Sunday, August 24, 2014

size isn't everything

I know I reviewed the Min-ETune last week but i promise this blog is not turning into Epiphone Central. That said, I will admit a bit of nostalgic affection for the guitar makers at Epiphone.  My first 3 decent guitars were all American-made Epies.  One, was smaller than a standard guitar, too.

I've been reading, with interest, about the new Epiphone Pro-1 line.

These smaller scale guitars (there is a choice of 4 models - 3 acoustic and 1 acoustic electric cutaway) are at low street price points and intended to take the physical challenge out of learning to play guitar. Don't mistake these for travel guitars. They are not.  They aren't 3/4 size nor parlor size axes either.  They aren't Daisy Rocks either. They are just a slightly smaller profile than most acoustics. 

That slightly shorter (about an inch) scale length and the slightly smaller body profiles make for a much more comfortable experience for some beginners, youths transitioning from travel, 1/2 or 3/4 size instruments, people with small hands and those who want the easiest adjustment to playing guitar that they can get. 

I have raved so many times in the podcast and in these posts, I'm sure, that the paramount focus, when buying a guitar, should be how it fits you.  Well, if you aren't a long armed, large handed guitarist, here is yet one more possibility.

Because I'm here, "doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time," I need to break down Epiphone's pitch on this guitar - and I don't mean pitch in a negative way.

First and foremost it's being called "easy to play."  No question. It's a little smaller, has a slightly shorter scale length, which requires a bit less tension on  the strings and there is a slightly pared down neck profile.

All those things will increase playability and reduce the amount of pressure and stretch necessary to fret.   Each model has Jumbo-PRO frets, too.  They aren't my favorite but within reason, the bigger the fret, the lighter you can play and still make clean sound.

On all these points, Epiphone is on target, that these guitars may be easier to play.  The Pro-1s are all factory strung with extra light strings.  Well, of course they require less pressure, but you can approximate that experience on any guitar with an adjustable neck. (The lighter tension may require the truss rod to be adjusted in order to prevent buzzes with very light strings.) So, the extra lights do not set this guitar apart from others. It's just a fact that extra lights are easier to press. A discriminating ear may or may not prefer the sound of extra light strings.

Then, there's the PRO-Ease Lubricant that comes with each PRO-1 guitar.   Yes, the PRO-Ease string lubricant will make playing on any string a smoother experience and will reduce or eliminate finger noise (which might be desirable for recording or if you hate the sound of it.)  That's not PRO-1 specific. String lubricants have been around for quite a while.  Me, I'm not big on applying anything to guitar strings, for the sake of the sound. Just call me, Purist.  (But I love DR's K3 coating because it actually enhances sound, playability and string life.) If there's a sore fingertip issue - generally, if you aren't unnecessarily pushing way through the fingerboard when you can use much less pressure, the fingertip sensitivity is short lived.  I always tell beginners that if their fingertips are sore after they play, (and they are not pressing harder than is necessary) to do a few seconds on and a minute or longer off an ice cube, and repeat it a few times.   If it's a child, have them break their playing into 10 or  15 minute intervals, rather than a long session, until their fingertips toughen up.  I'm honestly not a fan of string lubricant.  But if it's your thing, lubricate to your heart's content.

So, what are you buying, if you get a PRO-1, and what kind of prices are there?

According to Epiphone:

All PRO-1 Acoustic Guitars Feature:
  • Mahogany Body
  • Mahogany Neck
  • Glued In Neck Joint
  • EZ-Profile™ Neck Profile
  • Rosewood Fingerboard
  • JumboPRO™ Frets
  • Dual-Action Truss Rod
  • PRO-Ease™ Lubricant
  • Graph Tech® Nut
  • Short Scale Length
  • Deluxe Tuners
  • Ultra-Light Strings
  • EZ-String™/Pinless Rosewood Bridge
  • Graph Tech® Saddle
  • Humidifier
  • eMedia® On-Line Lessons
  • Guitar Beginner's Guide
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Optional Case
  • Optional Accessory Kit
The models are

PRO-1 (street is about $119)

PRO-1 Classic (street is about $119)

PRO-1 Plus (street is about $229)

PRO-1 Ultra (street is about $329)

Except for the Classic model, all come in a few color options.

This line will be available in September.  If the quality is there, and it usually is with Epiphone products, these are a great budget alternative to a larger, more challenging instrument.  

If I have a change to play these next month, I'll post a review.

If you haven't played on extra light strings and you'd like to feel the difference from your current tension, I unabashedly recommend DRs.

The Genuine Raptor Picks Flash Sale is still going on, but won't be for long.  If you haven't heard and felt the difference a Raptor pick can make, this is the time to try them.  I used the same style guitar pick for literal decades. I tried the Raptor  and have used nothing since.  They are revolutionary.  You'll never see them at the flash sale price again.  Try them!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Dream Come True?

Since the original buzz began, about the Epiphone Min-ETune guitars, people have been asking me what I think about them.  So, I'll use this blog to remark.

First, let me say that this is the diametric opposite to the EverTune Bridge that I podcasted about with such relish some time ago. They don't do the same thing and their prices are disparate.  The EverTune Bridge keeps your guitar in tune. The Epiphone Min-ETune guitars are self-tuning.

Purist that I am, I always encourage beginner guitarists to get well acquainted with an A440 tuning fork and use it to tune their guitars.  Yes, I know it takes much longer to learn to tune that way and in the beginning, it could take an inexperienced guitar player that doesn't hear pitches too accurately, 15 minutes to tune.  I know.  But with constant repetition, practice, if you will - the ears are trained.  The eventual goal is to be able to hear that A, and eventually, all the open strings of the desired tuning.  My purist suggestions aside, these Min-ETune guitars are an interesting addition to the family of affordable workhorse guitars the venerable Epiphone offers.

