Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: December 2005

Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Guitar!! Bought a Breedlove Acoustic!

Today I bought a beautiful Breedlove Atlas AD25 acoustic guitar. This thing sounds pretty amazing considering it is Korean made and costs less than a grand. I put it up against a couple of Talyors and about 3 other Breedlove Atlas acoustics and this is the one that sounded the best to me.

The famous Breedlove "piano bass" tone is there, and the whole guitar is balanced extremely well. The volume is medium (not as loud as a Taylor), but the tone is just superb. It has a nice Fishman system in it for plugging in, and the action and fret work is amazing. I love this guitar!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Continuing the Change Over to Hybrid Strings

Today I went crazy and decided to change over some more of my guitars to the Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinkys... which are a 10 set on the bass side and a 9 set on the trebles. The first guitar I worked on was my Ibanez JS1200CA Satriani. This is one of my favorite guitars, so I was anxious to get it done. As usual, converting any double locking tremolo guitar to another string gauge is a pain in the ass. The float changes due to the heavier bass strings... and, of course, those strings needed to be re-intonated. Intonating a Floyd or Edge Pro tremolo really sucks because you have to slack the string, unlock the saddle and guess how much to adjust it, lock it back down , re-tune and check it again. This usually takes about two or three tries until you get it right.

Next was my Ibanez Jem... another favorite. It has had a loose nut for a while now. I can hear it give a little when using the tremolo each time I first pick it up. This is not good because over time the holes that the screws go into (that hold down the nut) can oval out. So I cut off all the strings and removed the nut. I applied a thin coat of wood glue to the headstock where the nut goes and carefully replaced the nut and the screws to a snug fit. This light bond of glue should keep the nut from moving again during trem use, but also is weak enough to break free if the nut ever needed maintenance or replacing in the future. After that I did the same setup and conversion for the new strings like I did for the Satriani.

Next was my Ernie Ball MusicMan Petrucci. I had converted it to the new strings some time ago, but I needed to raise the action a tad on it. I am now playing with a slightly higher action to improve tone and minimize fret buzz and choking. My action is still quite low by most standards. I am now setting it at 1.5mm on the high E at the 12th fret, and the same for the low E at the 12th. With a near straight neck this action works extremely well on all my guitars, even my Strats which have the much rounder 9.5" radius.

Coming up will be my Ibanez JPM-P1 (John Petrucci's old signature guitar) and my old American made Peavey Generation tele-style guitar. I have left these with a local luthier for re-frets, and I can't wait to get them back. More about these guitars a little later...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Malmsteen Strat Gets New Saddles

I received some Strat replacement saddles in the mail today from a very nice gentleman on the Fender Forum. He refused to accept payment, and sent them to me from the UK. He also included a second set, extra screws and a nice hex tool with a handle! Thank you Uncle Stack-Knob!

What is great about these saddles is that they're extra hardened so they don't develop burrs and string grooves... plus, they have an extra long string slot so the string doesn't catch on it after it leaves the trem block. Super cool.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Nik Sells Everything For a New RG

My friend Nik went nuts and decided to trade all his cheaper guitars in at Guitar Center Memphis for a brand new RGA121. The three guitars he traded in were: his newly acquired (but used) Schecter XXX, the brown Schecter Omen 006 and the Ibanez S that I previously fixed up for him.

The RGA is quite nice, actually. It is Japanese made with a fixed Gibraltar Plus bridge and mahogany body. The tone is awesome and the neck is a super slim, fast playing Wizard Prestige. The only thing wrong with it is the nut, which was not cut properly from the factory. They rarely are, but this one is beyond terrible... the nut slots barely even exist! I think the nut wasn't finished and managed to escape QC somehow. No problem, though. Since there is plenty of nut material, slotting it will be a simple task. After that, it should play like a dream. ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Schecter XXX to adjust...

Nik did it again! ;) He bought yet another guitar for me to mess around with. This time, though, I am not sure how much I'll be able to help him. The overall playability of the instrument is excellent and needs very little work. It will need a new nut (which I don't do), and it has a really bad chunk that's been taken out of lower horn on the back. Since Nik only paid $200 for this guitar used, I am not sure if it's worth getting the damage repaired professionally, especially if it costs nearly as much or equal to what he paid for it. We are going to have it looked at by a local luthier to get an estimate.

