Here’s something I whipped up a few months ago just fer laffs.
In the video I’m using an Ibanez RG550MXX 20th Anniversary reissue in roadflare red (#1083 out of 1987), a Marshall DSL50 head, AxeTrak isolated speaker cabinet, MXR/CAE Boost/Overdrive, and MXR Carbon Copy Delay.
The Charvel Surfcaster debuted in 1992 and at the time it was a bit of an anachronism. A little too early to cash in on the grunge-inspired attraction to vintage designs, and a little too late for the kind of clean-toned, ‘The Cure’ type tones it excelled at, the Surfcaster’s most notable user was probably Anthrax’s Scott Ian, who used one for the clean tones in the track ‘Black Lodge’ from The Sound Of White Noise and was pictured with one on the cover of a 1993 edition of Guitar World. These semi-hollow, lipstick pickup-toting axes never quite got the respect they deserved, although those who did buy them evidently loved them because it’s quite rare to see them on the used market. When you do find them, expect to pay around USD$1,000. The Surfcaster design lived on until 2005, by which time it had been shifted to sister company Jackson, with production moved from Japan to India. Personally I’d love to see Surfcasters return to regular production under Charvel.
I love these retro designs. The SGV series was probably a bit to wild for most players, with its slight upside-down melted Rickenbacker bass look and unconventional whammy bridge which worked great when you gave it a little TLC but was maybe a little too high maintenance for some. The SGV-800 (and the more upscale SGV-1200) had a pair of P90-style single coils which were fat and growly. The SGV-700 (and lower-priced little buddy the SGV-300) rocked a smaller single coil and a very unique humbucker. The retro/modern look wasn’t lost on Meegs from Coal Chamber, who used a black custom shop SGV with twin humbuckers, a fixed bridge, drop-tuning lever on the low E string, and number-shaped fretboard position markers, Jason Becker-style. You can find SGVs on eBay and in pawnshops pretty regularly and while they were underappreciated in their day, a little set-up know-how makes them a bargain well worth seeking out today.
Washburn Steve Stevens
These models were advertised somewhat heavily in the guitar magazines when Stevens was a member of Motley Crue singer Vince Neil’s solo band circa 1993. I remember seeing the truss rod adjustment at the base of the neck, as well as the 2-humbucker, 1 volume, 1 tone control layout and thinking “Dude’s trying to make a Strat-style guitar out of an Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halen.” Funnily enough, by the time the Vince Neil tour rolled around, Stevens was playing… Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halens. There were three versions of Washburn’s Steve Stevens signature guitar: two Chicago custom shop-built models (the SS80 and SS100) and the Korean-made SS40. The SS100 had a white front with a Frankenstein graphic and black back and sides, while the SS80 was solid black. Pickups were a set of slanted Seymour Duncan JBs, and the body wood was poplar. Check out this old-school Washburn advertisement.
CLICK HERE to see Yamaha SGV guitars on eBay.
Fender Tommy Emmanuel Telecaster
Tommy Emmanuel is well known for his amazing acoustic playing, but those who started following Tommy’s career in recent years might be surprised to know he once had a signature Fender Telecaster. Very similar in design to Fender’s Nashville Telecaster, this Mexico-made axe was made exclusively for the Australian market, and it added a Strat-style middle single coil to the traditional Telecaster layout. It also had a six saddle bridge with old-school saddles (not those big flat ones like you see on Deluxe series Fenders), and a blue finish which recalled, without directly copying, Tommy’s blue Fender Custom Shop Telecaster, which had three black Bartolini single coils and white body binding. Tommy’s main Telecaster squeeze though was a gorgeous 66 Custom, also with Bartolonis. See that one here. (Fender Tommy Emmanuel Telecaster photo from the Fendertalk forums).
Ibanez Steve Lukather (SL1010SL)
Steve Lukather’s current Ernie Ball Music Man signature is so kickass a guitar that it’s easy to forget that in the early-mid 80s he had a signature Ibanez. Part of the Roadstar II series, Luke’s model featured a carved birdseye maple top on a basswood body, a maple neck with ebony fretboard, two Ibanez humbuckers (a Super 58 in the neck and an SL Special – essentially an overwound Super 58 – in the bridge position), 22 frets, subtle cross inlays, coil splitting performed via the volume and tone pots, and the much-maligned Pro Rock’r bridge, which had a locking nut and fine tuners but wasn’t as stable as Ibanez’s later Edge series models.
