Premier Guitar - November 2013 USA


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Premier Guitar - November 2013 USA

  1. 1. John petrucci • luther dickinson • warwick bass camp • ted greene NOVEMBER 2013 NOVEMBER 2013 Titans of the tremolo A tribute to the vibrato bar’s visionary inventors and players 10 Guitar & Bass Reviews PRS S2 Custom 24 / Guild Starfire Bass / TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Hayden Mini Mofo / NS Design CR5 Radius Bass / & More!
  2. 2. The new Night Train G2 not only delivers that instantly recognizable, VOX full-tube sound sought after by guitarists the world over, now it offers you far more tonal flexibility in a beautifully styled, easy-to-use and highly capable compact package you can use at home, rehearsal, in a recording suite or live onstage. And we just added a new 15 Watt combo amp to the range! NT15H G2 V112NT G2 50 years of signature VOX valve tone NT50H G2 V212NT G2 All tube class A/B Footswitchable GIRTH/BRIGHT dual channel design NT15C1 Digital reverb Effects loop Celestion G12 speakers in all models VOXamps VOXamps WWW.VOXAMPS.COM
  3. 3. —PAUL RICHARDS, CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO STAGESOURCE L2t 800-watt, Compact, 2-Way All-in-One PA Onboard 5-input digital mixer “We have played through hundreds, perhaps thousands of different monitor systems,” says Richards. “StageSource speakers provide the most natural amplified acoustic guitar tone that I’ve heard. The quality of the sound is so good, it is truly inspiring and helps me perform better.” Two high-quality mic preamps Acoustic guitar players are switching to StageSource® because it sounds better than any other speaker. PAUL SWITCHED. WHAT ABOUT YOU? Acoustic guitar body resonance modeling 12-band feedback suppression 3-band EQ with sweepable mids Pristine chorus and reverb digital effects LINE6.COM/STAGESOURCE-SWITCH STAGE. YOUR REVOLUTION. © 2013 Line 6, Inc. Line 6 and StageSource are trademarks of Line 6, Inc. All rights reserved. David Newkirk Photography #19723
  4. 4. Get the Guitar of Your Dreams! Music Man Armada HH – Natural/Trans Red Quilt ONLY 25 In the World! Gibson Custom Sweetwater ‘59 Reissue Les Paul – Aurum Burst Item ID: LPR9RSWGS Item ID: ArmadaHHNTRQ Custom Music Man pickups offer up fat rhythm tones and hot lead sounds. This limited-edition guitar sports a black “Stinger” on back of the headstock. This neck-through guitar has a mahogany body that’s capped with a V-shaped maple top. CTS pots and Bumblebee caps coupled with CustomBucker pickups deliver vintage PAF tone. A Better Way to Buy Guitars FREE, PRO ADVICE We’re here to help! Call today! 2-YEAR WARRANTY** Free Total Confidence Coverage™ FAST, FREE SHIPPING On most orders, with no minimum purchase! 24 Months (800) 222-4700 SPECIAL FINANCING AVAILABLE ON SELECT BRANDS, USING YOUR SWEETWATER MUSICIAN’S ALL ACCESS PLATINUM CARD, THROUGH NOVEMBER 30, 2013* *Subject to credit approval. Minimum monthly payments required. Call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer for details or visit **Please note: Apple products are excluded from this warranty, and other restrictions may apply. Please visit for complete details.
  5. 5. Infinite Possibilities From a vast array of domestic and exotic tone woods, premium finishes, single and five piece necks, fingerboard woods, inlays, fret wire profiles and so many other choices, Carvin offers one of the largest selection of Custom Shop options available. Speak with a Carvin representative or order direct from and discover the infinite possibilities that await. CT624M 6 months NO interest Guitars • Basses • Amps • Pro Audio factory direct sales • • 800-854-2235 Carvin Custom Shop instruments are sold with a money back guarantee and are usually shipped within 5 to 8 weeks
  6. 6. Publisher Jon Levy EDITORIAL Editor in Chief Shawn Hammond Managing Editor Tessa Jeffers Senior Editor Andy Ellis Senior Editor Joe Gore Gear Editor Charles Saufley Senior Art Editor Meghan Molumby Associate Editor Chris Kies Associate Editor Rich Osweiler Associate Editor Jason Shadrick Nashville Correspondent John Bohlinger Nashville Video Editor Perry Bean Photo Editor Kristen Berry PRODUCTION & operations Operations Manager Shannon Burmeister Circulation Manager Lois Stodola Production Coordinator Luke Viertel Sales/MARKETING Advertising Director Brett Petrusek Advertising Director Dave Westin Marketing Manager Nick Ireland Multimedia Coordinator Matt Roberts Gearhead communications, LLC Chairman Peter F. Sprague President Patricia A. Sprague Managing Director Gary Ciocci WEBSITES Tube Converters Convert your 6L6 or EL34 amp to a Class-A amp using EL84s. Our Portal Our Online Magazine: The information and advertising set forth herein has been obtained from sources believed to be Gearhead Communications, L.L.C., however, does not warrant complete accuracy of such information and assumes no responsibility for any consequences arising from the use thereof or reliance thereon. Publisher reserves the right to reject or cancel any advertisement or space reservation at any time without notice. Publisher shall not be liable for any costs or damages if for any reason it fails to publish an advertisement. This publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Copyright ©2013. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Premier Guitar is a publication of Gearhead Communications, L.L.C. Premier Guitar [ISSN 1945-077X (print) ISSN 1945-0788 (online)] is published monthly. Subscription rates: $24.95 (12 issues), $39.95 (24 issues) Call for Canada, Mexico and foreign subscription rates 877-704-4327; email address for customer service PREMIER GUITAR (USPS 025-017) Volume 18, Issue 11 Published monthly by: Gearhead Communications, LLC Three Research Center Marion, IA 52302 Phone number: 877-704-4327 • Fax: 319-447-5599 Periodical Postage Rate paid at Marion, IA 52302 and at Additional Mailing Offices POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to: Gearhead Communications, LLC, Three Research Center, Marion, IA 52302 YellowJacket 6 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 Distributed to the music trade by Hal Leonard Corporation.
  7. 7. Get a FREE T-shirt when you complete this month’s crossword puzzle Email or mail us your info and a pic of your completed puzzle! Include your Name, Address, Email & T-shirt Size! 2138 Pomona Blvd. Pomona, CA 91768 Handcrafted Guitars & Mandolins. That’s what we do. Committed to a high standard of quality, Eastman Guitars uses only premium tonewoods and the finest appointments. Alongside the talent and accomplishment of our designers and luthiers, combined with our company philosophy, we continue one of the most fascinating musical traditions the world has known. 1 2 3 5 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 ACROSS DOWN 4. Standard guitar tuning 8. one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of all time born 1942 9. In 1955 this 'man in black' makes his first chart appearance with "Cry Cry Cry" 10. 1968 The Beatles release a self-titled album commonly referred to as... 14. this guitar great wrote the instrumental hit "Rumble" 15. In 1967 this music bible was first published 18. 1967's "Magical Mystery Tour" band 19. Eastman’s electric guitar line 20. Elvis Presley's last #1 hit in November 1969 E10SS 1. Just Another Brick In (1979) 2. legendary singer of Queen passed away November 24, 1991 3. Traditionally eaten on this November holiday 5. November Music Festival in New Orleans 6. born November 18, 1962 guitarist for a pioneering bay area metal band 7. this "Pink Moon" writer passed away November 25, 1974 11. "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" 12. Eastman Handcrafted Guitars and 13. An Eastman guitar referred to as an “AR” 16. born November 12, 1945 he began rockin' in the free world 17. Released "Anarchy in the UK" (1977) AR805CE No purchase necessary. Limit one submission per household. Giveaway limited to the first 100 submissions received. Please allow 6-8 weeks from the time your submission is received.
