Martin Guitar to Introduce All-New Modern Deluxe Series at 2019 Winter NAMM

NAZARETH, Pa. (Winter NAMM, HALL D Booth 5602) – January 7, 2019 – C. F. Martin & Co.® (Martin Guitar) will introduce their brand-new Modern Deluxe Series at Winter NAMM in Anaheim, California, January 24-27, 2019. The new series combines sophistication and performance to create a truly unique playing experience.

The Modern Deluxe Series is offered in four styles: D-18, D-28, 000-28, and OM-28. Each model is packed with custom features and modern technology that you have to see, feel, and hear for yourself.

“Our goal has always been to make the best guitars and strings possible,” said Chris Martin, Chairman and CEO. “We are thrilled with the positive feedback we are getting on these instruments, and we hope you’ll give them a try for yourself.”  

The vintage appointments offered in the Modern Deluxe Series include a Sitka spruce Vintage Tone System (VTS) top, VTS Adirondack spruce braces, a dovetail neck joint, and natural protein glue construction. All of these features together produce the rich, fully aged Martin tone that has inspired generations.

The sound isn’t the only thing that will turn heads with the Modern Deluxe in your hands. The 28-style guitars feature East Indian rosewood back and sides with a contrasting flamed maple binding, while the 18-style features genuine mahogany back and sides with contrasting East Indian rosewood binding. All four models feature stylish gold frets, gold open-gear tuners, and a gorgeous, pearl inlaid, 1930s style script logo on the headstock.

One of the ultra-modern features that is new to this series is a two-way titanium truss rod, which makes the neck super easy to adjust, and it is 64% lighter than a traditional truss rod. The models also feature Liquidmetal® red dot bridge pins and a composite carbon fiber bridge plate that increase the volume without adding weight.

One of the most exciting features is a brand-new neck shape that was designed just for the Modern Deluxe Series. The shape has an ultra-low profile, and it is slightly asymmetrical for maximum hand comfort up and down the fretboard.

With all of these features combined in one series, Modern Deluxe stands apart from anything in Martin’s production line to date. With these guitars, sophistication and performance come standard.

All Modern Deluxe models are strung with Authentic Acoustic strings.

*Liquidmetal® is a registered trademark of Liquidmetal Technologies, Inc.

To learn more about these instruments, please visit www.martinguitar.com/deluxe.

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Industry Icon Martin Guitar and The Nature Conservancy Partner to Save Elephants

Custom Guitars to Include the name Satao to honor Elephant Recently Slaughtered for Ivory

Arlington, VA – June 26, 2014 – It’s estimated that there were 1.2 million elephants in Africa in 1980. Now there are only about 430,000, with an estimated 20,000 elephants killed last year alone.  Tragically, one of the world’s largest and most famous elephants, Satao, was recently killed by poachers in Kenya, fueling global outcry for action.  To help end the worst poaching crisis in history, Martin Guitar and The Nature Conservancy launched a partnership today to ramp up efforts in Africa and China through #SaveElephants, a campaign to increase resources for elephant protection, add to growing global pressure on leaders, and to provide concerned individuals with opportunities to take action.   Music artists have also lent their support as elephant ambassadors to help raise awareness.

#SaveElephants is part of a partnership between The Nature Conservancy’s Africa Program and China Program to increase wildlife security, expand habitat, reduce demand, and reduce poverty and instability – the root cause of poaching. The campaign will provide people with simple actions to help elephants that added up, will make a difference.

Martin Guitar has been creating the finest instruments in the world for over 180 years, and is a leading acoustic instrument maker.  Martin has been concerned about the poaching of African elephants since the 1970s when it made the choice to start phasing out elephant ivory on its instruments, replacing it with a synthetic material.  A hang-tag that was featured on its guitars at that time stated the company’s position: “C.F. Martin and Company refuses to be a contributor to this atrocity.” Since then, it has continued to develop and use materials that it believes comply with its sense of environmental stewardship. In 2013 Martin Guitar stopped using Preserved Mammoth Ivory (PMI) and implemented a plan to phase out using the material on its models. Today Martin Guitar is proud that PMI, like elephant ivory before, has been completely removed from its supply chain and is no longer used on any guitar model it manufacturers.

“Forty-five years ago we phased out the use of ivory. And yet today I’m still concerned about the horrible slaughter of elephants. This is a terrible shame and it should stop. And the only way it is going to stop is if people stop buying and using ivory,” said Chris Martin IV, Chairman and CEO, Martin Guitar.”

Martin Guitar asked music artists to lend their support and the response is heartwarming and continues to grow.  Elephant Ambassadors will help spread awareness about the issue and participate in a range of programs, including guitars donated and autographed by award-winning artists Dierks Bentley, Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers, Colbie Caillet, and Neko Case . Other Elephant Ambassadors include:  Greg Bates, Danny Davis, Dirty Guv’nahs, Donavon Frankenreiter, Jason Isbell, LP, Mac Powell, Jack Mitrani, John Oates, Chuck Ragan, Amanda Shires, and James Valentine of Maroon 5. 

