Category Archives: guitar rant

Why did I start guitar?

It’s been awhile, and lucky me the end (sort of) of the hiatus/sabbatical/laziness comes to fruition in a self-serving post about what provoked me to play guitar and not quit. It’s just me writing about why I am not one of those kids with a poorly maintained no-name acoustic guitar in the corner with the same set of strings it had in the moving crate on the Hyundai Super Tanker on the way over from Korea.

As much of a veiled crack at guitar mass production as that may have been, it doesn’t change the fact that slave labor, awful wages and quality control indicative of Yugoslavian cars probably had a large effect on most of the guitarists in the last three decades. The reason many of us took to the instrument was because one of these easily available tree-destroyers was sitting around somewhere that we saw it, and instead of leaving it there, we just kept going back to it. In my case (technically, my Dad’s case – guitar case, that is) it was an Aria nylon string acoustic guitar my dad had under his bed. When I was really young somewhere in the range of monosyllabic numbers (Seven inched its way in) , after I figured out that one of the latches on the case had to move sideways to open the damned case, I would just sit there with it on my lap and hit the strings. The first instrument I’d ever owned was a drumset with paper heads on some of the drums, and stainless steel heads on others. It was basically something for me to move my arms against that didn’t consist of electrical wires or sharp corners. At the age of 2, I was just beating something to get out the aggression that developed from my parents not getting the correct brand of steamed carrots (I demanded carrots from non conflict countries. Sorry, Gerber-Libya) but in a fit of unadulterated preschool tricycle induced road rage, I broke the drumset. I was a mini Keith Moon (Half moon?) I dare say, but that still didn’t change the fact that I was, as a child, someone who was fond of percussive response.

So, back to the Aria Nylon string. I would remove it from the Pandora’s Box of a case and just lay it on my lap, hitting all of the strings with my hands. I was just happy getting some musical response from anything, despite having no connection to music with the exception of yelling at my sister playing her annoying radio on the oldies stations*. I was another radio kid listening to the pop stations; some of the first albums i’d ever owned were Hootie and the Blowfish, the Beastie Boys and Alanis Morisette. And even those were stretches.

Then came middle school. 7th grade requirement was to take a guitar class. The rules were simple, you only play the strings where you learned songs from. For instance, if we had only been taught Aura Lee or Yankee doodle on the high E string, we would lose our guitar privileges for playing any other strings. This is the quality of music instruction you get from a high strung (Had to do it…), anal retentive choir teacher who had no business teaching guitar. I didn’t particularly like the class, but most of it consisted of us sitting around learning some simple song for an hour while talking to our friends. I did well in the class because I had my dad’s Nylon string at home, and I could practice whatever I wanted, when I wanted (Back when I was a little overachiever, oh how times changed.) I was the kid people looked up to because I could play the first few notes of Walk this Way by Aerosmith, and to this day I still don’t even know the whole song. By the end of the class, we were still only allowed to play the G, B, and high E strings. I guess the teacher didn’t think wound strings were appropriate for innocent little middle schoolers, because that’s where power chords lie.

After that class was over summer came and I went to a summer camp. The summer camp had a guitar class in it, and I decided to take it. It was something easy to do, despite them having steel strings, something beginner guitarists usually avoid like the plague. The idea of pressing your fingers against things which are used to cut cheese and clay usually deterred most from touching the guitar. The thing was, I did pretty well in the “class.” Considering the teacher only knew Free Falling by Tom Petty, a three chord song consisting of the most basic of finger positions.

After I got home, I decided to take lessons at a music store. I’d been taking them for awhile when I had to take the same music class again. The first day, I still remember, we all got guitars and I started to play a Green Day song. The class was listening to me and the teacher yelled at me for playing other strings. I stopped and she pulled me outside and asked what I was doing. By then I was up to chords and some scales, so the teacher turned me into the TA for the class. Every day while most while sitting inside the class playing the second year songs consisting of most of the strings (They never played the low E string) I would sit outside in the sunshine of the lunch area with whatever guitar book my Guitar Teacher got for me, attempting to squelch out anything related to pop culture.

And thus brings me to the major factors in why I didn’t put the guitar down – it’s the reason I’m writing this. There are a few guitar related moments in my life which changed my outlook on music.

I remember in 7th grade english class, Nick Ferrantello and Nick Konapasik (I believe I messed up their names, but who cares) the “Nicks” as we all called them were the cool kids in school. They were good skateboarders, and one of them played Blister in the Sun on guitar in front of the class. A lot of the class was jealous, and I remember wanting to play that song too. I spent a long time trying to learn that, and I wanted to be the kid in front of class wanting to play like that, albeit remedial, it still got their attention.

