Wednesday, August 31, 2016

USA Select

Charvel has just announced their USA Select models.

Wonderful guitars in the Style of a souped up Strat but the chances of seeing them here- very slim. This is what happens if a brand name is owned by another bigger player & your distributor on brings in selected models so that their sales of other popular models won't be affected. Hmm...

Happy end of August, everyone. :-/

Monday, August 29, 2016

DAW it

It had been an awful Monday, there's no other deserving adjective for today. However, the delivery of my fresh batch of DAW jazz picks was a crucial moral booster. At least I ended the day on a high. With that said, as promised, watch this space for a DAW pick giveaway.  Goodnight, everyone.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


I had this crazy idea not too long ago to mess with the burst finish. The original burst idea was a combination of colours which were complementary involving a darker outer ring that faded inwards.

I thought it would awesome to retain the faded idea but do it in a uni-directional interpretation. I guess Ibanez got to it before me. Seen here are the new faded finishes for the SR300 & SR305.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Nails: You Will Never Be One of Us

It's quickly turning into a music listening weekend for me. This here is a 3-man grindcore outfit, Nails. The entire You Will Never Be One of Us release is a mere 22 minute offering but it's an impactful sub-half hour episode if you are into the music. No excessive fret working despite some tasty solos in there, one of urgency & pure energy. More importantly, it's good to know there is a brutal outfit with good guitar works out there, not merely relying on hyped up band images to push music sales.The tittle track itself was on repeat mode for me for quite a while & the entire album was a great discovery. I was thinking nobody makes quality grindcore any more & that everyone has to return to Napalm Death for reality check but these guys are awesome to say the least. Here's the official clip:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Jeff Beck- Loud Hailer

I'm really not into old school heroes when it comes to guitar playing. This is the reason why, after hearing David Gilmour's Rattle That Lock earlier this year, I gave it a miss. Despite being a top notch musician & player, his music didn't hit the right notes (forgive the pun) with me. It's something else when Jeff Beck is concerned.

Mr. Beck is a guitar introvert, a genius who keeps things to himself, staying away from the limelight. He fits well into any musical context, he made it look easy being with Rod Stewart at one time & with Jennifer Batten, at some other opportunity. Loud Hailer is a typical Beck release. It's music by someone who is very comfortable with what he's doing & not worrying about living up to others'  expectations. Killer Strat tones here & a polished all round production but Rosie Bones' vocals sounded very nasal in some numbers, especially so when delivering high octane phrases. The other band members are respectable & remained out of the way for outstanding Jeff Beck delivery in all songs. I hear proto-punk, bits of the haunted Sleep Walk, bowed guitar tones which was initially thought of as a sampled electronica (yes, how did he do that?!) & some of the best slapped back echo out there without falling into delay cliché. All in all, a worthy Jeff Beck release, worth the money, worth the wait. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Steve Vai recently shared his collection with a guitar magazine & I thought these were the coolest in his collection.

This was the precursor to the JEM, a Performance Guitar custom assembly. Note how the treble side skinny cut away & monkey grip were brought over to the JEM.

I was under the impression that a baritone Ibanez was a relatively recent phenomenon but Steve Vai had it going with this 7-string version & yes, it went beyond 24 frets.

This one was cool. 1) Maple fretboard- we seldom see Vai play one buy he had this custom version with coloured dot inlays. Reminds me of Jason Becker. 2) All single coil affair- must be his Start itch; he started with one anyway. 3) Not JEM-esque- note the S-series type cutaway.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Iron 8

I might be a little late in knowing that the RG8 is offered in an Iron Label, though neck option- RGIT28. On that note, as Ibanez continues to offer the 8-string in more affordable makes, the RG2228 had been discontinued. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thank you & goodbye


Exactly this time last night, former President of Singapore, SR Nathan, passed away.

I used to frequent the East Coast beach when I was younger (OK, not that young, it was a post-NS blues period), cycling from one end of the stretch to the other, watching the sun set at times. Mr. Nathan loved to jog there & he was often seen with his bodyguards who kept a distance but within proximity to exercise  contingencies, of course. I cycled past him once, I waved at him & he returned the wave. I didn't even call out to him, just a simple gesture & he reciprocated it. I remember Mr. Nathan for this brief encounter, it is forever etched in my mind. Clearly, there was no ego getting in the way, someone waved to him & he returned the wave. He was not obliged to do so, especially to complete strangers but he did it anyway; a great down-to-earth attitude we could all learn from. For that, he earned my respect.

