Monday, June 28, 2010

Wish it was back (Part 5)

While Rich Lasner was still with the Ibanez team in the '80s, he had the above Maxxas guitar as an Ibanez alternative. In retrospect, he was way ahead of his peers in believing the popular electric guitar design should offer a chambered body to vary the instrument's voicing (maybe this fix got him into the Vox team & those Virage models are definitely semi-solid guitars; obvious chambering without hidden intentions) . The Maxxas was lightweight due to this conception feature & from the looks of it, screamed stealth. From the commercial viewpoint, it made sense; the desire for a Maxxas won't exclude us from the rest of the Ibanez offerings because this guitar was in a league of its own, reaping benefits from the reputation of its designer. Wish this guitar was back because the chambered body philosophy hold its own, especially now.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New bridge

This is purportedly the patent-pending bridge Ibanez had been developing of late. A certain Mr. Vai was said to be part of the development team but until it is confirmed, it might just be just another idea in the works.

Many Ibanez fans would welcome the reinforcement of the original Edge/ Lo-Pro Edge bridge which worked magnificently & its come back in the JEM/ JS/ Universe models only serves to re-affirm the  worthiness of this bridge.

Floating it

To many players out there, a floating bridge is equivalent to the Floyd Rose locking unit as it allows one to raise & lower the played notes. The fallacy here is that a floating bridge need not be a Floyd Rose model & the Floyd Rose bridge itself comes in a version which doesn't 'float' (ala Van Halen's).

A floating bridge is common reference for a bridge unit which allows the whammy action to lower & raise notes as previously mentioned. The pic above shows my Fender Highway 1 bridge which is neither a Floyd Rose unit nor a locking variant; it's Fender's traditional Strat bridge. I've set it up to such an extent it rests in an overhanging position, not levelled against the body surface. This way, I can lower the notes & raise them as the need arises. This is how a non-Floyd Rose bridge floats, just as preferred by Stevie Ray Vaughan in his belated 'Number 1' Strat.

So the term 'floating' refers to how the bridge rests to allow a dual-whammy application, regardless of it's a Floyd Rose unit or otherwise.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Battery change

I did not replace the battery in my KORG Pitchblack tuner since I bought it last December & today it went dead. So that's about a half-year's worth of endurance on a non-alkaline power source.

Nevermore: The Obsidian Conspiracy

The primary reason I listen to Nevermore: Jeff Loomis. This aside, there has to be an appreciation of the music because looking up to Jeff Loomis as one of the most talented guitarist in metaldom could be done independently. But Nevermore's music is as heavy as it gets without treading the boundaries of metal's other sub-genres where extremity is obligatory. The Obsidian Conspiracy is a grabber from the start thanks to Mr. Loomis' commanding fretwork & intricate musicianship involving Warrel Dane, the band's vocalist, as well. Throughout the entire album, the production clarity & precision were impressive & this made the music more enjoyable, especially during the laid back moments when things get sitar-laden & the only thing metal is the band's subliminal presence. My interest in American metal bands is numbered but Nevermore will always be on my watch list. This is heavy metal without the worry of selling out.

Harmonic highway minor

It's been a wet Friday with hardly anywhere to go. The exciting indoor places would probably be full of people who would wanna get away from the rain so the best place to be is home...

Lots of coffee & many harmonic minor runs later, I still find my Fender Highway 1 Strat to be one of the best guitar I own. Depite its pariah tag, the H1 model is a fantastic instrument that would only appease the non-snob players who aren't critical of what an ideal guitar should be because this instrument per se is crafted with components which would get the job done, nothing excessive. Anyway, some productive time was spent with my H1 today, particularly the exploration of the harmonic minor scale. I dislike this scale because it sounds too Malmsteen-ish (no disrespect for Mr. Malmsteen, of course), a chock full of classical sounding notes & nothing happy-sounding unless one gets creative with some additional notes in the mix. Ironically, it's the omission of a few notes which made me play quite extensively, forgoing a routine visit to the latrine, to say the least. I discovered this omission manifested a very Japanese sounding lick. Through another phrasing, it then sounded like what a Javanese gamelan player would churn out. It's slightly past midnight now & I'm finally retiring for the day. No, I'm not interested in the World Cup in the mean time.

