Tuesday, 3 February 2004

My Guitars

The guitar collection has changed quite a bit since November 2002 so I decided it was time for an update.

At the moment the collection is as follows:

Gibson Flying V "faded"
Gibson Flying V
This, of course, is my latest purchase. I bought it because it was my 40th birthday and Hell, I reckoned I deserved a classic American guitar. This is from the "faded" series of Gibson guitars and has a worn cherry finish, that I believe is supposed to look like an antiqued instrument. Although the faded series is part of Gibson's cheaper range of guitars, there are very few compromises on the build quality of this instrument. The only thing I can see is the natural finish. The sound of this guitar is quite simply amazing - it has that classic Gibson tone and it sustains beautifully. It blows away all other guitars I have ever played. It is a slightly odd shape, admittedly. Someone told me when I bought it that it would be a guitar for playing either standing up with a strap, or lying down. However, I find that you can sit and play it quite nicely, if you adopt an almost classical guitar-playing postion and place the lower pointy bit between your legs. I hope to be recording with this beast soon - gotta capture that sound!

Fernandes Revolver Pro
Fernandes Revolver Pro
This guitar, which I bought in 2002, is the reason that I stopped playing Fenders (I'd played a Strat and a Tele up unti then). It features a 24-fret neck, Floyd Rose licensed tremolo, EMG pickup in the bridge position and a Fernandes Sustainer in the neck position. I always used to be a huge fan of the EBow but this guitar and its brilliant Sustainer system makes the EBow virtually redundant. The main difference is that when using the EBow, you want a clean sound on your amp and let the EBow do the over-driving, but with the Sustainer it works much better with an overdriven sound. You can also sustain and slide whole chords, or just use the Sustainer to beef up your sound, and used in conjunction with the Floyd Rose things can go Over The Top very easily. Another bonus factor is that the guitar never seems to go out of tune. I just love it, although I'll admit that it isn't the prettiest guitar in the world. It is actually finished in a dark metallic green (which doesn't photograph too easily) which has earnt this guitar the nickname of Emerald.

Danelectro 56'U2
Danelectro 56'U2
This is one of the Danelectro reissues from a few years back, before they pulled the plug on the guitar making line altogether, and these are becoming more and more sought after. Actually, this is an oddity because the neck and body come from different instruments which I assume were smashed. I bought the parts up in separate ebay auctions and married them together. It looks slightly strange that the body is aqua green and the neck is copper, but I like it that way as it makes the instrument a bit more individual. The sound peculiar to this guitar is the result of the lipstick tube pickups combined with the body resonance courtesy of the unusual construction materials (plywood body frame with hardboard top and back making this a hollow body guitar). It is a really nice instrument to practice with unplugged as it still has quite a lot of volume.

Danelectro Convertible
Danelectro Convertible
This is my second Dano, which I bought because I loved the U2 so much. It is a rather bizarre semi-acoustic guitar and has a tonality that puts you in mind of a resonator guitar. Played acoustically it is actually quite a loud instrument - easily as loud as the Aria Elecord electro-acoustic I recently sold, and that had a much bigger body.

Traveler Pro-Series
Traveler Pro-Series
This is a fantastic little guitar, and as the name implies is great for carrying with you when you travel. The leg-rest that carries the controls is detachable and the whole thing packs up nicely into a little gig bag that is easily slung over your shoulder. For practice purposes you can plug in a stethoscope-style headset which picks up sound vibrations from a membrane positioned beneath the bridge - no wires and no electrics required. The guitar has two pickups - a magnetic Strat type pickup and a piezo acoustic pickup set under the bridge. The two volume controls allow you to mix the two signals, and the stereo output allows the signals to be sent out to separate channels. The guitar is strung as an acoustic and is capable of a very realistic natural acoustic sound when you want it. A verstatile instrument that is great for practice, but capable of so much more!

Classical
Traveler Pro-Series
This is the same lovely little classical guitar that I have featured on the banner at the top of this page. Again, it was an eBay purchase, and was a bargain at only £27. This is the guitar I keep in the living room and grab when I'm trying to work out songs, or just for practice without having the mess of leads, effects, amps, headphones, etc. It is a gorgeous little guitar - much better than the pile of junk that I had to take to guitar lessons at school when I was 12. It should have retailed for a whole load more, but it was apparently part of an over-stock for a German music fair. The chappie selling this one was also selling a whole load of others just like it, so it sounds like he had a job lot on his hands to get rid of. Sorry, but I know very little else about this guitar.

Bozo the Clown, short-scale bass
Short-scale bass
This was an eBay purchase from 2002. I was looking for a bass guitar that I could use as a "fuzz bass"; something that I could essentially use as a guitar, play overdriven powerchords on it, etc. This bass fits the bill perfectly, and - despite its short scale - sounds quite good as a regular bass too. This may be in part due to the retro-fitted jazz bass pickup. I have to admit that I quite like the sound of the neck pickup - deep and boomy - would be great for those dub-reggae-style basslines. The bizarre "artwork" on this guitar was not my doing. I bought it like that. Basically, someone has painted it green at the top and blue at the bottom, and has then covered the body with cut-out vinyl shapes. The stuck-on red stripe dividing the blue and green halves actually goes along the back of the neck. You'd think that it would be annoying when playing, but surprisingly it isn't. The paintwork is quite crazed in parts so I'd say that the guitar was refinished in this manner many years ago. The angular scratchplate, pickup surround and truss rod cover have all been cut by hand and presumably added by the same person who "customised" this beastie. I have no idea what make this bass is. The person I bought it from thought it might be an Ibanez, but after having done a little research, I can find nothing that looks like it might have been this.

