The Best Worst Guitar

Epiphone 435i – a 1980s superstrat. HSS, with locking trem. I didn’t know anything about guitars. But I decided I wanted to play electric guitar. Mainly to fit in with some new friends at sixth form. But unlike any other hobby I picked up in my youth – this was one I stuck with.

I didn’t know what kind of guitar to buy. I just ordered one out of a neighbour’s Littlewoods catalogue. They sent the wrong one – a bass. Then sent the right one. But it was wrong too. Instead of the even cheaper guitar in the catalogue I received the Epiphone 435i that wasn’t even listed. I had no idea what a locking trem was. Managed to break a few strings trying to tune with the locking nuts tightened. But this cheap HSS guitar with its skinny neck was the only electric guitar I had for nearly 20 years. Learned my first notes on it. Played it a lot live at university. In my late teens and early twenties I must have played for hours every day. I was never any good, but that didn’t matter. I loved that guitar. (more…)

How I Didn’t Learn to Play Guitar

In 1989 I got a book that was just strumming easy chords to famous songs. It was frustrating because they weren’t necessarily in the right key and so I couldn’t play along with the records. But I persevered. Went don’t a few dead ends – such as spending months fingering the open E chord the wrong way. I had an Epiphone superstrat. But no amp for the first couple of years. I plugged the guitar into my boombox and if I wanted distortion just turned it up. I knew nothing and that probably slowed down my learning.

But things got better when I bought a Led Zeppelin tab book. It was mostly inaccurate, but it got me started on lead and riffs. But the big change was when I realised that I could play the notes from Black Dog in any order I wanted and they worked over the same notes. I’d discovered the pentatonic scale. So improv began. (more…)

Ending the Guitar Tone Obsession

Do we guitarists obsess too much about tone? I’ve realised I certainly do. If I look back to the first 15 or so years of playing the instrument tone was the last thing I thought about. The gear I had was just what I can afford and I did the best I could with it. But thanks to the internet we can now all learn about the gear we don’t have, and how the gear we do have isn’t any good, despite it being perfectly fine beforehand.

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Blackstar Unveils Revolutionary Marketing BS

British advertising bullshitter and sometime amplification manufacturer Blackstar has unveiled its latest state of the art marketing nonsense. The company describes its latest verbal slight of hand and customer misdirection as revolutionary.

“We were a technological innovator with our introduction of the phrase ‘Pure Valve’ in our mostly transistor-based technology in recent years,” said Blackstar CEO Bob Scraggs. “However our world class engineers have been hard at work delivering more powerful state of the art bullshit that’s sure to be a big hit with clueless customers and puny editorial lapdogs such as Guitarist Magazine.”

“Today Blackstar is proud to unveil our latest product phrase ‘True Valve Power’ which we will believe will fool even more customers than ever before. With ‘True Valve Power’ we’re extending our previous abilities of not having many valves in our valve products to now having no valves in them instead. Raising our ‘no actual valves’ to ‘valve based marketing bullshit’ ratio to 100 percent. I believe Blackstar is the first amplifier manufacturer to completely remove valves from over-hyped valve related products. This will enable us to continue to charge British-built prices for a range of Korean-made tat.”

‘True Valve Power’ marketing bullshit will be available as an expensive range of literature and badges this summer, and will be bundled with a free modelling amplifier that’s almost as good a Line 6 Spider for three times the money. The presence of any valves has yet to be announced. Full press release follows.

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Laney Ironheart IRT60H Review

Laney makes great guitar and bass amplifiers and has done since the 60s. Lyndon Laney began as a teenage tinkerer making amps in his shed for friends such as Tony Iommi and grew from there. The company’s range includes hand-built in the UK amps and less expensive products built for the company in the far east. While not as famous a British brand as Marshall, thanks to bands such Black Sabbath and Opeth Laney has a reputation for making great amps for metal players. So when Laney launches a new amp with metal players in mind we should all sit up and notice.

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The Guitar of My Dreams

My darling wifey decided she was going to buy me my guitar of my dreams. How could I say no to that? Not only that, but the plan was I’d get a Saturday off from family duties to go and enjoy the whole guitar buying experience. West Dorset isn’t exactly packed with good guitar stores – so eventually I decided I was going to head to Manson’s in Exeter. The store has a great reputation and actually makes the guitar used by the bloke with the stupid wheezy voice in Muse.

The aimed to get up early (not hard as I was on baby duty) and be out of the door at 8am to drive from Dorchester to Exeter. Baby wakes me up at 5.30am and the day doesn’t get much better. He’s in an unusually crabby mood by 9am. And why haven’t I left by then? My three year old daughter is seeming faking being ill but then gets herself in so much of a tiz that she vomits all over our sofa.

Looks like my trip is over before it’s begun. But wifey shoves me out of the door at 10am and says she’ll cope, “go have fun”, she says.

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The Spider Valve MKII

I really like tinkering. I also like computers. I’m no cork-sniffing guitarist that is only happy when playing through 1950s technology full of glorified lightbulbs. Yes I do have an all-tube amp, but I’ve also owned several modelling amps and I regularly using software such as Guitar Rig and PodFarm.

So when looking for a more heavy-rock orientated amp to complement my Bugera V22 I was happy to look in the direction of the new modelling amps such as the Marshall JMD:1, Peavey Tube Vypyr and Line6 Spider Valve MKII. I dropped the Vypyr from the list due to lack of decent recording outputs and no effects loop – a shame as I loved the digital version I used to have.

In the end reviews won me over – and although I was searching for the Marshall sound – I believed the Spider Valve MKII would give me some better Plexi-like tones than Marshall’s own modelling amp. Yesterday I took delivery of a Line6 Spider Valve MKII 112 combo. And what an enormous beast it is. Getting it up the stairs made me realise that the 212 version would have damn near killed me.

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