  8. 8. Tuning up Life in the Key of Dorian Gray BY shawn hammond @PG_shawnh N Ivan Albright’s fantastic “Picture of Dorian Gray” from Albert Lewin’s 1945 film adaptation of the timeless Oscar Wilde novel. ot to get all hippie-dippy—I’m not the hugest fan of all that circle-of-life crap—but isn’t it funny how we all do kind of fly in these mysterious orbits around the invisible black holes of our history and genes and chemistry and who-knows-what-else? Flung around our little universes, we try to forget about mortality’s gravitational pull—try to focus on paying the bills but remember to let in a little light from the imploding star of unrealized (and kind of stupid) dreams and fantastically unexpected opportunities so it can feed new life springing up around us… try to remind ourselves all that stuff composes the dynamics that make this prolonged state of breathing and atria pumping the crazy, unpredictable, terrifyingly exhilarating epic psych-prog jam that it is. We’re always trying to find meaning and purpose on macro and mondo scales—always thinking/knowing/wishing there are/were some assurances after we’re compacted into the dense mass of elemental existence before exploding into oblivion like the signal coming out of J Mascis’ wall of Marshalls. Yeah, life can be heavy sometimes. Speaking of circles of life and getting all we can out of it, 16 years ago my wife and I were contemplating names for our first son. We wanted something unique—but not weird enough that he’d someday blame it for sociopathic behavior. I kind of liked “Dorian.” I hadn’t yet read Oscar Wilde’s brilliant novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, so I must’ve been spending too much time on fretboard scales. My English-major brother alerted me to the faux pas of naming your kid after a dashing, forever-young rich bastard who lives as scandalously as possible and actually enjoys watching his soul corrode in a mysterious painting. So yeah, we canned that idea. But over the years Wilde’s masterpiece became one of my favorite books. Sometimes I regret being deterred. I mean, hardly anybody knows about its elegant prose and dichotomous tale of debauchery and moral insight, so who would’ve given our kid crap for it anyway? I still kind of like the villain’s name. But I don’t think it has anything to do with scales now. Maybe it’s because we all struggle with the things Dorian did: Our nerve endings tell us to seek out everything that’s pleasurable and easy, while our brains speak to us of practicality and self-preservation and maybe some sort of philosophical or faith-based morality. Our hearts long for fantastic, paradoxical possibilities to avoid death and pain or prolong ecstasy. But it’s okay to have some Dorian DNA in us—to want the best of this existence and never cease looking for new experiences that brighten the tapestry of life. To not let routine and complacency bleach its brilliance. Most of us aren’t stupid enough to think, like Dorian Gray, that loyalty to nothing but the pleasure center of our brain is a road worth following. But plenty of us are too busy, discouraged, complacent, or incurious to find the grain of truth around which the black pearl of his warped philosophy grew. I guess what I’m saying is it’d be a tragedy to become as dead to life’s new possibilities as Dorian was to his conscience. The day you’re hardened to the cosmic hippie stuff and become indifferent to squashed squirrels festering in the road or wide-eyed fawns eating in the grass outside the office window is the day you start rotting inside. And you’re completely screwed if you don’t love that your kids helped you, say, rediscover the same Metallica album you bought new at 15, or don’t laugh when they lambast mainstream songs you kind of like—right after asking you to download the Top 40 tune you hated in high school. The day you think there’s nowhere new for your songs, tone, or playing style to go, you’re SOL. … plenty of us are too busy, discouraged, complacent, or incurious to find the grain of truth around which the black pearl of [Gray’s] warped philosophy grew.” Shawn Hammond Editor-In-Chief 8 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  9. 9. Hunter Hayes Martin player, 2 years “For the love of music” is Hunter Hayes’ mantra that’s inscribed on the pick guard of his Martin 00 Koa Custom. Learn how his love of watching country artists perform live influenced Hunter’s sound at Available Everywhere
  10. 10. FEEDBACK Loop uses I have ever read. Usually the articles on tubes get way too technical for me and I get lost in all the tech talk. This one however, I understood and will use as a handout to my guitar students who want to know basics about tubes. Very well done! —John Hutchinson, via With the Band I met Derek on his first tour with The Allman Brothers when Dickey was still in the band. Shortly after that, Derek was in St. Louis with his band and called up and asked about coming out to Silver Strings Music to look around. He was 21 by that point, as I recall. He bought a very cool old black Silvertone guitar and an old Guild A-50, which Susan [Tedeschi] had seen when she was in town with Derek earlier that summer, as a birthday present. The Silvertone ended up being the “Down in The Flood” guitar. The ’65 Firebird V was one of my personal guitars for about 30 years and is easily one of the best Firebird Vs made, and still in one piece. I was finalizing a Firebird deal with Duane on the day that he died, so this deal was a bit of guitar “closure,” since he never got to gig with his. Derek has been able to pursue a tonal direction that Duane had planned on exploring, but did not get the chance. Regarding the ’69 Duane Allman Marshall, I brought it to the soundcheck for a Derek Trucks Band/Eric Johnson show on February 13, 2001. I remember the date because 10 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 Susan had flown in that day for Valentine’s Day, which was the following day. Derek tried it out backstage with his main SG, and it was undeniably, the Fillmore one. Very distinctive fullness and sustain. Derek used the amp for the encores when he, Susan, and Mike [Mattison] sat in with Eric’s band. George McCorkle and I had several discussions about the appropriate thing to do with the amp when it was time to pass it along, and we both agreed that for a variety of reasons, it would go to Derek. Over 10 years later, we worked out a deal that puts the amp where it should stay. I am happy to hear that it was used on this album [Made Up Mind]. I still miss the Firebird, which was one of my three favorite guitars of the last 43 years, but I think that the right guy has it, too! Derek and Susan have also bought several other old guitars and amps. Do not miss seeing this band live! Pete—great article. Here’s one little tip I haven’t seen anywhere ... 1) Go to your amp manufacturer’s website and download a PDF copy of your tube chart. 2) Open the PDF with Acrobat. 3) Use the sticky note tool in Adobe Acrobat to make notes on when you changed your tubes and with what brand/model and any other settings, things to try in what section, etc. 4) Save the document. Now you have a log of your tube changes and you won’t forget what’s where and if you want the same tubes or to try something new. —Jason Davis, @jasondavismusic 4 1/2 hrs @ 35,000 ft with @premierguitar issue means pedalboard overhaul is coming. Used pedal sale at my place soon —jteichel, @teichel via —Ed Seelig, Silver Strings Music & Repair, —James Hogan, St. Louis, Missouri via Thank you Peter Thorn and Premier Guitar. This [Tone Tips, October 2013] is one of the best descriptions of tubes and their @PG_shawnh your “tuning up” comments in the latest @premierguitar are so on the mark. Case in point, my pedalboard: —Chip G., Great info. Don’t forget extra fuses too! If you blow a tube it will likely take out the amp’s fuse(s) as well. Also, since failed tubes often take out a tube socket resistor (which is tough to change quickly mid gig) you can always bring a backup amp or a POD type device to bail you out for those situations. That being said having an extra set of tubes is always a great idea! Tube Talk Socialize with Us! Keep those comments coming! Please send your suggestions, gripes, comments, and good words directly to I bought the Mu-tron III brand new. It was my first effect pedal back in the ’70s. It burned through the batteries like nothing else but sounded so good. I sold it in the ’90s to a gentleman in the Netherlands. The Dan Armstrong Blue Clipper was my only other box until I bought a Small Stone. The Clipper plugged right into the guitar, unless you had a Strat. I called it the “Now I’m Fripp” box. —Thomas Voehringer
  11. 11. FOCUS LESS ON YOUR GEAR, MORE ON YOUR MUSIC. NeW Bose® L1® ModeL 1s systeM Our new L1 Model 1S offers the portability and flexibility of the L1 family — with a new level of performance. With the Bose proprietary 12-speaker articulated line array, it’s big enough to fill the room with 180 degrees of clear, even sound. At the same time, it’s small enough to fit in your car and light enough to carry yourself. Plus, with no speaker stands and fewer connections, it’s easy enough to set up in minutes. You’ll focus less on your equipment and more on your performance. To learn more about Bose L1 systems, visit or call 800-905-1852 L1 Model 1S with B1 bass PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 11
  12. 12. CONTENTS November 2013 P. 79 ARTISTS 64 32 John Petrucci Tremolo Titans 79 Luther Dickinson How the North Mississippi Allstars created their boldest album to date. 95 Forgotten Heroes: Ted Greene One of the most influential guitar instructors who ever lived. 12 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 The visionaries of vibrato, from the mechanics to the players. Tremolo History It’s as old as the human voice, but when did it become a guitar effect? REVIEWS 136 140 145 149 153 156 161 164 168 173 Guild Starfire 119 WarwickBass Camp A weeklong low-end exporation set in the land of sausage. “If you’re going to get into slide, you need to put that pick down!” Tausch 665 —Luther Dickinson, p. 79 TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Hayden Mini Mofo Spontaneous Audio Son of Kong PRS S2 Custom 24 ToneConcepts The Distillery Devilcat Jimmy NS Design CR5 Radius Bearfoot Effects Model G Above: Photo by Michael Weintrob Practice makes perfect, says the beloved Dream Theater mastermind. 47
  13. 13. ©2013 PRS Guitars / Photo by Marc Quigley The new from PRS Guitars Made in Maryland • Starting at $1,179 Manufactured with new processes and specs in the same Maryland factory as all US-made PRS instruments, the new S2 Series brings classic PRS playability and reliability to a new price point. With a simple, straightforward design these guitars have serious style and expressive tone. Check one out at a PRS dealer near you and see for yourself. © 2012 PRS Guitars - Photo by Neil Zlozower
  14. 14. On the Cover: Contents November 2013 1930s Rickenbacher Spanish Model B with Kauffman Vib-Rola. Photo by Robert Corwin 18 20 23 176 178 188 190 192 News Bits Gear Radar Opening Notes Media Reviews Staff Picks Next Month in PG Esoterica Electrica Last Call GEAR 28 Rig Rundowns 44 Modern Builder Vault 60 Vintage Vault 62 Bottom Feeder 76 Tone Tips 92 Guitar Tracks Right now I’m listening to some Bill Frisell records including Gone, Just Like a Train. —David Bromberg, Staff Picks, p. 178 14 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 Photo by Kat Osweiler HOW-TO 110 Acoustic Soundboard 112 Guitar Shop 101 114 Bass Bench 116 On Bass 130 Mod Garage 132 Ask Amp Man 134 State of the Stomp
  15. 15. “The warmth and depth of Elixir Strings is really important to my overall sound. They feel great and their tone lasts an incredibly long time.” - Eric Bibb Photo Credit: Andy Sheppard Acoustic Phosphor Bronze The tone you love – for longer Elixir® Strings Acoustic Phosphor Bronze deliver distinctive phosphor bronze warmth and sparkle - together with extended tone life. Elixir Strings is the only coated string brand to protect the entire string, keeping tone-killing gunk out of the gaps between the string windings. Our innovative Anti-Rust Plated Plain Steel Strings prevent corrosion, ensuring longer life for the entire set. Guitarists tell us Elixir Strings retain their tone longer than any other string, uncoated or coated. Eric Bibb plays Elixir Strings Acoustic Phosphor Bronze ® with NANOWEB Coating, Medium Gauge .013 - .056 GORE, ELIXIR, NANOWEB, POLYWEB, GREAT TONE • LONG LIFE, “e” icon, and other designs are trademarks of W. L. Gore & Associates. ©2013 W. L. Gore & Associates, (UK) Limited ELX-259-ADV-US-JUN13
