Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kustom: KBA 10X

I have not been keeping up with bass these days because I'm ampless... till yesterday, that is. Went round looking for a cute bass amp, nothing too overpowering, just something to get the job done on days when I find the guitar repulsive. So I bought the Kustom KBA 10X as seen above.

It's a simple amp with a 3-band EQ section which was the reason I chose this over Ashdown's Tourbus 10- made me happy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

LTD MH-327 (2nd take)

Was at Davis GMC today, had another go at LTD's MH-327. There's definitely some addiction when you start playing this guitar- it's the neck. It's got that perfect profile for some tasty shredding despite not being as thin & inviting as Ibanez's Super Wizard make. The other interesting aspect of this guitar is its body wood-pickups interaction; the inherent acoustics here are rather bland but it's a classic case of having the right pickups in there (Duncan's Hot Rails/ Custom 5) to get the job done. Some desirable notes separation could be heard here.

Expect some Gus G models from the upcoming Davis GMC ESP shipment.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Was a little under the weather lately, hence the zilch entries...

But the desire to play was definitely there. There's this strong urge to just manifest the tunes in my head through the instrument. Until I got that done, I felt bothered. It's like when you play so much, once you stop for some reasons or other, it's akin to substance withdrawal- the sore feeling of something missing breathes with you. It's definitely a plus to have some simple setup going just to address this anxiety so it was the Ibanez RG321 & my Vox amPlug-cab to see me through in the mean time.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ibanez: Herman Li clinic (S'pore)

Last night was my 2nd Herman Li clinic attendance. The reason why I made it a point to do so was because the man doesn't hold back when it comes to sharing which was also the reason I enjoy guitar clinics more than live shows. There were interactions with the musicians & much education would take place due to the insights discussed. Of course, the crowd didn't comprise of instrumental dweebs entirely so there were some amusing questions being asked (which wasn't Ibanez related, of course) but the most memorable query concerned whammy mechanics which a member of the audience had difficulty with. According to the individual concerned, each whammy moment would entail in the guitar going out of tune. So master Li did a further probe by asking the fan which guitar was in use. A (Fender) Squier was it. Herman Li's most comprehensive reply to the problem was:

Oh, you can't do much with that one...

The crowd went wild. Cheered. Clapped. Roared. 

This wasn't a glorious moment in the mockery of another brand name but a reality check: You want to do whammy gymnastics, you gotta get equipment which is right for the job. Certainly, the Squier isn't equipped with the right whammy bridge to manifest a Herman Li-type whammy abuse, yes?

Watain: Lawless Darkness

I have some personal anxiety upon receiving Watain's Lawless Darkness because it's either an affirmation of the critics' foretelling or a suppression of popular beliefs. This becomes an issue in light of the band's prior release, Sworn to the Dark, which contained some down-tempo moments termed as 'black-&-roll' (no, there's no white-&-roll) by lethargic journalism. Lawless Darkness is a continuity of the aforementioned ideas with even slower moments which would appease the doom fans. From another perspective, the music offered here could be a re-visit of '80s thrash with enough black metal powder smeared in the face of aggression. The sure thing with Lawless Darkness is the affirmation that Watain took a turn after Casus Luciferi- don't get me wrong, they are still black metal but different peddlers as it is. Highly anticipated but not my personal favourite.

Rosewood, duh?!

It took me sometime to realize that my trio of all time favourite Strat players:

Stevie Ray Vaughan...

Jeff Beck...

... and Thomas Blug, all play a rosewood fretboard Strat. It's the sheer immersion in their music & technicalities that made me close my eyes & forget about the details of their guitars; I shouldn't be too distracted with music this good. To date, I just can't bring myself to purchase a Strat sporting a rosewood fretboard- it's all maple for me. Well the only 'Strat' with rosewood fretboard in my possession, isn't a Fender (it's my LTD ST-203! Yikes!).

What's the fuss with this difference, you might ask. The maple Fenders possess this very solid treble attack. It's very rewarding for someone like me who peddles heavy distortion even if there are single coils in the mix, knowing well the level of feedback & hum I would manifest with this kinda set up. I can still retain clarity if I pump the low frequencies up because the instrument retains top end authority, that's the joy of maple.

