Showing posts with label guitar related stuff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guitar related stuff. Show all posts

23 January 2013

Fine Tuning an Original Floyd Rose

I'll start off by stating this is a guide for fine tuning a  Original Floyd Rose (OFR) bridge, not a generic double locking floating bridge (DLFB) tuning guide, although the ideas and concepts are alike for many Floyd Rose licensed DLFB's.
Floyd Rose is a brand name and an Original Floyd Rose is a type of bridge.
Your Ibanez branded DLFB isn't a Floyd Rose.
Ibanez' are called Edge and were once Licensed Floyd Rose, but not any more.
The original Edge DLFB was very similar to a OFR though.

This isn't a Floyd Rose set-up guide either, that's a bit out of scope at this time.

This is a guide to fine tune your OFR and by that I don't mean on how to use the bridge's fine tuners, I mean tuning it so it stays perfectly in tune no matter the abuse.
Not even Floyd Rose's guide on their website correctly lists a method of making sure the bridge stays in perfect tune at all times for some reason.
Most guides generally have 3 major steps:
1) Tune using the tuners
2) Lock the nut
3) Tune using the fine tuners
They don't speak about what the tuning should be when pulling up or down on the bridge which is, I think, the very essence of an OFR, right?
Should be bridge be in perfect tune after pulling up and letting it return to zero?
Should be bridge be in perfect tune after diving and letting it return to zero?
Well, yes, yes it should be.
The thing is, following most guides it can't be, you'll see why and what's your definition of 'perfect'?
Pefect tuning on an OFR equipped guitar is nearly impossible, I'll explain why later on.

Anyways, I recommend getting a polygraphic tuner.
We'll need to check the entire range of tuning for all strings once we'll get to the fine tuning bit, so getting a graphic representation of the current tuning is extremely handy.
I've got a Hardwire HT-6 polygraphic tuner and fwiw: I recommend it wholeheartedly.
A word of advice when using your polygraphic tuner when tuning though: don't press down on the strings to much when you're sweeping them all at once.
Pressing down too hard makes the other strings go out of tune obviously, so you won't get a correct overview of the tuning. Gently sweep them instead.

First things first:

New strings should be stretched before tuning!
This is so important it's not funny any more.
Neglect to do it and it won't stay in tune, I can guarantee you that much!
Put the new strings on and stretch the hell out of them by pulling up on the whammy bar as much as you can and then take the string with your fingers and stretch it even more.
The better you stretch, the more stable the end tuning result will be.

I see a lot of guides recommending unscrewing the fine tuners completely as a first step, this is wrong.
We'll need to be able to both fine tune up and down, so position them in the middle.
Here's how:

Screw the 6th string's fine tuner all the way in
Screw the 4th string's fine tuner all the way out
Screw the 5th string's fine tuner right in the middle
Screw all fine tuner's on the same level as the 5th string's fine tuner, using your finger as gauge.

Next, unlock the nut and remove the nut blocks and bolts for now, remembering which is which and in what position they were on.

If the OFR was at level, it probably won't be any more now, that's fine.
This happens as, after locking the nut, fine tuning increases string tension right up to the nut; the string's part behind the nut has a different tension.
Removing the nut changes the tension again so the bridge moves a bit.

Now, make sure the Floyd Rose's fine tuners are reset to their middle position.
Then, follow these steps:

A1) Pull the Floyd Rose up and carefully let it come back to it's zero position
A2) Tune to the desired tuning using the regular tuners on the headstock
A3) Pull the Floyd Rose up carefully let it come back to it's zero position
A4) Repeat step A2
(Procedure 'A')

Pulling up ensures there isn't any slack anywhere on the length of the string and it's a very important step on some set ups; don't skip it.
This of course means you can't push down on the bridge at this time!

Now it's time to check the OFR's tilt.
It should be completely at level with the body of the guitar and I don't mean give or take.
Ensure it's completely at level or you won't get it completely in tune in all situations later on.

