Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remembering Stevie

It's the final day of August, the year will see its final quarter unfold. To those of us who were shackled by dread, the year end's coming might spark some delight in view of the festive season to come as well as some bonus remuneration for many of us.

August also saw the passing of a legend back in 1990, whose embrace of the guitar commanded sheer respect. Stevie Ray Vaughan wasn't even on my list of guitar idols when he was alive but his passing manifested availability- suddenly, SRV's music was everywhere & it beckoned my listening. Being an Ibanez nut back then (still am), I simply had not time for people who played some other guitar, especially one with a repulsive headstock design (I couldn't stand the Strat headstock- awful!). But the coming of age taught me the instrument was about music. Being tools, some instruments are more appropriate for the job than others. SRV played Strats because that's the most suitable instrument for his music, it shouldn't be an issue. 

My first SRV exposure was the Vaughan Brothers' Family Style- there's blues beyond Eric Clapton, this I learned. I was rather averse to this music genre previously, but with Family Style, it's total embrace. This was one of the very few cassette tape releases I played to death- literally. The constant playing & flipping wore the cassette film down, it crumpled at the edges & finally got caught in the player's reels- the perfect opportunity for me to purchase a CD version of it. Of course, I worked backwards with the SRV catalogue, soon, In Step, Soul to Soul, Couldn't Stand the Weather & Texas Flood became religious listening for me.

Over time, my yearning to actually see SRV play became more intense. I recall a local record store here having a year end clearance sale, I acquired the Live at the El Mocambo DVD for cheap: SGD18.00... Ladies & gentleman, your embrace of all things SRV isn't complete without seeing him play & his guitar treatment in this release isn't for the faint hearted- you'd then understand why his Strat body became semi-stripped after all those years.

Goodbye August.

RIP: Stephen Ray Vaughan (1954 - 1990)


In my effort to appreciate the acoustic tone without being repelled by the extra effort needed to fret the notes down (it's not that easy without overdrive assistance, yes?), the Talman was plugged into my Kustom bass amp. The result was rather appealing as the typical bass amp placed an emphasis on the guitar's lower midrange. Kustom + Talman = Kusman

Monday, August 30, 2010

Knob grip

The default knob in my Ibanez GRGR010 is a flimsy, cheap unit. This is not an excessive criticism of the brand name but an understanding of where the GIO offerings are in the Ibanez tier. It's light plastic that would crack if you step on it. Ironically, the design mimics the (selected) Prestige Colette version which sports a rubber grip for effective handling.

So a little shopping around & I bought a replacement knob which sports a rubber grip. The skull design was purely coincidental to the guitar's skull theme.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


It's another lethargic weekend with nothing much to look forward to. The upcoming week is just another week, one bogged down by a depleted fund for gear splurging. It always happens this time of the year. Perhaps this is why the season is named as 'fall', besides leaves, enthusiasm, determination & spending capacity are all falling...

I was more intent in doing instrument upkeep today than playing. My Ibanez RG321 & Talman acoustic gets a fresh set of GHS strings each.

ATK headstock

The Ibanez ATK bass, as we know it.

The new ATK headstock labeling/ make-over, take note. Don't you go screaming 'FAKE'...

The 7th Day

Fresh catch: Immortal- The Seventh Day of Blashyrkh. It's the limited edition version, hand numbered & poster inclusive.

Friday, August 27, 2010

EVH Wolfgang

June 2006 - March 2008; that's how long it took to manifest the EVH Wolfgang model. The most demanding encounter by Fender's Master Builder, Chip Ellis, was Van Halen's very specific pickup tones. He recommended (Fender) engineer Seiki Goto to chip in when the going got tough...

The interesting thing to note here was the initial use of alder for the guitar body (alder is de riguer for Fender, yes?) but was rejected by Van Halen, instead, he specified basswood... ha!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Simplicity- bring it back...

