Guitars

gas money

Gear Acquisition Syndrome GAS

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back In the Guitar Shop

guitar pickup display caseI have it, you have it, and a million other guitar players have it. GAS or “gear acquisition syndrome”.  It creeps into your life without warning and sinks its hooks into your flesh and makes you a slave to it. You think about it constantly like a junkie looking for a score only worse. And we’re powerless to stop it. All the guitars, pedals, pickups, amps, tubes, tuners, cabinets, straps, cables and a million other gizmos and gadgets can’t fill the need. So we surrender to it because we’re weak. Of course this is all an exaggeration (mostly) but it’s not to far from the truth. I’ve been lost to it for a long time, and all I can say is “thank God for Craigslist”. Without it I’d still have everything I’ve bought and would not have been able to sell a lot of it. Of course I always put the money back into more gear (I told you it was a sickness). But damnit I love it!

seymour duncan antiquity humbucker boxA while back I bought a EarthQuaker Devices Crimson Drive and it actually satisfied my search for the perfect overdrive pedal. It was amazing! I no longer had an unyielding urge to look for new gear. I thought “Holy Shit! I’m FREE!” I was just playing and enjoying it more than ever. I felt it was safe to go into a guitar shop for strings and things without being in danger of seeing something that I couldn’t live without. So one day I headed out for strings and a couple of volume pots (legitimate need for those). Walked into the shop and while the guy was getting the pots I was looking around and in a glass case I spot a Duncan Antiquities Humbucker. I had at one time been in the market for one of these but opted for a 57 Classic+ because the Antiquity was nowhere to be found locally and I hate to wait*. But now I felt my pulse jump up a few beats then told myself “it’s probably for the neck position anyway”. That’s when I made a fatal error in judgement: I bent down for a closer look at the label on the box and there it was. A check mark next to “Bridge – Nickel”. At this point the guy was there with my pots and he asked if I needed anything else. Without missing a beat I said “yes, I’ll take the Antiquity Humbucker in the case”. So much for being safe. You can tell a true GAS victim when they don’t even ask “how much is it?”

The thing is I do not regret it. Hell, I don’t regret ANYTHING I’ve ever bought or traded for or whatever. What’s important is the fact that I GOT it! And it sounds awesome. Oh yeah, I also bought some new power tubes that I didn’t need at all but they were just sitting there begging to go home with me.

more GAS money

Is there something to take away from all of this? Yes, I have now quit trying to quit GAS. The irony is that it’s now safer than ever to go into a guitar shop because I’m walking in with the intention of finding something to satisfy my GAS which means finding that “something” made the trip a success. And you can’t feel bad about that, right?

*note: I always shied away from ordering online because as I said, I hate to wait. That has now changed since I discovered Amazon has lots of stuff with free next day shipping. Occasionally “same day” shipping. So they’ve seen a lot of orders from me in the last 6 months. Just wait till they start their “drone delivery” service with 15 to 30 minute delivery times. Holy Shit I see an Antiquity for the neck position in my future!

How’s your GAS? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Story of a Harmony Guitar that Became a Martin

Harmony Guitar That Became A Martin

Guest Post by Calvin Jones
Originally appeared on the website http://calvinslifesong.com

The very first guitar I ever owned was a Harmony Guitar.  I was only 6 years old and very small when I received it.  The guitar was old and big and made for quite a challenge to play with my little hands and fingers.  So you’re asking, “How does an old Harmony Guitar turn into a new Martin Guitar?”

