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.
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.
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.
Those that know me know that I laugh at those that are often called cork sniffers. Whether online or face to face, I'm civil when I'm talking to them, usually. But there are times that they get on my last nerve.
Now for the uninitiated, let me define what a cork sniffer is. A cork sniffer is one of those that is so fixated on that specific piece of gear that nothing else is deemed worthy. Granted, we've all got that piece of guitar, like one of our guitars, that is absolutely the best thing ever and we wouldn't trade for anything. We've modded the heck out of it, and, despite what others tell us, there is no other guitar in the world that plays as well and sounds as good. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the ones that look down their noses at a Squier or MIM Strat because it's not an MIA Strat. They're the ones that will crap all over Epiphone because "it'll never be a Gibson." You get the idea. They look down their nose at a piece of gear and call it inferior based on its location of manufacture, the brand on the label, or some other seemingly important factor. That's a cork sniffer, and, in my humble opinion, there are 2 types.
There are those that are just uneducated. Those are the new players that are basically parroting what they hear others say and have no real basis for their opinion. They're the ones that say Gibson is the only brand to play because that's what they see their hero talk about and play (although their hero may've played a Tokai until they got their endorsement deal). I, generally, will give these folks a pass. Give them some education and experience, and they'll grow out of this stage. They'll eventually realize that, yes, Gibson is the premium guitar, but bang-for-the-buck there are some Epiphones that may be better than a Gibby.
Then there's the other kind, and they're the ones that really bug me. I call them "ignernt." Now, ignernt is a good Texas term. Around here, if somebody gets called ignernt, the speaker is saying that the speakee is smart enough, they just have chosen to act the fool and be stupid. They're ignernt. These are the cork sniffers that I have been known to make fun of sometimes. They're the ones that are so fixated on a brand (or whatever) that they can't see past the end of their nose.
I was reminded tonight that I used to be one of the second kind of cork sniffers. Maybe that's why they bug me so much. And I was reminded of this fact tonight.
Way back when I first started playing, all I knew was acoustic guitars. The first really nice acoustic that I was exposed to was a Martin. In fact, through a series of events, after only playing a couple of years, I was blessed to be given my own Martin (a D-35). Still have that Martin. It currently needs to have the bridge replaced, but is probably still my fave acoustic. It's a workhorse of a guitar. But I digress.
I had a Martin. All the pro players I knew either played Martin, Taylor, or something really high end like an Olson. Consequently, outside of Martin and Taylor, I really didn't know anything about guitars. I had played enough of each of those to know that I knew I liked the traditional Martin sound more than the modern Taylor sound, but they both sounded really nice.
Where I lived, I'd get together and play with a buddy once a week or so (we played in the same band), and we both played Martins. Another acquaintance at work was given a guitar for Christmas one year by his dad, and asked if my buddy and I would take a look at it and tell him what we thought. Bless his heart, that was during my days of sniffing corks.
The day that he brought it over to my house, I remember thinking one thing about the guitar and saying something completely different. In retrospect, I really wish I would have been honest enough with myself to give him an honest review. All I remember at this point was that it was a jumbo bodied Guild of some sort. From what I remember about the inlays on it, if it was chosen from their current lineup (although this was 30 years ago now), it would've probably been the equivalent of the F-55. And that would make sense as, from what I remember he used to say about his parents, they only bought the best.
Anyways, this guitar had a really great sound. However, it didn't sound anything like a Martin or Taylor. It was a very full, rich sound. Very balanced sound. All around, it was just a really great guitar. However, because it wasn't a Martin, I don't think I had anything good to say about the guitar that wasn't a backhanded compliment. "It has a really nice sound for something that's not a Martin." The other guy that was playing it with me was pretty much like me when it came to guitars. So he didn't really have anything positive to say about it either. The guy that had gotten it for Christmas left that evening disappointed that "it'll never sound like a Martin."
