I bought my Epiphone 339 back when they first released them in 2011. I missed that first run that delivered in the fall of 2011, so the one that I got was made in that second run. That means that I had to wait 4 or 5 months to get mine. I ordered it in November, and got it the end of March or first of April. One change that they made between the first run and the second that I didn't see them announce anywhere was that the original 339s shipped with their Probucker pickups and the second run shipped with their Alnico Classic Pro pickups. I had actually been looking forward to getting to try the Probuckers out, but the Alnico Classics sound good to my ear, so whatever.
Never gave it a whole lot of thought after that. Like I said, I wasn't unhappy with the pickups it came with. I had always heard that the Alnico Classics were Epi's version of Gibson's 57 Classics and the Probuckers were Epi's version of Gibson's Burstbuckers. I had put a pair of Burstbuckers in an old Les Paul I had, and I really liked them. Never really bonded with the guitar, but I thought the pickups sounded good. I had a Gibson 335 for a while that had 57 Classics and I really liked them too.
In my head, I always said I preferred the 57 Classics. I'm not really sure why. Honestly, I think I liked them better because that's what it seemed that most Gibsons I liked were getting when I started paying attention to that brand, and they were advertising them as being "like PAFs." In the last few years, I've realized that they now seem to be putting Burstbuckers, 490s, MHS, and another pickup or two in guitars as much as they are the 57s. When I saw that, I realized that several of those are also said to be "like PAFs." Now, I must confess, I'm not really sure what a PAF sounds like, but being a good gear hound and sometimes cork-sniffer, I know that PAFs are the sound that everyone thinks they should have. So, if it sounds like a PAF, that's the next best thing to actually having a PAF, right?
Now I'm just confused. All these PAF-like sounding pickups, and they all seem to sound a little different to my ear. What's the real PAF sound? No clue. At that point, I realized I had been sniffing a cork or two, and figured, I wasn't unhappy with the way that 339 played or sounded. As well, from a similarity standpoint, I had the real 57 Classics in that 335, and, to my ear, they didn't really sound all that different from those Alnico Classics. If I really sat and listened to them, I thought Epi version may not have been quite as clear and articulate on the low end, and they may not have been quite as harmonically rich when driven, but they sounded good. Just playing at church on Sunday or at the local blues jam, and nobody was going to hear a difference in the two. So there was no reason to change the Epi pickups.
Then last fall, I picked up that Epi LP Standard 50s (or whatever it's called). I immediately bonded with that guitar. Loved the neck! Loved the sound! And did I mention the neck? I had been playing that 339 predominately for nearly 18 months when I got that LP, and the 339 suddenly found itself relegated to hanging on the wall. One of the things I really liked about that LP were the pickups in it. They seemed super clear and articulate, and sounded good clean or driven. Maybe it was the guitars. Maybe it was the pickups. Maybe it was a bit of both. Either way, it had the Probuckers in it, so I was once again questioning what the 339 would sound like with Probuckers instead of the Alnico Classics.
So I started looking for a set of them. You could get them direct from Epiphone, but they were (1) $150 a set, and (2) out of stock. So Reverb was my option since I don't like eBay. Someone from Thailand was selling them starting at $50 a set with a wiring harness. That's a good deal, right? Seemed super sketch to me, so I passed on them. I'd see others showing up here and there, but they were running about $50 a piece (or more). I found a pair that someone pulled out of a new Epiphone where they were asking $70 for the pair. I messaged them for pics of the back of the pickups, and, when he sent them, it turned out they were actually the Alnico Classics like I already had. I let him know what he actually had, and that I'd pass since they weren't the ones I wanted. His ad hasn't changed. So be careful if you come across that ad; they're not actually Probuckers.
The next afternoon, I noticed someone had posted a set of Probuckers for a super price. Looking at the ad, the pics all looked right, so I was convinced they were real. According to the ad, the seller had just pulled them out of a new Epi LP Modern that they had gotten. Pics looked right, and the story sounded legit. Looked at the price again, and three other folks had already made offers on them and someone had them in their cart. So, since the price was really good without asking for a deal, I pulled the trigger. I will say that they are the Probucker 2 and 3 pickups where my LP has the Probucker 1 and 2.
Finally got them swapped out, and the Alnico Classics are now sitting beside me on the desk. What's the verdict on the 339 now that it has the Probuckers in it? I like them better! I think they have a clearer low end. I'm not sure the difference in the Probucker 1 in the LP neck and the Probucker 2 that is in the LP bridge and the 339 neck, but I still like the Probucker 1 best of all. To my ear it really sounds good. Either way, again, to my ear, the Probuckers have a clearer low end and are just a bit more articulate than the Alnico Classics. They also seem to be a little bit smoother and not quite as harsh when driven. When turned up, they also don't sound as hot to me. The Probucker 1 is easily my favorite, but the 2 and 3 I also like better than the Classics. Granted, in a blindfolded side by side, the only one I think I could pick out of the mix would be the 1. That is, if I could pick it out of a crowd. But trying to be objective sitting in my quiet little music room, I believe that I hear a difference in the two types of pickups.
