Fender American Design Experience Goes Online

I Heart GuitarOne of the absolute coolest things about my visit to Fender a few years ago was checking out the Fender American Design Experience, a section of the Fender Visitor Center in Corona, California where you could go in and select the parts to build your own personalised guitar or bass. It’s not quite Custom Shop but certainly more personal than a regular production guitar. And now Fender has taken this experience online, allowing you to configure your own Strat, Telecaster, Precision Bass or Jazz Bass from a wide range of options, then have the guitar built and sent out to you all for a pretty dang affordable price. You can make your own design from scratch or use various artist-designed models as your jumping-off point. I used the Configurator to whip up a 65-influenced Strat with Texas Special pickups and a left-handed neck. Oh and I also made a little tribute to the Frank Zappa/Jimi Hendrix Strat in its ‘pre-restored’ configuration. And a tribute to David Gilmour’s #0001 Stratocaster. And a Richie Kotzen-esque Strat. And a couple of SRV-ish ones (one with a rosewood fretboard, one with maple). And a red, humbucker-loaded vintage/modern hybrid something-or-other. And a sunburst-and-gold Telecaster. And on and on. Here they are, followed by the press release.

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MUSIKMESSE 2012: Fender upgrades American Standard line

Fender has just bumped up the quality of its already awesome American Standard series, with new features including Fender Custom Shop pickups, aged plastic parts and even a new player-friendly comfort carve on the back of the American Standard Telecaster. Check out the new American Standard Stratocaster with Custom Shop Fat 50’s single coils in the pic above. Nice. Check out the American Standard guitars here and basses here.

Andertons are offering killer deals on outgoing pre-2012 American Standards, if you’d like to pick up a bargain!

Fender Select Series. Including the coolest Telecaster ever

ARGH! Look at that Telecaster third from the left. It’s… it’s perfect! Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a bigger pic of this beauty.
In unrelated news, I’m selling a kidney. Going rate is whatever the street price is for a Fender Select Telecaster.
PRESS RELEASE

INTRODUCING FENDER® SELECT SERIES GUITAR AND BASS MODELS

Finely crafted U.S.-made models represent a new pinnacle for Fender production instruments

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.  (Jan. 3, 2012) — Fender is very proud to introduce its new top-of-the-production-line best: the Fender Select series. Designed as “Select instruments for select individuals,” the five guitars and two basses in the series are true players’ instruments that put more than six decades of Fender experience and expertise on outstandingly appointed display and bring a wealth of high-end features and elegant design options to discerning musicians everywhere. With choice tone woods, figured tops, strikingly beautiful finishes, figured and quartersawn maple necks with compound-radius fretboards, specially voiced Fender Select pickups that deliver masterful tone, and other first-rate features, the U.S.-made Select Series presents Fender’s finest selection. Read More …

NAMM 2010: 50th Anniversary Jazz Bass

So who’s a sucker for a good Jazz Bass? I know I am. The only thing cooler than a Jazz Bass is a Jazz Bass with the big ‘ol bridge cover and block inlays. Well thanks a lot, Fender: you just made saving up for my next trip to the US so much more difficult by announcing the 50th Anniversary Jazz bass.

From Fender.com:

The Fender Jazz Bass guitar was first delivered to the world in 1960. If the Precision Bass® was a muscle car, the new Jazz bass was a sports car, and it proved incredibly popular with bassists of all styles worldwide.

Although remarkably unchanged since its introduction half a century ago, the Jazz Bass did see a very gradual succession of subtle design refinements over the course of the past five decades. Accordingly, our limited edition 50th anniversary Jazz Bass is a truly distinctive instrument in that it boasts design touches from several periods in Jazz Bass history, including ’60s-era lacquer finish, headstock logo, chrome bridge and pickup covers; ’70s-era thumb rest and bridge pickup positioning; and modern-era high-mass bridge and graphite neck support rods.

Comes in a deluxe black hardshell case containing cable, strap, polishing cloth and collectible 50th Anniversary Jazz Bass brochure.

REVIEW: DiMarzio Area J bass pickup set


DiMarzio’s Area J set is designed to sound as close to original J bass pickups as possible, but in a humbucking configuration to remove any background noise. Nobody likes excessive noise at the best of times but this is especially important today where bass distortion and biamped rigs seem so much more common than any other time I can think of. Who wants to plug into a multi-amp rig of doom, spend hours dialling in punchy clean low end and a growly, distorted treble, only to have the whole thing overwhelmed with 60-cycle hum? No-one, that’s who.

I installed the Area J set in my Fernandes Jazz Bass copy. It’s a great instrument with a very playable neck and an authentic natural tone, but the stock pickups were a little lacking in character. They were also noisy as all get-out despite extensive and very high quality shielding throughout the electronics and pickup cavities. See?

