The Shredecon Guitar Gallery (1) Synth-accessing Guitars and Unusual Stratocasters

This page, and the three linked to it near the bottom, catalogue and (when time permits will) tell the story of the Shredecon guitar collection. An economist with about 40 guitars ought to seem an anomaly for mainstream consumer behaviour theory: what about diminishing marginal utility and the crowding out of time to use existing guitars each time a new one is purchased? Is it a sign of some kind of addiction (e.g., ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’) or tendency towards compulsive spending in music stores? Will it stop at 42, the number that Douglas Adams, himself an avid guitar player, assigned as the answer to the question of What is the Meaning of Life?

For me, guitars are tools for producing music, so this is really a toolbox inventory rather than a collection and after 40 years the toolbox is about complete, with some recent multipurpose instruments possibly making some earlier ones redundant. However, the timing of additions to the toolbox was often affected by them being bought as ‘rewards to self” to celebrate some kind of work-related achievement such as the completion of a book project. Lately, however, there has been a mission to complete the toolbox whilst I’m still young enough to enjoy it: it is amazing now many guitars you can buy if you cease running a second car and start commuting on public transport, though the ‘green’ side of this is a little compromised by thoughts of exotic timber from which guitars are often made and by images of pollution in China and Indonesia where many of today’s guitrs are made. The recent growth in the guitar toolbox also reflects my attempt to get a sense of the extent to which the guitar manufacturers are engaging in a ‘Phishing for Phools’ price-discrimination strategy based around brand snobbery, in which guitars with different brand labels command very different prices despite having minimal differences in quality. Hence quite a few premium products are paired with their cheaper counterparts.

Synth-accessing guitars come first as, if I eventually do a drastic downsize, these will be the core of what is kept.


 

Synth-accessing Guitars

MIDI Strat
Fender Roland-Ready Standard Stratocaster N586092 1996 Corona, USA

This is one of several guitars I ordered from CJ’s Music Store in Christchurch [now part of MusicWorks] in the 1990s. I had nearly purchased a Casio synth guitar many years earlier and it was seeing Adrian Belew using a Roland-equipped Strat in a King Crimson live video that prompted me to order this one. The Casio guitar had a mass of electronics in the back and could be plugged directly into a MIDI cable and thence to a sound module, so I rather assumed the Roland-ready Strat would work likewise and trigger the modules I used with my MIDI keyboard. When I went to pick up the guitar, CJ had some expensive news: ‘It’s a lovely Strat, but you’ll have to buy an interface unit or a Roland GK30 to get it working as a synth controller’. I ordered the GR30 on the spot and, when it arrived, I was delighted with what it could do. This Strat is one of the extensively played guitars in my collection, but nowadays the Godin guitars further down the page get used as my regular instruments.

Fender Roland-Ready Standard Stratocaster MX11177407 2011/2012 Ensneda, Mexio

I bought this guitar new early in 2017 from South Coast Music, Nowra, NSW, with a view to it being my back-up Strat in the event that I have to abandon my Godin LGXTs if the issues discussed below resurface. I know it had been in stock there for quite a while, but I didn’t realise just how old it already was: it may even predate the Roland-branded Strats that were launched around the same time as the Roland GR55 guitar synth. It took some effort to get it into good playing order. The S2 patche selector switch wasn’t working and had to be repaired under warranty, and both the D and G strings droned badly when played in the open position. This was because the Mexican Strat didn’t have a string tree for these two strings. Initially I fixed c cheap pressed string tree, similar to the one supplied for the B and E strings, but although this fixed the droning issue, the guitar did not hold its tuning after I replaced the original 9-42 set with a 10-46 set as on the US-made one. I then remembers that I still had the original string strees from the US-made Strat, which had been fitted with a teflon nut and teflon string trees many years ago. This did the trick and now the guitar plays just as well as its US-made counterpart. The only notable differences are that this one has a lower-grade bridge and lacks the little spring needs to hold the tremolo arm in one’s preferred position, and that it has 21 frets, unlike the 22-fret US model.