So, I have to say that I think the Probuckers are great pickups. They're half the price of the Gibson Burstbuckers, and, to my ear, they're not that different. Granted, I haven't A/Bed them at this point, but from what I remember of that pair I had, they're pretty close. Given the chance, if I had another Epi with those quick connect ends, if it didn't have the Probuckers in it, I'd see about finding another pair. I'm not sure that all the hype around the Probuckers isn't at least a little marketing, but, I think, they're well worth the money. Like I already said, they're not the Gibson (or Duncan or Lollars), but they're close enough that nobody but us gear hounds are going to hear the difference. Bang for your buck, especially if you get them used, I don't know that you're going to get anything better.
So I've spent the last two posts showing some of my gig bags and hybrid cases. If it's not pretty obvious or you missed me say it in one of those posts, I'd much rather use either of them than a traditional case if I feel like I have the option. When I was younger and much more of a snob in how I thought guitars should be treated and used, I would have laughed at anyone suggesting to use a gig bag because nothing beats a case, and a case should always be used. In the ensuing years, here's what I have learned.
Gig bags. No, they don't offer as much protection as a case. However, they're lighter, generally less expensive (maybe not some of the premium gig bags), and, if all I need to do is get the guitar from point A to point B, they tend to be more convenient. I still don't think I would get a low tier gig bag, but a medium tier (like that Gator Transit series) offers pretty good protection, lots of storage, and even has some add-on options that make it easy to carry extra gear if you need to. The premium tier gig bags offer a good bit more protection with those same options that you don't get with a case.
Hybrid Cases. These are still not going to offer as much protection as a good case, but they're going to give more than a gig bag. Remember, they're often just a case without the wood or molded plastic on the outside. From a weight perspective, they're not going to be that much more than a good gig bag, but they're going to be bulkier and more rigid. If you're traveling and want to carry a guitar, a gig bag will often take up slightly more space than the guitar, and you can squeeze it into whatever space is available. I can attest to being able to do that. Just shove that gig bag between the side of the car and the suitcases, and it'll fit. However, this one takes up enough space that you can't really just squeeze the guitar into your stuff. You'll have to budget space for one of these just like you would a suitcase or duffle bag. But it's a step up in protection and, with most having pockets on the outside, still gives some options that you don't have with a case.
Regular Cases. These are going to be the best protection, but they are also the heaviest of the three. They're also the most rigid when it comes to what you can do with them. No outside pockets, so, if it doesn't fit in the internal storage spot, you're carrying another bag. Bigger, heavier, (in most cases) more awkward, and, if you turn into someone's shin with a case, they're probably going to yelp in pain. However, I know someone that accidentally ran over the headstock of their guitar that was inside a case, and, while the case was crushed, they guitar survived unscathed. That's something that I'd wager isn't going to happen in a gig bag or even a hybrid case.
For me, the answer is pretty simple. Even when I am playing out on a pretty regular basis, I've never been in a position to have to do much more than carry my guitar across town (although "across town" may still be an hour and a half away). Also, I'm seldom in a situation where I'm not the one solely responsible for handling my gear. I pack it in, I pack it out, and no one is touching my gear except for me. Not that I wouldn't appreciate a good roadie sometimes, but the places I play everyone takes care of their own. All that to say, since I'm the only one handling my gear, I know that my guitar is not going to get tossed around places or roughly shoved around and other things like amps aren't going to be put on top of them. Because it's just me, the handling of my gear is going to be pretty controlled. I can get away with the lightweight and versatility of a gig bag. Even playing out, my electrics are all in gig bags.
For my acoustics that I play out, I do step up the game to a hybrid case. Still lightweight, but I've seen more bad things happen to acoustics than I have electrics, and the hybrid makes me think the vast majority of those things will be avoided. A little more bulk to the case means that it's got more padding, but it also means that those around me are going to be a little more aware that I'm carrying a guitar, and, hopefully, steer clear a bit.
Hard cases, for me, are reserved for when I fly with a guitar or am going to be in a situation where I think that extra protection might be needed. Oh, and also for that D-35 I've got that I've had for 30 years and couldn't replace if I wanted to.
That D-35 is also the guitar whose case is busted on the bottom edge because 30 years ago I was walking from work to band practice with it during the middle of winter. I decided to take a shortcut which took me through a little wooded stand where a creek ran through. I had jumped that creek a thousand times, but didn't think about the fact that it had just snowed and snow and ice were all over the ground. The creek only had a thin layer of ice on it. I got to the edge of the creek and jumped. My foot slid on the ice, and I realized mid-flight that I was only going to make it about half-way across the creek. As I went crashing through that thin ice into the freezing cold water, I instinctively held my guitar out so that it wouldn't end up in the water with me. It crashed onto the ice and bits of the roto-molded plastic (or whatever it's made from) went flying everywhere. Luckily the creek was only mid-calf deep, and I quickly jumped out. I realized then that, sometimes a case is the best option. As hard as my guitar hit that ice that day, I'm sure if I'd been using anything but a hard case, I would've had to find a luthier to repair the damage. But then a situation like I found myself that day was the exception and not the rule.