Fender Jazz Bass, fretless
fretless Fender Jazz Bass
This is absolurely gorgeous. It was another eBay purchase for just £250 and arrived in virtually new condition. It is a Mexican-made Jazz Bass with a lined fretless fingerboard. I love fretless basses. I used to have a fretless Westone back in the 1980s, but I sold it many years ago and have long since regretted doing so. I had been on the lookout for another for a few years, and when I saw this at such a low price I knew I had to have it. By the way, the sticker beneath the bridge is of Maggie Simpson, and was put there - I presume - by the bass's previous owner. I left it there because - hell - I like The Simpsons too!

Teisco MJ2
Teisco MJ2
For a guitar that is approx 40 years old, this is in quite good condition! When I bought this the volume and control knobs were continually falling off and one was missing altogether. I replaced these with a suitably vintage-looking set of knobs that complement the design of the instrument perfectly. The two hefty metal pickups are operated by two bizarre-looking rocker switches which are somewhat idiosyncratic in operation, in that they don't actually click into position. These switches are labelled "MIC 1 ON" and "MIC 2 ON" in true Teisco style! The scratchplate that the controls sit on is of the familiar striped aluminium type that is almost a Teisco trademark in itself. The bridge is solid and non-adjustable (and also slightly pitted in places) and the tailpiece is covered by a very odd huge chunk of metal. Other idiosyncracies are that the machine head tuner for the G string has been bent at some point, whilst the one for the B string has been replaced. The final (22nd) fret is missing for some unknown reason, as is the strap button on the lower part of the body. I never replaced this as I use the guitar for slide and play it lap-style. When I first got this guitar, and having re-strung it, my immediate reaction was to raise the action of the strings (using a nut extension from a guy called Chicken Bone John who often sells such items here on eBay); then I tuned the guitar to a chord of D and used it for slide playing with a bottleneck. This guitar sounds absolutely fabulous played in this way. The pickups are loud and have that great bluesy tone required for such playing. At some point in its life, someone has tried to "glam" up this guitar by covering it liberally with gold glitter. I have managed to scrape most of this off, but traces still remain. This could be removed totally with some concentrated effort, but I never found the time.

Guitbass
Guitbass
Wot? Only three-strings? Well, this is my "Presidents of the USA" style "guitbass". It is a three-stringed guitar that I built myself from spare parts, and is tuned C sharp, G sharp and C sharp (an octave higher than the low C sharp). The guitar sports a single Epiphone humbucker and a solitary volume control - I thought I'd keep it nice 'n' simple. To allow for the low tuning the strings are very heavy gauge - I forget the gauges I bought now, but I think the lowest string is a .062 gauge. In fact, this string was so heavy that I had to drill the hole in its machine head bigger to accommodate it. This tuning is designed for power chords - just place a finger across all three strings at any fret, and you get root note, one fifth above and one octave above. It's actually something of a riff-monster and so I have to wonder: Why get overly complicated and use a 7-string guitar for these low heavy riffs when you can do the same thing with a 3-string?

Tele-style "Bitsocaster"
Bitsocaster
The body is an old Telecaster type that I'd bought off eBay. It had been in storage for Who knows how many years, and despite having one or two minor knocks, had not ever been used. It required some extra routing of the pickup cavities as they weren't quite deep enough for the pickups I wanted to install, and we had to drill holes for the strings thru body and for the jack socket on the lower bout. Because of the way in which the original body routing had been carried out, I was unable to use a standard design Telecaster scratchplate on this, because a channel from the bridge pickup to the control cavity would not have been covered up. I traced the outline of the shape I wanted from a real Tele scratchplate, then extended the design (using a dinner plate to continue to top curve!). We used some attractive tortoiseshell scratchplate material bought from highlystrung.co.uk and cut this to the desired shape using a fretsaw. The pickups are a chromed Gibson style P90 at the neck position and a Seymour Duncan Stratocaster-style pickup in the bridge position, so this guitar is certainly not wimpy in the sounds department. The P90 allows for some nice jazzy tones, and overdriven it can get quite bluesy. The neck came from a Encore "Guitarist" model instrument which was offered for sale in the pages of Guitarist magazine in the 1980s. I did consider removing the logo, but decided that I quite liked the novelty of keeping the old Guitarist magazine logo on the headstock. This original Encore guitar was quite a cheapy - I bought it in a very sorry state for £21. Right from the beginning the only part I intended re-using was the neck as it was a well-made neck and in very nice condition, with a very pleasing satin feel to the back of the neck. It just so happened that this neck fitted the Telecaster style body perfectly, so I decided to marry them up.

And that's the major part of the collection. I do have other guitars in various states of playability and condition, but these are what I consider "Projects" rather than "Players" so I won't feature them here.

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