  16. 16. GO ONLINE ONLY ON… Your guide to the latest stories, reviews, videos, and lessons on FEATURED LESSONS Access all of our lessons online, for free, with streaming audio and downloadable, printable notation PDFs. BEYOND BLUES Dorian vs. Aeolian By Levi Clay DIY Bass Setup, Trivium, and Black Crowes Gear Porn In our latest DIY video installment, tech guru Tony Nagy shows us how to set up a 5-string bass. In light of Vengeance Falls, Trivium’s Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu discuss working with Disturbed frontman David Draiman, and we also get a closer look at the making of Only Slightly Mad, the latest album from Dylan collaborator and Americana godfather, David Bromberg. Black Crowes’ guitarist Rich Robinson had so many glorious instruments on hand when we recently shot a Rig Rundown that we simply had to find a way to share them all with you. Check out our exclusive gear gallery featuring his touring guitars and rig. (Flip to p.28 for a preview of this amazing collection.) STYLE GUIDE Blues Progressions By Mike Cramer DIGGING DEEPER How Many Chords are There? By Shawn Persinger FRETBOARD WORKSHOP Improving Your Legato Technique By Allen Hinds Calling All Bottom Feeders! Gear lust comes in all forms, and who doesn’t love a good bargain? Will Ray’s Bottom Feeder column has received great feedback over the years, so we’ve decided to see what steals and finds other people are playing. Send a highresolution photograph of your budget gear finds to Don’t forget to describe what it is, but also tell us where and how you acquired your instrument and how much you paid. We’ll feature the best finds in a “Bottom Feeder: Reader’s Edition.” And don’t worry about how cheap it is. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 16 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  17. 17. news bits guitardom’s top tweets What kind of monster have I become that I’m cheering for Walt and Todd?! Mark Hoppus, @markhoppus Great Scott! @Scott_Ian: New Thraxagram relic aka Evel Knievel just in time for San Bernardino tomorrow! Jackson Guitars, @JacksonGuitars Experience PRS 2013 Private Stock. Limited edition, only 30 made. PRS Guitars, @prsguitars I played 2 of Jimi’s strats. 1 he gave to Frank Zappa (still in Dweezil’s possession) & a ’61 he gave to Adrian Gurvitz. both = unreal vibes. Phil X, @TheRealPhilX The sound in our venue tonight can best be described as an echo chamber!! You can come back tomorrow and still hear us from tonight! Joe Bonamassa, @JBONAMASSA Production Thrasher has passed the tests.... The first big batch will be shipping soon. Randall Amplifiers, @randallamps 18 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 AWARD Todd Rundgren to Receive Les Paul Award at 29th Annual TEC Awards Carlsbad, CA – Legendary musician, groundbreaking record producer, and electronic music revolutionary Todd Rundgren will be honored with the Les Paul Award at the 29th Annual Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards. The awards recognize outstanding achievement in professional audio technology and production and will be presented Friday, January 24 at the Anaheim Hilton during the 2014 NAMM Show held in Anaheim, CA. The Les Paul Award, named for the revolutionary inventor and esteemed musician, is presented annually to honor individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of audio and music technology. Russ Paul, son of Les Paul, will make the presentation on behalf of the Les Paul Foundation, sponsor of the award. Instituted in 1991, the honor has been granted to such luminaries as Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, and Peter Gabriel. The TEC Foundation for Excellence in Audio will also induct two new members to its Hall of Fame—John Meyer and Hal Blaine. Audio engineer and sound researcher John Meyer co-founded and is CEO of Berkeley’s Meyer Sound Laboratories, Inc. He will be recognized for bringing groundbreaking developments to the design and manufacture of the loudspeaker and for his cutting-edge contributions to sound reinforcement in the performing arts. Legendary session musician Hal Blaine of the Wrecking Crew played drums on more than 5,000 records, TV jingles, and film scores. Career highlights include hits for Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, and dozens more. TOUR Korn and Rob Zombie Announce Co-Headlining Tour Los Angeles, CA – Rob Zombie and Korn have announced a co-headlining arena tour—the “Night of the Living Dreads” tour—kicking off Sunday, November 3rd in Reno, NV and encompassing
  18. 18. 17 dates across the U.S. before wrapping November 26th in Bethlehem, PA. On his upcoming co-headlining tour with Korn, Rob Zombie notes, “Some of the best times we’ve had on the road have been touring with Korn, so we’re thrilled to be doing it again!” Jonathan Davis adds, “We’ve had a lot of fun touring and playing with Rob Zombie over the years. It’s been a while and those shows were so much fun. We’re really excited about doing it again.” roadshow Taylor Guitars Announces Domestic and International Road Shows El Cajon, CA – From California to Malaysia, New Zealand, and Norway, Taylor’s team of factory experts and product specialists is circling the globe as part of the fan-favorite Road Show series. The Road Show will make stops at over 100 different authorized Taylor dealers this fall, promising guitar enthusiasts a night of insights on the company’s guitar-making processes, body shape and tonewood options, and the award-winning Expression System pickup. After a series of guitar demonstrations, guests are invited to sample a variety of different models, including the all-new Grand Orchestra, along with rare and custom Build to Order guitars, as part of Taylor’s “Petting Zoo.” Admission to each Road Show is free. The 2013 Fall Road Show schedule will kick off in the United States with multiple dates in California, followed by several stops in Ohio and Indiana, with concurrent events planned for the East Coast in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. While on the Road Show page, fans can also enter for a chance to win a Taylor Grand Orchestra guitar. Introduced earlier this year at Winter NAMM, Taylor’s Grand Orchestra delivers the company’s biggest body shape to date, producing a full-spectrum tonal range that boasts great power, depth, and balance. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 19
  19. 19. Gear radar New products on the horizon. 5 2 1 4 3 1 2 fender Starcaster mcnelly guitars Saint Nick Pickups Resurrected from its brief These handmade single- tenure in the ’70s, the coils have the punchy 3 Mooer audio Micro DI 4 5 The Micro DI contains PRS DG Custom Heads & Custom 2x12 Cab Line 6 POD HD Pro X Line 6’s latest all-in-one balanced and unbalanced Designed in conjunction rackmount unit contains Starcaster is Fender’s nature of P-90s, and a outputs, a ground lift, with David Grissom, the more DSP processing only offset-waist semi- modified construction virtual cab simulation, DG Custom 30 features power, over 100 studio hollow model. It sports gives them a uniquely and a gain switch—all in a four EL84/7581 tubes and and stomp effects, and can a 9.5" fretboard radius versatile tone in a very small footprint. the DG Custom 50 rocks a serve as a studio interface. and Fender Wide Range humbucker size. MSRP $99 quartet of EL34s. Street $699 humbuckers. Street $125 (add $10 for MAP DG Custom 30 MSRP $899 black or gold) $2,899, DG Custom 50 $2,999, DG 2x12 Cab $849 20 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  20. 20. 9 6 10 8 7 6 7 cort 20th Anniversary Artisan Bass Series B4 dod Overdrive Preamp 250 The revamped, true-bypass The Artisan B4 20th boasts 8 IK Multimedia iRig Pro 9 10 Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister eastwood Marksman 5 The iRig Pro is a universal The 36-watt, EL84- A replica of the 1957 mobile audio/MIDI powered head includes Magnatone Mark V 250 captures the sound and interface that handles H&K favorites like the designed by Paul Bigsby, a swamp-ash body, a wild heart of the original, both 1/4" and XLR cables, Red Box DI output and it features a chambered 5-piece neck constructed but boasts an output that has 48V phantom power, power soak, but adds mahogany body, 22-fret of African wenge and is significantly higher and works with IK’s suite MIDI functionality and mahogany set neck, and rosewood, an African wenge and cleaner, giving it an of music-creation apps. programming for onboard a pair of custom-designed EW Alnico SCP90s. fretboard, Bartolini MK-1 incredibly polished sound. Street $149.99 reverb, tap delay, flange, pickups and preamp, and MSRP $149.95 phase, tremolo, and Street $999 Hipshot Ultralite tuners. chorus effects. MSRP $799 MSRP $1,499 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 21
  21. 21. Opening Notes Lukas Nelson August 3, 2013 Grant Park Chicago, Illinois Photo by Chris Kies The frontman for Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real takes on the 2013 Lollapalooza BMI stage with his new main squeeze—a near-mint, completely stock 1956 Les Paul Junior that he purchased earlier this year. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 23
  22. 22. Opening Notes Bryce Dessner August 3, 2013 Grant Park Chicago, Illinois Photo by Chris Kies The National’s Bryce Dessner brings it to an eager Lollapalooza crowd with a 1965 non-reverse Firebird he picked up on eBay for a whopping $300. He outfitted the ’Bird with a Bigsby and a set of handwound Lollars. 24 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  23. 23. Opening Notes Nile Rodgers August 9, 2013 Golden Gate Park San Francisco, California Photo by Rich Osweiler Writer, producer, and player of countless hits since the ‘70s, Nile Rodgers works a crowd of San Franciscans into dance mode with his long-favored axe (aka “Hitmaker”), the 1960 Strat with a ’59 neck that he’s been playing since the early ’70s. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 25
  24. 24. Opening Notes John Oates August 11, 2013 Golden Gate Park San Francisco, California Photo by Kat Osweiler The Hall & Oates co-founder and guitarist gets an ’80s-flavored party rolling at the 2013 Outside Lands festival with one of his favorite guitars, a stock 2009 TV Jones Model 10 equipped with a Bigsby and a pair of TV Classic pickups. 26 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  25. 25. rig rundowns Rich Robinson Black crowes Longtime tech, Doug “Red” Redler, showed us the gear Rich Robinson is using on the Crowes’ latest tour. A large portion of the band’s gear was damaged during Hurricane Sandy and Redler had to replace nearly everything in Robinson’s touring rig. On this leg, Robinson was hauling everything from relic’d out Gibsons to Japanese Zemaitis models, and even a few Gretschs and Teles. This Japanese-made Gretsch Black Falcon was relic’d by Cobra Guitars out of NYC. Robinson tunes this guitar to C–C–E–C–E–G for “Shine Along” and reaches for it anytime he wants to wrestle with feedback. All of Robinson’s electric guitars are strung up with .010–.046 sets of GHS Boomers. His Teye La Mora (not pictured) is tuned to open-G and capoed at the third fret for “Remedy.” Built in Austin, Texas, these guitars feature very intricate engraving work and a somewhat mysterious Mood knob. Robinson plays almost exclusively on the bridge pickup—no matter what guitar he plays—with all the knobs full on. 28 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  26. 26. FACToid Robinson’s hi-fi stereo was the inspiration for the design of his Signature Reason amp. Top: Two EL34 output tubes and five 12AX7 preamp tubes power the 50-watt Rich Robinson Signature Reason amp. It also contains a GZ34 rectifier and a tube tremolo that Robinson controls via an expression pedal. The 2x12 cabinets are made of Baltic birch and are stocked with 50-watt Eminence Private Jack speakers. Center: In order to keep stage volume at a manageable level, both of Robinson’s amps (on the left is a 50th Anniversary Vox AC30HH with matching cab) use Stage Craft baffles. On top of the effects rack is a pair of Fulltone Tube Tape Echoes (one for a short echo and the other for a long echo) and a Fender Vintage Reissue ‘63 Reverb tank. Bottom: All of Robinson’s effects are housed in a rack that sits between his amps onstage. The drive section of his rig consists of an ElectroHarmonix Big Muff and four reissue Way Huge pedals (Angry Troll, Red Llama, Swollen Pickle, and Pork Loin). The next drawer houses his modulation effects: a Strymon El Capistan, Way Huge Supa-Puss, Uni-Vibe Stereo Chorus, Flip Vintage Tremolo, and a Demeter Tremulator. He splits his signal with a Framptone 3-Banger out to his Vox and Reason amps (which are both always on) and uses a Strymon Lex for his rotary tones. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 29
  27. 27. rig rundowns Jerry Horton & Tobin Esperance Papa roach We caught up with Papa Roach guitarist Jerry Horton and bassist Tobin Esperance for a backstage hang before this stop on the Carnival of Madness tour. Horton explains downsizing his rig and collaborating with Schecter on his signature model, while Esperance discusses why he removed the 3-band EQ on his Lakland basses and why picks just aren’t his thing. FACToid Horton played a Schecter C-1 in the band’s breakout “Last Resort” video in 2000. Jerry horton Horton has rocked Schecters for over a decade and his signature 6-string is based on the single-cut Custom Solo 6 with a few tweaks. He requested a TonePros AVT-II wraparound bridge and swapped the standard Seymour Duncan Custom Custom in the bridge for his preferred JB bridge pickup setup. For the Carnival of Madness tour, his tech replaced the standard 19:1-ratio Schecter locking tuners with Grovers. The graphics were codesigned with a hot-rod artist from Tennessee. One is tuned to dropped C and the other is C#. He uses Dunlop Nickel Plated Steel .013–.056 strings and custom Dunlop Papa Roach-designed .88 Tortex picks. 30 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 Horton once rocked a four-amp setup that included three different Marshall heads and a Vox AC30, but he scaled down his rig for an early 2013 gig in Russia and hasn’t looked back. He now uses two Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II units for all his amp models and effects and relies on a lone expression pedal for wah sounds and controlling the amount of overdrive/dirt on certain patches on songs like “Hollywood Whore.” Following Horton’s reduction motif, Esperance is only traveling with two rackmounted Ampeg amps. His main stage head is a SVT-4 Pro and the backup is a BR5.
