Randy Rhoads has been one my faves ever since I first heard the Blizzard of Oz record when it came out in the early 80’s. That album was a game changer for me. I was also lucky enough to see him play live in 1981, which upped the ante on how good he really was. Mind blowing guitar work for the time. Here’s a video I found on YouTube for your enjoyment.
I bought this guitar right before Christmas in 1990. Guitar Center had Gibson Explorers and Flying V’s for $350.00. They were also selling Les Paul Studios for $400.00. It was a huge sale! I was surprised the prices were so low for brand new Gibson guitars. The sales manager said they had to blow them out before the New Year. With that in mind I was happy to see if I could find a guitar in their inventory that I liked.
I played a Flying V and it didn’t tickle my fancy. I tried a Les Paul Studio, and thought let’s try an Explorer. I tried three or four Explorers until I hit on one that I really liked. I decided to buy the Explorer with the hardshell case for an extra $100.00. I had the guitar set up by a guitar tech that worked at Guitar Center as an independent contractor, and I was ready to rock!
One-piece solid Mahogany body
22-Fret Rosewood Fingerboard
Dot inlaid Position Markers
496R neck and 500T bridge pickups
Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar
Chrome Mini-Grover tuners
The Gibson Explorer just screams Rock ‘n Roll! That is the bottom line on this guitar, and I love it!
The stock pickups are high-output ceramic pickups. Perfect for Heavy Metal, but wait I love to play hard rock, classic rock, and some heavy metal but not exactly what people today consider to be “metal” music. The Gibson 496R pickup in the neck position is a great pickup and sounds really good in this guitar. I tried other pickups in the neck position, and I kept going back to the 496R. The 496R is that good, and definitely a keeper.
The 500T in the bridge position was not working nearly so well for me. The reason is that I like a pickup that cleans up when I roll back the volume on the guitar. The 500T didn’t really do this, because it is super hot at around 15k d.c. resistance. This pickup kept everything way too distorted for my tastes. I searched a long time and tried several different bridge pickups including a Dimarzio Super II, the bridge pickup from my ’76 SG (which sounded pretty good in this guitar), and a couple others. It wasn’t until I acquired my Les Paul Studio with the 498T in the bridge that I knew I probably found the right pickup for the bridge slot in my Explorer. The 498T is a fairly hot Alnico 5 pickup with a d.c. resistance around 13k, but it does clean up when you roll back the guitar volume. With the guitar volume on 10, the 498T will melt your face when playing into an overdriven amp or into a cranked up distortion pedal feeding a clean amp.
The Gibson 498T sells for around $130 new. I decided that was too much money. I knew there was a used guitar shop not too far away, so I went there to find a used 498T. The manager of the store pulls out a couple boxes full of Gibson used pickups. Now to find a 498T… one of the store’s clerks pulls out a multimeter and we start measuring the d.c resistance of each pickup. It took a while but we finally found one that had a d.c. resistance a tad over 12k and was most likely a 498T. I paid the store clerk $50 for the pickup, and I was on my way.
I dropped my “new” used Gibson pickup in the bridge position of my Explorer after removing the chrome cover from the pickup to show the black bobbins like the uncovered 496R that was already in the guitar. I could not be happier. This pickup sounds perfect in the Explorer. Nice and powerful with the guitar volume on 10 and when you roll the volume back it cleans up nicely.
The Gibson Explorer has two volumes and one tone control with a three way pickup selector switch. This allows you to be able to do the pickup selector switch stutter/kill switch trick when you have one of the pickup volume controls turned all the way down.
The scale length is the typical Gibson 24.75 scale length. The neck is a fast 60’s slim taper style neck with a rosewood fretboard. The fretboard has 22 nice medium sized frets. Not too big, not too small.
The paint job was done in Classic White, which has yellowed over the years. Quite typical for white Gibson guitars from my experience.
This particular Gibson Explorer is a blast to play and sounds quite nice. It sits very nice in the mix when recording rhythm parts. Leads sound great with this guitar too. There isn’t much not to like about this guitar except maybe the weight. It is a tad on the heavy side.