With rosewood fretboards, the single coils' top end are given less poke but maintain its clarity. The lower midrange responses are heightened instead. Stevie Ray Vaughan manipulated this tonal characteristic to maximum appeal, fusing the single coil snap (produced by thicker gauged strings coupled with high action) & drive saturation. His clean but driven tone is signature itself. I hear similar warm, (driven) overtones coming from Beck & Blug. Should have known it's the rosewood talking.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dime amp

Darrell Lance Abbott- we all knew him as Dimebag Darrell, one of the most talented guitarist in aggressive music. RIP...

Recently, his estate collaborated with Dean guitars to release the Dime series of amplifiers. The model you see above is a 120W head which promises Dimebag's crushing distortion as well as some excellent cleans. We are aware this is a posthumous release; would this be a fair representative of what Dimebag would have wanted? Would there be other products with the Dime tag? Is it disrespectful to have a dead man's name on products which would conjure the probability of disapproval by the individual himself should he be alive? We know how it is with the 'Hendrix' name, don't we?

King (Ov Hell)

Tom Cato Visnes is better known as King, the former bassist of Gorgoroth. He is currently the other half of Ov Hell, together with Dimmu Borgir's Shagrath. King is also a member of many other extreme bands; Jotunspor, Sahg & I, to name a few. I only dwell deeper into King's background because I was wondering if any of these black metal chaps hold down a day job while propelling their music- King is actually an elementary school teacher in Bergen. It must be blissful to be living in Norway, yes? Mums are given 52 weeks of maternity leave upon giving birth. Black metal & civil service are not at odds. Great.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's the point?

I was talking to a friend today who owns the GT-10. He likes it very much & I could see the enthusiasm every time the opportunity arises to share his experience & opinion on the subject FX unit.

He then told me he'd like to own MESA's Dual Rectifier amp which would be paired with the GT-10. I asked if he'd run the GT-10 through the amp's clean channel, the answer was: Of course.

What's the point of spending good money on a renowned amplifier, only to utilize its clean channel? Many players can't seem to accept the fact that big name amps are good stand-alone units; they don't require a multi-FX supplement to manifest good tones. If one wishes to provide good amplification for one's favourite multi-FX unit/ effects pedals wouldn't it be more practical to just invest in a superb clean channel, say from a tube head? Hmm...

Cooley's 8

Was looking at Rusty Cooley's gear earlier this morning, saw his Dean 8-string guitar. The obvious attraction was his fanned frets. This reminds me of...

...Charlie Hunter's guitar. As opposed to being stylish & propelling technique, the slants are more for intonation concern. Cooley's bridge was also slanted for the same reason & this very much prevented the availability of whammy mechanics hence the Dean being a fixed bridge guitar.

Xiphos Suicmez

Md Suicmez (Necrophagist) with his work-in-progress Ibanez custom Xiphos. Note:
  • 7-string model
  • 27 frets
  • single coil cavity for neck pickup

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ibanez: Egen 8

Managed to handle the Egen 8 today; this guitar arrived later than the Egen 18 but it still made it here (@ Swee Lee). It's an Indonesian production but the QC manifestations are some of the best. It's not evident from the pic but the guitar sports a gloss-free, satin finish for both body & headstock. I only had time to strum it unplugged but what I heard were some pleasant mid-range brightness. Also, the 8 retain the 18's coil-split push-pull switch. Hope to hear it in action soon... (wonder when that would be).

Wish it was back: BOSS Digital Metalizer

I tried this pedal on the year it was discontinued- 1991. I was really attracted to the intensity on offer (because it was more aggressive than my default amp distortion: Peavey Rage 158). One of its modes combined the distortion with chorus to an extent that there were some Eventide (Harmonizer) overtones to be heard, which was the tone to be had back then. These days, if you fuse your favourite distortion & chorus units, chances are, each pedal's firm characteristic would try to over-power the other once you get your tweaking going but the MZ-2 actually had these effects in co-operation probably because they were built into a single unit & were configured to be fused instead of working independently.