Most probably it won't be level, so this is how you level it:
Note: you'll need to tune again (steps A1 through A4) after every single spring adjustment at this stage.
Remove the backplate leading to the OFR's springs in the back cavity of the guitar.
You'll see a claw plate holding 2 to 5 springs connected to a big block holding the bridge and the plate is connected to the guitar's body by 2 screws.
First ensure the claw plate should be at level with the body of the guitar!
(So, remember: if you've turned the screws at all, run procedure 'A' again!)
Now the claw is level and we're tuned again, good.
Have a look at the OFR's baseplate:
if it's tilted forward (towards the headstock), you'll need to tighten the crews in the back cavity.
if it's tilted backwards (away from the headstock), you'll need to loosen the crews in the back cavity.

B1) Check the baseplate's level
B2) Determine which way the screws need to be turned (if at all)
B3) Adjust the screws
B4) Tune (procedure 'A')
B5) Repeat from step B1
(Procedure 'B')

The screws should be evenly turned (as the claw needs to be parallel to the cavity) and they're pretty sensitive: a 1/32th turn on both of them can very well cause a 10 degree change in baseplate angle after steps B1 through B5 are performed.

Right, now the baseplate is level for the desired tuning, good.

Next step: locking the nut.
Maybe you've noticed locking the nut messes up the tuning, maybe you haven't, but it does.
So have a look, if locking makes the lower strings go flat and the upper ones go sharp, you'll need to compensate for that a bit by tuning the lower ones a bit flat and the upper ones a bit sharp before locking as we'll want to minimize using the fine tuners afterwards.
Remember: tune by following steps A1 through A4!

Now that the nut's locked, the fun part starts: fine tuning the bridge.

An OFR is a balancing act and not all the strings are pulling equalling hard on the bridge, right?
That's why we're going to adjust the strings in a certain way: from the "hardest pulling" string to the "softest pulling" one (I'm not really sure, in fact, that this is correct to be honest, but it works for fine tuning).
This boils down to this sequence: E/G/A/B/D/e.

So, it's quite easy as long as you follow a couple simple rules:
* Follow the string adjustment sequence
* After adjusting 1 fine tuner, check tuning again (all strings!)
* Only tune up
* If you need to tune a string down, downtune it flat so you can tune up
* Remember the string sequence, adjusting the E string will have a shit load more impact on the other strings than adjusting the e string

So, firstly: we're going to make sure it's fine tuned for the current bridge position:

C1) Check tuning (all strings!) & determine which string need to be adjusted
C2) Fine tune for that string
C3) Repeat C1-C2 as much as needed until all strings are in tune.
(Procedure 'C')

So far, so good.

D1) Pull up on the whammy bar as far as possible
D2) Fine tune (Procedure 'C')
D3) Press down on the whammy bar as much as possible
D4) Fine tune (Procedure 'C')
D5) Repeat D1->D4 as long as tuning isn't perfect when returning the bridge to zero after pulling up/pressing down
(Procedure 'D')

Procedure D can take very, very long and to be honest, you'll come to a point where the difference between what the tuning is when using the whammy bar and perfect tuning isn't perceivable by human ear any more and you'll only know it's off by looking at the tuner.

There's one thing I forgot to mention though: gravity.
It's the law, so we've got to obey it at all times and tuning our OFR isn't an exception.
The position of the guitar and even the whammy bar influences the tuning of the bridge.
Try it: check tuning the the guitar's flat on an even surface, when on a strap, on your lap, whammy loose or locked in different positions... tuning always will be 'a bit' off.
That's why you never should tune the guitar when it's laying flat, there's just too much difference with how you'd normally hold your guitar.

As a small reference: it's pretty easy to get the OFR to, after returning to zero from pulling up or down on the whammy bar, line up perfectly on the HT6 overview display.
The overview is slightly less accurate than the individual string tuning mode, and I can visually confirm it's a wee bit off in individual string tune mode, but I can't hear the difference any more.
At that point I could run procedure 'D' for some time extra, but I usually don't bother.

