Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Level gold

Level 42 celebrates 30 years of music involvements this year. Bassist, Mark King, teamed up with Ashdown amplification to come up with the above anniversary amp head with an added attraction- the control panel face plate is plated with... gold.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Heads up!!

The above pic was taken off the manufacturer's website. It's an ad for a special strap aimed at addressing the neck-heavy issue of some instruments. The product: Heads Up strap, guaranteed to hold the instrument's neck up when it threatens to kamikaze.

The neat little trick lies inside the pocket at the body end of the strap...

...which actually houses a weight to counter the neck-heavy pull. It's like tying a brick to your current strap but that wouldn't be as neat as this one, wouldn't it?

Before anyone asks, I've yet to see this product in the stores here..

Monday, September 27, 2010

Orange special

Whichever caps that came default with my Fender American Special, they are now gone. As seen above, I have Beez installed a pair of Orange caps in there. He took about 7min to get them done.

I also had pictures of girls on the pickguard this time round.

Finally, a set of D'Addario EXP: .009 - .042. This is a nickel plated steel version, we'd thought that the nickel overcoat would mellow the overall tone but these still sound very bright & crunchy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Much appreciated

ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons owns this 1959 Gibson Les Paul which he bought off a rancher (who was formerly a musician). The guitar, as we know it today, was named Pearly Gates. On the day of purchase, Mr. Gibbons bought it for a mere $250. Recently, a Japanese buyer offered a whopping $5mil for this guitar. To many of us, should any of our guitars sell for this much, it would be our retirement ticket. Mr. Gibbons didn't sell his Pearly Gates.

Of string gauge... (slight return)

Mark King, Level 42's bass prodigy, hits his bass hard. Very hard indeed, he once cracked his thumb while at it. So we thought the strings in his bass should be of the thicker variety but in a recent interview the King of bass (no pun intended) revealed he has light strings in there: 30-60-70-90. This proves, time & again, that thicker string gauge doesn't equal greatness.

Feline chorus

So I bought a new pedal to supplement my acoustic tone, coincidentally, it sports the same colour as the guitar.

The pedal in question is the Cool Cat (Danelectro) Chorus, a simple supplement for a simple need. Before the final selection, I had the following pedals on my consideration list:
  • Beta Aivin CE-100: Chorus Ensemble
  • Electro Harmonix: NANO Clone
  • Joyo: Classic Chorus
My requirements for a chorus unit are rather fundamental as well; not overwhelming + adequate features control. The NANO Clone is a 1-knob affair, I was looking out for its tone above all else. There was no way to access the effects oscillation speed so it was struck off the list- I am rather annoyed by the higher levels of oscillation as it makes the effect sound too psychedelic. The Joyo has a healthy sweep in both its rate & width controls but it tends to over-power the overall output as it lacks a LEVEL feature once activated- no go for this one as well. The CE-100 has the most number of features on board & would easily appease the player in search of details but in my case, the overall output wasn't rich enough. My idea of a chorus is a rich sounding voice; a tingling effect so to speak, which is the best pairing for an already favourable clean tone- this, the CE-100 does not possess. It isn't a dud pedal, mind you, it will give you a thick, fat chorus if you are in search of such an offering.

So my final pick was the Cool Cat for its rich sounding chorus & blend feature which I deem to be crucial because it determines how much chorus should be in the signal & hence the ability to offer the user a mild or rich register, depending on the need. All for a good $36.00.

Thanks Janet @ Davis GMC for the excessive try-out.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Inside info

I'm in the midst of reviving my Fender ST-72 which is suffering from electronics deterioration. Yes, we do take meticulous care of our guitars, we practise exterior maintenance but the internal components are deteriorating. Because they are not as conveniently accessible as the extenal counterparts, they receive less cleaning & would eventually give way. The above 5-way switch was the default model in the ST-72; it's the VLX53. These are also equipped in the Japanese Ibanez selections so what's the catch here? Answer: They are from the same Fujigen factory. My VLX53 had to go because the contacts were ineffective despite countless spraying of contact cleaners on many occasions.