But as far as a cool guitar that sounds and plays good, this one is a winner. The loser that owned it before Nik was obviously of the younger generation of hack "guitar players" that tune everything down 5 steps and "single finger" chord all the rhythm parts. :) There is zero fret wear on this thing because no lead was ever played on it! Sad for the loser, great for my buddy Nik!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ibanez S Complete!

I finally finished the Ibanez S cleanup project for my friend, Nik. He can now safely sell it at Guitar Center for a profit. As I said in my first entry on this guitar, Nik bought it on eBay for a little less than $200. When it arrived we were both shocked at how horrible the condition of this guitar was! :) It was really bad. It's not much better now because it still needs a complete refret and a good professional buffing on the clearcoat... but our goal was to get it into a clean, sellable condition and that's what I did. (You can see the original condition in the top right photo.)

I replaced the two humbuckers with some cheap Ibanez V7s and V8s left over from one of Nik's other guitars, and they work and sound great. I totally dismantled the whole guitar and soaked all the metal parts that were corroded and/or rusted in Naptha and wirebrushed them clean. I steelwooled the neck and frets and then applied two separate applications of lemon oil (it was really dry).

I put everything back together and strung it up to pitch. Works better than it probably ever has. Whoever owned it before really abused it. It's just nice to have this nasty thing cleaned up and done so I can move on to more worthy instruments! :)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fender Strat Regains Its Tone

My American Deluxe Strat lost its tone. Seriously. I had no idea how dead and dull this guitar sounded until I got my new Malmsteen Strat. After listening to them both, plugged in and unplugged, I determined that my American Strat was simply dead... toneless. I had no idea why or what to do about it other than sell it for a replacement.

Then I realized that the Tusq saddles might be the problem. I really like the Graphtech stuff and I currently have the black ones on my Ernie Ball MusicMan Petrucci guitar and I love the sound of them. On my Strat, however, they sounded dull and sustainless. I dug up the original stainless steel saddles and put them back on. Wham! The tone was back and the sustain was awesome. Not quite as nice as the YJM, but pretty close. The original stainless saddles are extra hard, so I shouldn't have any burrs or tuning problems with them. The repair person I used just put the Tusq saddles on and assured me they were better. They weren't. ;) It took getting another Strat for comparison to realize just how bad they were.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Malmer Gets New Strings and a Setup

Ok. After 5 days with the YJM Strat it was time to go ahead and do the inevitable. It needed to have those Fender Bullets removed and replaced with a set of Ernie Ball Hybrids, a truss rod adjustment, some work on the tremolo and final intonation. So, I got work on the string replacement, first, and all went smoothly. I now prefer a hybrid string set that is one half .009s (on the unwounds) and one half .010s (on the wounds). I like these because you get the ease of bends and light feel of .009s for solo stuff and the heavy solid tone of .010s for rhythm and chords.

Note: Despite my initial inclination of replacing the original tuners with locking vintage style tuners, I have changed my mind. I plan to keep this guitar 100% stock except for the strap buttons, which I changed to locking Schallers.

Stringing up a vintage "F" style Kluson design tuner is not easy for someone who's never done it before, that's for sure. ;) I went with the Fender factory wrap technique, but there are many ways to wrap the strings on these tuner types. The simple two kink factory method seems to work just fine and provides flawless tuning stability for tremolo use in my opinion, and it's easy to do. Just look at those wraps! Perfect.

After the string change I tuned up and made my first truss rod adjustment, then made my necessary tremolo angle adjustments due to the heavier bass strings in my new set. I also adjusted the six synchro screws... raising the middle four above the plate and keeping the two outside screws flush. This increases the accuracy of the return and no tone is lost because all six screws remain in contact with the bridge. After my final truss rod adjustment, I then adjusted the intonation to compensate for the newer, larger gauge bass strings and I was done. ;)

She now plays and sounds better than ever. The action is a little stiffer with the new strings (which I like), mainly due to the tremolo spring adjustments (I had to crank the claw in more, thus adding a little more tension to the bridge). It plays great and sounds phenomenal! :)

Friday, December 09, 2005

New Guitar!! Yngwie Malmsteen Strat...