31 December 2012

Ran guitar - Follow-up review 2

Seeing as there still aren't a lot of Ran guitar reviews floating around and my Ran NGD post gets hit on the regular, I'll continue to review mine.

It's been 7,5 months since I received it and I don't think there was a single day I haven't picked it up to play for at least a bit.
One of the things I was looking forward the most was experiencing stainless steel frets and now I absolutely love them; 7,5 months of bending and they're still as shiny new as on the first day.
Bending is smooth as silk and, depending on the brand of course, other guitars with 'regular' frets now feel a little weird to bend on.
According to some sources ss frets make the guitar sound too bright, but I haven't noticed that tbh.
Another thing I read is that ss frets supposedly make strings wear out faster... haven't noticed that either.
I think they actually make strings last longer as there's way less friction but that's just a hunch.

I was watching some videos of Paul Reed Smith the other day where he was talking about the PRS wood drying process, hinting they dry their wood more then other vendors to get maximum tone and stability out of it. Makes sense to me.
Apart from the initial set up I did when she first arrived and that one time not too long ago where I decided I wanted the action just a fraction of a mm lower, I didn't have to do a single set up adjustment.
Lowering the action was only a matter of lowering the Floyd Rose a tiny bit (obviously), but since I was already doing that I figured I could check other stuff as well and I couldn't have been happier: everything was still perfect.
Neck relief: right where I left it, intonation at the 24th fret: perfect, Floyd Rose: level with the body.
Did I mention she stays in tune, all time time, with whammy abuse and all, for weeks on end?
To put all that a bit in perspective: my Gibson V is always cased when I'm not playing her but still there are small noticeable variations in neck relief during the year as I don't usually heat the house when I'm not around.
Now, my Gibson is by no means bad, but still: the Ran is better.
So that's it: after the initial "OMGZ, dat geetar iz teh awesome!" phase is over and a couple of seasons have passed I can safely review it as being awesome.

Update: click here for the previous Ran articles.

19 July 2012

About Jeff Hanneman's signature guitars.

Usually I'm not really one to get on the barricades to fight for political correctness but Hanneman's ESP signatures have always made me fucking sick.

Allow me to elaborate:
The dude likes to put Nazi symbols on his guitars and ESP guitars actually built and sold those in the past.

Please notice the 'SS' logo:

And the skull of course:

Next guitar:

Think the daggered H has something to do with this last name? Nope.


Nazi symbolism on a fucking guitar makes me sick, but I kinda get it... the dude likes Nazi shit for some reason.
What I don't get is your average (US?) Slayer fan boy defending Hanneman and collecting these guitars, I saw it happen again recently on the ESP bbs. 
Here's a list of dumbass arguments I've seen people use:
  • He's just into WWII memorabilia (right, but for some reason he only puts Nazi stuff on his guitars...)
  • His grandfather fought in WWII.
  • It's just art.
  • He can't be a Nazi, Slayer's singer isn't even "white".
Fucking morons...seriously.
That's all.

Edit (3/6/2013): Hutchinson Guitars did a custom guitar called the 'Kriegsadler' and advertised it on Facebook...
I'm posting the pictures here in case the link goes down:

10 June 2012

Lemon oil

My Gibson's rosewood fret board was getting as dry as a dead dingo's donger.
Last week I restrung it with some nice coated EB slinkys but as the board was so dry they felt like rusted barbed wire.
Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating just a tiny bit here but it got to a point where it just didn't feel right anymore.
I've been reading about oiling fret boards with all kinds of stuff: 'lemon oil', 'mineral oil', olive oil (yes, olive oil), etc but the most common advice was getting some lemon oil.
I'm not big into DIY stuff and had no idea what lemon oil actually is so I went to a DIY store.
People working there had absolutely no idea what I was on about and as I didn't know what it actually was I wasn't going to buy just anything.
Instead of going on a rant about inaccurate and incomplete advice given out on message boards on the intertubes I turned to my local music store's website and there I saw some Dunlop 65 ultimate lemon oil.
That's right, ultimate lemon oil, not just regular lemon oil, _ultimate_ lemon oil; the only thing missing is a '2000' or '5000' at the end of that name.

