It's no secret that I like Epiphone guitars. I also like Gibsons. And Fenders. And a good Gretsch. Gosh, I just really like guitars. I also like modding and even fixing them sometimes.
That said, if I were to pick my top 5 guitars from my woodpile, they would probably be these, and in this order.
Four of those guitars have been modded in some way. The Strat is the only one that is bone stock. I kept saying I was going to swap out the pickups in it, but every time I decide it's time to do so, I pick it up and play it, and like the way it sounds. So it has managed to remain untouched. I guess I did add a couple of springs to it to deck the trem, but I'm not sure that completely counts.
The Gibson ES-339 is mostly un-modded. The only thing I've done to it is to swap out the bridge. I didn't like the bridge that came was on it when I bought it. I'm not completely sure it was the original bridge either. So I bought one and swapped it out. It came with 57 Classics in it, and that's how I'm leaving it.
The Epiphone 339 has had the pickups swapped out and two of the knobs have been swapped. The original shipment of those that Epiphone sold were advertised to come with their Probucker pickups. When I ordered mine, and even when it came in, they were still advertising those as the pickups. However, when I got mine in and checked it, it had the Alnico Classic pickups. I found out that, after that first batch that came over, they had swapped the pickups in all the 339s, but they hadn't updated their ads or specs on the website. I was disappointed, but the ones in it didn't sound bad. Still, I always wondered what the Probuckers would sound like in it. A year ago, I ended up with an extra set of Probuckers, so I finally got to hear what the 339 sounded like with them in it.
The Epi LP originally came with Probuckers in it. A Probucker 1 in the neck and 2 in the bridge. I really liked them. In truth, I saw no reason to change them out. Played it for a year and a half or so with those in it. Then one day I got a wild hair and decided to grab a pair of Burstbuckers (a 1 and a 2) and drip them in to see what they sounded like. Honestly, I liked the Probucker 1 better that the Burstbucker in the neck, but the Burstbucker 2 sounds better than the Probucker 2 in the bridge. Because I'm lazy and didn't want to mess with it again, the Burstbuckers have stayed in the LP.
Those Probuckers out of the LP were what went into the 339.
The Epiphone 335 came with the Alnico Classic pickups. I was quite happy with those. They sounded as good as the 57 Classics that were in the Gibson 335 that I had traded off a couple years previous. I had no plans to replace them. I played it for a year with it being bone stock. Then, back in December, I unplugged my cable from it, and the jack fell back into the guitar. Then, while I was trying to fish the jack out and back into the hole, I screwed up one of the pots. So, since I didn't feel like I had the time to I decided to carry it into the my local luthier. And, since I was carrying it in for electronics work, I started making a list of what I wanted him to do to it. Basically, put in another jack and replace the push/pull pots in it. Since I was doing that, I decided to pick up a couple of 57 Classics to put in it. When I dropped it off to the luthier, I have him do all of that at the same time. Got it back, and have been super happy with the sound of it.
You'll notice that, by and large, it's the pickups that have been swapped. I know that there are a LOT of different pickups out there, and a LOT of those pickups sound really good. You may notice that all of the pickups that I have talked about are Gibson branded in some way. That's mostly because I know what they sound like because I've played them at some point in time. So I've stuck with them. I know that Lollar Imperials are supposed to be super good. I've also been told that the Bare Knuckle brand is super good.
By my own admission, with the humbuckers I've always picked, I have always seemed to chase that PAF sound. In the Gibson stable, the 57 Classics and the Burstbuckers are both supposed to get that sound. Of the Burstbuckers, the Burstbucker 1 and 2 would be closer to that vintage 50s LP kind of sound. In the Epiphone world, it has been my understanding that the Alnico Classics are the Epi version of the 57 Classics and the Probuckers are the Epi version of Burstbuckers. I once read that, from a PAF perspective, the Burst/Probucker 1 & 2 combination would be that 50s sound. The Burst/Probucker 2 & 3 combination would be that 60s sound. And the 57/Alnico Classic combination would be that 70s sound.
So, except for the Epiphone ES-339, all of the pickups were just swapped from the Epiphone version to the Gibson version. In that 339, I just swapped from one Epiphone version to another Epiphone version. In the case of the ones being swapped from the Epi version to the Gibson version, the Gibson pickups do sound better. The Epiphone ones sound good. They're not bad. I could absolutely play them and be happy. But, since I swapped them out, I'll say that the Gibsons seem to have the edge when it comes to clarity and range. I think there's a reason that they cost twice as much, and isn't just the name on the box they came in.
Maybe some day I'll try some other pickups like the Lollars I mentioned. I hear the low-wind Imperials are just the best. In fact, I've got a buddy that said that's what he has in his 335, and his guitar sounds amazing. Course his overall tone is a step above mine too.
All that to say, if you don't like the sound of the guitar, try some new pickups. Heck. Even if you like the sound, try some new ones and see if you like them better. Or leave them the same. At least for me, half the fun is in the tinkering.
Our personal musical journeys are always filled with twists and turns. So often we start down one road and end up going in a completely different direction. I was talking to Mrs Snarf the other day about that very thing.