Hamer Studio

Hamer Studio My New #1

Once again I scored on craigslist. I found a Hamer Studio that was so cheap I’m not even going to tell you how much it was except to say I paid more for the new   pickups than I did for the guitar. This isn’t a Hamer USA model , it’s  Korean made. But the first thing you notice when you pick it up is the quality of the build. It’s flawless. It’s a mahogany body with a carved maple top. Not just a veneer, this is a thick flame maple cap lightly stained Aztech Gold so the flames show through and it has cream binding on the body. It has a 14° radius C profile neck but not a super fat one, it’s somewhere between a 50’s and a 60’s Les Paul type neck. Access to the upper frets is painless with the double cutaway body style. The electronics were ok but needed attention. Not because hamer studio parts, 57 classic plus, burstbucker pro, vitamin q capacitor, bigson grover classic tunersthere was anything wrong with them, but it came with Duncan Designed pups and I prefer something else so a change was in order. 57 Classic Plus in the bridge and Burstbucker Pro at the neck

Hamer Studio

Hamer Studio

along with a vintage VitaminQ capacitor. This has become my favorite configuration. Then the last detail was the tuners. They were some no-name brand and I like like the Gibson Grover Classic tuners. It had gold hardware to begin with and I stuck with it because that gold hardware perfectly compliments the Aztech Gold finish. Chrome would have looked totally out of place.  It’s what I would call a medium weight guitar, between a solid Les Paul and a weight relieved model. The tone is like a Les Paul only more clear. And it has sustain for days. Looks like Joel Dantzig must have been rising shotgun on their over seas builds and it shows. I’m really amazed these guitars weren’t more popular. They have a great rep among guitarists in general and they have the looks but who knows. I guess I shouldn’t question it because it is what it is, and it got me an awesome new axe for stupid cheap. So yeah, I’m cool with it.

Coming Next: Another new dirt pedal. Actually 2 new dirt pedals.

Les Paul Project Guitar

Les Paul Project Guitar Becomes Keeper

Over the years I’ve had a few Les Pauls that were fairly heavy (in the 9.5 to 10 lb range) but they never gave me any grief like I hear some dudes talking about. You know, back problems, hip problems etc. from playing a Les Paul. I couldn’t relate because lately I’ve been playing weight relieved models (7.5 to 8.0 lb) Until last week. Now I know what those dudes are talking about.

refinish 1 and 2I started looking for an Epiphone Les Paul that I could mod and refinish just for a project and i found a decent 1993 Korean made Epi L.P. for a decent price. It had been de-glossed so a refinish was in order and most Epi LPs have questionable electronics which need replacing, perfect for my needs. I bought it based on the picture in the ad figuring anything that could be wrong with it won’t matter since it was going to get a total rebuild. It has a nice vintage burst on a flame maple top that begged for a glossy finish. However, after putting it all back together I had another idea: what if I changed the yellow part of the burst to a translucent red? So I tore it all back down and without any sanding I used Dupli-color anodized red spray paint. The same stuff I used on some pedal builds. Laid on 4 coats of the Dupli-color and 4 coats of Urethane over that. Worked better than I could have wanted. I’ve now gone through the electrics and rewired the whole thing (the pickups are Duncan 59’s so I left them alone. Well, I may have swapped the magnet in the bridge pickup from an alnicoV to an alnico4 just to see what it would do), and added new Gibson/Grover tuners  and replaced the bridge and stop tailpiece with new ones. Got all the work done and it came out great. Up to this point I hadn’t put a strap on it nor slung it over my shoulder. I did so the other day and played for about half an hour. Holy shit! This thing is freakin’ heavy! It weighs in at 11.5 lbs. By

Les Paul Project Guitar

Les Paul Project Guitar

the end of the half hour my shoulder and back were starting to feel it. There are two factors that affect weight which are obvious on this axe: It’s non weight relieved or chambered (like the newer ones) and it has this fantastically fat neck. I mean FAT! Baseball bat fat! Never knew Epi made them this way. Add it all up and you get 11.5 lbs of great tone and sustain which I didn’t expect from an Epiphone. Seriously, this one is better than my Gibson (whoa! did I say that out loud?). I’ve heard that some of the Korean made units were good players and I reckon it’s true. The neck is taking some getting used. Not because it’s fat, I like that, but because it has a 15″ radius fretboard which is pretty damn flat compared to the 12″ radius I’m used to. As for the weight, I’ll live with it.  Counting the materials used and the price of the guitar I have less than $375 in the whole thing. All-in-all it turned out to be a great purchase. The only thing left to do is figure out my next guitar project. Maybe an exotic wood 2×12 speaker cabinet for my new Blackstar  HT-1RH tube amp head. (which will be the subject of my next post, but you already figured that, right?) Right now I’m gonna go play.

