Monday, October 31, 2011

Remembering P. Ramlee

Halloween entry? Sorry, but I have another important, more relevant event to document here.On 31st October 1948, a talented young gentleman debuted in his first big screen episode, a movie entitled 'Chinta' (Love) & that was the mark of history in the Malay entertainment circle. That very gentleman was none other than Tan Sri P. Ramlee (RIP) who went on to become one of the most formidable actor-director-composer & I see his accomplishments as remarkable.

I recently read this book about P. Ramlee & thought that he was very lucky to be talent-spotted by BS Rajhans, otherwise, that latent talent in him would have been a total waste. There is much potential in many of us, if this is developed at a younger, tender age, we would, I believe, grow up to further manifest this talent & much good will entail. P. Ramlee was a natural, he had no formal music education. He was very much self-taught & developed his multi-instrumental talent along the way, always redefining his accomplishments at every opportunity. This is a great gift indeed.

I would certainly wish that someone had spotted my talent in music & art earlier in life so that I wouldn't end up engaged in this repulsive profession. Going to work & hating what you are doing is not going to do much good for you; your job satisfaction is non-existent. The moment you set foot in the office, you'd wish the day would end in a flash but this isn't the case. You suffer every moment of the way till the day's end. Thankfully, my guitars have kept my lucidity in check.

P. Ramlee, RIP, March 22, 1929 – May 29, 1973.

Kiko's clinic @ ACM

I only have this pic to show from Kiko's clinic last night. I'm not the the type who's eager to display others' gear for general discovery. I respect the player, if he wishes to share his gadgets, he has his means of sharing.

Anyway, it's rather disturbing that people are manifesting a lack of respect when someone else is talking, there was a small discussion group near where I was sitting & someone actually answered a call too. They say that today's people today are more educated but they are more emotionally handicapped as well, doubt if education per se can level this out.

Kiko Laureiro is an immensely talented player, his ideas & phrasing are unique, very melodic & displaying lots of Brazilian roots without a direct presentation. In the realm of the arts, we do not ask the artist the concrete formula for a certain outcome because there is no such formula, the reason it's art. Kiko was asked how he came up with certain ideas, the exact concoction was expected to be shared but he did the right thing by pointing the way & not saying how exactly it was done because people would believe there is a fixed formula for it all. Not trying to be critical here but a reflection of maybe why the arts aren't as thriving in this country as they should be.

I certainly enjoyed the concluding track No Gravity because Kiko used a small Laney combo for that, proof that it's not gear pedigree measuring greatness- it's the player.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Worthy quote: John Scofield

John Scofield said this about his guitar in a recent magazine interview:

Well, I played the same old guitar I've always had. I keep buying new guitars but I never actually use them. I play them in my basement. I use this 1981 Ibanez AS200.

The pickups are still stock, I am scared to change them. There might be much better pickups in the world, but I like these. They are loud as shit. 

How many of us can actually come forth to say the same; that they actually like their default, no-name pickups? Are we obliged to swap away our default pickups just because our peers are doing it? Or for that matter- your HERO is doing it?


Got my Kiko ticket, see you there!

Duncans in S570

Goodbye- The Infinity pickups in my Ibanez S570B had their last performance early yesterday morning... They are decent pickups but they do not manifest my preferred voicings for distortion. I prefer more bass in the bridge humbucker.

In with the new:

  • Neck: Duncan Jazz
  • Mid: Duncan Quarter Pound (Staggered)
  • Bridge: Duncan Custom
Duncan single coils come with default Strat-type mounting screws so they are oversized for the Ibanez cavity. I had to used the original Ibanez screws for it. Manufacturers should consider providing 2 sets of screws in the package because not everyone buys single coils for Strats- we have other guitars, don't we? Thanks Beez for the speedy job!

This (Fire)man's worth

The last time I mentioned this Ibanez Fireman FRM100 here, its list price wasn't released yet. But be informed that you can purchase this wonderful instrument (yes, the guitar per se is awesome) for slightly more than $2K (list price). You'd read in many advertisements the affordability factor of the FRM100; let's re-think what 'affordability' means.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Here's another Stubby-esque pick I've recently purchased- Clayton's S-Stone. In addition to the centre indentation to promote grip, the upper pick surface is sufficiently grooved, so there's no excuse to let it slip. I'm currently testing the 2.5mm version. S-Stone picks are plastic & they don't manifest that 'clunk' while you're attacking your strings. Avaialble @ SV Guitars.