In addition, Martin will utilize all of its communications channels to share information about the campaign.  Chris Martin has posted a video about the initiative on the company’s web page, “A Word From Chris, Save Elephants,”www.martinguitar.com/saveelephants.

“About 55 elephants are illegally killed each day to fuel the global demand for luxury goods made out of ivory,” said David Banks, Managing Director, Africa Program, The Nature Conservancy.  “Martin Guitar is lending their star power to help end this crisis and the awareness they raise for the issue will make a real difference.”

This effort isn’t just for rock stars.  People who want to join the herd and help save elephants can visit our new IndieGoGo page and help fund The Nature Conservancy’s African Elephant Initiative.  When you donate, you earn perk points to receive one-of-a-kind prizes including a specially designed and donated Martin Guitar that features Satao’s name, an elephant tracks inlay, and other accents that celebrate these extraordinary animals.

The Nature Conservancy is also launching an online hub for the #SaveElephants campaign at nature.org/elephants. With the click of a button, people can learn more and help rally more support for elephants.

The Nature Conservancy is working with many partners to protect elephants through a holistic approach that addresses both the supply and demand side of the ivory crisis. Most illegal ivory is trafficked to Asian countries, most notably China, where they are carved into chopsticks, bracelets, and other items. Unfortunately, there is widespread misinformation, leaving many Chinese consumers unaware of the truth about the origins of ivory, so The Nature Conservancy is working with some of the most influential private sector leaders in China to educate consumers and erode the prestige of ivory. At the same time, the Conservancy is working with partners in Africa to increase security forces, expand conservation areas, and importantly, tackle the root cause of poaching: poverty and instability. The only way to protect elephants long-term is to provide conservation incentives to the people who live among them.

Naperville Music applauds Martin and is honored to carry their instruments.

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MARTIN’S COMMITMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT

Martin Guitar is committed to corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship. To support this commitment, Martin chose the Rainforest Alliance as their certifying body to achieve Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Chain-of-Custody certification. Being FSC® certified indicates that Martin complies with one of the highest social and environmental standards on the market. By offering products that are FSC® certified by the Rainforest Alliance, Martin supports responsible management of the world’s forests. The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) label coupled with the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal on selected guitars lets consumers know that the wood used comes from forests that have met rigorous standards for protecting forestlands, communities and wildlife.

The Rainforest Alliance, which helped to establish the FSC® in 1993, today works in over 70 countries to promote strong forests and healthy communities. In 2009 Martin was one of the first acoustic guitar manufacturers in the industry to produce a guitar model comprised entirely of FSC® certified woods. The D Mahogany included a genuine mahogany neck, back and sides, an Alpine spruce soundboard and katalox fingerboard and bridge.

Martin Guitar is audited annually by the Rainforest Alliance regarding FSC® Chain-of-Custody certification compliance. Many coworkers across all functional areas are involved in maintaining our FSC® compliance.

Naperville Music, your place for everything Martin.

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Yamaha TransAcoustic TA2 Pianos Give Pianists the Best of Both Acoustic and Digital Worlds

ANAHEIM, Calif. (January 24, 2019) — Yamaha today showcased the new TA2 generation of its groundbreaking TransAcoustic pianos. The TransAcoustic TA2 family — comprising four upright and three grand models — adds a host of improved Voices as well as features including Bluetooth, audio recording, and integration with the revolutionary Smart Pianist app, which can teach songs already residing in a smart device’s music library.

The original TransAcoustic U1TA upright and GC1TA baby grand pianos were the first stringed acoustic pianos to have a volume control, thanks to specially designed, electro-acoustic transducers — a device that converts digital sound data into sound energy — located near each of the instrument’s two soundboard bridges. These transducers cause the soundboard to naturally vibrate in much the same way a speaker cone would and allow premium digital Voices, such as the nine-foot Yamaha CFX concert grand, to be played using the pianos’ own soundboards as a “speaker.”

Joining the CFX piano Voice in the TA2 is a new sample set of the mighty Bösendorfer Imperial, the Viennese concert grand famed for its deep bass and singing sustain. Upright, Pop Grand, and Ballad Grand Voices add character for rock and other modern musical styles. Supplementary Voices such as electric pianos, string sections, choirs, synth pads, organs, and harpsichord are not only useful on their own, but make for lush and beautiful layers with the acoustic piano.

Updated Silent Piano 2 technology lets players practice quietly using only the digital Voices, but with the full tactile feedback of the grand or upright piano action — which still moves fully except without the hammers striking the strings. Hammer sensors and non-contact optical key sensors interpret every nuance of the player’s touch from legato to staccato. Silent Piano 2 mode features an improved binaural CFX Voice, recorded using special microphones that “hear” like a person seated at the piano. The result is so immersive that players will forget they are wearing headphones at all. With Voices other than the CFX, a new Stereophonic Optimizer creates a sense of natural distance and acoustics through headphones.