There were some procrastinations & on the day I was set to buy one, it was nowhere to be found. Back then, I wasn't too keen in owning a used unit so the MZ-2 was all but unreachable. This was also the year the Metal Zone was introduced & I got it as consolation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Number indicators

You might know Oli Herbert- a very capable player- maybe you know his band; All That Remains. He has a super cool Ibanez Xiphos (custom).

I saw a close-up pic of his fretboard & those number-cum-inlay markers are rather fascinating. But I recall someone with a more outgoing markers & there wasn't any attempt at being discreet either...

... Jason Becker.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The above 2 guitars are the most played these days... maybe because they are fresh additions in the house. Could either guitar be comprehensively better than the other? I find such comparisons trivial. Despite the LTD's Strat-based characteristics, it just plays differently from the Fender (American Special). The tone generated by both guitars are also different but to the average Joe, they sound like single coils so why pay much more for the Fender when the LTD can do the job? It's rather difficult to put across beneficial scrutiny when talking to such people. I talk less & give limited opinion in such cases; no use splitting hairs with heretics.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Album anticipations

Currently anticipating these 2 releases:

Immortal's LIVE DVD: 14th September '10

Fresh Enslaved (Ha!): September '10

Monday, July 19, 2010

Domestic music

I have nothing against this band pictured here, this pic is merely proof of my presence, that's all there is to it. Passed by the venue & stayed a while to listen to the music. It seems the local flavour is such that it aims to appease the general public... I get impatient with this nature of music peddling.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Acquisition check (as at July 2010)

The situation as it is after the Fender American Special purchase:

  1. Ibanez RG1451 purchased
  2. Ibanez RGA7 Not buying- pickups could have been better
  3. Ibanez RGD320 purchased
  4. Fender American Special purchased
  5. PRS Singlecut Korina New target: PRS Starla X
  6. ESP Phoenix II purchased
No further acquisition plans. Taking a break... sort of.

Worthy quote: Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa on improving one's playing:

Buy a really cheap guitar. The cheaper the better... and play that for a week.

Before we jump up victoriously & revel in the fact that we do own some of the cheapest guitar this side of planet boutique, we'd like to reflect why we own such instruments. For those of us who are serious players, the cheaper numbers serve as a reality check; if our skills are potent, it doesn't matter how much our guitar costs, we can still play well. This is a situation where true capacity would out-do any material deprivation. On the other hand, the newbies among us would hinge upon the instrument's lesser nature to internalize our abilities, needs & wants, before moving on to other models up the production tiers. All in all, the cheaper instruments would serve us in many ways, we see people with costly guitars who can't really play to save their nuts & are reminded that without the skills, we are actually nothing; our $5,000 guitar can't save us.

On a personal note, I do make it a point to check out the less costly guitars out there because there are some of the most well-crafted & sweet sounding instruments which are ignored because they don't possess the bling.

Special meddle (2)

When the bridge is set flushed against the body, it is necessary to check the action. In this case the default action for my American Special Strat was readjusted & the unexpected entailment was the 'disappearance' of those height adjustment screw bits which were previously jutting out. So now the picking hand rests comfortably over the bridge saddles. Fantastic!

Upon setting up, make sure the radius arch complies to the fret radius to prevent choked notes. Someone pointed out the fact that if there is an ideal arch to be observed, shouldn't both the E-string saddles be of the same height? Of course not, the action for both these strings are different, yes? It's due to the fact that one of them is plain, while the other is wound- different thickness. That's the reason.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Special meddle (1)

As with all my guitars, I make it a point to serve my needs & address my quirks. The instrument should be a personal reflection of the player & it should be set up & tweaked to the owner's specs. The Fender American Special received its initial tweaks today- nothing excessive though...

As I won't be going whammy wild with this guitar, 2 additional springs were installed at the rear cavity to make sure the bridge stays put when string bending are in action. The screws are then tightened accordingly. How much tightening should you employ? Tighten until the bridge doesn't move when you bend those strings.

Since Davis GMC has some Fender spares in store...

...the default bolt plate was replaced with the Fender 'F' engraved version.