I’ve been a bit too busy this week to follow the whole Chickenfoot live fiesta, but luckily Lewis from Japan Guitar Journeys has kept on top of it. Check out this post on his blog, where you’ll find live performances of Down The Drain, Montrose’s Bad Motor Scooter, Soap On A Rope, Running Out, Future In The Past, Bitten By The Wolf, Deep Purple’s Highway Star, and Sexy Little Thing.
Here’s Sexy Little Thing to get you started.
Want a vintage 1982 Ibanez TS-808 Overdrive pedal? Yeah, me too. Well you have the chance to win one and also contribute to the great pool of guitar knowledge with Tonepedia.com
Here’s some info from Tonepedia:
Here is your chance to win an Original (not a reissue) 1982 Ibanez Ts-808 Overdrive pedal- The most desirable overdrive pedal ever created. Stevie Ray Vaughan used it- and now you can too!
Listen to sound samples we made with it here.
All you have to do is to upload sound samples to www.Tonepedia.com.
How do I do that?
1) Visit our site and register.
2) Add your guitar gear to your personal profile.
3) Upload Mp3 sound samples of the gear you added.
The contest ends on June 15th 2009.
The winners will be announced on the 4th of July
What is Tonepedia.com?
Tonepedia.com is a user generated website for electric guitars and gear.
Its main feature is audio sound samples with detailed information about the elements (guitar, amplifier, speakers etc.) that were used to create the sample.
It\’s completely free and anyone can register and contribute.
The user with the best sound sample will win the big prize (The TS808)!
The five runner ups will receive Dean Markley strings!
Remember! The more different samples you upload, the more chance you have to win!
How are we going to decide on the winner?
The sound samples will be judged using the following criteria:
* Playability, sound quality, etc.
* Popularity: Number of views and comments.
* Text and information used to describe the relevant gear and sound sample.
One of the big surprises for most visitors to the NAMM convention in Anaheim, California this year was the revelation that Ernie Ball Music Man were releasing a new sub-brand called Sterling which would recreate some of the iconic company’s best-known designs, while keeping costs down by using Asian manufacturing facilities. “Hang on,” I hear you saying. “Wasn’t that the point of those O.L.P EBMM copies?” Well yeah. Those O.L.Ps (which are quite playable and well-made for the price point) are pitched at the lower end of the market, while Sterling By Music Man is aimed more towards the middle (although the introductory prices seem extremely reasonable). So where does the additional money go, and what kind of guitar do you get for it?
OUT OF THE DARKNESS AND INTO THE LIGHT
The Silhouette is one of Ernie Ball Music Man’s longest standing models, and over the years variations have been used by no less a guitarist than the great Keith Richards, shredder Vinnie Moore and Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden. That’s a pretty wide range of guitar royalty right there, and it gives you an idea of just how adaptable the Silhouette is. The basswood Silo20 has a humbucker-single-humbucker configuration, 5-way pickup selector switch (positions 2 and 4 split the humbucker’s coils into singles in conjunction with the middle pickup), volume and tone controls and a string-through hardtail bridge. The maple neck is attached with a 5-bolt joint, has 24 frets on a maple fretboard, and is topped off with locking tuners.
Construction is very solid for a guitar in this price range. Particular care has been taken with the fret ends. They’re not quite as finessed as a USA-built top shelf Ernie Ball Music Man instrument, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a rough spot along the fretboard edge. Combined with the asymmetrical neck carve, which slopes in towards the treble strings (picture an aerofoil kind of shape but fatter) and the result is a very comfortable, playable instrument which seems to mould to your body.
I AM THE MUSIC MAN
Sterling, meet Marshall. The words kinda sound like a couple of Connecticut guys being introduced at the yacht club, but the sonic results certainly don’t. The Sterling-designed pickups, which are based on Alnico magnets, are very hot and powerful. There’s a kind of dark vibe, with powerful bass and almost fuzzy highs, while with the exception of a little upper-midrange spike they sound quite scooped in the mids. This seems to emphasise the percussiveness of the tone, making the Silo20 a great choice for palm-muted pop-punk riffs or, with higher gain levels, all-out chugging metal. Digging in with the pick brings out some cool overtones, and the excellent upper fret access really shows off how good these pickups sound when you move up to the widdly end of the neck. The high end gets tamed a little and the pickups positively scream, in the best possible way. The single coil is definitely more spanky than sweet, and is especially good for country, funk and soul sounds. The output is high enough that it can hang with the humbuckers without breaking a sweat.
