Yellow Strat

Yellow Strat

Year: 2016

Made In: Ireland

Specs: Poplar body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Seymour Duncan SH-4 humbucker

Control: Volume

Cannibalised from my black strat, this guitar is the fluff cut from that guitar presented in fetching Monaco Yellow solely with gigging in mind.

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Green Strat

Green Strat

Year: 2016

Made In: Ireland

Specs: Poplar body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: DiMarzio Fred humbucker

Control: Volume

Built as a twin, this guitar is what I need from a gigging guitar boiled down to its functional essence. It’s three-piece hardtail poplar body mated with a maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, in a fetching Sea Foam Green finish. Points of failure are, hopefully, few and far between, with a single DiMarzio Fred humbucker providing the fire. For a while I did consider leaving out the volume control. No frills, basic and to the point.

Hamer Centaura

Hamer Centaura

Year: 1990

Made In: USA

Specs: Alder body, one-piece maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Seymour Duncan SH4 Humbucker & SSL1 single coil, DiMarzio Fast Track humbucking pickup

Controls: Volume, Tone, 5-way pickup selctor switch, “thick” switch

I definitely have a thing for superstrats. Presented with the opportunity of picking up this Centaura from the golden age of superstrats, I sacrificed a nice USA Fender Strat without blinking an eye. A reversed headstock, Floyd bridge and stock JB humbucker tick all the right boxes for me.

Hamer are somewhat of an overlooked brand both now and when the company actually existed. My first experience of one was when the guitarist in my band in the early 90’s had a really nice Chaparral he picked up second hand. They weren’t the kind of guitar you’d see in the shops over here. I have always kept an eye out since for a good deal on one.

This guitar needed a bit of work, for sure. The guy selling it was a little liberal with the details but there was nothing I couldn’t sort out quickly.  I levelled and dressed the frets and replaced the two bridge posts, bringing this guitar back to the standard it should be at. What a standard it is, too. It’s a large radius fretboard mated to a slim but rounded neck which is very, very comfortable. It feels quite traditional but is deceptively thin. It’s only when you play a more standard neck that you realise how thin it actually is. Initially, the return to pitch wasn’t good but, after replacing the two worn bridge posts, the German Schaller made Floyd Rose bridge is solid as a rock.

You can’t go wrong with a JB, so there are no worries on the tone front. The guitar would have had a pair of SSL1 single coils as stock but the neck pickup was replaced with a DiMarzio Fast Track at some point. This is a fine pickup in its own right, so no concerns there either. There are no clever wiring tricks with the pickup switch, both humbuckers remain in serial mode when individually selected and when combined with the middle single coil. Each position has a unique sound to it and all a very usable.

This guitar also features a “thick” switch, a little mini-toggle which engages a treble bleed circuit which is a nice feature, meaning you can get a fatter tone without changing pickup.

The slightly smaller body is light and comfortable with the output jack on the rear end and strap button moved slightly up from centre to accommodate. The blue colour of paint changes depending on the amount of natural light. It brightens up, much like in the pictures, in daylight and turns almost navy blue under artificial light. There’s a metallic gold layer of paint under the top blue coat and, somehow, they both interact in this unusual way.

All in all this is a very nicely put together guitar, compact in size but rich in quality and versatility. It is a great neck shape, rivalling the feel and comfort of Charvel but with a much more accessible truss rod. I think we’ll be spending a lot of time together in the future.

Bacchus Duke Master

Bacchus Duke Master

Year: 2007

Made In: Japan

Specs: Mahogany body & neck, maple top, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Bacchus STP-1 P90 pickups

Controls: Volume x 2, tone x 2, three-way switch

Another import from Japan, you either really like the brown oil finish or you really don’t. I picked up this Duke Master new after having my appetite for P90s whetted by PRS. The PRS didn’t stay long after the Duke arrived.

A much darker sounding guitar than the PRS, the Duke doesn’t have the ear-grating brightness of its predecessor, instead it’s a mean sounding hound-dog growl with that characteristic P90 twang. It’s equally at home clean or smothered in dirt.

