For those of you who have played a Strat, you know all about the classic Clapton or Eric Johnson tones you can get out of it. This particular version delivers those classic tones but unlike most Strats, has a hardtail bridge which I prefer for tuning stability and ease of adjustment. I bought it in 2001 from Guitar Works, Inc. in Richmond during one of their anniversary sales.
In 2009, I decided to "Pimp my Strat" by replacing the original white pickguard with a pearloid version, and substituting gold hardware for the original chrome. Most of the parts are genuine Fender replacements, purchased from various parts suppliers including Darren Riley's Guitar and Amp Shop in Raleigh, NC. The volume and tone knobs which are third party parts because Fender does not make a bell knob with a pearloid top. Someday, when it needs a refret, I'll go with gold-tone EVO fretwire. After all of the work, I should probably refer to this guitar as "Mr. Blackwell" because it is a bit of a fashionista.
For the type of music I play, it doesn't get a ton of use because I prefer the sound of a humbucker and a heavier guitar. Still, I use it any time I need a funky rhythm sound, cleaner tones run through a classic combo amp, or a blues lead sound. This guitar was also used by my friend Jeff Newkirk to record the theme for the Romeo Theater podcast.
Body wood: Alder
Back color: Black
Top wood: n/a
Top color: Black
Neck wood: Maple
Neck finish: Satin
Fretboard wood: Maple
Fretboard inlays: Black dots
Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
Fretboard radius: 9.5"
Scale Length: 25.5"
Nut width: 1.685"
Pickups: S/S/S American Standard Strat
Switch: 5-Position Blade Switch
Configurations: 1. Bridge Pickup;
2. Bridge + Middle Pickup;
3. Middle Pickup;
4. Middle + Neck Pickup;
5. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume, Neck Tone, Middle/Bridge Tone
Bridge: Fender American Standard Hardtail, 2 1/16" spacing
Tuners: Fender American Series
This is another guitar I bought from my friends at Guitar Works, Inc.. The day I bought it in 2007, I had brought my Steinberger in to have a toggle switch replaced. Instead of leaving with just the Steinberger, I left with the Tele and an Acoustic. It was somewhat miraculous that they all fit in my car.
The guitar is surprisingly light, and has a nice flame (curly) maple top with cream binding and a set neck. The pickups are Seymour Duncans and are coil tapped, so it is very easy to approximate that Tele twang in the bridge pickup. The humbuckers are very high output and I like the neck pickup for smoother leads. I find the bridge pickup to be a little harsh and not as articulate as the pickup on my PRS Custom 24.
One thing that annoys me about this guitar: the "black chrome" hardware looks tarnished, so I'm considering replacing the tuners (I'll probably go with locking tuners), pickup rings and bridge with more traditional chrome hardware. I already replaced the control knobs with abalone-topped knobs that match the fretboard inlays and was happy with the results.
Body wood: Mahogany
Top wood: Flame Maple w/Cream binding
Top color: Amber
Neck wood: Mahogany
Neck finish: Polyurethane
Fretboard wood: Rosewood
Fretboard inlays: Oversized Abalone Dot
Frets: 22 Jumbo
Fretboard radius: 15.75"
Nut width: 1.625"
Bridge: Seymour Duncan® Pearly Gates™ Plus Humbucking Pickup
Neck: Seymour Duncan® SH-1N RP '59 Reverse Polarity Pickup
Switch: 3-Position Toggle
Configurations (Humbucking and Coil Tapped):
1. Bridge Pickup;
2. Bridge + Neck Pickup;
3. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone (Push/Pull Coil Tap)
Bridge: 6-Saddle Strings-Thru-Body Tele® Bridge, 2 1/16" spacing
Tuners: Standard Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines
Hardware: Black Chrome
This is another instrument I bought from Guitar Works, Inc., on the same day as my Tele. Before this purchase, the only acoustic I had was a cheap $79 acoustic I bought in college, which sounded like a cheap $79 acoustic. Needless to say this Dreadnaught-shape acoustic was a bit of an upgrade.
Guitar Works' custom instruments often sound as good as famous brand guitars costing hundreds more (their entry level models, at least), but are very affordable for the amateur musician. Acoustics are one type of instrument that you can really tell the difference between a $500, $1,200 or $3,000 guitar. The Guitar Works instruments generally sound as good as a $750 guitar, for $399 or less. Great for jamming with friends or playing for fun. I wouldn't use it into a recording studio, but it works for me for practice and occasional song writing.