  28. 28. Tobin Esperance Esperance relies heavily on his custom Lakland 44-94 4-string models. These look like standard production models at first glance, but Esperance simplified the control layout by opting to ditch the 3-band EQ for a passive sound because he always had it on 10 and was turning the wrong knobs during dimly lit shows. His 44-94s also have a sleeker, more modern-metal look with all black hardware. He currently uses D’Addario strings, gauged .050–.120. Esperance never uses a pick onstage, saying he has better control over tone and dynamics when he attacks the strings with his fingertips. Esperance keeps a tidy house when it comes to his pedalboard, which only has three boxes on it: a Jim Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass Wah, a Malekko B:Assmaster Harmonic Octave Distortion, and a Boss TU-2 tuner. A Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 powers his modest board. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 31
  29. 29. Titans of Tremolo By Joe Charupakorn 32 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  30. 30. A tribute to the visionaries of vibrato— from the brilliant minds that concocted its mechanics to the players who hooked us on its intoxicating effects. W hether it’s used to add a shimmering vibe to a cloud of ethereal chords, impart a seasick feel to a surf riff, or unleash a sonic assault of bowel-rattling divebombs, the tremolo bar has played a huge role in the guitar’s capabilities as an expressive instrument. It’s difficult to imagine a modern musical genre that wouldn’t sound a lot different without the remarkable range of textures that a deftly used tremolo can yield. To celebrate the contributions of this wonderful piece of hardware—and the brilliant minds that made it possible—let’s look at the tremolo systems that changed not just the way guitar is played, but the entire musical landscape since the 1930s. First, some nomenclature: Although many use the terms “tremolo” and “vibrato” interchangeably, they aren’t always synonymous. There are different types of tremolo: On bowed string instruments, tremolo can refer to rapid reiteration of the same note, or movement between two notes (sometimes called “tremolando”). This explains why the fast picking at around the 0:30 mark in Edward Van Halen’s “Eruption” is often called “tremolo picking.” But with some instruments, including guitar and organs, “tremolo” refers to a variation in volume—which explains why famous amplitude-modulating pedals like the Demeter Tremulator and Fulltone’s Supa-Trem2 are named as they are. Confused yet? That’s only half the picture. Those who insist tremolo is a volume-related musical effect will tell you that, theoretically, vibrato refers to pitch fluctuation. But try keeping that straight in your head the next time you’re playing a Strat outfitted with Fender’s pitch-altering “Synchronized Tremolo” through a Twin Reverb equipped with the company’s deliciously hypnotic volume-modulating circuit labeled…“vibrato.” The Good Doc’s Vib-Rola The tremolo bar’s origins go back to the 1930s, around the time the electric guitar was born. In 1935, Clayton Orr “Doc” Kauffman was aiming to replicate the sound of a Hawaiian steel guitar. He invented the Kauffman Vib-Rola, one of the first incarnations of a vibrato tailpiece. Initially, the Epiphone guitar company had exclusive distribution rights, even installing the Vib-Rola on some of its acoustic guitars. Before long, though, Rickenbacker (which still went by the original German spelling: Rickenbacher) took over the rights and began installing Vib-Rolas on its Electro Spanish guitars, as well as its lap-steel guitars. A little later, the Rickenbacher Vib-Rola Spanish, a variant of the Electro Spanish, featured a bar-less, motorized version of the VibRola with knobs for speed and volume. The Vib-Rola earned its place in the annals of tremolo-bar history by ending up on the 1958 Rickenbacker 325, which John Lennon used as the Beatles began their ascent to the pop throne. However, because the Vib-Rola was seemingly incapable of smoothly returning to correct pitch after even light use, it never became as timeless as the Fab Four’s discography. When Lennon returned to Liverpool, he went to Hessy’s Music Centre to have the Vib-Rola replaced with a unit that avoided many of the problems associated with Doc Kauffman’s design. Vibrato Goes Big with the Bigsby Introduced in 1952 and patented in 1953, the Bigsby vibrato was the first successful production tremolo system. Although exact details of its chronology are a little sketchy, it seems legendary country picker Merle Travis became friends with guitar builder and fellow motorcycling enthusiast Paul Bigsby in 1944 or ’45. At some point Travis mentioned to Bigsby—who boldly proclaimed he could fix anything—that his Kauffman Vib-Rola-equipped Gibson L-10 wouldn’t stay in tune. Though it’s unclear whether Bigsby ever worked on Travis’s Vib-Rola, historians believe this interaction focused Bigsby’s mind on developing a better vibrato. However, according to vintageguitar guru Deke Dickerson, Travis obtained a custom Bigsby guitar—the first modern solidbody— in mid 1948, years before getting a Bigsby vibrato. It wasn’t until 1952 that Travis received Bigsby’s first vibrato unit. The future Country Music Hall of Fame inductee then had the aluminum-alloy design installed on his Gibson Super 400. Bigsby’s first guitar design to come equipped with the vibrato was the doubleneck he built for country guitarist Grady Martin in October 1952. It didn’t take long for the vibrato system to gain popularity among guitarists worldwide. John Lennon’s friend Chris Huston, guitarist for Liverpool band the Undertakers, had a Gibson guitar with a factoryinstalled Bigbsy. Lennon liked Huston’s Bigsby so much that, in May of Left: A 1930s Rickenbacher Spanish Model B 6-string with a Kauffman Vib-Rola. Photo by Robert Corwin Right: Tremolo pioneer Paul Bigsby finished work on this guitar for country session ace Jimmy Bryant on October 7, 1949, though it ended up going to Ernest Tubb sideman Billy Byrd. The vibrato—which is inset to be flush against the guitar’s top—was added not long after the design’s introduction in ’52. Photo courtesy of Bigsby/Fred Gretsch Enterprises, Ltd. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 33
  31. 31. Though the Fender Strat’s “Synchronized Tremolo” from 1954 is arguably the most-used vibrato system in the world (see the U.S. patent diagram at right), in the ’60s far more players were using the trem found on the company’s Jaguar (left) and Jazzmaster guitars. Photo by Tim Mullally 1960, Huston contacted Paul Bigsby to request a unit for Lennon. One day in 1961, Lennon approached Huston with the news that his Bigsby had arrived. The pair went to Hessy’s and swapped out Lennon’s Vib-Rola for the Bigsby. There are many similar stories of music icons adopting the Bigsby. Bigsbys are often found on hollowbody and semi-hollowbody guitars because the vibrato mounts to the guitar’s top and is less physically invasive than other systems. The Bigsby’s spring-loaded rocker arm attaches to a pivoting axle that the strings wrap around. The pull of the strings works in conjunction with the pressure of the spring. When the arm is pushed down, the bridge rocks forward and the strings loosen, lowering their pitch. When pressure on the arm is released, the strings return to pitch. Although Paul Bigsby’s design improved on many of its predecessors’ shortcomings, it’s by no means a lowmaintenance piece of machinery. Pre1956 versions had a fixed-position vibrato 34 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 arm that got in the way of strumming. Once the swivel arm was introduced, the bridge became much more popular. Even so, if you pull the bar up, there’s risk of the spring falling out. Additionally, string changes can be tricky and more time consuming than with some more modern designs. But for countless Bigsby devotees in genres ranging from country to rockabilly to indie rock, these inconveniences are a small price to pay for the smooth, undulating magic of a Bigsby. A Legend Is Born Perhaps the most enduring and influential vibrato for solidbody guitars is Fender’s Synchronized Tremolo, one of the many innovations introduced in 1954 with the debut of the Stratocaster. Countless solidbody trem variations have come and gone over the years, and nearly all of them owe a lot to Leo Fender’s masterpiece of engineering. This design is what’s referred to as a “floating,” fulcrum-style tremolo. It can only be used with solidbody guitars, and it features a base with a steel block connected perpendicularly to its underside. This block extends downward into a cavity extending through the body. From the back of the guitar, strings are threaded through holes in the bottom of the tremolo block, which is visible through a route cut in a plastic plate. The same plate covers a shallower cavity where three to five springs connect the block to a “claw” screwed into the body. The two screws securing the claw can be loosened or tightened to adjust spring tension and accommodate different string gauges. The springs counterbalance the pull of the strings and facilitate the floating design, which can be set up to allow both downward and upward pitch bends. It can also be set up for down-only movement. In fact, to ensure that the bridge can’t go upward, some guitarists even wedge a block of wood between the steel block and the cavity wall.