RIP, sir. Thank you for all you've done for the people.

Ah, DAW!

Was in the mail yesterday- Karma picks by DAW. Hope to share some DAW goodness with you chaps soon so watch this space :-)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mileage check

This was yesterday's affair. If there is such a thing as a mileage check for guitars, then it should be done. My SE 245 suffered a warped neck (nothing severe) despite me keeping my instruments away from direct sunlight. But we know how the weather's like in this part of the world. I wasn't even aware of this anomaly until I started playing & felt the action a little too high to my liking & I kept making mistakes. The neck was adjusted accordingly (truss rod tweak) & that was all that was needed.

That prompted me to clean the crackling (slightly) input jack as well & lowered the neck pickup height a tad. I do keep a schedule of guitars due for periodic checks but sometimes, the ones not due for inspection are the ones in need of attention. It's all circumstantial. Pay particular attention to your guitars which experience the most sweat exposure (from you, of course) . These are the ones that would suffer moisture-related issues. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Boutique picking

There are many players out there who adopt an anything-goes attitude when it comes to guitar picks. this indifference is the direct result of not hearing the immediate difference a pick makes to their tone. I started out as such. Being contented with a popular brand pick was more than enough to get me going. Peavey & Ernie Ball were my preferred picks (pun intended). Everything changed when I came across Dunlop's Stubby picks. The harder material, the extra grip & that pointed tip affected my playing in many positive ways that it became an exclusive favourite. Today, after the internet revolution, we have the luxury of acquiring our preferred picks online should they not be available off the shelves at the stores. I'm here to share the so called boutique picks by virtue of material consideration, construction & of course, price.

1. Drangons Heart
The company owned by C. Whitney is churning out that peculiar outline as a take-it-or-leave-it prospect for potential buyers. But let's understand the fact that it's offering a 3-tip option for players & this is the most un-plastic material in this group. So you have been warned :-)

2. V-Pick
Vinnie Smith had been gathering picking momentum (no pun intended) with his selection & it's easy to see why this is so; V-Picks are the most no-frills in terms of application. Add to that, the most grip friendly in this selection as well, without any extra indentations or scores.

3. Howling Monkey
If you want your picks to be thick without weight issues, this is the brand for you. It also has that grainy feel for grip considerations so fair warning to those who like theirs smooth instead.

4. DAW 
Russian & the friendliest manufacturer in this gathering. I personally feel the DAW stuff are best used for precision picking. The plastic concoction involved is also the least clanky. I tend to get carried away with the pointed standard version. 

The obvious hurdle when it comes to boutique picks is definitely the price. One could easily acquire a packet of non-designer picks for the price of one tragic piece of boutique pick. However, once you clicked with a boutique piece, it'll probably last you for a long time by virtue of the higher quality material concoction involved; a typical boutique piece just lasts longer. The personal touch of a boutique selection is also the turning point of not wanting anything else as replacements. Yes, it's that particular & worth every cent once you become a convert. I might have a give-away soon :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Look closely, it's a sparkling finish for the Talman TM302 this fall. It's good to know that Ibanez is giving due attention to this come-back model.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Scientific tunes

Was at the Science Center recently. Saw this music machine. Actually, the entire contraption didn't need the guitar there to work. It was included as a musical backdrop. Hmm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Awaiting further details on the re-introduction of the Mustang & Duo Sonic Fenders (Mexican). These were announced last Summer Namm 2016 but not featured on the manufacturer's website (yet).

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ibanez lefties

Ibanez are adding more lefty models to the guitar lineup, hope these would make it here for our south paw friends. Seen above: SA160/ RG655

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Weekend guitar workout

This was actually a lame re-visit of a practice routine. OK, so I'm working out the digits for yet another 4-notes-per-string adventure. Keeping things simple is they key; the Schecter KR & Seymour Duncan's Killing Floor boost were it for the input side.