Body wood: Rosewood
Back color: Natural
Top wood: Sitka Spruce
Top color: Natural
Fretboard inlays: Pearloid Notched Diamond Shape
Fretboard radius: 12"
Scale Length: 25.25"
Nut width: 1.75"
Bridge: Standard Acoustic, 2 1/8" spacing
I bought this guitar in late 2000 from Richmond Music to celebrate landing a new job. At the time I was really into Joe Satriani's music and liked the feel of the neck and the comfort of the contoured body. Tonally, it can create a number of interesting scooped sounds and is very versatile owing to the coil tapped pickups and lightweight basswood body.
The guitar is very comfortable to play, but I hate the bridge. HATE it. Almost anything based on the Floyd Rose design is a bear to set up, so changing strings and intonating can be a real pain. There's also some annoying fret buzz because the nut is not curved to match the fretboard. Design flaw, if you ask me. I'd gladly trade this in for the JS1600 hardtail model, or one of the JS2000s from a few years back.
Body wood: Basswood
Back color: Transparent Red
Top color: Transparent Red
Fretboard inlays: Pearl Dot
Frets: 22 Medium
Fretboard radius: 250mm
Scale Length: 648mm/25.5"
Nut width: 42mm
Bridge: Ibanez Axis Humbucker 2
Neck: Ibanez Axis Humbucker 1
Bridge: Ibanez Lo-TRS II, 2 1/16" spacing
This guitar may have the most unique top I've ever seen — its made from Quilted Bubinga. Surprisingly, it only ran $570 at Sweetwater in 2008. Parker has since discontinued this model. I like the looks of the guitar, but compared to my Tele or PRS, it is a bit of a disappointment — the pickups are not as clear, lacking detail. For a low-priced model, it is on par with other similar instruments and works well when paired with flanger or phaser effects that can mask the clarity of the pickup.
The PM20 was a Korean-made instrument — this is something many manufacturers do to cut costs and appeal to a larger market. Like many Korean-made instruments, the construction is of "mass produced" quality, i.e somewhat frankensteined. My guitar has a set neck made from 3-pieces of wood, and the back is also clearly made from three pieces glued together. The electronics are standard quality for a guitar, and I've already broken the toggle switch. Simple enough to replace, but annoying.
Top wood: Quilted Bubinga w/Cream binding
Fretboard inlays: Side dots
Frets: 22 Nickel silver
Fretboard radius: 10-13" compound
Nut width: 1.65"
Pickups: H/H Parker Stingers
Bridge: TonePros TOM string-thru-body, 2" spacing
Tuners: Grover 18:1 Ratio
I used my bonus at work in 2008 to order this guitar through Richmond Music and I love it. It is clearly well-built, with excellent attention to detail, and sounds amazing. These are the best modern pickups I've heard — even though they are very high output, there is almost no noise. What's great about them is the tonal variety you can get just by rolling the volume back a little, or pulling the treble back. The only perplexing design choice is a rotary switch for pickup selection, a rather unorthodox method, which is not really a problem for me because I generally don't switch in the middle of a song.
For modern rock, this is a perfect guitar if you can afford it, but also handles other genres with ease. That's due to the rotary switch being used to effectively coil tap the pickups, so you can get two traditional humbucking sounds along with three single coil configurations. You can move from high-output modern rock to vintage-style neck pickup tones and on to country with the turn of a knob.
My Custom 24 gets a lot of use on my songs, especially when distorted chords or modern bridge pickup leads are called for, because of the clarity of the pickups. I've also used it where articulate clean sounds and harmonics are needed. One other thing about the guitar that usually goes unnoticed by many is a subtle spring reverb effect emanating from the bridge. The Custom 24 transmits vibration so well that you can hear the springs from the tremelo system when playing. That gives the guitar a little more presnece and depth, and loads of sustain.
Top wood: Curly Maple
Top color: Emerald Green
Neck finish: Gloss Nitrocellulose
Fretboard inlays: Shadow Birds
Fretboard radius: 10"
Scale Length: 25"
Nut width: 1 11/16"
Bridge: HFS Treble
Neck: Vintage Bass
Switch: 5-Position Rotary
1. Bridge Pickup;
2. Outside coils in parallel;
3. Series single coils
4. Parallel single coils
5. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
Bridge: PRS Tremelo, 2 1/16" spacing
Tuners: PRS Phase II
A year after my PRS Custom 24 order, I used my bonus to buy this guitar from Sweetwater. One thing I like about Sweetwater for guitars is their gallery that lets you order the specific instrument you want by serial number. I chose this particular serial number because of the unbelievably figured Quilted Maple top, and some YouTube clips I had heard of the same model being played by Simon McBride. I had a little hiccup with the order, though — at first they sent me the wrong serial number — but one call tag and a week later, the correct instrument was in my hands.