I'm also glad I have a humbucker in the bridge position- Duncan's Hot Rails. I somehow knew I would have something going fusing the H1's midrange-rich body with this rather boomy pickup (but there's much clarity on board, mind you). Someone who witnessed this pickup swap said I'm desecrating the Fender tone which should be an all single coil affair but I have my ST-72 & 50th Anniversary Strat to handle that hallowed tone.

Friday, June 25, 2010


The FREEDOM brand name is the budget derivative of SKB. If you know the latter brand name, the manufacturer does not just make guitar cases exclusively, they do so for other storage considerations as well: luggage, weapons, sports, etc. & the reputation is such that Fender decides to officially include SKB cases for their American Standard range of guitars (& other upper tier offerings) quite recently. My FREEDOM cases house my Fender Highway 1 Strat & an Ibanez S540. I find these units to be very tough & durable; one of them took a tumble once & the guitar in tact was unscathed, let alone the case itself. The one you see here is about 7 years old.

Parting ways

Yes... saying goodbye to my Ibanez RGD320 & you know it's very new... like 3 month old. If you are interested, do let me know. Why am I selling? I have 2 more guitars coming in, one of which is another RGD, he he...

Asking price: $499 (neg), bag included.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This is perhaps a cool debut this summer (no pun intended)- EHX's Freeze pedal. It's actually a sampling unit; you play, freeze the phrase or lick you played & solo over it to your heart's content.

The manufacturer also made it in pocket size so it becomes a mobile unit or sits there in your pedal board without taking up too much space. Dweebs like me who prefer to play alone most of the time would appreciate this pedal; it's like cloning myself & hearing me in action.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ibanez RGR465M *SIGH*

Remember the RG565 I mentioned previously- how I wish it was resurrected? Well apparently, selected European dealers received this regional exclusive RGR465M... *SIGH* Wish I could get my hands on this.

Worthy quote: Rob Balducci

"I think that the tone comes from the combination of the amp that you use and the guitar that you use... The importance of the pedals come into play after you have that set up."

Individuals who have dabbled too much with tone changing fundamentals would concur what Rob Balducci said, above. We often forget the 2 fundamental components of our tone: guitar + amp. I often come across people who get worked up over pedal/ pickup issues when they don't really pay attention to their guitars & amps. We should see pedals as tone supplements, the stuff we use to better/ refine our fundamentals.

"I’m not into high output pickups because I think if the pickup is too hot that you are getting just the sound of the pickup. It all goes back to what I was saying about this quest for tone. It has to be a reaction between the pickup, the wood of the guitar etc., it all has to react together. If one of them is out of whack it’s just not going to work."

For those of us who love our straight through set-up, pickup selection/ matching is sacred. Like what RB mentioned, pickups with overpowering output would mask the true tone of your instrument; you hear your pickups more than the guitar's inherent voicing. This is why I'm rather selective when it comes to owning guitars with active pickups- the music I generate sometimes calls for that all-out distortion assault which active pickups would unquestionably deliver, hence my employment of EMGs & the likes. However when it comes to more tonal dynamics, the passive pickups would manifest more feel inter-play aka digging in & let your fingers do the talking.

Keep of Kalessin: Reptilian

Keep of Kalessin had been offering a polished brand of black metal since the debut of Armada, some would agree it's a Satyricon rub-off since guitarist Obsidian C is a touring member. A quick Reptilian spin here would reveal similar offerings but Obsidian C is peppering the music with some interesting phrasings, of the bluesy type. Also heard here are some tasteful extended solos. KOK remains to be a tight act, featuring some of the most accomplished players in this music circle but its later releases seems to flirt with a more palatable derivative of black metal which many of us would label as 'sold out'. I personally like Reptilian for the guitar tones.

Ibanez basses @ Summer Namm 2010

Some new basses are also making their appearances @ Summer 2010 NAMM & the above GSR250M bass looks the works.

