Here's my latest project. Philip and I did a swap. He got my Aslin Dane Music Man clone bass, complete with a set-up to his liking, and I got this ratty old Fender amp - a Princeton Reverb from 1968. Philip found it in the garbage: "I spotted it by the road side a few years ago with a pile of garbage, knew from a distance it was a fender. I scooped it up and it sat in my basement for a few years until I took it to be repaired a few weeks ago. The repair guy put a fuse in it and it came on. So he said he’d just bench check it, leave it on for a few days, clean all the tube sockets, replace the reverb unit and replaced the handle."
I disassembled it and scrubbed the vinyl with Windex and a hand brush. The metal strips on top got cleaned with oven cleaner and a wire brush. It still sounds pretty pukey, though. It certainly needs a total retubing, and the ARIA (?!?!?!) speaker will have to go. I'm expecting the filter caps need replacing and who knows what all else, but it'll be worth it. I'm even thinking of getting a black panel for the front so it'll look just like the Princeton Reverb that Alan Macy got when I played drums with him and Mike Lashnits in "The Voyagers" circa 1966.
My Number One. Yamaha Pacifica #L014144 (alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard) upgraded with Planet Waves tuners, a bone nut, DiMarzio Blue Velvet (neck), Red Velvet (middle)and Air Zone (bridge) pickups, the Aslin Dane Full Contact tremolo system, and an ever-dissolving and reforming custom pickguard. This is the guitar you'll hear me play on most electric gigs, and is used on most of my recordings.
My Number Two. A Carvin CT-6 California Carved Top, stock. Sure, the quilted maple top is like three-dimensional satin, but the tone is to die for. A definitive humbucker voice coming through the classic maple top/mahogany body. Fretwork and an out-of-the-box setup are further testament to Carvin's goal of putting custom instruments directly into the hands of musicians. You can hear this guitar transmitting the lead melody on "Sweet Hollow Road."
Currently my Number One acoustic for gigging in the Old Standard Tuning, this Ovation Custom Balladeer, model 1862, #360380 is usually set up for the New Standard Tuning introduced by Robert Fripp through Guitar Craft. It is upgraded with a Corian nut (the Coyote's paw-work) and the Coyote Bridge Upgrade (a Cipriani adjustable bridge and a Highlander transducer). It will soon return to the New Standard Tuning.
Until and unless my reputation eclipses my need for "representative" instruments, this will be my Les Paul. It's a limited edition "Raw Power" model - essentially a Standard with a clear satin finish. Purchased in 2000, when I was doing gear reviews for Guitar World magazine, I took this out of the case, played the open low E string, and said, "This is it."
While I have the utmost respect for the Martin D-series guitars, I am a J-45 kinda guy. This Epiphone Elitist model was made in Japan to the specs of the Gibson icon. It's got that thunky, thuddy, growly low-mid voice so beloved of J-45 players. Bob Wescott and I did a taste test with this guitar when I first got it - he has two or three J-45s, a J-200, and God knows what else. This baby had it.
This way cool Malden Karma, #04011026, is set up for slide guitar with a raised nut and saddle. I switch between open D and open G tuning, and the strings are H-E-A-V-Y, approximately .016 to .060.
My go-to electric 12-string, a Yamaha Pacifica, #OX16109. Half the tuning buttons have been swapped from chrome to amber so I can identify the octave strings by touch. The Strat-style pups are a little too clangorous for my 12-string taste, so someday I'll swap them out for P-90s or mini-humbuckers.
Abe Wechter is one of the coolest luthiers on the planet, and his Pathmaker is an amazing guitar for the working musician. Acoustically, it has an even response like a small-bodied acoustic. Electrically, it has both a piezo bridge transducer and a magnetic soundhole pickup. As soon as I get information from Abe on converting to a split bridge to correctly intonate for my personal fave-rave string gauge, this will become my Number One acoustic axe.
One of two nearly identical Washburn semi-hollow guitars that I own. This one (#S98043821) is a work in progress, upgraded with Seymour Duncan 59 pickups and an RMC piezo bridge pickup system.
A full view of the Washburn in progress.
The other of the Washburn twins. The body wood is flamed sycamore, very similar to flamed maple, but you could never get that buttery golden color with maple.
No self-respecting hippie guitarist should be without an electric sitar. Mine's the Rogue brand, distributed by Musician's Friend. It's a brilliant value, currently selling for under $300 and comparable to - perhaps even superior to - the original Coral model from the 60's. This was a gift from my wife, a combination birthday/Christmas present from about 2004.
This Ibanez is a rarity, known as an Artist 2700 series model, #A788078. It was my number one go-to electric from about 1984 (when I first bought it, used) to the turn of the century. I'm looking forward to refretting it and putting it back to work. It's beautifully designed and executed, a poor man's Alembic of sorts. This symmetric cutaway shape seems very rare - it was probably only made in late 1977 and 1978 before being eclipsed by the "Musician" series models. Here is a link to an excellent collection of these models.
A close-up of the Artist. The Kahler tremolo system is an upgrade, as is the "Airwalk" sticker overlaying the neck-through maple/walnut laminate. The two little black toggle switches to the lower right of the bridge select three different configurations for each pickup: 1) standard humbucking mode, 2) single coil mode, and 3)series out-of-phase mode. I've also added push-pull switches to some of the pots to access an onboard wah-like active filter and to mix the two pickups out of pahase with each other.