Here is a guitar solo I recorded on my iPad using the Explorer into Positive Grid’s JamUp Pro. Post production was done in Logic Studio 8 on my Mac. All of the parts were played with the Explorer if I recall correctly. I know the lead part was for sure the Explorer.
This song came up in our chat conversation at work today. I found this really well done video that J.R. Ramos put together on YouTube. I just had to share it. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.
This song has some really great Pop Rock hooks and running the lead guitar through a Leslie cabinet is cool too. I bought the vinyl 45 back in the 70’s when this song came out. I still have it somewhere…
I made these guitar picks myself. They are one of a kind, handmade guitar picks. The artwork is inside the pick, which means the artwork won’t scratch or wear off. I found the information on how to make these picks from the Pick Punch web site. The How To Make Guitar Picks page specifically.
I purchased a couple of sheets of clear polycarbonate sheeting from pickpunch.com. One sheet is .50 mm in thickness and the other is .80 mm thick. I didn’t use a pick punch to make these, though. I traced the pick shape on the polycarbonate sheets with a fine tip Sharpie marker and cut them out with a scissors (I tried an Exacto knife, but the scissors worked much better).
After the rough picks are cut out the artwork is applied next.
The artwork in the two finished picks above were created with Sharpie markers.
The artwork in the two picks below were painted with enamel model airplane paint purchased from a local hobby store.
The artwork is literally inside the pick. The artwork will not rub off on your hands as you play. To accomplish this you use two, three or more (depending on how thick you want your finished pick to be) pieces of polycarbonate cut out into the rough pick shape you want. Then apply your artwork any way you would like with Sharpie markers, paint, water slide decals, rubber stamps etc. to only one of the sides if you are using only two pieces of polycarbonate. If you are using three pieces of polycarbonate put the artwork on the piece you plan to put in the middle, and in this case you can put artwork on both sides if you want. After your artwork has dried you are ready to glue your pick together. Lay the pieces of polycarbonate you plan to glue up on white copier paper or plain old wax paper (I like wax paper better). Then apply super glue to the inside face of one of the pieces if you are using two pieces of polycarbonate, or two interior faces if you are gluing up three pieces of polycarbonate, make sure you are gluing the side or piece with the artwork to the inside to encapsulate the artwork inside the polycarbonate pieces. Make sure you use plenty of super glue. Try to line up the pick pieces as best you can, then squeeze out as many of the air bubbles as possible. Clamp the glued up polycarbonate pieces with a small spring clamp available at any hardware store, and let the whole works dry overnight (if you can’t wait, at least let it dry a few hours before moving onto the next steps).
After the glued up picks have dried the real work begins… Lots and lots of sanding.
I used a disk sanding wheel with 120 grit sandpaper attached to my hand drill to get the pick shape squared up on the edges. This can be done quite quickly with the disk sander. I sanded off the excess superglue, that gets all over everything during the gluing process, from the two faces of the pick by hand with one piece of sandpaper laid flat on my workbench and a piece of sandpaper wrapped around the handle of a putty knife. That way I could sand off the super glue without taking off too much of the polycarbonate. This way the pick faces would be sanded nice and flat. I used 150, 330, and 400 grit sandpaper to do this.
Then I roughed out the bevels on the pick edges using the disk sanding wheel. Then I did all of the detail sanding work using 330 and 400 grit sandpaper by hand on my workbench. I felt that I had better control that way, and didn’t have to worry about taking off more material than I wanted to. I recently purchased 600 grit sandpaper to hone the bevels on the edges a little better before buffing.
After the pick has had all of its final shaping completed the next step is to buff the guitar pick with a buffing wheel that attaches to my hand drill like the disk sander. The buffing goes pretty quickly. Total time to make one guitar pick like this is about one hour.
The picks made out of two pieces of .80 mm polycarbonate sheeting are right around 1.6 mm thick when finished and the three piece picks are about 2.0 mm thick when finished. Both pick gauges are very stiff, and sound quite good.