I played for years and only played acoustics. Then I bought my first electric. It was a low end, import Parker. I don't remember the model number. I only remember a few things about it. I never really bonded with it. It was a weird Parker because it was an SSH. And I traded it at a guitar shop in a little town several hours away to a shop keeper that just saw Parker and gave me waaaaay to much for it because he thought he had something special (he didn't). I traded it straight up on my first Strat.
Honestly, I got that Strat to impress Mrs Snarf. We weren't even dating at the time, but I thought she needed to see me with a guitar for some reason. I immediately named it after her. It also made it into our engagement pictures. Kind of cheesy if you ask me. But sometimes life is ooey and gooey like that.
Neeways, I started playing that guitar, and I really liked it. It was, in my opinion, a much better guitar than the Parker. Honestly, though, it was probably more that I just didn't know what I was doing when I bought the Parker. But the Strat left an impression on me. When it came time to buy another electric, I bought a second Strat. Heck! At one point, I had 5 Strats. Currently, I only have 4. And, for the time being, that's probably where the count will stay.
Between that first and second Strat, I actually bought a really low end Les Paul. I don't really count it, because I never bonded with it. It was a low end instrument with a LOT of the problems that you would expect from something that was at that price point. The humbuckers in it were...I'll be nice and call them muddy. They didn't sound good. I ended up swapping them out for a pair of Burstbuckers, and it sounded a LOT better, but it still played terribly. So, by and large, it stayed in the closet.
About 10 years ago now, when Epiphone first started making the ES-339, I picked one of those up. I tried to get in on that first run of them, but didn't get one ordered in time. So I put my order in and waited like 6 months for the next shipment of them to come over. Got the guitar, and it almost never went in the case. I liked the way it sounded and the way it played. It made me think I might like humbuckers better than single coils. Then I got my 1962 50th Anniversary Sheraton. Loved the sound of that one! Initially I thought it was the fact that it had humbuckers too (even though it's mini-hums in it). Then, because I have always like the aesthetic of an ES-335, I got one of those. Oddly enough, I LOVED the sound of that one, but I never bonded with it. There was something just not right about it. But I got to wondering, at that point, my 3 favorite guitars were all semi-hollows, so was it the humbuckers or the semi-hollow that I liked.
Fast forward another couple years, and I was trading the 335 off. I picked up that Epiphone Les Paul when I did, and really liked the sound of it. I figured I was just turning into an humbucker kind of guy. But I realized that I still liked the sound of the 339 better than the LP. Then a year later, I picked up the Epi 335. I totally dug the sound of it. So I started doing the A/B thing with some of my guitars, and I realized that I think I have a thing for semi-hollows with humbuckers. That sound just really does it for me.
A few months after that, I had always told myself I wanted a real live Gibson ES-339, preferably made in the area of 2010 when the Custom Shop was making all of them. I had been trolling for a particular color. Found what I thought was a screamin' deal on one on the other side of the Metroplex. So I got it. And it has been my main guitar since. When Mrs Snarf and I were having the conversation the other day, I had realized that the second guitar hanging on the wall since I got the 339 has been either the LP or the 335. And mostly been the 335.
I've kind of done a 180. I started the electric guitar journey with single coils in a solid body. For several years, I thought they were the only pickups that were any good. If you played anything with humbuckers, then you were just letting your tone suffer. Now I pull a Strat out on occasion, but I primarily grab a semi-hollow with humbuckers in it, and I sometimes think that single coils sound kind of anemic. Unless they're P-90s, but those are a whole other animal.
Funny how that happens sometimes.
Back in 2019 I became aware of the NuX brand of pedals. Maybe it was actually the end of 2018. It was whenever they announced that they were making a Klone. At that time, I was on a kick to try just about every pedal of that variety that I could find, especially the cheap ones. I already had several, and had my favorites (which are still my favorites today), but NuX announced their Horseman. It caught my interest because, knowing there were two types of Klons (the gold and silver), but not really knowing what the difference in them was, NuX was apparently making a klone that could be changed from one type to the other just by holding the switch down long.
So, shortly after it was announced, I placed my order for it. It was supposed to ship in like 2 months. After nearly 3, I got a notice that shipping had been delayed, but it was still coming. After waiting a total of about 4 months, I finally got it in hand. I excitedly pulled it out and put it in my chain to test out.
I was underwhelmed on all counts.
Granted, I'm not a huge Klon fan, I think in the right places, it is a standout pedal. Yes, I am one of those folks that Josh Scott hates because I like it at the front of all my drives on an amp that is just beginning to get some hair. Set the volume to push the amp and the drive at about 9 o'clock, and I think, on the right amp, that is one of those guitar tones that people chase. Sorry, not sorry, Mr JHS.
The NuX Horseman just didn't do much for me. It quickly got put in the closet and forgotten. A few months later, I pulled it out and tested it against some of the klones I had at the time. It didn't do very well. In fact, it went back in the closet, and was one of the first pedals I grabbed in the great gear purge of 2020.
On a sort of related note, in that same gear purge, I got rid of a Vertex Steel String Clean Drive. I had never really bonded with it, so it got sold. I'll come back to this in a sec.
