Oh, man — I’m flipping out over a new guitar I’ve assembled from Warmoth parts. It was an opportunity to try some new experiments — and amazingly, some of them may have worked!
I had several unrelated goals:
- a better instrument to use with my digital rig, with the best possible MIDI tracking and digital modeling performance.
- an excuse to acquire a guitar with P-90 pickups
- a chance to try a new onboard booster scheme
Plus, I was suffering some Jazzmaster nostalgia. My first electric guitar was the used Jazzmaster I received for my 13th birthday. Naturally, I sold it at exactly the wrong time, and haven’t owned one since.
Fullerton vs. Kalamazoo. But as you can see, this apple has fallen far from the Fender tree. Beyond the bolt-on neck, 25 1/2″ scale, and JM shape, it’s really more Gibson-esque, with a relatively heavy korina body, mahogany neck, bound ebony fretboard, and Tune-o-matic-style bridge and tailpiece.
I wanted to see how a guitar that was bigger and heavier than the Fenders I’d been using in my digital setup would perform with MIDI triggering and amp modeling. This “Birdmaster” reminds me a lot of a Firebird, or even a Trini Lopez with its Firebird-style headstock. There’s just a lot of distance between the endpin and the tip of the headstock! Between the woody mass, authoritative-sounding Lindy Fralin P-92 pickups (which I’d previously reviewed in Premier Guitar), and my beloved overpriced flatwound strings, I wound up with an instrument whose exceptionally clear and stable pitch works better with digital tools than any guitar I’ve tried.
Intonation revelation. On a whim, I ordered the neck with a pre-installed Earvana nut. I’d always been a sceptic about “improved” intonation schemes, such as the Buzz Feiten system. Not because I didn’t think they’d work — more because I like the out-of-tuneness of guitars in general and rock guitars in particular. (And let’s face it — most of my best session work is howlingly out of tune.)
Okay, I was a dope.
I am over the moon about how sweetly this guitar plays in tune. It’s already an exceedingly resonant slice of tree, but I’d swear the minuscule intonation fixes just make it hum more. I’ve already taken in three more instruments to genius guitar tech Gary Brawer for Earvana retrofits.(The nuts go for about $40 each, compared to five bucks or so for a conventional nut.)Cult boost. I also tried a few new things with the electronics. There are single master volume and tone controls, with a Stellartone ToneStyler on the tone pot. I added my Cult circuit — a single-germanium-transistor boost descended from the Rangemaster, a trick I used in the Pagey Project Les Paul. A push/pull switch on the third knob activates it.
But here, the pot controls the level going into the boost, not out of it. Since it’s such an extraordinarily dynamic circuit (it cleans up almost completely when you back of the input), the knob works as an ultra-sensitive gain control. It’s easy to find spots where you can go from clean to dirty with just a little extra picking-hand pressure. (The booster, when engaged, is positioned before the volume and tone pots.) The same setup would probably work great with a built-in Fuzz Face.
I’m still fine-tuning things — I may want to add selectable booster input caps, for the option of a traditional Rangemaster-style treble boost. But overall, I’m thrilled to bits about how this guitar is turning out!
Anyone else have interesting experiences with Fender/Gibson hybrids? Care to share?