The Hohner "O" series, model EA65CEQ, serial # 2054000011. This guitar has an amazingly even-balanced tone, comparable to a Martin OM. The electronics are poor, but the acoustic sound is awesome. If you'd like to hear it in action, I'm playing this for the primary rhythm guitar on "Sweet Hollow Road."
This Guild F-212 focuses on the "thunder" that a 12-string can deliver, as opposed to the "lightning." Deep and shimmering, in contrast to the usual bright and chimey tone of most 12-strings. The secret(s)? The jumbo body, with a Helmholtz resonance around a low F. Tuning down a whole step from standard tuning. And using lighter-gauged octave strings that add a dewdrops-at-dawn kind of glistening. This guitar originally had a "slipped" neck block and several cracks in the face. The primary repair work was done by Scott MacDonald in Huntington. I asked him just to reset the neck and stabilize the cracks, and that I would do all the final setup work. I popped the old saddle in, restrung it, and it played like a Taylor. Then I made a new (intonated) saddle, replaced the crappy strip tuners with Grover "butterbean" copies, and did my magic restringing thing. Now it's much better than a Taylor (but it can't hold a candle to MY Taylor).
Pleasae don't ask me to play anything like traditional mandolin. I don't know any Bill Monroe and I can't tremolo-pick to save my life. However, I can write/record a beginner's book/CD of mandolin instruction, to be published by Hal Leonard sometime in 2009. This homely Hondo has remarkably good tone, considering its cheaper-than-cheap cost. (Of course I made a new bridge and recrowned the frets.)
Here is the very pretty Michael Kelly F-style mandolin. I will probably use it for photos in my mandolin book/CD, but the Hondo will be what you'll hear on the CD. But this shore is a purty mandolin, ain't it?
Ned Steinberger is a genius. And the Steinberger-licenced Hohner one-ups Ned's creation by using wood for the neck and body and adding a truss rod. This one (8781420) is my travel guitar, and my around-the-house electric. I replaced the pots with larger CTS units, added a slightly larger zero fret with grooves, and swapped the original pickups (EMG Select series?) for some intersting high-quality no-name pups I picked up at one of the ASIA symposia. I love this thing.
The mighty Alembic bass. With just a few simple switches, this thing dials in just about any tone a guitarist-subbing-as-bassist could need. Twangy Rick, Music man growl, smooth P-bass... it's all here.
Here's an Alembic copy made by the Aslin Dane company. The electronics need to be replaced, but the wood, fretwork and hardware are excellent. Actually, I'm thinking of making this a fretless bass... after I refret the Ibanez Artist and finish the electronics on the Washburn HB-35 and swap out the pups on the Pacifica 12-string and...
I bought this hand-made nylon-string guitar at a yard sale for $20 because it had a surprisingly strong bass response. Then I refretted it, made a new nut and saddle, put on new tuners, and repaired the center crack in the face. And now it works real good!
This modest small-bodied steel-string was purchased as a "student rental" instrument, but now I use it for Nashville tuning. You can hear it on "Sweet Hollow Road" at about 1:13.
A Parker Fly with Strattish features and a piezo bridge pickup! This is my most recent aquisition. Of course it needs just a few little tweaks - there's a dimple in one of the frets that will require recrowning or refretting, and a resistor needs to be added to the piezo output so it doesn't overwhelm the magnetic pickups - but otherwise, this is one fine tool.
My Danelectro Chang-and-Eng special. There's quite a story behind getting this fellow to "spec-plus" workability, but it rocks now. Dig the controls: a three-position selector (6, 12, or both), concentric volume/tone knobs for each neck, and a six-position pickup selector for each neck (bridge pup alone, bridge and neck in series/in phase, bridge and neck in series/out of phase, bridge and neck in parallel/in phase, bridge and neck in parallel/out of phase, and neck alone). Never again will I attemp this wiring. Never again! But hey! it's great fun to have on one guitar, and I think I learned something from doing it.
The custom-ordered Mesa Boogie Lonestar Special. The good people at Mesa Engineering put together this unique blend of cosmetic appointments at my request. The covering is leather textured in "bone croc," the head size is referred to as a "short chassis" (19"), and the wicker grille is also a custom touch. Read on for my own customizations to this lovey little kit...
This close-up of the head shows the creme knobs I added to replace the original black knobs.
This view of the back of the head shows the coat hooks I bolted onto the aluminum U-channel crossbar which allow me to wrap up the AC power cord without having to stuff it in the bottom of the head against the power tubes. The crew at Davidson Electronics swooned at this upgrade - "Totally pro!" pronounced Cory and Alex.
The Fender Pro-Reverb, silverface edition with a master volume that makes almost no difference at all - it just kinda "tweeds" the tone. But you don't have one of these Fenders for raging preamp overdrive anyway.
The Acoustic amplifier company put out this "lawsuit" Boogie Mk-II clone just before it sank beneath the surface. I believe Aspen Pittman (of Groove Tubes fame) was behind this model. A raging 100-watt beast with a great overdrive channel.