So, earlier this year, I kept getting those targeted adds for the NuX Ace of Tone. I was completely unfamiliar with it. Turns out it is a double pedal with their Morning Star on one side and their Tubeman on the other. Two things caught my eye about it. First, it has a switch so that you can change the signal so it routes to the side that you want it to hit first. So it can go left to right or right to left. Second, the MS side is supposed to be their Blues Breaker circuit, and the TM side is a TS-type circuit. A good TS of some sort has been on my board since I first started buying pedals. The first OD pedal I bought was a TS-copy, but I didn't know it at the time.
Neeways, it was the BB side that I really wanted to try. I had heard a couple of guys talking about those along with the legendary King of Tone just before I started seeing the ads. I had never tried a BB-type that I knew of, and only knew that the KoT was talked about in the same hushed tones as the original Klons. Since, this had the circuit that I wanted to try as well as the circuit I always used and I could route it through either side first, I figured the worst that could happen would be for me to buy it, and then flip it because it sucked.
I had some Amazon gift credit, so I grabbed it there on the cheap. Got it the next day, plugged it in, and it has held a spot on my Affordaboard since. I prefer it routed right to left (BB -> TS). Honestly, I'm not super impressed with the TS side. It's just missing something that every other TS-type I've got (and kept) has. But I forgive that because the BB side sounds really good to me. It has a little thing on it called Shine-mode that pushes the treble, and, with that on, the pedal just sounds super good to me.
Then, back during the fall, I was talking to someone about trying to get that Robben Ford sound, and they told me that a lot of it was because he was using a Dumble amp. I don't ever see me getting a Dumble. Even if I am ever in a position to afford one, I don't think I could rationalize it. So I decided to try a D-type pedal. When I googled those, I saw the NuX Steel Singer. Since I had been liking the Ace of Tone so much, I decided to check them out. I found one on Reverb for $25 that looked in good shape, so I got it.
When it came in, I thought it looked an awful lot like that Vertex I had never liked. So, I immediately discounted it because I never really liked the Vertex. Although, in retrospect, I may not've given it a fair shake. I plugged the pedal in and started playing around with it. I immediately dug it! Kind of like this klones I have always had at the front of my ODs, I leave the gain really low and was using it to just push the amp. I like it better than any of my sub-$100 klones enough that it ended up taking that space on my Affordaboard.
Then, last week, I was thinking I wanted to try a cheap Marshall in a box. Saw one of the NuX Plexi Crunch pedals on Reverb for $20 and grabbed it. I don't have a Marshall to judge it against, but it sounds about like I expected it to sound. It'll probably get traded off at some point, but I'll hang on to it for a while.
Now they're advertising that Queen of Tone. It's a BB-circuit and their klone. Granted, I didn't like their stand-alone klone, I may give the dual pedal a shot. Just because. I haven't decided though. I got the Ace of Tone brand new for $110, but they're asking $200 for the Queen of Tone. I could get the two individual pedals for $120, so why would I want to spend an extra $80 just for them to be in the same box. If they drop the price to the price of the Ace of Tone, I may grab one.
That's been my NuX journey since I first heard about them. Some of their stuff has been extremely average, and some of their stuff I have really liked. You'll see the Steel Singer and Ace of Tone both on my Affordaboard below.
What budget-minded pedals have you tried that surprised you? Was it a good surprise or a bad one? Did any of them stay on your board? Let me know in the comments.
Last week I talked about my two Strats. Well, two of my Strats. The two Strats that I have that I play anyways. I think I have four. Maybe five. The Hwy One, the ADE, the Monterey Strat from 2017, and the Splattercaster. I think that's all of them.
Since I mentioned them last time, I thought I'd talk about the Hwy One and the ADE.
The Highway One is a 2009 according to the serial number. Mrs Snarf bought it for me in really early 2010. I had started working my way through Griff Hamlin's Blues Guitar Unleashed course, and, to motivate myself, I decided that I would buy myself a MIA Strat once I got done with it. Had it already picked out and everything. My wife walked in one day, let me know that she had gotten a pretty good bonus at work, and told me to buy the Strat that I had been looking at. So I ordered it well before I finished the course.
Don't quote me on this, but I think the Hwy One series was built from early 2000s through 2010. In 2010 or 2011, I believe they were replaced by the American Performer series. As I recall, they changed a few things in the series long about 2006. I think they changed the pickups, but the thing I remember most is that they added the Rust Bucket tone control. I don't remember what exactly it does, but I think I remember the ads saying something about cuts the highs without adding more lows.
Mine's a 3 color sunburst with an ebony fretboard. Whatever pickups are in the Hwy One series (I never found out) with the middle being reverse wound, reverse polarity. A 1970s headstock. A modern C-shape neck. That Rust Bucket tone control I mentioned earlier. I've heard over the years that the electronics are all American and I've heard that they were the same electronics as they put into the MIM Strats.
I've always liked the the finish on it. It's a satin finish, and since it's a sunburst, you can really see the wood grain through it. Also, since it's satin, the more you play it, the more the areas of wear shine.
I've never quite figured out the Rust Bucket part of the tone control. It does what a tone control is supposed to do. However, I've always like that the first tone control runs the tone on the neck pickup, and the second tone control runs the bridge pickup. There is no tone control on the middle pickup that seldom gets used.