Friday, October 28, 2011

3X MOD version

You own the (Tech 21) Double Drive? Most probably, you own the version you see above.

This is the revised version, note the MOD label there. What's the difference, you ask? This later incarnation has a more metal type drive, so it suits players like me who are in favour of a more intense voicing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Activity recommendations

Can you, for the love of your sub-$1K budget, get an impressive guitar equipped with active pickups? I'd recommend you check these 3 out:

UNO: War Zone 1
This is simply a wonderful player. One more time- UNO's War Zone is an impressive player, for less than $850. For any guitars with active pickups on board, we'd do well to keep in mind that they will overpower the instruments' natural resonance. But those active TESLA pickups in there get my vote for being some of the most appealing in both distortion & clean applications. Let's not forget that the WZ1 has great playability to boot.

Ibanez: Halberd
The Ibanez Halberd is a recent addition to the manufacturer's active pickup line-up & unlike its other counterparts mentioned here, it sports a bolt-on neck. This aside, the Halberd is a great player; top marks for playing comfort both sitting down & strapped on. The active pickups are Ibanez's own CAP-LZ models which sound above-average. The ultimate appeal for any serious, shred-worthy Ibanez guitar is definitely its neck profile. The Halberd isn't equipped wit the Wizard neck but it holds its own in terms of fretboard acceleration.

Lastly, but not the least capable, mind you, is LTD's H351NT. It's equipped with a pair of EMGs so it won't go wrong. If you wish for a guitar with lots of good active tones, great playability AND good looks, the H351 is it. For a limited period, Davis GMC is offering the whammy bridge version for the same price as this non-whammy model.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The psychology of playing different (neck profiles)

I'm supposed to re-string the above guitars but I ended up playing instead, I guess the re-stringing will happen later.

It's definitely a positive move to own more than one guitar with all intentions to help you play better off course (collection flaunting isn't the primary concern). I started off with the Ibanez S570B & played for about 20min then moving on to the Fender (American Special) Strat. There is more than a change of tonal responses here, it's the change in feel & playability that helped me pay attention to fretting technicalities. The different neck profiles somehow forced me to adapt to playing the same thing but with a different tool. Some of us are bothered by this, we have a singular preference, we stick to the instruments that work & allow very little room for variation. But I believe we learn more by adapting to changes.
PS: NOT going to Swee Lee sale.


To all Hindu friends & blog visitors- Happy Deepavali. To the rest of us, it's a deserving mid-week break.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Holiday SALE @ Swee Lee Katong

If you are available tomorrow- since it's a public holiday- you might wanna drop by Swee Lee's Katong showroom... I will be heading to the beach, so no harm dropping by. He, he...

The Darkzone beckons...

Dear guitar demons, do you detune your guitars & suffer from a wimpy bottom end? Rotosound offers this limited edition 10 - 60 gauge to address your dark needs... Ask your local dealer if they are planning to bring them in. Then plug in your Metal Zone & let your Tone Zone pickup manifest your Darkzone...

Mug... when?

Was looking for a coffee mug earlier today, came across this Swee Lee anniversary mug but couldn't recall when I got it. After a sachet of Robert Timms, I still couldn't recall, thought the caffeine would help but no...


These were the guitars played yesterday, from left to right:

Fender: American Special Strat
There was a sudden urge to hear some singlecoils in action so the American Special was my pick. The D'Addario steel strings did well to accentuate the singlecoil crisp. But being a distortion fan, I was easily bothered by the lack of bass in singlecoils.

Ibanez: Talman Acoustic
The only acoustic I own, I prefer this guitar's tone plugged in, rather ironic because acoustics are supposed to appeal unplugged. Anyway, this guitar was used for tapping practice. It helped build up finger dexterity which was the immediate benefit when I switched to the electric- tapping was a breeze.