Well, I just got another guitar! (number 15, or so) ;) It's a brand new Yngwie Malmsteen sig Strat, and it is awesome! I am so pleased with this guitar that I couldn't stop playing it. I must have played for more than 4 hours straight until I noticed that my wrist was about to fall off.

The first thing I did was plug it in and play a few licks and tune it up. Once it was fairly stable and staying in tune, I instantly began creating a patch for it on my Pod XT. I ended up with a variation on my main patch I use for my humbucking guitars that's called "Atomic Deity"... I renamed the new patch "Atomic Malmsteen". It's basically a Diezel amp model running through a Boogie cab with a touch of reverb and some light delay (about the only effects I ever use), but in order to get the Malmsteen Strat to sound as big and ballsy as my other guitars I changed the gain settings on my patch. The new Malmsteen patch has one very important difference... less gain on the amp model itself and the addition of the Tube Screamer distortion pedal model. This allowed me to take the gain up to an insane level so that the HS3 single coil pickup nearly matches my high-gain humbuckers in my other guitars. The tone is wonderful, and comes close to Malmsteen's (though, of course, not exactly).

I play my XT through Atomic Amps, which I love. In my opinion you can't get a better tone with any modeler than running through an Atomic. I have two of them, which I stack. They have a real tube preamp and power section in them running JJ EL84 tubes and one 12AX7 preamp tube. The sound is amazing... it adds the punch and natural tube compression back into the sound that the XT just can't replicate. I highly recommend these amps!

The Malmsteen is pretty much flawless. The most amazing thing is how well the tremolo stays in tune right out of the box. We are not talking EVH divebombs here, but a fairly aggressive moderately deep vibrato that would throw just about any brand new Fender American Standard or Deluxe right out of tune doesn't even knock this guitar even slightly out of tune. This stability will only get better with time. I can see this guitar improving to the point of handling divebombs and other "Floyd" tricks with ease. I will most likely be changing out the tuners with retro fit locking "vintage" tuners by Gotoh. These are a direct fit and won't require any drilling or other mods to the guitar. So I can always go back to stock if I want and there won't be any holes left over from using modern style tuners.

My next mission is to learn as much about the vintage tremolo as possible. I have never had one of these, and they are quite different than the 2 post fulcrum trems that I am accustomed to (be it a Floyd or Fender Standard or whatever). I am looking forward to getting familiarized with this tremolo and figuring out how to get the most from it and getting it to stay in perfect tune. I have already learned of some tricks that I can't wait to try.

I highly recommend this guitar! It is so awesome and plays so good. The scalloped neck makes fretting super easy... the action is higher on this guitar than any of my others, yet it doesn't seem like it is due to the scallops. This is great, because I can keep the action a little higher and, thus, avoid potential choking and fret buzz.

A quick word on the pickups and tone. I can't believe how ballsy and heavy this guitar can sound! I am a humbucker guy all the way, and I was worried about the bridge single coil (DiMarzio HS3) potentially being too thin or weak for my taste. I was wrong. With my new patch dialed in with more distortion, I am able to easily get a full, high gain metal tone from this guitar suitable for anything from Metallica to Yngwie's music itself. This pickup is amazing. It takes on the extra gain with a level of articulation that none of my humbucking guitars can touch. Every note in the chord rings out and the overtones and harmonics just jump out at you. DiMarzio dialed back the treble in the HS3 and the YJM pickups (middle and neck) to give the guitar a darker, less "thin" tone typically associated with vintage Strats. The result is a beautiful, singing thick tone that has to be played to be believed. :)

Ok, I have to go practice my Yngwie licks now. Later...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Schecter Omen 006

My buddy Nik brought over his Schecter Omen tonight for me to set up. What a great guitar. For around $300 I can't believe how good this thing is.

It was a simple setup with a truss rod adjustment and lowering the action on the Tune-O-Matic bridge. It plays great, like a true shred guitar. When Nik bought it a while back I gave him some pickups that came on my Ibanez RG1570 that I didn't particularly like. When we put them in his guitar, though, they ended up sounding fantastic. I think it is due to the mahogany body of the Schecter vs. the basswood body of my RG. Those pickups just seem better suited to the darker tonal qualities of mahogany.

For the price point, this guitar is hard to beat.