  32. 32. Introduced in 1965 on the Mustang guitar, Fender’s “Dynamic Vibrato” was mechanically similar to the Jazzmaster/ Jaguar tremolo. Its redesigned bridge featured saddles with a single, deeper string groove that solved many problems with the prior setup, making it a popular upgrade for many Jazzmaster and Jaguar owners. Photo by Tim Mullally The Synchronized Tremolo also enables action and intonation adjustments. Each string has its own saddle made of casehardened stamped steel, and each saddle features two screws for adjusting string height. Behind each saddle is a screw that moves the saddle forward or backward to fine-tune each string’s intonation. Despite all its advances, the Fender Strat trem still has limitations. Under extreme use, it typically has tuning issues. Some remedy the situation by making sure their Strat’s nut slots are smoothly cut and lubricated, or by reducing the number of string winds around the peg. Ultimately, though, some tuning compromises are virtually unavoidable if your playing calls for aggressive bar action. Although today far more players use Strat tremolos, in the late ’50s and throughout most of the ’60s, Strat sales were in a major slump and other Fender models were selling much better. When the Jazzmaster guitar was introduced in 1958, it featured what the company touted as its “top-of-the-line” tremolo system. Unlike the Strat, the Jazzmaster had a separate bridge with six saddles, and the mechanisms of pitch transposition were mounted to a chrome plate set into a shallow cavity on the guitar’s top. The trem also had a slider to lock it in place to keep the guitar in tune in case of string breakage. 36 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 In 1962 Fender debuted the Jaguar, which used the same floating trem as the Jazzmaster. Both guitars are infamous for their troublesome bridge designs, which often let strings slip out of their multiridged saddles under even moderate attack. That said, the design became integral to surf players, as well as guitarists who would use the instruments’ unique appointments as a foundation for more raucous styles in later years. Today, many players replace the original Jazzmaster bridge with a Mastery or Tune-o-matic-style bridge. In 1965 Fender released the Mustang guitar, whose floating Dynamic Vibrato shared similarities with the Jazzmaster and Jaguar systems, though its bridge was mounted to the vibrato plate. While the Mustang’s bridge was similar to the one on Jazzmasters and Jaguars, its saddles featured a single, deeper groove that alleviated many of the earlier design’s problems. Introduced in 1967, the Bronco student guitar used a variant of the Strat trem called the Steel Vibrato, which had two pivot points rather than six. Gibson Sideways and Maestro Vibrolas Some of Gibson’s most coveted guitars from the 1960s came with vibrato designs that looked handsome but were fairly impractical due to their limited range and tuning issues. First available in early 1961 on ES-355s and Les Paul SGs, the “sideways” Vibrola—so named because its jointed, foldable tremolo arm moves parallel to the body—is paired with a Tune-o-matic bridge, and its pitchchanging apparatus is encased in a long tray that extends from the bridge to the strap endpin. Under the tray’s elegantly molded cover, the handle connects to a mechanism that moves two pistonlike springs on either side of the whole assembly. When the arm is activated, the springs alter the lateral position of the piece to which the strings are anchored (the section with the triangle-shaped hole). According to Lin Crowson, repair and appraisal specialist at Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, the amount of pitch variation possible with a sideways Vibrola varies by the tension adjustment on the two internal springs, though it can go anywhere from one-and-a-half to three full steps or more. Available on Gibsons SG Specials in late 1961, the Maestro Vibrola was quite simple compared to other tremolos of the day. Viewed from its side, it is essentially a question-mark-shaped metal base that attaches to the guitar top with three screws. A separate piece of metal—the
  33. 33. Above: A vintage Mosrite Ventures model featuring one of the earliest Vibramute tremolos. Photo by Deke Dickerson Right: A set of Original Floyd Rose trem parts. Photo courtesy of Banzai Music piece to which both the strings and the vibrato arm are secured—slides over the top of the curved “question mark.” Pushing on the arm changes the curvature of the base, thus altering tension on the strings. Gibson later introduced a model with a “Lyre” portion that extended from the bridge to the endpin, similar to the sideways Vibrola. In 1962, SG and SG Customs were also available with a version of the tremolo that had an ebony block with art-deco-like inlays behind the bridge. Both the Lyre and the block were purely cosmetic additions. According to Gruhn Guitars’ Lin Crowson, though the original Maestro Vibrola and ebony-block versions attach differently than the Lyre version, the mechanisms of pitch transposition are the same. All three offer a subtler vibrato effect than other designs, with treble strings being affected more due to their proximity to the point of arm attachment. Typical pitch changes can be from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half steps, depending on the angle of the bar, string gauge, and how much spring is left in the metal. Semie Moseley—Apprentice to the Stars In the late ’50s, Semie Moseley—a former apprentice to both Rickenbacker luthier 38 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 Roger Rossmeissl and Paul Bigsby—started a quirky guitar company called Mosrite, which soon became a favorite of many country and rock musicians. One of Moseley’s first instruments was a doubleneck he built for country picker and TV star Joe Maphis in 1954. It featured an aluminum Vibramute tremolo. The Vibramute bears some visual similarity to a Bigsby but is exclusively top-mounted and has a foam-rubber string mute. Strings are fed through a string stop, to which the tremolo arm is connected, and mounted to saddles with individual string rollers that move with the string when the bar is used. A few years later, Moseley changed the trem to a die-cast design, did away with the mute, added a longer arm, and called the resulting model the Moseley tremolo. It appeared on popular Mosrite guitars such as the Ventures models used by the surf-instrumental icons, as well as Johnny Ramone. The Floyd Rose Revolution In 1977 Floyd Rose designed a fulcrumstyle vibrato bridge that aimed to achieve better tuning stability than Fender’s design. The “double-locking” tremolo that bears his name allows users to clamp each string at the bridge and the nut. The Floyd Rose played a significant role in shaping the sound of ’80s rock, facilitating over-the-top guitar histrionics by allowing an unprecedented amount of whammy-bar abuse while meticulously maintaining the guitar’s tuning. In some ways, the design is as integral to hard rock and metal as Marshall and Mesa/Boogie amplifiers, and high-output pickups by the likes of DiMarzio and EMG. Floyd Rose was inspired to develop his bridge after applying Krazy Glue to his Strat’s strings after they were tuned to pitch. Before long the tuning problems returned, so he tried a more permanent strategy: He rented machinery to make locking nuts and bridges. When Randy Hansen—an infamous Jimi Hendrix impersonator and noted whammy-bar abuser—got a hold of the second Floyd Rose prototype, he found that his guitar remained perfectly in tune even after he stomped on the bar and then tossed the axe in the air, catching it by the bar. That’s when Rose knew his device would be a game changer— though it was the next Floyd owner who put the trem on the map. Rose’s friend Linn Ellsworth of Boogie Bodies was making guitars for Eddie Van Halen, the world’s biggest guitar hero at the time. Rose showed Van Halen the unit and he was quickly sold. Rose struck a deal with Kramer guitars to be the exclusive distributor of the trem despite the fact that the guitar manufacturer had planned to use the Rockinger trem, a locking-nut design that they had referred to as “the Eddie Van Halen tremolo.” Van Halen’s iconic, Floyd-equipped “Frankenstrat” went on to become the decade’s defining axe, and Floyd Rose mania ensued. The Floyd Rose consists of a floating bridge and a locking nut. Unlike conventional bridges that rely on the ball end to keep the string in place, the Floyd Rose necessitates cutting off the ball end just above wrappings. The string end is inserted in a saddle, and a small metal block clamps the strings in place when you tighten the 3 mm hex screw at the back of the bridge (in the same location as a Strat bridge’s intonation screw). Up at the nut are three square pieces of metal, each of which tightens down on a pair of strings via another 3mm hex screw once the guitar is tuned. When the strings are locked in place, the headstock tuners have no effect on tuning. However, small adjustments (roughly a whole-step’s worth) can be made via fine tuners at the rear of the bridge. One downside of the fine tuners: Because of their location, they can sometimes obstruct a player’s picking hand, particularly if the player rests their hand on the bridge.
  34. 34. The biggest pitfall of the Floyd Rose, however, is that if it is set to float and a string breaks, the whole guitar will go out of tune. Because of this—and the fact that changing a string on a Floyd Roseequipped guitar takes longer than on many other bridge designs—many Floyd users always bring backup guitars to gigs. Kahler’s Threat to the Kingdom of Floyd Perhaps the most direct competitor to the Floyd Rose was the tremolo designed by Gary Kahler. In the late ’70s Kahler had a guitar hardware company called Brass Factory that made brass versions of the Fender trem and developed several bridges with Fender. In the ’80s Kahler changed the company name to American Precision Metalworks and soon unveiled the Kahler tremolo. The Kahler trem had several unmistakable Floyd-inspired design features, including a locking nut and fine tuners on the bridge assembly— enough to warrant a patent-infringement judgment against Kahler. Unlike the Floyd Rose however, the Kahler is a cambased system—strings attach to a single cylindrical cam inside the bridge housing. Furthermore, Kahlers didn’t require snipping the ball ends off of strings. The battle raged between Floyd Rose and Kahler throughout the first golden age of shred, with many flashy players pledging allegiance to one system or the other. In the end, Kahler lost a patentinfringement lawsuit and the balance of power went to Floyd. In 2005, however, Kahler began manufacturing bridges again under Floyd Rose licenses. To this day, the company has produced over a million trems. Left: An example of Kahler’s cambased lockingtremolo design. Photo courtesy of Banzai Music Beyond Tuning Stability As double-locking trems grew in popularity, numerous aftermarket addons emerged. Some players who preferred the vintage feel, low profile, and lesscomplicated operation of Strat-style bridges turned to locking tuners and more sophisticated and finely tuned fulcrum designs by the likes of Wilkinson, or the John Mann-designed bridges on Paul Reed Smith guitars. Meanwhile, some shredoriented guitar brands developed their own versions of the double-locking recipe, as Ibanez did with its many iterations of the Floyd Rose-inspired Edge tremolo. Most of these, however, owed a debt to Floyd Rose designs and were marked with language such as “Licensed under Floyd Rose Patents.” (continued on p. 42) PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 39
