Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Guitar heroes re-revisited

Paul Waggoner's guitar clinic last Friday mentioned 'guitar heroes', specifically the ones, Paul Waggoner himself looked up to. They were familiar names, they were my guitar heroes as well. I have many names to list from that shred era, 6 of whom are pictured above: 1) John Petrucci 2) Steve Vai 3) Joe Satriani 4) Richie Kotzen 5) Kirk Hammett 6) Paul Gilbert. I bet these awesome players are still on your idol list today. Actually these 6 terribly talented players are the ones who I stopped looking up to. Along the way, they let me down somewhat but I still respect them for their contributions to the cause.

I still hold these individuals you see here in high regards (there are some more on my list, let's just make do with these 6 in the mean time). They are from that shred era, more importantly they remain relevant & on top of their game, as mundane as they may be (eg: Malmsteen): 1) Allan Holdsworth 2) Frank Gambale 3) Brett Garsed 4) Yngwie Malmsteen 5) Steve Morse 6) Greg Howe.

These days, I look up to the following individuals for inspiration (yes, the list isn't final, just sharing these few names for now): 1) Tom Quayle 2) Martin Miller 3) Nick Johnston 4) Guthrie Govan 5) Feodor Dosumov 6) Andy James. 

The question is; why change my pool of heroes? Why now? Simple answer: I age, I have a different focus now compared to when I first started out. I also gave up on the people who lost focus & became a shadow of their former selves. A good example would be Kirk Hammett. He let a single piece of equipment get the better of him. I'm not here to specifically hold anyone accountable for their downturn but I justify why I feel this way today. The bottom line is, we all have our different sources of inspirations, different individuals whom we look up to & we change over time.

Wishing you a happy last day of May, 2016. :-)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Ibanez guitar clinic: Paul Waggoner


At a single glance, you wouldn't recognize this guy. He's none other than Paul Waggoner from the band Between The Buried & Me. That's a mouthful & it sort of demerits your interest in wanting to know him further but that's besides the point. Mr. Waggoner is one heck of a guitar player & he was there to deliver substance last Friday (27th May 2016).

As with other guitar clinics, the itinerary was simple & to the point; play, talk guitar, Q&A throughout the show. It's educational & might have induced some anxiety on those of us who's there for full entertainment & wanted nothing to do with cognition. I love guitar clinics.

Paul Waggoner shared how he's guitar inclined from the start. There's nothing to be ashamed of in the admittance that one was a guitar geek once upon a time & this helped Paul Waggoner to become who he is today. Excessive practice was the case but these days, it's about making meaning to what he's doing with the instrument in a song context. That's right, this wasn't a shred guitar hero episode to begin with but this man- he can shred, no doubt about it. 

The clinic time showcased his guitar prowess & it tastefully segued into guitar talk. Paul Waggoner is one of those Ibanez devotees who believes in putting a non-DiMarzio pickup set into his Ibanez (like yours truly here who isn't obliged to have DiMarzios in Ibanez guitars). There was adequate mention of how preferred his Mojo Tone humbuckers are & how complementary they sound in context. There was in fact lesser time spent talking about the Ibanez per se because it is in fact a standard S-Series with a thicker body depth. I also respect Paul Waggoner's decision to use the lesser model; the PWM10 throughout the presentation, instead of the more revered PWM100. It proved that a more affordable guitar does not equal a lesser performance delivery. On this note, Mr. Waggoner reminded everyone that once a manufacturer's model reaches its upper tier/ custom handling, everything is good, regardless of the brand name. 

I didn't stay for the photo session (personal reasons) but I could see that the session was beneficial to everyone who attended. I urge everyone to attend instrument clinics at least once in their life time to get a more educational perspective of instrument inclinations (especially the ones with free admissions). Yes, a full show will manifest in pure entertainment & that's what everyone's after but it allows very little interaction with the musician. To know the musician better, we need to know what makes him tick.

Thanks to Swee Lee Co. for making this happen. Looking forward to more instrument clinics in time to come.

