Monday 31 May 2010

The Paradox of Tone

There is an interesting book by Barry Schwartz called "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less". In it, Schwartz discusses the ironies that surround people today in terms of the perceived value attached to the ever-increasing abundance of choices. The more I thought about this, the more I started to think that as guitarists, we face a similar paradox.

It will become easily apparent here that I am dating myself. But regardless of your age or how long you have been actively playing, I think most will find that in your time with the guitar, there have been changes and the trend with many products is to offer more value for the same or a lower price.

This argument probably holds the most weight with regards to electronic devices as nano technology makes it more and more possible to squeeze more sounds, parameters and other options into smaller chips. But even with guitars, there is an increase in the array of materials being offered; stainless-steel vs nickel frets, various exotic woods for neck back and fingerboards, locking vs vintage-style tuners, sophisticated switching that allows three pickups to offer more than five sounds, etc...

Here comes the part where my wrinkles and Grey hair start to show.

When I was first getting into and over-dosing on electric guitar around the mid-‘70s the choices were few:

  • Guitars: You saved for a Gibson or a Fender, and settled for anything else, unless you really wanted an Ibanez or Epiphone and had a good reason for it.
  • Pedals: You saved for months, just to buy one pedal that pretty much made one kind of sound that was rarely a sound anyone in your band wanted to hear for more than a few seconds. And then you lived with that crummy effect for another six months or whenever you could afford another one.
  • Amps: If you were lucky enough to have an amp with a Master Volume you still wished you had more drive and wished it sounded better at lower volumes.

I'm being overly general here, but I have few memories that involve me or any of my friends not wrestling with these issues. Then, In 1984 someone showed me a Sholz Rockman and that was pretty cool; at least you could feel like you were playing loud wihtout driving everyone nuts. There were three settings; "Clean", "Semi-Driven" and "Driven", plus chorus and a little echo. I thought that it would have been nice to be able to really dial in the amount of drive or chorus you wanted, and I never really went out of my way to save for one, but I still thought that it was a pretty big breakthrough. Then in 1990, Zoom came out with a simialr unit called the 9002 that allowed you to change the amount of any effect, and there were several (including compression, which I just thought was awesome), and you could save 4 or 8 patches for later recall (can’t remember exactly how many). This unit sounded pretty good and again, you could pump this all through the headphones for late night jamming with the T.V. or four-tracking.

I could go on and on in my guitar-ish time-travels through the’70s, '80s and '90s, detailing each major breakthrough in guitar technology, but I think you get the picture; as time goes on, we have more options for a few more bucks, maybe even less. Now here we are with amps like the Line 6 Vetta II and Fender Cyber Twin SE. Both amps sound pretty amazing, and that is coming from someone who is generally against mixing computers and guitars. In my opinion, the Vetta II is a real stand-out. But just as with Multi-Effects Processors , I often have had mixed feelings about the end-result:

Do we really need / want so many choices, or do we think we do, simply because we can have them and they are affordable?

My experience has been that I, and most guitarists I speak to, have three critical sounds that the need when performing. Of course it differes from person to person based on your genre. I have played mostly Blues, R&B, Funk and some Rock for the last 20 years. So, I always need a clean sound, a slightly driven sound that I can tweak depending on the song, and a lead sound. I almost never need more. Whether you play Metal, or Polka or Jazz, do you honestly always have to have 9 or 10 different sounds, or is it really a matter of two or three sounds that need to be great, and you need to be able to toggle between easily?

Whenever I have to use a back-line and sound-check time is at a minimum, I simply make sure I can get my main three sounds reliably out of whatever amp I have to use, and make sure that switching between them is not gonna blow a fuse or introduce local police transmissions into my sound.

Needless to say, there are many exceptions to this. An obvious one would be if you are in a working cover / club date / wedding band and really have to "Nail" a certain tone for a certain song. I once saw a good friend playing in an Isley Brothers tribute show and he just nailed the phase sound on "Who's that Lady?" using his Boss GT 6. It was perfect. In such a case, lots and lots of sounds and choices are rarely a bad thing.

OK Kevin, what exactly is your point here?

In his book, Mr. Schwartz makes reference to the loss of certain dynamics that used to be a staple of human life and often came from families and relationships. Instead he states, we are fed concepts and and imagery that suggest our lives could be a certain way if we "Just do it..." (Nike), or similar concepts. But in the end, wearing a certain brand of clothes or drinking a certain energy drink will not change our lives. I think that for the most part, our lives are changed by events / decisions / actions / etc.. that usually involve interacting with other people. Same for guitar tone.

"Uh.. um… Really Kevin... are you friggin' serious all this?"

Actually, Yes. I am.

I think there was a time when guitarists spent countless hours on the edge of their bed, trying to coax a certain tone out of their instrument. I know I sure as heck did. I think many out there have too. it is very common when you are young; you simply do not have enough money to go out and buy whatever pedal / amp you think is guaranteed to to give you "That Sound...." whatever sound it is you are looking for.

