Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How to Be A Guitarist on the Internet who's not an Asshole: Part 6 of 7



6. Not Everyone is a Luthier 



This sort of shit runs rampant in the guitar-playing community. Every blue collar handyman thinks you're a "complete fucking moron" because you aren't too keen on changing your strings / setting your action & intonation / adjusting your truss rod / swapping your pickups/ changing your amp tubes/ or dealing with that fucking Floyd Rose.

Because if you can't play guitars well, you might as well fix them well.

It might sound unrelated (because it is), but I fix office equipment for a living. So I'm not exactly a stranger to a screwdriver or a soldering iron. But working with customers in this field for as long as I have, it's safe to say not everybody is totally comfortable pulling their shit apart, even in the most basic fashion. Especially if said shit was expensive. Even more especially if they're smart enough to recognize they don't know WTF they're doing, and don't want to risk the very likely possibility of busting anything.


Of course, stringing a guitar is pretty basic and a vital skill for DIY gigging, but I can tell you from personal experience, it's real easy to do a sloppy job at it. You can also irreparably damage your instrument if you do it wrong. A lot of the people are just happier to have it done at their local guitar shop by a pro to make sure it's done exactly right. It's their money, it doesn't cost that much to have the shop tech do it, so B-F-D if someone wants to pay a little extra to have their ax set up by a pro. People who are tech savvy tend to consider themselves so brilliant, that you'd think they'd own enough brain cells to figure out not everyone else in the universe can be bothered to know how to do all this shit perfectly.

 In my travels, I once read on a guitar forum that "changing pickups is easier than changing a tire". From the tools required, to the practice, that sort of thinking is so apples to oranges, I can't even breathe trying to work out what this human winner could have possibly meant by that. But working off that stupid analogy, let's look at things this way: lots and lots of people drive cars, but the sweeping majority of them aren't mechanics. Most people don't even change their own oil. Shit, the smartest people in the world don't change their own oil. Do you see Stephen Hawking climbing under his car? Ok, bad example.

"Wow, thanks for the Carvin kit, dad. Hope you saved enough dough on this to put me through fucking therapy."

Regardless, in the same way that people drive cars without knowing how to fix them, I think it's a reasonable expectation that you should be allowed to play music without complete knowledge of your instrument's repair and maintenance. Also, professional luthiers need to eat too:


Saturday, April 4, 2015

How to Be A Guitarist on the Internet who's not an Asshole: Part 5 of 7



5. Stop Getting Mad about ERGs AND How they're Usually Played



Among the modern guitarist community, no one is bigger bunch of blubbering, sob sucking crybabies than the butthurts who can't get over how guitars are being produced with more than six strings. These people fall right in line with the same bunch of pissant curmudgeons who can't understand why they should consider amp modelling instead of good-ol fashioned tubes, digital audio files instead of good ol' fashioned vinyl, or having to use "the Firefox" instead of "the AOL".

For the sake of all things heavy, we have been taking those old fashioned six-strings and we have been down-tuning them to an unplayable string floppiness that rivals my penis. To circumvent this flaccidity, we have been using thicker and thicker gauge strings so they can be tuned lower, yet maintain a playable firmness that also rivals my penis. But these thicker gauge strings, with their higher pounds of tension, put our skinny 6-string super strat necks in danger of irreparably warping. So, we built a bigger neck, we reinforced it, and for the sake of extra metal, we made it so that it could hold another, even thicker gauge string. All was well. Then we were like, fuck that, let's do it again. Then again. So now we have mainstream guitars being produced that allow you to go down a couple or several octaves while still maintaining a standard range of guitar tuning; but because that's not what John Mayer plays, everybody on YouTube is crying and shitting their dad jeans about it.

Their light, light, light blue dad jeans.

For simplicity sake, let's focus on the 8-string guitar. We'll focus on eight, because the seven string didn't really raise the ire of anybody, seeing as how every guitar player thinks Steve Vai is the greatest thing to ever happen since the blowjob was invented. We're not gonna make much mention of the 9-string guitar, because let's face it, that pretty much was a "fuck-it-why-not" novelty concept more than it was meant to be an instrument that has a genuine place in modern music. And no, there is no number of Rob Scallon videos anyone can send me to convince me of otherwise.

The eight string guitar has become wildly popular among young guitar players, especially with the increasing popularity of "djent" riffing and more progressive styles of playing. You might expect that a guitar with an "extended range" would be best used to add a greater complexity or depth to a musician's playing. This is evident in the music performed by bands like Animals as Leaders, Scale the Summit, Beyond Creation, Black Crown Initiate, Ihsahn, Allegaeon and some other bands I forgot to mention that someone will get mad about.