The cool thing about this is you can make guitar picks that no one else has and the picks are finished just the way you like them. With a nice bevel on the pick, you end up with a guitar pick that plays really well. They will let you play as fast as you can go.
The following video to helped me figure out how to come up with the procedure I used to make my handmade guitar picks.
I was surfing eBay last week to see what was out there in the vintage celluloid pick market, and saw these mosaic celluloid picks. I love the look and I had to have them.
Celluloid is getting harder and harder to find for pick manufacturing, so I figured I better scoop up what I like before they are all gone… These appear to be the D’Andrea No. 346 shape or the Herco No. 35.
Mosaic celluloid was used for Herco picks by their Japanese manufacturer when their “shell” colored celluloid wasn’t available. Herco later asked their manufacturer not to substitute the assorted color/mosaic celluloid except for their thumb pick. I guess the assorted colors didn’t sell well at the time, with the Herco thumb pick being the exception.
I purchased the Godin LG Signature a couple of months after I bought the Godin Solidac. I went to a music store in the area who sold Godin guitars as part of their inventory in their showroom. I wanted to compare the Godin LGX’s piezo bridge to the Solidac’s. The LGX definitely did sound a bit better than the Solidac, and cost over twice as much!
While I was in the store one of the sales guys pointed out that Godin’s new LG Signature just came in and I should check it out. He said the Seymour Duncan pickups in the LG Signature sound really great. I tried the guitar out, and decided they were right. I really liked the guitar. I made a deal with the manager of the store to let me take the LG Signature home to try it with my own rig over the weekend in exchange for a $100 credit card security deposit, which could be applied to the purchase price of the guitar if I decided to buy the guitar, or would be credited back to my account when I brought the guitar back to the store.
The LG Signature specs are listed below.
• Mahogany Neck
• Rosewood Fingerboard
• Jumbo Frets
• Black Machines (Satin finish) 18:1 ratio
• Mahogany Body
• Black Schaller Bridge
• 5-way Switch
• Seymour Duncan Humbucker Pickups
• Carved flame maple top
• Colors: Trans Blue, Cognacburst, Trans Black
As you can see from the picture I purchased the LG Signature in Transparent Black with a carved AA flame maple top. The LG Sig is quite pretty in my opinion. The guitar has a tune-o-matic bridge, but instead of having the usual stop tailpiece, the LG Signature features string through the body design where the ball end of the strings are held by a brass plate screwed on to the back of the guitar. This system works quite well coupling the string vibrations to the mahogany body, which adds resonance to the guitar’s sound. The neck is a bolt-on design, but the way Godin does this the guitar plays like a set neck guitar. The scale length is 25.5 inches, which is not what you usually expect with a mahogany guitar with a maple cap, but this gives you a lively playing guitar with good snap. The pickups are a Seymour Duncan Jazz in the neck and a specially wound Custom Custom for Godin in the bridge position, so I guess you could consider the pickup to be a Custom Custom Custom, with nickel pickup covers. There is a five position selector switch, which gives you neck humbucker, neck coil-tapped (for single coil sounds), neck and bridge humbuckers combined, bridge coil-tapped, and bridge humbucker. This affords you a large assortment of tonal options.
The Rosewood fingerboard is attached to a fairly thick mahogany neck (some guys I know had their LG Sig’s neck shaved down, but I kept mine nice and fat for better stability). The nut is a Tusq nut, and the frets are nice jumbo frets that were dressed and finished quite well. The tuners turn smoothly, sporting black tuning knobs, with good tuning stability. There is a master volume and tone control, so the typical dual humbucker pickup selector switch stutter effect is not possible from the stock guitar controls, nor is having different switchable volume and tone settings for the neck and bridge pickups. Most of the hardware on the guitar is black.
Playability and Feel
The Godin LG Signature is a dream to play. It has a very comfortable belly cut on the back of the body, and a nice ergo-cut neck with acceptable access to the upper frets. The pickup selector switch, volume and controls are placed nicely as well.