Those guys made me want to play better in middle school, but few had as big of an effect on my guitar playing as Kenny Relethford, the oldest brother of my best friend at the time. He had an electric guitar. The electric guitar. It was always sitting out with the strap in a certain orientation so he’d know if someone played it. It was an Ibanez Destroyer II from the 80’s which his dad bought. I had been playing my Yamaha acoustic with Medium strings for the longest time (only a year) and when I played the electric guitar, it felt like heaven. Light strings, great action, comfortable, and it sounded amazing.  It was eye-catching, so it was impossible to not notice any time I was at their house. Every once in awhile i’d go in there and play it, hoping he wouldn’t find out. A few times he did, and he was angry, but he was the reason I ever wanted to play electric guitar. Guitar Center was too far away, and I was too afraid to play plugged in anyway. This Ibanez Destroyer was always the beacon of light which I wanted to get to. After Kenny gained some trust, he’d occasionally let me play it if I played songs he wanted. I’d always talk a good game and attempt to coerce him into letting me play that guitar. Still to this day, I would buy that guitar off of him. It’s the first electric guitar I ever played, and started my love for electricity and guitar.

The shred phase of my life, and the aims for musical skill are all due to one man my dad worked with, Dorian. A church mandolin player with long hair who worked for the Government. From the sounds of him now, I would’ve brushed him off, but seeing is believing. He invited my dad and me over to see his guitar stuff. Long hair should’ve given it away, but I didn’t know any better at the time. I got to his apartment with my dad and his wife was sitting on the couch watching TV. It was a small apartment, but upstairs was the gateway into the world of guitar. I wasn’t a fan of shred metal or anything with guitar skill in it yet. I was a fan of some guitarists, but they were in pop bands or ska bands, nothing to aim for. My dad and I went upstairs and he pulled out his Charvel Model 6. It was a pink/red guitar with the black crackle finish on it (If I remember correctly) and a floyd rose. I remember him saying it was a bit temperamental, and at the time I thought he was just discouraging me from playing it, but now I know what he was talking about. Now owning 3 guitars with Floyd Roses, I know exactly what he was talking about. Anyway. He plugged into a rackmount effects processor and started playing. He introduced me to a guy named Randy Rhoads. He pulled out the tribute book, and I looked at the guitar tab. I’d never seen so many notes. A few days later, my dad bought me the same guitar tab book, and I bought the CD. I spent months looking at it, but still didn’t learn much. This opened up the door to Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, System of A Down, and all of the metal bands i’d never been exposed to, and that was the nail in the coffin, so to speak.

And now we come full circle.

Just an hour or two ago, I was playing my Ibanez RG1570, and since it’s blocked up, I can tune it to whatever I want. I tuned it down a half step and Flying High Again by Ozzy Osbourne came on. All of a sudden, I started jamming with it, considering I usually can’t because i’m in standard tuning. Playing to the song opened up a door to a room full of guitar oriented memories I hadn’t seen in a long time. I played the descending tapping riffs, the chords, and the inflections i’d become such a fan of when I started playing electric guitar.

All of it reminded me of why I do this stuff. Why I continue to pick up this stringed instrument every day, why I spend so much money on it, and why I always attempt something new, despite the fact that there really is no overall gain for anyone but me. Everyone has a reason they do something that means the most to them, and they spend too much money/time/effort on something which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t necessarily help anyone.

I say necessarily because if Nick didn’t play Blister in the Sun, Kenny didn’t have that Destroyer, and Dorian didn’t play a perfect rendition of Crazy Train on his Charvel, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this remembering why I’m sitting in a room full of creatively trimmed trees, oil-based plastic parts, and shop manipulated metals which cost way too much money. It’s why I sit here trying to learn a Derek Trucks song when i’m the only one who really enjoys the outcome. It’s why I spend time I could be doing classwork or trying to get a job harnessing the power of vibrations for musical joy.

Go ahead, complain about the democrats, republicans, Israel, Palestine, global warming, global cooling, oil, hippies, pacifists, war, hate, peace, jews, christians, muslims, athiests, hindus, buddhists, taoists, mormons, gays, lesbians, abortion, 9/11, homeland security,  taxes, homelessness, government and whatever else you worry about.

But me?

I’m just going to play this here guitar for awhile.

Then i’ll worry about the rest of it.

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Filed under complaining, destroyer, escapism, floyd rose, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, Ibanez, Ibanez RG, Jackson guitars, music, ozzy osbourne, randy rhoads, San Dimas, story, Uncategorized, Whammy Bar

Sorry for my lack of posts. Again

It’s been rather busy around here, and my access to anything new and exciting has been limited to the things I already own. Some day i’ll head out to a Guitar Store and check out some stuff to see if there actually is anything worth writing about in detail.

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Filed under guitar, guitar rant, music, Uncategorized

I’m still alive

Just as a reassurance that i’m not dead, look forward to reviews and rants coming an a day or two. I’ll be talking Parkwood acoustics, BC Rich platinums, and possibly a Fender Fretless jazz bass rant.

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Filed under Bc Rich, Fender fretless jazz, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, Parkwood, player

And more guff?

For all of the people who might disagree with what i’m doing/done/have yet to do, I feel I might as well respond in a blog, because it can further give an idea of what i’m trying to do here. This person actually asks some good questions, and for that I will hopefully respond and further explain myself.

  1. Norrin Radd Says:
    September 6th, 2006 at 4:46 pm eSeems to me that Jimi D had more issues with your facts than with your opinions. AND, if you’re “just another one of those people who plays lots of instruments at music stores; so what people get are gut reactions from me, not some polished reviewer “, then why even post a review?