Even when I was a bit older and had jobs, and could actually afford to go out and buy two pedals in one day, or almost any amp I wanted, it never really turned out to be that quite simple. It seems to me that great tone, just like great relationships in life, take time and work. You can't really just dial-in a "Magic Patch" and "Wham!", you have your holy-grail tone. Granted, some of these digital modeling amps / pedals really do give you the tools to nail someone Else's tone for a certain song... and as I mentioned, there are situations where that is just perfect. But at the end of the day, don't we all really want our own tone? Wasn't it just the coolest feeling in the world the first time someone walked up to you after a gig and said "Wow, I love your tone..." I always preferred that to compliments about my playing. And believe me, I'm not saying I've gotten so many of either. But the few times when I was fortunate enough to have someone remark about my tone in a positive way, it always felt very good… much better than “Hey Great solo on Voodoo Chile…”

"hmmmmm…..Ok Kevin, so what you are saying is that the only way anyone can get a really great tone is to toil away at it for years and endure a certain amount of suffering in order to get to that point?..."

Uh... kinda.. but not really.

Q: Is it possible to pick up the guitar for the first time and after only one year, you find an awesome tone that you love, everyone else loves, and never ever give it another moment's thought for ever and ever?

A: Yes. But it is unlikely.

I think that most players who have found a sound (or a few sounds) that they like, and that others like as well, have spent some time cultivating that sound. they tried many different guitars / pickups / amps / speakers / etc... to really find that magical combination. I can describe every inch of my favorite guitar, the two pedals I cannot live without, my favorite pickups, and the two amps that I'd prefer to be stranded on a deserted island with. But the actual details are not the point. The point is that because I spent so many minutes / hours / days / weeks / months and years with a soldering iron in my hand, or locked in a room with several patch cords and pedals and amps, trying to get the sound that I heard in my head to come out of the amp, because of all this time... when I woke up one day and really said, out loud: "Yeah, that's the sound I was looking for. I'm done”….it was a feeling that I don't think I could have gotten by simply choosing "Patch # 32"... it felt like a kid that I had raised for 20+ years and today was the day that he / she graduated from University with excellent grades.

In Summary: I have nothing against digital modeling at all. In fact, I have many positive things to say about it and will in the near future. It's the same way I feel about Cable TV; sure, I miss the romance of the Rabbit-Ear antennae, having to fuss with them in order to get my favorite show to come in and the feeling of accomplishment when I did, but I certainly do enjoy clicking around the 3,000 channels I have now for $50 / month. The title of this post, and the very long journey through my feelings about tone here are merely to point out that while it is very cool that all this excellent technology makes is so incredibly easy to sample / loop / model / 8-track / mix / tweak, etc... and do so many very (and I do mean very) cool things for very little money, there is (in my opinion) nothing like seeing a really good guitarist up there on stage getting a really great tone with mostly their fingers, their instrument, a few choice pickups / parts / pedals, and not much more... and knowing that it it took some effort and time to really arrive there. It just sounds different. Better? we can argue that for days, but it is a sound that I feel we all know when we hear it. And I don't think it always comes from having another 64 pre-sets of classic amp / pedal models of added value in your “Jibloom EtherCrest-5000”. It takes time and effort to discover and nurture. Just like most things of real value in life.

Kevin Chisholm

what one can do with a Firebird?

Who ever said that the Gibson Firebird has a unavoidable southern rock feel? (I know, I know, this is an old rant of mine!)

Here is a video of The Jai-Alai Savant with guitarist Ralph Darden playing on is white Firebird a mix of reggae, ska, post-punk with a hint of dark psychedelic (I prefer this kind of 80s revival than the current boring dance-rock)...


Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year! 

Sunday 30 May 2010

1967 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5


I've wanted to show this Guyatone LG-350 T Sharp 5 for a while now but couldn't find a good opportunity so far... Today I was happy to find this one in an elegant metallic dark blue (standard finish of the model it seems) that really enhances its very special line combining vintage Japanese pointy horns, German carve and Jaguaresque asymmetric curves. Other interesting features are the big vintage tremolo (I'm a fan) and the pickguard and its elegant curls covering the whole front of the guitar...

The Sharp 5 was a famous Japanese surf band of the 60s for which this guitar was created. Though I love these kinds of guitars, for a continental European like me, surf music is an enigma, I only heard of that because of Pulp Fiction's soundtrack and cannot make the difference with rock...

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Saturday 29 May 2010

Burns Steer


The Burns Steer is a strange guitar indeed, first because its design seems to have been conceived to avoid any kind of glamour - not that you can't appreciate the central rectangle metal plate with the O shaped soundhole on a acoustic guitar body or the beetle headstock, but it takes a certain sense of second degree... Actually the body is not so big as you'd expect, it's a thinline and has the scale of a regular electric guitar.

