A guitar journal wouldn’t get very far without an actual guitar, so here is a glimpse and brief overview of my very first guitar: the six-stringed vintage sunburst beast that is responsible for my recently mauled finger tips, after my very first foray on the guitar last night! I don’t think I was expecting quite the hammering that my finger tips took last night, but I guess that is all part of the conditioning process: no pain, no gain!
When it came to buying my first electric guitar, despite being on a fairly tight budget at the time, through obsessive online research, enthusiastic telephone negotiation and a few customised guitar modifications, I managed to put together an Epiphone Les Paul ‘Slash-style’ electric guitar that I love, for not too far over half the price of a Gibson Les Paul Studio, or somewhere in the region of a third of the price of a full Gibson Les Paul Standard. Epiphone is indeed actually owned by Gibson, but whilst genuine Gibson Les Paul guitars are individually hand-made, Epiphone Les Paul guitars are simply their production line equivalents, so the dream of course will always be to get a genuine Gibson Les Paul one day!
For now though, here is the actual lowdown on my very first electric guitar, amplifier and other related info:-
My first guitar is an Epiphone Les Paul electric guitar in vintage sunburst (see photo above). The following fact seems to shock most people, but when I first purchased the guitar I immediately had it customised following some extensive online research at the time, in order to build my own Slash-style guitar on a budget. My local guitar tech who carried out the work, was absolutely astonished upon discovering afterwards when handing me my newly customised Les Paul to play, that I couldn’t actually play and hadn’t even actually started learning to play yet! Simply put, I just wanted to start off on the right foot and learn how to play with an instrument that was at least capable of actually sounding good, and figured that I loved the sound of Slash’s Les Paul electric guitar, as featured in Guns N’ Roses, so that seemed like a good place to start in terms of striving for a guitar that had potential and one that had the capacity to sound good when my skills were capable of playing anything with any semblance of proficiency! I’m guessing each and every guitar player out there has a subtly different notion of what represents a good sounding guitar, but for myself and with no other frame of reference in terms of actual experience, I simply decided that the hard rock sounding Les Paul guitar that Slash wielded in Guns N’ Roses was as good a place to start as any …and who doesn’t love Slash!
So, for the guitar geeks out there, here comes the science part: I had my Les Paul completed refitted with a full Gibson wiring kit to ensure the quality of the internal components, which included a Switchcraft jack socket and selector switch, and had it customised with Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro pick ups, CTS pots, Orange Drop capacitors, black Gibson speed dials, and finished off with a graphite nut and Ernie Ball 10 gauge strings, all properly set-up by an experienced guitar tech. After some experimenting, I also found Jim Dunlop’s Jazz III XL picks to be my perfect partner in crime.
I guess early on, you figure out if you are going to be the type of player who plays with the twang of a Fender Strat, the growl of a Gibson Les Paul or indeed the clinical precision of an Ibanez shred-monster. Although I have friends who play Ibanez guitars and love them, and I do love a lot of guitarists past and present who are renowned for their Fender Strats, Jimi Hendrix comes immediately to mind, when it came down to the crunch I just felt right at home holding a Les Paul and it also helped that many of my favourite guitarists also played the iconic Les Paul, including Slash, James Hetfield and Gary Moore! Les Paul-style guitars do tend to be heavy though in comparison, but when played properly their primal roar just really puts a big grin on your face, shakes your soul awake, and lets you know you’re alive!
Over time, I guess the ultimate aim will be to arrive at my own unique sound and style of playing, but for now, my customised Epiphone Les Paul electric guitar feels like a great place to start!
My first amp is a Roland Cube 20-X. Great for home practice, but an all-valve Marshall amp is also on the wish list, in addition to the genuine Gibson Les Paul. It doesn’t hurt to dream!
It may not be a valve or tube amp, but, as solid state amplifiers go, this Roland kicks ass! It came highly recommended and features amp model settings that give you great flexibility in finding that certain sound you are looking for. Also, Roland and Boss are the same company one way or another, so I imagine Roland also use their extensive knowledge of guitar foot-pedals marketed under the Boss banner to provide great guitar effects in this range of Roland Cube amps, in addition to the amp models present. Boss foot-pedals have been used for generating crunchy blues, to distorted rock, through to extreme metal sounds for years. They clearly know what they are doing and the resulting sounds in my Cube 20-X are awesome for a home practice amp. It is built to last, too.
Recording of progress videos:
For now, I will be recording progress videos simply using my Apple iMac’s built-in camera and microphone. As such, the quality may not be ideal and ultimately I will need to get a dedicated camera and microphone one day if the quality is to improve.
As you will no doubt see in due course, my home recordings will not represent a polished and professional presentation of anything. They will simply be honest glimpses into my current ability, in terms of my ability to actually play anything on the guitar, period. Let alone with any proficiency. They will be real though, and that is what counts.
So, the posts that follow may not come in frequent or expected intervals. They may not feature rock star models in chic studios playing speed-of-light riffs across the fretboard. They will simply feature me, Joel BB, concentrating in front of the camera like my life depended on it and unleashed in all of my uninitiated glory as I struggle to wrestle something approaching a tune out of this new guitar of mine.
With some dedicated practice under my belt and as soon as I can play something approaching a song all the way through, I’ll be uploading my first progress video.
It may take a while …but I’ll get there!
– Joel BB