For me, gig bags whenever I can. Cases only when I have to.
Last week I talked about gig bags. This week, I'll show you a couple of polyfoam hybrid cases. When it comes to cases, I don't really need a road dog. I just need something that will keep a guitar in the closet and get it across town (or maybe across the country) without too much trouble. I prefer smaller and lighter. So, if I'm not using a gig bag, a polyfoam case will generally do.
Now, before I show you mine, I'll briefly describe some differences for you. A gig bag, is a bag, It might have some good padding, but it won't generally stand up on it's on (even on its side), and it would never be mistaken for a case. Some of them are even kind of floppy. After all, they're generally just foam padding inside a tough exterior. A case is generally molded or wooden. It's got some padding of some sort inside it to keep the instrument off the hard exterior. If you need a road dog, a case is usually the way to go. The polyfoam hybrid cases are a good in-between. They look like a case. They act like a case. But they're just the polyfoam that is often found inside a hard case, but without the case. Instead, it's put inside a tough canvas-ish cover. The exterior is pretty similar to what you would find on a backpack. Not the lightweight nylor backpacks, but rather one of those kind of old-school canvas packs. So it has the rigidity and stiff protection that a gig bag lacks, but, although it's rigid, it doesn't have the super tough exterior of a case. But that also means it's not nearly as heavy as a case. It's a nice in-between. I've got several of these cases. They work really well for acoustic guitars. Price-wise, I've found that they run around $100. That's about the price of a low-end hard case, but half the price of most premium gig bags.
Travelite Polyfoam Case. I just realized I didn't get a pic of this one, and it's far enough back in the closet I'm not digging cases back out again, so it's going to have to be pictureless. It's a beast of a case. Out of all the polyfoam cases I've got, this one is easily the most well made. It has my flamenco guitar in it. The flamenco guitar originally was in the case the dobro is in. When I got the dobro, I bought this case, and moved the flamenco over. So the guitars that go inside are the same size, but the difference in the case size is noticeable. This one is bigger all the way around. On the exterior, it has that same weird strap-handle system as the no-name case above. Like the Gator cases, it has a little cover for the zipper or to keep the case from falling open if you pick it up thinking it's close. This one is different, though, because it's an actual latch and not just a strip of velcro. It also has the same detachable backpack straps on it. Inside, it has that usual neck pocket, but this one you could park a Buick in. This is a behemoth of a case. It's huge! A classical/flamenco sized guitar is a small guitar in the overall scheme of acoustics, but this case is big enough it borders on being awkward. I would hate to see a dreadnought sized case like this one. That said, I absolutely love this case! I would trust this case in most any situation short of putting the guitar on a plane.
I'll just get this out up front. I really like gig bags. Truth is, unless there is a compelling reason to use a case, I'll grab a gig bag every time. Here are some of the ones that I've got along with a synopsis of each of them. I'll tell you which ones I use and which ones are only used as the closet keepers.
Fender Stock Gig Bags. I don't have a pic of one of these bags down below. It's the one that you used to get with some of the MIM instruments. I'm not sure they include them anymore. I'll tell you up front that, I guess you could use these as a real gig bag. They'll get your guitar to and from where you're playing so long as you're not banging it around. They offer some protection, but not a whole ton of it. There's a pocket on the front where you can stick a cable and book or something too. Clip-on back pack straps. I have (and use) several of these bags. They keep some of my Strats and Teles in the closet. If one of the guitars that I have stored in them decides to get played out, I move it to a better bag before I head out with it. From a price perspective, I'm pretty sure you could get one of these all day long for under $50.
Parker Stock Gig Bag. No pic of this one either. It's a bit more padded than the Fender stock bag. Outside of that, it's got an extra pocket on the outside that the Fender doesn't have, but feature-wise, they're pretty much the same. It keeps my Parker (P-44) in the closet, but I have also used it when I've traveled with that guitar. I trust it more than I would the Fender bags. Back when Parker was in business, they included this with all of their non-MIA guitars, and, if I remember correctly, you could buy one for around $80. Since Parker isn't making guitars anymore, I have no idea what they would cost if you went looking for one.
Read today about a company that, at the conclusion of the interview, asks the interviewee to write a haiku about the interview experience.
Now I've heard that some companies will ask you off-the-wall questions to see how you think on your feet. Or they'll ask you how to do a simple task to see how detail-oriented your thinking process is. Or they'll ask you a question that seems simple, but want to see if you think outside the box and give the usual, easy answer. I've even sat through some of these kinds of questions. And in most cases I thought they were as ridiculous as they are. Truth is, I think most companies that asked them heard about the famous (or infamous) Google interview process, and they wanted to do something that seemed just as hip and trendy so folks would want to work there. So they just came across as copy-cats.