Silent Piano 2 mode is further enhanced by Yamaha Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM), which captures all of the complex interactions of the strings, damper pedal, soundboard, rim, and frame of an acoustic piano, accurately rendering the harmonics overtones that are an essential part of the acoustic piano experience.

Via Bluetooth, TA2 pianos can wirelessly stream audio through their soundboards, allowing easy play-along with music from smartphones or tablets. The TA2 system can also record performances as MIDI internally or as audio to an inserted USB memory stick. The Yamaha Smart Pianist app controls all functions of the piano from an iOS® or supported Android™ device. Smart Pianist can also create chord charts for songs in the device’s music library, letting musicians learn the songs they already own and love. The digital tone generator of the TA2 series will also play downloadable songs files from the vast Yamaha MusicSoft ecosystem, with Smart Pianist scrolling their full scores as the player follows along.

The TransAcoustic TA2 system is available in Yamaha U1, YUS1, YUS3, and YUS5 upright pianos and GC1, C1X, and C3X grand pianos. For any pianist, student, or family who has wondered whether to choose the natural sound and touch of an acoustic piano or the conveniences and flexibility of a digital one, the TransAcoustic TA2 series provides both in a single instrument — which no other piano does at any price.

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Yamaha Introduces the P-121, the Perfect Compact Digital Piano for Beginners and Gigging Musicians Alike

ANAHEIM, Calif. ( January 24, 2019 ) — Yamaha today showcased the P-121 digital piano, the ideal piano for aspiring pianists, as well as gigging musicians looking for an ultra-compact and affordable instrument to take to their next performance.

The P-121 is the first 73-key, weighted action digital piano from Yamaha, and carries on the tradition of the best-selling P-Series digital pianos, which boast dynamic, high-quality sound along with a premium built-in stereo speaker system. With less keys than most digital pianos, the P-121 never falls short in touch, tone and features. Industry-leading Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) keyboard action and the instrument’s matte black key tops allow beginning players to build the proper finger technique for performing on an acoustic piano. The P-121 also reproduces the magnificent sound of the Yamaha CFIIIS concert grand piano, giving inexperienced pianists the ability to make music with dynamics, expressiveness and power not typically possible with a digital piano of this size or price.

What’s more, weighing in at a mere 22 pounds, the P-121 is the lightest, most affordable weighted key digital piano on the market, and makes for the perfect musical companion to take along with you wherever you make music. Additionally, its compact size makes it the ideal option for music labs, where the space-saving afforded by the P-121 could mean more keyboards and more students in the classroom.

The P-121 is also compatible with the Smart Pianist app for iOS devices, which allows pianists to turn their smart device into an intuitive and rich graphic user interface, making selecting Voices and configuring settings even easier.

The Smart Pianist app also takes advantage of the instrument’s built-in USB audio and MIDI interface and on-board speaker system. This not only enables the user to play along with their favorite artists, but it also allows them to record audio and/or MIDI performances into a computer.

“We recognize that there are a lot of players who want a fully-weighted keyboard action but are concerned with the weight and size of traditional 88-note, portable digital pianos. The P-121 is designed for these musicians,” said Ben Harrison, marketing manager, Digital Pianos, Yamaha Corporation of America. “There is no sacrifice in sound quality or functionality. This is a compact design to provide players with an ultra-portable digital piano option for the home, or to play out.”

Pricing and Availability

The Yamaha P-121 digital piano comes in both black and spotlight white finishes and is currently shipping at $899.99 MSRP.

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Yamaha AvantGrand N1X Debuts with Uncompromising Concert Grand Piano Sound, Bluetooth Connectivity and App Integration

ANAHEIM (January 24, 2019) — Beginning in 2009, Yamaha enthralled serious pianists with AvantGrand, the world’s first digital acoustic “hybrid” instruments that successfully captured the sound, touch, action and physical resonance of a concert-quality grand piano without the tuning, cost or footprint of a comparable stringed instrument.

Each of the original models—NU1, N1, N2 and the flagship N3—has stood at the pinnacle of combining a genuine grand or upright piano action with a stunningly realistic concert grand piano digital sound, drawing on over a century of Yamaha innovation in both acoustic and electronic instrument building. The newest model to join the lineup is AvantGrand N1X, a highly-affordable, second-generation instrument that, like its predecessor, N1, features a space-saving, vertical-style modern cabinet friendly to any physical environment.       

N1X boasts painstaking samples of two of the world’s finest concert grand pianos: the CFX, the crowning glory of Yamaha pianos, able to project over the sound of a symphony orchestra while still pristinely interpreting the subtlest nuances of performance; and the Bösendorfer Imperial, renowned for its deep bass, singing sonority, and seemingly endless sustain.

Whether playing or listening, the results are an immersive concert grand experience on every level imaginable, with all the expected digital conveniences such as tuning never being required.

The Yamaha CFX and Bösendorfer samples have been recorded at many velocity layers with seamless transitions, offering dynamic and harmonic range suitable across all genres of music.