This is how the ST-72 looks like under the pickguard; unlike the American Standard, the Japanese cavities cater for an all single coils affair. The cavities are also much deeper compared to some American makes which is a good thing for those of us who purchased switches with extended measurements; fitting is not an issue. Do note the finished cavity surfaces as well; the workmanship here is impressive to say the least.

Gran Eastwood

 You remember this movie? Clint Eastwood- retired, grumpy, asian neighbours, gangsters?

The score for that film was written by Kyle Eastwood- Clint Eastwood's son, an accomplished bass player.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blues for you, sir?

The weekend is here, it's time to unwind: Reserve the couch, get the coffee boiling & have some music to engage the deserving recline. Lucky me, I just received my Jeff Golub CD...

This isn't a smooth jazz release as the title implies; lots of blues in store. Despite the excessive posing with his 335, we know there are Strats in there. With many other Jeff Golub releases, the songs on offer are downright captivating. The album's label reads 'E1 music' so there's no chance I could get this off the shelves here but thanks to Memphis Music, it's made possible. Excuse me, my coffee's ready.


If being seen is your concern, especially in dark performance venues (not to mention being forgotten as the highlight had always been your vocalist...), DR's new NEON string range might help.

It's not available here yet, I'm awaiting its debut rather eagerly- attention seeking, eh? Not quite. It's the technological revision which attracts me. The manufacturer promises improved durability (9x more lasting) compared to its current coated set (I'm using them in a few of my guitars).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Black 8

It's good to know that there are 8-string players in the black metal circle- pic above: Astaroth (Otargos). Unlike the 7-string, the Ibanez 8-string has no Steve Vai to sieve the Korn-like influences done with the instrument. There won't be any commercial success coming by any time soon. The individuals who embrace the 8-string on their own accord, in the mean time, are the people to take note of; it's a choice embrace. These people pick the instrument up on a needs-basis, there were no compulsions.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Of frets...

The metal fittings in our guitar fingerboard, are the frets. The typical cross-section of a fret is pictured above. If you view your guitar neck from its sides, you'd see the above profile, less the barbs, which are hidden by the board's wood. The function of the barbs is to hold the fret in place after it's pressed/ hammered in. This leaves the bead/ crown exposed to come into contact with the strings. 

Before the frets reside in our guitar necks, they are cut from a very long piece of metal also referred to as the fret wire.

However, it's more convenient (not to mention economical) to sell fret wires in an already cut-up form as practiced by Dunlop, the leading fret wire manufacturer today.

When we talk about fret sizes, we are referring to the measurements pertaining to the crown's height & width. The exact size references are numerically assigned as depicted above. The layperson references are simpler; 'vintage' being the most restricted & 'jumbo' the most generous of them all. The contemporary electric guitar sports a fusion of both ends, the 6105 size is rather popular as it allows a good grip & not being overwhelming in feel, Joe Satriani has this in his Ibanez JS models. 

There are endless debates in countless forums lobbying for the 'best' fret size but it's all a matter of preference, much attributable to the individual's playing style. On a personal basis, I am adaptable to all fret sizes but inclining towards the jumbo & its derivatives- these supplement fast playing styles especially so for us dweebs with light touches.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Partial account

'Basswood'- the 'bass' in there rhymes with 'mess', that's how it's pronounced. To many of us, we rhyme this with 'case' or 'ace' for that matter. This is where the misconception entails- the uninitiated would believe this wood type to resonate excessive low frequencies, which is not the case.

The grime beneath

If you are meticulous with the wiping down of your instrument after each play, in your spare time, do attend to the unseen gunk beneath the string saddles. The guitar above is my Fender ST-72. I've been fastidious in taking care of the guitar's exterior oblivious to the fact that whatever's wiped away would be driven into the cracks & crevices so the filthy accumulation would be inevitable.

This is the same bridge base plate after an enthusiastic cleaning & polishing episode. Do note that if the slime continues to inhibit the hardware, rusting & slime build up (that unsightly green coating, not seen here of course) would occur.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Satch's fretting hand

The next time you watch Satch play, pay attention to his fretting hand. Joe Satriani has this peculiarity of assigning his index finger as a 'muter/ dampener', choosing to lay it across the neck to filter unnecessary noises instead of using it as a primary preference for fretting individual notes.