There were a couple of technical interviews that I sat through where the weird question was beneficial. Those two interviews were with different companies and a couple of years apart. They both asked the same question. How do you make a PB&J?
The first time, I answered the question, but I kind of stumbled on myself because I hadn't really thought it through. I gave some details, but realized when I left that I had still been a bit high level in my answer. I didn't get that job. I think that was more about me telling them I was trying to cut my commute down and then them telling me the job involved a bit of driving to field offices every day. But I digress.
The second time I was asked the question, I was ready. I went into mind-numbing detail. "Get your bread out of the cabinet, and be sure that it's sandwich bread. I prefer this brand and this variety for these reasons, but as long as it's sliced, you should be fine. Gently set the loaf of bread on the counter in a way such that it won't fall off. Now you can get your utensils out of the drawer. Go to your silverware drawer and pull out a knife. Not a sharp one, but one of the full-size table knives like they set next to your plate at suppertime. Pull that out of the drawer and set it on the counter next to the bread. Now let's find the jelly. I actually prefer jam, but that's a matter of personal preference..." The guy didn't even let me finish. I was five minutes into my answer and just getting to the point of putting the peanut butter on the bread when he finally stopped me and said, "sounds like you can definitely pay attention to the details when you need to." I was prepared to go on for another five or more minutes. Don't clown me with a question like that, because, according to Mrs Enfinger back in 6th grade, I got a PHD in class clown. That job I got. Or at least got offered. They didn't offer enough, and I turned it down after a week of trying to get them to increase the offer. They did, but just barely.
Anyways, most of the time I think those kinds of interview questions and gimmicks don't really serve a purpose. When I was on the other side of the table, I refused to ask those kinds of questions. Instead I'd give an actual example they might encounter, and then I'd ask them how they would respond. Details? I could tell in their answer if they knew what they were talking about. I didn't care if they could bore me with the tedious details on how to make a sandwich.
So I was reading this morning and saw this new take on this whole "who can ask the dumbest, most off the wall thing in an interview, and I think this one wins. Hands down it wins. Apparently, some company (they didn't say who) would ask, at the end of the interview, for the applicant to write a haiku describing the interview experience. I thought about it for a couple of minutes, and here's what I penned. And those that know me know that I'm just brash enough that this is what I would give them. I present to you, my interview haiku.
This is the dumbest
Interview question I've had
You’ll hire me or won’t
I guess I made a mistake tonight. There's a piece of gear that caught my eye about a year ago that I decided to research. I keep telling myself that, if I ever spotted a screamin' deal on this piece of gear I was going to pick it up. I spotted that deal, but decided to do the research on it first. By the time I got back to it, someone else had picked it up. Not pulling the trigger quickly wasn't my mistake. My mistake was in hitting up some internet forums looking for thoughts and reviews on it. There was one person's pontificating that particularly chapped my hide.
Someone had written a short, glowing review of this piece of gear. It's a pedal that's not considered a piece of budget gear, but it uses digital modeling to copy an old analog pedal from way back. Consequently, the used/new price is usually $70/$100 vs the several hundred that the original costs. So most of the comments turned into the usual copy vs original vs cheap vs insanely expensive arguments. Most of that part of the discussion I just skipped, but this one post caught my eye.
I'm not going to copy the post here (although that would probably be easier), but this self-proclaimed authority on the subject spewed their nonsense using what appeared to be a well thought out tome of a post. However, when you take a look at what they were saying, they're nothing more than a corksniffer saying that more expensive is always better.
They said that folks that give good reviews on budget gear or copies of other, more expensive gear fall into one of a several categories. They said that they either are a young, broke player that can't afford anything nicer that really just wants to justify their purchase to avoid having buyer's remorse because they know what they got is really not that good. Or it's someone that doesn't know anything about gear and they're just repeating what they've heard or read somewhere else online. Or, and this was my favorite, they're not a pro player that has demo-ed vintage, boutique, mid-level, budget, etc gear to see which of it is really better. They even had the audacity to condescendingly mention that not everyone can afford vintage or high end gear, but "everybody has to start somewhere."
They went on like this for 8 or 9 paragraphs. Then they continued to argue with other commenters expounding on these opinions. I think that's part of what just really irritated me.
Yes, budget gear is usually not as good as more expensive gear, but saying (or at least implying) that someone is giving a favorable review of a piece of gear solely because they know it sucks and are trying to feel better about it is, as the British would say, total rubbish.
