Gibson ES-335 1968

Gibson ES-335 1968
Gibson ES-335 1968

OK, that’s my precious! A 1968 Gibson ES-335, original, except a refret and new tuners. OK, and the nylon saddles got replaced once by some metal ones. Last year before Christmas I was visiting a vintage guitar store near by. There was a 1968 ES-335, original condition and I felt immediately in love! The slim neck, which many people complain about on these models does not really hurt me. OK, it is slim and of course it takes a bit of time to get used to it (especially when coming back to other necks!) but if you know what you can do good with it and what not, it’s perfect.

Unortunately, my financial ability to afford this baby was not 100% secured, so I could not immediately buy this baby. I asked the guy at the shop if he could sort of reserve this guitar for me, but he wouldn’t. He told me that most probably it will be sold in the next one or two weeks, if I don’t buy it right away.

And so it came … a week later it was gone …

One more week later, what a coincident, I spotted another 1968 at another dealer, more or less same price, a bit more rocked and most important, my money was available this time ūüôā So, no long hesitation, I went there, played it, bought it! It was even better than the other one!

This guitar is incredible! It has so much mojo, every tone feels like it had waited for about 45 years now to be played. It’s so dynamic, so full of body¬†but also subtle and articulate, warm but clear, bluesy, jazzy tones, rock, funk, it just does it! ¬†Cool move, I never thought that I someday would afford buying such a diamond!

That’s it:

Gibson J-45

Gibson J45
Gibson J45

I am not an Acoustic Guitar guy! I you are interested why you might find answers in my About Me section. However I owned one for some time and indeed found it useful for creating some sounds in some songs where an Acoustic really fits well. Then I made a big mistake. I tried a good one in a shop! This was a Breedlove, absolutely ugly looking, but great sounding compared to what I was used to hear when playing my own.

Unfortunately after this experience it was clear to me that I had to align the quality of my Acoustic Guitar to the level of my Electric ones, so I went to another dealer with a bigger stock of different models. After the Breedlove experience I somehow was focused on a smaller body, sort of a Concert body, which the Breedlove had.

After trying out some models it was clear though that a classical Dreadnought body was the one which convinced me more than everything else. I tried the typical suspects, Taylor, Martin, Cort, Gibson and some others, when the Gibson J-45 convinced me the most! The dealer, who even outed himself as not a big fan of the J-45, had to admit that it sounded best of all guitars that I played, so it seemed to be the best match.

It’s warm sounding, it’s sort of forgiving, its a reliable companion and a song writing machine! You take it in your hands, play some chords and bingo, another new song idea is born. So, if once I might run out of ideas, what will not happen too soon, I’ll just have to grab this baby and I will be cured! Promised!

After having purchased it and taken it home I only then recognized the crappy craftsmanship this guitar was built with having my glasses on. Some parts looked as if my 5 yo son had tried to paint or glue them together. The nut was a bit misplaced, the color of the body was on the neck and so on. After complaining at the dealer he said that this is quite usual with Gibson guitars nowadays and the company is not very open receiving these complaints. They seem to have the standpoint, if you’d like to have ¬†a Gibson and the Gibson sound, then you have to live with it! No wonder their financial situation is not the best, as I have heard … I asked the dealer if they have another model which maybe was of¬†a better built quality. They said, no, they just have got a B-stock model. I had a look at it and it looked better than my regular model, sounded the same and was even cheaper! So I took this one and got a significant amount of money back from the dealer … crazy … ūüėČ

MJM London Fuzz – Ge Fuzz Face

MJM London Fuzz – Ge Fuzz Face

Another Fuzz Face, my London Fuzz from MJM. This is a Germanium Fuzz Face and I think it is a good one. I haven’t owned another one, so I can’t judge. I just investigated about Fuzz Faces and the MJM ones always came up as affordable geed representatives of their family, so I gave it a try.

Fuzz Faces tend to get real boomy in the low end when driven harder and it’s the same with this animal. It has its strength in the low to medium gain sector. Guitar volume rolled back a bit and it starts to really shine! Sparkling bliss and rich textures are available in manifold characteristics from almost clean with a bit of hair up to quite some Fuzz with a little twist of the volume knob of your guitar. It has a Bias knob which allows to adjust according to the room temperature as Germanium transistors are very sensitive to temperature. Further this knob is another sound shaping option, I like it best a little under biased, I think it has the most beautiful textures then.