I had the Blackstar HT metal going over at the output end. Seen here, the kitty enjoying some tube warmth even after I've switched the amp off.

Here's the itinerary:
  1. Clean fingering exercises. Nothing specific, just to get all fretting fingers warmed up. Slow is the way to go.
  2. Driven fingering exercises. A repeat of what was done clean but this time, up went the tempo so the picking hand get worked up as well.
  3. Scales. Routine stuff with muting focus. No songs, nothing. Just scales. What I like to play: Harmonic minor, Malmsteen vibe & it's something that would end up well with metal type ideas along the way. What I dislike playing: Pentatonic. I get boxed up pretty quickly & ended up mutating it into some tapping exercise to avoid being floored by boredom.
  4. In the style of. That's right, I'd imagine I'm a particular pro player & think of a lick or two that I'd play in that particular style or approach. I don't reproduce other people's stuff- no. I try to think like them & concoct something of my own. That's right, the key word there is try.
  5. 4-notes-per-string. By now, half of my mind is in need of inspiration because it tended to stray into repetition. I'd pause & listen to some music & in this case, Brett Garsed & Tom Quayle were chosen. FYI, Garsed actually employ 5-notes-per-string passages into his ideas & that would work me up sometime. Darn, how did he do that?
  6. End. In conclusion, I'd usually churn out riffs more than solos which are of the metal variety. You'd realize that riffs are the way to go for winding down moments; lesser notes involved & they kinda move you into a song structure.
Done. Wipe guitar down & grab a drink.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A moment in history- the Schooling gold.

By the time you read this, it would have been passé. I'm the type who would deliberately restrain comments if things are a little current & hot off the press. In any case, today was a moment in history indeed. The country have been chasing an Olympic gold since its silver achievement in 1960 (weightlifting) & even treading the naturalized citizen path for a certain niche sports which I won't mention here (feeling a little repulsive already, mind you). Ironically, the individual to have successfully brought glory to the nation is a true citizen; born here, bred here, of very supportive parents. So let this be a lesson in pure aspiration, chasing dreams & embracing them at the end of it all. There are many ways to bring glory to the country & the world is watching. 

So my heartfelt congratulations to the Son of Singapore, Joseph Schooling for attaining the GOLD standard in the 100m butterfly, men's category, 2016 Rio Olympic Games. A proud moment indeed. 

Elitist (Fender content)

Greetings, Fender benders. As at January 2016, Fender retired the American Deluxe series. The American Elite range took over with some refinements & these instruments are now available at Swee Lee for your considerations. I managed to test drive the rosewood fretboard version as seen above but of the sunburst variety, unlike the blue finish you see here.

Fit/ finish
The Elite models represent the manufacturer's top of the line contemporary offerings. These are modern Strats, as current as they are, with no vintage take on any features. The instrument is truly representative of its elite status with superb QC through & through. The ribcage contour is a little deeper this time round (almost touching the back plate & stretches to the cutaway) & this only promotes playing comfort with no compromise to the overall instrument mass. Kudos to Fender for moving the truss rod adjustment to the body end as well, this wheel type makes life easier for tinkerers out there & there will be tinkerers. Top marks for Fender here, absolute value-for-money American model for your consideration.

Tone/ Playability
Be informed that the pickups in this range are now the latest noiseless single coils Fender has to offer. They are called the 4th Generation Noiseless (ha!) & maintained the quiet performance of their predecessors. Vintage buffs wouldn't be too thrilled with these contemporary performers because they don't twang as much as the standard single coils. This is the obvious tradeoff when you stack single coils to buck the hum. Yes, you still get that slicing treble response but not as much twangy goodness, best manifested by Jeff Beck. Keeping this in mind, the pickups are admirable performers with the S1 switch engaged. This is where you get to hear boosted single coil tones reaching an almost full humbucking potential. 

The neck profile is awesome particularly to shred dweebs. The C contour flattens out towards the upper frets, to a D carve, something an Ibanez proponent is familiar with, without the lack of meat. I did some finger style & shred stuff in good measures (despite being despicable at both) so it goes to show how contemporary this Strat is. 