    A published review ought to be borne out of professionalism – in the sense that it is your job to do so. If you’re just another guy playing a guitar in a music store, what value does your opinion have? Why should anybody be interested in what you say? Give me some reason to care about your opinion!

    I think it does the reader a dis-service to publish a review on a site like this where the assumption is that you’re a trained professional giving an objective review. Otherwise, why not just post it up at Harmony Central?

No one else does what I do on a blog, especially not one that registers into Google so quickly. No one publishes something from the view of the majority of guitar players. Many of which go to a guitar store but have no reason to write about what they see and feel when they’re there. We all read the magazines with creative-writing majors touting the glories of some guitar like a BC Rich Bronze series because he’s advertiser friendly, but what do we really gain from it? Do you really trust a company when they’re telling you how they’re doing? I hope not.
Instead, I am the friend of yours you ask when you’re thinking about buying a guitar. I’m the guy staring at a guitar in a window. And I’m the guy who knows what I like, and you compare your opinion to mine and figure out what you like. For instance, you’re thinking about buying a Charvel San Dimas 1H (You better be) and you want to look up what people say about it. You read the short blurbs on Musiciansfriend’s reviews, you read the specs on Charvel’s site, and maybe you’ve read a review in Guitar World. Then what? You’ve read something from the manufacturer, an advertisment, and an owner, none of which have done what I write about; go into a store, pick up a guitar that looks good and play. I’m not trying to be some sort of person speaking for the little guy, be it the 12 year old picking up a squier, or the 45 year old rekindling their youth, I am speaking from little guy to little guy. Those reviewers know what’s coming, they know they’re getting a Les Paul Supreme in their office. Me, however, i’m staring at a wall of guitars, waiting for one to sing to me. And i’m hear telling people if I like the tune.

This is the basis of opinion and critical thought. You know where the opinion is coming from, you judge accordingly. To believe you are informed, one must attempt to get as many opinions from as many different viewpoints as possible. You can take every opinion with a grain of salt, then you take what you’ve learned and evaluate accordingly. In this case, it’s musical instruments.

So why am I doing this here? Harmony Central is for anyone. Here it’s just me. How can you be sure that the review you’re reading on Harmony Central isn’t written by someone in the company? How can you be sure it’s not written by an advertiser? You can’t. Here, you can see that i’ve given reviews to some of the most highly competetive guitar companies honestly and unbiased. And, there’s only one person writing here. Not a mish-mash of bulletin board posts which are difficult to find and decipher. Here it’s simple.

I hope i’ve answered your question, Norrin, and answered others to come.

-The G.

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Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, Ernie ball, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, music, Music Man, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, Silhouette

Rabble Rousing?!

Apparently i’ve received my first flack for some of my comments on the Ernie Ball. Who knew they had such a militant following? Here it is for all to see, someone pointing out my flaws as a reviewer, something I would willingly admit on a business card. Instead of simply leaving it in the realm of comments, I feel I shall put it up here. Leaving the comments open to comment, including my response.

  1. Jimi D Says:
    September 6th, 2006 at 12:22 pm e
    This review is worthless – the reviewer is an inarticulate troglodyte and his opinions are valueless and misinformed. The 20th Anniversary Silhouette does not have the same neck profile as the Petrucci Sig. – in fact, the necks are tangibly and undeniably different. The 20th Anniversary Silhouette does not have active electronics – no 9-volt battery would ever be required. And lastly, Ernie Ball Music Man guitars are revered for their incomparable necks – check any decent guitar forum (The Gear Page, Birds & Moons, FDP) and you’ll find dozens of proponents of the Music Man gun stock oil & wax neck finishing, and every print publication for guitarists (including Guitar Player, Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar) that has reviewed the Axis has praised it’s neck. In fact, the Axis neck is a digitally carved copy of the neck from Eddie Van Halen’s # 1 favorite frankenstrat, developed when EVH had his signature guitar with EBMM, and this writer’s suggestion that he played an Axis that had an “unfinished” neck where “they forgot to round out the back” demonstrates an ignorance so monumental that it’s frightening. His assertion that it is somehow a substandard neck simply illustrates his complete lack of appreciation for a contemporary classic design that has found favor with a huge number of amature and professional musicians throughout the world.

As it turns out, this person is the moderator of an Ernie Ball forum…
Touching. Simply touching. Who knew that my few hours with a guitar in a store would be no match for that of someone who practically works for Ernie Ball. Anyway, on to my response.
However informed you believe you are, being an Ernie Ball owner, i’d like to direct you to this page:

http://www.ernieball.com/site/flyers/20th_ann.html

If you’ll notice that it says Piezo available, which was what I played. It was my mistake, I corrected it. I’ll pony up to that one.

However, if you had read my post, you may have read that I was at a Guitar Center. Maybe with a little bit of decisive reasoning, you could’ve concluded that it may have been a floor model, and it’s poor quality was attributed to that. And despite the fact that people say “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch,” it did in my case, 6 years ago, when I was new to electric guitar. It should be a testament to either Guitar Center or Ernie Ball that no one was taking responsibility for making the flagship model of a company in excellent condition at all times. Unless you work for them, I have no idea why you’re standing up for them.