INVEST IN THE STERLING
The Sterling brand is a bold move for Ernie Ball Music Man but I think they’ve got it right. Is playing the Silo20 like playing a USA-made Silhouette? Nope. But taken on its own merits it’s a very well made, great-sounding mid-price guitar that gives a slice of the Ernie Ball Music Man experience without breaking the bank.
At the dawn of the 90s, Eddie Van Halen aligned with Ernie Ball Music Man to develop his first signature guitar. Though he was previously associated with his self-cobbled creations and some Kramer models, he’d never put his name on a commercially available axe, and the whole guitar world was looking. I’m sure at the time that the expectation was of a single-pickup Silhouette with a Floyd Rose tremolo, single volume knob and a red finish with black and white stripes. So when they unveiled the Edward Van Halen model, with its quilted maple top, Les Paul-meets-Telecaster shape and twin humbuckers, it was quite controversial.
BE A SPORT
Eddie’s association with Ernie Ball Music Man didn’t last, but his model lives on (with subtle changes) as the AXIS, and it’s upon this model’s Super Sport variation that the Sterling By Music Man AX20 is based. The AX20 has the same twin humbucker layout with a Music Man-designed fixed bridge, a 5-way pickup selector switch, and controls for both volume and tone (the Edward Van Halen model only had a single volume control, which was capped with a knob that said TONE, the joke being that when you turn it all the way up you get good tone. Arf). The body, as with the AXIS, is basswood with a maple cap. The decision to use basswood for the Edward Van Halen model was quite controversial back in the day: a relatively flat-sounding wood, it wasn’t typically associated with high-end guitars until Ibanez started using it in Steve Vai’s Jem models in 1987.
AXIS OF …AWESOME
Having reviewed an actual Ernie Ball Music Man AXIS last month in Mixdown Magazine, the first thing I did with the AX20 was give it the ol’ once over to see how closely it measured up. The neck shape is surprisingly similar, the 5-bolt neck joint is very stable and comfortable, and the fretwork is quite respectable. There didn’t seem to be any finishing blemishes or anything of the sort. Unplugged, the AX20 has a little bit of that steely high end and midrange poke that you tend to find on a new guitar that’s not yet broken in, and which seems more present on some new guitars than others. Now, being a big fan of the DiMarzio pickups in the AXIS, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the AX20. My fears were soon dashed though, because these humbuckers sound great. I imagine they’re the same design as the ones in the Silo20 model (see my review of that model here), but the addition of the maple cap on the AX20 adds more midrange and alters the characteristic of the high end compared to the Silo20. The result is a high-output pickup which screams with harmonics and has a powerful, cutting pick attack. The neck pickup sounds full but still has a nice sizzle, and the bridge unit… well it sounds pretty darn close to the famous ‘brown sound’ – certainly closer than one could be forgiven for expecting. By the way, the pickup selections are: bridge humbucker; bridge and neck (single coil); bridge and neck (humbucker); neck (parallel – kinda like having 2 single coils), neck (humbucker). The single coil modes are snappy and funky. For non name-brand pickups these units are pretty damn special.
AX YOURSELF: IS THIS THE GUITAR FOR YOU?
The AX20 is a great guitar for the money. In fact it’s a great guitar for any money. The playability and construction aren’t quite as finessed as its USA-made daddy, but the tones are very complex, it looks sharp as all get-out, and it’s very easy to play. I feel it’s especially important to point out this: often when one buys a mid-priced guitar with proprietary pickups the first thought is ‘what pickups am I gonna replace these with?’ Well you instantly save yourself a few hundred bucks with the AX20 because it already sounds that good. Is it as good as an Ernie Ball Music Man AXIS? Nope. Does it feel like one? Well the Sterling’s neck feels a little slicker and more mass-produced, and the fretwork isn’t quite as nice as the AXIS, but the similarities are striking in terms of neck profile and overall playing experience. The AX20 and the AX40 trem version probably aren’t going to steal away any sales from the AXIS, and in a side-to-side comparison the AXIS still of course comes out on top – with that kind of pedigree that’s a given – but the AX20 comes across as a better guitar than it needs to be for the price range it’s competing in, and it more than adequately fills the gap between the cheaper OLP copies of Ernie Ball Music Man designs, and the real thing.
Just spotted this video review of the Dan Armstrong AMD100 guitar from Fat Tone Guitars. Think of this as a wood version of the ADA6 I reviewed recently.
Steve from Fat Tone Guitars deserves extra points for playing the Ziggy Stardust and All The Young Dudes riffs in this video.