I set the guitar up for slide guitar playing and/or regular guitar playing without a slide. The strings are set slightly higher on the treble side than in a typical setup. Also due to the higher string tension afforded by the 25.5-inch scale length and the fixed bridge, this guitar is a good candidate for alternate tunings such as tuning a half step down or drop tunings on the low E string, where the strings will tend to get too slack on 24.75-inch scale length guitar, without going to a thicker string gauge. If you go all the way to drop C or drop B I would suggest using heavier gauge strings for better string tension.
This guitar sounds good through a cleanish amp. It can get close to some nice Strat tones when the neck pickup is coil-tapped. The bridge pickup in split-coil mode is a nice option when you want a brighter tone, that sounds thinner, with slightly less drive than in humbucker mode, but does not get overly ice-picky. The humbucker tones are nice and thick and sound great with some overdrive or distortion. The LG Signature makes for a really nice all around guitar for Pop, Blues, Rock, Country or Jazz. Below is a video of me playing the LG Sig with a band I used to play with covering Alice In Chains, Man In A Box. The recording was done with a small camcorder on a tripod, but this will give you an idea on how she sounds for heavy Rock music. Below the video is a quick sound clip of the Godin LG Sig into my modified Fender Pro Junior.
A video and a sound clip are worth at least a 1,000 words…
If you are interested in purchasing a Godin LG Signature the used market (Ebay, Reverb.com, etc.) is where you would want to look, since the guitar is no longer listed on Godin’s updated web site.
The Digitech Metal Master… I picked this distortion pedal up used from Guitar Center yesterday. They had it priced to move at $19.99. I have been in the market for a pedal that would give me some high gain tones. I decided to give this pedal a try.
Initial impression is I’m glad I did! The Metal Master has the exact sounds, and then some that I was looking for, to complement my other overdrive and distortion pedals already on my pedalboard. I’ll try the pedal with a couple of the bands I play with to see how this pedal stacks up with the others. That should give me a good picture if the pedal is truly useful in a band setting.
The Metal Master has been sounding real nice during my practice sessions at home. Keep an eye out for the full review coming soon…
I have had some time to use the V-Picks Euro and Euro II, so here we go with the review…
V-Picks is a pick manufacturing company based in Nashville, Tennessee, that produces cast acrylic guitar, mandolin, and bass picks at a starting price point that I would classify as the so called “boutique” level of guitar picks. All of the V-Picks that I have had the pleasure of trying have been very well made, and are nice to look at.
I emailed Vinni Smith, the company’s owner, for some information on how their picks are made and this is what he had to say.
The Euro and Euro II picks are made of cast acrylic. Cut out with a laser machine and then hand buffed on a bench grinder. Then heat treated, heat tempered, and buffed with a flame. A lot of hand work is done as with all of our picks. I designed the Euro for the Jazz III players, so they would have another option. Small, yet a huge tone and fast action. I think much faster action than the Jazz III.
The V-Pick Euro and Euro II are two different sizes, but the same thickness and relative shape. The Euro II is the larger of the two. They are made of clear acrylic with seven holes drilled through the picks. The holes are a feature I really like, as they do help with gripping the pick more securely with your fingers. I did not have any problem with dropping these picks or having them fly out of my fingers while playing.
Euro Pick Specs:
Gauge: 1.5 mm (from my measurements the pick I have is a hair thicker than 1.5 mm)
Material: Cast Acrylic
Dimensions: 15/16″ wide x 1″ long
Shape: In-between a Jazz III and a Regular Fender 351 pick
Tip: Rounded and Smooth Beveled
Price: $4.00 Each
Euro II Pick Specs:
Gauge: 1.5 mm
Material: Cast Acrylic
Dimensions: 1″ wide x 1 1/8″ long
Shape: Close to a Regular Fender 351 pick but a tad shorter
Tip: Rounded and Smooth Beveled
Price: $4.00 Each
I initially chose the Euro and Euro II to try first because I really liked the tone these picks produced (yes other V-Picks do sound different than these) especially when using a clean tone or light overdrive while playing electric guitar.