The SR370 takes what's already established by the SR300 but this time, it's given a maple body treatment. Simply wish the maple fingerboard SRs would make it here...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


No, this is not a discussion of uncovered human anatomy but an area of concern that might hinder your pickup replacement efforts. The arrowed parts are the pickup's wire solder, located underneath the pickup proper. If these exposed parts come into contact with the cavity's shielding paint, it'd render the pickup dysfunctional & you'd thought there's a soldering anomaly. Experienced individuals like Beez would be able to troubleshoot such circumstances in this light. When no output was heard from my Duncan Quarter Pound pickup (Ibanez SV5470), Beez simply raised the pickup by a little bit; problem solved. I have since covered these parts with bits of masking tape.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Ibanez @ Summer NAMM 2010

Ibanez now offers a passive pickup equipped ART model- if you love the ART120 but not the pickups, maybe this ART100 would get you going.

A surprising reappearance this summer is the Edge Pro bridge. Also, it's as if Ibanez heard my call for a missing HH guitar in the Prestige range so here's the answer: the RG1420F with matching headstock finish (for all finishes).

However, I'm looking forward to acquire the fixed bridge version instead, the RG1421F.

Just when I thought I'd put a halt to guitar acquisitions, temptations are once again unleashed... *sigh*

Let's hear your gig bag

Another Summer NAMM 2010 feature; Ernie Ball collaborated with Marshall to give us this amp bag- no kidding. 

What you see is a Marshall amp tailored to be an extension of the bag so while waiting for your jamming buddies who are perpetually late, you can play to your heart's content at the bus stop or wherever you may be.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Japanese wolf

Van Halen is wise. When he conceived his guitars, the name remains with him so subsequently if he chooses to deal with other guitar manufacturers, the name could be re-used. So that's what's happening in the mean time. Wise.

Anyway, this is just in (Summer NAMM 2010); the latest incarnation of the EVH Wolfgang model is made in Japan. If we pause to ponder- EVH is a Fender brand name & Fender has its establishments in Japan, yes? So indeed, the connections were already in place, it's just a matter of time.

My playlist

Someone once asked me which songs are on my playlist. I told him I don't have any. I have a bunch of tunes travel with me, I would listen to any one of these songs according to the urge. On occasions when the bus travels on the express way, for instance, I prefer listening to instrumentals & avoid any vocal annoyances. In crowded places, only black metal hits would do me good as these tunes pacify & distract me from the need to pulverize sweaty bodies getting in the way of my movements (yes, I'm that impatient). But recently, I concocted a serving of 10 songs as acceptable numbers regardless of the circumstances, which are (in no order of preference):
  • Mayhem: Fall of Seraphs (LIVE version from European Legions)
  • Endstille: ...of Disorder
  • 1349: I Breathe Spears
  • Satyricon: Repined Bastard Nation
  • Emperor: Sworn
  • Richie Kotzen: Dr. Glee
  • Greg Howe: Morning View
  • Take That: I Found Heaven
  • Candy Dulfer: Fred's Joint
  • Jeff Loomis: Departure

Wish it was back (Part 4)

Had been playing harmonic minor stuff with my ESP since after lunch, time to take a break... *yawn*

On the subject of ESP guitars, I was thinking it'd be good to have the former version of the Vintage Plus model, back. The current manifestation features the relic/ distressed finish which isn't my cup of tea. Since ESP has the Eclipse selections to entice the Les Paul club, the VP would be fitting to lure the Strat campers.

Foam support

Direct mount pickups (such as the humbuckers in my Ibanez SV5470) are not spring mounted, in lieu of this, foams are used to prop the pickups up. Replacement pickups which would go into these cavities require such foams which aren't sold in any guitar shops, you have to make do with whatever foamy substitutes you can acquire. The material to be considered shouldn't be too soft, otherwise it won't spring the pickups up.

Worthy quote: Anders Bjorler (The Haunted/ At The Gates)

"In the past I experimented a bit with pedals, but it got too much. It was always in the way of making the show somehow. Too many extra things to concentrate on. But I don't think you need much more than to plug a guitar right in & just mess about with what's there, let the fingers do the work. This is my motto on guitar playing I think: If it sounds crap without effects- no effect in the world can help you."

