Category Archives: guitar player

Why did I start guitar?

It’s been awhile, and lucky me the end (sort of) of the hiatus/sabbatical/laziness comes to fruition in a self-serving post about what provoked me to play guitar and not quit. It’s just me writing about why I am not one of those kids with a poorly maintained no-name acoustic guitar in the corner with the same set of strings it had in the moving crate on the Hyundai Super Tanker on the way over from Korea.

As much of a veiled crack at guitar mass production as that may have been, it doesn’t change the fact that slave labor, awful wages and quality control indicative of Yugoslavian cars probably had a large effect on most of the guitarists in the last three decades. The reason many of us took to the instrument was because one of these easily available tree-destroyers was sitting around somewhere that we saw it, and instead of leaving it there, we just kept going back to it. In my case (technically, my Dad’s case – guitar case, that is) it was an Aria nylon string acoustic guitar my dad had under his bed. When I was really young somewhere in the range of monosyllabic numbers (Seven inched its way in) , after I figured out that one of the latches on the case had to move sideways to open the damned case, I would just sit there with it on my lap and hit the strings. The first instrument I’d ever owned was a drumset with paper heads on some of the drums, and stainless steel heads on others. It was basically something for me to move my arms against that didn’t consist of electrical wires or sharp corners. At the age of 2, I was just beating something to get out the aggression that developed from my parents not getting the correct brand of steamed carrots (I demanded carrots from non conflict countries. Sorry, Gerber-Libya) but in a fit of unadulterated preschool tricycle induced road rage, I broke the drumset. I was a mini Keith Moon (Half moon?) I dare say, but that still didn’t change the fact that I was, as a child, someone who was fond of percussive response.

So, back to the Aria Nylon string. I would remove it from the Pandora’s Box of a case and just lay it on my lap, hitting all of the strings with my hands. I was just happy getting some musical response from anything, despite having no connection to music with the exception of yelling at my sister playing her annoying radio on the oldies stations*. I was another radio kid listening to the pop stations; some of the first albums i’d ever owned were Hootie and the Blowfish, the Beastie Boys and Alanis Morisette. And even those were stretches.

Then came middle school. 7th grade requirement was to take a guitar class. The rules were simple, you only play the strings where you learned songs from. For instance, if we had only been taught Aura Lee or Yankee doodle on the high E string, we would lose our guitar privileges for playing any other strings. This is the quality of music instruction you get from a high strung (Had to do it…), anal retentive choir teacher who had no business teaching guitar. I didn’t particularly like the class, but most of it consisted of us sitting around learning some simple song for an hour while talking to our friends. I did well in the class because I had my dad’s Nylon string at home, and I could practice whatever I wanted, when I wanted (Back when I was a little overachiever, oh how times changed.) I was the kid people looked up to because I could play the first few notes of Walk this Way by Aerosmith, and to this day I still don’t even know the whole song. By the end of the class, we were still only allowed to play the G, B, and high E strings. I guess the teacher didn’t think wound strings were appropriate for innocent little middle schoolers, because that’s where power chords lie.

After that class was over summer came and I went to a summer camp. The summer camp had a guitar class in it, and I decided to take it. It was something easy to do, despite them having steel strings, something beginner guitarists usually avoid like the plague. The idea of pressing your fingers against things which are used to cut cheese and clay usually deterred most from touching the guitar. The thing was, I did pretty well in the “class.” Considering the teacher only knew Free Falling by Tom Petty, a three chord song consisting of the most basic of finger positions.

After I got home, I decided to take lessons at a music store. I’d been taking them for awhile when I had to take the same music class again. The first day, I still remember, we all got guitars and I started to play a Green Day song. The class was listening to me and the teacher yelled at me for playing other strings. I stopped and she pulled me outside and asked what I was doing. By then I was up to chords and some scales, so the teacher turned me into the TA for the class. Every day while most while sitting inside the class playing the second year songs consisting of most of the strings (They never played the low E string) I would sit outside in the sunshine of the lunch area with whatever guitar book my Guitar Teacher got for me, attempting to squelch out anything related to pop culture.

And thus brings me to the major factors in why I didn’t put the guitar down – it’s the reason I’m writing this. There are a few guitar related moments in my life which changed my outlook on music.

I remember in 7th grade english class, Nick Ferrantello and Nick Konapasik (I believe I messed up their names, but who cares) the “Nicks” as we all called them were the cool kids in school. They were good skateboarders, and one of them played Blister in the Sun on guitar in front of the class. A lot of the class was jealous, and I remember wanting to play that song too. I spent a long time trying to learn that, and I wanted to be the kid in front of class wanting to play like that, albeit remedial, it still got their attention.