Jumbo frets (Rally)

The fresh batch of Rally GL models (WEF this batch of GLs that is...) now feature jumbo frets. Implications:
  1. More feasible for lighter touches 
  2. Moving away (slight) from the Gibson feel
But this doesn't affect the playability of the guitar in whole; still very pleasurable & the QC is still tops. Thanks Mike (SV) for the time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rally: JD series

Mike asked me to give Rally's JD series a try while I was there (SV) recently, the neck profile of these guitars is a PRS-like experience, particularly the wide fat feel. However, the humbuckers are the GL series affair; sound very similar in voicing & drive inclination. If you have no Les Paul-on-a-budget urge but still have the Rally brand name in mind, the JD should be considered & the range sports a more affordable price tag (lesser than the GL).

The Special one (trivial return...)

As evident above, the Fender American Special bridge was set to float by default...

Cool cleaning

Saw more cats on my way home from Standard Value, this time a couple taking time cleaning themselves...

The Special one (slight return...)

I dislike Fender's CBS-era, fat headstock but it won't deter the acquisition of a good guitar. The American Special Strat maintains a high QC standard as evident in this model; the nut displays one of the tidiest cut I've come across.

The body is super glossy but it might be attributable to its fresh nature. Despite this observation, its not as hefty as its American Standard counterpart. Have been busy playing, those stickers will come off later, maybe during the next re-string...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Special one

The no-entry yesterday was the distraction above- my new Fender American Special Stratocaster. I was contemplating a rosewood fretboard initially but I guess I am more accustomed to a maple fretboard Fender.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Telecaster is for country music only, you understand?

I remember clearly walking into a guitar store, (years ago, when I was much younger) greeted by a rather elderly sales person who would ask me if he could be of any help. I told him I was just browsing through the in-store selection, probably something more suited for rock & the likes. I proceeded to look at the Fenders & stopped in front of an attractive sunburst Telecaster hung up on the rack but the sales chap told me the Tele is for country music only & gave a voluntary demo. He fingerpicked his clean licks from start to end but I politely told him that's not my playing style & I'm more of a distortion person. On this note he told me to consider the Stratocaster instead because it's for rock music but I insisted the Telecaster would be my choice; if Danny Gatton could do it all with his Tele, I should check one out. The natural question which followed was- who in Telecasterdom was Danny Gatton? 

Those were the days... The sales person in the above encounter is no longer working in that guitar store but the memory of him saying those things would live on in me. Because it's fatal narrow mindedness, that's why.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meow! (2)

Was on the way home from Davis GMC the other day, saw this cute cat sleeping in a tree. Its colour was flushed against the tree bark so it wasn't obvious initially.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Worthy Quote: Jeff Waters (Annihilator)

Something we can all take note of, coming from Jeff Waters:

A lot of guys in the '90s started switching to EMG pickups, which squashed their sounds down. That works for manure metal bands, but us '80s dudes know that if you want the real chunk, you don't get it from the pickup. You get a bluesy, clear pickup & put the distortion at the amp.

I am not trying to prove anything here or shout 'I told you so!' but when it comes from a pro, it is, at the very least, a proven engagement. Remember the simple formula- make your distortion count the most at the amp, every thing else should supplement this intensity.

Wish it was back (Part 7)

Ibanez used to have the Talman series as an alternative address for us Strat lovers. These guitars were departures from the RG/ S-series which are flagship models for the manufacturer. What I like about these guitars was the fact that there were offerings featuring single coils & P-90 pickups. If we take a look at the current Ibanez catalogue, we see a prodiminantly humbucking offering across the board. The manufacturer had the Talman in active feature back in the days when shred guitar went underground so the Talman was necessary to satiate one's need to be seen with a non-shred guitar because it was fashionable to do so. The Talman isn't all dead today. The Talman acoustic models are still rocking & a derivative of its solid body make comes in the form of Mr. Noodles' (The Offspring's) NDM2 model.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dig in or let fly?

It's rather foreseen that the old school mentality would be at odds with the new school players when it comes to the definition of real guitar playing, you know, that jaded argument which defines legitimacy because it's done a specific way. 