However, complexity is not the reason why anybody is buying 8-string guitars.

For every nuanced progressive type using the 8-string as an extended canvas with which to broaden the strokes of their artform, there are 10,000 brocore kids chugging away only at the lowest strings. And look, why wouldn't they? The F# string on an 8-string guitar provides you with the most maximum chug even with its standard tuning. These same sorts have been taking your traditional 6-string for decades and drop-tuning them to play low down, dirty shit anyway. Ibanez was just like "check it motherfuckers you don't have to restring and set up with a thicker gauge we did that shit for you homes" And there was many a tipping of flat-brimmed caps and raising of Natty Ice cans and gauging of ear lobes and inking of necks in celebration.

If I keep my fingers way up here on the fretboard for the photo, maybe everyone will be nice to me...
The biggest argument in favor of the Extended Range Guitar is that it can be used to its fullest potential creatively by someone who really knows what they're doing; that we shouldn't damn the instrument because of the stigma attached to it as a result of all its derivative, low-down riffers. While I agree to a point, I don't really see how that's a satisfactory defense for the instrument's existence; or even a proper acceptance of its purpose. Whether it's an 8 or a 9 string, we have to consider those 6 other strings, what with 22-24 frets to be pressed on that make this instrument just like any other electric guitar. All any 8-string is, is a regular guitar with just more guitar. So I can't wrap my head around everybody belly-aching about how players of 8-strings aren't fully "utilizing their entire fretboard." Obviously if you get a guitar with two extra lower strings, then you're specifically going for low, right? If someone wanted to primarily focus on notes from E to e, then why would they pay the extra money for two of these extra oversized strings? Extra strings that mind you, have to be properly muted and skipped over when playing the standard part of the guitar. Yes, I know baritone guitars are a thing, but they are far and few in between when it comes to market availability. ERGs, on the other hand, are coming out of the woodwork, (npi).

Regardless of whatever sort of higher-level playing can be accomplished on them, 8-string guitars are, and always were, just built for the low-bros. End of story. 

Yes, we have young guys like Tosin Abasi and Christ Letchford composing impressive and progressive music with their 8-string guitars. But let's be honest: their very best guitar playing featured on any of their albums is performed within the standard range of the fretboard. If both of these performers were left to make magic with only a six-stringed instrument in hand, I challenge anyone to prove to me that they wouldn't do just fine.

Musically, I mean of course. Abasi's 8-string usage is specifically what makes him so marketable as an endorser. Ibanez wouldn't be selling 70% of their cheap RG8s without that guy. And sure, these two guitarists throw everyone a lil' of that sweet muddy djent every once in a while in their music, if only to remind us that they have a guitar that gets that low. I also won't fail to mention that Abasi's guitar slapping and tapping technique is what truly sets him apart from other metal players, something that he does indeed utilize the lowest strings for.

But hey, we're all metalheads here. Well, I am. You're always up for question. Who the hell wants to slap? The only thing funky about any of us is our smell. Even the guy considered the modern standard for proper, progressive 8-string playing knows what that 8th string is really there for. It's for the chug, brah. It's for the riffage. It's for that deep chunky BJOW:



Guitarists on the internet, if they aren't against 8-string guitars altogether, love, love, love to complain how all of these 8-string guitars are being played by most of their owners. As if these instruments are being denied some sort of greater purpose by just getting chugged away on. What nobody here seems to be able to wrap their head around, is that getting low-riffed on is literally an ERG's truest purpose. So if someone with an 8-string guitar is on YouTube trying to showcase in a video the riffage that 8-string guitars are specifically hand-crafted to fucking make, you look like the only omega supreme second-coming of the bicentennial ultra quad ASSHOLE if you complain about them doing it in the comments section.

Lemme take us back once more to the car analogy to really drive home how much you infinitely and will always suck. Let's say you have some dude just showing a video of him and his buddies taking his Jeep Wrangler off-roading. A Jeep Wrangler is, when considering its most basic quality, a car. It does all of the car things like all other cars can. However, it's designed to also be great for off-road driving. So, because of this, you're gonna see a lot of guys who drive Jeep Wranglers sharing YouTube videos where they are presenting the vehicle being used in the way it was specifically designed to be used.

But now here you come to the video's comment section, and you bitch and fucking moan about how this guy didn't present you with a sufficient idea of the trunk space, head and leg room, seating, miles per gallon, or how easy the vehicle is to parallel park. Do you have any idea how mind-numbingly full blown retard you would look if you did that?  I'll tell you: exactly as full blown retard as you actually are.