As you can hear from that sound clip (with both pickups at full volume), the bass didn’t exactly sound awesome with the original pickups… especially because there was a ground hum that needed to be repaired. It was there when I got the bass and I hadn’t had a chance to fix it yet. But if you can listen past that problem, you’ll hear a bass that has definite Jazz Bass character, but is a little one dimensional.

Installing the Area J set was extremely easy. After unsoldering each original pickup and lifting them out, it was simply a matter of sitting the Area Js (the back unit is slightly longer than the front one) on top of the pickup shielding plates, screwing them down, soldering the red wire of each pickup to the centre tag of its respective volume pot, soldering the green and gray wires to the back of the pot, then joining the black and white wires together and shielding them off. While I was in there, I diagnosed the cause of the ground hum – a broken wire from the tone control to the output jack. The pickup set came with a little instruction leaflet (also available for download on the DiMarzio website) which, in addition to a simple text outline of how to remove the old pickups and install the new ones, includes a couple of alternate wiring methods which take further advantage of the pickups’ humbucking nature. I just went for the standard Jazz Bass wiring. I left plenty of wire for future experiments with push-pull pots and the like, and plugged in.

The bridge pickup is bright yet warm. By itself the sound is clear but not sharp – especially suited to that classic Geddy Lee sound, where you want to jump out from a mix and leave some low-end real estate for the drummer and rhythm guitar to occupy. This pickup seems to respond especially well to playing with the fingers, especially when you get a little bit of nail involved for some clarity and definition. The neck unit sounds fuller and rounder than the bridge, which makes it useful for John Paul Jones-style fingerpicked lines around the 7th-12th fret region. The lows are not overwhelming, and the high end is smooth and clear.

Here’s a Rush-sounding clip using the bridge pickup:

Here you’ll hear the bridge pickup panned hard right, the neck pickup hard left, and both pickups (blended 100% neck, 70% bridge) in the middle:

Here’s the neck pickup, both as a main bass part and as a lead instrument (with unhealthy amounts of compression and a smattering of delay to play up a vintage vibe):

And finally here’s a big ol’ distorted demo – a little bit Chickenfoot, a little bit Audioslave:

After much messing about I found my ideal Jazz Bass tone with the front pickup at 100% volume and the rear one backed off to about 70%. This gave all the fullness of the front one but with a little more definition, especially when using a pick. I also really like the sound of this particular ratio when run through heavy distortion with the amp’s treble wound back a bit for that growly Billy Sheehan kind of tone. Billy’s tone is a lot more complex than this, of course, thanks to the special pickup layout of his DiMarzio-loaded Yamaha Attitude basses and the particulars of his amp rig, but the Area J set can get you somewhere in the general area thanks to its clear tone and lack of hum. You won’t get those hi-fi bass-and-treble-boosted slap tones without further processing, but you’ll get great natural jazz, soul, R&B, blues, classic rock and metal sounds with ease.

LINK: DiMarzio.com

Thanks to DiMarzio for providing this pickup set for review. Thanks also to my 3-year-old son who wanted to help me, so I talked him through typing the colours of the pickup wires.

NEW GEAR DAY: DiMarzio Area J bass pickups

Just got a new set of pickups for the Fernandes Jazz Bass I wrote about a while ago. The stock pickups are already pretty cool but they’re a bit noisy which won’t do when I start piling on the gain for some of the rowdier stuff I write. The Area J pickups are designed to sound like vintage J Bass pickups without the hum. Awesome.

Here’s what DiMarzio says:

Been waiting for a bass pickup that sounds like a vintage J Bass® pickup and cancels hum? Your wait is over. Bass pickups are usually described with aggressive terms such as “amazing punch” and “thundering lows”, but that’s not the sound of vintage J Bass® pickups. They’re all about warmth, sustain, and a clean, singing tone. The Area J™ captures all of those qualities. It is not loud, but it has a very focussed attack, so it has power where it counts – at the center of the tone. The lows are very clear and clean, and the highs are both smooth and open-sounding. We’ve reduced the magnet-pull, and included 4-conductor wiring to allow both series and parallel humbucking modes.

I’m going to record some clips of the bass before and after the new pickup installation so you can hear the difference, so keep an eye out for that.

CLICK HERE to buy the DiMarzio DP249 Area J Neck and Bridge Pickup Set from Musician’s Friend for $109.95.

10% Off Value Brands at Music123.com (coupon: VALUEME, exp: 8/31)

NEW GEAR DAY: Fernandes Jazz Bass

Check it out! I recently picked this up when a friend asked me to do a little repair on it before selling it on eBay. After about 20 seconds of playing the bass I determined two things:

1) it was just a simple grounding problem, and 
2) I wanted it!
So I looked up the average used price online and made an offer. Then Mrs I Heart Guitar offered to make it a combined anniversary/late Valentine’s Day present, once again cementing the fact that I’m the luckiest dude alive.
The bass is made in Japan and apart from the headstock it seems like quite an accurate Jazz Bass copy. There’s something about this bass that is very playable, and it has that great warm, round sound that got me addicted to Jazz Basses when I first heard John Paul Jones. I’d still love to get a G&L L-2500 5-string some day, and the review I posted on that model the other day was a reflection of my G&L G.A.S attack, but this Jazz Bass sounds perfect for a lot of the stuff I’m working on right now.