Those guys made me want to play better in middle school, but few had as big of an effect on my guitar playing as Kenny Relethford, the oldest brother of my best friend at the time. He had an electric guitar. The electric guitar. It was always sitting out with the strap in a certain orientation so he’d know if someone played it. It was an Ibanez Destroyer II from the 80’s which his dad bought. I had been playing my Yamaha acoustic with Medium strings for the longest time (only a year) and when I played the electric guitar, it felt like heaven. Light strings, great action, comfortable, and it sounded amazing.  It was eye-catching, so it was impossible to not notice any time I was at their house. Every once in awhile i’d go in there and play it, hoping he wouldn’t find out. A few times he did, and he was angry, but he was the reason I ever wanted to play electric guitar. Guitar Center was too far away, and I was too afraid to play plugged in anyway. This Ibanez Destroyer was always the beacon of light which I wanted to get to. After Kenny gained some trust, he’d occasionally let me play it if I played songs he wanted. I’d always talk a good game and attempt to coerce him into letting me play that guitar. Still to this day, I would buy that guitar off of him. It’s the first electric guitar I ever played, and started my love for electricity and guitar.

The shred phase of my life, and the aims for musical skill are all due to one man my dad worked with, Dorian. A church mandolin player with long hair who worked for the Government. From the sounds of him now, I would’ve brushed him off, but seeing is believing. He invited my dad and me over to see his guitar stuff. Long hair should’ve given it away, but I didn’t know any better at the time. I got to his apartment with my dad and his wife was sitting on the couch watching TV. It was a small apartment, but upstairs was the gateway into the world of guitar. I wasn’t a fan of shred metal or anything with guitar skill in it yet. I was a fan of some guitarists, but they were in pop bands or ska bands, nothing to aim for. My dad and I went upstairs and he pulled out his Charvel Model 6. It was a pink/red guitar with the black crackle finish on it (If I remember correctly) and a floyd rose. I remember him saying it was a bit temperamental, and at the time I thought he was just discouraging me from playing it, but now I know what he was talking about. Now owning 3 guitars with Floyd Roses, I know exactly what he was talking about. Anyway. He plugged into a rackmount effects processor and started playing. He introduced me to a guy named Randy Rhoads. He pulled out the tribute book, and I looked at the guitar tab. I’d never seen so many notes. A few days later, my dad bought me the same guitar tab book, and I bought the CD. I spent months looking at it, but still didn’t learn much. This opened up the door to Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, System of A Down, and all of the metal bands i’d never been exposed to, and that was the nail in the coffin, so to speak.

And now we come full circle.

Just an hour or two ago, I was playing my Ibanez RG1570, and since it’s blocked up, I can tune it to whatever I want. I tuned it down a half step and Flying High Again by Ozzy Osbourne came on. All of a sudden, I started jamming with it, considering I usually can’t because i’m in standard tuning. Playing to the song opened up a door to a room full of guitar oriented memories I hadn’t seen in a long time. I played the descending tapping riffs, the chords, and the inflections i’d become such a fan of when I started playing electric guitar.

All of it reminded me of why I do this stuff. Why I continue to pick up this stringed instrument every day, why I spend so much money on it, and why I always attempt something new, despite the fact that there really is no overall gain for anyone but me. Everyone has a reason they do something that means the most to them, and they spend too much money/time/effort on something which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t necessarily help anyone.

I say necessarily because if Nick didn’t play Blister in the Sun, Kenny didn’t have that Destroyer, and Dorian didn’t play a perfect rendition of Crazy Train on his Charvel, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this remembering why I’m sitting in a room full of creatively trimmed trees, oil-based plastic parts, and shop manipulated metals which cost way too much money. It’s why I sit here trying to learn a Derek Trucks song when i’m the only one who really enjoys the outcome. It’s why I spend time I could be doing classwork or trying to get a job harnessing the power of vibrations for musical joy.

Go ahead, complain about the democrats, republicans, Israel, Palestine, global warming, global cooling, oil, hippies, pacifists, war, hate, peace, jews, christians, muslims, athiests, hindus, buddhists, taoists, mormons, gays, lesbians, abortion, 9/11, homeland security,  taxes, homelessness, government and whatever else you worry about.

But me?

I’m just going to play this here guitar for awhile.

Then i’ll worry about the rest of it.