I've come a long way since then in both my musical journey and my overall view on life. I still very much like the sound of a Martin, but I also have a Boulder Creek and a Tacoma, and an Epiphone acoustic. For electrics, I've got Squiers, MIM and MIA Fenders, as well as Epiphones and Gibsons. For pedals, I have real live, green Tube Screamers and all kinds of TS clones (including the cheapest, Chinese made ones on Amazon). I've got a closet full of gear spanning the spectrum of price.
Growing up, my parents tried to teach me to always give people the benefit of the doubt; just because they're different than me doesn't mean they're bad. Give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason to do otherwise. As the Disney song says, "if you walk in the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew." When it comes to gear, be open minded. Just because the headstock doesn't say what you think it should doesn't mean it doesn't have a song in it. Pick it up and play it and see what it says.
And, Joel, if you ever happen upon this to be reading, I really hope you still have that Guild. Had I not been in the middle of my "Martin or nothing" days, I would have told you that it was a dang skippy nice guitar that had a great, warm sound and anybody should be ecstatic to be able to play. I'm sure that guitar was full of music if I'd only taken a moment and listened to it.
I discovered John Bohlinger a couple of years ago. It may've been more like several years ago. I remember he was doing a gear review for Premier Guitar on youtube, and I thought the guy was awkward and not really that good at it and really needed to quit having his hair colored because it looked...fake. Fast forward a couple of years, and he had become much more polished, let his hair do its thing so it didn't look bad anymore, and I now find his rundowns and reviews engaging so that I watch most all of them. I, also, enjoy his backpage of the magazine article every month that's called Last Call.
In his monthly column, he seems to try to give out that fatherly/brotherly advice to other players. Sometimes it's pretty practical and is something that can be used in very substantive way. I like these columns because I tend to be a very hands-on, practical person. Other times he comes across as being contemplative and trying to pass along something profound. I don't pay quite as much to these columns because I've never really been a theoretical kind of person. When I realize it's one of those columns, I just kind of scan through it.
I've always been this way. I realized it in 9th grade Biology class when I got the first C I had ever gotten on a report card. For the first time in my elementary/middle/junior high career, my name was not listed on the All A's or A/B Honor Roll. Everyone but me was surprised. My folks asked me what happened, and my response is that I didn't care about the class. They asked why, and my response was that it wasn't a fun class, the teacher was a sadistic idiot, and I couldn't see the practical application of what we were learning, so there was no point in learning it. So no ethereal, theoretical profundities for me. Start spouting them, and you quickly lose my attention.
Enter the December column. Mr Bohlinger was riding the line between practical application and trying to be profound. Then right there in the middle of the column, he said this.
"Many people (particularly Americans), live their lives doing what they don’t want to do so they can earn enough money to continue doing what they don’t want to do. People struggle like this for a lifetime and then teach their children to do it. If all your job is providing is a paycheck, you have the wrong job."
Now I don't have an issue with his first 2 sentences. He's spot on. Too often, we Americans get trapped in that cycle of a job we don't like that we don't leave because we want the stability of paycheck. After all, it takes money to live, and, when we don't have that money, even the daily grind gets difficult because you still have to put gas in the ride, food in the belly, and a roof over your head. However, that last sentence. I just have so many problems with that one.
"If all your job is providing is a paycheck, you have the wrong job." That's painting with as much of a broad brush as I would be if my response was "no you don't." More accurately, he should have said that, if all your job is providing is a paycheck you might have the wrong job.
I have a job. I've been in the workforce for the better part of 30 years. I've had all kinds of jobs. Changed careers a couple of times as well. The one thing I've learned is that, if you're miserable at your job, it's time to move on. However, just because a job is just a paycheck, doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot.
While I appreciate what I think he's trying to say, I think he's falling too far into that mentality that "if you're not following your passion, you're unfulfilled," and that's an extremely idealistic place to be. I'll use myself as the example, and say up front that, if I were to follow my passion, I'd probably be alone, homeless, and living in my car (if I had one) right now.