Ibanez: SV... subtle editing

You recall the Ibanez RGV mentioned some days ago here? This is the S version; the SV. Yes, there had been  an SV5470 all along (I own one) but this is a new addition; the SV5570. The diff? Narrower neck which is slightly thicker plus a non-angled headstock. It also features a set of Seymour Duncan pickups in there: Custom 5 (B)/ Vintage Flat (M)/ Stag Mag (N). Nice. Definitely.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sweet driving

I think I've been spending too much time with the John Page guitar. When I played my Edwards, there's this sudden jump in tone 'goodness'. However, my ears are actually attuned to Seymour Duncan pickups. I hear more clarity, I hear more top end definition, I hear a great chemistry with mild drive. I'm actually hearing what I wanted to hear & those are found in the Seymour Duncans. OK so the Seymour Duncans win. I'm re-thinking some options. Hmmm...

This Edwards Strat-type guitar looks rather tormenting when it comes to playability & orientation but  I'm adapting well to it except for volume changes & pickup selection- my right hand tend to move down in search of knobs & selector. I'm loving this one, regardless of the quirky manifestation.

Restring: Ashburn

First re-string for my John Page Ashburn- D'Addario NYXL set of 9s. I decided to lock the whammy down & it's a matter of some screw turns. I seldom whammy with this type of guitar any way. The psychology of fresh strings- the instrument played 'better'. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Yummy evening

Last night- an unplugged evening. Friday night, was tired. Ended up reading myself to sleep after a brief bout of fever. The thing about acoustics for me is, it makes me think differently from playing a regular electric solid body. It's a finger picking moment most of the time, I dislike picking my acoustic guitars.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Living with the Mummy

This was a recent delivery. I'm in the midst of trying V-Picks, as many as possible, in various sizes & manifestations. This one here is called the Mummy. The indentations there were not laser etched, they were tool grounded & you can feel the raw end product. The textured perimeter is what the manufacturer refers to as the ghost rim. The intention of which is to transfer some pick grip to the strings, the result- some friction induced bite into your picking. Shredders & grinders alike will appreciate this consideration. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016


I'm usually not a V fan but this one's got that vintage-contemporary vibe going. It's an Edwards V given an active pickup (Duncan Blackouts) treatment: Edwards E-FV-125D

Maniac inferno

Mayhem was joined by former vocal stalwart, Maniac during the recent Inferno festival. This guy is clearly my preferred vocalist in the band. Atilla is legendary but Maniac is a force to be reckoned with. With a band like Mayhem, you need someone confrontational but not treading too much on theatrics. Maniac's lyrics were clearly though provoking, heretic but remains philosophical. It infused much thinking into a genre of music not known for much substance when it comes to singing- was there ever singing to begin with?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Jumbo Jr

Looks like Taylor's GS Mini has a deserving competitor; Guild's Jumbo Jr. As the name implies, a jumbo in a manageable size & it's a mid-priced player so you get all the Guild goodness without feeling too much pain :-)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mild driving & 'burning

Last weekend was good. I had ample time to test the JHS808 with my current favourite squeeze; the John Page Ashburn Classic with default Bloodline singlecoils. I used my Blackstar HT Metal for everything. The JHS808 is a sweet TS-type pedal as the name implies. It's discontinued & replaced by the manufacturer's acclaimed Moonshine version (which I also own). 

Utilizing the HTM's clean channel to begin with, the 808 manufactured very sweet drive leaving much single coil twang in tact. The treble wasn't that overwhelming partly due to the fact that the Bloodlines are subdued units output-wise. All manner of clean but driven tones in the light of SRV were achievable. Moving on to the dirty channel, with reduced gain at the amp end, the 808 maintained its capacity as a twang retainer. There was increased saturation & playing fast was a joy but more importantly, as the drive was cranked at the pedal end, single coil clarity remained in tact. Despite being discontinued, there were no regrets getting the JHS808 right off the shelf. I would have been contented with a used unit (someone is selling one in the after market here) but it's just worth every cent.

Monday, May 23, 2016


Agile has joined the partial cap top finish in the style of Kiesel & Ibanez.

