When Gus G. became Ozzy Osbourne’s axman in 2009, the Greek shredder quickly became as scrutinized as the celebrated guitarists that preceded him in Ozzy’s band, including Zakk Wylde, Jake E. Lee and Randy Rhoads. While his predecessors had relied on Marshall amps, the core of Gus G.’s sound came from high-wattage Blackstar Series One heads.
I recently had the honor of watching Steve Vai during an unaccompanied soundcheck and was surprised by what I heard. There was something different about his sound, a ballsy low-mid energy that gave his tone the kind of depth and earthy elements it had back in his mid-Eighties Flex-Able/David Lee Roth period. I later learned that the source of this scorching tone is Vai’s new set of DiMarzio Gravity Storm pickups. Whereas his Evolution pickups featured cutting attack, in-your-face presentation and extremely dense upper harmonics, the Gravity Storms are warm and fat, with a kicking low-end edge.
While eight-string solidbody electric guitars haven’t yet matched the popularity of their seven-string counterparts, a growing number of companies have developed eight-string models since the first mass-produced eight-string guitars hit the market in 2007.
Nearly perfect since its introduction in 1958, the semihollow ES-335 is one of the most versatile electric guitars ever developed. With its new Ultra-339 model, Epiphone has improved the classic semihollow guitar design by using a smaller body and adding updates, like a NanoMag pickup system and a USB output. As a result, the Ultra-339 provides greater playing comfort, a variety of acoustic-electric and classic electric tones and the ability to plug into a computer to control amp and effect emulation software without an external I/O device, all without sacrificing the sexy looks, awesome sound and exceptional playability that have made the ES-style semihollow electric a timeless instrument.
Solidbody electric guitar makers in the mid Seventies became obsessed with the notion that greater mass equals increased sustain, resulting in multilaminate neck-through-body “hippie sandwich” instruments with brass hardware that tipped the scales at 12 pounds or more.
The blues is a style of music that guitar players have explored extensively for more than a century, and will no doubt continue to explore, expand on and creatively reinvent forever. Though standard blues forms may seem simple, the greatest musicians in virtually every genre have been known to dedicate a great portion of their musical study on a further and deeper understanding of the blues in its many different incarnations. In this edition of In Deep, we’ll focus specifically on the eight-bar, as opposed to the more commonly used 12-bar, blues form.
Tremolo is the technique of sustaining (actually rearticulating) a note with fast, controlled alternate picking (not to be confused with amp tremolo, which varies the volume). Tremolo originated as a way to maintain notes on acoustic stringed instruments beyond their natural decay time to emulate the long, sustaining notes of the human voice or a wind instrument. While the electric guitar offers other options for sustaining a note, tremolo picking a simple melody gives it a kinetic quality that can transform it into something energetic and memorable and create a virtual “wall of sound.”