Available now on iTunes is Dream Theater’s new cover of Rainbow’s ‘Stargazer.’ CLICK HERE to buy it.
The new Dream Theater album, Black Clouds & Silver Linings, will be released by Roadrunner on June 23.
CLICK HERE to order the standard edition from Amazon.com or the ad to the right to order the 3-disc special edition.
There is also a deluxe box set edition of the album, which costs $130.98 at Amazon.com. CLICK HERE to order the deluxe edition from Amazon.com. Here are the details from Dream Theater’s site:
Deluxe Collector’s Edition Box Set (3CD & DVD)
A Nightmare to Remember
A Rite of Passage
The Shattered Fortress
The Best of Times
The Count of Tuscany
6 cover Versions (TBC)
A Nightmare to Remember (Instrumental)
A Rite of Passage (Instrumental)
The Shattered Fortress (Instrumental)
The Best of Times (Instrumental)
The Count of Tuscany (Instrumental)
The Deluxe Collector’s Edition Box Set includes the full album, a CD of instrumental mixes of the album and a CD of six cover songs (the titles of which will be revealed at a later date) plus the following special features:
Stem mixes of standard CD (try your hand at producer with isolated audio tracks of the entire album)
Dream Theater mouse mat
Find a silver foil ticket (100 lucky fans win a Meet & Greet with the band)
Lithograph of cover art, numbered (100 lucky winners will find a litho signed by Hugh Syme)
Limited edition audiophile 180-gram double-LP set with exclusive artwork from Hugh Syme
On May 11 Dweezil Zappa announced on his blog that in the wake of Ray White’s departure, a chap named Ben Thomas has been named new lead vocalist of Zappa Plays Zappa.
Fun fact! Thomas recently appeared in an authorized performance of Joe’s Garage with the Open Fist Theater Company. That’s him at 1:11. (If the embedded video doesn’t work, here’s the direct link)
Here’s an excerpt from Dweezil’s post:
…We made some calls and rounded up a few terrified singers. Imagine the call, “Hello, are you interested in auditioning for a really tough gig, with a highly critical fanbase – with a 5 week tour that starts in less than a week? Still there??? Ideally you’ll need to learn 8 to 10 songs for the first week. You do have a passport, right?”
I told all of the singers that if they could walk in and sing the correct melody to “Inca Roads” without missing an entrance they would have a chance of being hired on the spot. The chances of that happening were quite slim considering we needed them to learn this song in the shortest time possible. For some only a few hours…
A few very talented singers gave it their best shot. We didn’t even make it through the first verse in most cases.
Things were not looking so good but then it happened. A young blonde-haired guy walks in to audition, says he’s heard the song before but never tried to sing until last night.
Joe rolls the toms and Billy initiates the classic marimba figure, first verse arrives – right notes, right rhythms, no mistakes! The song continues and gets increasingly more difficult. After the solo the vocal entrances are pretty tricky, once again no mistakes. After the interludes and keyboard solo we entered the home stretch – no-one made it this far before. The final entrance arrives and… He completes the entire passage on his own, not realizing it’s actually split up into separate phrases between himself and Scheila. Ultimately making it much harder on himself because of the shear lyrical density.
After a slow mo “hollywood” triumphant hand-clapping sequence we hired the guy. Ladies and Gentlemen allow us to introduce you to Ben Thomas, our new lead singer.
CLICK HERE to see my 2007 interview with Dweezil.
Small amps have been something of an un-secret secret weapon for years. I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories about Jimmy Page using small combos in the early days of Led Zeppelin. There’s just something about a small amp pushed hard that sounds great on recordings, and it’s with this in mind that Peavey designed the Windsor Studio.
This little Class A, 15-watt screamer arrives from the factory with two 12AX7 preamp tubes and one EL34 power-amp tube, but can also accommodate 6L6GC, 6550, 6CA7, KT88 and KT66 octal power tubes, as well as variations on those types. Controls include preamp volume, master volume, three-band EQ, footswitchable effects loop (with the in and out jacks located on the front panel – very studio-friendly) and a single 12” Peavey Blue Marvel loudspeaker. The footswitchable boost effectively acts as a second channel by increasing the level of the preamp, either overdriving the power amp for more distortion or for a simple volume boost for solos.