Available in these two offerings in the mean time. Will consider if they have the 6-string version...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Extinct goodness

I scored this discontinued JHS pedal yesterday while walking around, waiting for the Mrs to be done shopping elsewhere. It's the JHS808 & as the name implies, it's a shameless replication of another green pedal which is a benchmark for a mild drive of this ilk. I'm definitely OK with investing in pedals which are perpetuating a certain goodness but it must be showcasing its individuality, not just a mere copy. Thank to Mike & the SV Guitars crew for a very hospitable testing environment.

Mini hushing

Thankful to the Rocktron camp for keeping up with the times- the Micro HUSH. On my to-get list. The irony- it costs more than its standard size sibling.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Of peace & enlightenment

Holiday Saturday- wishing one & all a good day of rest & some deserving family time. 

USB it

This is a serious proposal; what if your gear could be powered by a USB compliant source? It would mean some of your devices which require power from a wall outlet, could actually be brought outdoors because you now have an alternative power supply & it's not a dry cell battery. Watch this to understand:

Friday, May 20, 2016


This is an Ibanez 10W practice amp- IBZ10GV2. Nothing special, we've heard a 10W Ibanez amp in use before, haven't we? 

The difference here is that it's been given a make-over. It won't sound as inviting but it's at least not ugly. Available now at Swee Lee (List: $79).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Less pointed

In this episode of my V-Picks adventure, I've opted for a few less pointed picks. Speed-wise, less pointed picks do better for riffs than their pointed counterparts, especially so for thicker gauged strings. Moving over to the thinner strings, rounded tip picks lacks precision, so this is the very trade off.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Metal 'burn

Before leaving the house last Monday, I managed to pair the John Page Ashburn with Blackstar's HT Metal. The objective was to hear if a high gain amp like this one could be useful with single coils if it's running on lowered gain. 

The Blackstar HT Metal range is pure distortion mayhem when cranked up. It has no crunch channel, you deal with clean or super saturated distortion, nothing in between. The only way to enjoy some restrained drive is to back the gain down. Some amps sound half dead with such settings but the HT Metal is no such amp. 

The Ashburn Classic here features a trio of vintage output single coil pickups. They don't sound useful at high gain settings. In fact, they inject frustration with the lack of punch & make you wonder if there's something wrong with the instrument. These Bloodline pickups thrive on mild drive; a Tube Screamer pedal or anything of similar performance would generate an awesome outcome. So how did they fare with a tamed beast like the HT Metal?

Simply put, they are impressive. If you fancy how Nick Johnston sounds like, this pairing generate tones as such. My version simply lacks a little warmth due to the maple fretboard there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fender listenables

I'm usually not a fan of headphones/ earphones/ in-ear monitors manufactured by non-specialist brand names; I have largely ignored Marshall's manufacturing in this sector.

However, the Fender camp had opted for some elegance in this aspect & things might take a turn...

Monday, May 16, 2016

This is a ukulele

Aw, darn! This is a ukulele. Seriously, the Agile people are doing limited runs for electric, solid body ukuleles. If you are dreaming of distorted ukulele tones or some creative possibilities with delay/ looping units, it's now or never.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Grass pop

There's always an overdrive itch in me. This was from the SV Sale yesterday. It's quite a mistake to be there on a weekend, was at the store but had to wait for about 40min for the crowd to clear before getting to try all I wanted to. The narrow passageway didn't help either. Unless other pedals are added to the sale, I've basically checked out whatever there is to try.

Marshalling the 'burn

It's a joy to hear singing single coils with a little bit of crunch. I'm not backing down on intensity though, the set up here is simply not for that objective. I'm enjoying more of that clean single coil twang with just a pinch of drive. However, utilising pedals isn't quite the formula here. It somehow dampens the highs & adding some more at the pedal end just renders the tone really shrill. 

I resorted to the JVM for a simple reason- it's got some of the best crunch in there without turning into Fender alley. I still believe in a straight to the amp set up & letting the amp do the magic.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Squier @ SV sale

Heavy rain for hours today but I was at the SV Guitars Sale. Selected Squier guitars are now included in the sale event. Seen here are a pair of Vintage Mod Strats.