A binaurally sampled version of the Yamaha CFX Piano is optimized for listening through headphones. Binaural sampling records via special microphones that duplicate the geometry and hearing conditions of the human head, resulting in a natural and immersive sound field that helps players who need to practice quietly forget they are wearing headphones at all.

The AvantGrand N1X also makes use of Yamaha Spatial Acoustic Sampling (SAS) and a four-channel speaker system. This sends subtly different frequency information to each channel’s speaker such that the sound “blooms” from the instrument in the same manner as from a concert grand piano. Furthermore, speaker placement is optimized such that notes and overtones blend in the air as they follow an immediate path to the player’s ears. In taking ownership of this “last mile” of the sound’s journey once it leaves the speakers, the AvantGrand N1X truly stands apart.

Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM) captures every detail of how the internal components of an acoustic piano vibrate in response to struck notes. This includes sympathetic string resonance, damper pedal resonance, natural resonance of the soundboard, and more. All of these respond flawlessly to the player’s touch and dynamics, producing harmonic overtones exactly like that of the acoustic grand pianos that were sampled. Employing real wooden keys and hammers, the action of the AvantGrand N1X is not like a grand piano — it is that of a grand piano. The hammers strike the “strings” (sensors) from below, allowing for precise weighting and adjustments to the hammers and escapement note by note. This provides touch that will please even the most demanding pianists. Then, non-contact optical key sensors detect every nuance of the player’s timing, velocity, legato, and other musical techniques. The end result is a playing experience virtually indistinguishable from that of sitting at a top-notch concert grand. Listeners will barely need to close their eyes to be convinced they are listening to a Yamaha CFX or Bösendorfer Imperial while sitting in an acoustically ideal hall.

Via Bluetooth, songs from a computer or mobile device can be wirelessly streamed through the speaker system of the AvantGrand N1X. What’s more, the Yamaha Smart Pianist app allows Voice selection and complete control of the N1X using iOS® and select Android™️ devices. This revolutionary app can also analyze the music library residing on the device and generate chord charts, helping players learn the songs they already own and love. The AvantGrand N1X also features onboard audio recording and can play back song files downloaded from the vast Yamaha MusicSoft ecosystem. For these, Smart Pianist supports full score display. All these features add up to a music teacher that can live on the AvantGrand’s music rack in the form of your tablet.

“Melding acoustic elements with digital technology, the AvantGrand N1X provides discerning pianists with everything they expect from an acoustic piano, as well as everything the need from a digital piano,” says Russ Hirota, Disklavier and AvantGrand product manager, Yamaha Corporation of America. “The combination of tradition and technology creates the ultimate grand piano experience in a modern, space-saving design and lets pianists enjoy their instrument whenever the moment calls.”

In his review of the original AvantGrand in Keyboard magazine, editor-in-chief Stephen Fortner called it “a virtual piano for people for whom nothing but a real piano will do.” With the AvantGrand N1X, that vision is realized more fully than ever, and the authenticity and musicality that can be achieved in a compact format rises to unprecedented new heights.

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10 Guitars You Need to Know #3: Rickenbacker

June 17, 2015 / Tagged: Beginner Lessons, Music History /

Author: Lucas Frost

3. Hollow & Electric: The Rickenbacker 330

The resilience of the Rickenbacker 330 hollow-body electric guitar

During the 1950s, the popularity of the Fender Telecaster and the Gibson Les Paul made one thing clear: the solid body was here to stay. But it did not make hollow bodies redundant. One guitar in particular illustrates the resilience of the hollow-body electric guitar, known today as the semi-acoustic: the Rickenbacker 330. Its chiming, almost hypnotic clarity and famous “jangle” became an essential component of the British Invasion sound, appearing on The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night and The Who’s My Generation. Even the world’s first psychedelic track, The Byrds’ Eight Miles High, based its groove on a Rickenbacker riff.

Rickenbacker was the 1st Company to Specialize in Electric Instruments

Rickenbacker is central to the story of the guitar. It was the first company to specialize in electric instruments, and pioneered the mysteries of electro-magnetic music throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Noteworthy is the Hawaiian steel guitar known as the Frying Pan (due to its shape). The entire guitar was made out of a single block of aluminium and as a result suffered from tuning problems, as the whole instrument expanded under the heat of the stage lights. Rickenbacker also made a standard electric guitar, the Bakelie Model B which was introduced in 1935 – made out of the same material as bowling balls, it was heavy and reduced the feedback problems associated with hollow-body electrics. In 1958, Rickenbacker launched its most successful model, the 330. It’s a semi-acoustic.

The Main Difference is in the Tone

So what is the advantage of semi-acoustics? Obviously they are lighter and give you less back-pain after hours on stage. And the fact that they are hollow limits the luthier’s creativity, lending these guitars a more traditional, classical aesthetic. But of course the main difference is in the tone.