I think Ge Fuzz Face is the most versatile Fuzz circuit of all, as you can get very diverse sounds out of it. However, it works best with single coils, a Strat is the perfect match.

Soon I’ll get another Germanium Fuzz Face, from a very well known American Fuzz Face builder. I’ll compare and will see if I keep both or sell one. This baby will be hard to beat!

The lead guitar that accompanies the spoken words is this one:

IdiotBox Ron Swanson – Super Fuzz

IdiotBox Ron Swanson
IdiotBox Ron Swanson

I love this pedal! Shin-Ei Super Fuzz is one of the kings of pedals! Together with the Fuzz Face, the Tonebender and the Big Muff imho this is also one of the all time evergreens of Fuzz! Pete Townsend, Beasty Boys, Monster Magnet, J Mascis, Josh Homme, just to name a few were using these pedals.

The interesting bit is, that they have two completely different sounds on board! One is that heavily scooped power riff sound that builds guitar walls. The other is that (sometimes) octave up singing, yet gnarly typical 60s fuzz sound.

This IdiotBox pedal is a great recreation of the famous Super Fuzz. And it looks cool! Never seen that US TV series but as long as it sounds as it does its one of my favourites. Solo and stacked, both sound modes enrich your variety of fuzz sounds and should not be missed!

OK, the crazy lead parts are the Ron Swanson:

ProCo Rat

ProCo Rat
ProCo Rat

OK, this is not a Fuzz, but as far as I know it was intended to sound like one. I have heard that somehow the ProCo Rat was designed to imitate a Fuzz Face with more gain and more reliability. Well, this did not work out, but like often when a copy failed, something new was rising up.

This is a distortion pedal, this is THE distortion pedal. Many musicians, some you wold expect, others not, used this thingy to shape their tone.

It can go right in your face, but also very smooth and warm, thanks to the great lo-pass filter knob. Even some Jazz guitarists use this to fatten up their tone in musical territory where you wouldn’t expect a Rat. It’s a bit better for humbuckers than for single coils, contrary to its origin, the Fuzz Face. Mine has a mod, I think it’s the so called Ruetz mod, which can be switched on and off and gives you a bit more possibilities to shape the tone, but if it hadn’t I would not bother. I bought it used for very few bucks, considering it has the sought after LM308 Chip.

When Catalinbread came out with their Katzenkoenig Fuzz pedal I took the on ball and stacked my Rat with a Tonebender, and indeed guys, this is a nice, mean, over the top tone! No wonder you guys at Catalinbread combined parts of the circuit of both into a single pedal.

Fender Highway One Precision Bass

Fender Highway One Precision Bass
Fender Highway One Precision Bass

This is a Fender Precision Bass. It’s a Highway One, the one with the high mass bad ass bridge. I got it quite cheap when looking around for a reasonable priced Precision bass.

It had to be one. When I had no bass yet, I discovered the f** up Precision bass copy of a friend of mine. This was an old, rocked bass by a cheap german company named Rockinger, which was oversprayed very unprofessionally by a former owner of the bass. It was equiped with some EMG active pickups. We decided to replace them by original P-Bass pups from Fender and from this point in time this bass rocked! It just sounded fantastic. First choice would have been to not give it back after having borrowed it for a while. But as this is a very good friend I decided not to do so.

So, I had to buy my own bass, of course P-Bass type then. Well, the one I own now is definitely 5 times the¬†price of the Rockinger, but it doesn’t sound as perfect as this. I replaced the badass bridge by a Fender vintage one and replaced the pickupd by original P-Bass pups from Fender which gave him a bit less sustain but definitely more P-Bass growl.

It’s quite cool now, I like it, however, the cheapo is still not reached.

Analog Man – Sun Face BC 183

Analogman Sun Face BC183
Analog Man Sun Face BC183

That’s a funny one! I once bought this pedal directly from Analog Mike. Actually I wanted to buy a Prince of Tone and I thought, well if you spend that much money on shipping from the U.S. why not shop just another pedal.

These times I didn’t like it too much. This might have had something todo with my setup back then, so I sold it after some time. I received a good amount of money as these pedals are quite rare here in Europe.