  35. 35. Players Who Put Tremolo on the Map S ince the vibrato bridge’s invention nearly 80 years ago, creative guitarists have used it to change the vernacular of the electric guitar. Here we take a look at some of those tremolo-bar pioneers and the sounds they created. Bigsby Bouncers To this day, the Bigsby is one of the most popular tremolo systems on the market. It’s a factory option on guitars by Gretsch, Gibson, PRS, and others. Compared to more modern tremolos, the Bigbsy has a relatively limited range of pitch manipulation. However, those who swear by it do so because fulcrum- and cam-based designs with greater range simply can’t match the subtle charm, vintage vibe, and unique timbres that the Bigsby imparts. The image of a Bigsby-equipped hollowbody guitar through a reverb-drenched amp has withstood the test of time. The Bigsby is often the trem of choice for rockabilly, country, surf, and indie rock players. Artists like Brian Setzer, Chet Atkins, and Duane Eddy have all made great use of it. Check out the warbles on Setzer’s “Stray Cat Strut” or his rendition of “Sleepwalk,” the gently rocking chord punctuations on Atkins’ “Mr. Sandman,” and the open-string Bigsby twang on Eddy’s “Movin’ ‘n’ Groovin’.” But when push comes to shove, the Bigsby can scream. Neil Young, “The Godfather of Grunge,” has never been one to treat the Bisgbsy with kid gloves—he mauls his Bigsby-equipped Les Paul like a metal maniac on tunes like “Cowgirl in the Sand”— and pretty much every other song at his live shows. Fender Forefathers The Strat’s Synchronized Tremolo system is almost as important to music history as the guitar itself. It paved the way for groundbreaking moments too numerous to count. Perhaps the most memorable moment in Strat trem history was Jimi Hendrix’s jaw-dropping 1969 performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock. Jimi shook both guitarists and music fans to the core with his erotic, violent whammy bar attack, conjuring howling, swirling feedback and trills that divebombed into oblivion. But it wasn’t Hendrix alone who immortalized Strat trem. From delicate, faux-slide sounds to soulful melodic caresses, Jeff Beck’s tremolo technique practically transforms the guitar into a new 40 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 instrument. The former Yardbird sets up his Strat trems so they float, often gripping the bar with the tips of all his picking-hand fingers while plucking stings with his thumb and performing volume swells with his pinky. Listen to his tremolo bar work on songs like “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and “Where Were You.” And let’s not forget the impact of Fender Jazzmaster and Jaguar tremolos on the ’60s surf sound. The Surfaris’ Jim Fuller and Bob Berryhill used Jazzmaster trem to fuel their megahit “Wipe Out”, while the Surftones’ Dave Meyers warbled his Jaguar’s tremolo to great effect on “Church Key.” More recently, Nels Cline used Jazzmaster trem to great effect on Wilco’s “Impossible Germany,” as did Kevin Shields on My Bloody Valentine’s “Come in Alone.” Gibson Vibrola Fans The “sideways” and Maestro Vibrolas developed by Gibson in the early ’60s weren’t terribly popular due to their limited practicality. However, Jimi Hendrix used a Maestro Vibrolaequipped Gibson Flying V for “Red House,” and today players such as Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy still have great affinity for them. Campbell is often seen with a Maestro-outfitted Gibson Firebird, and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy often wails the Maestro on his SG Standard on live renditions of “At Least That’s What You Said.” Mosrite Surfers When Semie Moseley loaned a guitar to Ventures guitarist Nokie Edwards for a recording, both the band and Moseley’s Mosrite guitars skyrocketed to fame. When the band used the instruments live to play hits like “Walk Don’t Run,” with its tremolo shimmies on the held C note at the end of the iconic riff and the chords that follow it, it cemented the Mosrite tremolo’s place in whammy bar history. Floyd Abusers/Gods Using a standard Fender trem, Eddie Van Halen eviscerated rock guitar fans with his paradigm-shifting 1978 instrumental, “Eruption.” But his extreme pummeling of the bar soon led him to embrace double-locking tremolos for better tuning stability. By the second Van Halen album, he’d adopted the Floyd Rose and ushered in a new era of bizarre bar antics that, along with tapping and screaming harmonics, set the standard for guitar
  36. 36. mastery in the ’80s. There are too many examples to cite, but the Floyd Rose-driven insanity in his solo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” is perhaps most indicative of his impact. As the shred era caught fire, the guitarist David Lee Roth recruited after exiting Van Halen also carved a career out of whammified sounds. Dissatisfied with the upward range on his Floyds, Steve Vai used a hammer and screwdriver to chisel the area behind the bridge of his Charvel “Green Meanie” so he could pull the bar up further. He took advantage of this newfound range to achieve stratosphere-scraping squeals on songs like the odd-meterlaced “The Attituide Song.” After joining Roth’s solo band, Vai used the bar in combination with a wah pedal to create a wild vocal effect on their first single, “Yankee Rose.” For many players, it expanded the horizons of whammy use. Interstellar Travelers of the TransTrem Ned Steinberger’s TransTrem also offered a goldmine of riches for outside–the–box artists like Allan Holdsworth, who used the transposing vibrato to augment his already befuddling harmonic tapestries for an effect similar to what synth players get with a pitch wheel. To this day Holdsworth uses TT2 and TT3 TransTrems cannibalized from older Steinbergers on axes built by Canton Custom Guitars. Because of its complexity, some dismissed the TransTrem a niche piece of gear for esoteric styles. But Eddie Van Halen shattered such notions by employing the TransTrem in a straight-up hard rock setting. Van Halen used a pin-striped, TransTrem-equipped Steinberger GL on songs like “Get Up” and “Summer Nights” from 5150, the first Van Halen album with Sammy Hagar as lead vocalist. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 41
  37. 37. (continued from p. 39) Above: The Stetsbar mounts to guitars such as a Gibson Les Paul Junior without requiring any drilling. Right: The Steinberger ZT-3 guitar introduced in 2008 featured the third version of Ned Steinberger’s innovative TransTrem design, which keeps entire chords in correct pitch during use and lets you lock the bridge in six different keys. Below: The Vibramate lets you add a Bigsby to Teles and other guitars without drilling new holes. Floyd Rose developed new designs, too, including the SpeedLoader, which eliminated the time-consuming need to snip off the strings’ ball ends, though it necessitated buying proprietary strings. Eddie Van Halen’s EVH brand also released the D-Tuna—a simple device that replaces the string-locking screw of a Floyd Rose’s low-E saddle and that, when pulled, instantly lowers the string’s pitch to D. Ned Steinberger took the locking and detuning concepts even further with 1984’s Steinberger TransTrem bridge. The TransTrem, an evolution of his original S-Trem design, appeared on Steinberger headless guitars. It used special doubleball strings (though a single-ball string adapter was later offered) and allowed entire chords to stay in tune as the bar was manipulated. Perhaps the most unique feature of the TransTrem was that it allowed you to raise or lower pitch with the bar and then lock the bridge in place in order to play in six different keys—as far down as a perfect 4th (B-standard tuning), or up a minor 3rd (G-standard). Headless guitar manufacturers like Klein made the TransTrem standard equipment on their designs. After Steinberger stopped producing TransTrem-equipped guitars, the trems themselves became hot commodities, fetching upwards 42 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 of $1,000 on eBay. The scarcity and expense proved to be a significant impediment to headless guitar manufacturers, who turned to alternate solutions such as JCustom’s recently released XS-Trem, a direct replacement for the Steinberger S-Trem. Since then, manufacturers such as Carvin have explored headless guitars, including the Allan Holdsworth HH1 and HH2. In 2008 Ned Steinberger introduced an updated version called the TransTrem 3, which coincided with the release of the Steinberger ZT–3 guitar. Going Where No Trem Has Gone Before For a long while, the evolution of vibrato bridges seemed to coincide with the development of more modern playing styles. But many Les Paul and Tele fans secretly longed to join the whammy parade without sacrificing what they love about those unique guitar designs. However, those with vintage instruments were apprehensive about permanently modifying them, because any irreversible modification would severely impact a guitar’s value. Thankfully, many innovations have come to market to address these concerns. Back in the ’80s Eric Stets wanted a trem on his ’71 Gibson Les Paul Custom but didn’t want to drill holes in it. He subsequently designed and patented the Stetsbar, which fits existing bridges and doesn’t require any guitar modification. He also offers versions for Strats, Teles, and other guitar designs. Meanwhile, the Vibramate kit lets Bigsby fans mount the spring-powered legend to the studs of a stop-tail bridge without drilling. For Teles, you simply swap your “ashtray” bridge assembly with a modified Vibramate bridge that fits in the existing holes. It connects to a tailpiece secured by the strap endpin. The Bigsby mounts on the tailpiece rather than the guitar body. To Infinity and Beyond Though they’re the unequivocal benchmarks of vibrato design, the models discussed here are only the tip of the trem iceberg in terms of sheer numbers. Likewise, the players mentioned are merely those most immediately associated with each device them in the broader guitar consciousness. Countless other players have enriched our lives with inventive, soul-touching vibrato work. As with everything in our gear universe, nothing will stop the wheels of change. Given how far tremolos have come, it may seem difficult to fathom where designs could go next. But at least one company seems poised on the brink of the future. EverTune’s tension-monitoring bridge wowed guitarists the world over in 2010 with its promise to never let a guitar go out of tune, regardless of temperature, climate, or heavy-handed playing. At press time, the company told us they are about a year away from offering a tremolo version that’s sure to make waves. And yet the designs we’ve come to love, whether vintage or modern, are sure to remain popular for a long time to come. Whether you’re the one wiggling that bar, or the one enjoying it from the crowd, there’s no denying the power of the tremolo.
  38. 38. PLAY WITH FIRE. If you’re the type of player who thinks heavy can always be heavier, and 11 just ain’t loud enough... Enormous Door might just be your new best friend. From the hot-rodded tube-like gain of the FOAD Mosfet Distortion, to the big bottom low end punch of the PDX Classic Distortion, you’ll find the perfect red-hot sound for sonic dominance. Explore the sheer molten mayhem of the SCUD Fat Fuzz, or the explosive sounds of the JINN Octave Fuzz for studio sounds that you have to hear to believe. Add the spark of brilliance to your tone using the nice bite of the BSO Classic Overdrive, or light it on fire with the dynamic chord clarity and tube-like harmonics of the ATX Dynamic Overdrive. WARNING: DO NOT USE AROUND CHILDREN UNDER 12, SMALL ANIMALS, OR ADULTS WITH PACEMAKERS. HEAR CLIPS AND LEARN ABOUT OUR UNIQUE DESIGNS AT: WWW.ENORMOUSDOOR.COM FIND US ON FX FOR GUITAR & BASS HAND BUILT IN AUSTIN, TX © 2013 ENORMOUS DOOR AUDIO, LLC.