Smash: S2 Lite
This is one of the guitars I am glad to have come across; cheap & cheerful. The S2's hefty feel has lots to do with the great tone it generates. In fact, I've kept the default pickups in tact because they sound above average through any amps I plug this guitar into, thanks to the body/weight - pickups chemistry.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Armageddon it!

This is an awesome offering by Egnater amps- the Armageddon model. I've heard demo clips & I'm impressed namely due to the dedicated midrange control. The chances of this amp making it here is rather remote unless you can source for an exclusive importer. Sit down & enjoy this:

Wish it was back: Ibanez DTX-120

This is not the classic Ibanez Destroyer that so irked a certain manufacturer back in the 1970s, it's a rather recent discontinuation; the DTX-120 (OK... not so recent, maybe 4-5 years ago...). I remember there were 2 others in this series, the ADD & ICX, both featured a scaled-down body & hailed from the X-series of Ibanez offerings which were quirky looking & appealed to the leftist design fanatics among us. Wish they reissue this one because the current Destroyer (DTT-00) offered today features a big body but you'd argue it looks more authentic, closer to the classic Destroyer of the past.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It seems that Ibanez played a part in Metallica's music once upon a time...
Obiter dictum: Congrats, NZ- 2011 champs!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wood, no?

If you see a Marshall MG series amp & noticed that striped wood, do note it's not a pirated product. It's the manufacturer's new carbon fiber range as denoted in the model's suffix, in this case- MG50CFX ('C' for carbon fiber). Also, the control panel isn't the familiar gold, it's silver-faced. Amplifier aficionados will tell you a non-wood chassis affects tone so will this series of Marshalls be less appealing? You have to hear one in person...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gibson's short boomer

Not a big fan of Gibson but some of their offerings just appeal to me. This shorter scaled (30.5") Les Paul Jr DC bass is one of them. Some dealers have second thoughts bringing such peculiar instruments into their stores because it's a slow mover compared to the more conventional offerings. Gee... Anyway, here's the bass in action:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Machine Head: Unto the Locust

In the 1990s, Machine Head was the saving grace of metal as the world was then drowning in the anti-guitar melodrama & its grunge associations, this band stood firm choosing to peddle sheer heaviness above all else. The band lost this plot along the way as they succumbed to the more popular metalcore (oh gosh, I hate branding music this way) culture but 2007's The Blackening was a firm resurgence of the quartet's heavy beliefs. It got me listening & it got me anticipating this 2011 release. Verdict? The first few numbers here are downright heavy but the later songs resurfaced the out-of-place, diluted, metal which got them ignored by fans of Burn My Eyes, for instance. This is why I've deleted some songs in my MP3 playlist & left the heavy numbers in tact. Not a bad performance by Machine Head but fans like yours truly here, would re-listen to Burn My Eyes & The Blackening just to reinforce the belief that Machine Head could be lethal performers should they be in the right mood. Waiting for their next right mood in the mean time.

Barbie's Gibson

This is Gibson's Joan Jett signature Melody Maker- you might have seen this guitar before.

I was at Takashimaya SC today, saw this Barbie interpretation of Joan Jett; for fans who wish to immortalize her on their display shelves at home, of course. They actually bothered to include that guitar, which was actually a smart move because I identified the guitar first from afar, then I knew that Morticia Adams-like figure was actually Joan Jett. I hate myself for loving you... Can't help but had this tune ringing in my head on my way home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


If you take a closer look, Beez actually wired 2 of his Duncan single coils together in parallel as seen above, you'd thought it was a default humbucker at a single glance, yes? If you have similar intentions, Beez can do this for you but do note that you have to purchase your own pickguard & the job wouldn't see a same-day completion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Single packs

I like the new LTD starter packs- they feature single humbucker guitars. There are 4 models offered in this format: Viper/ Eclipse/ Forest/ Mirage, hopefully they get here soon.

Mastodon: The Hunter

The Hunter is perhaps Mastodon's most accomplished released to date; a very focused, mathematically precise, anvil-heavy showcase. Hinds & Kelliher are at their mechanical best, it's rather evident the riffs were well thought of & executed. But I have always looked forward to a Mastodon release for the drumming- Brann Dailor... well he's the human drumming encyclopedia, to say the least.