Let's use my Klon and klones as an example. At one point, I had my KTR and like 8 klones and did a shoot out with all of them to see which one I liked best. Honestly, I fully expected to the KTR to come in somewhere in the middle with some of the less expensive klones sounding better. To the corksniffer's credit, yes, the KTR edged out all the rest of the pedals, and, to my ear, it sounded better and did the Klon thing the best, and the cheapest klone I had at the time ended up at the bottom of the heap. All the rest of the pedals were basically a crap shoot with pedals that I wanted to do well (and were more expensive) not ending up as high as I would've like. The #1 pedal (the KTR) was a $300 pedal. The #2 pedal (the Tone Bakery Creme Brulee) was a $100 pedal. Was the KTR worth 200% more than the Tone Bakery? That's a highly subjective thing. I have both, and even I would say that the KTR sounded better but I'd be hard pressed to say it was worth $200 more. I'd also say that, since I'm not a pro player, the other pedals sound close enough (and are easy enough to replace) that I'm probably not going to gig out with the KTR. Heck, my EHX Soul Food came in at the #3 spot, and it was the 3rd cheapest pedal. I'd write a glowing review on that pedal for none of the reasons that poster mentioned. I'd do it for the simple fact that it's a good pedal.
They closed their nonsense by saying that folks can drive their budget car if they want, but the Ferrari is always going to be the better car. To that assertion, I would have to say that it depends on the Ferrari. A bright red Ferrari is almost always going to win the cool factor, but may not be the better car. Who wouldn't take a 1962 Ferrari 250 if given the opportunity, but it's not always the better car. I drive an FJ Cruiser. It's a very utilitarian ride. But it has aircon, a radio/cd player, power windows, power locks, can pull a trailer, is a capable off-road ride, and, according the literature, will do 0-60 in 7.8 seconds (although I'd believe that when I see it). That Ferrari 250 has none of the amenities, and has a 0-60 time at just over 8 seconds. From a purely objective viewpoint, the modern FJ cruiser is an all around better vehicle than the 60 year old Ferrari. The Ferrari would be a fun ride for an afternoon or two, but give me power windows and an a/c the rest of the time.
I don't think the modern pedals are that different. The pedal I am looking at is a fuzz pedal that digitally copies one of those late 60s/early 70s fuzzes. In the coolness factor, the huge enclosure of the old pedal totally takes it. In tonal qualities, the old pedal probably wins again. In the budget arena, the newer pedal can be had on the used market for 1/10th the price of the originals. From an audience factor, the only ones that are really going to care about the difference in sound are those of us that are "discerning" guitar players; nobody else is going to give a rat's big butt.
In the world of guitar gear reviews, it seems to be truer than ever that half of what you read is just wrong and the the other half you can't believe. I'll be the first to admit that there's bad gear out there. But, if you go into it with an open mind, there's a LOT more good gear than you think. Heck, back during the summer I started looking for a good compressor pedal. I ended up over the course of the last 6 months buying and playing on about 5 pedals...some budget and some not. Which one has ended up on my board? That red Behringer compressor that cost me $25 brand new and shipped to my door. Definitely considered to be a budget pedal. Also, a good reminder to put the cork down and breathe in the fresh air.
And in conclusion, as with all things gear related, your mileage my vary.
The end of 2009 I got laid off from my job. I had managed to make it through almost that whole recession that we had back then and remain gainfully employed, but that one big client decided not to renew their contract. I don't think their decision had anything to do with the recession. Truth is, from what I followed, they decided that they could do what my company had been doing for them on their own. They spent a year trying to do so, but couldn't get the right people in the right places, made a complete mess of things, and re-hired my by-that-time-previous company about 18 months later. In fact, I figured they weren't going to get the right people in the right places because they called myself and a couple of other folks on my team and tried to hire us...for half of what we had been making. We all took our chances to find something better paying.
Neeways, I was fortunate to work my last day in the middle of December 2009 and start a new job the middle of January 2010. So I decided to spend the month working on my guitar playing. I hadn't really been playing a whole lot at the time just because of life, but knew that I wanted to try to pick up some skill and, since I had the time, actually work at it. I wanted to learn some blues, so I started looking around online for some lessons. Not in person lessons, but a book or dvd (remember those?) or something along those lines that I could do the self-paced thing with.
Luckily, I stumbled across Griff Hamlin's 4 Note Solo. Now, I have no idea what the search criteria was that I entered, but it popped up, and I watched it. The concept looked super simple to follow. I had already taught myself a couple of the minor pentatonic boxes, but had never figured out what to do with them. Their practical application eluded me. Watching his video, I also thought that Griff's style of teaching was right up my alley.
So I signed up for his email list, began reading the emails that he was sending, and saw him advertise his Blues Guitar Unleashed course. During my off month, I worked on the 4 note solo he had, and as soon as my new job started, I ordered his course. That's easily been one of the better musical decisions I've made.
Griff's style of teaching ended up meshing with my learning style pretty well. Even with a new job, I managed to discipline myself to sit down and practice every day for a few minutes. Focusing on what was on the dvd and in the book meant that my playing actually started to move forward in ways that it hadn't since I was a kid sitting in my room for hours a day.