Lowering String Height on Ovation Celebrity

ovation saddle height

Saddle after removing about 10lbs of material

ovationCS257

My previous Ovation

Yes I know, this series of Ovations doesn’t have a big fan club,. and I get it but I used to have a CC 247 Sunburst that was one of the best acoustics I’ve ever owned. When I found out my daughter was going to learn  to play guitar I gave it to her. I did that because the Ovation had the easiest playing neck of any acoustic out there and I figured if she was going to learn that was the guitar to do it on. So a few weeks ago I decided to find another one but that turned out to be impossible. I did find a Celebrity but it has no model number it just says “Celebrity”. It doesn’t have the “grape cluster” sound holes and it’s not a burst. No, this one has the usual center sound hole and it’s jet black. Kinda pretty though. The worst was the action. About a mile high and hard to play, but I got a smokin’ deal on it and I knew I could fix the action. But I didn’t realize how extreme I would have to get to fix that action. Started out by straightening the neck because it had too much relief. When that was done the action was a little better. It was down to 9 10ths of a mile high. Everything else looked good so I just took that saddle and started sanding it down. It took 5 tries to get it low enough for my taste and there ain’t much left of it, but I got the damn action down to where I wanted it and it plays great now. There is only about 1/8th of an inch of saddle sticking up above the bridge and I’m sure a luthier would have a stroke if he saw how little is left of it, but damn I love the way it plays. If it had been a more expensive guitar I probably wouldn’t have gone to such extremes but it isn’t a more expensive guitar so what the hell it worked. ovation string heightThe intonation is spot on, no fret buzz at all and it has sustain for days. If given a choice I prefer the tone of a Hummingbird and this guitar doesn’t have that kind of tone at all. It’s more focused in the upper mids and highs, obviously due to the Lyracord back. But it’s unique in its own way. So for a few bucks and a little elbow grease I came up with a decent guitar that plays great, so no regrets on this one. I guess the moral is, sometimes, to get what you want, you just gotta say WTF and go for it.

Guitar Tone Wood

Guitar tone wood. Now that can spark a debate that can get ugly with a quickness. We have a big ol’ feud going on youtube at the moment with some pretty nasty comments going back and forth. I have my own ideas about the subject. In case you are unfamiliar with the subject let me give a brief explanation. Guitars are made of primarily wood. Many different types and species of woods are used. And there are several specific types that fall into a category known as “tone woods” (cocabola, rosewood, koa, flame maple, spruce, sitka etc). The idea here being that these woods have some affect on the tone the guitar produces. Many manufacturers may use more than one type on a single guitar to presumably achieve a desired tone. Many manufacturers use this as a sales tool and it can even affect the end price of a guitar. Now it seems we have two viewpoints on the subject: 1. tone wood makes a difference in the tone and  2. it has no affect at all. But I have to say that there is a  3rd viewpoint on this subject as well.
tonewoods
First let me state that yes there are controlled experiments that render measurable returns. These are done in a variety of ways but always include the use of oscilloscopes, meters, tuners and a lot of other equipment. I’m not refuting the results of most of these tests. But you see there are many people that claim to be able to hear a difference with nothing more than their ears. I believe the scientific evidence to be valid when the results are repeatable. However I also feel that if a guitarist that’s been playing for any appreciable amount of time and says he (or she) can hear the difference in tone woods, then who’s to say they’re wrong? I’m also sure there are some that only hear a difference because they want to hear it. Of course there are also those that say there is no difference and they will never hear a difference even if it’s real because their minds are closed to it. If you hear it then for you the case is closed. You know what you are hearing. If you don’t hear it then the case is closed for you as well. And besides all of that, if a dude hears it and likes what he hears then he may be inspired to play more and enjoy it more as well. and there ain’t a damn thing wrong with that!

