On the modern electric guitar

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tr0g
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On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 20 Mar 2012, 13:31

So, in my attempt to finnaly get around to playing the guitar I've been hauling around with me for a really long time, I have discovered some flaws. The switch for the pickups only works in one position, the volume and tone pots are frozen up solid, and the tuners are not particularly good at staying where I put them. I am belatedly coming to the realization that my much younger self bought a not particularly good guitar. I have enough mechanical and electronic aptitude to fix the flaws in my current model, but even at the end of the day, I'll have an okay guitar with better hardware.

So I'm wondering if it wouldn't just be easier to buy a new one, and if so, what should I buy? Is it possible to get a decent solid body electric for about $200? I have no idea, and figured I would ask you smart people.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 20 Mar 2012, 14:05

Depending on your definition of 'decent', I'd say yes. It's also really easy to buy a really shitty guitar for 200 bucks. Looking through the 200 dollar price point on Musiciansfriend.com, there's a huge selection. And most of the named copies there are probably decent enough. If you want something that looks like a famous guitar, then you have Epiphone branded copies of anything Gibson, Squier branded copies of anything Fender, and then the others that offer a little variety - a couple Jacksons (I love Jackson necks, but can't vouch for the overall quality at this price point), a bunch of I-been-hads (Ibanez), some Yamahas (I have a Yamaha bass and in general love Yamaha instruments), some Deans, and other assorted brands.

My suggestion, as always when someone's going to purchase a guitar, is to go to your local stores, a Guitar Center or something else mass market (especially with a mass market purchase like this) if possible, and try out guitars that are in your price range and you think look attractive. Noone wants to play a guitar they think is boring or uncool. Then try to play as much as you can, it doesn't have to be good, you can even use headphones or a small amp turned pretty low. You're trying to find out which one of the guitars that look good feels the best. You're not going to get awesome sounds in that price range, but it shouldn't sound like absolute crap. And really you're looking for a learning guitar. If you end up loving playing, you can get a guitar that sounds better, or if you want a different sound, you could buy modeling pedals or a different amp. Get a feel for the guitar, especially the weight, the reach, the neck shape - width, thickness, edges (this is a huge one for me), the balance, the way it hangs off you. If you really intend to play sitting down, then try it sitting down, but I personally never play a guitar sitting down. And remember that you're having fun, and that you're buying for you.

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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by dhex » 20 Mar 2012, 14:10

i was going to suggest a warlock not because i know anything about guitars but because they look hilarious.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by pistoffnick » 20 Mar 2012, 14:10

I've always wanted to make one.

But I think I should figure out how to play the one I've had for 20 years first.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 20 Mar 2012, 14:11

dhex wrote:i was going to suggest a warlock not because i know anything about guitars but because they look hilarious.
That they do.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by dhex » 20 Mar 2012, 14:18

Image

i've always threatened my wife that if i took up guitar i'd buy one of these and wear it to her formal academic events. and a suit, of course, but not socks, since i'll have rocked them off.

actually i have a hofner acoustic from the 50s or 60s that was given to me by a long lost roomate in lieu of rent. it had been her father's. it's kinda fucked up - i traded it for a bit for a juno 2 and it got gigged by said trader across the us. he said the tuning was permanently unusual. i liked the decent enough juno - it's ok for an 80s roland if you like that sound, very creamy though - but he wanted it back. i still have it, having sampled it a few times here and there. should probably sell it at some point presuming its salable.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by pistoffnick » 20 Mar 2012, 14:28

There's always Prince's Donkey Dick design:
Image
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 20 Mar 2012, 14:46

pistoffnick wrote:I've always wanted to make one.

But I think I should figure out how to play the one I've had for 20 years first.
I've had this one a bit longer. My goal this year was to actually learn to do something with it it.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 20 Mar 2012, 15:01

tr0g wrote:
pistoffnick wrote:I've always wanted to make one.

But I think I should figure out how to play the one I've had for 20 years first.
I've had this one a bit longer. My goal this year was to actually learn to do something with it it.
I find it hard to believe that I've owned my Charvel for 20 years...
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 20 Mar 2012, 15:13

Highway wrote:
tr0g wrote:
pistoffnick wrote:I've always wanted to make one.