Griff has continued to put out new course material. He has listened to those who have bought his courses, and works to fill those areas where we're saying we'd like to learn more. He is still primarily teaching around the blues and the blues form, but has branched out with other courses (theory, CAGED, modes, etc). His most recent course from just a few months ago is a course on How to Play like BB King.
I've grown to appreciate Griff over the last 10 years, and, even though I've never had an in-person lesson from him (yet), I consider him my guitar teacher. I've appreciated that I have never seen him be one of those hyped up teachers that says "so this thing and you'll be Eddie Van Halen!" He has always been honest about the need for practice and lots of hard work if you're planning on getting better. I've gotten to talk with him over the years via email and a couple of workshops, and he is always encouraging even when you know that what you just played sucked monkey butt. My unbiased opinion is that Griff is a top notch teacher. My biased opinion is that he makes all other guitar teachers look like amateurs.
If you've been looking for someone to jump start your guitar playing, especially if that playing revolves around the blues, my belief is that you do yourself a dis-service if you don't give Griff's courses a chance. Not only is he a great teacher, but his courses are well made (nothing amateur-hour about them), and he offers a money back guarantee. If you get into it and realize it's not for you, he gives you 90 days to let him know and he'll refund your money. As well, he has a forum where a lot of his students hang out. On that forum, you can ask questions about the courses and post audio or video of you working a lesson. The folks on there are just as encouraging as they can be. They may give an idea or two to make a lesson work better for you or to let you know that you need to keep working a technique because you don't quite have it down, but they'll still make you feel good about yourself and your playing. I believe they truly understand that music isn't a competition and that everyone's musical journey is going to be different. They're just a great bunch of gals and guys.
Later on, I hope to do another post about the BGU course specifically and what it teaches and how it goes about it. Until then, trust and believe that it's a quality course that can move your playing forward if you work it.
A couple of months back I picked up one of those Epiphone Les Paul Standard 50s. A gold top. Because everyone needs a gold top, right? Never expected to play it much because I've never bonded with an LP. Granted the only ones I'd played had been the entry level Epiphones and the entry level Gibsons. I'd never played a "nice" one from either brand, so some would say I had probably never given them a fair shake.
I think I got a pretty good deal on this guitar because it was being sold as a blem from American Musical. No big though because I fully expected to just hang this one on the wall because I think a gold top is a beautiful guitar.
It came in, and I pulled it out of the box. I'm not sure why American Musical was selling it as a blem. I'm guessing someone bought it and returned it, so they couldn't sell it as new. It was setup pretty nicely, and I couldn't find anything wrong with it. Once I got it on the workbench, I noticed that the nut is a couple of millimeters off center. I think it was cut weird because it's flush on the bass side and just barely not flush on the treble. Otherwise I have been all over this thing, and can't find anything wrong with it.
The neck is perfect. I wish all my guitars had the neck on this one. It's bigger than all the other electrics I've got. I've got an Epi acoustic that has a big neck on it that is bigger and borders on being uncomfortable to play after a few minutes. This one is big without being as big as that one. It's a good handful without making my hand tired. It's just a great feeling neck.
The pups on it are advertised to be an Epiphone Probucker 1 in the neck and Probucker 2 in the bridge. I've read that those are Epi's version of the the Burstbucker pups. I really like them. To my ear, they're clear and articulate. I especially like the neck pup. I've really liked the Epi Alnico Pro (Epi's equivalent to the 57 Classics) that are in my 339, but I think these Probuckers make the Alnico Pros sound kind of average.
It has the 50s-era wiring in it. From what I've read, that means that the highs don't get muddy if you turn the tone down. Honestly, until recently I've always dimed the tone and never messed with it again, so I'm not really sure if wiring like this makes a difference. Since I've started playing with the knobs on all my guitars more, maybe I'll eventually be able to hear a difference.
I think it looks as good as a gold top should. I think that the gold color is more yellow than the Gibsons I've seen. The Gibsons seem to be a greener gold that this one. You can look at the sides and see that it is a 3-piece body. Looking at the back, they have a veneer on it (albeit a nice looking veneer) that make it appear to be one piece, but it's not.
It's got the to-be-expected cream colored binding and hardware and gold knobs with pointers. There is binding on the neck, too, but the binding doesn't cover the fret ends like it does on a Gibson. It's got the vintage looking tuners with the off-white plastic tulip keys. The headstock is the new Gisbon-inspired headstock that I, personally, like better than the usual Epi headstock.
The one thing I don't like about the guitar is that this mug is heavy. Like orca heavy! I stuck it on the scale because I was curious, and this thing is 9.5 pounds. It is noticeably heavier than any other guitar I've got. I wouldn't want to stand and play it for long periods of time.