Also, had you read my posts, you’d also know that I am just another one of those people who plays lots of instruments at music stores; so what people get are gut reactions from me, not some polished reviewer who has had time to sit down and practice his sucking up to a company. These are my opinions, and opinions give people extra data that people can use in the event they purchase a guitar, and more knowledge for judging what they like in other guitars.

And I don’t know why you’re going out of your way to give me grief, I said the guitar was one of the best i’d ever played, and it might be the next guitar I buy. So I insulted the integrity of your favorite company in part of my post? Sorry I didn’t suck up to them for every sentence like you’d assume in the publications you quoted from memory.

-The G.

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Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Music Man, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, Silhouette

Ernie Ball Music Man 20th Anniversary Silhouette

I’ll admit it, for the my entire career as a guitar player, I have hated Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. I have very vivid memories of going to a Guitar Center, picking up a really nice looking Axis, only to have the experience ruined by the neck. It felt triangular to me, and almost like they forgot to round out the back of the neck. Not only that, but the wood was dirty due to some lack of sanding and finishing. So it stuck in my mind as one of the most uncomfortable guitars ever made, so I never picked one up again. It kept me away from Ernie Ball altogether until one of my favorite guitarists got picked up to do a signature guitar. John Petrucci, the guitarist for Dream Theater, rekindled my interest in Ernie Ball and gave me reason to touch them again. Maybe i’ll review the JP Signature at some point, but right now, we’re on a different mission with coincidental undertones (I’ll explain in a bit)

I went to Guitar Center with a friend of mine who plays bass. He had just purchased one of Ernie Balls new HH basses, so he felt some sort of brand loyalty to Ernie Ball. He sat in front of one of the cheapo Crate amplifiers, ready to butcher a song on guitar, an instrument he’d never really excelled at. He picked up the nearest Ernie Ball, it was the 1800 dollar, 20th Anniversary Silhouette which was positioned quite close to him. He played the guitar, and I looked at it with contempt, still remembering the experience with an Axis a long time ago. I’d never played the Silhouette, but I just assumed it had the same neck as the Axis, but with a double cutaway body. My friend got a phone call, and was just sitting there holding the guitar. I decided to take his seat, and he handed me the guitar. The transformation had begun…

The Specs: It’s a 24 Fret, Dimarzio Loaded beast of simplicity with no tremolo, locking tuners, three way pickup selector, volume and tone knobs. The top is an odd beast, a layered top like a triple ply pickguard, but with wood, plastic, then wood again. It was different, to say the least, from anything else i’d ever seen, as most guitars with plastic around the side consisted of cheap plastic binding, but this was a black plastic with a maple veneer on the top. Very attractive.

The Neck: This was what converted me. My hands fell into an immediate pattern which i’d never felt before. A different kind of comfort i’d never felt on medium jumbo frets. They were spectacularly finished, and with 24 of them, I was in heaven. My ideal prescription for a guitar consists of a 24 fret neck, and one as good as this will most definitely go on my list when some company comes to approach me about building a signature guitar. (I won’t hold my breath) It was smooth, unfinished (They did a bang up job!) and despite being a bolt-on, I felt no limitations like I would on a Fender Strat or Telecaster.

The Body: This might be the only thing I’ve got a problem with. The horns are stretched a little much for my tastes. The bottom one has a perfect curve to it, but the top is a little long, giving it an almost Danelectro Longhorn look to it. But it was perfectly contoured for playing, which is really all that matters. I say that knowing perfectly well that BC Rich wouldn’t be as well known as they are had feel been all that matters when people were buying guitars (Another review some time). Qualms aside, it was light, the pickups fit in there perfectly, and there was no clutter to it; just a beautiful looking guitars. Also, since my ideal guitar has a fixed bridge, (Though a trem is an option on some 20th anniversary Silhouettes) this one is starting to fit the bill as one of my favorite guitars.

The Electronics: Simple active (I am mistaken. An eloquent comment proved me wrong. What I thought was active pickups, was actually a piezo preamp.) circuitry with Dimarzio pickups. I’ve always been a fan of Dimarzios, but these just had a different dynamic, which was excellent. The were clear and crisp in all settings with no muddiness like some single coils tend to do, and some stock Humbuckers. Though, I’m not a big fan of active circuitry, as most people can’t find a 9 Volt battery when they need one.

The Hardware: Good bridge, nice knobs, what else is there?

The Whole shebang: Now, what I mentioned before was that the only other Ernie Ball I really had enjoyed was the JP signature, and I have a feeling this guitar took some of it’s ideas from John Petrucci’s ideas for Ernie Ball. The neck is probably the exact same one, and the fact that the action is perfect shows that a real player had something to do with it, not someone trying to make one-off guitars without caring about playability. (Gibson SGs, anyone?) As simple as it is, this is a great guitar. It feels great, sounds great (even through a cheap amp), looks great, and is a product of American craftsmanship, of which I am a huge proponent. The Ernie ball 20th Anniversary Silhouette has brought me back into the realm of Ernie Ball, and I’m here to stay.