Again, a long story short: I bought some, applied it to the fret board and these are my findings:

* It's easy to use and dose because of the applicator.
* It cleans the grime and grease pretty well.
* The wood got (what I assume is) its natural color back.
* Fret board feels much smoother and is much more enjoyable to play on.

* It smells funny.
* It's like everything smells like funny at least 2 hours after using it.
* My guitar's fret board now (the day after) smells funny.
* I don't want my guitars to smell funny.

Did I mention yet it smells funny? No? Well, it does; smells funny, that is.
The reason I'm going on about this is that I don't even think there's actual lemon extract in it, it smells nothing like the lemon extract bottle I keep in the fridge.

It smells like Cymbopogon, the Citronella stuff my mom soaked me in with 25 years ago when I was little right before bed time during summers.
I never really liked the smell of it and it didn't keep mosquitoes at bay at all but to be honest, my mom couldn't have known because it was only in 2002 a study (8th paragraph in the article) concluded the stuff is effective for about 20 minutes.
Anyways, one night the bottle started to leak in the drawer of the end table next to my bed so that drawer reeked for years to come.
Smell memories are funny that way, cleaning a fret board took me back 25 years; another smell that really fucks me up is cherry blossoms but that's another story and totally irrelevant now.

But yeh, the fret board: it's stunning now and I took a before and after shot for your amusement.

06 June 2012

Gibson V-Factor X Flying V

There are some subtle differences between Gibson's Flying V model over the years.
It's particularly nasty when trying to verify whether a certain model is most likely to be a real Gibson only having access to pictures of said guitar.
So I've been trying to find information on the intertubez on a particular V from 2008 (according to the serial number), it looks genuine enough but there's something strange about it: the head stock looks different from the V pictured on
So, is it real? Refinished? Maybe a rebranded Epiphone / Chibson ... ?

Here's a picture of the guitar:

This is a regular Flying V:

Same head stock as the one I've been trying to find info on:

You'll notice the head stock on the 2nd one is sharper.
Problem solved, right? Nope, because the guitar's finish is ebony.
The red one is a 'faded cherry' finish, which basically is Gibson selling a genuine Gibson for the price of a decent Epiphone as far as I can see.
Anyways, could it be a refinished one?
Doesn't look like it plus the guitar comes with a hard case, while the faded cherry ones come with a gigbag.
It does bear an uncanny resemblance with the Epiphone version of the '69 V though, but the tuners are genuine Gibson and the nut is different as well.

A couple Google searches later and I found this jem:


Exactly like the one I'm researching except for the hardware and pickups.
The site says they owned changed it, so fine but I still didn't quite know which guitar this is.

The mystery V was advertised as being a 2008 '68 flying V re-issue but all the images on Google show a regular V, not the pointy head stock one.

Anyways, long story short: the pointy ebony one is a Gibson V-Factor X Flying V.
Yes, seriously.
Gibson apparently tried to 1337-en up their guitars, so they briefly named the Flying V the V-Factor X and the Explorer the X-Plorer.
This is what Gibson have to say about it:

"The neck on Gibson’s V-Factor X has the best of both worlds—it is a hybrid between the ’50s rounded contour and the ’60s slim-taper profile."
"Whether it’s the regular Flying V, or the Gibson V-Factor X, the solid mahogany body provides tone, sustain, and performance."
"On the flipside, warm up the cutting tone of the bridge P-90 on your SG Specialby using a more rounded pick, or take some of the aggression out of the high-gain pickups of your V-Factor X by using a thinner pick for a smoother, more compressed rhythm tone."

So nothing really usable, no archive product pages, no nothing.
Attempts to look at how looked like in 2007 through simply fail as Gibson has a robots.txt in place. Thanks Gibson!
No product catalogs to be found either so I decided trying to find the same guitar on a webshop somewhere to verify there was, in fact, a time where the standard Flying V's had that type of head stock.
After a bit (hah!) of Googl'ing I found these:
That's the one! Finally a shop which took the effort of actually taking a picture of the instrument they're selling instead of just using the same one over and over again.
Right, so now we know it at least exists and isn't a fake (although there's always the possibility a store is selling an obvious fake, but let's assume they're legit).