3 Advantages of Semi-Acoustics

  1. Lighter in weight (less back-pain)
  2. A more traditional, classic aesthetic
  3. Tone (main advantage)

Good Vibrations

When you strum the strings, they transmit their vibration via the bridge to the body; the body will vibrate along too and influence the vibration pattern of the strings. Certain harmonic overtones will be emphasized, others are diminished. A thin shell, such as in semi-acoustics, responds more directly to the strings vibration and has a greater impact on the overall frequency distribution. In addition, the air inside the hollow body will vibrate too, which creates interplay between the vibrating strings, body and air. So the final tone and sustain depends on other variables such as type and thickness of the wood, volume of air and f-holes.

Semi-acoustics come alive in all their responsive richness, warm, ringing overtones and delicious sustain

This greater “vibrational sensitivity” has another effect: feedback. Semi-acoustics are infamous for their tendency to feedback easily, and solid-bodies were pretty much invented to reduce this effect – guitarists would stuff foam into the body or tape over the f-holes to control their guitar’s screech. But in the hands of great guitarists, their feedback can be used to marvellous effects. With the right distance to the amp and perhaps a hint of overdrive, semi-acoustics will come alive in all their responsive richness, warm, ringing overtones and delicious sustain. The creative use of the semi-acoustics feedback “problem” led to great experimentation of textured soundscapes.

The Rickenbacker gave its shimmering sound to some of the most innovative and experimental bands ever

The Rickenbacker 330 is a great example, an instrument that has give its shimmering sound to some of

the most innovative and experimental bands ever. It is in reality only half-acoustic, with a cavity in only the upper side of the body and a futuristic f-hole to provide a little resonance. It shines in a band context, especially when paired up with a solid-body. This is how The Beatles, Oasis or The Smiths got that full, rich tapestry of sound that retains its sparkle without going muddy. Even AC/DC get their sound by combining hollow with solid body, albeit not with a Rickenbacker.

This is how The Beatles, Oasis or The Smiths got that full, rich tapestry of sound

Standout Features of the Rickenbacker 330

And of course, the 330 has plenty of other features that make it stand out. Rickenbacker seems to have
doubled many standard features. Most Rickenbackers have two truss-rods, side by side, which allow you to regulate the straightness of your neck more accurately (but it also increases neck weight). Some of the earlier 330s featured two output jacks, one for each pickup. This gave you the option of playing through multiple amps to create new sound palates, and gives you versatility with effect loops and a stereo stage sound. And the 330 has two tone and volume knobs (one per pickup) with the addition of a “blend” knob, which allows for a smooth tweaking of your tone – a bit like a single band EQ. The thick, flat-wound single-coil pickups accentuate clear, mid- to upper range tones with good definition. And if you want even more harmonic richness, there was the option of the 12-string 360 model [as seen in image].

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John Fogerty Is Reunited with His CCR Rickenbacker After 44 Years. By Damian Fanelli February 16, 2017 Artist. Guitar World

Sometime around 1973 or ’74, John Fogerty was at Creedence Clearwater Revival’s rehearsal space in San Francisco.

The band had recently broken up, and the successful guitarist/songwriter didn’t really know what lay ahead—at least beyond his new album at the time, The Blue Ridge Rangers. Two 12-year-old kids—apparently named Rick and Louie—were hanging out at the rehearsal space, and Fogerty decided to give his 1969 Rickenbacker 325 to Louie.

“I was just detached and numb at that point,” Fogerty told Rolling Stone. “I think I gave it away to sort of end that chapter of my life.”

The Rick had been his main CCR guitar for several years; he used it for pretty much every standard-tuning song on every Creedence album from 1969’s Bayou Country through 1972’s Mardi Gras. It’s the guitar he played at Woodstock and on The Ed Sullivan Show, the guitar that can be heard on “Green River,” “Travelin’ Band,” “Up Around the Bend” and many more.

The Fireglo (what most other manufacturers and news websites call “sunburst”) guitar, which he bought at the Rickenbacker showroom in Los Angeles in ’69, had a unique look. Right after Fogerty bought it, he took it to his back yard, grabbed some yellow paint and wrote “ACME” in all caps on the headstock’s name plate. Some say he was inspired by the fictional corporation in the Warner Bros. cartoons he loved as a kid.

About 20 years later, Fogerty stumbled upon the guitar at Norman’s Rare Guitars in Tarzana, California. However, the store was asking for a lot of money at the time. “I just looked at [Norman] and the guitar, shook my head and said, ‘I’m not doing that’,” Fogerty said.

Just last year, however, Fogerty casually mentioned to his wife, Julie, that he’d like to get that old ACME guitar back. Without telling him, she poured everything into a search to track it down—a search that led to Gary’s Classic Guitars in Loveland, Ohio.

Cut to this past Christmas morning. After opening most of the gifts under the tree, Fogerty noticed one more large box that was wrapped in paper but also covered by one of his trademark plaid shirts. Fogerty removed the shirt and wrapping paper and saw—you guessed it—an old Rickenbacker case.