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Filed under complaining, destroyer, escapism, floyd rose, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, Ibanez, Ibanez RG, Jackson guitars, music, ozzy osbourne, randy rhoads, San Dimas, story, Uncategorized, Whammy Bar

The Fender Standard, Made in Mexico Telecaster

Chances are, if at any point in your life you’ve ever considered purchasing an electric guitar, you’ve picked one of these little things up. It’s Fender’s attempt to make sure that every human being on the planet can own something with their name on it. Fender bought a factory in Mexico, slapped their name on it, and now they kick out versions of their most popular guitars, the Telecaster and the Stratocaster faster than Hostess kicks out Twinkies and Cupcakes. Moving past my comparison of the most famous guitars to cream-filled snack foods, most of these Fender Mexico guitars, aren’t really discussed on the Internet. For the most part, if you see someone talking about a Fender, it’s worth more than $1000, it’s custom, or it has someone’s fingerprints on it that make it worth more than its weight in gold. And I must admit that I am also guilty of such a crime; almost all of my reviews are guitars that cost more than a thousand, but there’s no better time to rectify my mistakes. So, to fill the void that exists due to reviewers penchant for trying to keep guitars like expensive jewelry instead of something like a toaster oven, I will write about this guitar in detail, so you can read it before you go to a Music store or a music website. I’m not going to deny the power of a music website’s comment section, but for the most part, if you read those you will read only one of two types of reviews: the person who is so happy about their instrument that they can’t be quiet about it, or the person who is so angry at their instrument that they too, can’t be quiet about it. There aren’t many contemplatory posts in the comment sections, just 30 words, more or less, explaining 1 of the 2 aforementioned categories. So, now that that’s out of the way, lets get to it.

The Telecaster being the first mass-produced, solid body electric guitar already gives it some well-deserved pride in the realm of guitars. And since it is the first solid body, it sets the bar for conservative looks in solid body guitars. A plain finish, 2 single coil pickups, and a basic neck set the definition for the minimalist electric guitar. Oddly enough, it became one of the most iconic items in amplified music. Known to break out blues, rock, rockabilly, country, jazz, punk, and – Courtesy of John 5 of Marilyn Manson – even metal. The telecaster will be around forever, but the question this entry asks is, is the Made in Mexico Telecaster doing a good job to continue the legacy?

The Specs: The standard telecaster shape carved from a block of Alder, a maple neck, and your choice of a maple or rosewood fretboard. I’ll discuss the differences later, but for the sake of this post we’re going to be talking about the one with a maple fretboard. 21 Fret neck with Medium jumbo frets, fender Made in Mexico (MIM) telecaster pickups with a 3 way pickup selector, 1 volume and 1 tone knob. Unlike classic telecasters, the bridge on this has individual saddles instead of the 3, and this is another thing i’ll address later in a little bit more detail as I try to keep my opinions and judgement out of the specs section.

The Neck: I’ve been wrestling with the possibility of being able to call a neck “boring.” It might be a good thing because it gives you time to think about the other things on the guitar, but if being able to ignore the neck is what defines “boring”, then the neck on the MIM Telecaster is far from boring. It has Fender’s standard C neck profile (Still looking for exact measurements out there. If anyone has first fret and 12th fret measurements, send me an email or leave a comment) which has, to my knowledge, remained similar for a very long time.

Now I get to the maple vs. rosewood discussion (with myself, mind you) that I intended to come back to, and now here we are. There are a few pros and cons, each of which one should consider when purchasing a MIM Telecaster. On the maple pros side, the tone is brighter and classic Telecaster. On the rosewood pros side, it’s warmer, has a little softer feel to the fingers because it doesn’t get satin finished, and has the dark rosewood look, giving a very unique telecaster look. On the cons side of each, maple gets visually dirty quickly, you can see bad fretwork (Another issue I intend to come to in the neck section, guaranteed to be a long section) very easily, and the finish they use on the MIM Tele for the fretboard is pretty bad. On the rosewood side, you’re not getting a truly real telecaster, it gets dirtier and is a lot harder to clean than a satin finished maple fretboard.

The biggest issue on the neck is the fretwork. I dare say some of the poorest i’ve seen. What’s odd is that i’ve watched videos of the Made In Mexico factory, and they don’t look like incompetent workers. They look like people who know how to make a guitar, but when I see the fretwork on the maple necks of MIM Teles, I start to cringe. I think of how my finger is going to feel running over those sharp edges when I move up the neck too fast. Stewmac sells fret finishing files for pretty cheap, so I can’t imagine that they can’t round the edges like Ibanez does on their Prestige models. It would take a few passes, but would make a world of difference.