A bit more Googl'ing resulted in 2 NGD's on random forums and a couple more links: Nice picture of the pointyness (from "The classic arrowhead headstock remains" - No, not really.

So although I haven't been able to find pictures of that actual model on a page hosted on, I'm pretty confident it's, in fact, real.

Now if only Gibson would provide archives of their site (ESP does) or answer email ...

Edit: some picture links were dead, fixed that.

16 May 2012

Ran guitar - Follow-up.

After a bit more than a day of playing the guitar it became clear I would need to do a setup.
The low E string rattled a bit due to the low action setup but now I could hear it through my amp.
So I redid the neck relief, string action, bridge height and intonation; the works.
Then I noticed something: when I pulled up strongly on the whammy bar the guitar went out of tune and I heard something, like a clicking noise. Dive bombing returned it to pitch.
I first thought it was a retention spring, but those were fine. Then I loosened the nut and had a look at the 2 screws that attach the nut's base plate to the neck.
I tried to move it but it wouldn't budge. But then when I put my screwdriver in I could fasten both screws just a tiny bit more.
I locked the nut again and did some whammy action... clicking sound was gone and it returned to pitch.
So the base plate wasn't secured enough causing tuning problems when using the Floyd as the nut could move around and that means (I think) the good people at Ran made an oversight when checking the hardware on this guitar.
I'm not sure what to think of it, it's an easy fix but I feel that shouldn't happen on a hand made custom shop guitar.
Still, after more playing I'm still in awe of this axe and now I've done the setup myself it plays like molten butter, which is a tad better than regular butter.

15 May 2012

Sperzel locking tuners string breakage at the peg

I broke 2 strings before it hit me: you're not supposed to loosen the string completely after having tuned up with Sperzel locking tuners.
The thing with that is the string makes a really tight turn at the peg when tuned up and when loosening again it bends back, weakening that spot.
Rinse and repeat for every tune/detune cycle eventually breaking the string at the point it makes a turn to fit into the peg's opening.
Better would be, if you're planning to ever loosen the string that is, to insert it at a 1/2 or even 3/4 turn around the peg so that the weak spot never bends back when detuning.
Update: come to think of it, even 1/4 of a turn around would be enough. As long as the bend at the peg doesn't get straight again it should be fine.

12 May 2012

NGD - Ran

My Ran arrived yesterday :)
As it hasn't been easy to find information on Ran apart from here, I'm going to write down my experiences ordering one and a couple of first impressions as well as some pics at end.

TL;DR version: I'm happy with it. Scroll down for pics.

I started communicating with Dariusz in November 2010 after it turned out he could build a KH2 NTB clone with a couple modifications for €1860.
I fiddled around on a KH2 in a shop a bit a couple weeks before that and everything just felt right, you know?
The real deal is about €2200 over on Thomann and that's without the modifications/improvements Ran could do (and the ESP is just a production guitar, not a custom shop).

I did some reading in old threads on a couple of forums, people were absolutely thrilled about their Ran and their reputation in Poland itself is very good as well.
I noticed from the posts prices kept going up over the years though.
Figuring prices would only continue to rise because of materials getting more expensive and of course Ran getting more and more exposure I figured I'd take my shot now.
ESP charges upwards of $6000 for custom shops...
Ibanez and ESP, to name only 2 major vendors, started out small as well so I wouldn't be surprised Ran will become a major player on the guitar market one day.
Cannibal Corpse, Vader, Annihilator and Clawfinger are just some of the bands already using Ran guitars.
So yes, it was an economical decision, I'm nowhere near the level of guitar expertise where I would require having custom shop guitars built.

Anyways, Dariusz answered my every question and it came to a point where I was happy with the specs and I wired a deposit of €1000.
The next day he sent me a mockup (see pictures) and based on that I changed a couple more things until I was satisfied.