Top marks to the 2-point bridge for being very responsive to whammy actions of the subtle & vigorous applications & the synthetic nut- it worked, was well cut, it deserves to be there.

It's a forward move by Fender & it was done well. The Strat purists would question the need for an S1 switching option since it very much displaces the instrument in terms of tone authenticity. For this consideration, I'd say to these purists- look elsewhere since the Strat range is a varied one. Even for non-purists, that less than twangy affair for all things Strat is a bit much to deal with but tone-wise, you still get a very Strat-y affair. The only issue here & it's pretty much personal, is price. There are many Strat-type guitars out there with outstanding QC & kickass tone listing for very much lesser than this Elite but that Fender label there commands a much higher resale value in the after-market. Something for you to think about before parting with cash.

Rating: 75%

Fender: American Elite Stratocaster
Availability: Swee Lee Co.
List: $2,899

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The clean drive through

Back to my EVH tinkering. Actually, there's nothing to tinker with, everything's there for the taking. The EVH 5150III LBX has a clean channel. OK, so it's a clean channel not like what you'd expect from a Fender. No bells & whistles here for sure because it drives if your signals are of the high output type or if you expend undue pressure on your picking to somehow flux the output. Yes, it's a little frustrating for those of us who are looking for a no-frills clean tone for, maybe, a clean chord episode in front of a crowd with some volume expectations. I've kept my gain pretty low for this attempt but the phantom drive manifests itself every now & then due to some careless manipulations. 

I gave up trying to highlight good cleans from this one. It wasn't made for a through & through clean performance anyway. I ended up coupling a distortion pedal to it for some crunchy manifestations. Never ask a brute to exemplify some gentlemanly attributes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Sooooooooooo.... going!!

Killing it

This had been my fix last weekend- Seymour Duncan's Killing Floor (KF).

It's a high gain boost pedal, a single knob affair with a 3-way tone switch. I'm the type who doesn't glorify a boost pedal too much because they tend to be 1) A mere volume bumping device 2) Contain sparse drive capacity, appealing more to clean players. So the KF does both- it bumps up your volume as the dial turns clockwise & gives you more gain along the way.

Clean channel
I played it into a clean setting first, as clean as it gets, with single coil pickups. The KF made things louder incrementally & adding dirt from a subtle drive type to a generous distortion voicing when maxed out. We are still in rock territory, nothing too ferocious but at the pedal's extreme end, it can outperform a BOSS DS-1 quite easily. 

Dirty channel
So now the pedal acts as a supplementary drive device very much like stacking two dirt pedals in a simultaneous application. The drive at the amp end was set to its 50% mark while the pedal itself was initially set at 25%, 50%, 75% & finally, in its full glory. You get a TS-like drive effect in the lower register, things get heated up at the half-way point. Also happening at this stage; ease of harmonics trigger. At 75% performance, the angry distortion voicing was heard & upon maxing out, the overall drive push was believably twice the intensity- yes, it's that intense.

Tone switch
The 3 tone voicings were more audible in the clean channel. The cut & boost were nothing drastic but they were there to be heard. However, the EQ changes were not that apparent once the pedal was made to push an already driven signal. From my end of the observations, I needed to make the amp louder for those changes to be heard, unlike the clean channel performance. The tone switch is there to make a difference, forgive its shortcomings if those differences were underwhelming at some applications. This is a boost pedal after all, not an EQ stalwart. 

The KF was beyond my personal expectations. I was at the store ready to grab something else (that something else will be disclosed soon) but that one let me down & I had a friend there who could fully relate to my concerns when it was tested out. Many of us wouldn't fork out too much money for a boost unit because it's largely a one-trick pony but some one trick ponies are specialists upon discovery. Another likeable Seymour Duncan pedal worth every cent of my money- thumbs up.

Rating: 85%

Seymour Duncan: Killing Floor high gain boost
Availability: Davis GMC
List: $199

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Happy 51st

No, I didn't forget. Here's wishing the nation a happy 51st birthday. Despite being disagreeable with the people who are running the show here most of the time, I must say things have been great. Nevertheless, the people need to learn seeing beyond the obvious, especially when it concerns governance. It's not about education, it's about having the guts to effect change & know when you're being played.