stunning guitars
Consider this:
It’s kind of like ghosts. I can tell you without any doubt in my mind that they exist because I’ve been face to face with one at a distance of less than 24″ for about 5 seconds (doesn’t sound like a long time but I’m here to tell you it sure felt like an eternity to me). But there are skeptics that will say I’m wrong and that they don’t exist. Fuck em’. I know what I saw and they can say I’m wrong till they’re blue in the face and it doesn’t change what I saw. I firmly believe that we are so conditioned that ghosts do not exist that when we see something our minds automatically rationalize it as something else.. Unless you are open minded you may never see one. I was closed minded until I had my experience which forced my mind to open. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk, all I could do was stare wide eyed while it stared back at me and try like hell not to pee on myself. On this subject there is no debate for me. It is what it is and that’s that.

prs

Bottom line on tone wood:
There are so many variables that affect your guitars tone that a difinitive answer is elusive. And for me I stand right smack in the middle although I kinda lean to the “it’s real” crowd. I hear the difference between guitars. My Les Paul Studio and my Dean Soltero look very similar and share some of the specs but the difference is night and day. The dean is heavier since it isn’t chambered and the sustain is incredible. It has a 3/4″ maple cap over the mahogany body and it’s got a brighter tone. Of course the pickups are way different and some of the hardware is as well so the variables are too many to say it’s the wood. But it could be, I just don’t know. That’s all I’m going to say about it because my head is starting to hurt. This subject can go quite deep if you let it. I’m going to stop thinking about it and just grab my guitar, plug it in, turn it up, and play.

 

 

Dean Soltero Std.

New Axe! Hell Yeah! Dean Soltero!

Soltero full

Soltero headstock

Just like most things worth gettin’ I seem to find them when I’m NOT looking. Case in point: The Dean Soltero. I’ve wanted one forever it seems like but just never found a deal on one. I’ve been watching craigslist for one to pop up for 3 or 4 years now. When I go to c-l, I have my standard search terms I use every time I’m on that site and Soltero is one of them. Finally hit a good one for a great price. And I spotted it the same day the ad came out. Awesome! So I bought it without trying it first because I just knew I was going to love it. And I was right! I dig everything about it.

The first thing that I noticed was the neck shape. They call it a v shape I think which sounds like it would be uncomfortable, but it’s not. In fact when I first grabbed the neck the “v” shape is obvious and it took a few to get used to the feel, but I’ll tell you once you get used to it it’s sweet. It sort of forces your hand into a position that, in my opinion, gives you better control. I’m actually liking the neck shape better than my Gibson which is a 50’s fat profile.

Soltero body

The finish is a flawless deep deep black with the maple cap exposed in it’s natural color where the body binding would be on a Gibson. It looks incredible. especially where the “cleavage” crosses over itself. It just looks cool and sets it apart from most other single cuts out there.

The neck is bound and comes with satin Grovers. Medium jumbo frets are slick as can be with no fret buzz and bends don’t fret out. This thing has massive amounts of sustain that I figure comes from the solid mahogany body, thick maple cap, and Deans own solid tailpiece that anchors tight to the body. It just feels solid in every way possible. I’m not sure which Dean pickups it has but the neck reads 7.4k  and the bridge hit the meter at 13.4k. I think they may be ceramic but possibly alnico5. They’re hot for sure but they aren’t over the top and do clean up when you roll the volume back. They never get super clean, but I never play anything super clean anyway. The pups are coil tapped through push/pull tone pots that are smooth as silk and no pops or scritches. But I only checked them for noise and haven’t really played anything through them yet so I won’t comment on the s-c tone just yet. What I will say is that this is my new #1. Wow, never thought I’d say that. Don’t get  me wrong, I still love my Gibson, but this Soltero just blows me away. I can see why Leslie West plays one (he has a signature model Soltero with a single “Mountain of Tone” pickup). So me and ol’ Leslie, wow! I guess that makes us “brothers” huh?