I was the unfortunate, lone audience of a quasi-enlightenment lecture on how 'kids' these days let their guitar effects pretty much mask their guitar playing. It's an implied lashing out at yours truly just because a guitar was put in his authority & the request to showcase some capabilities followed suit. Naturally, he let loose maximum distortion to supplement his playing style because that's what he's all about. The sage duly told him he prefers to let feel dictate his playing because that's the real player-instrument interaction; letting soul do the talking, not shrouding behind lifeless technology. What entailed were recommendations on how one can develop one's weak, technology-pampered hand to achieve masculine accomplishments all in the name of bringing life back to one's fretboard handling. One should hold back on the distortion & let feel take over because it's irrefutable that tone are in the fingers. Oh?

Anyway, this entry isn't about retaliation (yeah, right...) but perspective pondering; is there an established right (or righteous for that matter) way to play one's guitar & that technology is undermining this institution? We acknowledge the existence of different playing styles as time had proven- a simple case in point would be how Hendrix's digging in is as relevant as Van Halen's letting fly, today. As much as our acknowledgment of  how feel proves to be the real time connection between the heart & mind in our playing, technology is a valid intermediary in propagating feel. Some of us feel as much with technology under our fingers as the next guy who practices restraint in terms of gadgetry. Why should there be a contest of which philosophy should one emdear in the definition of instrument embrace? We should be happy with any means of playing if these get the job done. The human nature is such that, in the wake of technological assimilation, there is an instinctive retaliation of all things mechanical. It's a good reflex action, this one, but if left unchecked, it would breed elitism & dissent. I dig in & let fly all the time. If you catch me letting fly more than digging in, your dismissive behaviour would probably make you the lesser player because it means you know only know one way of getting it right. Tone is in the fingers but fingers are nothing without manipulatives- try letting your fingers talk without your guitar.

LTD ST-203: Owner's take

I've been playing my ST-203 for days now, here're some opinions:

Feel/ Playability
Fender Strat? Maybe in looks but not in feel; the LTD's neck isn't C-profiled like the Fender. In fact, it's still very curvy, it's LTD's U-profile which means the roundness is in tact, just thinner in depth. Inevitably, it would attract the shredders more than the blues campers. In the true spirit of vintage vibe, the action adjustment saddles are the tradition types featuring much screw protrusions to discomfort the picking hand. The default strings in this one were not .009s for sure but I had the Pyramid .009s in there for personal comfort.

I didn't expect too much from the trio of ESP's LS-120 single coils. They are there to reflect the price tag, really, but this trio were much more than I had hoped for. They sound warm in clean mode, nothing too sparkling ala Fender. This might be due to the rosewood fretboard as well but that's what I hear. In overdrive mode, the pickups' non-hot output make their presence heard, it's something I know would sound splendid with my Butah & it proved to be true. This LTD-Butah combo is the best coupling in terms of enjoyable overdrive but in excess, the LS pickups could handle proceedings well. These pickups stay put in there. They were also wired like the mid-life Strats; 5-way selector but the bridge is free from any tone control manipulations.

Pyramid strings
As the Pyramid strings season, they maintain a great bounce despite feeling less crunchy. That in between, neither-too-crunchy-nor-too-flimsy feel makes playing rather addictive.

Friday, July 9, 2010

LTD Pyramid

The Pyramid strings went into my LTD ST-203 & I'm liking everything about the feel.

Not gonna whammy with this guitar so 5-springs for the bridge to stay put.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eneloop your pedal

Forgive the rather deceptive post title; this one has nothing to do with phrase looping or the likes. However, if you are familiar with Sanyo batteries, the Eneloop rechargeable units are some of the most lasting & environment-friendly. The Sanyo chaps are now catering to our pedal power needs.

The pic above shows the Eneloop Pedal Juice, conceived in a pedal-size format, fitted in a pedal board. It is able to power your pedals & should be a welcome addition to our application as it would:
  1. Eliminate our need to source for a power outlet during outdoor gigs
  2. Eliminate PSU hum since it's not a power adapter- this should be absolutely good news for us
So we wait the Pedal Juice debut here, chances are, it would be available at the electronic dealers' as well & not at guitar shops exclusively.