I'm rather put off by the guitar tones here, thin & fizzy. It's calamitous that I have to pacify myself with any songs from Remission & Leviathan as a reminder that Hinds & Kelliher know their meat when it comes to tone, these days, it's about keeping up with the technical facility when it comes to production. Enough said, I'm not too into this release despite looking forward to its acquisition. I respect the musicianship, though.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Not for sale

Beat Spot has both the Yamaha THR5 & THR10 in stock but sadly, these are prototype units (there's a 'PROTO' sticker at each of the amp's rear, rather obscure) for enticement purposes only. I've asked them when the standard production units would be available but they have no idea if any would be coming over in time to come. That's how it is. Bummer? You bet.

Wish it was back: Charvel USA Std San Dimas

This pic was taken off an old Charvel catalogue, I've disposed the original copy, managed to snap a pic of it.

The USA Standard San Dimas was a simple guitar with non-locking hardware & a single humbucker. It would really entice the no-nonsense players who thrives on such limitations, Alan Holdsworth is one of them. I have a definite interest in single humbucking guitars; to a certain extent, it helps me focus on my ideas & playing more than the need to make sure the preferred pickup is employed to manifest the 'right' tone.

The current crop of Charvel guitars are mostly locking units & the range on offer isn't as expansive as they used to be.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beez at work (2)

Beez installed my P-94 in my Les Paul Studio last week, it wasn't working at first. After consulting the wiring schematics online (& made no changes in wiring) we were baffled. But Beez has this working philosophy- he will troubleshoot at no extra cost & he does it on the spot. The diagnosis would be shared with the owners so that we can seek compensation accordingly. It was a simple oversight- the green & white wires were swapped. I've no issues wit this, really, because the product was in perfect working order, just a little peeved that it left the factory with control issues. So thumbs up to Beez.

If this is your first time reading about Beez & you wish to have your pickups installed for a same-day completion, please make at appointment with him (text him), the link is at the left shoulder of this page (just click that yellow business card 'Look for BEEZ').

No Tagima

I'm still bummed that Kiko's Tagima guitars are not available here. Someone said this guitar is everywhere in Brazil but not the rest of the world. Well, hopefully we can see it in action come the Kiko clinic.

Photo credit: KIKO Tweetpic

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Yamaha: Pacifica 611

The Pacifica 611 made it to these shores & you can test-run it at Beat Spot. I was there a few days ago to witness a great production output (Made in Indonesia), especially so when you hear the tones available at your disposal. This is of course attributable (in part) to the Duncans on board. The volume pot of the test model squealed at a certain marking when in use, that's rather disappointing considering this is a fresh arrival. All in all, the only repulsive thing about this guitar is its price tag- $1,200.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Holding it down

This is a recent pic of my Gibson LP Studio PP. When I opened up the rear cavity, I saw the the above hold-down; Gibson actually solder the loose wires (in this case pickup wires) to the pot's base to promote general tidiness.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

DOD: Grind

This DOD Grind pedal is defunct. It sounds menacing, yes? But its tonal ferocity isn't as extreme as you'd expect. It has that amp voicing which makes it rather appealing but it lacks a midrange control. The Bass + Treble features are adequate but it scoops out the tone too much at higher volume settings & sounds undefined thereafter. It isn't too different from the current BOSS Power Stack offering but I guess BOSS did their homework with the PS- the definition is more attractive. 

The pedal you see above isn't mine, it belongs to a friend, Mr. Azhar, who is more bass inclined but a keen DOD buff. The pedal here was bought at a very good discount because it's not in 100% working condition. I couldn't power it up with a battery but once it's juiced by an adapter, it can't be switched off.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hey, dad! (Part 51- Kiko content)

Hey, dad! You missed the first Kiko clinic here, right? Hope you can make it for this one. Are you gonna get a guitar & an amp for this promo here? Ok, at least a guitar? No? How about a complimentary ticket to watch the show? What do you mean you are not sure? I don't think they can really see the details, hope you supplement them here.

30th Oct 2011 (Sunday), 7.00PM
Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Audi 
1, Empress Place
Ticket: $20 Available @ Yamaha/ Beat Spot

Fender: Blacktop series

Managed to try the Fender Blacktops @ Swee Lee- got my hands on 3 models only, a brief appraisal here.