Arranged siblings

A wonderful evening with single coils for a change. Notice how similar the arrangements of the pickups are. We know John Page knows the goodness of a reverse slant bridge single coil. The Edwards on the other hand, underscores this goodness by virtue of its mischief- it wasn't meant to be that way in the first place.

Still on those pickups- while I appreciate John Page's Bloodline concept, they are not as appealing as the Seymour Duncans. It's a personal inclination, my ears still prefer the Duncans any time.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Flying ash

My Blackstar Fly 3 is becoming the tool to weed out wimpy gear. I feel that if it doesn't sound good through this amp, then it's not worthy. I'm beginning to like the 1 X Vol + 1 X Tone configuration of the John Page Ashburn. Also liking lower output single coils with drive. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Heart them

These were in the mail yesterday. That's right, I'm buying more picks. Different picks enhance my playing differently. I can't come to terms with the standard, thin picks so chances are, you're not gonna find me buying picks from the stores here. I also wear my picks out very quickly due to the intensity of my playing so I ended up buying a few, not just one.

Screaming innards

Geeking out with the VFE- this is how the inside of The Scream pedal looks like. Yes, it's a JRC 4558 chip in there plus some extra trim pots. Note the diodes at the top left; you can actually control the amount of clipping by just activating/deactivating them- awesome!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The mean machine

Powered this up today to check the crunch tones out. Hardly more than 25% of gain used. No cleans, no high gain stuff involved, just good ol' crunchy tones to dirt things up for some measured twang. I bought the JVM for a simple reason- it's a versatile beast.

John Page: Ashburn Classic

I'm having a single coil itch in the mean time (wonder how long it'll last). This is the Ashburn model which isn't new (debuted in 2015). To the uninitiated, John Page is an ex-Fender employee who is the co-founder of the Custom Shop division. The Classic version you see here is his interpretation of an already revered design. Whatever quirks you see are his take on 'refinements'. 

The flip side is as traditional as it gets but the offset neck-body joint is somewhat a necessary inclusion to all things contemporarily traditional (as oxymoronic as it gets). It's a wonderful guitar to say the least & kudos to Mr. Page for having it manufactured in Japan for a more competitive price point. Thanks to Janet & company once again for the great hospitality at Davis GMC.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Screaming Tuesday

Something from the SV Sale last weekend. I have more than enough Tube Screamer-like pedals to go by but there's always that one more that is somehow 'different' which I will fork out money for. Anyway, The Scream was on my list of to-get since the VFE establishment would change come Summer. 

Monday, May 9, 2016


Life is full of distractions, this is one of them :-)

Living on the edge

This shipment of Fender at Swee Lee includes The Edge Strat (List: $2,799) which is a very working grade instrument. In fact it's nothing really special except for that DiMarzio single coil in the bridge position. OK so it has a satin finish as well.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

SV Sale

SV Guitars are clearing some stuff at their other store unit (next to Swee Lee). Plenty of good acoustics to be had. Also, selected electric guitars for your considerations.

The main attraction has to be these pedals- VFE, Weehbo, Hotone & Joyo just to name a few. Up to 50% off while stocks last. 

The 52s...

These Ibanez RGs might look familiar to you because they were once mentioned here: CLICK

They are finally available at Swee Lee but the down side- black only (what!?). For that particular reason, I'm not going to fork out any more money on another black guitar despite knowing these are awesome instruments for the money.

In Japan, the RG652 is offered in white.

It's also offered in this stunning blackwood top finish.

You want a maple board version? Here... You know what, these variants are even available in the UK so I guess, this country is not as deserving when it comes to this consideration. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Elitist Shaw

Fender benders, the 2016 American Elite series which replaced the American Deluxe models, are in at Swee Lee (List: $2,799).

Also in stock- the American Standard models featuring the Shawbucker (List: $1,999)

Friday, May 6, 2016


These were in the mail 2 days ago. I'm trying the smaller V-Picks, also one with grip holes.