From my experience the Euro and the Euro II do allow you to play faster cleaner lines without any additional practice than what you can do with your favorite Jazz III pick. Some of you may notice some acrylic pick chirp with these picks, but I found a slight change in picking technique/angle mitigated this issue. Did I mention you can play faster without any additional practice? I did! That should get plenty of people excited about trying these picks just for that added feature alone.
I used both the Euro and Euro II picks for my electric guitar practice at home and in a several band situations for live performance. I found I really liked the big fat tone of the Euro II when I practiced at home, but when playing in a band situation with two electric guitars, acoustic guitar, keyboard, bass and drums I quickly found the Euro II to be too much pick for the job. The sound was too big and thick for what I wanted to hear, so I switched to the smaller Euro V-Pick which gave me the more focused sound I was looking for. It is interesting to find what works at home doesn’t always work with a full band.
I have found V-Picks do not wear down very quickly, so you can plan on using the Euro or Euro II for a long time unless you misplace or lose them.
For playing Jazz music I don’t think there is a better pick out there than the Euro. At least not one that I have tried to date, and I have tried quite a few. For softer rock music the Euro is a good pick as well. For harder rock the Euro II is a good choice if you want a heavy, thick pick attack. For speed picking these picks do well, but I have found some other picks to be better, which I will reveal in forthcoming pick reviews.
Give the Euro and Euro II a try if you currently like the Dunlop Jazz III. You may just find your next favorite pick.
If you play guitar in a praise and worship band or any musical group for that matter, the Godin Solidac is an electric guitar you may want to consider finding on the used market (Godin no longer manufactures this model). I bought this guitar after playing in a praise band for a bit. I thought it would be cool to have acoustic and electric guitar sounds at my disposal. The Godin Solidac is a dual voice guitar with HSH (humbucker, single coil, humbucker) magnetic pickups mounted to the pickguard and a piezo pickup in each bridge saddle.
• Mahogany Neck
• Rosewood Fingerboard
• 16″ Fingerboard Radius
• 25 1/2″ Scale
• 1 11/16″ Nut Width
• Silver Leaf Maple body
• Godin-Design Pickups
• LR Baggs X-Bridge
• 5-Way Pickup Selector Switch
• Volume – Electric
• Volume – Acoustic
• Tone – Electric
• Magnetic Output
• Acoustic/Mix Output
• Colors: Lightburst Quilted Leaf Top, Transparent Blue Flame Leaf Top
The Godin web site omits these important features…
• Locking Tuners
• Tremolo/Vibrato bridge
Below is Godin’s description/marketing copy of the Solidac guitar from their website.
The Solidac is the latest Godin model to offer the two-voice concept. It combines the sound of magnetic pickups (electric guitar) with a bridge transducer system for acoustic sounds. This guitar offers players the versatility of a humbucker-single-humbucker pickup configuration along with a transducer-equipped tremolo bridge. All of this sonic power comes in an instrument that sports the same ultra comfortable Mahogany neck found on the LGX with a Silver Leaf Maple body. Individual outputs are provided for the magnetics and the bridge, with the bridge output doubling as a mix out for both signals when used alone. There is an internal preamp voiced to provide excellent acoustic sound when used with any full range system and it produces very good acoustic tone even when plugged into a regular guitar amp. The Solidac represents an opportunity for players on a tighter budget to consider a two-voice concept guitar that retains all of the hand-finished quality that is a standard feature in every Godin instrument.
I agree with most of what is said there. The built-in preamp for the acoustic bridge piezo output on the whole did not cut it for me, the main reason for this is there is not any way for the user to adjust the EQ of the acoustic output on the fly. There was a tinniness to the sound running direct into the PA, and the acoustic sound into a guitar amp was not a convincing simulation in my opinion. Trying to run the magnetic pickups through the mix/acoustic output took a lot of the punch away from the magnetic pickups and flattened the sound in a way I did not like, so I rarely run this guitar in this configuration.
The solution to the built-in preamp problem was purchasing the L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic D.I. I reviewed previously on this site. This allowed me the needed tonal control to get a very nice convincing acoustic guitar sound through the PA. I have received several compliments on the acoustic sound of this guitar using the L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic D.I.