All the reviews about this guitars are really laudatory for its sound, its split bridge humbucker and a singlecoil in neck position allow a great versatility and as one review states: 'all the sound you can have are interesting'. This is far from being true for all the guitars with plenty of pickup combinations! The O-hole, the chambered body and strings-through-body bridge contribute also to its powerful sound.

Conceived in 1979 by Jim Burns but actually issued by Burns London only in 2001, there is also a later version with a small cutaway that is slightly less bizarre, but all the finishes are sunburst (the green one being the main one), that is a pity, I'd love it in a sober transparent black...

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

John McGee's Corvus
We recently looked at a Danelectro-inspired guitar built by Guitarz reader John McGee. He hinted that there was more where that came from, and as good as his word, has sent us photos and details of a guitar he based on one of the lesser-known models from one of the guitar giants, the Gibson Corvus. I'll let John explain in his own words:
Here's a Corvus I made last year. I know the Corvus is something Gibson would rather forget, but I loved them then and I love them now.

The original was unbalanced (there's a shocker - a poorly balanced Gibson!), so I lopped off the headstock. That cleared everything right up. Steinberger tuners made it all possible. I also modified the contouring to suit my tastes. It now balances very nicely and is REALLY light and comfortable. It's one of my favorite guitars to play.

The body is poplar, the neck is maple/rosewood. The pickup is a Kramer quad-rail, coming in at around 15K.

The only regret I have is the color. It kinda looks like an upside-down whale with teeth, or a Goldfish cracker. Then again, that only adds to the silliness of the whole thing.
Thanks again for that, John! We always enjoy seeing one-offs and self-builds here at Guitarz. It's interesting to see a lesser-known guitar like the Gibson Corvus used as inspiration. The shape of the body could have been originally designed to have the tuners located where you put them!

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Friday 28 May 2010

Prototype Eastman El Rey ER-F

Prototype Eastman El Rey

This Eastman El Rey is exactly the kind of guitar I love: an ultra-classic archtop jazz guitar design smartly distorted to personalize and update its line in an extremely elegant way, and a few killing details, like the round cutaway and the ebony tailpiece and pickguard on a white finish...

For some reason Eastman never released this F-holes version of their El Rey series designed by Otto d'Ambosio, so this prototype is a one-off so far...

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Thursday 27 May 2010

Hondo All-Star H-702
Once again we have an eBay seller claiming a guitar is much older than it is. So, he thinks this Japanese Hondo All-Star H-702 is from the 1970s (or even the 60s judging by the listing title)?

Well seeing as it is very obviously a copy of the Fender Bullet MkII series from the early 1980s, I don't see how this is possible. Unless those crafty Japanese had access to a time machine.

"Let's nip into the future and steal a design from Fender's budget-guitar series."

I mean, if I had a time machine I think I'd do something better with it than that.

So, it's an eBay seller not doing his homework. Even the logo is copied from the Fender Bullet! Jeez! Some people!

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Convertible Stratocaster

guitare modulable

Found this strange guitar today, a convertible stratocaster with a removable front allowing to change the pickups and all electronics in a quite simple way. The guy who sells it is a French luthier who gives no information at all about it, I'm not sure if it's his creation, a new line, a one-off, a prototype, or the last Chinese gadget! A quick Internet check gave no result, so if anybody has a clue, it's welcome.

It looks like another attempt to reach the ultimate guitar versatility, something that always makes me perplex, because, you know, the less versatile a guitar, the more guitars I must have and the happier I am...

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

DiMarzio DP408 Virtual Vintage '54 Pro

Sometimes I don't know who is more particular about the particulars; physicists, art collectors, or Blues Guitarists. I can't even begin to count how many times I've had to referee a near bare-knuckle brawl over which was better; "Ceramic" Capacitors or "Paper in Oil". Holy Moley, the level of detail that is debated about guitars.... so, am I completely out of my mind to even bring up the topic of "Best Blues Guitar Pickup" ?


But first, we must take a moment for my disclaimer: Discussions of guitar pickups are more subjective than that of lovers and football teams. Everything that follows here is merely my opinion. I do not claim to be right, smarter than the average bear or more experienced than the next civilian. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on T.V.

Ok, disclaiming done.

That all said, I am much more of a 25 1/2" scale kinda guy; hence my Les Paul with hardly a scratch on it, and my pile of Tele & Strat bodies that look like they go back to the Johnson administration. So, my taste in pickups tends to meander more into single coil territory. Although, a pair of early to mid '70s T-Tops are also very very nice to sprinkle on your Cocoa Puffs in the morning. But I digress.

Today I ask permission to rave about the DiMarzio DP408 Virtual Vintage '54 Pro. I have gone 'round and 'round on the subject of Dimarzio pickups ever since I bought my first X2n in 1979...or 1980... it's all getting a bit fuzzy... and what the heck was I thinking buying an X2n? (answer: I was young and stupid), but I digress again. After all the back and forth with
Dimarzio pickups, never hating, just flip-flopping on how much I liked 'em, I came across the Virtual Vintage series. I stopped, stomped out my cigarette, got down on one knee, and proposed on the spot.