The traditionalist Stratocaster sports the HH treatment. While I usually enjoy this non-conventional offering, the pickups in this one didn't really spark any appeal. The split coil tones (from the 5-way switching) sounds lacking in the clunky, twangy expectations, you'd say it's not a real single coil anyway but it shouldn't be too exclusive an excuse. The default action was also high- 3mm at the 12th fret of the bass E string.

There's this appeal from P-90s that some of us just couldn't resist & you can hear it in this Jazzmaster. It's that great alder-P-90 chemistry at work in both clean & heavily driven modes. The bridge humbucker is unattractive clean, but it has its ferocious moments under intense distortion, especially with a liberal dose of bass. If you are the typical Jazzmaster fan, you're aware of the whammy access which lies in between the E & B strings. In this particular model that I've tried, the B-string was actually in contact with the access ferrules so there was this persistent buzzing but not audible through the amp, of course. It was disturbing enough for me to quickly put it away.

Between this Telecaster & the Strat above, there're actually very little differences in terms of neck feel & overall tone. There's no signature Tele twang here so the fans of this model are rabid players who became quite repulsive of the dual cutaway design so this Tele is it instead. I see this as Fender's obligatory inclusion; they own the registered outline anyway, so why not include it in this series. But intense distortion fans would be interested to know that the bridge pickup performance here is the preferred voicing among the other counterparts mentioned here. The neck humbucker could use some clinical injections in terms of signature roundness.

The Blacktops are $980(NETT) each. No bags are included so a typical Blacktop purchase would exceed $1K in this consideration. Do note that the maple necks of all models are finished units; if you are a fan of that lacquer feel, you wouldn't mind at all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

That's an amp, right?

This is Yamaha's THR5 amp. Yes, it's an amp, it's not a head- there are 8" drivers (x2) in there hence the rather extended dimensions in terms of length. It's not tube laden so if that's your thing, you can stop reading here. But if you are in a quest for objective tones to keep you company on days when you just want to play, then the THR5 might be it. Take a listen:

Ibanez: GSRM20

I was at Swee Lee (BB showroom) to try the Ibanez Mikro SR bass depicted here. It's one of the most comfortable to play if you ar ein the market for a scaled-down bass (28.6"), especially resommended for guitar dweebs (like me) who can't really come to terms with a full scale unit. However, the GSRM20 sports a list price which is very close to the GATK20... decisions, decisions... Nearly bought it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Premium 7

Here's a new one for the Ibanez Premium range: RG927- a Premium 7-string model. It's not offered here...

The one offered to us (regional selection) is the RG827- without the DiMarzio IBZ pickups.

Beez at work

Here's Beez at work, this time he's preparing some Canare cables for a customer. There's another blue Canare cable hanging on the rack at the back- that's a demo piece. Beez would abuse this cable for you to witness (includes stomping, banging with tools, tugging, crimping... so it's not for the faint hearted) so you would be convinced of product durability before parting with your hard-earned cash. That cable was with him during his Yamaha days so it's at least 15 years old & counting.

Hey, dad! (Part 50)

Hey, dad! We were given this neat, mini toolbox for Children's Day, it looks very much like yours. Now I can put my tools in there... but I have no tools. Do you have any spares for me? Dad?

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I overheard this conversation at a guitar store a few days ago:

Salesman: Do you want to take a look at our Seymour Duncan pickups?
Customer: No, I'm upgrading to Bare Knuckle.
Salesman: Oh, really? Those are good stuff.
Customer: Ya... I really like them.

I'm not here to champion any brand names- they don't give me stuff for free if I do so (no disrespect to Seymour Duncan/ Bare Knuckle- I own both pickups). I was just wondering if we can really understand this move as an 'upgrade'. So if we switch from one brand name product to another in an 'upgrade' move, it would mean that there is a superiority factor in consideration. What makes a product a class above another? Is it the brand name per se? Price factor? Country of origin maybe? If an individual started off with Bare Knuckle for instance & wish to swap them out for Seymour Duncans- will this be a 'downgrade' or an 'upgrade'?


TYmusic has Bacchus basses for your considerations. These aren't costly instruments but they are great for the money. Check them out.