CLICK HERE to see Fernandes Jazz Basses on eBay.

NAMM 2009: Fender Roadworn series

Fender has unveiled its new Roadworn series, which brings Custom Shop-style relic finishing to players who can’t afford to spend thousands on a carefully bashed-up axe, but still want the look, feel and vibe. I guess cynics might say “Just buy a Mexican Strat and drag it behind the car” but I think these are kinda cool. I think they’ll be even more cool after a few years when they’ve been knocked around for real and the edges of the factory-worn paintless spots start to get all funked up and more authentic-lookin’. Maybe in 20 years they’ll release a new series of Roadworn Relics, which simulate two decades of wear on a 2009 Roadworn model.

The Roadworn series is based on Fender’s 1950s and 1960s designs but with modern features including taller frets and hotter pickups. The line will be officially launched at NAMM.

Here are the specs:

’50s Strat
Distressed body, neck, and hardware creating an aged appearance
Aged knobs and switch tip,
Vintage styling
Synthetic bone nut

5-position blade:
Position 1 bridge pickup
Position 2 bridge and middle pickup
Position 3 middle pickup
Position 4 middle and neck pickup
Position 5 neck pickup

2-color sunburst or black (nitro finish)
Alder body
maple neck, soft “V” shape (poly finish)
maple fingerboard, 7.25″ radius
1.650″ width at nut
21 frets (6105 narrow jumbo)
3 Tex-Mex Strat single-coil pickups with staggered alnico magnet pole pieces and parchment covers
Vintage style synchronized tremolo
Fender/Ping vintage style tuning machines
chrome hardware
1 ply white, 8 hole pickguard

’60s Strat
Distressed body, neck, and hardware creating an aged appearance,
Aged knobs, pickup covers and switch tip
Vintage styling
Synthetic bone nut

5-position blade:
Position 1 bridge pickup
Position 2 bridge and middle pickup
Position 3 middle pickup
Position 4 middle and neck pickup
Position 5 neck pickup

3-Color Sunburst or Olympic White (nitro finish)
Alder body
Maple neck, “C” shape (Urethane Finish)
Maple fingerboard, 7.25″ radius
1.650″ width at nut
21 frets (6105 narrow jumbo)
3 Tex-Mex Strat single-coil pickups with staggered, alnico magnet pole pieces and parchment covers
Vintage style synchronized tremolo
Fender/Ping vintage style tuning machines
chrome hardware
3 ply Mint Green pickguard

’50s Tele
Distressed body, neck, and hardware creating an aged appearance
Vintage stylings
Synthetic bone nut

3-Position Blade:
Position 1 bridge pickup
Position 2 bridge and neck pickup
Position 3 neck pickup

Ash body
2-color sunburst
blonde (satin lacquer finish)
maple neck, “C” shape (poly finish)
maple fingerboard, 7.25″ radius
1.650″ width at nut
21 (6105 narrow jumbo frets)
2 Tex-Mex Tele single-coil pickups with alnico magnet pole pieces
Vintage style 3-Saddle strings-thru-body tele bridge
Fender/Ping vintage style tuning machines
2-color sunburst or blonde (satin lacquer finish)

’50s P Bass
Distressed body, neck and hardware creating an aged and worn appearance,
Vintage styling
Gold anodized aluminum pickguard,
Synthetic bone nut
Alder body
2-color sunburst, Fiesta Red (nitro finish)
maple neck, 7.25″ radius
1.750″ nut
20 vintage style frets
1 Precision Bass split single-coil pickup (Mid)
nickel/chrome hardware
American vintage Precision/Jazz bass bridge
Vintage style reverse tuning machines

’60s J Bass
Distressed body, neck and hardware creating an aged and Worn appearance,
Vintage styling
Gold anodized aluminum pickguard,
Synthetic bone nut
Alder body
3-color sunburst, Fiesta Red (nitro finish)
rosewood neck, 7.25″ radius
1.50″ nut
20 vintage style frets
2 Standard vintage alnico magnet Jazz Bass single coil pickups
nickel/chrome hardware
American vintage Precision/Jazz bass bridge
Vintage style reverse tuning machines

For more info: fender.com/roadworn

CLICK HERE to buy the Fender Rock Box watch and accessory gift set from Musician’s Friend

CLICK HERE to buy the book ‘Pink Floyd The Black Strat: A History Of David Gilmore’s Black Fender Stratocaster’ from Musician’s Friend