This is not a call for everyone to ditch pedals & plug straight through but a reminder of the working fundamentals. The truest tone you can achieve is not having any pedals to come between your instrument & the amp. If you have to employ pedals, chances are, you prefer hearing your tone that way. You don't mind the compromise, in fact, you embrace it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wish it was back (Part 3)

Fender's Bronco model drew its inspiration from the Mustang in neck & body. The solitary pickup & unique bridge are economic trimmings as the manufacturer intended this model to serve the student camp. I have never played a Bronco but being a single pickup fan, I find this guitar very desirable. The Squier Duo Sonic I own mimics this guitar in outline & feel but it's a reinterpretation of history, not quite experiencing history itself.

Duncanized: SV5470

The latest Duncanized guitar here: my Ibanez SV5470

The pickups in this guitar:
  • Neck: Jazz
  • Middle: Quarter Pound Staggered
  • Bridge: Full Shred
 The obligatory push-pull coil split switch, of course.

Beez put in lots of effort & care for this guitar in view of its tapered body design. The control cavity is shallow & careful installment had to be observed so as not to short-circuit any contacts. Salute!


I was walking home from Beez's earlier today, managed to grab a bag of fish crackers & sat down a while before heading home. A kitten came to me most probably after scenting my fish goodies in hand so we shared some. This cute feline then played with the strap of my guitar bag, biting & scratching like I wasn't even there to raise my eyebrows. 

But I let it had fun- because it makes me happy.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Remove all strings- YES or NO?

You were warned: Do not remove all strings from your guitar, this would damage the neck. So who was it who gave you this warning?

I was often asked if it's safe to remove all strings when one re-strings one's guitar so that there's access to the fingerboard for cleaning- you do clean yours, don't you? Yes, the guitar neck is a tension laden part of your instrument, when it's strung up at the factory, the neck was adjusted to accommodate the string tension. The general concern here is whether the release of this tension (upon un-stringing) would detriment the neck.

Over the years, I observe guitars equipped with a .009/ .010 string set manifest no adversity when subject to a complete string removal. I did so & left some of my guitars stringless for some days in the midst of re-moisturizing the rosewood fingerboard. If you employ a thicker string set, say .012 or thicker, & still stay with standard tuning, you can still remove all strings to access your fingerboard then proceed to re-string as usual. Sight your neck for any warping. You can then rectify any anomalies via truss rod adjustments- that's what it's there for.

Wish it was back (Part 2)

Firehouse will be performing here soon (without Bill Leverty... sad) but every time the ad comes on TV, I'd be reminded of the Yamaha Pacifica 1221 which was one of the finest shred-type guitars I've come across. The Pacificas were hung up for display on the walls of Yamaha Music back then (@ Plaza Singapura), when I was in-store to meet Beez (who was an employee there back then), he would bring one down for me to noodle with till he finished doing my pickup swap. Those were the days when I was too distracted by Ibanez to fully appreciate everything else that came my way, this Pacifica included. The situation today is such that all the Pacificas are removed from the catalogue, less the 112/ 212 versions which are the lowest tier residents in this series. We understand Yamaha has to account for our motorbikes & motorized boat engines, among others, so if there is a shift in focus for the manufacturer, we would understand completely. Sure. Yeah. Right.

Eclipse I DC @ Davis

Remember the ESP Eclipse double cutaway mentioned here not too long ago? Well, it's available @ Davis GMC but the list price wasn't out yet so it didn't entice me enough to give it a go. It sports a non-gloss, satin finish FYI.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wish it was back (Part 1)

I wish the Ibanez RG565 is resurrected because it's definitely my kinda guitar; maple fretboard + 2 pickup combo- I'd swap the neck unit there with a single coil, though. The missing ingredients in many electric guitar designs today are simplicity & functionality.