  39. 39. Modern Builder Vault Red Rocket Guitars By Rich Osweiler A fter a busy decade of concentrating on marriage, work, and kids, Matthew Nowicki came to the frightening realization that somehow he didn’t have a guitar in the house anymore. For someone who started playing at the age of 12, that just wasn’t a good sign. He decided to get back into it, but couldn’t afford the pricey guitars he was digging at the time. So when he saw a banged-up vintage Tele with a snapped neck and no pickups for $100, he grabbed it. In just a few months, he taught himself the art of guitar repair while working it back into shape. A friend of Nowicki’s loved the results of the Tele project so much that he offered to buy the guitar. Nowicki sold it to him and bought another broken instrument. After completing this cycle a few more times, Nowicki began designing and building his own guitars from scratch, starting with a batch of five. When he put up a website Vintage Burst Commander The elegant-looking Vintage Burst Commander is an eye-pleasing presentation of top-of-line materials. Its chambered body is cut from black limba and blanketed with private-reserve flame maple for the carved top, while the black limba neck is topped with a ziricote fretboard that’s adorned with abalone top and side dots. Nowicki went with more flame maple for the head plate, pickup rings, and body and neck binding. For a bevy of versatile tones, it’s packed with a pair of Imperial humbuckers from Lollar, as well as a Graph Tech ghost system piezo. 44 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 touting his wares, within a few months he had enough orders to build guitars full-time, which the North Carolina-based luthier has been doing for five years now. “It was kind of an accident that it turned into a career,” he says. The self-taught luthier has been making art as long as he can remember and says it seemed natural to start building guitars. “I’ve always loved working with my hands and creating beautiful eye-catching objects,” says Nowicki, whose college major was sculpture. “When I was repairing broken guitars, I kept having ideas for interesting finishes, details, and shapes. There is a huge amount of information out there to learn how to build guitars, but like most things, the majority of the learning happens by just keeping on building with the attitude of trying to make the next one even better.” In this quest, Nowicki notes the importance of sourcing quality components. “I like the standard woods like mahogany, maple, and rosewood, but I really believe that every guitar has a unique voice,” he says. “Two guitars made from the same materials will still have slightly different tones because every piece of wood is different.” The luthier likes using wood in interesting combinations to create unique voices and looks, but says the quality of the wood is always the most important thing. “Beautiful wood is wonderful, but it has to sound good, too.” When it comes to electronics, Nowicki has tried most pickups on the market. “Smaller boutique builders really do create a superior product,” he says. “Lindy Fralin, Jason Lollar, Pete Biltoft and TV Jones make some of the best pickups I’ve used.” Most of Nowicki’s customers have very specific ideas, so almost all of his builds are custom. It can be time consuming since unique jigs and tooling are needed for almost every instrument—but, of course, it’s worth it. “Working with clients to figure out their dream guitar is loads of fun and always results in something interesting,” says Nowicki. “I love thinking up new combinations of colors, wood, and sound, and seeing the instrument emerge at the end into something that has a life of its own.” Pricing & Availability Nowicki can be contacted directly through his website, which also provides information for the dealers he works with. Nowicki makes approximately 30-40 guitars a year, but he plans to expand and recently took on a parttime assistant in the shop. The current build time for a Red Rocket guitar is approximately five months. Builds average about $2,950 and Nowicki contends that his guitars are rarely more than $4,500.
  40. 40. StyleSonic (Above Left) This guitar features a body carved from solid, black limba, adorned with cocobolo binding and checker purfling. Its C-shaped neck is constructed from rock maple and is topped with a premium-rosewood fretboard. The StyleSonic is loaded with a set of Lindy Fralin Blues Special Strat-style pickups, which he says helps this axe deliver “classic tones with an extra helping of rich and twangy goodness, but no icepick highs.” Ash Top Custom Atomic (Above Right & Inset) Shaped like a Tele but with much more than meets the eye, this mahogany-body Atomic is topped with intensely figured ash that’s been finished with a vintage ’burst and then dressed with a thinline-style parchment pickguard. Going with flame maple for the neck, Nowicki outfitted it with a bocote fretboard that’s adorned with white motherof-pearl for the top and side dots. The pickup trio is made up of a TV Jones T-Armond in the neck, a Lindy Fralin reverse-wound Strat-style in the middle, and a Lindy Fralin overwound P-90 in the bridge. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 45
  41. 41. A Brief History of Tremolo (from 900 to 1963 A.D.) Photo by Chris Gray Tremolo is as old as the human voice. But how and when did it become a guitar effect? By Dan Formosa I set out to investigate the earliest recorded examples of guitarists using tremolo and the equipment they used to do it. You might think, as I did, that the story starts somewhere in the 1930s or ’40s. But the search took me much further back: specifically, to the 9th-century Byzantine Empire and 16th-century Europe. Obviously, there were no electric guitars then, but tremolo was being used as a musical device more than a millennium ago. After exploring those origins, we’ll leap ahead to the mechanical tremolo contraptions of the 1800s, and finally, the electronic tremolo circuits of the 20th century. We’ll encounter the first electronic tremolo (created for organs, not guitars) and the first electronic guitar tremolo, which also happened to be the first electric guitar effect box. We’ll look at the first tremolo amps that appeared in the late 1940s, and we’ll conclude in 1963, when Fender introduced their thenradical photocell tremolo circuit. In use by early 1940s, the DeArmond Tremolo Control was the first commercially produced electric guitar effect. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 47
  42. 42. By “Tremolo,” We Mean…. Our focus is the history of musicians’ ability to oscillate the volume of a note, not its pitch. Oscillating pitch change is properly referred to as vibrato, not tremolo. But as you’ll see, the words have a long history of being confused. (There’s also another musical definition of tremolo: striking the same note many times in rapid succession, mandolin-style, a technique also known as tremolando.) Tremolo’s Ancient Origins This Byzantine carving from 900 A.D. suggests that musicians from this time period may have used tremolo effects on stringed instruments such as the lyra. 48 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 But guess what? The changing pressure simultaneously alters volume and pitch. Therefore, the tremulant mechanism produced both tremolo and vibrato. In other words, the confusion between the two terms far predates Leo Fender’s decision to call the Stratocaster’s vibrato-producing whammy bar “tremolo.” We see this confusion again and again. By the late 17th century vibrato/ tremolo was being documented as a fluteplaying technique. Again, fluctuating air pressure in a flute produced both volume and pitch changes. Fast Forward In 1891, George Van Dusen patented a device similar in many ways to the vibrato-producing whammy bars we know today in 1891. His mechanism, designed for any stringed instrument, anchors the string at the short end of a spring-loaded lever. A push on the lever pulls the string tighter, raising its pitch, after which a spring attached to the lever returns the string to its original pitch. The result is vibrato, though Van Dusen called it tremolo in the U.S. patent application. But Van Dusen (or should I say Munn & Company, his patent attorneys?) Above: Photo by Dave Fey Right: This Storytone piano by is one of only 150 made and was the world’s first electric piano model. It debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair and the early models had DeArmond tremolo units mounted under the keyboard. Oscillating the volume of a note is an ancient technique—we’ve been able to do it with our voices as long as we’ve been capable of singing or yelling. For centuries musicians have sought ways to impart this wavering, voice-like quality to notes and chords. Any musician playing a bowed stringed instrument can create tremolo— they simply move the bow back and forth while sustaining a note, as we’ve seen countless violinists and cellists do. (Their bowwielding hand provides tremolo, while the hand quivering on the fingerboard varies the pitch of the strings, producing vibrato.) We don’t know exactly when and where the first bowed instruments originated, but there’s a Byzantine carving from around 900 A.D. depicting a scantily clad cherub holding an extremely long bow against the strings of an instrument known as a lyra. We don’t know whether lyra players used tremolo effects, but the technique was available. How far back must we go to find an instrument that produces tremolo mechanically? Sixteenth-century pipe organs used slightly detuned pitches played simultaneously to create an undulating effect. One of the earliest mechanical tremolos can be found on the 1555 pipe organ in the San Martino Maggiore church in Bologna, Italy. It includes several effeti speziali (auxiliary stops), including drums, birdcalls, drones, bells, and tremulant—a mechanism that opened and closed a diaphragm to vary the air pressure. As the pressure varied, so did the volume.
  43. 43. Photo Credit: Fred San Filipo Mod is Where It’s At. Real Mods, Real Twang, Real Vibrato. Guitar guru Bill Hook and Premier Guitar recently took on the challenge of creating the ultimate Squier® Tele Modification: A Surf-Twang Tweak-a-Rama. Check out the end result at We were thrilled to see Bill’s Bigsby Mod...And we want to see YOURS! Send pictures of your Bigsby Mod before, in process and after for a chance to be featured in a Bigsby Ad and on our website! Check out the B50 and B70 kits ... at your favorite guitar shop now! Send us an e-mail with a picture of you and YOUR Bigsby Mod to or send a picture to Bigsby, P.O. Box 2468, Savannah, GA 31402* for a chance to be featured with YOUR mod in an upcoming Bigsby ad! *Submitted photos will not be returned; submission constitutes permission to use photo in its entirety or edited form in print, on the web, or in promotional materials. Squier® and Tele® are registered trademarks of FMIC; Bigsby® is a registerd trademark of Fred Gretsch Enterprises. Photos courtesy of Premier Guitar Magazine.