Jack 8

I requested Janet (Davis GMC) to look into the acquisition of a Schecter Blackjack ATX 8 for me- awaiting reply...

OK... leaving office now. Nothing beats going home to a wonderful, cold shower. And playing guitar thereafter.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Satch's other

This is an obscure model, Ibanez's JS700, but the simplicity is sheer attraction. If you think Joe Satriani is averse to single coils, then this guitar proved otherwise. It's utilized in his red, self-titled album for more bluesy voicings.Ibanez tend to get carried away with their dual action bridges, they should offer a healthy alternative of fixed bridge models. Agree?

Dimmu's Abra

I'm not a big Dimmu Borgir fan but the Silenoz-Galder pairing churn out some of the best riffs in this music genre; they are certainly not boring players. Awaiting the arrival of Abrahadabra, DB's latest, featuring the following new musicians:

  • Snowy Shaw- bass
  • Dariusz "Daray" Brzozowski- drums

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Save: Duncan's pickup set

Here's the situation; you'd like to purchase a Duncan Distortion humbucker for your neck & bridge positions, you'd be forking out $99 for each humbucker. However, if you opt for Duncan's set selections, you'd be paying only $165- you save $33.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Established players like Alex Lifeson (Rush)...

...and Neal Schon (Journey) are not afraid of equipping their personal guitars with preferred implements/ hardware. These are the individuals who dare to be personal. Some of us don't even dare to replace muddy Les Paul pickups...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No trigger

I've always admired my (CMATmods) Butah for its excellent single coil jangle (never failed to inspire me). In the pic above, I've lined it up as a drive-type booster. The Butah, upon activation, would beef up the (Biyang's Baby Boom) Mad Driver but it has to overcome the NG-100 along the way, which it could NOT. Even when set to its minimal threshold, the Butah simply could not trigger the gate well. The implication here is that, the Butah was conceived with very mild drive so we shouldn't look up to it to perform a booster function comprehensively. Anyway, I've never used it as such, this was a curiosity address. I love it as a stand-alone unit. It's simply superb that way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Balducci's bridge

The above guitars are Rob Balducci's custom Ibanez, there are others, of course.

A closer look reveals a different or variant bridge in use instead of the established Edge models. The gear section of Mr. Balducci's homepage is currently under revision. Hopefully, he will shed light on this bridge make.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rob Balducci: Violet Horizon

I received Rob Balducci's Violet Horizon last Thursday, ripped it to mp3 & had the tracks in my phone & mp3 player. I've been listening to it every day...

Many people whom I've talked to do not quite fancy Mr. Balducci's playing because it's wah-drenched. But upon careful listening, it's not entirely true. Mr. Balducci here might have constantly punctuated his phrases with the wah but when he's not, I think many of us weren't listening. Ditto his playing style- after an initial listening, the impatient among us would ask, "Hey, where's the shred?" but RB is one who takes his time to craft his tunes. He would bend & vibrato at will then plunge into some shred; if it's done differently then it's not Rob Balducci.

Violet Horizon contains more shred moments than RB's two prior releases, it also features guest soloists Dave Weiner & Guthrie Govan. There are also some lush moments attributable to the Gilmour-esque school of guitar ambience as cited by Mr. Balducci himself.

Rob Balducci took time to have a Violet Horizon promo site up to share bits on the tracks & inspiration behind the tunes. Click here: Take me to the Violet Horizon promo site

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ex-basses, a summary of sorts

My first bass was a Squier Affinity model. It was the simple features which attracted me to it & that split pickup has that unmistakable P-bass tone. I bought this one late '90s, it was the grunge era, anti-guitar sentiments were everywhere so my ownership of a bass was an escape. However, the Affinity's neck wasn't as sturdy as expected, it warped repeatedly. The neck width was a little wide, I definitely could use something more comfortable. After selling this bass, I wasn't in a hurry to find a replacement as the guitar distractions got the better of me.