Godin Multiac
Godin Multiac Steel (Electro-Acoustic, MIDI) 24999 1999 Canada/USA

I bought this in Brisbane in 1999 whilst I was on sabbatical as Visiting Professor at the University of Queensland. I had never heard of Godin guitars before and discovered it whilst shopping for something cheap to play until I returned to New Zealand. I was amazed by the action and resonance and how well it worked as a synth controller, without the limitations of the Roland-ready Strat in the lower registers. It has a usable acoustic sounds whilst feeling like an electric guitar to play even with acoustic strings. The only design shortcoming is that it doesn’t have a guitar/MIDI selector switch, so you have to used the respective volume sliders to switch modes. It is one of my most frequently used guitars and it is the one on which I do most of the work when writing music on Guitar Pro 6 as I tend to do this at the computer on the standing desk in my study rather than in my music room.


Godin LGXT
Godin LGXT AA (Electric, Acoustic, MIDI) 11444169 2014 Canada/USA

godin-lgxt-blue
Godin LGXT AA (Electric, Acoustic, MIDI) 15346106 2015 Canada/USA

I never had a big plan to have two LGXTs, though it turns out that there is a good reason to have one as back-up if you intend making the remarkable three-voice  LGXT your main instrument.

I nearly bought a Godin LGXT back in 1999 a few months after I bout the Multiac, whilst I was still on sabbatical at the University of Queensland. But at the time it seemed a bit of an indulgence and I know that I would have to be some import duty on taking it back to Christchurch. In 2014, many years after moving full-time to the University of Queensland, I was still regretting now buying an LGXT: with its three-voice capability, it seemed the ultimate guitar when hooked up with the Roland GK55, I placed an order for a Blue AAA LGXT at Artie’s Music in Aspley (http://www.artiesmusic.com.au/, way over the other side of Brisbane and at the time the online Godin dealer in town. After a couple of months, they received a guitar from the distributors, Dynamic Music, but it was the non-tremolo LGX-SA version. Having read some critical comments about care being needed not to knock the tremolo arm or bridge when using the acoustic sound (you can get a thud through the speakers), I thought this was fortuitous and accepted the LGX-SA. But it was there that my troubles began.

The LGX-SA never seemed quite right in its piezo bridge. The initial problem was that the high E and B strings were very loud, with a lot of pick noise (rather akin to tapping a microphone, rather than a pick sounds). I tried to smooth out the attach with a Boos Compressor but that was only a partial fix. It didn’t seem quite the brilliant guitar that I remembered the 1999 LXGT to have been. I started looking on the Web to see if there were any LGXT’s around for sale in Australia and found the cognac-finish one listed by the excellent store South Coast Music in Nowra, NSW (https://www.scmusic.com.au/), south of Sydney (which I’ve since visited whilst on vacation: amazing staff and stock, and pretty much a real-time inventory on their website) . They were selling it at a hefty discount having had it in stock for several year, to judge by the serial number. It arrivved by courier within two days and was everything I remembered the LGXT to be. The acoustic sound was even with the right kind of attack.

But I persevered with the LGX-SA (sunk cost bias, perhaps?) but, during my first summer with it, I noticed that the volume level on the D-string was falling away when in acoustic and MIDI mode. I was about to take it back to Artie’s under warranty, but with the summer coming to an end, the D-string recovered. At the time, I didn’t make any seasonal connection. But at the start of 2016, as the guitar was getting close to the end of its 2-year warranty, the volume on the D-string again started falling away, as did the A-string and low-E. Initially I compensated for this by adjusting the settings on the GR55 but it just kept getting worse until, in the midst of a rehearsal on a sticky Brisbane February afternoon, the flute part I was playing just ceased coming from these bass strings. I concluded that the piezo pickup in the bridge had failed, so I emailed the distributors to ask about the procedure for getting it replace. No reply came, so after several weeks, during March 2016, I took it back to Artie’s and their guitar technician used his iPhone to make a video of me demonstrating the problem. I left the guitar with them and waited, … and waited. By June 2016, the guitar was still at the store and they had not been sent a replacement bridge but in the meantime I had realized the seasonal connection and guessed that the bridge may have failed because of Brisbane’s humidity and/or sweat from my wrist. A search on Google confirmed this hypothesis: the RMC piezo unit is prone to suffer from moisture getting in and causing shorting on the piezo. But the LGX-SA does not come with a ‘not for use in subtropical or tropical climates (or under hot stage lights)’ warning.