The Min-ETune guitars, right now are the medium jumbo size FT-350SCE and the Les Paul Classic-T.

If you watch the video, it's remarkable and cool.  I can just hear a collective sigh going  up at the thought of not having to hassle with tuning your Les Paul Classic-T or your  FT-350SCE.  The price point is great, too.  MSRP is $999 but street for each of them is $599 and possibly less, depending upon sales, promos, coupons etc.  Don't forget, Labor Day sales are right around the corner. 

I haven't had an opportunity (pardon the pun) to play either of the models, so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the tuning.  On the video, playing harmonic octaves was curiously absent.  I'm not saying the Min-ETune isn't accurate - I'm just saying, I haven't played them and I don't know if it is.  I hope it's dead on accurate and if it is, our friends at Epiphone have done something really noteworthy.  This is not synthesized sound, like that of some other big name guitars that I have blogged and podcast about in the past.   

There are great benefits to having a quickly self-tuning guitar - especially at this price point.  First, if the tuning is totally accurate, a guitarist will always be hearing what they are playing "at pitch" and not at "whatever tuning."  It's a quick transition from playing in standard tuning to another tuning. There are a dozen custom tunings that can be accessed in seconds. That's a real boon to pros and non-professional guitarists alike.  I can't tell you how many guitarists I know who have a guitar for each kooky tuning in which they like to play.  One I can think of has a guitar tuned to open C# Minor.  Whether playing for yourself, your instructor, friends in your living room, or on stage, there's great advantage to be able to move from tuning to tuning without a lot of time and aggravation.  

I'll post about these guitars again, if I have a chance to play them.

Don't forget that there's a Raptor Picks Flash Sale going on. The price is fabulous.

If you haven't tried DR guitar or bass strings yet, what's stopping you?!?  They're the best strings I've ever used - and I've used a plethora.  I love their K-3 coating. You've got to try them if you're not currently using DRs.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Legacy Series Beauty

If you're in the market for a new cutaway, and have a generous budget, you might want to consider the gor-gor-gorgeous Takamine Legacy Series EF508KC - read EF508 Koa Cutaway. I'm a wood freak and although I don't have a koa guitar, koa is one of my favorite woods.

With a 25.3" scale length and a rosewood fingerboard, this NEX cutaway is THE instrument for the guitar traditionalist - like me.  I have one transparent black lacquer over natural wood finished axe, but my usual proclivity is toward gorgeous wood, like this Tak.   Both the body and neck have a gloss finish.

I know the raging debate out there about satin vs gloss necks. It's really a matter of personal taste. All of my guitars have gloss necks and before I broke my wrist, I know I never played better or faster on  satin neck guitars of friends.  Some guitarists won't play on anything else. Some won't play on anything but gloss.  Some don't care.  I suspect, but don't claim to know, that the decision for a  gloss neck was made for the aesthetic.  Takamine does make guitars with satin necks.

The list on this lovely cutaway is $1999, but street, from the big sellers is about $1400.  

She's a beauty.  If I could wave a magic wand and alter her in any way, I'd make her neck ebony - which, I grant you would not look as good, but I always pick ebony as a neck tone wood, when I have a choice.

Congratulations to Takamine for another beautiful Legacy Series instrument.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hearty Thank You!

Yes, I'm back.

Thank you for all the emails and DMs on Twitter.  

It's quite a rough battle, emotionally, after the left wrist fracture.  I'm trying to ward off depression with a 4 - 5 mile walk every day.  I guess it's holding back the very worst of the blues, but my frame of mind and the reality that I will probably never get my chops back is proving a hard thing for me.  That being written, let me move on to what this blog was always intended to be: a source of good info for guitarists of all levels of interest and accomplishment.

I don't think I have looked at this blog since March.  I won't go into the details of my excruciating nerve pain while casted, nor the woefully short results of OT, at this point. I have been updating my web site month by month, and the  August update has a few new/changed pages.   I used to have a link that took you to, but now it takes you to an internal Raptor Picks pages.  And if you haven't yet tried Raptors, this is your lucky month!  I'm having a flash sale for  4 + 1 free and 8 + 2 free Raptors at over 30% off.  Now is the time to stock up, if you use them, or try them, if the price gave you pause.  They are genuine Raptor R Series picks, first quality, individually packaged and unused.  The link to the Flash Sale is here.  You'll also find a couple of other picks on that page, too.   All sales are safe and secure, through PayPal

My hand and wrist swell terribly when I "play," which is just a nice way of saying "guitar therapy."  I can't not play, so I'm having to play every other day, just to allow the excessive swelling to reduce before going back at it.  To say it's frustrating is a huge understatement.  I really have to put fresh DRs on all my guitars.  They sound so dead, which isn't helping my frame of mind at all.  If you haven't tried DRs, you really have to.  They are be finest string I've ever used, and I have tried just about all of them, including some European imports.

Maybe it's my imagination, but I don't ever recall the music over the speakers in the common areas of my apartment building being B. B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Al Di Meola, Carlos Santana, Steve Vai, Slash or any other guitar luminaries PRIOR to my fracture.  Now, it seems like that's all they play.  Maybe it's my perception, but I think it's true.

Have you been reading about NAMM?  It was a week or 2 ago.  Sounds like it was another very successful show. 

I will be foraging through  guitar company emails for my next post/s. There are a lot of great things emerging from the top companies.

Thanks, again, for all the DMs and emails.  I will be back in some regular fashion beginning next week.  This week is a brain melter, so I won't be back to blogging until the weekend, at the earliest.  After that, I hope to resume posting on my previous schedule.