The Body: Alder accompanied with maple is a pretty bright combination for a guitar. The old telecasters were made out of Ash and the Fender American classics are made out of ash, but Alder is the choice for the MIM. And one thing that made the telecaster notorious, leading to the invention of the Strat was the lack of a beveled body and carved arm rest. Players sitting and playing guitar would get the same fatigue they get from sharp acoustic edges, but faster because the body was heavier and more compressed into certain areas. I’ve seen modifications on the idea through Peavey guitars. They make a tele-style guitar for Jerry Donahue, the guitarist for the Hellecasters, and they round the edges just enough to keep the telecaster look but take away some of the faults of a squared body.

The Electronics: The MIM uses slightly more powerful pickups to make sure that their reasonably priced guitar doesn’t have a sound too focused in one tonal direction. The lower output pickups being more aimed towards clean playing, and the hotter Highway One pickups aimed to be a little more rock oriented. These seem to land in the middle to be as versatile as 2 single coils in a bright body could possibly be.

The Hardware: The tuners are fine. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But what I did say was different was the use of a bridge with individual saddles for each string instead of a 3 saddle classic style bridge. Fanatics out there will say that it’s not a telecaster unless it’s got the classic brass 3 saddle bridge, and I completely agree. However, this is trying to be as real of a telecaster as possible to the guitarist on a limited budget. The thing about the 3 saddle bridges is that they aren’t that great for intonation, and just when you think you can angle one of those suckers, it moves. So for the sake of this guitar, I think a six saddle bridge is good. You can adjust each string’s action and intonation, a necessity on a guitar with a neck that probably isn’t as straight as it should be, and frets that aren’t as level as they should be.

One of the big gripes about teles is the output jack. It’s one of the worst parts of teles, and uses some seriously bad ideas. In order to have it stay in, you need to tighten a screw on the inside that pushes out a bent metal piece and locks it in place. Warmoth creates a jack plate with 2 screw holes so you don’t have to blindly fiddle with the output jack to get it back into the guitar. It’s too bad Fender didn’t pick up on it or just switch to a recessed input jack like an ibanez or a standard flat jack plate. I’ve fussed with this thing for long times after some repair sessions, and this is definitely some bitter icing to put on a cake made with hours of guitar work.

The Whole She-bang: When you plug it in, you get something reminiscent of a telecaster tone, and reminiscent of a telecaster feel, but all in all this isn’t such a great guitar. The only true possibilities for it are as a base for some massive Frankenstein experimentation like pickups, sanding, paint and finish. When you get one, it’s poorly set up, it has bad fretwork, mediocre neck finishing, and the burdensome input jack plate that you know you’re going to have to worry about in the near future. If you walk into a guitar store and you look at it from afar, and it looks like a telecaster, but when you get closer you figure out really fast that it’s not a real Telecaster. There are some guitars that when you pick up, you feel like there’s a reason you’d spend the money on it, and i’m not going to lie, this isn’t one of them. I have yet to be slightly impressed, let alone blown away, by anything that has ever come out of Fender Mexico. I mean, at least Fender Japan created some good instruments and had some quality control, but Fender Mexico is about the same as a Squier, except the spelling is different on the headstock.

Do yourself a favor, if you’re planning on getting a Fender MIM Telecaster, have a game plan. Plan on re-crowning the frets, filing the edges, replacing the bland pickups with ones more suitable for whatever style, be they tele-sized humbuckers or classic Fender Pickups, and plan on setting this thing up from scratch. If you can work magic on a guitar, this might be right up your alley as a project guitar. In fact, I think it’s most redeeming quality are how much you can do to it to make a Tele unique. Say you get it at the start of your guitar career, you can update it to your preferences as you go along because it’s a Fender, and has more replacement part options than a Honda Civic. On that note, it might be a perfect beginners guitar after a little TLC from someone experienced, but if you plan to buy the Fender MIM Telecaster and hand it to someone straight from the box/store without someone looking at it, be sure to give them the receipt too.

The Pros: Tele styling, semi-tele tone, Fender name, Fender neck feel, easily upgradeable and changeable

The Cons: Poorly done frets, mediocre satin-finish, boring sound, output jack, and pretty much everything else I missed.