It has what I would consider a modern Strat sound. The pickups seem a little hotter than regular single coils. At least hotter than the usual stock pickup on a Strat. Playing through the positions, it definitely sounds like a Strat.
The other is a 2013 American Design Experience. That's the equivalent of a current Mod Shop guitar. Before the Mod Shop, where you can order whatever pretty much whatever guitar you want online, Fender had the American Design Experience. It was the predecessor of the Mod Shop. And before they had the online American Design Experience, they had the one where I got my guitar. When I got mine, you actually had to go to the factory out in Corona. It's probably the closest thing I'll ever own to a real Fender Custom Shop.
Now, when you got to Corona, there was the little visitor center that had a gift shop and museum-ish area. Then, off to the side, there was this small room over on the side where you could go and spec out a guitar. They had bodies, necks, pickups, bridges, and all the other hardware around the room and on the walls, and you could pick out what you wanted in a guitar. If it was in the room, then it was an option on your guitar. If it wasn't in the room, then it wasn't something you could pick.
Over in one corner was a rack that had probably 20 Strat bodies and 20 Tele bodies and maybe 10 or 15 bass bodies. I had wanted a surf green one, but they didn't have any in the rack, and the guy reminded me that if it wasn't in the room then it wasn't an option. I ended up picking a body color that I hadn't seen before. It wasn't really that special other than the fact that I had (and still haven't) seen that color anywhere. The one I picked is a satin orange color. I went over and played with the rack of necks and ended up with a fairly standard one-piece maple neck.
Then I went over to the hardware and picked a set of vintage tuners and one of the modern bridges. Got to the pickups, and the guy showed me the list on the wall. There were the standard pickups plus the Noiseless and Custom Shop 50s and a couple of other Custom Shop varieties. The ones that I wanted were the CS 69s, and they weren't on the list. So I mentioned that to the guy, and he said that they had pulled them off the list because they were in short supply at the time. But then he let me know that he'd be sure that my guitar got a set of 69s in it.
From there, everything went into a box with my name on it that went into the corner of the room with some other boxes that had names on them. Two months later, it arrived on my doorstep. By the time all was said and done, it was a nice balance between a Standard and a Deluxe. The total cost of it was also right dead in between the two. And it was also twice as much as the Hwy One.
I believe that my opinion is being objective when I say that they're both super nice guitars. Out of the box (and even today) the fit and finish on both of them are great. They both play great, but, as I mentioned in the previous post, the Hwy One plays a little better. Not sure what it is about it, but it does. They both sound like a Strat, but those CS 69s in the ADE Strat just sound soooo nice. For the money, they're both great guitars. Bang for the buck, you can't beat the Hwy One. Total cost, the ADE is a super nice guitar as well.
I bought that ES-339 back in April (I think), and it's about all I've played since then. I kept a 335 out hanging on the wall for a bit that I would pick up occasionally. About a month ago, I put the 335 up and pulled out a Telecaster, and it's the guitar that I've picked up about once a week when I wasn't playing the 339. I've been reminded how much I like some single coil pickups.
Now the Telecaster has always had a couple of issues. I bought it a little over a year ago. Back in the great gear purge of 2020, I traded a 50s Road Worn Tele because I never played it. Like never. It was one of the original Road Worns. Or at least one of the first couple of years they were making those (I think). It wasn't a color that I really liked (blonde), but the neck on it was the best strat/tele neck that I had ever touched. It was for that reason I bought it. And pretty quickly realized I wasn't a Tele kind of guy. When I traded it, I think it had sat in the closet pretty much untouched for at least the 3 years we had lived in this house.
Then I started seeing that purple Tele from Anderton's over in the UK, and really liked the look of it. Like really liked the purple look of it. Then I saw that GC was selling a Road Worn version of it. It had been out a year or two, and I could already see that they were becoming more scarce. So, when I saw Musicians Friend put them on sale in the summer of 2021, I pulled the trigger and am pretty sure that I got one of the last new ones. When I ordered it, MF had them on sale, but they were listed on both the MF and GC website. I ordered mine, got the ship notification, and the next day the listing on both sites showed them as no longer available.
So back to the couple of issues. Had I played this one at the local GC (I ordered it from MF, but it came from a GC across the country), I probably would've passed on it. It had hung on the wall long enough that the hanger had burned the neck up by the nut. The neck didn't feel anywhere near as good as the one on the previous Road Worn, and the skunk stripe wasn't sanded real smooth. But the biggest thing is that the fret ends were terrible. I don't think it had a case of fret sprout. I think it was that whoever cut the frets just did a bad job or maybe had a dull set of cutters. But, I figured that everybody needed a Tele, I had traded away one that wasn't bad for one that wasn't as good, but I really like the purple, so I ought to keep it since it doesn't look like I can get another one for the price I paid. So I kept it and figured I'd do something about the frets at some point.
That was the long way around the bush to say that, after playing it a few times this month, I finally pulled out my tools to try and smooth out the fret ends. And, since i had my stuff out and was taking up all the space on the kitchen island, I pulled out a couple of Strats since I haven't one of them out in at least a year.