But I think I should figure out how to play the one I've had for 20 years first.
I've had this one a bit longer. My goal this year was to actually learn to do something with it it.
I find it hard to believe that I've owned my Charvel for 20 years...
I'm pushing 26 years on mine.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 20 Mar 2012, 15:35

tr0g wrote:So I'm wondering if it wouldn't just be easier to buy a new one, and if so, what should I buy? Is it possible to get a decent solid body electric for about $200? I have no idea, and figured I would ask you smart people.
Absolutely. What Highway says is 100% true, so I can't add too much, but you shouldn't go too far wrong with an Epiphone or Squier. Deans have their aficionados too, including some very big names, and I liked the Dean Baby ML (IIRC) I played around with for about five minutes, but I can't speak to their quality overall. Also Deans tend to have dhex-mockery-inducing designs.
i was going to suggest a warlock not because i know anything about guitars but because they look hilarious.
Yeah, if you're going to get a BC Rich, it should be a Mockingbird.

Image

As for me, it's a little scary to realize I've owned my Gibson SG Special for almost 20 years now. Gibson's serial number checker tells me it was made in late 1993.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 20 Mar 2012, 15:56

One more point, and this should be very very secondary to the stuff I said earlier. If you're looking at two guitars, and really like both of them equally well, and you have a choice between a guitar that has all of one kind of pickup, either single-coil or humbucker, and a guitar that has both kinds, the guitar that has both kinds of pickups will likely be more flexible in the future as far as different kinds of sounds you can make with it. This is mostly if you want to play along with other people's music for fun, or even be in a cover band and have varied guitar sounds. Some guitars trade on being *the* sound. If you get a Les Paul, no matter what you do, it's going to sound like a Les Paul. It might sound like a Les Paul with a thin EQ, or a Les Paul through a Marshall amp, or a Les Paul modeling Celestion speakers, but you will always have that 'Les Paul-ness' in there. Same thing with a Stratocaster: It's always gonna have that cleanish balanced, thin brighter sound. But if you get, say, a Yamaha that's got a single coil and a humbucker, then while it won't ever sound exactly like a Les Paul or a Stratocaster, it will probably get a lot closer at sounding like both when asked than either one of the 'standard' sounding guitars would.

But if you love a Les Paul sound (and honestly, they're a really great sound), then maybe you go with that sound instead.

I should point out that this doesn't really work for famous players' signature sounds. As someone on the bass forum I visit opined: "Geddy Lee will sound more like Geddy Lee using your axe and your rig than you will using his."
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 20 Mar 2012, 17:57

I'm going to put this here because it goes here as well as anywhere else, I guess: there's this very cool smartphone app called Chordbot, which is excellent for working out song ideas, figuring out what scales go over what chords, practicing songs, etc.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 21 Mar 2012, 13:00

Okay, y'all have been amazingly helpful. After looking and doing some research, my guitar may not be as quality deficient as I suspected. I think it's more a function of no maintenance over the years.

In any event, I have a much clearer idea of what I would want if I decide to get a new one. One of the local joints was going out of business, so I may go there and see what they have left.

And while the 42 year old me agrees the warlock looks ridiculous, my inner 14-yo says "Ooh! Slayer! Shiny!". I mean, shit, they have a Kerry King edition! BC Rich does seem to have the market cornered on overdone guitars, with Dean coming in a close second.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 21 Mar 2012, 13:21

I own three guitars: a Fender American Strat that collects dust in a corner of my office, a Martin HD-28 I take out of its case occasionally to reassure myself that whatever unsatisfactory sound my playing is producing is not the fault of the guitar and a 40 year old Yamaha (Red Label) FG-180 as my primary practice/playing instrument. Obviously, I have little to contribute to this discussion insofar as it specifically concerns electric guitars except to note I agree the option of switching between a single coil and a humbucker gives an electric guitar significantly more sonic options.

Some considerations, however, extend to all guitars. Is the neck still straight? Is the action satisfactory? Can you replace the tuning machines to improve tuning, keeping in tune? Is it the right size for the player? (Petite women, for example, typically struggle trying to play a dreadnaught acoustic. Most people don't really take size into consideration, though.) Has the guitar ever been set up properly buy a competent guitar technician?

Frankly, I suspect the only way one could get a good guitar of any sort for around $200 is to buy it from a seller who is unaware of its quality. OTOH, assuming the body, neck, etc. of your current guitar are structurally sound and your muscle memory knows its way around it, that $200 could probably pay for a better pickup or tuners and/or a professional setup. Unless you're willing to, say, triple the amount you're willing to spend on a new guitar (as opposed to whatever you might find second hand), I'd say that's the way to go.