The Grade:

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Filed under electric guitar, Fender, Fender Guitars, Fender Mexico, Fender Telecaster, guitar, guitar player, guitar review, Made in Mexico, telecaster, Uncategorized

Fender Made in Mexico Fretless Jazz Bass

I know for a fact that almost everyone reading this title pictured a certain bassist when they read it, which is one of the reasons i’m writing this. The Fender Fretless jazz bass is one of the most famous types of electric instruments that ever was. It’s unescapable association with Jaco Pastorius is one of its main selling points, as Fender makes this lower priced model available to those of us not willing to shell out two grand on an similar instrument, just with strategic, American-made wear marks all over it. It’s familiar hybrid tone of an upright bass in electric clothing has attracted thousands of musicians to adopt the fretless bass as a red-headed stepchild to their ventures in recording, taking advantage of seamless slides, docile tones and the softer edges of notes that only an instrument without metal frets can provide.  Well, that’s what you would hope, right? Alright, go to a guitar store, pick one of these up straight out of the box, and you’ll understand exactly why Fender Mexico will never be mentioned in the same sentences as Gibson, Rickenbacker, Jackson, or even Ibanez.

You may be asking why i’m reviewing this, and i’ll tell you why, I bought one a few months ago. As a guitarist first, I figured it couldn’t hurt to expand my instrument collections. I’ve got a drumset, harmonicas, keyboard, and now i’ve got a violin, so you can read this from a perspective of someone who realizes I am all for being a multi-instrumentalist. The bass was an impulse by in a state when I was a huge Jaco fan, and I was really digging the sound of a fretless jazz bass, so I felt it would be alright to drop around 500 dollars on a fretless bass. So, I went to my local guitar store…where else? Guitar Center.

The Specs: It’s got an alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and the standard hardware accompaniment you’d expect on all Fender Jazz bass. The only “difference” that Fender touts is that they put the American electronics into it to beef it up. There’s got to be some sort of profit reason behind it, because this is really a cut and dry bass. It’s the exact same electric bass they’ve been making for years, but for some reason it costs the same price as a normal bass, despite using a lot less labor and material to make. The fretboard doesn’t have frets in it, and instead uses little plastic lines which look like they just cut white plastic from a box and slid it into already made bass fretboards. So they save money on materials by not having to install frets, or fret markers on the front of the fretboard. All they need to do is run a 9.5 radius sanding block across the top, and call it a day. Hopefully you can see some sort of theme developing in my tone towards this bass. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end here.

The Neck: There’s not much to say. To me, all Fender bass necks feel the exact same. Nothing really astounding, and nothing to say it feels bad. The sad thing is that there is a lot of room between the end of the neck and the neck pickup, and for some reason they limit it to a 20 fret range. Not only that, but the fretboard was poorly done. The little plastic fretline fillers didn’t fit properly, and they were moving out of the fret slots. I had to sand the things down because I couldn’t play the 2-4th frets on the D and G strings without buzzing, and the only way to overcome it was to loosen the truss rod. Sorry, not about to sacrifice the action of the entire bass because the shop workers couldn’t run the sanding block a few times more. Not only was it poorly made, but they could’ve extended the fretboard over the pickguard, for petes sake. It’s not like there are frets or anything. It’s proof that Fender really doesn’t intend to reinvent the wheel. They feel they did a good enough job inventing the first wheel, so why improve/change it?
The Body: I’m glad they didn’t change this. It’s what makes a Fender bass look like a Fender bass. However, to my surprise, when i took off the pickguard, there was a 3/4 inch cylindrical hole under the pickguard, and it was filled with sawdust. For some reason, I had trouble contemplating how sawdust could get into a hole on a bass which was already finished.  There should be no reason for an instrument to come in contact with a sawdust creating process after the instrument has already been painted, clearcoated, and buffed. Stretch your own imaginations, I could use some explanation.

The Electronics: To me, the pickups seem underpowered, but really, the bass sounds like a Fender Fretless jazz bass. I’ve got no complaints there. Roll off a little of the neck pickup and you’ve got that Jaco sound. The only thing is, i’m/you’re not Jaco, so whenever you butcher Portrait of Tracy, people know it. It doesn’t change anything that you’re playing a Fender Fretless.

The Hardware: It’s typical Fender hardware. Big club-shaped tuners, ultra generic, cheap volume knobs, vibration prone bridge saddles, and the same bridge they’ve been using forever. Again, not reinventing the wheel.

