Posts Tagged ‘Gibson’

Guitar :: Fixing the Telecaster Jack

For me, the Telecaster might just be the best designed anything, ever – the two-pickup configuration, the slab body, inline-6 tuners on the headstock, three-way switch, and a pair of pots on the control plate have remained constant for more than six decades. It’s simple, it’s functional, and it’s beautiful, and that ticks all of the boxes I care about when it comes to products that I want to use every day. The Stratocaster comes close, but it’s just too fancy; as an instrument and as a product, the Tele is number one. With that in mind, I present the following alterations to the Telecaster not necessarily as ‘improvements’, but as ‘customisations’ that make a great instrument – for me, at least – better.

The Jack Solution

A problem I’ve found with the Telecaster is the loosening over time of the jack socket, probably one of the most annoying things that can happen to your guitar. This started happening to my white Tele a few years ago, and is an issue which has more recently afflicted my butterscotch US deluxe – as an aside, the fit and finish on the US deluxe instruments is clearly superior, in my experience, to the US standard, so I was a bit surprised to see it succumb to the loose jack problem.

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Tone :: My Mark IV & Me

With so much programming required for my current project, I’ve been at my desk pretty much non-stop recently. That means basking in the glow of up to four screens at a time, which has started to occasionally induce headaches, eye strain etc… – symptoms of computer vision syndrome, a kind of studio tan for your eyes and brain.

I always have an amp by my desk for practice and warmup exercises, but in an effort to tempt myself away from working I’ve shelved my trusty Roland JC-50, and replaced it with the amp I bought with a year of shelf stacking money when I was 15 years old – my Mark IV Mesa/Boogie.

This amp provokes thought more than any other. I’ve had it for the best part of a decade, and played it just about every day through school and when I was at music college. I’ve played it with Strats, SGs, my Squier Esprit (in the picture above), and most of all Telecasters. I’ve played it with meters long pedal boards, in stereo rigs, and simply jacked into the front. When I played gigs in my teens, this was the amp that came with me.

Playing the Mark IV this evening, I wasn’t quite happy with my tone on any of the channels. Yes it’s a stadium amp, with more headroom than basically anything else out there, but I know from experience that it can kill at low volume too. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t feeling it this evening. Any tweaking session on this thing is at least a half hour tonal excursion, but spending time with my eyes off the screen is the aim of the game here so I dived right into it, and for about the millionth time I ended up in the same spot – T/M/B @ 7/4/4, gains at 7-8, lead drive at 8. Slightly scooped 750, edge off 6.6k, and a boost on 80 & 240.

How much of my life have I already spent tweaking this amp?!

The thing is, it always ends up sounding awesome. But next time I plug in, it’s just not going to feel quite there.

I love tweaking amp settings, so I’m cool with that aspect, and I do love the tones it spits out. Maybe it’s just that I know there are some real solid gold tones in there that makes it so frustrating. I’m so conscious of the fact that whatever tone I can get dialled in is, say, 85% as good as I’ve heard it at its best. For a 1 channel amp, 85% of a Boogie at its peak is still a cut above. But take that 85% times 3 channels and you get the niggling sense of ever-so-slight disappointment I feel every time I plug in.

I’ve had it crunch and sing like nothing else, and cleans which would kick the ass of a Twin (seriously). But in nearly 10 years I’ve never been able to get all three kicking in sync, and there’s a frustration that I’ve absolutely nailed how to get the amp sounding nearly as good as it can, but never achieved perfection.

As an aside, I could write for days about every aspect of the Mark IV that makes it the most powerful and versatile amp I’ve ever owned, and there’s no doubt that it’s my ‘desert island amp’…but damn! I feel like really mastering it it requires an approach that borders on the academic, so this can be considered as ‘entry one’ in the logbook of my quest to own the amp I’ve owned for so many years. 

 

1959 Gibson Les Paul + 1989 Trainwreck Express

As one YouTube commenter put it – ‘Well, where else are you going to see a ’59 Les Paul and a Trainwreck in the same place?’

A great point, and one of my favourite things that YouTube has given the world: access.

As Featured on Gibson.com

YouTube recently improved their ‘Insight’ stat features (or maybe I only just noticed!) to include a timeline of ‘firsts’ – first mobile view, first referral from Google.com, first result from search term x/y/z – for video discovery. I find the stats pretty interesting, and like checking them once in a while.

And today I noticed one rather curious first on one of my videos:

– Oct 29, 2009: First embedded on – www.gibson.com

Huh?

I just had a quick search around Gibson’s website and, sure enough, dated 10.29.2009 is an entry entitled ‘Classic Amps: the 1970s Mesa/Boogie Mark I’ – an article headed up by a YouTube clip of a slimline, Tele-toting git-tar picker demonstrating his favourite Public Enemy t-shirt and his 1977 15″ Mesa/Boogie Mark I combo.

I only just discovered, a whole year later, mind you, that my video has been embedded on the website of one of the most famous marques in all of guitar-dom. Heavy! I’m incredibly proud and happy about this, and my thanks to Gibson for not only featuring my clip, but for paying tribute to one of my favourite amps of all time.

Absolutely bloody chuffed, I say!

Here’s the link to Gibson’s site.