Basically what I asked for was an ESP KH-2 NTB clone but with following changes:
* Sperzel locking tuners
* Stainless steel frets
* White body/neck/head stock binding
* Schaller strap locks
* Custom graphic on the back of the neck

€2060 in total (€40 UPS shipping + €160 flight case + €1860 guitar).

Dariusz is great to deal with btw, he offered his opinion when I asked for it and right up until a couple days ago when he sent word my guitar was going to be shipped the next day he kept up the the responsive communication.

So, Ran'd start building somewhere around 1/2/2011 and the build time would be approximately 10 months.
It turned out to be 15 months, but that's partly due to issues they had no control over.
Their spray booth was acting up and they were having problems with the distributor, creating a backlog of projects waiting to be painted.
I asked for it to be stringed with a specific brand and type of strings a couple months later which wasn't a problem at all.
It was clear to me no information nor pictures would be given during the build, but I got a notification when the woodwork was finished and a set of pictures when it was ready to send out.
On the pictures I noticed the guitar didn't have the arm rest contour the KH2 has.
Dariusz said they never do that for superstrat bound bodies which is fine by me, but it would've been nice if I had known that up front; after all I asked for a KH2 type body with a white binding.
No biggie, I payed the rest of the money (€1060) and 2 working days after they had received the money  the guitar was ready to be shipped out.
At least, that was before Dariusz discovered it was strung with a different string gauge.
They restrung it and sent it out one day later. took UPS 2 days to deliver.

So yesterday it arrived.
It took me about 15 minutes to liberate my guitar from the packaging ;)
The flight case was wrapped in an insane amount of bubble wrap and the guitar itself and the accessories in the flight case where packed in bubble wrap as well.

Despite all that the plastic thingy on the pickup selector switch was broken in half. One half I found in the Floyd cavity.

The flight case needs some additional work apart from it being well designed and very sturdy.
They put in foam padding so the guitar can't budge but the thing with that is the foam padding aren't all glued to the inside of the case so I'm going to do that myself.
The guitar was secure in the case during transit though, it was only after I removed all the bubble wrap I noticed I'd need to do some gluing for myself to make it a perfect fit.
Again, no biggie but it would've been nice if I didn't have to do that myself.

I played it for about 3 hours today, it's an amazing piece of work.
I have yet to find a single flaw in the finish and the setup is almost perfect.
Almost, because the 2nd and 5th string are a little bit sharp on intonation at the 12th fret.

Stainless steel frets in combination with the coated Ernie Ball's are a match made in heaven, bending has never been so smooth and effortless.
Action is set up exactly like I want it to be, which is pretty subjective but bonus points for them for being able to read my mind :)
The Floyd Rose is balanced perfectly, the ebony fret board and inlays are stunning.

The strings needed some stretching before the tuning got really stable but apart from that it plays like butter, what more can I say.

I don't really believe sound clips can really showcase the build quality or 'tone' of the guitar and that's why I'm not going to make one.
As I see it 'tone' comes from the amplifier/cab + effects used and the level of comfort the guitar provides the player with. Of course the guitar has tonal qualities of its own, but I don't see the point in doing a sound clip unless someone actually uses exactly the same equipment as I do.
Having said that, the thing plays like a dream and sounds fantastic, I couldn't be more happy with it.

Update: Dariusz offered to send over a replacement pickup selector plastic thingy.
Good customer service is in the little details like that.

And now it's picture time:

13 March 2012

About gallops and down picking

I've got some serious problems with alternate picking.
From when I first picked up a guitar down picking felt much more natural than alternate picking but now I'm starting to realize I've made a serious mistake ignoring it.
I've always wanted being able to play kick ass down picked riff like that MoP riff.
So I practiced and practiced and built up speed until it sounded pretty good.
Meanwhile I practiced galloping as well but somewhere along the way it went wrong and now I'm re-learning to gallop the 'proper' way.
A couple days ago I realized why this happened.