The more I search & stumble upon such gems, the more depressed I get; wish I could travel back to 1993 to grab this wonderful instrument. Ibanez used to have the SF model which was an S-series with a Gibraltar II, tune-o-matic type bridge- we'd definitely appreciate this make today. If Paul Gilbert can convince the manufacturer that he's the shredder type who can live without a whammy bridge, surely, he isn't alone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The contender

This is a real Fender contender, the PRS 305 sports a maple neck + fretboard, alder body & a trio of single coils. PRS never had the Fender camp in mind with their offerings, this may be the first. After hearing online tone samples, I don't quite hear the twang that would out-jangle the Fender anytime soon. In fact, I hear more P-90 type fatness & lots of desirable snap from this beauty.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


After announcing his retirement from the black metal involvements, ex-Gorgoroth main man Gaahl, is now busy acting. He stars in a musical currently given a second run at the Den Nationale Scene, the largest theatre in Bergen (Norway). Svartediket is the world's first black metal musical but it's not about the rise of the music genre, in fact, it's a haunting tale of a legendary local lake bearing the name, which was allegedly the site of a gruesome child murder.

This only serves as a reminder that black metal is effectively a music genre despite its accompanying heretical & blasphemous culture. Society sees the latter more than the music. It becomes social concern that this culture not seep into society's civic grip as it is poisonous & would infect the young, impressionable mind more than anyone else. However, if we believe in education, it would serve as a check, drawing the line between acceptability & dysfunction.

Desirable mini

As soon as the ACTV4 mini makes its debut here, I'd be checking it out...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dragon metal

My digging into this forgotten 'treasure' trove continues. The bove album cover looks too simple to be mean but the contents (the music) are brutal. Dim Mak consists of the other Ripping Corpse members who didn't ply their music in Hate Eternal. The death metal offered here has a trace of cross-over/ hardcore to it which makes it more acceptable but that's being too nice, really. What I enjoy most are the drums; I'd deem the materials here to be brutal precision. Then drummer Brandon Thomas (current Dim Mak drummer is John Longstreth) could pretty much generate any beat types at any speed; that's how lethal he is. All that with extreme precision to boot. He virtually over-shadowed everybody in this album in terms of technical delivery. I could have easily deemed this as a drum album per se but Shaune Kelly & Dennis Carrol were also masters of their own delivery.

Speaking of Shaune Kelly, he pretty much stuck to his Ibanez S-series for all the Dim Mak releases, even for his stint in Hate Eternal, it's the Ibanez through & through. Enter the Dragon was released in 1999 where grunge is living out its twilight moments to pave way for more guitar uprising.

Mini offer

If you are looking for something compact in terms of features with little compromise on tone, City Music is currently offering the above VOX Mini 3 amp for $136 (usu $170). It's not too different from the DA5 model & runs on 2 power options; 6 x AA batteries or an included adapter.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Light 2

Another lazy Sunday, another light set up...

  1. Ibanez RG321- was actually gonna re-string this guitar... maybe it'll happen later at night
  2. Canare patch cable
  3. Planet Waves Custom Pro cable
  4. Ibanez TS7
  5. X-mini speaker
  6. Korg Pandora PX5D

Germ again

This is a first take on the Big Muff Germ 4 pedal, essentially a 2-in-1 entity which isn't too fuzzy for all you Muffers but the signature, grizzly overtone is still present.

As the label suggests, the pedal consists of 2 channels a mild overdrive side & the darker, meaner distortion side but both being Muff-sounding. Also, the control labels aren't typical Muff affair, the BIAS feature for instance, offers some manipulations for both tone & drive/ distortion intensity. Ditto the VOLTS feature while the TONE label is a familiar shaping feature to many of us with our other pedals. The labels here aren't really an upfront offering, they might influence other aspects of tone which aren't in their direct domain.

To be cont'd...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Of string gauge

You've probably heard this countless times: Stevie Ray used .013s, that's greatness. Over time, when we mingle around long enough, our peers would suggest sporting a thicker gauge for our guitars to achieve a more pleasurable tone. So we invest in thicker-than-usual strings for ourselves only to deal with a change in action which might not be beneficial (among other problematic entailments). 