However, i’m not going to give it the A+ that the Charvel had. This Ernie Ball has everything i’d ever want in a guitar, no hassles, fuss or anything that would bother me, and it would sound amazing. The Charvel I reviewed only had 22 frets, and it had a Floyd Rose, some of my biggest irritations in guitars. The thing is, there was an electricity I felt when I picked up that Charvel; an almost undescribable feeling that just made me want to play, and I thought it was an amazing guitar. This Silhouette is, without question, my ideal guitar, and something that fulfills that criteria is a diamond in the rough. I want it to be my next guitar, even if they triple the price. However, it didn’t inspire me like that Charvel, and for that it get’s an A. That plus is reserved for something out of this world.
Pros: Everything is fantastic. My ideal guitar, all the way.
Cons: None.

The Grade:

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Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, Charvel, Ernie ball, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, music, Music Man, Silhouette

The Charvel San Dimas 1H

Charvel1h

You look at that picture, what do you see? Do you see 80’s metal? Do you see an instrument indicative of an antiquated style of playing? These can be some of the emotions evoked by Charvel’s return to the guitar market. However, don’t be fooled. The only things Charvel about this guitar are the neck and the logo. The rest is made, pretty much, by everyone else. Seymour Duncan humbucker, Floyd Rose floating bridge and nut, Fender Strat body. Hell, Charvel and Jackson were bought by Fender, so they can cut the corners on the design process. So all in all, it’s a pretty standard looking guitar.

But when you pick it up, plug it in, and your fingers hit that board…

…you feel something that can only be described as magic.

The Specs: Alder body, Seymour Duncan TB14 humbucker, Standard Fender Strat body, bolt-on hard rock maple neck, ebony fretboard, 22 jumbo frets, original Floyd Rose, all wrapped up in the classic Charvel package. This is the essence of the words “Superstrat.” It is a simple guitar with one pickup, one volume knob, and a bridge that really looks like it’s floating there. There’s no pocket routing, and all of the electronics are from the back. The only thing on the front of the body is the pickup, one knob and a bridge. This is bauhaus minimalism, folks.

The neck: The first thing I do when I touch a guitar is wrap my left hand around the neck. I get a feel for how thick it is, how round it is, how flat the fretboard radius is, the finish on the neck, and the action of the frets. I’ll tell you, i’ve played 3 of the San Dimas 1Hs, and every single time I wrapped my hand around that neck, I didn’t let go. I picked it up and sat there for an hour with it every time. The neck that they put on this thing seems to epitomize perfection in neck form. It’s not paper thin as to make you want to flatten your hand, and it’s not bulky thick. Think about a fine line between an ibanez Wizard and an Ernie Ball Music Man. And now that I think about it, my descriptions can’t do it justice. My hand just seemed to have a mind of its own when I played this guitar. The action was perfect, the frets were finished perfectly, and they didn’t blast up and down the neck, they glided. As always, i’ve got to have my gripes. Usually, I love the feel of a through-neck guitar, but the bolt on seemed to fit perfectly here. However, the one neck complaint is the fact that there are only 22 frets. This is a super strat with plenty of room there with the lack of a neck pickup, so put 2 extra frets for that extra octave without risking a string-breaking bend.

The electronics: For what the electronics are, they’re perfect. The Seymour Duncan TB-14 was designed for Jackson/Charvel style superstrats, because they know what the buyer had in mind when they got one. They wanted to be able to move fast, and they wanted it to be comfortable, and they wanted tone to match the style. This TB14 fits perfectly with this guitar. I’m trying to avoid using a poetic cliche` to describe the tone of the guitar; Guitar magazines do it, and I can’t believe their advertising induced wordings, but this guitar truly sings. That’s it. It’s meant to be overdriven and played loudly, and these electronics fit extremely well. A coil tap might have been clever, but since they were going for the most you can do with the least stuff, they did extremely well. Granted, it’s not very versatile, but it’s not like this is going to replace your Joe Pass signature hollowbody in your jazz quartet (not unless you really want to shake things up). This is meant for speed, shredding, leads, and pretty much everything synonymous with lead playing. Simply put, this guitar was meant to take the lead.

Hardware: Perfectly finished frets resting in an ebony fretboard, simple Gotoh-style tuners. Charvel wasn’t exactly trying to reinvent the wheel here. Despite my hatred for floating bridges, nothing else would’ve fit on this guitar. It wouldn’t have had the same pinache on that rack with through-body bridge ferrules. So you’ll spend an hour restringing the thing, re-calibrating the bridge, and tuning it, but whenever you start to play it, you won’t care that you just spent over two hours making your guitar perfect again.

The Whole Shebang: Simply stated, this guitar is magnificient. When you pick it up, it tells you exactly what you’re going to play on it. You’re going to want to play Eruption, Hot For Teacher, or some sort of 80’s shred fest with some sort of galloping rhythm. And since it is a very expensive guitar for something so simple as a standard alder Strat body with a maple neck and ebony fretboard, you’re going to get it perfectly set up. The Floyd Rose will be parallel to the body, new strings, perfectly tuned, ultra-low action, and perfectly intonated. You’re going to realize it’s got limitations without a neck pickup, 24 frets, a fixed bridge, a tone control, or a through neck. But trust me on this, you’re going to forget every single one of those things whether you’re playing it through a 15 watt Crate or a Marshall JCM 900. Every one of those possible flaws I felt I could never get over, just seemed to disappear. Amazing, this guitar makes you not care about anything that might be wrong with it. That’s powerful stuff.