“I was immediately struck dumb,” Fogerty said. “I turned to my wife and said, ‘Am I about to get overwhelmed here?'” It was his long-lost ACME Rick.

“I never imagined I’d see it again,” Fogerty told Rolling Stone. It didn’t take him long to plug in the ax for the first time in more than 40 years. “I started playing the solo in ‘Green River,’ and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. It was exactly that sound, 100 percent.”Fogerty will use the guitar March 3, when he resumes his John Fogerty: Fortunate Son in Concert residency at the Wynn Las Vegas. Stay tuned for a video!

Naperville Music, your home for Rickenbacker Guitars

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Gibson Guitar Greats: Steve Jones

Note-for-note, Steve Jones just may be the most influential rock’n’roll guitar player ever.  Whaaaaaat!? Did I really just write that? Yes I did, and here’s why. Steve Jones only made one album of any significance. But that album was the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks. And there weren’t even many notes on that – it was just 35 minutes long. But Jones’ blazing Les Paul roar  – together with the Pistols’ nihilistic attitude – continues to be the 101 for any “punk” act, and that guitar sound is a benchmark for a lot of metal players, too. Of course his playing was fundamentally Chuck Berry-licks reheated, but no-one had ever done it like this before. And not so dramatically since.

Of course, other guitarists have been more influential overall: Hendrix, Clapton, Chuck Berry, Les Paul himself, BB King, Tony Iommi, <insert your favourite artist here>… But you’re talking substantial back catalogs with those guitar heroes. In Steve Jones’ case, you’re just talking about those 35 minutes. He came, he saw, he conquered, he ****ed off. That, folks, is amazing work.

Even more so, as Jones became a guitarist by “accident”. In his teens, he decided to form a band – originally named The Swankers – of which he was singer, and he only picked up the guitar after [original guitarist] Wally Nightingale’s departure at the insistence of new manager Malcolm McLaren, and was then replaced by a vocalist whom Jones dubbed “Johnny Rotten.”

In a 2002 interview with Sex-Pistols.net Jones admitted, “I guess I learnt [guitar] properly about three months before we did our first gig. I didn’t really know anything on the guitar before that, maybe a couple of little bits and pieces. I didn’t know what I was doing. I still didn’t know what I was doing in those three months really. I just used to take a lot of speed and just play along to a couple of records over and over again, [The Stooges’] Raw Power and the New York Dolls’ first album.”

Jones’ actual favorite players were a little broader, even if he never attempted to emulate them. Jones told Gibson.com, “Mick Ronson was definitely a big influence. I was a mad Bowie fan growing up, with the glam and all that. And The Faces’ Ronnie Wood was one of the guys I loved growing up as a teenager. Pete Townshend was definitely an influence, but not as much as Mick Ronson and Ronnie Wood. The Faces were like my band. The Who had already been goin’ a long time. I’m not takin’ anything away from Pete Townshend; he’s a fantastic guitar player and brilliant songwriter. [With] Roxy Music, them three bands were my favorite bands growing up. I’d go and see them everywhere.

“And Mott the Hoople. Mick Ralphs was a great guitar player. And I liked Free, even though that was a little before my time. I thought Paul Kossoff was a great guitar player, too. Status Quo, there was another great band.”  So, pretty much classic taste for any English guitarist growing up in the ‘70s. But, somehow, the Pistols ended up sounding like none of them at all…

Essential Listening

It’s just the one album that’s truly essential. Never Mind The Bollocks was essentially recorded as a 3-piece, with the band doing their best to keep the newly-joined Sid Vicious away from the studio. Glen Matlock – although the co-writer with Jones of many of the band’s best riffs – had been pushed out over personality clashes,and Jones would later caricature Matlock’s unsuitability for the Pistols as down to his habit of washing his feet in hotels rooms!

Jones later explained, “Sid [Vicious] wanted to come down and play on the album, and we tried as hard as possible not to let him anywhere near the studio. Luckily he had hepatitis at the time.” To appease Sid his bass is in the mix to a tiny degree (“he’s fumblin’ around on ‘Bodies’”), but the majority, Never Mind… was recorded with Jones playing guitars and bass. And, looking back, it’s baffling that the Pistols were ever derided as a band that “couldn’t play.” Jones and drummer Paul Cook could play their asses off – eventually – even if they kept things simple. Session guitarist Chris Spedding, who had produced their early demos, recalled: “All that stuff about them not being able to play was rubbish. When [potential producer] Mickie Most heard them he presumed the guitar player was me. So did [eventual Never Mind…] Chris Thomas. But The Pistols could play.”

Jones told Yahoo! Backspin this year, “It was some of the best times, recording. I enjoy recording more than playing live. It was about creating a sound. It wasn’t a case of going in and just saying, ‘let’s roll it, who cares what the drums sound like.’ It wasn’t like that at all. That’s why we picked Chris Thomas. Me and Cooky were big fans of early Roxy Music and he’s produced a couple of their albums. He was fantastic, Chris Thomas and Bill Price, the engineer. I don’t know what he thought of us –  he’s just finished an Elton John record, or something – but they adapted to what we were doing. And when I first heard the finished version of ‘God Save The Queen’, I knew it was great. But I didn’t know how people would be talking about it 40 years later.”