If that’s not enough control for ya, or the volume is too loud for recording with a baby in the next room or something, the Windsor Studio includes Peavey’s new Power Sponge output attenuator, which lowers the power output of the amplifier while preserving tone. Further boosting this amp’s stock as a recording guitarist’s Swiss army knife, there’s a transformer-balanced XLR direct output with microphone simulation, so you can plug directly into a mixing desk live or in the studio.
Although the ability to switch out different power tubes is a great feature, I was glad to see that this amp arrived EL34-loaded, as it’s my personal favourite. I just love that warm, compressed vibe from a cranked EL34. You can also get a rather decent amount of drive out of the preamp. It’s no grindcore amp, but there’s enough gain for most varieties of rock and a few metal styles. Combining your ideal preamp gain level with the punch and whomp of the overdriven power section (with the volume tamed to taste by the Power Sponge), you can attain a very responsive, warm lead tone with great sustain. The open back cabinet adds a nice midrange throw, and while the bass is a little lacking, this isn’t really an issue either in the studio or on stage because you’re likely to trim the low frequencies to allow room for the kickdrum and the bass guitar anyway. So you could say Peavey has already voiced this amp to sit nicely in the mix. This is worth considering and you may see it as a negative if you’ll mainly be playing unaccompanied by yourself at home though. There’s also a nice roundness to the clean tones, which is great for jazz. The amp inhabits that rare, mystery zone where the individual notes of chords maintain their definition, but the sound is still warm and full, instead of sharp and zingy. Personally I like the zing but that’s not for everyone.
The Windsor Studio is obviously designed as a studio tool (and it’s a good choice for those who want monster tube-driven tone at low levels around the house), but it has enough volume for certain live applications, and as long as you trust the PA system you could quite happily use the XLR out to feed the signal directly to the house in larger venues. It’s not the be-all and end-all of amps, and it’s not in the same league as Peavey’s higher-price items, but it its own place it’s a good alternative in the ‘small amp, easy to record’ sector. If you’re in the small amp market you might still want to check out the Orange Tiny Terror, Bogner Alchemist, Vox AC15 and Hughes & Kettner Statesman just to name a few.
Legend has it there are few guitarists who are more demanding to design signature gear for than Steve Vai (see my interview with DiMarzio pickup designer Steve Blucher for more on this). You don’t rise to such technical and compositional levels of excellence without being extremely driven, and Vai’s demands on gear companies are the thing of legend. So when he turned to Morley to design a signature wah pedal, I’m sure a few white hairs sprung up on the heads of Morley engineers.
The first cool thing about the Bad Horsie’s design is that it features switchless activation. There’s no chunky switch at the top of the pedal’s travel to stamp down on to start wah-ing. You simply put your foot on the pedal, and the effect engages. Take your foot off, and the wah effect tails off over a period of 1.5 seconds. Or you can pop the bottom off the pedal and adjust a tiny internal trim pot for your preferred off time, from instantaneously all the way up to 3.5 seconds.
The next design twist is the pedal’s operation itself. Instead of using an assembly to rotate a potentiometer when the pedal is moved like other wahs, Morley pedals use an Electro-Optical design which uses an LED light array and a light-sensitive sensor to control the wah sweep. What this means is that instead of stepping on the pedal to rotate a pot, stepping on the pedal brings the LEDs closer to the sensor, and the nearer it gets, the higher the wah tone sweep gets. The benefits are twofold: extremely smooth linear wah sweep, and best of all no pots to wear out and become scratchy and noisy. Some higher end tremolo and compressor pedals use similar technology to regulate the effect dependent on internal settings or the strength of the input signal, but it’s a logical fit for expression pedal effects.
The original Bad Horsie wah pedal – named after the opening track from Vai’s 1995 “Alien Love Secrets” EP – was a pretty big success, but because it was customised for Vai’s particular needs and rig, players wanted a little more flexibility. So the Bad Horsie 2 takes the exact sound of the original, and adds a foot switchable second mode, Contour mode, which enables the user to adjust Q and wah level.
More practical but by no means less exciting features are a Clear-Tone buffer circuit, which maintains a pure guitar tone and signal level whether in wah or bypass mode, and an easy access battery compartment which is simple to operate and extremely durable. It’s also a very heavy, robust unit, and its spring loaded design, while preventing traditional “set in one place as a tone modifier” techniques, is well suited to aggressive “stomp the bejabbers out of the pedal” styles.
By way of reference, the original Bad Horsie mode seems to be replicatable by setting the Contour control to 10 and Level to 0. Cranking up the level while on this setting thickens the tone considerably, which you can use either as a gain boost or just to compensate for thinner sounding pickups.