The Pros: Perfect neck, perfect frets, looks gorgeous, perfect tone for that guitar, feels perfect. Absolutely perfect.

The Cons: It’s about as versatile as a drag racer, but you only get a drag racer for one reason. 22 frets? No tone knob? No fixed bridge? No thru neck? No one cares.

The Grade:

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Filed under Charvel, Charvel San Dimas 1h, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar rant, guitar review, Jackson guitars, San Dimas

Why I Dislike Guitar Center.

Edit: A few months later, I realize that hate is such a strong word.

Preface: I’ve been to 6 different Guitar Centers. Hollywood, San Marcos, La Mesa, San Diego (pre La Mesa move), San Francisco, and San Francisco 2 (pre Van Ness move). So I think i’ve seen enough Guitar Center’s to accurately complain about them, but that’s up to you. Lets get started.

Guitar Center is the bane of the guitarists existence; the be-all end-all of guitar stores for the guitarist’s vernacular. When someone wants to try out guitars, they go to Guitar Center. When someone wants to buy an amplifier, they go to Guitar Center. When someone needs just about any musical gear, they go to Guitar Center. Every person who’s ever been to one knows the feeling they get. You’re outside the door and you hear someone butchering a popular song; Stairway to Heaven, One by Metallica, or some Green Day. At any other time, you’d be irritated, but when you walk in, you completely ignore that kid playing an American Telecaster on Neck Pickup through a Line 6 on full distortion, you ignore the guy who’s always too loud when he plays a small combo, and you forget the Metalhead shredding his pants off at the Mesa Boogie Triple rectifier. You see that wall of guitars and think “Damn, I want that wall.” Then it all sets in. The attractive woman at the door (I’ve been meaning to ask, but it might sound rude asking “Why are all of the guitar center door people attractive women” as I might sound creepy coming from a guy in a faded hat, old sandals, shorts, and an ACDC shirt that’s too big) says hello to you, you start looking for that guitar you want to play around with, and there are already 10 people’s eyes watching you, judging you.

Now why would I take time out of my day to rant about Guitar Center? Simple. Guitar Center is a business, and their business is music, so they run music like a business. Confused? I’ll explain.

The Levels: When you or I walk into a Guitar Center, everything is thought out about how it should look when we walk in. Their gear is organized in levels on the walls. They symbolize yearning and affordability, so basically the lower it is, the easier to buy, and with the elevation increase on that wall of guitars, the price follows suit. But the proof is in the pudding, so here’s an analysis of the “levels.”

The Low Level: The Squiers, Mexican Strats, Jackson Dinkys, PRS SE’s, Epiphone Les Pauls, BC Rich bolt-ons, Ibanez’s low numbered RGs, Jasmine acoustics, Baby Taylors, Fender acoustics, and so on. Usually, the lowest guitars are the guitars meant to introduce people to playing the instrument, and they only cost 100-300 dollars. So you’d think that they’re there for the new guitarist? One would hope so. These are the Guitars that the parents buy for their kids on Christmas, the younger player gets when they save money, and the older person gets to try and rekindle their youth. However, the companies that make the guitars are trying to keep a steady profit while also selling expensive instruments. Rarely does a company specialize in top of the line gear without making cheap stuff to keep the money flowing in. The thing about the cheap stuff is that the companies don’t really care about it. They use cheap materials, cheap labor, and no quality control. These mass produced instruments should be used by no one, but there’s no getting around it. The companies don’t set the guitars up when they send them to Guitar Center, so when that young kid who gets a guitar complains that his fingers have been hurting too much, his strings keep breaking, and the sound keeps cutting out, it’s because there’s absolutely no setting up at the factory. I actually feel like the companies might be deliberately keeping the action on guitars high so people will want the more expensive ones, therefore associating easiness with the more expensive guitars. These cheap guitars are meant to be played for about a year, then the person either gives up guitar or is forced to buy a better guitar.

The Middle: At mid-level are the middle range guitars which are good bang for your buck instruments which will last awhile, and still sound pretty good. I’m talking the Ibanez Prestiges, Fender American Strats and Teles, Jackson bolt-on Soloists, Gibson Faded models, Schecters, Takamine and Parkwood acoustics, amongst plenty of others which cost anywhere from 400-1000. These are actually good guitars, but they don’t have the construction quality of the upper level guitars. These are the guitars for the player who wants to upgrade or get another guitar of equal quality to another guitar. They are perfect backups to the ultra expensive guitars, and are great for experiments customization such as pickups, hardware, and different wiring. Guitar Center puts these there because they are slightly harder to reach than the cheap ones, therefore signifying that someone might know what they’re doing if they’re going out of their way to grab one. These guitars are semi-well set up, which means the guitar player used to the cheap guitar might associated these guitars with something better, and give them a reason to beg their parents for one. Personally, i’d save up for a better one, but for a temporary halt to the begging of your kids, these will work for about 5 months.