In Eagle Rock’s Classic Albums video documentary, Thomas recalls how he did work hard on “orchestrating guitar parts”, but the raw talent was already there. The late Bill Price, who’s main job as co-producer was to capture Jones’ multiple tracks, put it simply: “Steve Jones was, and still is, just about the tightest lead guitarist I’ve ever heard in my life”… and Price was a man who engineered/mixed The Clash, The Cult, Bowie with Ronson and Guns N’ Roses. Indeed, such was Jones’ superbly metronomic talents, he even laid down the bass tracks after his guitars: and they were still bang on. The rhythm tracks were replicate takes, left and right channels, leading Thomas to say it wasn’t so a much stereo, as “mono deluxe.” He argued: “that’s the Sex Pistols sound, really. Barre chords; bass doing the same an octave below. E chords. Panzer Division!”It’s still one of the greatest rock guitar sounds ever recorded.

Post-Pistols, Jones and Cook’s The Professionals cut I Didn’t See It Coming (1981) which is more new wave-y – solid guitaring, but lacking the brutality of NMTB. Elsewhere, Jones has played on albums by everyone from Bob Dylan to Iggy Pop (on Iggy’s 1988 “metal” album, Instinct), as well as cutting a few solo albums. The closest he’s come to the Pistols sound again was on the self-titled album by Neurotic Outsiders (1996), a mainly Jones-led album with GN’R’s Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan and Duran Duran’s John Taylor. If you want to read Jones’ own story, get his 2016 memoir Lonely Boy.

Steve Jones and Gibson

Jones was notoriously light-fingered, and numerous guitars found their way into his hands. The sound of Never Mind The Bollocks is all Gibson, though. His main Gibson was a ‘74 Les Paul Custom in off-white finish. It notably had two stickers of female figures on the lower body. Syl Sylvain of The New York Dolls had given the guitar to Malcolm McLaren, the Dolls’ manager at the time, in lieu of paying McLaren for plane tickets (a long story we haven’t got space for here!) McLaren gave the guitar to Jones circa 1975, when he took over managing them. That said, Jones has said that over the years that he’s had “five or six” cream Customs. Gibson Custom produced a limited-run replica of Jones’ main Custom, complete with lightly-aged gold hardware, in 2008.

Jones also played black Les Paul Customs, a double-cut Les Paul Special, a Flying V (in the studio, where there’s a picture of him wearing one of the Pistols’ notorious “I Hate Pink Floyd” tees), and at the Pistols last (‘70s gig) he played a Gibson Firebird V. Don’t expect a lofty analysis as to why he loves Les Pauls, though. “That guy Wally (Nightingale), I nicked him a Les Paul,” Jones told Sex-Pistols.net. “I was always attracted to Les Pauls. I like Les Pauls, they’re more chunky. I dunno. They sounded kind of chunky, more than anything.”

Ultimately, getting the exact gear isn’t going to help you play exactly like Steve Jones. (Note: he also credits retro-fitted Gauss speakers in his Twin Reverb amp for his sound, although his pal Billy Duffy of The Cult is sceptical. He calls it a “lie” adding; “I think [Steve] still has a Marshall inside his.”) Of his own guitar style, Jones has said, “You get hundreds of ****s who wanna play like me, but none of them ever sound like it. It’s the thieving dirty fingernails! Iggy Pop calls me the Robert Mitchum of punk.”

11-07-2018 Gibson Guitar

Naperville Music, your home for everything Gibson.

mark@napervillemusic.com

 

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The Common Heritage of the Les Paul and SG Models

Two timeless classics that emerged from the same early drive to establish a cornerstone solid body electric guitar, Gibson’s Les Paul and SG arguably have more in common than not, yet the elements that distinguish them result in two very different instruments. You can perform many of the same tricks on each, certainly, but there’s no mistaking one for the other, either in terms of looks, feel or sound. Laying out the essential elements of each can help us get a handle on where and why the differences exist, and how they can work to our advantage, but first let’s take a brief look at how Gibson’s flagship single-cut ever became a double-cut in the first place.

The Birth of the SG: Evolving Styles

Despite the fact that it would eventually become the most-revered electric guitar every made, Gibson’s Les Paul hadn’t really found it’s groove by 1960. The model’s iconic form had been established by 1958, when the PAF humbuckers of ’56 were joined by a new sunburst top, but sales had still failed to catch fire. Gibson records show that after shipping 920 goldtops in 1956 and 598 in ’57, the company only sent out 434 sunburst Les Pauls in ’58. That number rose to 643 in ’59, then declined to 635 in ’60.