The SC245 is clearly modeled after a vintage Les Paul — in fact Gibson even sued PRS (and lost) for trademark infringement — and it hits the nail on the head as far as sound goes. Much of that is due to the pickups. In 2008 PRS acquired rights to the wiring used in the 1950s to make classic pickups (including the first "PAF" humbucker released in 1957), thus the 1957/2008™ designation. They also apparently use the same magnet composition as the 1957 humbuckers, and probably wound them on the same machine. The result is as close as you can get to vintage tones without buying a vintage guitar.
I've been using this guitar more and more lately because of how smooth the tone is. It really enables better-sounding lead work and if you have any influence at all from Led Zeppelin, this is a great guitar. The tone definitely stands out in a mix, and is a great complement to my other mainstay guitars.
Top wood: Quilt Maple
Top color: McCarty Burst
Fretboard wood: East Indian Rosewood
Scale Length: 24.5"
Bridge: PRS 57/08™ Treble
Neck: PRS 57/08™ Bass
Switch: 3-Way Toggle
Configurations: 1. Bridge Pickup;
2. Bridge & Neck Pickup;
3. Neck Pickup
Controls: Independent Volume and Tone
Bridge: PRS Stoptail, 2 1/16" spacing
Tuners: PRS Vintage-style
For sonic variety, I purchased a Schecter C-1 EX Blackjack from InstrumentPro in CA back in 2008. I can't recommend InstrumentPro — although their prices are usually good, their service is lousy in my experience.
As to this guitar, it plays well, but has a very "dark" voicing. I haven't yet isolated the source, whether the strings are an inappropriate gauge (or just old), or the pickups aren't quite suited to the baritone range, but I'm considering swapping out the pickups for something like Lace Drop and Gain™ pickups.
The Blackjack doesn't get a lot of use on my recordings, but I do have one song I'm working on that makes use of it in a bridge section with a clean tone, as well as some distorted rhythm tones. If I can get better tones out of it, I would use it more.
Top wood: Mahogany w/Multi-ply Cream Binding
Fretboard inlays: Black Pearl Dots
Frets: 24 X-Jumbo
Fretboard radius: 15"
Scale Length: 26.5"
Nut width: 1 5/8"
Bridge: Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB
Neck: Seymour Duncan SH-1 '59
Configurations: 1. Bridge Pickup;
2. Bridge-side Coils, Parallel;
3. Neck-side Coils, Series;
4. Neck-side Coils, Parallel;
5. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume and Tone
Hardware: Dark Chrome
I bought this Steinberger in 1996 from Alpha Music in Virginia Beach (great personal service, from what I remember). It came equipped with a "Trans Trem" bridge which is a technical marvel. The biggest benefit is being able to transpose keys from E standard tuning down to B, C and D, or up to F# or G tunings while all six strings remained in relative tuning. This also facilitated bending chords up or down using the trem arm. Setup was certainly more difficult that a standard bridge, but in my experience was not all that difficult, just time consuming.
As to the rest of the guitar, it was equipped with EMG active humbuckers in the bridge and neck positions that were coil tapped, plus a middle single coil pickup, providing a wide range of tones. An on-board active preamp tweaked the sound so the stock EMGs were less harsh. Individual strings were clear and articulate through these pickups, and overall the guitar was very neutral sounding. So in a sense, it lacked character (I've heard it described as "sterile"), but was still incredibly versatile. Actually I think the neutrality of the sound makes it an excellent rhythm guitar that complements solos.
The Steinberger was my workhorse guitar until I bought my PRS Custom 24. At the moment, it needs a little TLC. One of the adjustment screws on the bridge is broken (the result of thinking I could properly intonate in Drop-D tuning with the Trans-Trem), so I'm looking for a replacement part.