Let's take this riff from MoP as an exmaple:

A |-----2-----3-----4-----3-----2-2-- [...]
E |-0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1------ [...]
    D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D

This is played at 218 bpm, so it's pretty fucking fast.
Down picking obviously implies performing a down stroke, then bringing the pick back up without hitting the string and down pick again and doing this really really fast.
Now let's take this basic gallop:

E |-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0-- ...
    D  D U D  D U D  D U D  D U D

And this is where my problem starts...
I'm so used at performing the D-D movement, I'm now having the greatest problems performing a basic DUD movement.
Instead I noticed I perform a gallop like this:

E |-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--
    D  U D U  U D U  U D U  U D U

Somewhere along the way my brain decided to perform a gallop, which is a form of alternate picking of course, starting with an 'up' movement to, I guess, differentiate between the regular down stroke and an alternate pick.
When doing faster alternate picked stuff I caught myself starting with an 'up' movement as well, losing speed, needlessly creating extra hand movement so losing efficiency while doing so.
Detecting and realizing why one makes mistakes is the first step, right.
So now I've got to unlearn starting an alternate series with an up stroke by default and that's easier said than done.

17 February 2012

Dunlop Black Fang vs Ultex Sharp

This basically is one big Dunlop advertisement, so deal with it.
No, I'm not getting paid to do this and if you're reading this, Dunlop dudes: why the fuck don't you lot answer my emails?

Anyways, for what it's worth: a bit of history first... maybe this'll help someone.

Since I started learning playing the guitar I've been a bit obsessed with finding the perfect pick for me.
I noticed very early on the kind of pick I used greatly affected my playing.
The dude in the music store I bought my first guitar at (grossly overpriced, but what did I know... bastards) recommended those floppy light nylon ones, I tossed those after 5 minutes. That started my search for the perfect pick... (still haven't found the Pick of Destiny)

I recently fell in love with Dunlop's Ultex Sharps 1.0.
I already was using regular Ultex which I love for the material it's made of: durable, very nice sound and they don't slip as much as, let's say, the Tortex ones.
The Tortex ones, I used the green 0.88 ones, were great at first, but they wear down as fast as hell and they get incredibly slippery after half an hour of use.
Now, before Tortex I used the famous Jazz III for quite a while.
Incredible picks, I bought a couple of them and only had to grab another one when I lost one. They last forever, they really do.
The sharp tip was so great to use and the small size forced me learning to pick more accurately, which was great as well at first.
They only have one major downside: they're extremely slippery.
Heh, I used to cut them up with a knife to increase friction.
So when I heard Dunlop would release a Max Grip version I immediately placed an order at the local music store.
The Max Grip version has this diamond plate thing going on on the surface which really works and I used them for quite some time as well.
After a while I grew tired of the additional harmonics I created while playing fast riffs as the thumb of my picking hand would keep hitting the strings because of the small size of the pick.
Yes, I know, it's all technique and all and I guess I just suck.
But that lead me back to normal sized picks.
Ultex ones were the next ones I tried but I really missed having a sharp tip.
Apart from that Ultex is an amazing pick: the brightness of the tone it produces is amazing .
After another trip to the Dunlop site I saw the Ultex Sharp ones... and placed an order at my local music store.

Btw, start seeing a pattern here? For some arcane reason they don't stock a great variety of picks, I wonder why...
Anyways, about 2 weeks later they arrived and I fell in love.
Lightweight, durable with a sharp tip and they produce a great sound. I absolutely love them.

I noticed people talking about Hetfield's Black Fangs on a couple websites.
Looking at the specs it seemed just a branded Ultex Sharp in varying thicknesses the regular ones aren't available at and way more expensive of course.
Rephrase: ridiculously more expensive.
They go €7,50 for 6 here which is 2.5 times more than what I buy the regular ones for.
Just because of that I wouldn't buy them but it kept bugging me: was it really just a Ultex Sharp in another color, another gauge and with a fancy drawing on it or was there something else going on?
Reviews just reviewed the pick, not comparing it to a regular Ultex Sharp of course, that'd be too obvious and easy... sigh.