At the end of June 2016 Artie’s advised me that the LGX-SA had been taken to the Sydney distributors by a visiting rep., but this did not result in a rapid resolution of the problem. The story from the distributors was that Godin sent the wrong bridge part but that another was being sent. A month later, the 2nd replacement arrived and was the same wrong part. In the meantime I had emailed Godin in Canada to express my dissatisfaction with how long the process was takin. The replay assured me that my email had been passed to the firm’s international sales manager, but that was the last I heard from Godin. In late September 2016, six months after taking the guitar back to Artie’s I decided that my reserves of patience were running low and it was time to remind the Godin distribution chain of my rights as a consumer. In terms of the Queensland consumer protection legislation, the LGX-SA had suffered a critical failure, so if they couldn’t fix it for me, I could have my money refunded or be offered ann alternative. On Sunday 25 September, I sent an email to Artie’s, cc to the distributor, Dynamic Music saying that on Saturday 1 October I would be coming to Artie’s to get the matter sorted out, and that if my guitar hadn’t been fixed and returned to them by now, an LGXT would be an acceptable alternative (since Dynamic Music didn’t have the LGX-SA listed in stock any more). A couple of days later, I received an email from the distributors saying that a third bridge was on its way from Canada (with courier tracking form copied as proof) and that if it arrived on schedule there would be time to get the guitar fixed and couriered to Artie’s for me to pick up on 1 October. The bridge surely should have been correct this time, as Godin had been sent photographs ofo the guitar, and its serial number and should not end up claiming the problem was still one of ‘incorrectly numbered parts bins’. On Thursday 29 September, there was much activity. It began with a cheerful email from the distributors saying that everything was on schedule so long as the package arrived from the airport by 2pm. At lunchtime, Artie’s guitar technician phoned to say that there would be no issues over refunding the money if the guitar wasn’t returned to them in proper working order. Then, shortly before 2pm there was an email from the distributors saying that Godin had, for the third time sent the wrong part, so would I like to wait for them to try yet again to get the right one, accept the LGXT they had in stock, or get Artie’s to refund my money. I decided to take the LGXT and 25 hours later had a call from the relieved-sounding Artie’s manager to say that the LGXT had arrived by overnight courier.

It is possible that I would have been wiser to go for the refund, as humidity/moisture issues can also afflict the LGXT piezo pickup. Some players go so far as to seal around the bridge saddles with silicon bathroom sealant. I thus run the risk of both LGXT’s running into this but for now I am hoping it will be enough to wipe the guitars down after playing on a sticky day and put it back on their stands with dehumidifier sachets pushed between the bridge and the bridge pick up. Even when both LGXTs are out of their warranties, the Queensland consumer protection legislation should still guard me against an expensive disaster as guitars are supposed to be durable products that last for many years, not just one or two. I will report here how things go! As of April 2017 I can report that both guitars have functioned very well through a very hot, sticky summer, through which I exercised caution by wearing a sweatband on my righthand wrist(as in the rehearsal photoa below) and alway put a dehumidifier sachet under the bass strings, adjacent to the bridge, when I put them back on the stand.

The risk of inconvenience should the piezo pickups give trouble is worth taking, I think, as when properly functioning, the LGXTs are superb instruments and wonderfully versatile. Aside from the piezo issue, the only thing I wish Godin had got sorted in the past couple of decades is the lack of a three-way selector switch for the magnetic/magnetic+pizeo/piezo combinations. If you are plugged into a single amp or using a Roland GK cable, it is impossible to make quick switches of pick-up mode as it is necessary to turn one down and the other up rather than just flick a switch. If they can fit a three-way switch for guitar/MIDI, why didn’t they include a second one for acoustic/electric guitar.?Had they done so, the transition from one mode to another could be done as readily as I can do acoustic/electric patch switches with my Line6 Variax when it is connected to the Line6 POD XT Live effects unit, and the Godin would have the advantage of being able to mix acoustic and electric as well as do acoustic or electirc. As it is, the solution is to set up appropriate patches on the Roland GR55 but this means you have to choose between which guitar voice you want from the LXGT and which you want modelled in the GK55; you can’t have both from the guitar its in instanly switchable mode. The guitar’s life should not be needlessly difficult in this way. I eventually worked out a partial way round the problem: using a Boss LS2 line switcher and run the guitar using two cables. However, this only gives you piezo or magnetic, not both (or, with a different selection on the LS2, both or just one of the two systems on its own): I’ve not found a combination on the LS2 that gives all three possibilities.