VM offsets

Good morning- it's a holiday morning here in Singapore :-)

The family of Squier offset models are now in stock at Swee Lee. These are under the Vintage Modified series & should be worth the money & the trouble. Top to bottom: Mustang/ Jaguar/ Jazzmaster.

Monday, August 8, 2016

4 fingers death shred

Hello, Monday. But I'm not gonna talk about Monday. This was what happened last weekend- more 4-notes-per-string workout. Current obsession? Not really, it's my attempt to address boredom & the need to try something that's out of my comfort zone. I've always been a 3-notes-per-string person till I keep listening to Tom Quayle, Alan Holdsworth, Brett Garsed, et al. 

I sounded worse than a noob, completely helpless & stupid-sounding when I started out. All the fumbling & mistakes reduced me to nothing. But like all good education (self-education included), there is a need for a plan & the essential plan here is to start things slow which I'm completely not used to. The slow approach worked wonders & the next step to it was the reduction of unnecessary tension in my fretting fingers. It's more psychological than anything else, keep telling yourselves to stop forcing your fingers down too hard because you are not a beginner- it should work. Develop some exercises to see this through & on to the final aspect of all this- muting. I sounded bad with all those extraneous noise in the way. Sometimes when one places too much focus on the left hand, the right hand gets neglected. I repeated whatever rubbish lick I played with those awful noises in the way. Discipline is key.

OK done. I'm not saying I'm up there when it comes to 4-notes-per-string playing but I have properly incorporated something that was never a part of my playing. It had always been a part-tapping approach when four notes needed to be played in quick successions but I'm glad I have another perspective in addressing the same delivery. One can never stop learning, keep that in mind :-)

Sunday, August 7, 2016


You are enterprising, you have your sources & you wish to give buyers an edge over choices.

But the local store here, the brand's official distributor, priced it way lower than yours. Yes, customers can exercise the liberty of buying from whoever they wish to regardless of the list price but we are looking at the implication more than anything else. We would want to support our domestic market players who can flex some muscles in terms of variety & prices but we shouldn't exercise blind support. 

I'm not the market police, I empower you to make informed choices.

P&W anniversary

Guitar dweebs would know this one- Steve Vai's Pasion & Warfare album, one of the landmark releases on planet guitar instrumental.

The Ibanez Universe models you see above are commemorative manifestations marking the album's 25th anniversary. If you missed it, note how the album cover was edited to incorporate one of the guitar's new finish.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016

Brown black

A simple set up for the evening; a CMATmods distortion pedal & a Blackstar desktop amp. Sometimes I feel very tired at the end of the working day but there's a very strong urge to play guitar, especially after listing to some very inspirational playing. I urge everyone out there to have a lazy set up going for days when you just need to play without the excessive preoccupation with tone. 

I can choose not to buy


  1. There's so much singing in this album
  2. The guitar tones are still too fuzzy to my liking and
  3. Paul Gilbert chose to steer clear from his former shred manifestations
I have decided not to buy this release. 

Plain hard to ignore

ESP just launched their Horizon Plain Hard Top under their Original series- that finish there is essentially excessive but unforgettable.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fresh Iron

I'm not a fan of the Ibanez Iron Label series because I see these guitars as variations of the standard model, just souped up with active electronics.

The finish is a little different as well.

The release of the models you see here, are at best, nothing special.

It's a little overblown when the media labelled them as 'new'.

Nothing new, really. Ibanez had been working with this formula before. Even before the Iron Label models came along, the 8-string RG2228 features a pair of EMG pickups. Do I own any Iron Label guitars? Yes, but I'm with the S-Series version with passive pickups. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Got this a few days ago but somehow misplaced it. It's an intonation adjust, let's not confuse it with a tuner.

What it does- locks itself to the Ibanez bridge saddle for intonation adjustments. This is necessary when your open strings & fretted notes are in tune but not past the 12th fret. You have to move the saddles away or towards the body end depending on whether the notes are flatter or sharper than required. Before this acquisition, I've been crudely moving the saddles by hand & it's a trial & error method as opposed to using this adjuster. It allows me to hold the saddles in place while a re-tightening takes place.