After I got them out and cleaned them up and changed the strings, I decided that I was going to do something I had never done before. I decided to A/B them for a few minutes. Not that it really matters, but they're both MIA, but one cost twice what the other cost. They're both great guitars! The fit and finish on them both has always been outstanding. Even never having played them back to back like this (I always seemed to have one or the other out, but never both at the same time) I knew that I liked the way one felt and played better than the other. So it was time to check out if I still thought the same thing about them.
One is a Highway One. Mrs Snarf bought it for me at the beginning of 2010. It's the one that I've always preferred the feel of. It just sits in the hands right and the action is pretty much just like I like it. It sounds like a Strat should. It's a bone stock 2009 model. Although I've talked about it for years. I've never changed anything on it but the strings.
The other is a Fender American Design Experience from 2013. It is from before they put that option online. When I got mine you had to go to the factory, and, in that little room off to the side of the gift shop, you would pick out your body, neck, and all the rest of the specs that you wanted that they had available. Unlike what they started doing when they started doing it online, you had your choice of what was in the room at the time. If they didn't have it in the room, you couldn't choose it. The day I spec-ed mine out, there were maybe 20 Strat bodies and maybe 10 necks.
There are several differences in the ADE and the Hwy One, but one of the biggest is that it has Custom Shop '69 pickups in it. Those weren't actually on the list to choose from (although other CS pickups were), but when I asked about them, the builder that was in the room that day noted that's what I wanted and said those were in short supply at the time so they took them off the list, but he'd be sure mine got them. With that, he put all the components from around the room that I had picked out into a box, put my name on it, and set on the side of the room with a couple of other boxes with names on them. About 2 months later, the guitar showed up on my doorstep. The cost of it was somewhere between an American Standard and an American Deluxe, and is probably the closest thing I'll ever had to buying a Fender Custom Shop.
That was another bush to take you around, so back to playing them back to back.
Spent about 30 minutes just playing the same riffs and licks and chords through the same amp set the exact same way. I was actually a little surprised at the results.
I didn't expect that I would so quickly be reminded that I really prefer the feel of the Hwy One. It still just feels right to me. Something about it that I'm not sure I can describe. Theoretically, the two guitars should be really similar feeling since I set them up myself and aim for the same thing on every Strat and Tele I have. I follow the same process, and I try to get them all to feel the same way. Maybe it's the cut of the neck or something. I don't really know. But that Hwy One just feels better than the ADE. If I was just going off sound, I would go with the Hwy One every day.
I think the sound of the two was what really surprised me though. There is no question that the Hwy One sounds like a Strat. It very much does. But I think I made the comment when I first started playing the ADE that I finally understood what they meant when they said a good Strat sounds glassy. Those ADE pickups just sound sooooo good to my ear. The Hwy One has its own unique Strat sound, but the ADE sounds like a Strat should sound. The Hwy One plays better than the ADE, but, when I try to be objective, I think the ADE almost runs circles around the Hwy One when it comes to sound.
So, after working on the Tele last night and getting those fret ends down so they don't cut you, I've almost decided to put the Tele back in the closet and leave out one of the Strats instead. The question now is which one. It'll probably be the ADE since it sounds so nice.
There's probably some music that you and your circle of friends will laugh at. If they catch you listening to it, they'll jeer and make fun of you until you concede that the music is bad and shouldn't anybody listen to it. I know we have that music in the circles that I run in.
For me, it generally falls into 2 categories. There's that angsty, man-hating, Lilith Fair sounding music from the 90s that no straight guy listened to. Then there was that late 90s and early 2000's pop led by Britney and Christina and the others that were in their late teens and early 20s at the time. It wasn't that we weren't into girls or anything. Heck, it was just the opposite. But the music that a lot of the women were producing at the time just seemed... Well it wasn't rock and roll, and we just weren't going to listen to it. It wasn't even until the Continuum album that any of us would listen to John Mayer.
And now, 20 or 25 years after that music was coming out, we continue to to make fun of it and anybody that listens to it.
Starting 2 or 3 years ago, I made a playlist on Amazon that includes a bunch of the stuff that we make fun of. And I've discovered that some of it is really good! And, to take it a step further, I've played some of it on the sly to some of my buddies, and it's been kind of fun, when they make a comment about "that's a great song" to give them a wry grin and say "yeah that's your girl Britney Spears" and watch them die just a little bit inside.
And I'm still discovering some of that music. Just a couple of weeks ago, for the first time, I listened to Jagged Little Pill for the first time. I officially apologize for all the ridicule I've sent Alanis Morissette's way over the years. That is a great album! And it's well deserving of all the praise it got back when it came out in the 90s.
Were all those Lilith Fair ladies all the man-hating, angsty, girl-power women that we said they were back in 1999? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that the music that they were making wasn't actually all that bad. To me, the music of Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, and Jewel will never be that of Collective Soul, but they were putting out some good stuff.
Some of the music like Genie in a Bottle will probably always remain on that Guilty Pleasures playlist, but some of it what's on there has slowly been getting added to some other playlists.
The question I've been asking myself the last few years is why I consider that music "guilty pleasure." Is it because of the perceived stigma that a straight guy shouldn't be listening to it? Is it because it's not really that good? Well, since I've been finding out that some of that music is good, it's begun to occur to me that the music that I don't consider good is still fun to listen to (that Pink Britney Aguilera school of music). I guess that means the answer is the first part...that perceived stigma.