It’s chunky from head to toe. The body is thick and deep, the neck is exceptionally chunky. When you pick it up, you know it’s 100% serious business. Despite the size, it’s not overly heavy, though it is a substantial piece of equipment. The big neck still accommodates a nice low action with Bacchus’ usual exemplary standard of fretwork.

This one is built for comfort, built to last.

Charvel So-Cal Style 1

Charvel So-Cal Style 1

Year: 2010

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, one-piece maple neck and fretboard

Electronics: DiMarzio Tone Zone & Evolution humbucking pickups

Controls: Volume, 3-way switch

It’s all about the neck.

This is almost the perfect rock guitar, there’s no other way to put it. There’s nothing here which doesn’t need to be here, it’s stripped back and distilled to the essence of what a rock guitar should be.

When you start with the familiar Strat core, mated with a Floyd Rose bridge and two good quality humbuckers, it really is hard to go wrong. The alder body is light and resonant, routed for HSH underneath the plate. The bridge sits flush on the body, there’s no routing to allow the bridge to raise pitch too much.

The pickups are reasonable output, enough to drive an amp well, but both clean up nicely. The Tone Zone isn’t too far away from the sound of the wonderful JB, which is just fine by me. Really, there’s little to complain about, it’s a great sounding guitar.

Now on to the neck, probably the greatest production neck out there. It’s an amazing shape, supremely comfortable. It’s not a skinny Wizard type, it’s not a chubby traditional type either. It’s somewhere in the middle, but delightfully rounded, even with quite a flat fretboard. It feels just right. The oil finish is smooth and quick. It’s the kind of neck you’d be happy with on any guitar. It’s spectacular.

The mystery is why they made it so you have to take the neck off in order to access the truss rod. A spoke wheel, move it to the headstock, anything but what they actually did. It’s the one infuriating mistake on the almost perfect rock guitar.

Schecter C7 Blackjack

Schecter C7 Blackjack

Year: 2005

Made In: Korea

Specs: Mahogany body, mahogany set neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Seymour Duncan JB & 59 humbucking pickups, passive circuit

Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way switch

Bought while I was flirting with seven strings, this was a really nice guitar.  Compared to the LTD I had, it had a much fatter neck, but it was just as playable. It needed a little bit of fretwork when it arrived and the nut needed a little attention too, but the build quality was otherwise really good. The set neck joint was very nicely sculpted like a neck-through. For the money, they’re really good value. All the hardware is good quality, thoroughly reliable and the slightly longer scale made for a good, solid low B. I can’t say anything bad about it but my time with sevens was limited so it eventually got eased on out the door.

 

Ibanez S2120X

Ibanez S2120X

Year: 2002

Made In: Japan

Specs: Mahogany body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Ibanez QM1 & QM2 humbuckers, L.R. Baggs piezo

Controls: Volume, tone, five-way switch for magnetic pckups – Volume, bass & treble cut & boost for piezo pickup – three way switch for magnetic/piezo selection

I had such grand plans when I bought this. I much prefer the S shape to the RG and it had a more conventional sized Ultra neck. The possibilities offered by the piezo and magnetic combination were inspiring. It was also, and remains, one of the prettiest guitars I can think of.

As you’d expect from Ibanez Japan, the build was superb. Everything felt solid and high quality. The way the S gets really thin at the edges is really comfortable and the action could be set nicely low. The chunkier Ultra neck really worked for me too, it had a really thick slab of rosewood for a fretboard.

The piezo sounded really good, especially when run into a P.A. or direct input. The switching allowed you to send the piezo and magnetic pickups out through separate jacks or use the mini-switch to blend or select individually through one output. If anything, the guitar exceeded my level of talent by some margin.

My only gripe was that I couldn’t get a tone out of the bridge humbucker which I was truly happy with. I tried several different pickups as the QMs weren’t that good, to be honest. Nothing I tried in the bridge position worked for me, not even a trusty JB and, as a result, I eased it on out the door.

I do think of it from time to time, wondering if I would get along better with it now. It was a guitar which offered almost limitless possibilities but I never felt truly at home on it at the time.