In my teens, I told everyone that I was going to fly airplanes. I got out of high school, got my first real job, and let the president of the company where I worked talk me out of going to flight school. It wasn't difficult to do. At the time, I was about as idealistic as I have ever been, working at a non-profit, and felt like I was living the change and making a difference. Fast forward a few years, I had seen the politics, problems, and blatant hypocrisy in the place I worked, become pretty jaded, and realized it was time to go. At the first good opportunity, I moved from the big city back to the town where I grew up and took a job, among other things, driving a tractor out in the field all day. Oddly enough, that job was the job that I look back on these days saying, if I could've made money doing that, I'd still be on that tractor. Believe it or not, that job was therapeutic, and just what I needed after leaving the situation I had been in.
While I was working on the farm, I had a friend ask me what I would do if I could do anything. My response was "be a studio guitarist." He asked me why I wasn't doing that. Simple. I wasn't (and am not) good enough. As recently as a year ago, as I was planning to leave the job I had at the time, I had one of my senior execs ask me that same question. That's still my answer when asked. If I could do anything I wanted, I'd be a studio guitarist.
Over the years, music and, especially, guitars has become my passion. One whole room of my house is dedicated to music. When I'm not in there playing or sitting at the computer looking up the latest gear or how to play something, you can bet it's probably what I'm thinking about. And, yes, I have viewed my job as just a paycheck for years.
You see, I have loved the guitar since I first started playing in high school, but was out and in the workforce before I was good enough at it to make any money with it. Add to that, I am NOT a good teacher (tried that with a few kids, and not a single one of them kept playing after their parents stopped paying me), and, although I will play in front of folks just to have the opportunity to play with skilled musicians, I'm one of those folks that would really rather not be up on a stage. And, generally, to have followed my passion of guitar playing, I would either have to teach or play out consistently.
Add to all that I started a career that required me working 80 to 100 hours a week, which left no time whatsoever to really practice and get better. For quality of life, after 5 years, I changed careers. Would have loved to have done something music related, but needed to put gas in the car, and my preference was to not live in said car. So I've always said that, at that point, I accidentally ended up in another industry. It paid well enough, and, although I would never have said that I really enjoyed it, it was also something that I didn't hate. It was a paycheck. Now I'm 20 years down the road, on the 3rd company in that field, and would still never be heard even hinting that it was my calling. It wasn't. And it isn't. And it won't be.
In fact, at the first company I worked in that field, my supervisor pulled me aside one day and said, "you really need to find your calling, and this isn't it. I know this because, when I bring a problem to the team, you are the only one in the room whose eyes don't light up thinking about fixing it. You're as good or better than most of the rest of the team, but I can tell that this is just a paycheck to you and not your passion. You need to find that calling and pursue it. As good as you are here, if you were really passionate about what you were doing, you'd be the best in your field." I told him that I couldn't argue with him. It was indeed just a paycheck for me, but a good enough paycheck that I wasn't planning on leaving. It took care of the bills, and gave me enough extra to fuel my real passion, guitars and gear. When I told him that, he just looked at me like a cow looking at a new gate.
Even though I am now a much better player than I was even 10 years ago, and am discovering that I can usually hold my own when called upon to play, I still don't see how I could be earning even half of what I earn in a music related field. And I'm still not good enough to be a studio musician. Truth is, I'm still one of those that's good enough to make the non-musicians think I'm a pretty good player while the real musicians know the awful truth. Or at least that's how I view my playing.
In fact, how is it any different than someone that likes off-roading and spends all their extra money on their jeep? There are jobs out there where you can make a living off-roading, but they're few and far between enough that not everybody with a 4-wheel drive can feed their fam or even repair their jeep doing it. It'd take at least both hands and a foot to count the number of folks that I know in that community that have a day job that has nothing remotely to do with the outdoors, and spend their weekends out on the trail.