Here's your takeaway for today. Go out and find some of that music that you always have said is bad for whatever reason. That reason might be that you actually listened but it didn't grab you. Or it might've been a bias against the music that originally kept you from listening. Pick it up now and listen to it with an open mind. If it's not good or if it's not fun to listen to, then file it back in the drawer to not pick up again. But with fresh ears, you might like it. Or it might make you tap your toe and shake your tailfeather. You never know. You just might find out that it's not as bad as you originally thought.
I've been buying pedals lately. Not that I need another pedal of any variety. It's just fun. Truth is, I'm about at that point that I need to put some up for sale or go trade them in or something because I'm running out of space. But maybe I'll sell some later. First I need to rant about a couple of things.
First. Reverb sellers I'm looking at you. If you're firm in your price, then say that in the listing, and turn the Make an Offer button off. I try not to lowball anyone. It irritates me when folks do that to me, and, if I wish folks wouldn't do it to me, then I shouldn't do it to them. It's the whole "do unto others" thing. If the Make an Offer button is there, I will typically click it and offer anywhere from 5% to 15% less than they're asking. Or, if they're charging shipping, I might go as high as offering whatever the price is minus the shipping. And most folks are cool. They may not be interested in taking my offer, but they'll counter and throw me a bone, and give me a few bucks off. In my mind, that's how the game is played.
Lately, however, I've had several items that I've been interested in. The Make an Offer button is there and available, so I'll do my usual offering a little less. If you make an offer, Reverb gives 24 hours for you to reply before it expires.
Quick note: when I make an offer, I always make sure to check the box that, if they'll accept my offer, I'll buy the item.
So, back to the 24 hour expiration time frame. My experience has been that most folks that I've bought from have responded within just a few minutes. In each of the instances recently, the quickest response was one from last night that took 13 hours for me to get a response. And when I get the responses lately, it has been something along the lines of "my price is fair and firm. The price is $XX."
Fair enough. You're not interested in dealing. I've sold stuff like that, but, when I did, I turned off the dang Offer button. And, in each of the instances recently, it took long enough for the seller to respond that I found what I think was a better deal. So, as soon as I got the Declined notice, I pulled the trigger on the other. Also, had the seller countered and just given me a few bucks off, I would've bought it from them despite finding the better deal. Also, also, it's been kind of vindicating to watching these recent items that I made the offers to the "fair and firm" sellers and got shot down. Every one of them is still for sale on Reverb. If they'd been cool and knocked even a couple bucks off the price and they would've sold their item. Instead, they're still waiting to sell them. Some of these could've sold last night and some could've sold a couple of months ago. And that's their prerogative. So if they're happy about it, then so am I.
Second thing is this. At least make an attempt to be objectively honest about the condition of what you're selling. I know that you think what you're selling is A+ condition and should command top dollar, but that may not actually be the case.
For instance, there is a pedal that I was looking at recently that said it was in Very Good condition. According to Reverb's grading verbiage says "Very Good items may show a few slight marks or scratches but are fully functional and in overall great shape." For your frame of reference, this pedal was a Boss pedal. You know what a Boss pedal looks like. Now here is my realistic description of this "very good" pedal.
The bottom of this pedal was missing the sticker. That's ok, but, in it's place was all this sticky looking white residue that looked like somebody had put duct tape on the bottom, let it sit for a year or two, and then pulled it off. The top of the pedal wasn't much better. The face plate was scratched in several places, and it had been stomped enough that you could mostly make out the Boss logo on the pedal. Then there were the sides. Oh the sides. Somebody had decided to write on the pedal. By scratching into the paint. So the pedal had their credo down the side of it in such a way that the only way to repair it would be to sandblast the case and repaint it. And they were calling this thing in Very Good condition.
I'm sure the pedal worked fine. Truth is, one of the reasons I saw it was because it was from a store that I have bought from in the past. Did I mention that it wasn't an individual selling this pedal? It was a flippin' store! That's one reason I don't buy used from GC online. My experience has been that you can buy something online from them that is listed as Excellent condition, and it is anything but excellent. Reverb is turning into the same kind of free for all it seems. The difference in Reverb and GC is that Reverb will generally have multiple pics that you can look at and judge a more accurate condition of it. GC you're lucky to get one out of focus pic where you're left to the mercies and judgement of whatever disinterested employee posted the listing.
So to recap, if you sell used gear, here are two thing that will make you more successful in life. If you're not interested in entertaining offers, turn that button off. If you don't, don't be so condescending when you let someone know that you think your gear is worth what you're asking. Truth is, it probably is, but that means there are almost always better deals out there. Second, at least make an attempt at being objective about your gear. I know you've used it and think it should really be prices like an original Klon, but it's still used gear. If it's beat to heck, it's not in mint condition.
That is all. Go forth and buy some gear.
Put together a small board this evening. 5 pedals that I'm already thinking I'm going to swap at least a couple of them out tomorrow. If for no other reason, I wanted to use my Lovepedal Kalamazoo sorta-copy (my Tone City Durple), but it's got a side mounted power port, and I'm having trouble getting it plugged in. So I'm probably going to stick a Rat copy on it. Which isn't even close to the same pedal. But the power jack is on the top and the input/output jacks are on the side where they should be.