Other than the weight, this guitar is really a great guitar. My assumptions of the guitar when I initially bought it turned out to be completely wrong. It feels good and plays good and, to my ear, sounds really good. Since I picked it up, it has become the guitar that I play the most. For the last couple of years, I was typically reaching for my 339 when I played. This Epiphone Standard 50s Les Paul seems to be making the move to become my main player. I've played Gibson LPs that I didn't like half as well as this one. Over the course of the last 10 years I've bought several Epiphones (a 1962 anniversary Sheraton, a 339, a couple of different acoustics, this Les Paul, and others), and with every purchase, I am more impressed with Epiphone's offerings.
So I've got my ES-335, my Sheraton, and my ES-339.
My Gibson ES-335 is a 2016 Studio version. As I recall, it has a few differences from the regular ES-335 model, but, overall, it's still the same guitar. It has the 4-knob arrangement (unlike the Studio version from a couple of years earlier), and it has 57 Classic pups in it. I think the bridge used was a different bridge from the regular version. I also think that the neck is a torrefied neck. I think there were a couple of other minor differences, but those two are the most significant changes in the Studio and regular versions.
The Sheraton is a 1962 50th Anniversary model. It's biggest differences between it and an actual 335 are that it uses Gibson mini-buckers instead of full size ones and it has a Frequensator tailpiece (closer to a trapeze) instead of using a stop piece tailpiece. It has CTS pots and switches, and it has GIbson cloth wiring inside. Those are also differences between it and the regular Sheratons of the time that it was built. For the purpose of comparison, when I bought the Sheraton nearly 10 years ago, it cost approximately 50% more than a regular line Sheraton and half the price of an ES-335 (which is the model I would've gotten).
My Epiphone ES-339 is from the second run that they produced. The first run was during the summer or fall of 2011. I had been looking at and toying with the idea of buying a Gibson ES-339 for a while when they announced that Epi would be producing that model as well. I got my order in late enough that I missed that first run and had to wait on the second. The only difference in the two that I recall is that the first run had Epi's ProBucker pups in it (their equivalent to Gibby's BusrtBuckers) and the second run had the Alnico Pro pups in it (their equivalent to the 57 Classics).
Although, mine have some pretty significant differences in them, the 335 and Sheraton are very similar guitars in theory. However, I believe that the Sheraton was an Epiphone creation and not a Gibson copy originally, but it's a little more ornate than the basic 335; it's closer to an ES-355. I actually like my Sheraton better than my ES-335, and, moving forward, I'm going to talk about them as if they were the same unless specified otherwise. Also, I'm not covering the differences in Gibson vs Epiphone. This is 335 vs 339.
The 335 guitars are bigger bodied. I'm too lazy to look up the actual dimensions, but they're huge guitars. They're big enough that I know at least a couple of folks that won't play them because they're "just too big." They're also pretty heavy. I attribute the weight to the fact that they're so big. Although I've always said that the 339 is the same size as a Les Paul, I've read (and seen when they're side by side) that they're not quite the same size. But they're close. See the pics at the bottom for a comparison. It's not a huge difference, but that little bit makes a pretty big difference in weight and comfort when playing.
If it makes a difference to anyone, the 335 has the jack on the face of the guitar where the 339 has it on the hip like a Les Paul. I don't usually think about where the jack is, but every time I pull out the 335 and plug it in, I'm afraid I'm going to hit the plug and crack the face of the guitar or break the jack. I've never done that and probably never will, but it's always in the back of my mind.
From a parts standpoint, they're not really that different of guitars (and I'm not talking about the the Gibson vs Epi difference, this is the 335 vs 339 difference). They both have the same control setup. Both have 2 vol/2 tone setups with the pup selector down by the knobs. They both have a stop tail bridge. They both have humbuckers for pups. There's the jack location, but, other than that, they're similar.
Tones from both are very nice. They both have that nice semi-hollow sound. The longer I play, the more I really like that airy sound that you get from a semi-hollow like a 335 or 339. The difference is that the 339 can get into those Les Paul-ish kind of darker sounds that a 335 can't do. I imagine that's because the wings of the 339 are smaller so it's as close to a solid body as it is to a semi-hollow. The 335 is the standard for a semi-hollow, in my opinion, the semi by which all others are measured. The 339 does an adequate job in that semi-hollow arena, but it also can get into the LP territory. The 339 is a good balance between the two.
Once I understood that what I was hearing was a semi-hollow sound, I've liked the 335 and played one at least as often as I played my Strats. I've always wanted to like a good Les Paul, but have just never bonded with one. Since I started to migrate from primarily playing an acoustic to playing an electric, I have always been drawn to my Strats. However, about a year ago, I pulled my 339 out of the closet, set it up really well, and have been playing it almost exclusively since then. It's just a great guitar that covers a lot of area.
The 335 vs the 339. Both are great guitars that are very similar. If you like the humbucker sound, give them a shot.
And, yes, I've ripped those from the interwebs at some point. Don't remember where so I can't give credit like I should.
...for several months now.