  44. 44. Andrew Appel’s patent for an early electronic tremolo device. 50 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  45. 45. weren’t acting in isolation. The words tremolo and vibrato both found their way into patent vocabulary, where they were used interchangeably. Orville Lewis devised a somewhat similar device for violin in 1921. It worked by oscillating the bridge. Again, his device varied pitch, and again, the effect was called tremolo. Clayton Kauffmann created a sort of whammy bar for banjo in 1929. As with all whammy bars, the result was vibrato, not tremolo. And again, the product description used the word tremolo. There were devices that produced true tremolo, such as rotating fins on a piano cabinet that opened and closed a sound port, or a spinning mechanism for a wind instrument mouthpiece that modulated airflow. But unlike bowed and blown instruments, non-electric guitars have no innate tremolo techniques. It takes an amplified guitar and electronic circuitry to produce a wavering-volume effect. Early Electric Guitar Tremolo By 1941 the DeArmond company had developed what may have been the first effect unit for guitarists. It resides between the guitar and the amplifier like today’s effects. Inside the metal box is a small glass jar containing a water-based electrolytic fluid, which gets shaken by a motor. Inside the jar is a pin attached to the positive connection of the guitar cable. As liquid splashes against the pin, signal is shunted to ground. The result: great-sounding, liquid-like tremolo. The 1941 date is not based on the effect being used with guitars, but on the first electric pianos. Storytone pianos were manufactured by Story & Clark and developed in conjunction with RCA. They were first exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. By 1941 early models boasted DeArmond tremolo units mounted directly under the keyboard for easy access. In August of that year, pianists J. Russel Robinson and Teddy By 1941 the DeArmond company had developed what may have been the first effect unit for guitarists. Hale performed at the Chicagoland Music Festival, their state-of-the-art Storytones outfitted with both DeArmond units and Hammond Solovoxes (miniature, secondary keyboards, and some of the first synthesizers.) There wasn’t much musical instrument development during World War II, so the second effects box may have been Andrew Appel’s 1945 tremolo device. His design, housed in a metal box quite similar in shape to the DeArmond unit, arranged resistors in a circular pattern in ascending order of resistance. A motor rotated a contact that successively touched each resistor. The result, in theory, was the Straight Truth About Pickups by Jason Lollar The “magic” found in some (but not all) classic vintage pickups was created by accident. Don’t let anyone tell you different. And over time, some pretty stellar accidents happened. The only way to recreate that magic is to study more than a few exceptional examples of all the classic pickup types, while acquiring a thorough understanding of exactly what materials were used and precisely how each pickup was constructed and wound. Only then is the “magic” repeatable, if you are willing to spend the time and money required to chase the dragon. I am. I personally design and wind over 30 different pickup models, including all the vintage classics, many obscure works of art known only to lap and pedal steel players like Robert Randolph, and even a few of my own designs that never existed in the past. I invite you to visit our website for sound clips, videos and current product information, or call us for a free product highlight brochure. Lollar Guitars PO Box 2450 Vashon Island, WA 98070 (206) 463-9838 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 51
  46. 46. Donald Leslie worked on several versions of this patent (his earliest attempt was in 1940). 52 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  47. 47. CU BE- 80G CU BE- CU 40G X BE- X 20G X MIC RO C C CU GXR RO BE I I MIC CU RO GXW MIC B B BE CUB ITYw V ne X EG I ll- rs CTre, thpeeraformeetting’s E l d o NN uchprm setaegn mwirth Rol O dm o v o C e e, an an from fun cord ts, ne the d re S ec yo p R an u ef f er IE ul r ev icks tice, r f fo IF k c e ow ility ce pra PL , p rsat terfa lay, M p es e A on d v K in * to R p t s an LIN uch A m d ® a IT n BE to ps. U M l sou i-CU iPod c ap s S e G ck CO lev ard or usi ra ed top- nbo ad, S m gt in wn s e o , iP r iO ck e no er ba re deliv s. Th hon pula lar ith ies er r iP po pu d w ser amm you ther po e X j o ct ck ad Pa BE G oom onne and nlo U edr ly c AM ow C b J dd si to ea BE an om u CU re .c yo e mo ink fre rn BEL lea U *iPhone, iPad, iPod and iOS is a trademark of Apple, Inc., To it iC registered in the U.S. and other countries. vis EW N UB C ES W ITH iO S
  48. 48. equivalent to quickly raising and lowering your guitar’s volume control. Again, even though the effect only changed volume, Appel described the device as creating “tremolo or vibrato effects in conjunction with an electric type stringed musical instrument.” (Note: I have never seen this unit and am not sure if it ever went into production. If anyone has further knowledge, please let us know!) Other mechanical innovations? Donald Leslie first attempted to patent a rotating horn device in 1940. (He abandoned that first version, but followed up in 1945 with an alternative.) His earliest design incorporated a stationary speaker that faced upward, its sound flowing into the small end of a rotating horn a bit like the ones on early Victrolas. His patent describes the effect as producing “pitch tremolo or vibrato.” The rotating horn or speaker in the classic Leslie cabinet produces tremolo and vibrato simultaneously. As the speaker or cone moves towards you, the sound waves move faster, slightly raising pitch. The pitch lowers slightly as the speaker moves away. Meanwhile, volume is greatest when the speaker faces you. Therefore “tremolo and vibrato” is an accurate description of the Leslie effect. The First Guitar Amp Tremolo You can’t be different if you’re playing what everyone else is. Visit to start your journey to becoming an individual. Nathan Daniel created the first guitar amplifier with vibrato in 1947, the year he founded the Danelectro company. He called it a “Vibrato System for Amplifiers,” and his extended description explains that the circuit produces a “tremolo or vibrato effect.” 54 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 For centuries musicians have sought ways to impart a wavering, voice-like quality to notes and chords. The patent was granted in 1949, but we’re not sure exactly when the circuit was first used in a Danelectro amp. According to Nathan Daniel’s son Howard, “I have no knowledge of this, and I suspect there’s no living person who does. I can speculate, however, based on my knowledge of my dad, that he introduced tremolo sooner than 1950, as soon as he could following his application for a patent.” Tremolo definitely appears on Danelectro’s 1950s Special model amps. But Multivox and Gibson may have beaten Danelectro to the market with trem-equipped amps. A 1947 Multivox ad trumpets the company’s new model: “Guitarists! You owe it to yourself to try the new Premier ‘66’ Tremolo Amplifier. Yes, you too will be sold on this new amplifier from the very first trial. The builtin Electronic Tremolo lends a new organlike quality to your tone.” Meanwhile, Gibson’s first tremolo amp, the GA-50T, appeared in 1948. (Note to Magnate fans: While Magnatone began manufacturing steel guitar amps in the late 1930s, their first tremolo-enabled amplifier, the Vibra-Amp, didn’t arrive until 1955. Their “true vibrato” circuits, using varistors to alter pitch rather than volume, first appeared in 1957’s Custom 200 series.)
  49. 49. (or four) power tubes to share amplification duties. The Tremolux is unique in that the wavering voltage is sent to the cathode element of the phase inverter. The 1956 Vibrolux operates on the same basic principle, varying the bias. It also uses resistors and capacitors, enlisting only half of a 12AX7. (A single 12AX7 tube houses two separate triode tubes, which can be used independently.) The modulating voltage enters the guitar signal path after the phase inverter, The Premier “66” (below) may have been the first amp introduced with tremolo, in 1947. Gibson’s GA-50T (above) from 1948 was one of the first amps to feature a built-in tremolo effect. Fender’s first tremolo amp was 1955’s Tremolux. Later brownface and blackface Fender amps would feature radically different versions of the effect. acting on the grid elements of the two 6V6 power tubes. (The brownface amps Fender introduced in 1959—the Vibrasonic, Concert, and eventually other models—utilize a circuit called “harmonic vibrato.” It’s not exactly tremolo or vibrato, although it can certainly create that impression. Think of tremolo volume as a sine wave, with high and low peaks. Now think of a second tremolo wave, this time offset by 180 degrees. It would cancel the first tremolo—the summed AcmeGuitarWorks build a better guitar Prewired pickup and control assemblies, on templates or pickguards, for many popular guitars. Not inclined to spend your Saturday soldering? Then let us do it for you. The finest pickups.The finest components. And our own CNC-manufactured pickguards. Tone. We can help. The tremolo section of a vintage amp circuit (yes, it’s called “vibrato” on many amps and schematics) involves at least one tube. A wavering voltage affects the tube’s bias. How that wavering voltage is generated, and to which section of the amp circuit it is applied, account for the sonic differences between various tube tremolo circuits. Without getting too technical, let’s look at how they work, using several Fender tremolo amps as examples. Fender’s earliest tremolo amplifier appeared in 1955, relatively late in the game. The tremolo section in a ’55 Tremolux amp uses a 12AX7 tube, resistors, and capacitors to vary the voltage. All amps with two or more power tubes include a tube called a phase inverter, which splits the guitar signal to allow two …Strat® assembly mounted on plastic template 772-770-1919 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 55
  50. 50. volume would be flat. However, the harmonic vibrato circuits send higher frequencies to one wave and lower frequencies to the other. There is no actual change in volume or pitch, but rather a sort of phase shift.) Fender’s next type of tremolo featured a very different system. The blackface amps that appeared in 1963 use a 12AX7 tube and a photocell to oscillate the voltage. That system employs a neon light to open and close the photocell. It acts on the grid of the phase inverter. Photocell tremolo tends to sound choppier than earlier bias variation circuits. (For an example of bias variation tremolo, listen to Otis Redding’s version of “A Change is Gonna Come,” featuring Steve Cropper on guitar. For photocell tremolo, try the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.”) Early Tremolo Recordings Bluesman Big Bill Broonzy is probably the guitarist on several 1942 songs by singer/ pianist Roosevelt Sykes. The tremolo effect is unmistakable. With DeArmond tremolo boxes underway by 1941 and amplifiers incorporating tremolo circuits appearing by end of the decade, what are the earliest guitar tremolo recordings? Maybe a better question would be, why would DeArmond, Danelectro, or Gibson offer tremolo for guitar unless guitarists were experimenting with the effect? Since the Hammond company was using tremolo in its organs since the 1930s, the potential for early experimentation by guitarists certainly existed. With that thought in mind, I’ll share the oldest tremolo Bo Diddley made tremolo his trademark sound in 1955. Duane Eddy started using a DeArmond tremolo in 1957 to enhance the melody in his hit “Rebel Rouser.” Strings that offer unmatched durability with a consistently warm, true sound. 56 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013
  51. 51. tracks I’ve uncovered so far. If you’re aware of earlier ones, please let us know. Guitar tremolo can clearly be heard on four songs that singer/pianist Roosevelt Sykes recorded in Chicago on April 16, 1942. “Are You Unhappy,” “You Can’t Do That to Me,” “Sugar Babe Blues,” and “Love Has Something to Say” probably feature Big Bill Broonzy playing through a DeArmond unit. Les Paul, electric guitar pioneer and mad scientist of the recording studio, may have used a subtle tremolo effect on his 1946 recording of “Sweet Hawaiian Moonlight.” You can hear Muddy Waters playing through a tremolo effect on his 1953 song “Flood.” Two years later Bo Diddley made tremolo a centerpiece of his sound, using a DeArmond unit on his 1955 hits “Bo Diddley,” “Diddley Daddy,” and “Pretty Thing.” By the late 1950s electric tremolo was in full swing. Duane Eddy famously incorporated it in many of his recordings. He obtained a DeArmond unit in 1957 and used it on “Rebel Rouser” the following year. According to Eddy, the tremolo effect was “cool because it was such a simple melody.” His other tremolo-based songs include “Stalkin’,” “Cannonball,” “The Lonely One,” and “Forty Miles of Bad Road.” Also in 1958, Link Wray recorded “Rumble,” where you can hear the effect being turned on in the final portion of the song. The 1960s brought an entirely new wave of tremolo-infused amps, effect pedals, and “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James & the Shondells showcases the tremolo sound that boomed in the 1960s. PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 57
  52. 52. guitar recordings—far more than we can cover here. But even a short list of great trem-fueled ’60s classics reveals how much the effect contributed to the decade’s sound. The Staple Singers Slim Harpo, “Baby, Scratch My Back” Tommy James & the Shondells, “Crimson and Clover” The Shadows, “Apache” Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Born on the Bayou” The Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter” Let’s conclude our early history of tremolo with two songs that demonstrate how compelling tremolo can be: The Staple Singers 1956 recording of “Uncloudy Day” (search “Uncloudy Day - The Staple Singers on YouTube), with Pops Staples on guitar, and Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang,” with L.A. session ace Billy Strange (search “Nancy Sinatra Bang Bang on YouTube). Both songs feature vocals, tremolo guitar, and nothing else. When you have an effect this dramatic and powerful, who needs a band? Big thanks to everyone who helped with this article: Deed and Duane Eddy, Matt Celichowski, John Peden, Shane Nicholas, Stan Cotey and Jason Farrell of Fender Musical Instruments, Bradley StauchenScherer, Ken Moore and Naomi Takafuchi of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Deke Dickerson, Ira Padnos, Chris Smith, and Gary Atkinson of Document Records. TAKE YOUR PICK Your Source For Low Prices On Top Brands pg_090513_Take Your Pick.indd 1 58 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013 9/13/13 1:31 PM
  53. 53. Vintage vault 60 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2013