My subsequent bass was a serious investment, it's the discontinued Music Man SUB model. At that point in time Davis GMC had these in store together with the SUB1 guitar (so I bought 1 each...). The $900 asking price was too good to resist. The bass was thoughtlessly swapped with my dad's Ibanez RD500... *sigh*

This is perhaps the most playable & versatile bass I ever owned, featuring an active circuitry but the pickups remain passive. It looks rather retarded but the Ibanez RD500 had one of the best tonal palette without being too costly. This bass was sold to a relative who has a performance need for it. Reliability & rumbling good tones- the RD has plenty.

I then discovered the joy of a shorter scaled bass; it's not as excessive as a full scale unit which promotes playability for someone who is predominantly guitar-inclined. The Ibanez GAXB was a cheap & cheerful player which sounded good despite the sparse appointments. A young chap came over to try this bass because we share the same preference, something shorter scaled to address playability for occasional playing. There was immediate interest as mine was better set-up than the store's. It was a quick deal & I thought I could easily get another GAXB as it's readily available here. I waited for a non-black version- still waiting. The GAXB was discontinued about 2 years ago but I am still waiting.

Because I missed my SUB bass too much, the OLP MM2 was purchased as a consolation but the tone from this one wasn't Music Man grade. No, it's not bad, it's just... different. Just goes to show  we can't get cod roe to satisfy a caviar craving. Someone in planet bass read my review of this one & offered me a good price for it because it's exactly the finish he wanted. FYI- the OLP brand name had been discontinued & superseded by the Sterling label which manifested a clear revision in QC & tones.

I was still canvassing for a worthy bass after the OLP episode & chanced upon the BB414 when I was at Beatspot to purchase an amp (my Blackheart Killer Ant head). Gave this white model a try & it was superb to say the least. I was specifically looking for a model sporting a P/J pickup combo, tried the Squier version but wasn't too pleased with the tone. The BB414 features the same pickup arrangement but it's not about similar offerings when it comes to desirable tones; it's the wood, electronics & craftsmanship chemistry not some fancy brand names. This bass is very appealing (Yamaha makes better basses than guitars!) but proved too bulky for a small-built person like me. It went for an attractive price & was purchased by a close acquaintance.

So that's the brief about all my ex-basses. As I am a guitar person first & foremost, I have a loose attachment to my basses but this might change. Wishing everyone a good Sunday morning.

The other scoop

I was flipping the pages of an old magazine when I stumbled upon this guitar- it's the Alvarez electric, featuring the dana scoop. It's essentially the manufacturer's take on upper fret access, merging the guitar's treble side cutaway with the neck pickup's slot. The obvious compromise here would be the neck pickup & the overall instrument's rigidity. For those of us who keep whining about not having real upper fret access, this guitar might just work for you but it's extinct...

Despite the backing of Lita Ford- rock's femme fatale of the '90s- this guitar didn't live to see the turn of the century.

Remembering my ex... (Part 6)

This was my first proper acoustic guitar, an Ibanez PF-40. It's strictly acoustic, with no plug in feature. The highlight of this guitar was its very playable neck. As I gave it more playing time, I was incapacitated by the big body. It's not the manufacturer's fault but the player's inability to adapt. I am more used to the electric guitar's body profile which remains snug when played both sitting & standing up. Also, I need not arch out my picking arm to strum/ pick, this is a very important factor for me as it affects my picking. So this guitar was put up for sale for slightly more than half its retail price & was bought by an eager strummer.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


It was all bass all day today. The hours of playing, I realized, strengthened my thumb. Also, when one is predominantly a guitarist, upon playing bass, there has to be a switch in the mind frame; one has to think bass which is what I need to do. I kept playing the bass like a guitar, with all those fast runs, it gives very little meaning to a bass embrace. However, I can't simplify my phrasing for this to happen, I keep treading on complexity, which is more suitable for guitar.

Listening to Jaco Pastorious now...

The Blacktops

Fender has these new Mexican models, the Blacktop series, which are rather alluring & appealing to the drive/ distortion inclined.

The common feature in these models (all 4 of them) are those black knobs...

...& humbuckers. All models feature humbuckers less the Jazzmaster which has a neck single coil.

Those of us who wish to own the Jaguar/ Jazzmaster models but do not wish to deal with complicated controls & such, these are the models to consider.

I feel like getting...

...all 4 guitars.