Here's something I posted on my favorite guitar forum back in January. Realized I had never posted it here, so figured I'd do that today, along with some of my updated thoughts on it.
Used the last of my Reverb credit over the holidays, and ordered a pedal I had been eyeing since the summer...the Danelectro The Breakdown. It's supposed to be their take on the Univox UD50 only without the treadle part of the pedal. I've had it since the weekend and been playing around with it. Here're my initial thoughts on it.
I really like the 2-knob simplicity of it. Volume and Break-up. Volume is just that, volume. The Break-up is the gain knob except that, rather than being a rheostat kind of knob that smoothly transitions around the dial, it has 6 clickable spots. The first one doesn't do a whole lot to my ear. Settings 2 and 3 I've read would work as the always-on settings. Settings 4-6 can get pretty gnarly.
Jumping back to the Volume knob real quick, one of the things that I like about it is that it doesn't seem to have much affect on the gain. On some pedals I've used, if you want to retain the drive/fuzz when you turn the volume down, you have to turn the gain up. On this pedal, volume is just volume. It doesn't seem to do anything to the gain. So, if you have the right amount of fuzz clicked in at 3 and then turn the pedal down, the volume will drop accordingly, but the gain doesn't change; the fuzz remains.
I really like the 3 and 6 settings. I don't ever see this as being an always-on pedal even on the lower settings. Maybe I would if I was big into garage rock, but it doesn't really fit that bill for blues. I like 3 because it gives that loose, starting to fuzz sound on the low end, but doesn't really do a whole lot on the higher strings. 3 is almost perfect if you're wanting to play some fuzzy power chords. Starts getting pretty fuzzy on the low end, but the highs only get a little crackle. At 5, and especially 6, it gets that full on Hendrix Purple Haze fuzz.
They've been advertising this as an overdrive pedal (they released a fuzz pedal in conjunction with it called the Eisenhower), but to my ear it's more of a fuzz pedal without the octave. I make the distinction because, to my ear, OD is usually pretty tight, and fuzz can get kind of loose and floppy. This one leans much more to the floppy side.
Overall impression so far: I like the simplicity of it. I like that the volume doesn't seem to affect the gain at all; it just makes it louder or quieter. I like that the gain settings are clickable. For instance, I know I like the 3 setting. If the pedal gets changed, I don't have to try to find that perfect spot on the dial anymore. I just click back to 3 and voila. Easy peasy lemon lawn chairs.
Definitely not going to be a pedal for everybody I don't think. I ordered it thinking it would be another OD pedal (since that's how it was advertised), and was pleasantly surprised when I started playing it and thought it sounded more like a fuzz since I've recently been looking to buy another fuzz pedal. To my ear, it can do the Hendrix thing pretty well on 5 and 6. On the higher settings, I could also hear it being used for that garage rock, Detroit Cobras, Black Keys kind of thing.
As always, my ears aren't yours so you may hear something completely different than I do with this pedal. YMM-definitely-V.
After having had it and using it for the last few months, here are my more recent thoughts on it.
I'm still convinced it's closer to a fuzz sound than an overdrive. The lower settings (1-3) are a bit OD-ish, but the higher settings (4-6) get really fuzzy.
I still, very much, like the fact that the volume will affect the volume and not the level of fuzz. I'm not sure that I've got another pedal that does this quite as noticeably. You get the amount of drive/fuzz that you want, and you just tweak the volume button to turn it up or down. No need to adjust the volume knob and then find that perfect level on the gain side again. It's also a very responsive pedal. You dig in, and it digs in. You lay back a bit, and it lays back with you.
I still like the 6-click knob. You can't get anything between the clicks if you want it, but the simplicity of finding the the right amount of fuzziness really appeals to me. There's no wide range from which to choose. 6 options. You either find one that you want or you don't. And you you do so quickly.
Since I'm mostly a bedroom player, I generally run a couple of ODs on my board. I keep a klone of some sort on it as a clean boost kind of pedal that's almost always on, and then a TS of some sort for that extra push to make it stand out during a solo. I had initially envisioned this Danelectro pedal as one that would be a different type of boost pedal to run as an always on kind of thing. The more I play it, this is not that pedal. This is a pedal that has a great sound and would work as a good boost or drive, but isn't one that I'm going to leave on all the time.
As much as I like a couple of the settings on it, it's not a pedal that is going to be on my board and stay there all the time. It definitely has it's place, and is one that, honestly, is still giving me some inspiration and being used regularly, but it's also one that I pull out for a week or so to get a particular fuzziness to my tone, but then goes back on the shelf for a week or two. I think, when I've used it, it's almost exclusively been on either click 3 or click 6.
All in all, I think it's a great pedal. I've enjoyed playing with it enough that I really want to try out Danelectro's new 3699 Fuzz. If that one's as good as The Breakdown, it'll be a great pedal for the cash.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. If Coca Cola was alcohol, he'd be a raging alcoholic. He dislikes going to the grocery store. And he still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 2 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.