Friday = Controversial Guitar Talk Day

DSC_1064.jpgI am amazed at how many musical/ex-musical/guitar people happen to be readers here. Even if just aficionados - is it Aperture? Does Aperture work the way music folk "get it" or what. Anyway I was truly surprised at the number of off-line internet conversations that my last post spawned all prefixed with "I didn't want to comment but…". So I am sick of talking Aperture today - I have had way to many one on one's this week. All of them very pleasant  and with some fantastic photographers and just great people but enough is enough for a week. Hence some controversial guitar stuff - and this stuff is more religious - chicken bone waving voodoo than any Canon/Nikon or Aperture/Lightroom talk will ever be. So here is a few things to chew on and either nod in agreement with or feel free to tell me how big an idiot I am as well.

Here are some random guitar thoughts that you may (or may not) find interesting based on my 30+ years of on and off playing. The good the bad and the ugly.

I love Fender Stratocasters -  I have owned  more than a dozen and up until a year ago when I started clearing out my gear warehouse of stuff that I never played (guitars, amps, effects, all of it) I had a stable of "to die for" "holy grail" strats. All of them but one were of the Fender Custom Shop variety, relics, NOS, pretty much a sample of premium built strats of all kinds. They were fantastic instruments - every one. Comparing them to the "real thing" which I also owned - meaning a couple of "pre-CBS" 60's strats w and w/0 rosewood "necks" I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Custom Shop versions were better instruments in many ways - they were absolutely perfect versions - prime examples of the vintage strat. Unless you are a collector forget "vintage" strats - they are a hit or miss thing in terms of wonderfulness from a players perspective. The Custom Shop "copies" are definitely the way to go. That being said guess what I kept as my ONLY strat. A late model American Standard that I put Kinman Woodstock pickups in. This is by far the best strat I have ever owned - best sounding - best playing - best best best. No shit. Not the prettiest - not the most 'vintage vibey-ness" just the best and a fantastic example of how a great strat should play and sound. If you want a great playing/sounding strat go with an American Standard for a fraction of the price of a Custom Shop hand built jobby. I bought my daughter a Mexican traditional strat that is not bad either but the pick-ups were shit.

On to Les Pauls - I do not like them as much as strats - nope. But… everyone has to have one. When you are in the mood for an LP you just got have one. I had a bunch over my lifetime and up until the sell-off I had three prime examples - all of them absolutely gorgeous - figured tops, etc, etc. My favorite that I have ever owned and played - the ONE that I kept. This is going to knock your socks off - A 1999 Les Paul DC Studio in cherry sunburst - it is pretty but not like some of the "AAA" top guitars that cost a ton of money now. It is a very simple beast - wrap around "stop" tail piece - NO TUNE-O-MATIC. In fact NO individual intonation adjustments for each string - just a set screw on the left and right. Dot neck, rosewood finger board, the two stock pickups - a vintagey one and a slightly hot vintagey one. The standard tuners that you used to find on really old Les Pauls. Gold vs pearl lettering on the head stock. Dead simple - light weight (lighter than my strat) due to the "tone chambers in the mahogany part of the body. Maple top with a little tiny bit of figure which I am sure is an accident. I swear that this thing is the best playing best sounding LP I have ever had or even played - anywhere. It sounds like a les paul with maybe a tiny bit of SG in there - a little bit livelier than your garden variety. If you are hankering for a great LP at a bargain basement price - get the DC (double cut)  studio. They are NOT popular but I think are the most overlooked Gibson EVER. They stopped making them a few years ago.

On to amps - out of the fleet that I owned - actually more like an armada here is what is left with similar things that I got rid of because they did not sound as good:

1) Marshall JCM 2000 DSL 100 - the best Marshall head ever made. It is what I kept instead of a "real" JCM 800, a reproduction hand built Marshal 1967X Plexi, and a hand wired repoduction 1959SLP Plexi of the same ilk. The DSL100 can do them all - even better. I did keep two 4x12 cabs - an "A" with C75's (you gotta love these if you came up in the 80's) and a "B" with V30's - completely different.

2) Mesa Heartbreaker - replaced a whole battle group of "vintage" crap.

3) Mesa LoneStar Special - One of the best amps ever - got rid of a Matchless DC-30 - yep the Mesa is better and can do so much more or sound exactly like the Matchless.

4) Victoria Victorilux - think of this as a prime example of a vintage fender with all the right parts and built with TLC so that it is perfect. Replaced a couple of "real" tweed fenders and a "black face" delux, and a reissue bassman (the hand built one) - If you want vintage fender nobody does it better than Mark at Victoria.

5) A real honest to goodness 1965 Fender Twin that looks like it has been through the war that I have had since I was about 17 - I kept it even though I was NOT into fender-y clean at that age. It has the worlds worst redo of the speaker grill that I did with the wrong material the wrong way when I replaced the blown speakers way way back as a teenager. An amp as old as me - sounds great - need I say more.

6)Line 6 PODxt and gearbox for recording into garage band and noodling around without bothering people 6 counties away.

As for effects - all digital delay type effects blow - no exceptions they sound like garbage. So I have a really old blue version of a boss analog chorus, a new BB preamp, an old Ibanez AD202 analog delay, and an old MXR white "micro amp" That is the effects = that is it.

On a note about amps - tube amps absolutely RULE. Amps are more important than guitars. They are part of the instrument - not just reproducing some sound that already exists. The amps I chose to keep represent the absolute best sounds across the major delineation of  every school of electric guitar. This is based on owning just about everything else at some point. The digital simulators sound like crap - with one exception and that is at LOW volume. I have never owned a tube amp that sounded good or even acceptable clean or dirty at "house/wife/girlfriend/kid/neighbor/eardrum" friendly levels. If you think any of the digital simulators sound okay at all it means that you are playing at "acceptable" volume levels and have probably never ever heard what a great amp sounds like in it's zone of optimal operation. Every one of my amps doesn't start to sound right in terms of harmonic reproduction, etc, etc, etc, until is opened up to about 40% or better. Maybe 30% on the Fender type stuff. Even my "little" amps with 1x12 are earth shatteringly loud at that output - my JCM with 2 4x12 cabs at 40% could be classified as a weapon - bone shattering, skin blistering, nuclear shockwave loud at 40-50% and that is just getting into the fantastic zone. So.. don't by a tube amp that was made for a large club or a stadium and expect it to sound as good as your $200 digital amp simulator at any reasonable volume - heck even a single-ended 5 watt amp with a 10 or 12 inch speaker is really really loud by the time it sounds good.


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