Ask Paul: Improve Your Setup on a Budget and Reduce Feedback from a Hollowbody Electric

As you know, besides my twice-a-week gear blogs, I also write the Ask Paul column, where I take guitar-related questions from readers. So feel free to ask questions via the comments below or on GW's Facebook page, and I'll answer the best of the bunch in this column.

Here are three new guitar questions ... plus a bonus question of sorts.

Can Paul teach me how to get ladies with my arsenal of axes? Just kidding. I'd really like to know how to get the most out of your setup when you're on a budget. — Nikolas Reyes

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. So I ended up with the Bandit 65 and the Aria Pro as my setup. I used that combination, which sounded great, for a few years and many gigs until I finally saved up enough clams for a Les Paul.

You really just have to prioritize what you need to get the job done. And Nikolas, having an arsenal of axes will never get you laid. For that, you’ll need larger equipment and a bigger budget.

When you’re trying out a new guitar, are there any go-to licks you pull out almost every time to really test its merit? — via Facebook

I personally love hitting an A chord first, then grabbing the G note on the E string and bending it down a full step till it’s in unison with the A chord and listening how the guitar responds and vibrates. Does it sound open and alive or muted and dull?

I then move to each of the open chords like E, D and G, and then running through some licks that include bends, double stops and triplets. If the chords ring true and the guitar feels effortless to play, I know I have something good.

The other crucial lick I pull out that tells me the guitar is perfectly intonated is the opening lick to The Killers' “Mr. Brightside.” Learn it. It uses all six strings (some open and fretted) way above the 12th fret. If you play that lick and it sounds in tune, then that guitar is ready for action.

I’m loving my new Epiphone Casino, but I’m noticing a lot of extra noise on stage when I really crank up. How do you reduce feedback when using a hollow body electric guitar at high volumes? — via Facebook

Unfortunately, hollow-body guitars are helplessly prone to feedback if you’re playing with a lot of gain and volume. And in your case, the Casino is completely hollow, which makes it even more susceptible to feedback issues. You can use a noise gate, but you’ll need to stand far away from your amp as comfortably possible, cutting back on overdrive and lowering the bass on your amp EQ. Work on getting your amp volume to where you feel the guitar is sustaining the notes rather than uncontrollably vibrating the top of the guitar.

Will Bill Murray ever be recognized by the Academy and win an Oscar?

No. Never in his wildest imagination would Herman Blume dream of winning this revolting award.

Remember to ask more questions via the comments below or on Facebook!

I try very hard to remain under the radar despite being on camera as gear editor, but in this age of social media it was only a matter of time before it had to come to this. So with that, I will make my blog painless and a quick and easy read so you can get on to more important things like practicing guitar and sweep picking, or if you’re like me, obsessing how to race the Tour De France and trying to be Kristen Stewart’s next mistake. I will use this blog to inform you of things I find cool; like new gear I’m playing through and what I’m watching, reading or listening to at any given moment. So feel free to ask me anything that’s gear related — or if you have a problem with your girlfriend, you know, life lesson stuff, I’m pretty good at that too — and I’ll do my best to answer or address it here.

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.