gear

Let’s talk gear for a minute.

I love Premier Guitar Magazine because it’s really for those of us who love “the relentless pursuit of tone.” It’s the kind of magazine where the caption for a photo of a guy playing guitar will actually describe the nuances of his guitar. Not his girlfriend. Not his clothing. Not his last stint in rehab. The guitar. (Graphite or Wilkinson? Bigsby or Floyd? Vintage or relic?) The amp. The cables. The picks, for crying out loud. (Heard about Red Bear Trading Company yet?)

Anyway, I feel super grateful for the resources I have. I’ve got access to a mic, a laptop, a simple yet effective instrument/computer interface, a sweet keyboard, a top-of-the-line acoustic, a functioning electric, and I live in a house that shares no walls with neighbors. I’m able to write, record and release ideas out into the world. Even though it feels like “bare bones” to me sometimes, I know I’m really fortunate. And I’m filled with gratitude.

And at the same time, before I die I’d really love to know what it’s like to have exactly the guitar and amp that I’ve dreamed of… to have tools that don’t hamper creativity with their particular quirks or lack of RAM or whatever… to hear an idea in my head and bring it out into the world with fire and passion. (And with maybe not so much cursing.)

With this in mind, here are some pieces of gear I’ve had my eye on for quite some time:

Choice number one.

Paul Reed Smith Custom 24. Green. It’s got to be green. I’ve considered so many other finishes… I love the purple and the cranberry. The turquoise really is pretty, too. Jim Matheos of Fates (sic) Warning and O.S.I. plays a few different CU24’s… I see him with the Whale Blue one a lot. Still, for me… Emerald Green.

I share this with the understanding that you know I wasn’t simply looking for a green guitar… First was the decision to go with a PRS. (Which I’ve wanted for about ten years now.) Then it was the issue of “Custom 22, or Custom 24?” (Initially wanted the 24, changed my mind to the 22, then back to the 24. Check in with me tomorrow morning and I’ll give you the latest update.)

I was amazed at how much research there is out there on the impact upon overall sound 22 or 24 frets can have. Discussions of node points… Reviews by hundreds (zillions?) of players who argue ‘this one’ over ‘that one’… I see Jim playing both the 22 and the 24. Ultimately, it’s up to my ears. And my heart.

But I have to say, I could pick up a Reverend guitar for about 1/4 the cost of

Reverend Gil Parris, blonde with maple neck

the PRS. And a LOT of big shots really like the Reverends. So it’s something to consider. I think it might be part of the ‘retro’ movement… or the fact that prices on so many guitars have gone through the roof (remember when an Epiphone was affordable?) Either way, a lot of respected guitarists are choosing more affordable guitars as tools of their trade, and they’re not apologizing for it, either. I think that’s cool.

And the Gil Parris model has an HSH pickup configuration. Like those sweet Ibanez Jems. (I’d love to get one, but then every time I pulled it out, I’d be comparing my own playing to Vai’s, and I might not ever have the nerve to play again. Let alone in public.)

Strats? Eh… I have to say I like the feel of a Tele neck so much more than a Strat neck. (How about a Tele neck on a Strat body, but with humbuckers…)

And with all that being said, I want a PRS. If I get a Reverend, it’s likely going to be with the understanding that I’ll get the PRS down the line sometime, after some other personal goals are met. (Of course, that’s just my own little plan. Life has a way of stepping in with no regard for our best-laid plans…)

Finally there’s the amp. The Mesa Boogie Mark IV has what I think is the perfect sound. Again, back to Jim and his work with Kevin Moore in O.S.I. (And there’s the whole Kirk Hammet Mark IIC “Master of Puppets” thing, too, but I digress…)

So I was all set on getting a Mark IV combo amp. Then Mesa put out the Mark V. All the sounds of the earlier amps in the series… and then some.

Mark V combo

All I can say is that I’m saving my pennies. What would it be like to have a top-notch guitar AND amp, and have the space and time to actually write and record with them? It’s a dream I’ve been chasing since I was about 8 or 9.

Oh, and the decision to go with the Boogie was, like with the PRS, not as clear-cut as I might have wished.

What about going with a Swart Spacetone? Something with only 5 or 10 watts, so I could achieve an overdriven sound without shattering the windows?

Swart Space Tone (5 watt, Class A, Single-Ended, 6V6, tube-rectified)

Problem solved: the Boogie Mark V has variable wattage… you can set it for 10 watts, 45 watts, or 90 watts.

It’s going to weigh a ton. Especially compared to a ‘grab and go’ amp like the Swart or a Carr. And like it or not, I’m not getting any younger. But the distortion will sound like heaven. Without pedals. I know that primarily I want it for recording. But if the opportunity to play out arises, would I be willing to risk dragging it out into public? It’s tube, so I can’t just toss it around, battle-ready though it may be. I guess I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I reach it.

Thanks for stoppin’. And keep rockin’.

–Tim

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