Part way into ’60 Gibson reassessed the Les Paul conundrum: the model was, on one hand, just too far ahead of its time (about six years, to be precise), while on the other it was viewed by many players as being too traditional, too stodgy even. At the turn of the decade, the trend was for flashy, sharp, colorful, pointy, and with all due respect, the Les Paul was none of these. With a body made of solid mahogany with an elegantly carved solid maple top, binding on the body’s top edge, and other time-tested elements of traditional Gibson luthiery, it was also an elaborately constructed instrument—amid a field of slab-bodied, flat-topped competitors—and arguably not worth the effort amid lackluster sales.

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As such, it made total sense to kill three birds with one stone: transform the Les Paul Standard into a guitar that still sounded great and felt sublime to play, but which was both easier and less costly to manufacture, and which checked all the stylistic boxes for the trends of the day.

And Then There Were Two

The new model of ’61 shot off the line with a sleek double-cutaway body made purely of solid mahogany, with a pair of pointy and subtly asymmetrical horns that made it one of the sexiest guitar designs around. The body was also slimmer, and therefore lighter, than the chunky single-cut Les Paul that had preceded it—another bonus—and was finished in a bright cherry red, while its Custom counterpart came in flashy Arctic White, still with all the multi-ply binding and gold hardware bling.

This guitar remained the Les Paul Standard in Gibson’s catalog, while it’s fancy partner was the Les Paul Custom. After ’63, though, when Les Paul’s endorsement deal was on a temporary hiatus, it became known as the SG Standard, the name we’ve associated with the double-cut ever since, while earlier examples are now often referred to as “Les Paul/SGs”. In any case, the change-up worked, and the new design clearly sparked interest from a much wider swathe of players. Gibson shipped a whopping 1,662 units in the new version’s first year, not far short of three times the number of Les Paul Standards sold in 1960. The new Les Paul Custom, which now came with a white finish and three pickups, saw an equally copious upturn in production, with 513 shipped in 1961.

Common Ingredients

Other than the new chassis, the new double-cut Les Paul still received all the same hardware and electronics that the single-cut had had: Kluson tuners, Gibson’s Tune-o-matic bridge, and a pair of humbucking pickups, which were (for now) still the same PAF units with which the last of the ’60 single-cut Les Pauls had been equipped. The guitar’s neck was essentially the same, and the scale length was the same 24.75″ familiar to Gibson players. Given the extent to which pickups, hardware, and scale length play a role in forming any guitar’s sonic signature, these were certainly significant.

Most examples of the new Les Paul Standard and Custom came with one very different piece of hardware, however, in the form of the Deluxe Vibrato, often referred to as the “sideways vibrola” for the way it was operated. Little loved by Gibson fans, this unit was often simply ignored for fear of putting the guitar out of tune through too much use, and many early Les Paul/SGs were special-ordered with stopbar tailpieces (or converted to such) to bypass this vibrato’s inconsistencies altogether. By the time the Les Paul officially became the SG, the Deluxe Vibrato was fading from the picture, and SGs came standard with much more player-friendly tailpieces.

A Tale of Two Tones: SG vs Les Paul

Side by side, as configured today, there’s really very little between the Les Paul and the SG other than the shape of the body, and the thickness and composition of the wood. So why such distinct personalities?

The answer to that question shows us just how significant that thinner, all-mahogany body is in the equation. The classic single-cut Les Paul is best known for its thick, rich, warm tone with ample lower-midrange grunt and excellent clarity throughout the range, plus its singing lead tones when injected through a cranked amp, a high-gain channel, or a good overdrive pedal.

While, however, we think of thicker all-mahogany guitars as being “warmer” and “darker” than the Les Paul Standard’s maple-mahogany construction, the SG’s thinner body and higher neck/body joint lend the model a snappier, janglier voice that has a little more chime to it. The SG still has good warmth and depth, but it trades some of that lower-midrange grunt for brighter upper-midrange cut. Crank it up, and it will still wail and sing, of course, but it’s lead tone often leans a hair more toward “bite” while the Les Paul’s tilts slightly more toward “thick”.

Fraternal Twins

All that being said, there’s a ton of crossover between the Les Paul Standard and the SG Standard, and, practically speaking, you can easily substitute one for the other for a good, oh, let’s say 78.35% of your playing without anyone taking a blind bit of notice (that figure was not arrived at under laboratory conditions, but you get the idea). Massive rock crunch and power-chord goodness? Check for both. Trenchant clean tones with full-bore humbucker body and girth? Check for both. Wailing rock-godliness when your solo comes up? Check for both.

Let’s just say, then, that the Les Paul and SG share a common soul, and they both have a lot of heart. When you need the added sonic nuance of some extra lower-midrange thump or that extra ounce of sustain, give a Les Paul a try. When you want a slightly more eviscerating breed of lead tone or a little more chime in your jangly semi-clean arpeggios, grab an SG. Otherwise, there’s no reason not to let your sense of esthetics—or what the heck, you probably need one of each anyway.

Dave Hunter   11.12.2018
Naperville Music, your home for everything Gibson.
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