So is it true then, thicker = better as far as strings are concerned? The truth here would be, thicker strings give us a different tonal response, a beefier tone which is more marked in acoustic/ unplugged settings. For us solid body dweebs, this tonal difference is highlight for clean settings. As soon as drive/ distortion kicks in, the beef would be cloaked, the more you dial up, the lesser the difference. SRV's greatness was coupled with the conscious use of overdrive, his clean but crunchy tone is legendary to say the least.

Over the years, I've also discovered thicker gauged strings are better heard with single coils. As these strings manifest more bottom end, they tend to blend too easily with the inherently boomy humbuckers unlike the average single coil where twang is present to ensure clarity. The uninitiated player would deem this response
to be 'better'; it's chunkier, there's more thump so it has to be more desirable, yes?

Bofore you embrace thicker strings, be informed that manufacturers equip their guitars with a specific string gauge at the factory. Should you make this decision final, be prepared for a revised action & intonation settings as necessary accommodations. Thicker strings being 'better' is certainly a myth when the player himself delineates better from worse; it's strictly a personal take, your gem might be someone else's swill. I stick to .009s for all my 25.5" scaled guitars, it's not the end-all gauge as far as preference is concerned, just that this gauge set gives me the preferred tension & action settings I embrace. For all other shorter scaled guitars in my possession, I have a .0095s in them. The Les Paul camp would scream heresy but as mentioned before, it's strictly personal- I can't play well with .010s, regardless of the conventional embrace & the fact that Gibson equip the LPs with .010s back at the factory. Speaking of quirks, it's interesting to know the following professionals keep their string gauge manageable despite popular beliefs:

  1. Jimmy Hendrix: His black Stratocaster was equipped with a set of .009 - .038, so lesson learned here- it's not about the strings... it's about Hendrix.
  2. Jimmy Page: .008 in his Les Paul- this would give rise to a super flapping experience but because it's Jimmy Page, we'd take it as educational, if it's some other bloke out there, it'd be rubbish *sigh*
  3. James Hetfield: .009 - .042
  4. Eddie Van Halen: .009 - .042
  5. Carlos Santana: .009 - .042


I was at Swee Lee yesterday for some convincing. I managed to try the Ibanez RG350M (again?), I intentionally chose an earlier consignment to prove that what I tried recently was a definite difference; neck-wise that is. The earlier batch of 350Ms still sport the rather meaty Wizard II profile which has the D feel to it as well. Still wondering if the recent manifestation was a mistake of sorts but I'm gonna just lay it to rest in the mean time...

Thank you brother Jumahat for the assistance.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Decade of Aggression

I'm still digging into my 'forgotten' collection, this group of CDs are packed into a box & tucked away in the common store room. Slayer's A Decade of Aggression was my first live album as I'm not a fan of live releases; I don't enjoy listening to songs rehashed in a live context but this release was different- there were no overdubs to polish the final output. That's a bold step & a real statement of self-belief. Unlike other Slayer releases where the bass was notoriously buried & inaudible, Araya's finger works here are present & commanding. I'm still not a fan of live releases, though.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The real reason why I visited Davis was to acquire the above. More to come...


Last night's session was a light one, in terms of set up that is. Had the above assembly going while sitting & watching TV:
  1. LTD ST-203: it's a single coil night, nothing humbucking, please...
  2. X-mini speaker: it's the first incarnation & still my fav
  3. LINE6 Pocket Pod Express: simplicity as it is
  4. Planet Waves Custom Pro cable: grabbed the shortest cable, this was it
  5. Canare patch cables: used the version with Cabletek plugs, i ordered a trio of 3-inchers from Beez for pedals connection
  6. Alice: 3mm pick, my all time fav
  7. Biyang: silent adaptor, a very appropriate application with single coils
  8. Beta Aivin: noise gate, another all time fav
  9. Ibanez TS7: the most utilized Tubescreamer in my collection

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fresh ESP @ Davis

Some new ESP guitars at Davis GMC, 2 of which are seen here; Gus G's signature Eclipse & Floyd Rose equipped Forest. No prices were released at time of posting.

