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The Vigier Excalibur

Vigier Excalibur

The Vigier Excalibur

The Vigier Excalibur is the only guitar I have ever purchased on reputation alone. I had never played one, only seen them at trade shows and in videos. Every week for a few years, I would check Ebay for one that didn’t cost the full $3000+, and finally bid on this…this thing. A guitar collector was thinning out his herd, and I got it for $1500, still the most expensive guitar I own. It’s a gaudy grey-blue type of camouflage finish with a mirrored pickguard. I saw the pictures and could not believe that such a thing was ever ordered from a factory, but I still abide by the rules that guitars should be played and not seen, and I bought it for the purpose of playing it, not looking at it.

Getting it: I had UPS hold it at their shipping hub because I would rather pick it up myself than let a driver leave it on my front porch. I went to the South San Francisco UPS hub, which is almost an entire zip code of brown, lunch boxy trucks.

I opened the box and was laughing at the finish, chrome hardware and the pickguard. Also, the all-maple neck looks like a bright offshoot from a decorative scheme better suited for a monster truck.

The details: of it that matter to me are: Dimarzio pickups, 24 fret, one piece maple neck with no truss rod (a Vigier 90/10

Zero Fret!

Zero Fret!

neck, which I will explain shortly), Gotoh tuners, Vigier spec Floyd Rose with bearings instead of knife edge, a zero fret and locking nut. Yes, all a bunch of jargon that means nothing to anyone other than a guitar nerd, but I kept it short so I could get to the part in the narrative that matters:

The “duh” moment: Then I plugged it in and played it. (What did you think I was going to say? Then I stir-fried it with sesame oil and kale)

It’s easy to play. Really easy. What this means is that the wall between inspiration and creation is much easier to scale. (Zing!) The easier a guitar is to play, or any instrument for that matter, it means one less hurdle between hearing something in your head and recreating it with your ears. Some guitars are difficult to play, but make interesting music too, hearing a musician tackle a difficult instrument for our amusement. The Tuba comes to mind…

The Vigier is a super-strat. After years of Jackson, Ibanez, Charvel, ESP and whoever else had long haired humans in their advertisements, the Vigier Excalibur is one that fits me better.

No truss rod: Goodness no. It’s so nice to have a neck which is just one piece of something. It’s all glued together to make a solid…thing. No nuts, bolts, steel or air pockets in it. The relief is perfect, and  I leave the same gauge strings on it (46-9 hybrid stainless slinkys) so I have no idea what would happen if I put anything else on.

What I did to it: I put a Tremol-no in to stop the bridge from floating, I put a push pull pot for the volume to get single coil sounds, rewired the pickup selector to change what each setting did, and the person who bought it put a much bigger brass block for the bridge. All of these make this my deserted island guitar. Well,

as long as I had an amp, my effects, plenty of power, and a recording studio. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you probably aren’t reading this sentence because you stopped earlier.

Conclusion: I have always wanted to write about my Vigier Excalibur, but have just realized that most of the things I like about it are hard to put into words.

Tremol-No and Big brass block.

Tremol-No and Big brass block.

There’s a lot to be said about a guitar I have left plugged in for 3 years with amps turned on for 3 years (Not hyperbole…) so I can always pick it up and play electric guitar. No switches to hit, just a volume knob and wham. Immediate. It  would almost be more suited for a Youtube video of me playing it for 20 minutes. This little vignette on one of my favorite objects on earth hardly does it any justice. I’ll work on it.



1 Comment

August 20, 2013 · 5:46 pm

Takamine EG334-SC


It’s smiling.

I used to try and write reviews for guitars, but now I’m just going to write my personal experiences with them. Paul Riario does enough work for everyone.

This is my Takamine EG334SC. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. For 4 years running, this is a guitar I have always had handy, and it’s also the guitar I will never sell. It’s a 600 dollar guitar that was a correction of a mistake: I drunkenly purchased a different acoustic guitar the day before and in a bit of generosity the salesman gave me a “Learn from your mistakes” deal. I still think the guitar feels good to play no matter how hungover I was. Here are some unrelatable facts about it.

The Specs: Laminate ovangkol back and sides on the body, I don’t have to worry about the back getting broken. The spruce top is  as memorable as any top on a sub-1000 dollar guitar (it’s not memorable). I have taken it with me to be the “Guy in the park with a guitar” many times, and the only thing that’s ever happened to it was a guy with a mohawk, Black Flag t-shirt, and studs everywhere put a sticker on it. (Sticker application is apparently a territory marking statement for Punk Rockers, but I’ll save that for my anthropology blog.) Luckily the finish is a thick coat of gloss Polyurethane, so it can stand up to some stronger solvents like acetone.

The Neck: 20 frets with cutaway access, an average C-shaped neck profile, Grover tuners, rosewood fretboard, dot inlays and all other standard neck-related things for an acoustic. Acoustic necks need to be a bit more robust to handle the extra tension of acoustic strings, but this one fits me fine. Reminds me a bit of my Telecaster neck. It’s not a well built neck. The fret tops are level, but the fretboard isn’t. It looks crappily made, but it plays fine. It adheres to my rules of guitars being played/heard and not seen. It’s an acoustic guitar, any more talk about it and I’ll end up convincing myself it’s worthwhile to buy a 6000 dollar acoustic guitar…

Accidental Soundport!

Accidental Soundport!

What I did to it: This is the fun part: it came with a big set of electronics (Stay tuned for an anti-electronics-in-acoustic-guitars post…). It was a large black plastic box with a built in tuner and some equalizer junk cut right into the side of the guitar. Like any reasonable guitar owner, I removed it and threw it away, leaving a large hole in the side. I had read about sound ports in guitars, but I have never been gutsy enough to cut one into my own (I’ll happily do it to yours. and by ridding my guitar of the extra weight of cheaply made electronics, I got an added bonus: it sounds great. The sound comes straight to me as a player, and I get more nuances. I also put a microphone near the accidental hole for recording. Makes me feel like I’m Jimmy Page doing some weird recording voodoo.

If I get gored in Africa, we'll call it even.

If I get gored in Africa, we’ll call it even.

After removing the “box of gross” I needed to put a new saddle in the bridge. I wanted something fast and cheap so I spent 3 hours making the slot bigger and lowered the bridge so I could use a piece of water buffalo horn. That sentence is nonsense, but truthful nonsense. I wanted water buffalo horn in my guitar, dammit. So I made my wish come true. I noticed no difference in sound, but I felt great about my choices in life. I would love to say I could hear the differences in all of these things, but I’m not Eric Johnson, and I might even doubt that Eric Johnson is Eric Johnson.

More to the story: I leave this guitar out in my apartment in hopes that someone I live with might pick it up and start learning. It’s also a conversation piece to see a big ugly hole in a purely utilitarian acoustic guitar. It’s my campfire guitar (by the fire, not in it) that I can take with me. I’ve had the same frayed Elixir strings on it for 2 years, and it’s still a dream to play with its “almost-too-buzzy” action. It’s the guitar I keep around in hopes that when I’m famous, I can sign it and sell it for charity and get a gigantic tax write-off. It may be the next Blackie hanging in a billionaire’s music museum. That would be a shame, I want it played. Alright, I’ll keep it.

If only guitars could talk. Wait.

1 Comment

August 5, 2013 · 1:43 pm