I’ve been looking over some of the worship websites in recent weeks and surprisingly some of the stuff that gets the most comments is the ‘what guitar do you use’ type of post. Now whilst I love going round the guitar shops one of the things I didn’t want to get into with the Musicademy website was the anoraky ‘what strings are best’ kind of debate. That said, when Marie suggested I show you all the gear I use I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed writing the articles – so I’m gonna say it. “I am a Guitar Geek”… There we go I’m out – loud and proud. So over the next few weeks I’ll show you the gear I use and the reason I bought it. First up let’s talk guitars and then we’ll go for amps and pedals. Here is my guitar confession. However in the spirit of confessionals and growing relationships I’d like to you to give a little too. So what have you got and why? Come on, bring out the geek in you!
I’ve radically cut down my guitar habit in recent times as I bought a house and needed some cash for the deposit. Welcome to the world of being an adult…I guess?
1981 JV Squire Telecaster.
This has been my main guitar for years and the one I always go back to despite fleeting moments with other girlfriends.I bought this nearly 18 years ago for £170 but had to go up to Scotland to buy it. When I got it, it had been sprayed an awful blue colour so I got a guitar tech friend to buff it back to the original blondie/yellow. Don’t be fooled by the Squire name. Back in the early eighties Fender launched Squire to compete with the Japanese Tokai’s and Greco’s which were much better than the new American Fenders of the day and were really great quality copies of the good vintage pre CBS Fenders that everyone wanted. JV’s weren’t that well known or valuable when I bought it but now they’re nearly 30 years old they’ve started to hit the vintage and collectable market. The bridge pickup is a Seymour Duncan Alnico Pro. It’s not that powerful but creates some sweet tones. For some extra punch to push the tubes on my amp I use an Award Session Mixmatch as the first pedal on one of my boards and that seems to work very well. For driven and distorted sounds I tend to roll the tone back to around 8 which takes off the top just enough to darken it a bit.
The middle pickup is a Seymour P90 which I can blend with other pickups or have on its own via the mini toggle switch between the volume and tone controls. I tried it as an experiment and stuck with it so far because it can add a slightly bigger, warmer tone to the arsenal. I must say I’m not completely convinced so next I am gonna try a Dimarzio P90 sized Superdistortion humbucker that I have lying around. See if I can get some decent Gibson-ish tones out of the thing too. Has anybody tried this? Before any of the vintage buffs complain about my wrecking the guitar with a middle pickup – the hole was already badly routed for a standard sized single coil when I bought it so the damage was already done!
For all you JV anoraks, I know the JV’s didn’t launch till 1982 and this looks like one from the second batch (hence the small Fender logo) but the neck date definitely says September 81 so who knows how that happened? Maybe it’s an earlier unused Greco neck? Although maybe not as I’m told they were different shaped to the JVs and this seems to be exactly the same as the other JVs I’ve tried. Either way if you see a JV for sale, buy it. Great instruments and appreciating assets. What more could you want?
2008 58 Gibson Chambered Les Paul.
This guitar is I guess what’s known as reassuringly expensive… I’ve wanted a Les Paul for a really long time that I felt I got on with and I’ve actually been through about 3 or 4 in the last 10 years but they’ve always a) been too heavy b) didn’t stay in tune as well the Telecaster or c) both. So I’ve had a Standard, a couple of 70’s Deluxes with the mini humbuckers, had a couple of SG’s to get round the weight issue but again I found the tuning a bit delicate, especially with a capo, and never really got on with the extended neck thing.
Then I tried this used but new-ish custom shop 58 Chambered Les Paul that’s now a couple of years old. These had a lot of the mahogany taken out to save weight, at the same time some of that hollowing added a little ‘air’ to the tone and with these particular models, Gibson had the tuning set up on a Plek computer system which hugely helps with the tuning and intonation along with a big baseball bat neck which I like. So basically I’ve got a great sounding light weight Les Paul that stays IN tune. I guess you get what you pay for but having just bought it I found out Gibson have incorporated some chambering, along with the plek setup and Tonepros vintage style locking tuners into their new Standard model at a much cheaper price…Great.