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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 21 Mar 2012, 13:23

You could always get the infamous Mothman bass...
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 21 Mar 2012, 13:38

D.A. Ridgely wrote:Frankly, I suspect the only way one could get a good guitar of any sort for around $200 is to buy it from a seller who is unaware of its quality. OTOH, assuming the body, neck, etc. of your current guitar are structurally sound and your muscle memory knows its way around it, that $200 could probably pay for a better pickup or tuners and/or a professional setup. Unless you're willing to, say, triple the amount you're willing to spend on a new guitar (as opposed to whatever you might find second hand), I'd say that's the way to go.
Up until about a decade ago I'd have agreed with you on this. But the improvement in manufacturing quality and consistency in Asian countries, Korea especially, has made purchase of a mass market guitar much much less of a crapshoot than it was prior to 2000. Additionally, quality control checks by major manufacturers keep the overall quality within their specs for the model. It's worth pointing out that it's not just the cheap sub-500 dollar guitars that are made in those factories. There are many guitars up at around the $1000 price point made in the same places, with the more traditionally 'hand made' versions at 2500 and up being the ones that are now made the 'old fashioned' way. And that has a trickle down effect in the quality of the lower instruments, since the same folks work on most of them. So what you're getting for the cheaper prices is less name (Squier instead of Fender, Epiphone instead of Gibson), less finish (urethane instead of nitrocellulose), cheaper or uglier woods that won't support a translucent finish, more basic pickups, more basic bridge. But you're almost always getting a worthwhile guitar (unlike the Harmony POS that I got in the late 80's which had the nut in the wrong place, making it impossible to tune).
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 21 Mar 2012, 13:48

Highway wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:Frankly, I suspect the only way one could get a good guitar of any sort for around $200 is to buy it from a seller who is unaware of its quality. OTOH, assuming the body, neck, etc. of your current guitar are structurally sound and your muscle memory knows its way around it, that $200 could probably pay for a better pickup or tuners and/or a professional setup. Unless you're willing to, say, triple the amount you're willing to spend on a new guitar (as opposed to whatever you might find second hand), I'd say that's the way to go.
Up until about a decade ago I'd have agreed with you on this. But the improvement in manufacturing quality and consistency in Asian countries, Korea especially, has made purchase of a mass market guitar much much less of a crapshoot than it was prior to 2000. Additionally, quality control checks by major manufacturers keep the overall quality within their specs for the model. It's worth pointing out that it's not just the cheap sub-500 dollar guitars that are made in those factories. There are many guitars up at around the $1000 price point made in the same places, with the more traditionally 'hand made' versions at 2500 and up being the ones that are now made the 'old fashioned' way. And that has a trickle down effect in the quality of the lower instruments, since the same folks work on most of them. So what you're getting for the cheaper prices is less name (Squier instead of Fender, Epiphone instead of Gibson), less finish (urethane instead of nitrocellulose), cheaper or uglier woods that won't support a translucent finish, more basic pickups, more basic bridge. But you're almost always getting a worthwhile guitar (unlike the Harmony POS that I got in the late 80's which had the nut in the wrong place, making it impossible to tune).
Fair enough. I haven't bought a guitar in well over ten years, so you probably know much better what the current market is. I do have my eye on both a Seagull S6 Original QI Guitar and a Grestch G5120, two guitars I think are great bargains at their price points, just because I have no acoustic/electric crossover guitar.

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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 28 Mar 2012, 11:56

Since it's a guitar thread, I wanted to throw in another recommendation for anyone who plays guitar: Dunlop Straploks are an excellent addition to your guitar. They work very well, are minimally difficult to install (depending on the screws your guitar currently has), and provide a nice piece of mind and security for playing your guitar, especially ones that have the strap buttons on some sketchy places (looking at you, Les Paul!).