That got me to thinking. So here are some musings on pedals. And boards.
So I mentioned in my Best Gear of 2021 post that my new Epiphone 335 was the best gear I had bought last year. I still think that. I still don't see it becoming my main player, but, lately, it's the one that I've grabbed first when I walk into my music room. It's just a fun guitar to play, and it sounds really nice.
It's a gold top. Cream colored binding but all the rest of the plastic is black. Epiphone's Alnico Classic Pro pickups are in it. If I remember correctly, those are Epi's version of Gibson's 57 Classics, with the Pro signifying that they're 4-wire instead of 2-wire. Aesthetically, the one thing I wish they would've done would have been to paint the inside edge of the f-holes black instead of body colored (gold). The Gibson 335 I had for a while had that, and I just always thought it looked better that way. I haven't measured it, but I think it has the same neck that is on my Standard 50s Les Paul. It has that same handful of a feel that I've come to really like instead of the really thin necks that a couple of my older Epiphones have.
Sonically, it's not bad. That's not to say that it's not good. It is. But, remembering back to the Gibson, the Epi pickups sound nice, but they're not as articulate as the ones that were in the Gibson. Granted, that's sitting in the quiet of my practice space. It's not something I think I would notice if I were playing out somewhere. It may also be that I'm not remembering the 57 Classics as they really sounded. After all, it's been over a year since I traded that one off. I'm in no hurry to upgrade the pickups (they really do sound pretty good), but it is something that I will probably end up doing some day. Kind of like my Gretsch, one day I'll come across the right pickups for the right price, and I'll know that it's time to go ahead and upgrade them. Until then, they will definitely serve the purpose.
Playability is just fine. The action out of the box (out of the store?) was right about what I would've tried to dial in, so, after I got it home, all I did was clean up the guitar-store-funk on it and change the strings. After playing it for a while, one thing I do need to do to it is get it back on the bench and smooth some of the frets up in the squeaky-zone. I don't play up there on a real regular basis, but I've been working some stuff that has a bend on the 17th fret, and every time I hit it, I think it scrapes a little bit.
It's turning out to be a great guitar. It didn't just blow me away like the Standard 50s Les Paul did. But, in all fairness, it was that Probucker 1 at the neck of the LP that continues to pull me back to that guitar. I just really like that sound of that pickup in that guitar. So, didn't blow me away, but it did reach out and grab me at the store, make me take it home, and continues to make me leave it out on the stand and grab it at some point most every day.
Bang for the buck, dollar to value ratio, whatever you want to call it, Epiphone continues to step up their game. This new 335 just further convinces me of that.
I don't remember what politician said that line in the title back in the 90s (I think). Heck, I might've just made it up for all I know, but I'm pretty sure that some politician somewhere pontificating about the economy rattled it off back 25 or so years ago. And that brings me to today's subject: our local guitar shops.
To start, we have more than our share of Guitar Centers in my area. There's one not 10 minutes from the casa (if I catch all the lights right). That's the one I usually go to because it's closest, but, within about 30 - 45 minutes (depending on traffic), there are 2 others. Then there are 4 local shops that shall remain nameless. Granted, I haven't been to any of the local places since the pandemic shut everything down, so I'm assuming there still there.
I've gotten to where I buy most everything online. It's convenient. Find the gear I want, place the order, have it delivered within 2 - 3 days depending on where I get it. Earlier this year, I had a less than optimum experience on an order, but I blame part of it on me. I ordered a name brand guitar from a store overseas, and it came in with issues. The store made an attempt to make it right, but, since I was in the US and their warranty was not, it was a pain to try to get them to cover the work. They ended up crediting me back the cost of the repair, but the guitar is still not what I would call publicly playable. Because of that, it has become my beater/travel guitar because I don't care if it gets stolen or not. Outside of that, the only other problems I have had ordering online were pedals that were DOA. Contact the company back, drop it off at the UPS store, and the replacement arrived a few days later. It's just too easy.
First, there are the local shops. Honestly, if they did make it through the pandemic, I probably won't be back to them soon.
The first one wasn't too far from the house. I liked it because it was close. And if I paid cash, the guy would usually give me a pretty good discount. Bought several things from them, and had tried to make them my go-to store. Then I had a couple of guitars I needed to get setup. The first one was an anniversary edition Epiphone. Not at all your typical Epi. USA made pups, CTS pots and switches, and a premium price tag. Comparing it to any other Epiphone, it felt and played better. Carried that one in to him, and when I went to pick it up after he was done with it, he spent 10 minutes talking about how he used to sell Epiphones, but "they turned to crap" and he quit selling them. Next was just a stock Gretsch Electromatic. Same thing. When I went to pick it up, he carried on for 10 minutes about how all Made in Korea Gretsch guitars were the worst thing ever. Then I saw that he had a stack of Fender Frontline catalogs (remember those?) sitting on his workbench, so I asked if I could have one. So he proceeded to lecture me on why he would not give me one since I didn't need to know all the specifics of what Fender sold. Then he told me he sold Fenders, but kept all his stock in the backroom so nobody would play them that wasn't serious about buying one. You know what? I'm not giving you money so that you can lecture me and call all the gear that I bring in crap. I haven't been in his store in probably 7 years. I saw that he moved. Further away. Then I moved. Further away. Good riddance I say.