The Whole Shebang: I bought a Fender fretless jazz bass, and it’s what I got. I went against my own pillars of guitar religion and bought something that wasn’t very good. It was terribly set up, and when I mean terribly, I’m not exxagerating. It took me days to finally set it up to where poorly made fretlines weren’t buzzing, the bridge was properly adjusted and the truss rod wasn’t bent like a 400 foot flagpole in a Chicago afternoon. Literally, the sales person admitted you could “drive a truck under the strings” because the action was so high. The problem was, when most people think about a guitar’s action, they look to the bridge. But the bridge was alright, it was the truss rod which looked as though they had never set it up. They just slid it into the neck, put the bass into a box and sent it to the Guitar Center from where I bought it. It’s probably the reason they didn’t sell it to anyone and the same one had been there for years. If a person who’s new to an instrument can’t play it or adjust it, then they won’t buy it. I only used it’s poor condition as leverage to drop the price from 450+ tax down to 375 out the door.

For the most part, Guitars aren’t like cars. Honda can still call the same thing a Civic for 20+ years, but improve it as technology changes. Fender can – and will – call their jazz bass the same thing forever, and they won’t change a thing. They won’t attempt to make that giant bolt-on block any less wieldy, they won’t add more output to their pickups, and they won’t add more frets.  The only way I turned it into a more tolerable instrument was with almost 50 hours of work to clean out pockets, clean up bad sanding jobs, tighten screws, adjust the bridge, tighten the truss rod and wait for hours for it to adjust. I basically paid 375 dollars to cause me stress, and to buy something that fills up my closet. The only good thing about is that when I want to play a Fender Made in Mexico Fretless Jazz bass, I can. Woo boy.

The Pros: It’s a Fender Fretless Jazz bass, so the Tone, and fretless sound. Comparable to buying a Chevy Bel Air if Chevrolet was still making it indentical to how they did in the 50’s.

The Cons: Just about everything else.
The Grade:

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Filed under bass, Electric Bass, Fender, Fender fretless jazz, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar review, Jaco Pastorius, Jazz Bass, music, negativity

I’m still alive

Just as a reassurance that i’m not dead, look forward to reviews and rants coming an a day or two. I’ll be talking Parkwood acoustics, BC Rich platinums, and possibly a Fender Fretless jazz bass rant.

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Filed under Bc Rich, Fender fretless jazz, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, Parkwood, player

And more guff?

For all of the people who might disagree with what i’m doing/done/have yet to do, I feel I might as well respond in a blog, because it can further give an idea of what i’m trying to do here. This person actually asks some good questions, and for that I will hopefully respond and further explain myself.

  1. Norrin Radd Says:
    September 6th, 2006 at 4:46 pm eSeems to me that Jimi D had more issues with your facts than with your opinions. AND, if you’re “just another one of those people who plays lots of instruments at music stores; so what people get are gut reactions from me, not some polished reviewer “, then why even post a review?

    A published review ought to be borne out of professionalism – in the sense that it is your job to do so. If you’re just another guy playing a guitar in a music store, what value does your opinion have? Why should anybody be interested in what you say? Give me some reason to care about your opinion!

    I think it does the reader a dis-service to publish a review on a site like this where the assumption is that you’re a trained professional giving an objective review. Otherwise, why not just post it up at Harmony Central?

No one else does what I do on a blog, especially not one that registers into Google so quickly. No one publishes something from the view of the majority of guitar players. Many of which go to a guitar store but have no reason to write about what they see and feel when they’re there. We all read the magazines with creative-writing majors touting the glories of some guitar like a BC Rich Bronze series because he’s advertiser friendly, but what do we really gain from it? Do you really trust a company when they’re telling you how they’re doing? I hope not.
Instead, I am the friend of yours you ask when you’re thinking about buying a guitar. I’m the guy staring at a guitar in a window. And I’m the guy who knows what I like, and you compare your opinion to mine and figure out what you like. For instance, you’re thinking about buying a Charvel San Dimas 1H (You better be) and you want to look up what people say about it. You read the short blurbs on Musiciansfriend’s reviews, you read the specs on Charvel’s site, and maybe you’ve read a review in Guitar World. Then what? You’ve read something from the manufacturer, an advertisment, and an owner, none of which have done what I write about; go into a store, pick up a guitar that looks good and play. I’m not trying to be some sort of person speaking for the little guy, be it the 12 year old picking up a squier, or the 45 year old rekindling their youth, I am speaking from little guy to little guy. Those reviewers know what’s coming, they know they’re getting a Les Paul Supreme in their office. Me, however, i’m staring at a wall of guitars, waiting for one to sing to me. And i’m hear telling people if I like the tune.

This is the basis of opinion and critical thought. You know where the opinion is coming from, you judge accordingly. To believe you are informed, one must attempt to get as many opinions from as many different viewpoints as possible. You can take every opinion with a grain of salt, then you take what you’ve learned and evaluate accordingly. In this case, it’s musical instruments.