1996 Gretsch Malcolm Young II
I bought this as a bit of an experiment when I was in the US and the pound was extremely strong against the dollar and if I didn’t like it I could always sell it back in the UK and make a small profit. That was before the recession and everybody stopped buying guitars. I got it as a lot the worship band guys were converting over to Gretsch Duo Jets as you get a big humbucker tone but its not as thick and brutal as a Les Paul. It’s seen as a bit of a niche guitar for AC/DC fans but because the Malcolm is designed as a rhythm guitar I reckon it’s a bit of a sleeper instrument for worship band guys. Its semi- hollow too which keeps the weight down and adds to the jangle and The Badass bridge helps keep it in tune. That said it’s still not as stable as my Tele which never goes out despite what you subject it to. Downsides? I don’t think it’s as pretty as the single cut Duo, it’s got weird tone controls and I’m not entirely sold on the Postman Pat Red colour scheme, but I think its an interesting guitar at a bargain price so I’m happy to keep it until the values go back up.
The Mcpherson is just a beautiful modern sounding acoustic. When I interviewed Stu G from Delirious back in 2005 for our original Intermediate Guitar DVDs he had one and it was the most gorgeous thing I ever heard and so well constructed. So I thought one day I’d love to own one.
Mcpherson don’t have any UK dealers so I had to choose what I wanted ‘blind’. I wouldn’t normally recommend this but they were so helpful and talked me through the different choice of body depths and woods and how they would affect the sound. Eventually I chose a Redwood top and Rosewood back and sides as a good compromise for finger style and using a pick. It sounds amazing and I’m particularly impressed with the Buzz Feiten tuning system. It really helps you get spot on intonation all the way up the neck. Great for combining open and fretted notes up high or using a capo without it pulling sharp.
This is the first serious acoustic I bought used around 1994. I really wanted a Lowden and this shop in Oxford was doing them for about £800 on interest free credit. The Lakewood happened to be there for £400 and gave me 90% Lowden tone for half the money so being a cheapskate I bought it. Ironically those early 90’s Lowden’s are now worth quite a bit so either way I would have been quids in. Being a cedar top with a mahogany body it’s quite warm and a little more suited to finger picking. The pickup is an original Mike Vanden Nemesis which has now become the Fishman rare earth. These are actually a single coil and give a sound all of their own but I find the combo of it and the woods work very well together. Since I’ve got the Mcpherson I’ve relegated the Lakewood to high strung duties (using a set of the drone strings you would find on a 12 string) but as it’s 20 years old now I’m quite attached to it and I don’t think I’ll ever sell it.
Godin Classical Acousticaster
If you are not familiar with the Godin’s they are quite light, hollow and electric sized but have a series of tuned metal rods inside the body that are supposed to help with the sound and sustain. I wanted an electro classical for ages and I found this one used in a shop somewhere. It probably dates from some point in the 90s and was quite a bit cheaper because someone had gouged a big whole in the top just below the neck, trying to get access to the truss rod. Why they just didn’t take the neck off I have no idea. Either way it doesn’t affect the tone which is pretty spot on.
Mongrel Precision Bass
I got this bass for the princely sum of £130 a few years ago. It’s really a bit of a bitza instrument mostly made up of ESP neck and body with Yamaha hardware and MEC active pickups. But it sounds great. The tuners are faded gold so they’ve got a mismatched oldskool junkyard kind of look and are reversed so you have to turn them the opposite way to what you expect. No idea why, maybe from a left hand bass?
The mahogany body is bizarrely pretty light and the neck is walnut I believe, which I have never seen on a P bass before but sounds great and balances well. Pickup wise the MECs are fine but I may well put a passive P-J set in at some point for a few more tones.
It was actually put together for a local music shop back in the 80’s by a luthier friend of mine who has looked after my guitars for years. When the shop went bust another buddy picked it up for £125 if I remember… So he had it for about 10 years and then passed it on to me for a whole £5 profit. Not bad both ways I reckon. I really like it. Probably because it’s a bit of a bargain and if you know me you’ll realise I’m a bit of a cheap date.
Learning to play your new guitar well:
The Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar Course
The Intermediate Electric Worship Guitar Course
Other posts you may like:
Buyers Guide – good quality acoustic guitars
Buyers Guide – small, classy acoustic guitars
Lightweight Les Paul of Love – Parts 1 and 2
50 Tips – electric guitars
Top 10 Do’s & Don’ts – lead guitarists
Top 10 Do’s & Don’ts – acoustic guitarists
Ask the expert – why won’t my guitar stay in tune?
Ask the Expert – Would you recommend a McPherson guitar?