I just can't find anything to not love about these puppies. Loud, Snappy, Crisp and no hum.... my kinda girl. And when I say no hum, I mean 4-trackin' late at night,
plugged into your overdrive, pro-tools fired-up, your guitar a mere one inch from the monitor... no hum. Now that's a bit extreme.... but y'know, there you are on stage, playin' louder than you know you are supposed to, you stomp on your favorite OD, kick into your big solo, and no screech, no hum, just really great tone. Sold, I'll take two... no wait, I'll take three.

I think these are particularly outstanding because while they do nail the vintage thing, they also handle serious drive with no problem. They are excellent in a set and play well with other kids too. Some say that all the members of the Virtual Vintage series are too bright. Well, I have always felt that it is a bit easier to darken up a bright pickup than it is to accomplish the opposite. Personally, I don't think it's an issue at all. These darken up very nicely and I believe that most amplifiers built in the last 70 years have at least one or two knobs that allow you to adjust your tone.... unless I'm missing something.

I know... someone is gonna chime in here that "XYZ Bonker Rails" or the "Acme Jilbo 5000" is a better pickup for Blues. See my rambling disclaimer at the top of this post please, and then come back. Of course I love a bunch of other single coil pickups for Blues. I've only written about a gazillion articles about how great Fender Texas Specials are, as well as the very cool Seymour Duncan SSL-5, Maybe "Best" is to much, who knows. I will admit that I get a little over enthusiastic about pickups sometimes (yet if you ask me when is my Sister's birthday is I will will draw a blank). That is my cross to bear, I just love pickups.

In summary, I do hate to sound like a paid endorser of this Staten Island marvel, but what a great pickup. Bell like chime? you got it. Thick / Leathery / Creamy molasses? You got it. Serious Grindage when you pull the tap off the keg? You got it. Not every pickup is gonna be everyone's cup of tea, but if you are still in search of one damn fine vintage & noiseless Strat pickup for Blues, this one is definitely worth a try. If you don't love it, fine, just throw it up on eBay and you'll get most if not all of your bucks back. You gotta really try pickups before you know if they are right for you. If you are looking for a new one (or set of three) to try, these are highly recommended. And if you want a low-maintenance way of dippin' your toe in the water, check out pre-wired assemblies, they really make your life a lot easier when experimenting with Strat or Tele pickups.

Kevin Chisholm

Wednesday 26 May 2010

50s Supro Dual Tone

Supro Dual Tone

I've been introduced to the Supro Dual Tone by its reissue by Eastwood a few years ago, but at the time I was into their more spectacular guitars, like the Wandre Doris, the Tokai Hummingbird or the Airline 59 Custom... Now my taste gets more refined and I enjoy the original humble Supro with its old gold mock-humbucker - actually big singlecoils -, art deco stop tail, 4 knobs in a line and double pickguard (one would say a scratchplate on top of a pickguard, but that's a lot of vocabulary!)

Supro, like Airline and National, other brands reissued by Eastwood, was a sub-brand of Valco, a US company active in the 50s-60s, that eventually merged with Kay before bankrupting. They are at the core of the vintage guitars hype, with people like David Bowie, Jack White or Robert Smith having taken them out of attics and played them on stage again!

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Groucho plays guitar

Here's Groucho Marx singing and playing guitar in the 1932 Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers. Note how he does the old switcheroo with the guitar towards the end of the sequence.

G L Wilson

Additional: Dave Brown points out that the guitar is a Gibson L5 and you can read all about it and Groucho the guitarist here.

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

ARIA GR-2010 Goal Rush 2010 / FIFA World Cup Limited soccer guitar
Now, I'm not the biggest fan of football (no one calls it "soccer" here in the UK, or even Europe as far as I know), but even I must admit that this official licensed World Cup 2010 guitar from Aria is a clever piece of design, espeically when you consider that it could so easily have ended up looking like a banjo! The middle pentagonal-shape is in fact a speaker, for this little guitar has a built-in amp. I like the headstock that looks like a football boot - complete with tuners as studs!

Thanks to Scott for bringing this guitar to my attention.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Gibson Firebird V reissue

Gibson Firebird V

Back to the Firebird series, to show this beautiful combination of wood used for this Firebird V in natural finish.

If you click on the link you'll find several instructing close ups showing how the wings are connected to the neck-through.

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Monday 24 May 2010

Badly-strung Tele

It looks like someone was in a hurry!

But, really, how difficult is it to string up a Fender Telecaster especially one like this example with the slotted machine heads? I mean, that is going to be so confusing.