So why am I doing this here? Harmony Central is for anyone. Here it’s just me. How can you be sure that the review you’re reading on Harmony Central isn’t written by someone in the company? How can you be sure it’s not written by an advertiser? You can’t. Here, you can see that i’ve given reviews to some of the most highly competetive guitar companies honestly and unbiased. And, there’s only one person writing here. Not a mish-mash of bulletin board posts which are difficult to find and decipher. Here it’s simple.

I hope i’ve answered your question, Norrin, and answered others to come.

-The G.

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Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, Ernie ball, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, music, Music Man, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, Silhouette

Rabble Rousing?!

Apparently i’ve received my first flack for some of my comments on the Ernie Ball. Who knew they had such a militant following? Here it is for all to see, someone pointing out my flaws as a reviewer, something I would willingly admit on a business card. Instead of simply leaving it in the realm of comments, I feel I shall put it up here. Leaving the comments open to comment, including my response.

  1. Jimi D Says:
    September 6th, 2006 at 12:22 pm e
    This review is worthless – the reviewer is an inarticulate troglodyte and his opinions are valueless and misinformed. The 20th Anniversary Silhouette does not have the same neck profile as the Petrucci Sig. – in fact, the necks are tangibly and undeniably different. The 20th Anniversary Silhouette does not have active electronics – no 9-volt battery would ever be required. And lastly, Ernie Ball Music Man guitars are revered for their incomparable necks – check any decent guitar forum (The Gear Page, Birds & Moons, FDP) and you’ll find dozens of proponents of the Music Man gun stock oil & wax neck finishing, and every print publication for guitarists (including Guitar Player, Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar) that has reviewed the Axis has praised it’s neck. In fact, the Axis neck is a digitally carved copy of the neck from Eddie Van Halen’s # 1 favorite frankenstrat, developed when EVH had his signature guitar with EBMM, and this writer’s suggestion that he played an Axis that had an “unfinished” neck where “they forgot to round out the back” demonstrates an ignorance so monumental that it’s frightening. His assertion that it is somehow a substandard neck simply illustrates his complete lack of appreciation for a contemporary classic design that has found favor with a huge number of amature and professional musicians throughout the world.

As it turns out, this person is the moderator of an Ernie Ball forum…
Touching. Simply touching. Who knew that my few hours with a guitar in a store would be no match for that of someone who practically works for Ernie Ball. Anyway, on to my response.
However informed you believe you are, being an Ernie Ball owner, i’d like to direct you to this page:

http://www.ernieball.com/site/flyers/20th_ann.html

If you’ll notice that it says Piezo available, which was what I played. It was my mistake, I corrected it. I’ll pony up to that one.

However, if you had read my post, you may have read that I was at a Guitar Center. Maybe with a little bit of decisive reasoning, you could’ve concluded that it may have been a floor model, and it’s poor quality was attributed to that. And despite the fact that people say “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch,” it did in my case, 6 years ago, when I was new to electric guitar. It should be a testament to either Guitar Center or Ernie Ball that no one was taking responsibility for making the flagship model of a company in excellent condition at all times. Unless you work for them, I have no idea why you’re standing up for them.

Also, had you read my posts, you’d also know that I am just another one of those people who plays lots of instruments at music stores; so what people get are gut reactions from me, not some polished reviewer who has had time to sit down and practice his sucking up to a company. These are my opinions, and opinions give people extra data that people can use in the event they purchase a guitar, and more knowledge for judging what they like in other guitars.

And I don’t know why you’re going out of your way to give me grief, I said the guitar was one of the best i’d ever played, and it might be the next guitar I buy. So I insulted the integrity of your favorite company in part of my post? Sorry I didn’t suck up to them for every sentence like you’d assume in the publications you quoted from memory.

-The G.

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Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Music Man, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, Silhouette

Ernie Ball Music Man 20th Anniversary Silhouette

I’ll admit it, for the my entire career as a guitar player, I have hated Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. I have very vivid memories of going to a Guitar Center, picking up a really nice looking Axis, only to have the experience ruined by the neck. It felt triangular to me, and almost like they forgot to round out the back of the neck. Not only that, but the wood was dirty due to some lack of sanding and finishing. So it stuck in my mind as one of the most uncomfortable guitars ever made, so I never picked one up again. It kept me away from Ernie Ball altogether until one of my favorite guitarists got picked up to do a signature guitar. John Petrucci, the guitarist for Dream Theater, rekindled my interest in Ernie Ball and gave me reason to touch them again. Maybe i’ll review the JP Signature at some point, but right now, we’re on a different mission with coincidental undertones (I’ll explain in a bit)