Nippon family

These are the 2 Jap Fenders I currently own, the ST-72 & Jaguar Special HH. My current Fender tally:
  1. American Standard Telecaster
  2. American Series 50th Anniversary Strat
  3. Highway 1 Stratocaster
  4. American Special Stratocaster
  5. ST-72
  6. Mustang bass
Japanese Fenders are definitely value-for-money instruments but too many critics measure them up against the Americans. When we invest in these Fenders, we have to keep in mind they have no obligations to conform to American specs. The common grief here would be the instrument's basswood body for selected Strats/ Teles. Also, by virtue of the models' numerical appointments, some people deem the Japanese models to be reissues & we often see ads offering them as such which is a grave misrepresentation. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Profile difference


We've seen the Ibanez RG350M before. Nothing special, just a regular RG (there's a cult following elsewhere, mind you...) but the finish is all the attraction. Anyway, a fresh batch of these guitars just arrived at Standard Value & Mike did a splendid set up for one of them (a great set up is Mike's thing, by the way...) so that I could spend some time testing it out but I've tried the RG350M & its other manifestations countless times. Mike insisted this one's different so I gave it a shred attack; true enough, the current consignment of RG350Ms feature a much slimmer neck, it's not even a 'D' profile typical of the Wizard II spec in today's catalogue. What you get is a very rounded feel, very 'C' & shallow, close to yesterday's fabled Super Wizard make. I'm wondering if there's a mistake of sorts here, a mis-match over at the factory but the slimmer, Prestige Japanese necks aren't shipped to Indonesia, yes? Maybe the manufacturer intended it to be this way which is definitely good news to ardent fans.


I'm digging into my collection & re-listening to some of the stuff which weren't in the limelight during their time. Vinnie Moore's Meltdown was deemed as a yawn when it was released (Guitar World gave it a 2.5 out of a maximum of 4 stars) but I consider it to be different. We hear more of Moore (no pun intended) playing some very controlled phrasing but some of the passages in there were lightning fast just that they weren't staple with the release. It was also the year Vinnie Moore stepped out of the Ibanez camp. My cousin stopped listening to him simply because of that... *duh* It was also a 'wrong' release in its time- the '90s was all about grunge & anti-technicalities, maybe that explained why the guitars here sounded restrained.

But it's one of the most enjoyable offerings by the Vin man. OK, at least in my books...

Jaguar tamperings (Part 5)

The non-American Fenders are equipped with this traditional string tree design, some fans call it the 'butterfly' version.

I've replaced mine with the rounded version for the following benefits:
  1. No sharp edges so less string snapping encounters
  2. Reduces friction, more effective tuning

Monday, August 16, 2010

Jaguar tamperings (Part 4)

This is the default Fender Jaguar Special HH strap button which I dislike. It features the 'cup' design which serves to expand the strap slit over time.

Replaced it with a Planet Waves version with an additional felt inserted between the guitar body & the button itself.

It's not quite visible from the previous pic but here it is before going into the body. The benefit of having this in there is that it prevents the body finish from fusing with the button. This would prove damaging when you decide to unscrew deteriorated strap buttons for replacement; the button would lift off the finish & you'd hear this awful cracking sound only to realize the affected surface had indeed cracked.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The other side

It's been a difficult weekend. Restlessness & anxiety smothered any real desire to play guitar. It might be the season to feel abysmal or a classic case of finding reasons to carry on what I am doing when I've always despised doing it. But I'm not one to let the restful weekend pass me by without making music. That's simply not me...

So today ended up being a different guitar day, one devoid of amplification. I would usually grab my Ibanez AF105 when such lows set in but the Talman was at the ready & it was my first & only resort. It's excessively difficult playing without a pick for me, I'm too accustomed to having that precision feel & playing with my fingertips simply messed up my approach to the guitar. I ended up playing self-conjured chords & whatever sounded nice, can't be too picky if one plays beyond one's comfort zone. It's like traveling to the other side of me where the potential exists but not the embrace. Having watched Antonio Forcione play before I picked up the guitar really helped. Sometimes, a simple inspiration is all it takes to get going.

Hopefully this new week has some revitalization in store.

Fender sierra

This is the default bag which came with my Fender Jaguar Special HH; it's one of the most comfortable I've come across.

A closer look at the zippers revealed a non-Fender logo as indicated in the pic above.