It's bad enough when people put the string around the wrong side of the tuner so you have to turn the head in the opposite direction from usual when tuning but to transpose two different strings is almost laughable. If I was that eBay seller I would have been ashamed to even show this photo. Having seen this, I don't think I could trust his claim that this is (even in part) a 1968 example of a paisley Tele rather than a later Japanese reissue.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

pre-MIDI Roland guitar synth GR/GS 500

roland 500

What I like with the guitar controller GR 500 of this very first guitar synthesizer proposed by Roland in 1977 is that it's a very classic wooden Les Paul model in sunburst finish, not a Star Trek prop. Not that I don't find the Roland G-707 that came later one of the coolest guitar design ever, but this one looks as good as a late 60s Czechoslovakian LP copy (I love writing Czechoslovakian, don't you?) with even more knobs that a vintage Eko and really weird pickups (it's actually also equipped with an early sustainer...).

The perfect companion for progressive rock's debuts!

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Meet Kevin Chisholm

St. Patrick's Day 1978 is a day that I'll never forget; that was my first "Official" guitar lesson. While I had been tinkering with the instrument for a year or two at that point, this Saturday afternoon was the day that I had my first lesson and I don't remember thinking about too much else since then.

If I had to sum myself up as a guitarist, I'd say that I have at times been more obsessed with taking guitars apart than playing them. I do love to play, and have spent a bit of time roaming the world with various Blues / R&B / Soul acts. But while not on stage, I can often be found hovering over a telecaster with its guts out, soldering iron spewing resin in my eyes, a bag full of pickups to my left, a pack of Marlboro Reds to my right, some crappy re-run on the television and a big smile on my face.

I do a great deal of writing for, HumbuckerSoup and Samples of my playing can be found on my MySpace page, as well as some photos from the road.

I am honored to have the opportunity to write for Guitarzblog and hope that you will enjoy my posts.

I can be reached at:

Kevin Chisholm

Sunday 23 May 2010

1930s Rickenbacker A-22 Frying Pan

rickenbacker fryingpan

No, not all the Rickenbacker Frying Pans - the vintagest amongst the vintage guitars - are safe in museums or bankers' collections, you can still find one on eBay!

For those you don't know it, this cast aluminium lap steel guitar with its characteristic horse shoe magnet pickup was created in 1931 - and is the first electric guitar in history.

Get down on your knees and adore, guitar lovers!

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Basslab custom

Bass Lab Prince

A new example of contemporary German luthiery, this one-off guitar by Basslab is made from one piece of composite material (couldn't find the exact composition) and rigged with extra top gear. Though this kind of instruments are not so common, they are easily identifiable since Auerswald - another German brand - made similar guitars for Mister Prince.

I'm not a fan of such guitars but I find many details fascinating, like the surprisingly ergonomic quality of its design with plenty of curves in the back, and the way the knobs follow the curve of the front... It's worth clicking on the link to see that from close!

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Saturday 22 May 2010

Gretsch G6196T Country Club reissue

Gretsch Bono

And another classy one with a venetian cutaway: this is the ultra-classic Gretsch Country Club G6196T, a hollow-body electric archtop guitar with two pickups and the longest lasting model from Gretsch, this one in Cadillac Green finish, with a Bigsby trem and DeArmond singlecoils.

It's supposed to be noticeable for being played my Mister Bono but if there is a band of which I couldn't ever listen to a single note, it's U2 (except a few bars from an intro of one song used in Pillow Book of Peter Greenaway in the catwalk scene - but Greenaway is a man of good taste who cut the song after 10 seconds).

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Friday 21 May 2010

1958 Höfner 4550/S

Hofner Melody

Another splendid vintage archtop electro-acoustic guitar is this Höfner 4550/S aka Senator (according to continental or UK nomenclature). Here again this is the venetian cutaway version of the previous spanish model, upgraded with a pickup. I love the strangely shaped perloid scratchplate!

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

1952 Gibson L-7C

Gibson L 7C

A queen amongst the acoustic archtop guitars I love so much, the Gibson L-7C is a version of the classic L-7 with a round venetian cutaway, and is still in production since its released in 1949 - claiming for some reason to be one of the few non electrified acoustic archtop guitar built nowadays, like it's the best idea they ever had.

Anyway, that's why this 1952 one has been upgraded, probably in the 60s, with a DeArmond pickup. The honey-blonde finish fits particularly to this model, much better than the usual sunburst, as it allows to perceive at the first glance its elegant and structural simplicity.

Look at it people, this one is supposed to be one of the best guitars in history!


Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

The Retrotron by John McGee
John McGee writes:
I've been reading the Guitarz blog for a little while now. I build guitars that are slightly off kilter, and I thought you night like this one.

It's a scaled down Danelectro Bowtie shape. The neck is from a modern Dano re-issue, as are the tuners. The pickups are Gretsch mini-HBs. The body is ash, covered with countertop Formica and bound in white. I call it the Retrotron.

Nice guitar! I like the Formica top and the pickguard shape. We are always happy to receive photos of your self-builds, so please keep them coming, folks!