Back color: Transparent Blue
Top wood: Flame Maple
Top color: Transparent Blue
Neck: Graphite/Fiberglass/Resin Composite
Neck finish: Gloss
Fretboard material: Phenolic
Fretboard inlays: White Dots
Frets: 24 Dunlop 5150 Jumbo
Fretboard radius: 16"
Bridge: EMG 89 w/Coil Tap
Middle: EMG SA
Neck: EMG 89R w/Coil Tap
Switch: 5-Position Blade Switch with 2-Position Coil Tap Toggle
Configurations: 1. Bridge Pickup;
2. Bridge + Center Pickups;
3. Center Pickup;
4. Center + Neck Pickup;
5. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume and Stacked Treble/Bass Tone Knob
Bridge: Trans-Trem™, 2" spacing
Tuners: Integrated into bridge, 40:1 ratio
Hardware: Black Matte
One day in 1991 I wandered into Richmond Music (they have since expanded and moved twice), where I saw this 1990 Fender Custom Shop-made bass on consignment. It's not every day you can get a three thousand dollar instrument for $700, and I was very impressed with the tones I could get from it. It is especially capable with the slap/pop funk style because it favors the treble end with a snappy tone.
What makes this instrument unique, besides the short scale length, is the laminated maple neck which adds strength and tuning stability. Additionally, there is an on-board EQ knob with five settings that create an unbelievably wide range of sonic possibilities. Love the drop-D flip near the headstock, which means I don't need to retune it to get that low note. After so many years, the neck needs to be refinished and one of the pots replaced, but it has been a great instrument.
Back color: Black/Blue Reverse Burst
Top color: Black/Blue Reverse Burst
Neck wood: Laminated Hard Rock Maple
Neck finish: Oil-based
Fretboard wood: Ebony
Fretboard inlays: Side dashes
Fretboard radius: 7.5"
Scale Length: 32" (36" Extended)
Nut width: 1 17/32"
Pickups: H/H Kubicki Humcancelling™
Switch: 6-Position Rotary
Configurations: 1. Standby;
2. Passive treble cut;
3. Passive mid cut;
4. Passive bass cut;
5. Active mid boost;
6. Active flat
Controls: Two stacked pots (Vol/Pickup Blend; Bass/Treble Boost)
Bridge: Kubicki, 2.25" spacing
Tuners: Integrated into bridge, 80:1 ratio
Hardware: Matte Black
Ever since I first heard them back in 1990, I've always liked King's X, and the bass tones that Doug Pinnick (aka dUg) produced. Turned out on that many of their old songs, he used a 12-string bass, where each string had two companion strings, one octave above, similar to a 12-string string guitar. The result was an often piano-like tone that could be split, sending the high frequencies through one amp rig and low frequencies through another. This let a three piece band sound like it had a rhythm guitarist mirroring the bass.
I wanted to experiment with it, so at first I tried to buy a Dean 12-string from Instrument Pro. When it arrived, it was broken at the neck joint (I have pictures — and if you're going to have four bolt construction, one of the bolts should not be a mini dowel — just sayin') so I called Instrument Pro, who had me send it back to the manufacturer. Then they tried to tell me Dean never received it (which was about as amusing as a high ankle sprain) but fortunately shippers keep records that packages have been signed for and after a phone call or two, I eventually got my money back and decided to never again do business with that place. So it was back to square one.
After deciding that an 8-string would sound nearly as good (YouTube can be a good thing), I hunted around for an affordable model. I liked the looks and the neck-through body construction of this bass, so I ordered one from Guitar Center when I had a rather nice coupon to use. I don't use it often, but sometimes it adds a little something special to the mix when I don't want to have a rhythm guitar track.
Back color: Honey Satin
Top wood: Bubinga
Top color: Honey Satin
Neck wood: Multi-Laminate Maple & Walnut
Fretboard inlays: Offset Dots
Frets: 24 Jumbo
Fretboard radius: n/a
Scale Length: 35"
Nut width: 1.5"
Pickups: H/H EMG-35HZ
Controls: Master Volume, Pickup Blend, 3-Band Active EQ
Bridge: Diamond Custom, 2 7/16" spacing
Tuners: Schecter (Bass), Grover (Treble)
Hardware: Satin Gold
As I recorded more and more, some days I wanted the bass to go lower than drop-D tuning without there being too much slack on the low string — detuning a standard bass can lead to muddy tones because the string does not have enough tension on it. I already had the 8-string version of this bass and I liked it, so I picked up this version to complement it. That low B string is really nice, although it is a little weird having the extra string there, but you get used to it.
Pickups: H/H EMG-40HZ
Bridge: Diamond Custom, 2.625" spacing
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