Guitars I Really Want But Will Never Own, Dammit: The Washburn N4

n4I’m sure we all have those guitars that we’d love to own, but unless we suddenly become ridiculously rich we sadly must resign ourselves to the bleak, grim fact that we’re probably never going to own all of them. So rather than mope about this inside my own head, I figured I might as well write about them here, and maybe hear from those of you who own these guitars, so I may live vicariously through you. So here’s the first, the Washburn N4 Nuno Bettencourt signature model. Nuno Bettencourt was one of my early guitar heroes – not as early as Mark Knopfler and George Harrison, and slightly after Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai, but certainly before dudes like John Petrucci and Reeves Gabrels. I liked how Nuno’s style was (and is) simultaneously flashy and stripped back: he’s always been able to wring all sorts of nuances and details out of his guitars using pretty much just his bare hands. And that’s also what I like about Nuno’s signature Washburn line. Read More …

COOL GEAR ALERT: Washburn N4CV Nuno Bettencourt


PRESS RELEASE: The Nuno Bettencourt N4 has long been a popular model in the Washburn line. The combination of the Stephens Extended Cutaway with a Floyd Rose has proved irresistible to shredders the world over. Now Washburn ups the ante with the addition of a carbon fiber fretboard and stainless steel frets. The N4CV’s 22 stainless steel frets are silky smooth and will last the life of the owner without needing replacement. The carbon fiber fretboard is extremely fast and slippery so bends and dives never bind your fingers. Read More …

R.I.P. Bill Lawrence

BL1The family of pickup pioneer Bill Lawrence has just announced that Bill passed away over the weekend. You might know him best through pickups like the L500XL used by Nuno Bettencourt and Dimebag Darrell. Or perhaps his work for Gibson (and here’s a great article about Bill’s time with them). Or the extensive series of pickups he designed for use in the highly acclaimed Fender American Deluxe Series of guitars and basses. The All About Tone section of Bill’s website is essential reading for anyone who has ever plucked a string on an electric guitar and wondered ‘how?’

Here’s the message from Becky Lawrence… Read More …

REVIEW: Dean ‘Dean From Hell’ DFH

Dimebag Darrell was one in a billion. A true metal iconoclast who took a little from EVH, a little from Billy Gibbons, a bit of Hetfield, and twisted it around until it was pure Dime. Everything about the dude was custom: for his signature tone he used a graphic EQ and heavy noise gating to get the most out of the Randall half-stack he won in a guitar playing contest. And his main guitar was a heavily customised Dean ML (he actually scratched ‘The Dean From Hell’ into the headstock) which featured new pickups, a Floyd Rose bridge (which required serious routing considering the guitar originally had a tune-o-matic bridge and thru-body stringing) and a custom paint job and further tweaks by legendary luthier Buddy Blaze. Check out the story of Buddy’s role in this legendary guitar in this great Premier Guitar article.

Read More …

FEATURE: Metal 101 – face-melting guitar tones

There’s nothing more satisfying in the world of guitar than chugging out a heavy, doomy riff with the tone of the gods. But there are so many variations of the metal guitar tone – where to start?

Let’s have a look at a trio different styles of metal, and how the music influences the general setup.

CLASSIC METAL Chances are, if you’re playing less distortion-drenched heavy rock, or metal with a bit of a 70s twist, the sound you’re hearing in your head is a Gibson Les Paul and Marshall stack. This kind of rig can be assembled on a budget, but if you spend big money you’ll probably feel better about yourself, and bragging rights are fun.

For this kind of tone, it’s more about the impact of the note than the level of distortion. Try keeping the gain at moderate levels rather than boosting the hell out of it, and maybe jack your guitar strings up a few millimetres. This will add bottom end to the tone and allow you to really dig in. All that extra wallop will make for a crushing, crunchy, natural metal tone. It’s important to let the sound breathe, as this type of music has a lot more open space than later, ‘chuggachugga’ metal, so don’t go overboard on the preamp or pedal distortion. Some is good, a lot is too much. Crank your amp to get that punch and grind.

THRASH Good old thrash. Oh that it were 1987 again. The main feature of this sound is that scooped mid, tightly compressed tone perfected on Metallica’s Master of Puppets album. To get this sound, try an EMG active pickup (the ‘81’ model is a good place to start), run it into an amp with the midrange turned down, and try using higher wattage speakers which won’t distort easily – let the distortion come from the amp and/or pedals rather than the speakers so you can maintain the bass frequencies so important to this sound. To get the perfect level of distortion, start with turning your gain all the way up, start chugging out on the open E string, and slowly dial the gain back until you find the sweet spot where there’s still a good amount of edge, but that fizzy sizzle between notes disappears. Also, try running rackmounted compressor and BBE Sonic Maximizer units in the amp’s effects loop to get that superior chug.

The technique is just as important as the gear for a classic thrash sound, so don’t be shy to pile on the palm muting, and pepper your playing with lots of little grace notes, slides, percussive chugs, and other fun and demonic stuff like that.

DIMEBAG The late great Dime deserves a section all by himself. His distinctive tone was the end result of a whole bunch of elements but aspects of his sound can be achieved with relative ease and a handful of bucks. 