The next local place was down not too far from downtown. I went there once, and they had a good stock of budget and name brand stuff. The guy at the counter immediately started directing me away from the stuff that I was looking at towards the very budget gear. Looking at it, it was priced so that I knew he was making a LOT more money on the budget stuff than he was the stuff I wanted to see. I left feeling a bit like he was trying to take advantage of me. Haven't been back. Some day I'll go back just to see if that guy is gone. The store seemed pretty cool, just didn't like that guy. Problem is that it's across town and I have to make an effort to go that way. So, if I'm ever in the area again, I'll stop by, but I'm not going out of my way.
Then there was the local shop that everyone had always told me I absolutely had to visit. So a buddy and I went one Saturday. The place was empty when we walked in except for one employee and one customer that were talking at the counter. They had a good selection and good gear. They even had some cool vintage gear. Prices weren't bad. My buddy and I were pulling guitars off the walls, pointing and talking about some of the stuff in cases, and generally fawning over some of the gear. After about 20 minutes, the other customer person left so it was just us and the employee. There was actually a couple of things that my buddy and I were interested in (he was actually looking for a new acoustic). We were there for probably another 30 minutes. The employee never said hi, bye, or kiss my foot to us, so we eventually left. Spent an hour there, my buddy cash in hand test driving some acoustics, and not even a peep from the store staff. Towards the end, we were quietly laughing over in one of the corners about how the employee never even asked us from across the room if we were looking for anything in particular. We finally left. My buddy spent just over 2 grand on an acoustic later that day at a store where the staff were a little more attentive.
The fourth local shop is a Music Go Round. I have no problem with them. The times I've been there, they've always been courteous, and their prices aren't too bad. The only problems with them are these (and they're not really problems). They sell used, so there have been times I've been in that they didn't have anything I was remotely interested in. Other times I've been and picked up several things. So, if folks aren't selling them good stuff, they don't have good stuff to sell. Second problem is they're on the wrong side of town. And by "wrong" I mean "other" side of town. Like all the way across town. Like that one store, they're far enough away I have to make a point to go there because I'm seldom just in the area.
There was a fifth shop just up the street from where I live now that I really liked. They definitely made their money on lessons. I live in a reasonably sized house, and we have bedrooms bigger than their sales floor. I tried to buy what I could from them. Strings and cables and such. They closed back in 2019. I hated to see them go.
Then there are the 3 local GCs that are sort of close to me. One has a great selection. It's probably the biggest one in this metropolitan area (where there are actually 7 GCs that I can think of off the top of my head). One always has great staff (but the smallest selection). Then there's the one that's the closest to me. I'll go to the great selection and great staff stores if I'm in their area, but don't usually make a special trip to them. The other one is just close. That's it's biggest selling point.
GC and I have a love hate relationship because of that closest store. They've done really well by me, and I've had to argue with staff a couple of times because they weren't being up front about things with me.
For instance, I bought a guitar once from the store. They had to order it in. When I got to the car after ordering it, I realized that it was costing me more than I thought it should, so I asked about it when I went back to pick it up. The guy told me they were charging me $60 for shipping to the store, and there was nothing they could do about the shipping because the guitar was on sale. So I told him to cancel the order, refund my money, and I'd go home and order it from the GC website where it was also on sale, have it shipped to the house, and not not be charged shipping. He said he'd "take a look real quick," then acted all surprised, and said something along the lines of "if I go to this screen I see that I don't have to charge you shipping after all, so I'll knock that off."
On the other side of things, when I did the great gear purge last year, my goal was to get rid of it all in one swoop and not have to sell it all separate on Reverb or somewhere. Before I loaded the FJ up and headed over, I called and talked to the store manager, and he told me their buying strategy. So I could easily put pen to paper and see if they were going to give me enough that I could live with the transaction. Turns out, they gave me nearly twice what I was figuring. Then gave me a good discount on a new guitar on the wall on top of it.
So GC is definitely not bad. They're just not always, how do you say it nicely, on the top of their game. They're close enough I occasionally head up just to see if there's anything I can't live without, but, honestly, I don't spend enough up there to have a real relationship with any of the staff there. That's not to mention that part of that is because they seem to turn staff over enough that as soon as I figure out who somebody is, they're gone and someone else is in their place.
I like local shops. I really do. My problem, however, is that there's the big box that usually has a big selection, but I don't feel any loyalty to them. Then there are the local guys that, by and large, don't seem to offer enough of a difference to make me feel like cultivating a relationship with them either. So it definitely makes buying online easier. From my perspective, most of the local shops will complain about losing sales online, but they're not doing much to try to stem that tide. I can buy anything they sell cheaper online, but they don't seem to want to do anything to encourage me to pay them a little more. They're not going to go out of their way for me since they don't know me, but they don't do anything to get me to come in more than once or twice.
And with that, it's back to Amazon or Sweetwater or American Musical or somewhere to do some window shopping.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 5 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.