Just because you have to have a paycheck and your passion appears to play 2nd fiddle doesn't mean that it's any less of a passion. Truth is, most of the folks I work with know that, given the right opportunity, I'd ditch them without a thought to go play guitar somewhere. Mostly because I've done it in the past and will do it again I'm sure. I just haven't come across that right long term opportunity (and probably won't), and I like my salary enough that I don't mind the grind 5 days a week so long as I have a guitar in hand when I'm not in the office.
With all respect, good Mr Bohlinger, you're wrong on this one. Just because it's only a paycheck doesn't mean it's wrong. Sometimes without the paycheck, the passion has no fuel and would die. If it's just a paycheck, it might be wrong. Or it might just be a paycheck. Like you, I also sell out. It's just that, with my skill set, the highest bidder means I'm an analyst somewhere during the week.
That said, on a different yet related note, having been there and learned the hard lesson, if you ever find yourself miserable at a job that's just a paycheck, you need to get out as quickly as you can. Life's too short for that nonsense.
So the other day I decided to pull out my Klon-type pedals, do some side by side comparisons, and see if my thoughts on them had changed at all. I figured this would be a good time to do this because I just got the NuX Horseman that I had ordered back in April, and was playing with it to see how I liked it. So, here they are in my order of preference.
Before I go into the pedals, I should also mention that I always use the Klones in the same way. With the amp just at the edge of breaking up, I'll have the gain on the pedal set minimally, the treble set in the middle, and the volume set a couple of clicks above unity so that it's pushing the amp a bit. So it's more like a clean boost I guess. This is where I believe these pedals really shine.
What are your thoughts? Tried any good Klon-type pedals that just really stood out to you? I've heard really good things about the J Rockett Archer, but haven't gotten my hands on one of those yet. I've also heard there are some really good ones from back before the recent onslaught...the Aluminum Falcon, the JHS copy that they no longer make, the MXR Sugar Drive (although I think this one may be one of the recent ones), and others. Some day I'll have to make it a point to pick some of these up and give them a shot as well.
Here's a subject for you that seems to come up every now and again. And even John Bolinger is talking about it again in his most recent vid on the Tube of You. Reliced guitars. I know these aren't the only opinions out there, but if you read the interwebs, there seem to be two prevailing schools of thought. The first group says that reliced instruments are stupid, idiotic, and should all be burned, and those that buy them, play them, or otherwise look upon them any other way are nothing more than wannabes that can't tell a guitar string from a climbing rope and don't deserve to ever pick up a guitar. The other prevailing thought is the group that seems pretty apathetic towards them and basically say "if you don't like them, then don't buy them."
As I recall, reliced instruments were started off primarily in the domain of custom shops. They were making guitars that were replicas of famous instruments and NOS type for the collectors. Then the manufacturers realized that they could make good money on heavily reliced instruments. So they started making those too. They eventually figured out how to do the relicing a lot more cheaply, so the reliced guitars left the domain of the custom shops and entered that of the affordable. Disclaimer: I don't know that this is exactly how it went down, but, from this consumer's perspective that appears to have been what it was. So take this last paragraph with a grain of salt. Or the whole shaker. It may or may not be totally accurate, but that's what seemed to happen to me.
Back around 2008-ish when Fender released their Road Worn line, all of the guitar forums I was on erupted with the most hate-filled, vitriolic commentary on them that you can imagine. "Wear should be honest." "Only posers will buy these guitars." "These guitars are made for folks with more money than sense. And kids that haven't put in the time to have worn in a guitar." "Stupidest idea ever." And a lot of really troll-ish things a lot worse than this by those that I know not to be trolls.
Everyone had an opinion, and most of those sharing their opinions had less then complementary things to say about them. Including me. At that point and time, my thought was that wear should be honest wear, but I sometimes balanced that thought with the fact that other folks can spend their money on whatever makes them happy. But that doesn't mean I wasn't parroting a lot of the things that some of the others were saying.