YouRock MIDI
YouRock Synthesiser Guitar/MIDI Controller 2013 (This is the poor guitarist’s SynthAxe and although it is known at home at The Toy Guitar it is actually a very capable MIDI controller once you get used to the unusual picking feel on the faux strings at the bridge end. The onboard sounds aren’t that great but this doesn’t matter: I take it on vacation (the neck is readily removed and the original carton works well as a case), plug it into my Apple laptop and use it to trigger the samples from Logic X.)

Unusual Stratocasters

“>Cole Clark
Cole Clark Hollow Baby Stratocaster (semi-solid, Bunya Pine body) 2013 Melbourne, Australia (I didn’t really need another Strat but this one was irresistible because of its lightness and the satin feel of the timber,  and it plays superbly. It is one of the last electric guitars Cole Clark made before they had a fire at their factory and, after rebuilding, decided to concentrate on acoustic guitars.)

Big Apple Strat
Fender Big Apple Stratocaster N7259477 1998 Corona, USA

ABW Strat
ABW Custom Stratocaster 2009 Australia (I bought this one-off Andrew B Webber hand-built Strat in Owen Ray’s legendary International Music store in Toowoomba, now sadly closed and much missed after a disastrous fire in 2011. Amongst its unique features is the wiring: it has a two-way switch that bypasses the volume control if the pickup selector is in the bridge position, while where the second tone control would usually be there is a volume control for the middle pickup. This all make it easier to switch sounds and volumes within a song than in a regular Strat as well as giving a wider range of sounds because of the scope for varying the middle pickup’s volume.)

Malmstten Strat
Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Signature Series Stratocaster SN8956736 1998 Corona, USA

LH StratSquier Affinity Left-Handed Stratocaster CY140309321 2014 China (I bought this one in late 2015 having decided that, after 45 years as a left-handed guitar player playing right-handed guitars, it was time to see whether I could teach myself to play a left-handed guitar, and that this might be a good brain training exercise. For the money, this is an astonishingly well-made guitar that compares well with a ‘real’ US Fender costing five times its price. The left-handed learning experience is proving fascinating: this time around, I have all the knowhow I didn’t have as a teenager, but the fine motor skills in the fingers certainly don’t come overnight.)

Samick MniStrat
Samick Three-Quarter-Sized Stratocaster S95100456 1998 Korea (This is really a child’s guitar but when tuned to A rather than E it offers new possibilities, and the tighter sting tension does wonders for its intonation. However. even in this tuting it only reaches top F, whereas the Ibanez RG55CH reaches top B-flat on fret 30. For chordal work it still has a special role as it is like having a capo in place well up the neck and the sound is some way in the direction of a mandolin.)

Fender Stratocaster bookends

 

Strat Pen etcStratocaster Shoulder bag, pen (with shred sample) and miniature model (with hard case)

Shredecon Guitar Galler (2): Other Solid Body Electric Guitars (6- and 12-String)

Shredecon Guitar Gallery (3): Basses and Extended Range Guitars

Shredecon Guitar Gallery (4): Jazz Guitars, Acoustic Guitars, etc.

You can listen to “A Can of Earworms’, an album of my music, on Myspace by clicking here. It is mainly melodic instrumental prog rock in style and is often technically challenging to play.

It took me many years to find a way of getting the kind of shirts my guitar heroes wore in the 1970s, but I struck gold when I came across shirts  by the Australian shirtmaker David Smith. Here (and at the bottom of the other Guitar Gallery pages) is a shot of some of the thirty in the Shredecon wardrobe.What the shots don’t show is that these shirts have turn-up  cuffs with contrasting patterns. As my students know, I normally wear them with a business suit for work, with complementary ‘out there’ ties. If you get these shirts you may find, as I did, that they provoke a lot of comments from colleagues and that complete strangers stop you in the stress or on public transport to ask about them. The cut of the shirts has been absolutely consistent, so once one knows what size and cut (medium slim, please, for me), online purchasing should be hassle-free.

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