Smashing GIO

Spent the morning with the above 2 darlings:

  • Ibanez: GRGR010
  • Smash: S2 Lite
Default vs replacement
The Ibanez has a Duncan CC in there. This is one of my guitars which proves a point- when the default pickup fails to please, do not hesitate to replace it. When I used to play this guitar with the default covered Powersound humbucker, my mind kept telling me to stop & choose another darling because the tone hurts (as in, it's not what I wanna hear) despite the very appealing playability. So this is indeed psychological & it warrants some attention; the guitar which keeps you going in terms of playability & tone is the one for you, not one which bothers you with either issue. The Smash, on the other hand, has a point to prove too- default electronics doesn't always equal repulsive electronics. I've been very happy with what the S2 Lite offers me tone-wise so it remains as it is. Thumbs up to this one.

D vs C
The GRGR010 sports a rather flat D-shaped neck; it's typical Ibanez this one so playing fast stuff is a breeze, almost effortless with the right action & amount of distortion. The S2 Lite is very Fender-y; a rounded C-affair with practical depth for lots of bends & shred alike. When I play too much of one guitar, I'd switch to the other & this gives a relief of sorts to the fretting hand as it adapts to a contrasting profile with every change. Sometimes I feel I've had enough of a certain neck feel & it bothers me, mistakes were inevitable. The constant swap here is yet another psychological remedy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thicker Duo

The Ibanez humbucker you see above belongs to my SV5470. It's the manufacturer's True-Duo model which is evidently thicker because it features a stacked magnet formation. As the humbucker was conceived to voice a split coil tone, the manufacturer made efforts for it to be silent in single coil mode so even in this non-humbucking mode, the pickup remains humbucking.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Neat inside

Ibanez's Prestige range of guitars represent the manufacturer's fine craftsmanship. However, cost cutting sloppiness are left in unseen places where owners have the least access for inspection. We sometimes hope the unseen aspects of our very costly piece of equipment live up to the classy external appearances which isn't always the case.

The SV5470 cavities here are proof of the manufacturer's extension of quality; there is neat application all round & we feel good knowing quality exists beyond the reaches of our general inspection.

Sharp corners

The non-TB Seymour Duncan pickup models (SH & others), come with angular mounting flap corners. Majority of guitar cavities with non-pickguard/ mounting bracket feature, sport rounded corners. As such, the sharp Duncan corners would have to be filed & rounded off to fit.

3 in 5

The VLX91 5-way pickup selector you see above is taken off my Ibanez SV5470. It's a little different because effectively, when one flicks the lever from any of the humbucker-only selections, it will revert to the middle detent, in any other selector models, this would be our single-coil only (middle pickup) selection (HSH combo). One has to carefully select positions 2 & 4 with much controlled movements as the mechanics drive it to auto-position to the middle selection by operation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

More vibrations = Good

Yamaha has recently launched the new SG1800 series guitars. Yes, it's that familiar, Santana-era guitar outline which proved to be a something that worked (tone-wise as well, mind you...), so here it is again- the above finish (this one's an SG 1820A) was conceived in conjunction with the band Mastodon.

Anyway,something interesting incorporated into its conception is Yamaha's IRA technology- Initial Response Acceleration. The completed instrument is subjected to mechanical vibrations, the manufacturer's claim being the acceleration of that 'playing in' feel & the delivery of 'excellent sustain'.

The real life understanding here is that, the machine emulates the string vibrations which believably makes the instrument function as a whole when the different components vibrate together. If this happens more often, the instrument components are seasoned together. So when are we gonna start putting our instruments on the washing machine for some good vibrations?


Woke up early this morning & it was guitar first & foremost. Played for about 30min or so when I felt pain below the left hand thumb area, leading to the wrist. Stopped & had breakfast. Do you remember guitarist Ron Jarzombek, Marty Friedman's current live show member?

If you know the band Watch Tower then you know what Ron is capable of but he didn't play guitar for 3 good years in his life due to the above reason. Note his left hand pinky & ring fingers; there is a portion there which straightened permanently & not bend any more. The doctors diagnosed this as 'hyperextension'; tendon over-stretching & the inability to revert to any flexible position. There were 3 surgeries done to rectify this occurrence, Ron is now back to his nimble-fingered days & happily playing guitar (yes, you are right- there are actually 29 frets in his guitar above...).

