As the holidays — and some much-needed time off — swiftly approach, I present to you my holiday gear wish list, all of which I hope Santa will be kind enough to leave under my tree. I know certain items on my wish list are somewhat pricey, but hey, that’s why I call it a wish list! Even so, if I don’t get it all, just receiving one will give me holiday cheer well into 2014.
If you look toward your mantle this holiday season and notice that your stocking overfloweth, you can thank me next year for maybe half the items you’ll find in it. It took me some time to compile a list of gear I believe will delight many guitarists but that also includes essential tools they’ll need or could use the most.
Most of us regard changing or replacing strings as arduous and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending upon the type of guitar you own, string changing can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Constant repetition is the key — kind of like practicing — and as a guitarist, that’s what you do.
I began to seriously play guitar at the impressionable age of 11 (It would have been earlier if my parents hadn’t discouraged me) by receiving an acoustic and some lessons. Two years later, I had my first electric guitar and joined a band. I haven’t stopped consistently playing live since.
Many guitarists may never know the crunchy overdrive and sweet compression of a vintage 1968 Marshall JMP50 “Plexi” amplifier driven through a 4x12 Marshall cabinet loaded with Celestion Greenback speakers, much less the grinding, high-gain distortion of a Bogner Uberschall Twin Jet. And isn’t that shame?
Although I still haven’t seen SkyFall, the new James Bond flick, I did have the MI-5 to keep me company. No, none of the UK’s deadliest spies were here to assassinate me. I'm talking about the MI-5, Musicvox’s latest 12-string electric guitar, curiously named after Britain’s internal cloak-and-dagger intelligence agency. I can safely say the only thing undercover about this guitar is how its 12 tuners are slyly arranged on its headstock.
When my father took me shopping for my first electric guitar and amp, he gave me two choices: a cherry sunburst Gibson Les Paul (brand new: $575, no joke) with a Peavey 10-watt amp, or an Aria Pro II guitar with a Peavey 65-watt Bandit amp. At the time I was just joining my first band, so as much as it pained me to not show up looking like Jimmy Page, I knew a 10-watt amp wasn't going to cut it.
Last week, I attended PRS Guitars' sixth annual open-house event known as Experience PRS. If you’re a fan of PRS Guitars or just guitars in general, this free event at the Stevensville, Maryland, factory is a must-see. It truly is meant to be “experienced.” One item that struck me is the SE Custom 24 7-String, which happens to be PRS Guitars' first 7-string production instrument in their SE series of guitars.
I find that the Speaker Cranker is an essential stompbox if you use a single-ended amplifier, such as the Marshall JCM 800, or a two-channel amp with a rhythm and lead channel to deliver much-needed gain for harmonics and solos. The pedal does color your sound, but in a good way, slightly darkening the tone to take out any high-end harshness.
There are plenty of great, affordable guitars available these days. With all the precise automation in guitar manufacturing, it’s difficult to find poorly made guitars. Here are three of five cool choices for less than $500. Read about the other two guitars right here.