The point here is, just shut the hell up and let the kids go mudding: 

That thing will never properly intonate.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

How to Be A Guitarist on the Internet who's not an Asshole: Part 4 of 7


4. Accept that Floyd Roses are Unequivocally Total Bullshit    



People are gonna sound off about this, so here's the disclaimer to preface this: Fuck you. 

The final judgement rests. The verdict is clear. Floyd Roses, or floating tremolo systems of any sort. are absolute hot rancid, guitar cheapening garbage and not even sort of, kind of, maybe a little, slightly, even remotely worth the extreme eye-fucking misery associated with your guitar being cursed with one. What a horrifying shit show these little bastards put you through for such a basic, lame, wanky fucking gimmick of a sound effect. I've never heard a guitar solo on a hard tail instrument that left me wanting for some fake motorcycle engine revs or dive bombs. And let's not forget to mention that those same smug, tobacco-slurping, blue collar, Mr. Handy chumps love to champion themselves as people who don't see FR's as "such a big deal" because they had the time and complete unemployment to train with sage monks atop a Himalayan peak for 11 years to master the art of stringing and tuning a guitar with this torture device attached to it. 

Do you like changing the tuning on your guitar to try to learn different songs? Sorry, guess again Brodo Baggins. Not fucking today you don't. Unless you want to crank away with an allen wrench to the point of rheumatoid arthritis. Want to sound like Dimebag with a long sick wail? Hey yeah, that sounded way sick. Too bad even with the most premium, sufficiently "locked" trem system, you just whammy barred your guitar into complete, non-tuned oblivion. Better grab your allen wrench again. Oh, I see, that's what those fine tuners on the bridge are for? Thank the lord, because this bitch is gonna fall out of tune because you let a fart out in your bedroom again, and the guitar heard it and got startled.

The reason they call it a "hex" key, is because those who named it, knew that you were gonna need one for your Floyd Rose, and Floyd Roses are a fucking curse.



Case in point: I found a 9 minute video on how to change strings on a floating trem bridge on YouTube. I thought that was pretty long for a video just about changing strings -- but oh wait --  it's only part one -- of a goddamn four part series.

Enough already.

They're not worth it. Let everybody just agree that they're not worth it. Please. Let's make our stand here and now so guitar manufacturers can stop obliviously ruining what were once perfectly good pieces of tone wood, previously full of potential, only to have it all squandered. Tragically, tragically squandered. Making the case for trem systems is like making the case for a sexual assault suspect. You're immediately an asshole for even trying. Or a defense lawyer. (See: still an asshole). 

It's a relic from a forgotten time of irrelevant musical shredding and squealing and it needs to die with the rest of the 80's.

Holy shit... what am I saying?

Yeah, that just came from a metal elitist. It should really drive home how much I think Floyd Roses suck cold witch tits. It's criminal that they are so common. It's debauchery that finding fixed bridge instruments has become such a chore among a sea of whammy bar wanking bullshittery. I tend to believe this is a problem for me mainly because I shop guitars second hand. Everybody must be lining up to pawn off the life-altering error they had wasted their good money on. I am right. You are wrong. Fuck floating trems. Right in the face. I know this is very opinionated on my part, but I get to be an asshole too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to Be A Guitarist on the Internet who's not an Asshole: Part 3 of 7


3. The Country on the Headstock Doesn't Matter     




Guitarists from the Internet can't help but universally laud American-made equipment. Well, American guitarists can't help but universally laud American-made equipment. Here in the Universal States of America.

Every major guitar brand these days has both of the following: First, there's the "real deal" guitar, made by the company, right in the company's country of origin. Guitars that are big-ticket items; instruments that are superbly cut, given a perfect set up, go through meticulous quality control, were installed with top-notch parts/pickups, and of course, achieve orgasmic tone. All these bits of instrumental perfection are automatically assumed, at least, due to the fact that the people putting them together are much better paid, and get to go to bed at night with a much fuller belly. Then there's that other kind you can get from the company -- the sub-brand that's callously thrown together with unwashed hands, somewhere far away, in a country that isn't a complete economic powerhouse. It's the toy version that's played only by total newbies who don't know/care about an instrument's quality. Either that, or by the peons who can't afford it.

I'm speaking of course about the Epiphone to the Gibson. The Squier to the Fender. The SE to the PRS, the LTD to the ESP. The Sterling to the Music Man. The Schecter "Diamond" to the Schecter "Custom".