I would often carry on playing despite some finger fatigue because this is part & parcel of finger strengthening but the above account serves to remind me that it could be detrimental when painful so it's either stop in the mean time or stop permanently. Which one did I choose?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Duncan inventory

What are my experiences with Seymour Duncan pickups?

Current ownership:
  • Lil' '59
  • Hot Rhythm
  • Classic Stack
  • Quarter Pound
  • Cool Rails
  • Hot Rails
  • Phat Cat
  • P-Rails
  • S P-90
  • Distortion
  • PATB Distortion
  • Custom
  • Custom Custom
  • Custom 5
  • Full Shred
  • Screamin' Demon
  • '59
  • JB
  • Jazz
  • Alternative 8
  • Blackout (active)
  • Seymour Duncan IBZ (default in Ibanez SZ2020)
What I used to own:
  • Invader
  • Alnico II Pro
Why a particular preference for Seymour Duncan? These pickups propel clarity in both clean & overdriven modes, they manifest the guitar's inherent voicings well through the amplifier. This is important for me as I observe a straight through set up most of the time, the pickups in there should provide the allowance to hear my guitars in action & not let the processed output overwhelm the outcome at the amplifier.  

Tribute contradiction

The current Gibson related buzz in the mean time is the guitar you see above; it's the new Les Paul Studio 50s Tribute model. The manufacturer said it 'embodies the look and tone of the great original Les Pauls from the 1950s...' but I read the contradiction which follows with much unease- the current manifestation features a chambered body which wasn't the case of the original 1950s model. So how can this guitar be an embodiment of its predecessor? 

Would you then care for a Japanese copy with excellent credentials to match the Gibson version above? 

To many of us, investing in the Edwards is unthinkable as it is a blatant support for imitation.The Gibson original should be embraced even if it means being baited by the brand name per se & disregarding the misrepresentation(s) it holds. Brand name reverence is indeed a marketing deity.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Deactivated: Ibanez RGA32

I had my Ibanez RGA32 make-over going after the arrival of Duncan's Distortion Trembucker- thanks Janet (Davis GMC) for the acquisition assistance.

As announced in this entry's title, I had decided to remove the default active pickups (Ibanez's own LZ3 humbuckers) & replace them with passive Seymour Duncan units:

  • Neck: P-Rails (SPH-1)
  • Bridge: Distortion Trembucker (TB-6)
 Another reminder from me- if you wish to do like-wise, the bridge model should be an F-Spaced/ Trembucker model to comply with the Gibraltar Standard bridge string spacing, the above pic should be convincing enough.

The push-pull coil splitter switch was necessary to enjoy the P-Rail's P-90 & humbucking tones. The correct value pots were also installed following the guitar's non-active electronics application.

Finally, a peep in the control cavity- the Orange Drop cap is in there; rather obligatory for me these days. The re-wiring was expertly done by Master Beez & do note the long, black pickup wires which were left in tact. Beez does not snip off pickup wires excessively unless it interferes with other component placements. What's the plus point then? It means the pickup would be suitable for subsequent use in other guitars should there be any disntance related issues. The battery compartment is now not in use as no battery is required to power passive pickups.

EHX: Germanium 4 Big Muff

Here's another fresh pedal from Electro Harmonix for this Summer NAMM; the Germanium 4 Big Muff. The principle subject matter is the pedal's germanium transistor which promises some golden tonal moments of yesterday but a little caution to those of us who aren't familiar with this offering- do hear the pedal in action first. Please do.

I was rather thrilled at the prospect of owning a germanium based overdrive unit to bolster my tube amps' on-board drive because acquiring anything germanium inclusive, would mean the obscene forking out of cash to secure time-capsuled gold. So I headed out to the local EHX distributor to have a go at the Germanium OD unit depicted above. It wasn't the typical, mild OD pedal like some of the more well-known green or yellow boxes we love to own; I was greeted by a box of very fuzzy overdrive gargle, lacking in much definition for lead work.

Nevertheless, I look forward to hear what the Germ 4 variant has in store knowing it is inherently a 2-in-1 offering of distortion & drive.