About 2010, I decided I needed to get myself a Tele. I test drove Tele after Tele, and didn't like any of them. They either didn't sound right or didn't feel right or something. None of them were any good. Didn't like them. Every time I'd hit the local stores (the mom and pops and the big boys) I'd start pulling Teles off the wall, and not a single one of them spoke to me. I tried to like them. I really, really wanted to like them. Squiers, MIM Fenders, MIA Fenders, even a G&L or two. But not a single one of them was it. Did this for a couple of years.
I avoided the Road Worns just because they were...Road Worns. FInally pulled a 50s Road Worn off the wall mostly to exercise my confirmation bias against them. At that moment I think I heard that proverbial angelic choir, because there was absolutely no question that was the guitar for me. It felt good. It had the right weight to it, and the neck was the most incredible neck ever. I once described it to a buddy as being like that pair of jeans that you've had for years that you just don't get rid of because they fit perfectly and were worn in all the right places. I bought it.
Yes, it's a Road Worn. Yes, it looks like every other Road Worn Tele that was being made at that time. Yes, the neck has the same wear spots as every other maple necked Road Worn Tele (and Strat) since they started making them. Call me a poser and wannabe if you like, but it's the best feeling poser guitar I've ever picked up.
That very much started changing my opinion on reliced guitars. Then, in 2012, I got the chance to tour the Fender factory and they took us through the Custom Shop. We passed the area where the Master Builders do their work. I felt in the presence of royalty when John Cruz stepped out of his work area and watched as we awkwardly stared at him as we walked by. Then they took us over to where the Journeyman builders were working on the more mass-produced custom shop stuff. There was a line of 5 red Strats that he was working on that were all identically reliced.
I figured that they would be sold to the masses just like most of the others that come off the line. But then the one working on them told us that all 5 were going to the same individual (a famous player who we all know that is known for playing Strats). The player had recently decided that he didn't want to carry his famous guitar out of his studio anymore, so he was having the guitars in front of us built so he could grab one and carry it where ever he was going and not have to worry about his old, beat-up one being lost, stolen, broken, etc, but everyone seeing him play would think it was still the old trusted #1 axe he'd always used.
That changed my mind for good. If some of the famous players played guitars built as relics, then they're definitely not just for posers, and honest wear may not always be the best. I've got my Road Worn, and I've recorded with it, but, honestly, I've never played it out. It's a fun guitar. It feels wonderful, and plays nicely. And shouldn't that be what it's all about? Does it fit you like you want it to and give you the sound that you hear in your head? Then it shouldn't matter if it got its scratches on the road or in the factory,
Honestly, what's the difference in a "poser" buying a Road Worn or other reliced guitar brand new and that same person going to Reverb (or the local Guitar Center) and buying a guitar that is just well used? Either way, both of them look used. One just happens to look like 1000 identical guitars because their wear patterns are the same. Either way, they both look like a used guitar. And who cares if it's a 15 year old in a high school garage band playing it. Maybe that beat up '65 Strat they're playing was something they inherited from a relative that gave it all that wear "honestly." Are they still a poser because they didn't give it that wear?
I'm firmly in the "I don't care" camp. You know what? I also don't care if you salt and pepper your eggs more than I like because it's not me eating them. If you like the look of reliced guitar, and that's what gets you to play it, then buy it. If you like the look of a brand new, pristine axe then buy that one if it's what's going to get you to play it. Be sure it feels good. Be sure it sounds good. Be sure that you can live it. Just get whatever guitar makes you happy.
Whether it's brand new with not a scratch on it or reliced so much it's bare wood, more power to you. If it's the guitar that will get you to play more, then that's the one that you need. Because when it all comes down to it, who cares whether you're playing rock or blues or country or dubstep or whatever, and who cares what you're playing it on. Just be sure that you're playing it. Too often we confuse ourselves and make it about who we're a disciple of or the tools of the trade, but it should be about the music. If it wasn't for the music, then we wouldn't have a guitar to begin with.
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.