It seems that Fender had assigned High Sierra, a camping equipment manufacturer, to produce those bags so that accounted for the attention to details, especially in terms of user comfort. Thumbs up to this.

AXL: Badwater 1216

I was at Davis GMC trying out pedals & stuff yesterday when I came across this AXL Badwater 1216. It reminded me too much of my (Les Paul) BFG; a well built guitar with sufficient finish to get by, nothing more. So if you are not into this realm of product presentation, you'd think AXL is trying to pull a fast one from you. The pickups are EMG designed Alnico humbuckers which proved to be the strength of this instrument; the satin finished guitar sounded so sweet with its rather light body, there's much clarity to be heard too. You'd notice the cutaway there having a less acute scoop compared to the typical LP design- it's complementing the set-neck's upper access trimming, very similar to the PRS make. All the attraction for a mere $250; one of the best bargain guitar out there.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Metal Embrace

Rocktron's Boutique (by name, not by price) series are now available at Davis GMC. Was there to try the Metal Embrace (List: $150). If you've ever heard the Metal Planet (by the same manufacturer) in action, this one's on par in terms of distortion offerings.

Beautiful freak

The above guitar is not an industrial accident by-product from PRS, it's a custom model made for Dweezil Zappa. Despite having the option to conceive a beautiful instrument to his specs, Mr. DZ opted for 2 quirks as seen in this pic:
  1. Mandolin-type cutaway: You thought that was a bewildering option for a cutaway, maybe it was a case of excessive artistic expression but it's actually based on a mandolin outline. Now that you see it manifesting in a guitar format, it looks rather queer but it's nothing new.
  2. Mismatched top: Look closely at the guitar's flame top; it's actually a mismatch. For any other boutique guitar maker, there would be hesitations but with PRS, it happened.
I like (& have utmost respect for) what Dweezil Zappa did for his selections; he's not afraid to incorporate his preferences in his personal pick. If one has the option to customize one's instrument, it should reflect one's firm wants. But we see too many clones of popular/ safe guitar outlines out there even when it's supposed to be a custom make.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Howe's 5

Greg Howe is currently playing Laguna guitars, he also endorses DiMarzio pickups & the bridge unit in his LE924FR guitar is a GH5 model. 'GH' for Greg Howe but what's the 5 suffix all about? It's the number of attempts Greg & the DiMarzio team had before they got the pickup right- now you know.

Jaguar tamperings (Part 3)

This replacement was inevitable; the default blank bolt plate was replaced by the 'F' engraved version. This was a risky move as the latter is American. Usually such parts won't fit into a Japanese dimension. No idea if this was a conspiracy to prevent cross-fittings but there was no misalignment whatsoever as seen above.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jaguar tamperings (Part 2)

I decided to give my Jaguar Special HH a re-string because the default gauge in there is a little too thin for the instrument's shorter scale length. I suspect these are .009s. The factory tagging specifically stated the instrument was equipped with a set of Fender strings but the coloured ball ends as depicted above, proved otherwise. It could also imply there was a re-string done to the guitar along the way, maybe when it reached the dealer's.

The Speciall HH's tune-o-matic type bridge & stop tail are the trusted Gotoh brand. That's good to know. I prefer them anyway because they are a little lighter so the guitar body breathes easier, we hear more wood this way.

It's done- a set of D'Addario .0095s with the wrap over stringing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jaguar tamperings

I think I've been looking at my Jaguar's body for too long. It suddenly dawned on me the Special HH is a peculiar guitar; why would it need additional pickup mounting rings when it already sports a pickguard?

As I was removing the pickguard's plastic lining (which required the removal of the mounting rings), I took the opportunity to probe the cavity. The Special HH's pickup cavity is actually wider than the mounting rings' dimensions. This makes sense because from an economical perspective (& that Fender is a business entity after all, duh?!) it's wiser to use available resources for a humbucking guitar as opposed to incurring costs to route a fresh body for humbucker fittings. In this case, the Special HH's body, judging by the dimension of the pickup cavities per se, is actually a Jazzmaster body whose routing are a little wider to accomodate the P-90 type pickups.