After some time when I moved more and more into Fuzz territory, I really regretted this trade! I wanted again a Silicon Fuzz Face and that’s what it is. One day I saw one on the bay and it was exactly my pedal which I have sold. I did bid and got the pedal back even cheaper than I sold it some months before ūüôā

Now I again have a Silicon Fuzz Face, one with BC183 trannys which are said to be more on the smooth side of Silicon transistors. It doesn’t have too much gain, but enough to make lots of noise, esopecially into a Big Muff! That’s where it really blooms! I don’t like it too much alone, well it is not bad but I prefer a Germanium Fuzz Face over this one when not stacking the Fuzz Face.

The lead parts are this baby into a Big Muff:

Gibson Les Paul 1974

Gibson Les Paul 1974 Deluxe Converted
Gibson Les Paul 1974 Deluxe Converted

This one is a 1974 Gibson Les Paul. It was once a Deluxe and has been converted to Humbuckers long before I bought it. The conversion wasn’t done too perfect (as often), but you don’t see anything unless you¬†unmounted the pickups. A perfect re-fret was done once, so they are in a very good shape.

This is a so called “Norlin years” Gibson, which are said to vary in quality very much due to changes in the production process and used material. This said, this is one which is very good in tone, it’s very resonant and just fun to play.

When I bought it, it had Seymour Duncan Antiquities installed. Those are very nice pickups, but for my personal taste the have been a bit too muddy and lush in the low end. So I changed the pickups to more period correct ones. One original Gibson T-Top in the neck position, one Manlius T-Top replica in the bridge position. This was addressing the muddiness but lacked a bit of character, hard to say in which way, but it all sounded a bit lifeless.

1974 Les Paul Deluxe Converted
My Les Paul with BKP The Mule Pickups

Then I talked to the nice and helpful guys from Bareknuckle Pickups and they proposed their Alnico 4 “The Mule” Pickups and I have to say, they’ve nailed it! It now has all, and is everything I’d expect from this guitar. Tight but warm, precise but with character.

Like almost¬†all of my guitars this is one which I would not like to miss. I don’t use it as often as some others but if, this baby inspires me and I play things which I don’t play on others. With this I often fall into playing blues, nevertheless I often use it for fat, heavy chord work.

This guitar has a super tone, a great attack and sustain and a great amount of dirt combined with sweetness. A Les Paul how it should be. Great to have this guitar!

DAW

Cubase Elements 9In the old analog days recording was really complicated, starting with the whole bunch of equipment, the space and the facilities you needed .

Working with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is much easier, but … starting with a DAW isn’t as intuitive as you might think. For me it definitely wasn’t. I once tried a Cubase version I cannot recall and I was completely lost! Too many options, too many toggles, sliders, switches … if you just want to record some tracks this is completely overwhelming you in the first instance.

So I was happy to have someone who could show me how it works. I took his tool so I could ask him how to do things. This was very helpful.¬†An old friend brought me to digital home recording. He used Magix Samplitude Musicstudio 2016 and that’s what I used then as well.

After some time and experience and first promising, I realized that the Magix software wasn’t the optimum for me. Maybe it was just a compatibility issue but I got stability issues with my laptop so I decided to try out the good old Cubase. And that’s where I am now. I use Cubase Elements 9. this works fine, stable and I even think about upgrading to Cubase Artist 9 but just because the side chain compression feature. As you can see I am a bit more into DAW¬†now. If you have some experience and have worked with one tool, it’s not a real problem to go for another one.

So, no fear go ahead! If you’ve got someone to ask, perfect, if not, RTFM and take a look at the many online tutorials on YouTube. It’s well worth the effort!For me a whole new universe opened up with digital home recording.

Interface

Steinberg UR22Everything starts with an interface. Well, a computer isn’t bad either, but I assume you have got one already. If you want to record analog instruments you need a thing that converts your instruments output into 1 and 0 to be able to enter the digital world, an interface.

It depends on your requirements how many input and output channels you need. For me, two input and two output channels are sufficient, it should support line level, instrument level and microphone level signals to be ready for what ever instruments to come. I have got a Steinberg UR22 which fully pleases all my needs! It’s connected via USB and very convenient. It just works well! It also works well with effect pedals in front. I have lot’s of them and I cannot live without. Fine to have modulation, reverb and delay as digital plugins, but Fuzz should stay analog Fuzz, I think! And it it works well with these as well!

Most of the time the interface comes with a free version of a DAW, which is the next essential part for recording digitally.