Then, my mother got me some as a present (thanks, Lien!) so when I got home I tried the Black Fang and Ultex Sharp back-to-back, not expecting much difference.
The first thing I noticed about Black Fang is it's a much rougher texture than regular Ultex, which is smooth as a baby's bottom.
They're exactly the same size, apart from the thickness that is.
So without further ado, here's my take on Ultex Sharp vs Black Fang:

Black Fang is better.

There's no sound difference at all but due to the rougher texture they're so much more enjoyable to hold as they're even less slippery than the regular Ultex and a bit more durable as far as I can see.
And, let's be honest here, they're just plain fucking cool; appealing to my inner Metallica fanboy even.
A black rhino silhouette on transparent yellow doesn't exactly scream metal to me.

That's it.
So, are they worth the money? Hard to say, isn't it... how much do you want to spend on a pick?
One could spend 1000's on guitars, amps and effect pedals while saying 'you get what you pay for'.

I used to say €7,50 for 6 picks is ridiculous, but I'm not too sure anymore.
Time will tell which ones I'll buy next, but chances are it'll be Black Fang.

23 January 2012

01 January 2012

Machine Head guitar tuning

A lot has been written about the subject, but here's the deal:

Machine Head doesn't tune to A440, they tune to 450 Hz.
So configure your tuner to reference A as 450 instead of 440 Hz, tune to Drop B and it'll sound good.
Tuning (low to high): B F♯ B E G♯ C♯ (So 1,5 steps down from Drop D)
That's all there is to it. \m/

Boss NS-2

Right, I'm going to kick start this with something I've noticed about the Boss-NS2.

I wanted a noise gate because my setup was pretty noisy, especially at high gain.
So I Googled for a bit and decided the entire ISP Decimator vs Boss NS-2 discussion is a bit like Nintendo vs Sega, Vi vs Emacs, Jap bikes/cars vs Euro bikes/cars, Apple vs Microsoft etc etc etc
(btw, the correct answers to those are, in order: Nintendo, Vi, Japanese bikes/cars and Debian)
Anyways, apparently it's very hard to try and make an objective opinion about the damn pedal.
"There's tone sucking going on", I've read that a gazillion times on forums and in reviews.
Nice information dudes, cheers for that!
Well, I haven't tested the ISP so I can't compare the two, but I noticed something:

I never really liked the sound of my Hardwire TL-2 distortion on the Blackstar HT1 in some situations.
It was ok for everything except for those real chunky down stroked riffs Metallica is known for.
As soon as I engaged the pedal on either channel of the amp 2 things happened:
* the chunkiness disappeared and no matter what I did with the TL-2's settings, I couldn't get it back. It sounded pretty tame actually.
* high tones got boosted slightly ("high" dial at 12 o'clock). Wasn't that big of a deal, just turned the dial down a little.

So, I got the Boss NS-2 today (it's a lot cheaper than the ISP and if it's good enough for Mr Hetfield, it's good enough for me) and I set it up like this:

guitar -> NS2 input
NS2 output -> amp
NS2 send -> TL-2 input
TL-2 output -> NS2 return

So the standard "let's put the distortion pedal in the NS2 loop" set up, basically.
I engaged the distortion on the amp's clean channel and lo and behold, my chunky sound is back.
Don't ask me why, I have no idea... but I'm digging the sound a lot.

So, is there tone sucking?
Define tone sucking... my tone has definitely changed, for the better that is.
The chunk is back and the highs sound "normal" again.
The distortion pedal now sounds like what I'd expect from a distortion pedal.
It took the NS-2's effect loop but it sounds good to my ears now.

The noise reduction and gating function of the NS-2 works like it should on my set up btw, thought I should mention that as well.
Some people on the forums I've read on the subject claimed it didn't work for them, YMMV.

For completeness' sake here's the gear used in the set up:

* Epiphone '84 Explorer reissue (EMG's 81/85)
* Blackstar HT1
* Digitech Hardwire TL-2 Metal Distortion
* Boss NS-2