The Ibanez to the... um... other Ibanez?

Not every guitarist can afford the best a company has to offer from their premium selection, let alone have one custom built for them; so a lot of mass guitar production is outsourced to countries like South Korea, Indonesia, India, Mexico, and China, to provide a budget version of these instruments that are more affordable and widely available for players who aren't totally swimming in dough.

So due to this "Made In" divide, we find the online guitar community split into a social class-based system; where the vagabonds are left to noodle on their inferior, outsourced production models, while the privileged soar to greater musical heights with their premium, customized, home country, hand-crafted pieces. (Guess which class you'll find more assholes.)

Guess.

Sorry to say, the overall concept of "Made In USA" quality in guitar production, is more often than not, complete artificial bullshit. Artificial bullshit perpetuated by assholes to get you to spend way more money on an otherwise comparable product.

Yes, I realize that the "real deal" class of guitar are at least in some way generally better. The companies that produce these instruments do indeed put special focus on the instruments that they put out with their true name sake. They have to, I mean, look at the fucking price on some these things. In the case of Squier versus Fender, I'll secede there is a sorely obvious difference between the two brands. However, you're mostly going to find that the difference in quality between the home-team premium product and the overseas equivalent is typically found only in the minute details. Things like how the wood and neck are finished, how the edges are precision cut, how the electronics are carefully soldered, how the frets are leveled and how the instrument is carefully set up to play in factory. This sort of stuff is more than enough for many guitarists to pay the much higher price, but just like with the solid state vs. tubes argument; cheaper doesn't always necessarily mean worse.

Feh! Look at him playing his Schecter Hellraiser, because he hates our freedom.
You will indeed see a lot of overseas production models with inferior hardware and electronics in order to cut corners for much a cheaper product. That's what you're gonna get with guitars that are typically less than $500-600 new; guitars built for people just trying to learn on something that makes noise when its plugged in. However, the main reason LTD guitars are generally cheaper than ESPs, is because one is built by Korean factory workers who can legally be paid much less than Japanese factory workers, and that's really the bottom line. Upon close inspection and comparison, you're gonna find that an LTD-Deluxe model is built with the same hardware, tonewood, pickups, and cut/finished exactly to the same spec as its much more expensive ESP counterpart. Maybe, I dunno, one mahogany on one side of the planet might be a better mahogany than the other mahogany, but shut the fuck up.

As many internet arguers will attest, the only thing that many of these assembly line, Asian-made models need is a little TLC in the form of a professional setup to match the playability of their higher-end counterparts. Remember that luthier we were talking about earlier that needs to feed his kids, too? Tonewood is tonewood. Pickups are pickups.

A solid body mahogany instrument with an EMG 81/85 humbucker set is not automatically better quality than another solid-body mahogany instrument with that same EMG 81/85 set just because one of the guys who slapped one of those together had a name you could pronounce.

Also, let's not pretend for a second that musical instruments put together right here in good ol' USA aren't capable of being complete ass. It's pretty much common knowledge in the world of musicians that Gibson's lowest end products, don't come close to the quality of Epiphone's highest end models. Yet they are both about the same price, if the Gibson is not more expensive, simply because the American-made one says "Gibson" on the headstock. A lot of guitarists will screw themselves out of an honestly better piece of a equipment, just because they don't want the stigma of playing the "sub-brand" guitar. That Gibson logo on the headstock makes you a player of status. That Epiphone on the headstock makes you a wannabe. 

Pictured above: 0 wannabes.
Even Gibson's ultra high-end "Custom" boutique models are getting a bad rap these days, due to the company's purportedly recent focus on efficiency of production, as opposed to careful quality control. Finally, let's not pretend that every Gibson doesn't come stock with shit tuners that you're gonna want to replace, and sticky, finished necks that you're gonna want to sand down, and frets that you're gonna need to file. But hey, if you ever need to give in to that meth habit of yours, at least you'll get back what you bought it for!

Let's all admit, a $600 ax from Schecter's Korean plant is going to sound way better and play way better music in the hands of some young, scrappy, hard-practiced shredder with his Peavey Vypyr combo, than any $6,000 PRS doomed to an inevitable existence of clean dad chords through a Mesa Boogie Lone Star and sitting in a lighted glass case in a finished basement somewhere.

Don't worry about the brand. Don't worry about the price. Don't worry about the name on the headstock. Don't worry about the country on the headstock.

Does it sound good? Does it play good? Does it feel good? Does it look good? Is it good for the music you want to play, or versatile enough to play whatever?

Then it's a fucking Carvin, dude!