The Upper Level: These are the instruments you’re supposed to aspire to, and they take a months pay to get. Gibson Les Pauls, Fender Player’s choice american Strats, Jackson American Soloists, Charvel San Dimas’, Ernie Ball Music Man, PRS Santanas, BC Rich Platinums, Ibanez JEMs, and pretty much any guitar from 1000 to 5000 dollars. These are the instruments that the companies know you want, so Guitar Center puts them out of reach. You’re only supposed to look at these things until you can actually get one, and rarely does anyone have the brass to ask a Guitar Center sales person to reach down a $3000 Gibson Les Paul Supreme unless they have the money to afford one. These guitars are made with good quality materials, most likely constructed in America (Partly the reason for the price), and they have been professionally set up. If anyone gets a chance to pick one up, the company wants you to know that this represents the best in instruments and is what the pros use.

First you get the money: Guitar Center makes musical instruments a Corporation style event, and while you’re looking for the best instrument for yourself, they just want you to buy anything. They don’t really care if you get the best deal, really love the instrument, or if you’re getting a quality instrument. The salespeople are paid on commission, and the prices of everything are hiked up in the first place. That means that the Fender Telecaster that says 400 dollars plus tax, you can probably get it for 350 flat if you actually talk to the sales person. Experience shows that a Fender Fretless Jazz bass for 450 plus tax can be bought for 375 with no tax. The sales people are willing to haggle because they just want you to buy anything. That’s why they wander around the store aimlessly looking for their next victim, and I referenced it when I talked about the experience of entering guitar center and seeing the 10 people judge you. 5 of those people are the wandering musicians in the store, and the other 5 are salespeople figuring out how much money you might spend. That’s why if you’re dressed as a college student, you’ll get the cold shoulder, but if you’re an older man, if you’re a mom with your son, or if you just look rich, the salespeople will swarm you like vultures to a dead gazelle.
What does it all mean?: Guitar center wants you to think that the best guitar for you is the one at the top of the wall, they want you to think that the most expensive thing must be the best thing. You have to look up to see it, you have to think about it from afar, and it catches your eyes and memory, so you have to associate it with the best.

But it’s not. In fact, there is no best, especially not the ones at Guitar Center.

Guitar Center doesn’t really put competing guitars and gear in their store. There’s only a handful of modeling amps there, mostly Line 6, but there are lots of others out there which are better, and better priced. There are only a few of each expensive guitar at the store, and there are limited options, but the company has made thousands of these expensive guitars. There’s only one Fender Eric Johnson strat at each Guitar Center at a given time, and it’s to keep up the idea that it’s being sold (Don’t get me wrong, the Eric Johnson strat is one of the best sounding guitars ever made). They only sell the Line 6 Pod, when there are actually a good amount of other Pods out there for a better price and more functionality (Behringer V-amp, Johnson J-Station). There are literally thousands of distortion pedals out there, and Guitar Center usually has about 30 of them, mostly Boss and Digitech.

The companies out there actually pay Guitar Center to keep one of a certain iconic object available, instead of giving options that would be available had there been more.

Sadly, there’s no alternative. Mom-and-pop stores are pretty much nonexistant, their prices can’t compete, and there’s no one out there willing to fight Guitar Center’s unorthodox style of musical instrument selling. And what should be a fun hobby/joy/profession such as music, is instead turned into a car dealership.

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Filed under center, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, Guitar store, music

The Floating Bridge

If there’s anything more troublesome and nuisance ridden in the world of guitars than the floating bridge, I have yet to find it.For those of you unaware of what a floating bridge, as you might be living in the land of Fender Synchro trems or Fixed bridges, it’s the mechanism on the bridge that uses string tension to hold it up, with spring tension to pull it back. And in order for it to work properly, you need to reach a perfect equilibrium between the springs in the back of the guitar, and the guitar strings on the front of the guitar to get the “Floating” action. What this does, is it gives you both upwards and downwards motion on the tremolo bar instead of downward on the Fender strat-style tremolo.
The Edge Pros, Floyd Roses, Kahlers and all of the others. Sure they are great if you’re into divebombing and whammy coloration of your notes, but for the sheer trouble they cause, I find them terrible.

Setting up: Floating bridges are the worst to set up. For the floyd roses, you have to cut the ball ends off of the string and clamp them into the bridge. Ibanez at least had the right idea with the Edge Pro which allows you to leave the ball on, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a floating bridge. Still, you need tools to tighten the clamps at the bridge on all floating bridges. If you own a guitar with a floating bridge, you will ALWAYS need tools when changing strings.

Tuning: You’ve got your new nickel-steel janglies on your guitar, and now comes the process of getting that bridge to be at a perfect equilibrium with the rest of the guitar. The bridge has to be level, and all of the strings have to be in tune. Through the tedious process of tightening the spring claw, tuning over and over again, you may finally reach the point where you can call it tuned, but it will take awhile. Sure, you can change them one at a time, leaving the rest on, but the others are being replaced because they are dirty, and therefore not the same as clean strings. They’re soaked in sweat, corrosion what have you, and have a different effect on the floating bridge.