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Thursday 20 May 2010

70s Ibanez Les Paul Studio 2372 (pre law-suit)

Ibanez LP Recorder

The Les Paul Recording/Personal is my favorite Gibson LP but for some reason I like it better as a Ibanez law-suit era perfect copy - maybe that 70s feel vintage Japanese guitars have... Of course at the time it was an infamous copy by the evil Japs (see previous post), but now it's the splendor it's supposed to be...

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Another Weller guitar with a special design

weller 2

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a cool shaped Weller guitar, knowing nothing about this brand. A few comments indicated that it's a German company importing Chinese cheapos, though this kind of business - there are a lot in Germany - usually focuses on standard designs (actually many main American companies do the same!)

Here is another Weller, with a much more bizarre shape and quite special hardware, not the kind you find on common cheap guitars... Also I disagree with the easy cliché that makes a guitar made in China obligatorily a bad guitar. If it was the case, most of the big brands would have to acknowledge that they produce shit. Also the same was said about Japanese guitars 30 years ago and now they are super cool vintage collectors. And I bought a 40€ SG last year for a project and it has a very honorable sound, absolutely playable and well finished... People will have to admit that we are in a new guitar era and the time of super expensive handmade in the USA guitars is behind...

Anyway, I still have to get objective information about this Weller brand from someone who played one of their guitars for real, and I appreciate the design attempt, not really successful though, but a nice try (I know also about unplayable Chinese guitars with stupid designs, I don't say that everything produced there is perfect!).

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Turtle guitar

The concept of a guitar made from a turtle shell has been a concept firmly fixed in my mind since I saw Kirk Douglas playing one in the movie "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" as a small child. Other than the instrument used in that film (a prop, no doubt) the guitar pictured here - currently being offered for sale on eBay - is the first time I've actually seen this idea executed.

However, I hope the poor turtle wasn't executed for its shell.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Monday 17 May 2010

3000! ...and a rather nice Fender Mustang in orange
First of all let me apologize for the sparsity of posts over the last few days. Unfortunately, I have been very busy elsewhere - as has Bertram - and have just not been able to commit any time to the blog.

This is in fact quite a milestone of a post, being our 3000th blog posting here on Guitarz! I did have something rather special lined up for the occasion, but unfortunately I have not had the time to prepare the necessary materials.

So, instead please feast your eyes on the above-pictured Fender Mustang circa 1968 which is finished in orange, not a Fender colour I've seen before, and with the competition stripe.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Saturday 15 May 2010

Anthony Goulding unveils his latest aluminium creation
This latest guitar from Goulding Guitars is a real beauty. It has a polished aluminium body and neck, birdseye maple fretboard with gold evo frets, Bareknuckle humbuckers with coiltap, with all hardware/bridge/tailpiece/pickup surrounds/knobs etc designed and made by Anthony Goulding from gold plated brass. The bridge incorporates piezo saddles leading to separate strap pin jack socket, and the total weight is 7lb.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Friday 14 May 2010

Gordon Giltrap's doubleneck electric/acoustic 12/6-string
Hello again.

See the attachment. I found out that this photo of 12/6 strings acoustic/electric gtr is from Visionary album cover but what is this model?


Ah yes, I remember watching a TV programme back in the day, on which Gordon Giltrap was a guest and was showing some of his guitars including this very doubleneck. I remember this like it was yesterday, because I was at my grandmother's house and her sister was also there, and they were saying "Oooh, I've never seen one like that before!", and I was like "Yeah, I've seen doublenecks."

Anyway, you didn't ask for my family reminiscences. The guitar is, I believe, a one-off by the luthier John Bailey. If you do a Google search for "Gordon Giltrap doubleneck", John Bailey is the name that keeps cropping up, so I'm pretty sure that's what this one is.

If any Giltrap fans know otherwise, then please let us know!

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Conrad Bison baritone guitar (allegedly - I'm not convinced)
Here's another vintaqe Japanese-made oddity for your. It's a Conrad Bison, and according to the seller it is a baritone model having a longer scale (although it's not too obvious in the photos - I'm not 100% convinced about this).

If it IS indeed a longer scale guitar, possibly it should more accurately be labelled a Bass-VI. As many of you will know, Fender, Danelectro and various other companies jumping on the bandwaggon produced these six-string basses in the 1960s. They were basically 6-string guitars with longer scale-lengths and tuned like a guitar, E to e, but down an octave. String spacing was as a guitar and they were often equipped with tremolo arms.

In more recent years people have taken to calling these "baritone guitars" so as to distinguish them from the more modern vision of the 6-string bass with low B-string and high C-string. But this, for me at least, causes another problem because it then confuses the Bass-VI with the modern baritone guitar which uses a tuning somewhere between a guitar and a bass (tunings vary), whereas the original Bass-VI guitars went down as low as a 4-string bass but added two higher strings.

Sure, some players took the Bass-VI and tuned it in ways more akin to our modern baritone guitar, but that is not how these instruments were envisioned.