Dropping your guitar is something you never want to do, and it's even worse if it's because the strap slipped off the button. This might sound like an advertisement, but it's not, just having seen what happens when you drop a guitar: my bandmate had his strap slip off the Les Paul, hit the concrete on the body corner, and it crushed some of the inlay on the back. Not debilitating, but it's certainly a hit to the pride and enjoyment of the guitar.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 28 Mar 2012, 12:23

I've never had a strap slip off a button, but one of my few gripes about my SG is that it's neck-heavy: if I stand up and take my hands off the guitar, it immediately rotates until the neck is pointing downward at about a 45-degree angle. This presents a certain risk of the headstock suicidally bashing itself on anything handy.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 28 Mar 2012, 13:14

JD wrote:I've never had a strap slip off a button, but one of my few gripes about my SG is that it's neck-heavy: if I stand up and take my hands off the guitar, it immediately rotates until the neck is pointing downward at about a 45-degree angle. This presents a certain risk of the headstock suicidally bashing itself on anything handy.
Gibson Thunderbird bodies have pretty bad neck dive also. It's an ergonomic nightmare, and can actually cause RSI style problems (you shouldn't be holding up your guitar with your left hand, you should be operating it).

If you have a neck dive problem, you might think about putting a strap brace on, instead of the strap button. It might be worth finding a luthier in your area that could recommend one and install it for you. Steinberger uses one on their instruments because the bodies are so small. The idea is that it just extends the strap mounting position farther up the neck. Could be worth a try if that behavior bugs you. The other thing people tend to use are grippy straps that try to keep it from sliding on your shoulder, but that seems much less comfortable to me (and unreliable).
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 14 Apr 2012, 09:24

Thinking about getting a new amp, since my roughly 30-year-old Peavey Backstage is starting to crap out a little bit. Just a small practice combo amp, but I do want a good "tube-y" sound. Anybody got any recommendations? Vox seems to make some good small stuff these days, and even their modeling amps seem to get good reviews, although when I looked at one I said, "Whoa - too many controls."
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 14 Apr 2012, 11:31

Yeah, pretty much any inexpensive (i.e. under 500 dollars) small combo amp these days is going to be solid-state + modeling to get a sound that the manufacturer is associated with. Generally these sound pretty good, although there are limitations (The Marshall MG100 SS head my guitarist has sounds fairly similar to a JCM, but it's *not* a JCM).

The other option that you might think about is to go for maybe a less distinctive sound from the amp. Like I said above about guitars, certain brands are expected to have a certain sound. Marshall's going to have that fat crunch, and even breakup on the clean channel a bit. Vox will have that bright 'British' sound, with a creamy overdrive. Fenders will tend to have that mellow sound. And Peaveys will sound, er, loud-ish and mostly adequate (do note that I use Peavey combos, mostly due to not wanting to spend money to replace them). But down in the cheaper combo range, with smaller speakers and less expensive electronics, these sounds are best described as 'reasonable facsimiles' of those distinctive sounds.

I play in a cover band, and we do a LOT of different bands, so to me, having some flexibility is important. So I like the idea of an amp that doesn't color the sound, and using a modeling source, like a pedal or in the amp itself, that can help you out with different sounds. So instead of buying an almost twin reverb that always sounds like an almost twin reverb, you can switch it up and have it almost sound like a Mesa Rectifier, or a JCM with Greenbacks, or a Vox AC.

If you were interested in that route, I'd look at the Line6 amps. They have a pretty filled out line of Combo amps now (starting at 99 bucks, up at about 100 dollar intervals), and their modeling is really well received from what I hear. You might get the same "too many controls" reaction tho, although spending a little time on figuring out which ones you like will help to realize which are helpful and which you can ignore.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 14 Apr 2012, 12:10

An alternative approach is to buy a copy of Guitar Rig. I think this also necessitates upgrading you computer's speakers, preferably running a line from the computer to a small amp to those speakers, but that's sort of a win/win. You get significantly better sound when you play mp3s or whatever on your computer and you get the fun of sampling just about every famous amp and effects combination on the market. No, you probably won't be able to crank it up nearly as loud as even the most basic practice amp, but you will be able to learn (and save the settings for) all sorts of different amp setups, and that's a pretty good way to "go shopping" for real gear later.

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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 14 Apr 2012, 19:57

Thanks for the suggestions. Of course, nothing really beats going into the store and fooling around with amps, does it? :-) I should have mentioned that reverb is a must for me - I like a pretty reverb-heavy sound. Of course any modeling amp has reverb, but it's a little surprising to me how many simple non-modeling amps don't have reverb. There are a few actual tube amps at low price points, like the Vox AC4TV, but it seems hard to get cheap + tube + reverb, oddly. Perhaps I should stop being a tube snob (which is funny, since I've played a cheapo SS amp for years)!
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