I went to Guitar Center with a friend of mine who plays bass. He had just purchased one of Ernie Balls new HH basses, so he felt some sort of brand loyalty to Ernie Ball. He sat in front of one of the cheapo Crate amplifiers, ready to butcher a song on guitar, an instrument he’d never really excelled at. He picked up the nearest Ernie Ball, it was the 1800 dollar, 20th Anniversary Silhouette which was positioned quite close to him. He played the guitar, and I looked at it with contempt, still remembering the experience with an Axis a long time ago. I’d never played the Silhouette, but I just assumed it had the same neck as the Axis, but with a double cutaway body. My friend got a phone call, and was just sitting there holding the guitar. I decided to take his seat, and he handed me the guitar. The transformation had begun…

The Specs: It’s a 24 Fret, Dimarzio Loaded beast of simplicity with no tremolo, locking tuners, three way pickup selector, volume and tone knobs. The top is an odd beast, a layered top like a triple ply pickguard, but with wood, plastic, then wood again. It was different, to say the least, from anything else i’d ever seen, as most guitars with plastic around the side consisted of cheap plastic binding, but this was a black plastic with a maple veneer on the top. Very attractive.

The Neck: This was what converted me. My hands fell into an immediate pattern which i’d never felt before. A different kind of comfort i’d never felt on medium jumbo frets. They were spectacularly finished, and with 24 of them, I was in heaven. My ideal prescription for a guitar consists of a 24 fret neck, and one as good as this will most definitely go on my list when some company comes to approach me about building a signature guitar. (I won’t hold my breath) It was smooth, unfinished (They did a bang up job!) and despite being a bolt-on, I felt no limitations like I would on a Fender Strat or Telecaster.

The Body: This might be the only thing I’ve got a problem with. The horns are stretched a little much for my tastes. The bottom one has a perfect curve to it, but the top is a little long, giving it an almost Danelectro Longhorn look to it. But it was perfectly contoured for playing, which is really all that matters. I say that knowing perfectly well that BC Rich wouldn’t be as well known as they are had feel been all that matters when people were buying guitars (Another review some time). Qualms aside, it was light, the pickups fit in there perfectly, and there was no clutter to it; just a beautiful looking guitars. Also, since my ideal guitar has a fixed bridge, (Though a trem is an option on some 20th anniversary Silhouettes) this one is starting to fit the bill as one of my favorite guitars.

The Electronics: Simple active (I am mistaken. An eloquent comment proved me wrong. What I thought was active pickups, was actually a piezo preamp.) circuitry with Dimarzio pickups. I’ve always been a fan of Dimarzios, but these just had a different dynamic, which was excellent. The were clear and crisp in all settings with no muddiness like some single coils tend to do, and some stock Humbuckers. Though, I’m not a big fan of active circuitry, as most people can’t find a 9 Volt battery when they need one.

The Hardware: Good bridge, nice knobs, what else is there?

The Whole shebang: Now, what I mentioned before was that the only other Ernie Ball I really had enjoyed was the JP signature, and I have a feeling this guitar took some of it’s ideas from John Petrucci’s ideas for Ernie Ball. The neck is probably the exact same one, and the fact that the action is perfect shows that a real player had something to do with it, not someone trying to make one-off guitars without caring about playability. (Gibson SGs, anyone?) As simple as it is, this is a great guitar. It feels great, sounds great (even through a cheap amp), looks great, and is a product of American craftsmanship, of which I am a huge proponent. The Ernie ball 20th Anniversary Silhouette has brought me back into the realm of Ernie Ball, and I’m here to stay.

However, i’m not going to give it the A+ that the Charvel had. This Ernie Ball has everything i’d ever want in a guitar, no hassles, fuss or anything that would bother me, and it would sound amazing. The Charvel I reviewed only had 22 frets, and it had a Floyd Rose, some of my biggest irritations in guitars. The thing is, there was an electricity I felt when I picked up that Charvel; an almost undescribable feeling that just made me want to play, and I thought it was an amazing guitar. This Silhouette is, without question, my ideal guitar, and something that fulfills that criteria is a diamond in the rough. I want it to be my next guitar, even if they triple the price. However, it didn’t inspire me like that Charvel, and for that it get’s an A. That plus is reserved for something out of this world.
Pros: Everything is fantastic. My ideal guitar, all the way.
Cons: None.

The Grade:

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Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, Charvel, Ernie ball, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, music, Music Man, Silhouette