Anyway, don't you think the shape of this Conrad with its offset pointed horns reminds you of the "Unknown" 12-string we looked at recently? (Which was, we decided, most likely an Arai/Aria Diamond or similar). From what I can find out, Conrad was indeed a related brandname for these same instruments, probably used by a certain store as its in-house brand.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Thursday 13 May 2010

Dorado 5985 solidbody from the 1970s
In the 1970s, Dorado was to Gretsch what Squier is to Fender and Epiphone to Gibson. That is to say, Dorado was Gretsch's budget brand. This example currently listed on eBay is, according to the catalogue from 1973, a Dorado 5985 in natural finish. The design is obviously inspired by the ubiquitous Fender Stratocaster, although with a slightly offset waist, a Jazzmaster-like tremolo, and a 3-on-each-side headstock shape. Pickups are two P90-like units, and the controls include a "Brilliant" switch, located near the bridge pickup. All in all, a very nice guitar and a welcome departure from the guitar it closely resembles. The 1973 cataloague illustrates that there was a bass sibling too.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Lane Poor Minima headless bass
Email from Стеклов Владимир:
...a very rare and unique, Lane Poor Minima 4 string electric bass guitar, #82 of only 90 made. Has many unique features, lightweight, white pearl finish, has a jazz style type neck, headless, tuning knobs next to the bridge, roller volume control, no tone controls because the pickups sound awesome. Has no regular type frets, I believe the frets are carbon glass? Correct me if I am wrong, sawtooth like fretboard, take a little bit of getting use to at first. 24 of the carbon glass frets, which will never need re-fretting. This thing is built like a tank. Lane Poor is famous for his pickups; Flea from the Red Hot Chilli peppers uses them in his bass guitars. The case for this bass is a rifle case. A very unique and rare bass to own, only 90 in the whole world, if you are looking for something a little different, then this is probably it.
Thanks for that! I've seen photos of these basses before, but have never seen a close-up of the fretboard before. That's quite weird. What's the idea of the super-wide flat frets, I wonder? Is it to give the bass a fretless quality? The fingerboard looks like a fretless that has been scalloped! I've never seen anything quite like it.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Hoyer Special jazz guitar
This Hoyer Special dating from 1957 immediately struck me as being very odd, as essentially it appears to be an acoustic jazz guitar with a tremolo.

However, of course, this guitar would have originally had a pickup. I guess the volume and tone controls would have been mounted on the pickguard (also missing here) because from what I can make out from the poor photos, there are no appropriate holes in the body for them.

It's an attractive guitar from the highly-arched front and back, the over-large catseye soundholes and deep single cutaway, through to the large inlaid headstock with its fancy tuner buttons.

I'd thought that Hoyer were a name from the past, but it seems they are still a going concern and have a brand new range of models for 2010. See

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Unknown Japanese 12-string electric
Kevin writes:
Spent days trying to id this old 12 string... kind of looks like the Eko Electric you have on your blog but differs in a number of ways. Attaching a couple of pix in hopes that maybe you have a theory. Has a unique headstock, fret dots are not center lined on the fret board, had a whammy bar that’s been removed or broke off. Took off pick guard and no interior markings. Neck bolt plate says Made in Japan and has serial numbers but nothing to id with, and there was an oval plate on headstock that is no longer on it ... so ... any theory is welcome, sorry to intrude and enjoyed your blog.
Thanks Kevin. Whilst this guitar looks familiar and I feel that I should know what it is, I'm afraid I'm drawing blanks too. I'm thinking perhaps Goya or Guyatone, but that's just a very vague impression. The fact that the neck plate suggests it's Japanese rules out it being an Eko.

I'm throwing this one over to the Guitarz readership. Any ideas, guys?

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Monday 10 May 2010

Gibson ES165 Herb Ellis model from 1991

This is a Gibson ES165 Herb Ellis model from 1991, and is the kind of guitar I reckon that our very own Bertram might well lust after with its big Jazzer body, Florentine cutaway and black finish.

Guitarz reader Shubert Silva saw this guitar being offered for sale on Mercado Libre, Uruguay's equivalent of eBay, and was amused at the sheer audacity of one person offering their amp (unspecified) plus a Korean-made Ovation Celebrity Deluxe in exhange.

Kudos to the seller for responding politely and with good grace!

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

ARIA Pro II NXG Custom Shop

ARIA Pro II Custom Shop NXG

This nylon stringed Aria pro II is serious stuff. Its slim wide telecaster shape has its sound hole on the upper horn, something that Ovation and its followers made quite common now, but the hole is big as required to properly amplify the nylon strings and has a quite elegant shape. 
I like how Japanese instrument makers have no complex about innovation also in classical music instruments, where tradition absolutely rules in the West!


 Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Sunday 9 May 2010

Hoyer semi-hollow with walnut top

Hoyer walnut

The central beam of this ES-335-like mid-80s Hoyer ends in a short point, something unusual for this kind of semi-hollow guitars that ordinarily tend to be as uncreative as possible! The other noticeable feature is its beautiful walnut top that makes it quite a guitar...