Now here is what is really cool about this guitar, and how I hook it up. As stated in Godin’s web site copy, the Godin Solidac has two outputs. One for the magnetic pickups, and one for the acoustic bridge piezo pickups. Both of these outputs can be used simultaneously. This allows you to get the full power and punch from Godin’s magnetic pickups, which is key (Godin’s magnetic pickups sound quite good). The acoustic bridge pickup sound routed out of the acoustic output allows you to mix the two sounds at the soundboard for a multitude of sounds you just can’t get with a single voice guitar. This is how I route the two signals. The electric guitar magnetic pickups output go from the guitar to my pedalboard to my guitar amp, which is miked into the PA. The acoustic bridge piezo output runs from the guitar to the L.R. Baggs D.I. box direct to the PA through an XLR cable typically. The magnetic pickups have a volume and tone control where the acoustic output has just a volume control on the guitar. The L.R. Baggs D.I. takes care of the tonal adjustments by the player for the acoustic output in this set up. As I mentioned earlier, the array of possible sounds from this guitar is huge with the combination of 3 three magnetic pickups using a Strat style 5 way selector switch. Here are the magnetic pickup combinations: neck humbucker, neck humbucker/middle single coil, middle single coil, middle single coil/bridge humbucker, bridge humbucker. Those combinations alone are powerful! Mix in the acoustic piezo output, and you go to a whole other land of creative tonal options. Your imagination is really the limit here.
The wang bar is acceptable on this guitar for me (I am not a big wang bar guy, so I don’t use it much). The vibrato bar system on my Solidac with the locking tuners is good, but it in no way has the tuning stability of a Floyd Rose type locking nut tremolo/vibrato system. If you are big into using the wang bar for heavy dive bombs and such throughout the night I would say look elsewhere.
The neck on this guitar is a fast playing neck with nice medium sized frets. I use 10 – 46 gauge Fender Super Bullets. I have found that I get the best tone with the Fender Super Bullets on the Solidac.
The Solidac I have is an older model, which was part of a limited run of only 28 guitars that have a Honeyburst Lacewood top instead of their typical cosmetic offerings listed above. My guitar also has a plastic cream colored pickguard where the newer models do not have a pickguard (the magnetic humbuckers are installed using pickup mounting rings, and the single coil pickup is screwed into the body route for the pickup). I’m sure either version would get the job done for you.
I really like my Godin Solidac. I bought it sight unseen direct from Sweetwater in 2002 or early 2003. The great thing about Godin is their quality control is very good. I have not yet tried a Godin guitar that did not sound good. That is saying a lot for a guitar manufacturer. If you have the opportunity to try out a Godin electric guitar in a music store, it is what level of good do you want? Pick the guitar that you like best, and you’ll be good to go. I have purchased three Godin electric guitars so far, and they have all been great sounding guitars. The first Godin guitar I bought I sold, (a Godin LG SP90), and wish to this day that I had not done that!
Musician’s Friend was blowing this pedal out about a month ago as one of their Stupid Deals of the Day for $21.99 with free shipping. I couldn’t resist the offer, and figured if it sounded like crap I could mod it or build something different to put inside the box. It appears Behringer built this pedal to be similar to the Chandler/Butler Tube Driver. The box is about the same size as the EHX Big Muff Pi from the 80’s. It is kind of on the large side for an overdrive pedal. It does have a real 12AX7 tube inside.
The pedal arrived two days ago. Yesterday I tested it briefly into my headphone practice amp, and my modified Fender Pro Junior tube amp. The pedal did not sound that good running direct into my headphone amp. Running the VT911 into my Pro Junior tube amp worked quite well as long as I kept the gain/drive low and level up around 8. Turning the drive control up much past 2 just got too fuzzy for me. This pedal is useable as is when used with a tube amp. Swapping the 12AX7 tube for 12AU7 tube would get it much closer to the tone/gain structure of the Chander/Butler Tube Driver pedals I suspect. I may write a more in-depth review of this pedal later. We will have to see on that…
Below are a few YouTube videos I found that will give you a better idea of how the pedals compare.