when I first got it to test, I will finally admit that it scared the livin’ shit out of me!
Why? The answer is simple: Great guitars make you play well; no, not from the standpoint that by just playing them you immediately start playing better. It’s actually the converse: More likely than not, when you pick up a great guitar, you may find yourself flailing!
I’ve seen several good players pick up a great guitar such as this and flail away. Most, like me, don’t want to burst their bubble of pride, and simply say that it’s because the guitar is just not easy to play. But in my case, and I’m willing to bet in other players’ cases, what happens is that a great guitar takes your bad habits, emphasizes them, then throws them back in your face.
But let me qualify that a bit: What a great guitar does is pretty much emphasize everything you do. The good things you do feel and sound better, but the bad things you do well… they’ll scare the shit out of you. 🙂 That was my experience with the Saint Guitars Baby Blue and recently – but not as bad, thank God – a PRS McCarty that I had the chance to play.
I remember the first time I picked up the Baby Blue. She felt so nice to hold. The D-shape neck was a bit foreign to me, but not unpleasant, and the weight and shape were just perfect. I plugged her in, did a few chords and some standard licks, then turned on a jam track to start playing. Again, I started out with some pretty standard stuff that I normally do like bending and vibrato to listen for the inherent sustain (which Saint Guitars are known for). But when I started to do some faster runs – OUCH!!! It was like getting my ass completely kicked.
Even though I was alone in my studio, I was embarrassed and humbled. But being as hard-headed as I am, I wouldn’t let that deter me. I knew I had to swallow my pride and take some time to get used to playing the guitar – properly. The problem stemmed from my being used to playing a Strat for so long. With its narrow neck radius, wrapping your entire hand – even as small as mine – around the neck and still maintaining speed and control is easy. But with the Saint, while the neck radius is bigger, it’s the D-shape that doesn’t really facilitate wrapping. Oh I could do it, but it seriously hampered my ability to move, and seriously hampered my ability to correctly articulate the strings.
So I had to go back to fundamentals and learn to place the pad of my thumb right on the neck – like you’re supposed to do… It took me about a week of hours-long practice every day to adjust to playing with a correct left hand position. But the great thing about it is that I now play in a good position without thinking about it. I do have my lapses, but once I catch myself, it’s all good.
Once I got Goldie (shown at right), the initial experience wasn’t nearly as acute as with Baby Blue since I’ve spent A LOT of time working on my technique, but I wasn’t exempted from an ass-kickin – even though it may have been just a little. I ordered Goldie with medium-jumbo frets because I wanted deeper frets to aid in producing more pronounced vibrato when I was sustaining notes, and also making it easy to do those little microtonal bends.
I thought I had developed a much lighter touch through all the practicing that I’ve been doing over the last couple of years, but with the jumbo frets, I REALLY had to lighten my touch. This is a great thing because playing with relaxed hands ultimately makes you faster. But nevertheless, it’s still a little unsettling. The positive thing is that I’m spending every bit of spare time I have learning her every subtle nuance; and I have to tell you, this guitar is capable of producing A LOT of different tones from Strat-like chime to full-on, thick, rich, and chocolate overdrive tones.
Sometimes a good ass-kickin’ is a good thing…
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