BTW today on a flea market I saw an overly cool Daion Headhunter - a high end rare 80s Matsumoku ES-335 variation with a curve where this Hoyer has a point... But the seller knew well its value, that is far more than what I could afford, so I walked away, with my heart bleeding, but I didn't cry (I'll post about this guitar when the opportunity comes).


  Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin

Godin 5th avenue

Another archtop/F-holes acoustic guitar, the Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin is one of the coolest recent guitars - the Kingpin being the electrified version, with a P90 in neck position. 
It's just perfect, and Godin rules!

On the top of my GAS list!


 Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

1965 Framus Missouri

framus acoustic

I've always loved archtop acoustic guitars, and I wonder why they are not more common... They feel more suitable for steel-strings when flat-tops and round holes belong to nylon strings. This 60s Framus Missouri is way cool, with a deep cutaway perfect for jazz players (it's not a model to play folk songs around a bonfire). 


  Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Saturday 8 May 2010

Yamaha SBV basses
Kevin posted this picture of his Yamaha SBV basses in the comments beneath my post last week about my Yamaha SGV-300 guitar. I thought it was a photo that deserved a proper airing on the blog itself.

Kevin comments:
I'm lucky enough to own two SBV basses, the build quality of Yamaha guitars is amazing for the price. Really love them, so much so that they get more play than my Lakland which is technically the much better instrument. Really hope Yamaha revisit this style at some point as their current designs are a little boring.
One Yamaha bass that I'm on the look-out for is the Yamaha SB-2, which was the bass sibling to the SG-2 guitar (similar to my own SG-3). I've seen photos but I do believe they are pretty scarce. I doubt many examples exist outside of Japan.

Returning to the topic of the SGV/SBV, having been playing my SGV-300 these past couple of weeks I am really beginning to appreciate what an excellent design it is. I'm a big fan of the Ovation Breadwinner, but I'd go as far as to suggest that the SGV/SBV design predates the Breadwinner as a truly ergonically-designed guitar. I don't know if it was designed specifically with ergonomics in mind or if it was just serendipitous, but the guitar hangs well on a strap, sits nicely on the lap when sitting, and has the right-forearm support on its contoured body that make it comfortable to play.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Friday 7 May 2010

Tombo Ukulet and amp in case combo

With a scale length of 17 1/2" this Tombo Ukulet is one diminutive little axe. Judging by its name, it was marketed as a ukulele, but as a six stringer it surely has more in common with the guitar.

It does have a Teisco look to it, and - sure enough - it's a Made in Japan instrument. It also comes with it's own "amp in case", just like the vintage Danelectros, making this a neat little package.

But perhaps not for someone with big fingers, like me.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Teisco Spectrum 5 - vintage Japanese guitar with multi-pickup switching
For some reason I could have sworn that we'd previously featured the Teisco Spectrum 5 on Guitarz, but I cannot find it in the archives. (Hey, I've been doing this since 2002 before there were any other Guitar Blogs. I can't remember everything I've posted.)

But even if I have posted it before, the Spectrum 5 is worth looking at again. It looks typically Teisco (if anything Teisco produced could be said to be "typical"), the metallic blue-finished body having a German carve around its top. It's an aptly-named guitar for the split pickups allow for a spectrum of sound combinations, which is something the manufacturers kindly illustrated for us with the coloured pickup selectors.

This example looks to be in very good condition with all parts, e.g. trem, all present and correct. The Buy It Now of US $2,399.00 is further evidence that these cheesy old guitars from the 1960s are becoming both collectable and desireable.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Thursday 6 May 2010

Höfner Bat - prototype from 1960
According to the listing on eBay this highly unusual Höfner BAT from 1960 was a prototype guitar first shown at Frankfurt in 1960, although it never went into production. The guitar incorporated a built-in amp and speaker, taking advantage of the then-new technology offered by the transistor.

Unfortunately this (lone surviving?) example of this model does not have a functioning amp, whilst several parts are not original and the neck is not currently glued in.

This guitar we might call "museum quality". It's not going to be a player, but for the collector it must surely by a very interesting piece.

Thanks to Nathan for bringing this intriguing guitar to our attention.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

The Billigcaster - at last, a guitar you can make pancakes on!
Christophe writes:
This instrument is made by a friend in Brittany (France), and this iron plate is traditionnaly used here to make pancakes. This is called a "billig" in Breton language. It weighs... 8,5 kg! Sometimes he plays with a ladle, used for pancakes too...
I bet you never realised there was a connection between the guitar and pancakes before! The "Billigcaster" is the creation of Atelier de jean Vincent who also plays in Les Breihzozaures, a Celtic/Folk Rock/Electro band.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Harmony H82G REBEL Hollowbody
This American-made Harmony hollowbody guitar from 1972 features an interesting alternative to the usual volume and tone potentiometers, or even the Italian-style pushbutton switches and rollers, with these mixer-like faders. However, they might not be the best design if you sweat a lot on stage.

G L Wilson

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!


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