Related articles

Rebuild: Epiphone SG Jr

Out of the blue I decided I just had to have a p-90 equipped axe, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So I hit the trail and located a 97′ model Epiphone SG Jr. It was a little rough but it was intact, and the price was right ($85.oo) I bought it Friday night and rebuilt it on Sat and Sun and was playing it Sun night. See image at the bottom of post for a list of what went into it. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, it actually plays great and it’s got tone for days!

(sorry about the crappy pics, my digital camera has started acting weird. As soon as I get a replacement I’ll put up some sharper images)

 

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Iconic Hummingbird on a Budget

Epiphone Hummingbird $299 street


Epiphone Hummingbird acoustic guitarOver the years I’ve had a number of acoustics. Some good and some not so good (I’m sure most of you have too). But at some point I get that G.A.S. syndrome and usually sell what I have and shop for another one. This last time (due to pay cuts at work) I sold my
acoustic because I needed rent money. I had an older Epiphone Hummingbird that was really nice and I got it for cheap from craigslist. But due to the aforementioned pay cuts I couldn’t afford a replacement. Time passed and things have started to look up again somewhat and I decided it’s time to pull the trigger on another acoustic.

My intention was to look for another Hummingbird, but I also wanted to see what else was available in the off-chance I may find something I like better. In a months time I tried lots of low priced designs and they all seem to feel kinda cheap. Not that they were bad players, in fact some were quite good. But there’s something missing from the overall feel of most of the models I tried. Plus none had the tone to compete with the Hummngbird and of course fit and finish is also iffy on a budget acoustic. Having exhausted every good lead on craigslist I finally said ‘screw it” and went to some local music stores to try out the new stuff.

I went through everything and was largely unimpressed with 2 exceptions: as expected the Epiphone Hummingbird Pro and the Dove Pro. I don’t know how long these “pro” models have been out so they’re new to me. Having played the Epi Hummingbird for quite awhile I noticed the difference in quality right off.

First, it’s electric and that’s a welcome addition. It uses an onboard E Performer system which sounds better than average to my ears. But the real clincher is that these seem to have been built to tighter tolerances, although I may have just gotten lucky. But I’ve seen 2 others since I got mine 3 weeks ago and they too had the noticeably better fit and finish.

Which brings us to the bottom line: what does it sound like. That’s an easy answer, it sounds like a Hummingbird. After my previous Bird I have to agree that the design, construction, and combination of materials  is like no other guitar,Gibson Dove acoustic guitar hence the unique sound. And that’s what I missed after selling my previous one. I had to have that sound again. The most beautiful acoustic ever! And it doesn’t matter if you have a Epi or the Gibson model because they sound so similar. Not identical by any stretch of the imagination, but still there is something familiar about them that’s buried in the tone. I’ve heard people say that they can’t tell the difference in playability but I don’t buy it. I can tell the difference for sure, but that doesn’t mean the Epi is bad, it’s just different, that’s all. For me the cost differential is enough to make the Epiphone worth taking for a test drive.  It has the ringing tonal quality that lies within a range that makes it  easy to vocalize with but can stand on it’s own without it.

Everyone that hears it comments on the beautiful tone as well as the finish. They have taken a lighter approach to the cherry sunburst by not making it quite so red. It looks awesome. All the other factors are there: a relatively fast, easy playing  neck with smooth well fitted frets, the classic Hummingbird pick guard, the split parallelogram position markers, and full binding on the body and neck. They’ve also added genuine Grover tuning machines as standard equipment. The suggested retail is almost 500, but at street  you can snag one like I did for $299. It’s a great deal on a great guitar. If you have the extra 2000 to 3000 for the Gibson you could go that route. Hell, to be honest, if I had the bucks to drop on a Gibby I probably would have. And I may still someday. But until that big winning lottery ticket drops in my lap I’ll just enjoy this one because it is, after all, a Hummingbird.

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