Alternate Tunings: Don’t even think about it. If you’re commited to floating bridges, get a different guitar for every tuning. If you tune one string down, another goes up. Tune a string up, the others go down.

Solutions: There are products out there like the Trem Setter, the tremol-no and some others, but the best one is to avoid the thing altogether. I get that you like the freedom of a whammy bar, but please, think of the tuning!

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Filed under floyd rose, guitar, guitar rant, tremolos, Whammy Bar

Carvin’s 60th Anniversary Celebration

For such a company with a reputation, they did a terrible job. Since i’m a San Diego native, I wanted to go to their factory and see what was happening for the 60th anniversary. Carvin has a bunch of good people under their name like Steve Vai, Tony Macalpine and Allan Holdsworth, and they were all going to be there for their anniversary. Not only that, but CAB was playing, so I wanted to be there. These are some of the most talented musicians alive, playing some of the highest quality instruments around, so I had high expectations for good reason.

I got there at 10 AM when it opened, and my friend and I took the factory tour. Very cool factory, lots of good machinery and technology for guitar building. The sad thing was that it was limited to 15 minutes per tour, and I wanted to see more. The make some awesome instruments, and it’s nice to know that your guitar is set up by a real guitarist instead of someone in a large factory in a foreign country.

We got outside, and I went into their showroom. Based on the recommendations ofguitarists and aficionados, i’ve had extremely high hopes for Carvin. So I played all of the different models; bolt ons, through necks, semihollows, Holdsworth models, amongst plenty of others. And I regret to say that based on personal opinion, not only did I find nothing special, I didn’t like any of the guitars. The holdsworth’s neck was HUGE, not to my liking, and much was the same for the rest. These were instruments built for speed and tone, yet had the comfort of a wood block. As a person who likes thin necks, Carvin is not my bag. I’d take a Jackson, a Charvel, Ibanez, or any of the others before i’d want a Carvin. They seem to tailor to the big-handed, not the small handed guys with comfort in mind. Don’t get me wrong, they look FANTASTIC, and they represent fantastic workmanship! But they don’t feel that way. Professionally set up, showroom models of their best guitars were unimpressive, at best. The reason I liked Carvin were for their beautiful carved tops, the fantastic choices of wood, and the American made quality, but when I got my hands on it, it wasn’t what I wanted. Think of it as seeing the most beautiful car you’ve ever seen, driving by you on your block every week and teasing you, only to find out that the thing drives like bread dough, and has the engine from a go kart. Sure it looks great, but it’s not something you could use.

I left the place at around 11:30 because there were only a few bad local bands playing, but I went back at 3:30 to see CAB playing. As I got there, I saw Steve Vai was signing autographs, but I wasn’t about to wait in line for 5 minutes (i’ll get to this short wait), i’d rather see CAB. I walked over to the stage, and then CAB started to play about 5 minutes later. CAB would’ve been awesome, had the sound guy not been absolutely dismal. There were no more than 100-200 at the entire place, yet they had sound worthy of an outdoor festival. Not only that, but the guy behind the soundboard didn’t think to turn down the rest of the band a little when someone was soloing, he would turn the soloist up, and that was it. So basically, the one person soloing would be turned up, and the rest would be the same, in turn making the entire place louder, instead of keeping it even. Even worse, when 2 people were soloing, they were too loud, and they clashed like neon green parachute pants and a black sport coat. When Tony Macalpine was dueling with Patrice Rushen, you couldn’t really tell what was going on due to the overwhelming sound. Carvin makes lots of sound gear, you think they could find a decent sound guy. Spectacular to see the drum mics die out right when Virgil Donati goes into his monster solo…

The only highlight of it all was having Steve Vai jump onstage with CAB, but it was ruined by the horrible sound guy who was too far away to understand what the crowd was hearing. That’s why all venue’s put the sound guy in the middle so they can get an even feel of what everyone’s hearing, not put them 100 feet from a tiny stage.

As I was leaving and LIT was playing (Yes…Lit) to a crowd of 40 people compared to CAB’s 100, I saw Steve Vai sitting there alone at a table, but felt no desire to meet him. I’m fine not meeting my idols. He was sitting with Tony Macalpine and Bunny Brunel for their signings, but for some reason I don’t really find joy in getting autographs.

Carvin should’ve gone all out for this. There were some of the best musicians alive at this place, and only 200 people were there at most. They took out a full page ad in Bass Player, and put in on their website, but made no real effort to inform the city about it. It was completely free, and Steve Vai alone could’ve drawn 500 people, but he was sitting there signing autographs to a crowd of 30 people. But it’s too late now, the whole thing was terrible. I expected a whole lot, and got a whole lot of nothing.

My apologies Carvin. Your potential is outweighed by your utter disregard for those of the people who went to your event which was a major milestone. And for that, you will not receive my business. Keep sending me those catalogs though, free guitar pornography is just fine.

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Filed under 60th Anniversary, Bunny Brunel, CAB, Carvin, guitar, guitar rant, music, Steve Vai, Tony Macalpine