Dime favoured Bill Lawrence pickups early in his career before moving on to Seymour Duncan, with whom he designed the Dimebucker pickup. If you don’t have access to either of these, any high output pickup will do, or you can try to cheat and raise your pickup as close to the strings as you can without it getting in the way of the string’s vibration.

True Dime tone can only be achieved by scooping the heck out of the midrange. The best way to do this is with a graphic EQ in the effects loop, set for a harsh “V” curve. Next, run the EQ into a noise gate to tighten up those power metal stop-start rhythms. Again, high efficiency speakers will help transfer more of that glorious low end. Dime always had his tech turn off the noise gate when he played a solo, so keep that in mind so you don’t end up chopping off the sustain of longer notes while you’re wailing away.

[geo-out=”Australia” note=””]

CLICK HERE to buy the EMG EMG-ZW Zakk Wylde 81/85 humbucker set from Guitar Center for $208.

CLICK HERE to buy the Seymour Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker pickup from Guitar Center for $94.99.

CLICK HERE to buy the BBE Sonic Stomp Sonic Maximizer pedal from Guitar Center for $99.99.

This article is an expanded version of a column which originally ran in Mixdown magazine.[/geo-out]

NEWS: Another new Washburn Nuno limited edition

The latest very limited run custom-ordered Washburn Nuno Bettencourt N4 is this baby, the High Gloss Padauk Body N4 from Boogie Street. I’m not normally a fan of glossy wooden finishes on guitars – a little too coffee-table for my liking – but something about this has managed to break through my glossy wood finish filter. Dig those photos by Boogie Street’s Eric McKenna.

Boogie Street is commissioning several runs of these High Gloss Padauk N4s. Each run will be a numbered run of 7 guitars, and each run will be slightly different in hardware color and/or other subtle differences. They will all feature a high gloss Padauk N4 body and an oil finish padauk neck, plus Nuno’s specs including the Bill Lawrence Bridge humbucker and the Seymour Duncan ‘59 in the neck.

A factory hardshell case is included, as is a Nuno-signed extra blackplate, a Washburn/Boogie Street Guitars/Nuno dealer banner, and a 10 x 16 full colour certificate of authenticity, signed by Washburn USA Custom Shop director Terry Atkins, as well as by Eric McKenna from Boogie Street.

Hit up Boogie Street Guitars for more info.

CLICK HERE to buy Extreme’s new album, Saudades de Rock and CLICK HERE for a recent I Heart Guitar story about the Washburn N3 Nuno Bettencourt limited edition and Nuno’s new signature Randall amp.

NEWS: New Nuno Washburn guitar, Randall amp

Nuno Bettencourt’s signature Randall amplifier will be officially unveiled at Winter NAMM in January 2009, but Nuno fans won’t have to wait until then to snag a unique piece of signature gear.
As posted at the Extreme band forums, Funky Munky Music is awaiting delivery of a very limited run Washburn N3, based on Nuno’s third ever Washburn prototype, which had a maple fretboard and two Bill Lawrence L500 pickups. The standard Nuno model, the N4, has a Seymour Duncan 59 in the neck in addition to a bridge L500.
There was a Korean-produced model called the N3 for a while, but the new limited edition N3s are made in the USA. They have 22 frets, unlike Nuno’s original which had 24, and feature an original Floyd Rose bridge, a birdseye maple neck and fretboard, the original 1 5/8” nut width, and the original N4 neck profile. Interestingly, at the Extreme forum, Funky Munky says Nuno asked Washburn to revert the neck profile of the N4 to the original shape within the last month or so, and change the nut width to 1 5/8” instead of the current 1 11/16” nut width.
The new N3 will be available in relic and non-relic versions, and the holographic N3 sticker will be included as case candy, so buyers have a choice over whether they put the sticker on or not.
As for that Randall amp, in an official press release Nuno says “There is a reason that I have never endorsed any amplifier company exclusively. Because I have always had to jump back and forth from amp to amp. One for rhythm, Another for solos. A different amp on every recording and tour, constantly searching, unsatisfied. Always good, but not great. Never finding that perfect tone. There was always something missing. Basically, I gave in and truly believed that Marshall would be the staple to fall back on… The Constant.”
“I’ve worked on this amp for over three years. We’ve delayed release of the amp until it was perfect. Until now. The words “I’ve got an amp that I will put my name on and have put it up against any other amplifier and blew them away.” I thought those words would not come out of my mouth. But they have. And it’s true. I’ve worked on this amp for over three years. We’ve delayed release of the amp until it was perfect. Mission accomplished. It’s not fancy. It just sounds killer. It’s a workhorse. One clean channel. One dirty channel. And a boost solo channel, with its own volume and drive controls, because when it’s time to let loose, you should be heard loud and clear.
As a bonus, it looks like no other amp and cabinet before it… the look takes the past into the future.”
I found the image of the amp at the What’s That Dude Play? blog.

For more about the very interesting saga of Bill Lawrence pickups, check out the Bill Lawrence Review website.

Click here to buy Extreme’s new album, Saudades de Rock