Equipment: the facts

These are the instruments I currently use. This list is in no way an endorsement for any brand. And these are not really reviews, only my personal experiences and anectodes. If time permits I'll add my amps and other stuff one of these days.

Agile Renaissance X 8 String

  I am not quite sure what it is with these added strings. After I aqcuired my first seven string guitar about a decade ago I have rarely played any of the six string guitars in my office. For a while I have been fuzzing around with a Schecter Hellraiser 8. It's great for writing music because it offers so much range and access to weird chords with open strings. But playing it live has little practical value; at least in a band.

  Eight strings on an acoustic though are pretty useful because most acoustic playing I do is solo. Lots of space in the low range. This guitar also has a much wider fretboard and so is a lot easier to fingerpick than the Schecter. This instrument comes with a really nice pickup and preamp built in (which includes a tuner.) I thought at first the fanned frets would be hard to deal with but not so. The Agile holds the tuning well and is well balanced when using a strap and playing standing up.

Avante AV 2E baritone guitar

  In early 2006 a copy of a guitar magazine landed on my kitchen table - unusual, since I had been subscribing to Guitar Player Magazine for many years but stopped reading it because most of the content didn't interest me that much anymore. There was nothing in that sample issue able to convert me to become a subscriber again, except for a short review of a really nice looking baritone guitar. I had never played or knowingly heard a baritone guitar but the idea of an instrument with a range somewhere between a bass and an ordinary guitar sounded fascinating. After I received the guitar I noticed that they had sent the version without pickup. I sent it back and a few weeks later received the correct model - which had a strange rattling sound. I sent that one back and a few weeks later received yet another one. Lo and behold the third one was good. It has a very deep body to accommodate the lower tuning and while the neck seems very long the frets are further apart.

  Like with most unusual instruments I have bought over the years I didn't quite know what to actually play on it once I got over how beautiful it looked. I also had no idea what clef to use when writing stuff for the baritone tuning. Eventually I settled on bass clef which proved to be more difficult than I thought. Somehow, when I read music on the bass my brain seems to automatically decode music in bass clef and when I play guitar it feels hardwired to treble clef.

  To me this instrument sounds very 'americana'. Open chords sound so full and gutsy. The first recording project with this guitar was a handful of acoustic guitar tunes - well, kinda 'instrumental americana' where the baritone replaced bass and rhythm guitar. As of this writing, July 2010, I am wrapping up the preproduction of 'Griffy Lake Suite', a nine-part through-composed piece for baritone guitar and string quintet. While I am still struggling to play any of my normal guitar stuff on this thing it is very inspiring to use it for composing.

Carvin LB 76 electric bass

  After moving to the US in 1988 I noticed that I got more calls for bass than guitar. After a while I decided that I needed something more professional than my brother's old Marathon bass. After seeing Chick Corea Electric Band live in Birmingham, AL, circa 1989, John Patitucci left a deep impression on me. That rack of Yamaha six string basses on his side of the stage looked so powerful. Soon thereafter I went to one of our local music stores in Tuscaloosa, AL. They didn't have any six string basses. But there was an affordable Washburn 5 string bass I ended up with. This played and sounded so much better than my old bass and until it got stolen in an Indianapolis underground parking garage in 2001 (while I was loading the car!) it got played on many hundreds of gigs. I have to admit it had taken me many months to get used to the low B-string.

  It was quickly replaced by this Carvin LB 76 bass. I admit that I am much less picky or peculiar in my choice of basses as I am with my guitars. But I really like this instrument. It's well made. I like the aspect that Carvin offers these 'semi-custom' instruments. Also, they were absolutely forthcoming when I broke off the top of the tension rod while trying to adjust the neck. I told them on the phone what happened and that it was probably my fault. They said it was probably a material problem and sent me a new bass. How cool is that!

Carvin LB 76 fretless bass

  In the Fall of 2007 my wife Monika Herzig and I were invited to a concert in Frascati, Italy - that's up in the mountains about 15km south-east of Rome. Since 2001 we had played a few concerts in Germany on our yearly vacation trips. Every time I would pack my black Carvin LB 76 bass in its rugged (and in the meantime pretty torn up) case and hope it would come out of the bagage claim in one piece. Since we also had to bring along two little kids it was always extra annoying to wait for the bass to come out at the bulky items counter.

  After we did the Frascati trip again in 2008 and the bass case looked worse than ever I decided to buy a second Carvin LB 76 and deposit that in Germany with my wife's mother. And then it went differently than expected when I was on the phone ordering my 'custom options'. When the sales person asked me if I wanted this bass as a fretless I thought 'Why not?'. After a few weeks the bass arrived at my door. And it was gorgeous! Needless to say I didn't deposit it in Germany.

  It's funny how I have to concentrate on intonation. No watching TV during the set at one of the sports bars we play at - my eyes have to be glued to the neck.

Chapman Stick

  Oh boy. That story with the Chapman Stick. I still own it and every few months I will pick it up and doodle a little on it. And I use it often to record specific parts on tracks I am working on.

  I had been interested in a Chapman Stick ever since I read about it in a Guitar Player issue in 1988 or so. When around 1997 our then BeebleBrox bass player Dan Immel sold a 10 string Chapman Stick that he had bought used and didn't know what to do with I picked it up for a quite reasonable price and then I really didn't know what to do with it.

  In case you are not familiar with what a Chapman Stick is: It's a long neck with 8, 10 or 12 strings. On the back of that long neck towards the bottom is a metal hook you somehow attach to your pants to hold the instrument at playing height (I use a tool belt because that metal hook tends to be a little cold). A strap attached to the top of that neck goes around your neck to hold the instrument upright. And then you don't pick the strings but you tap them at the right frets. The strings are quite loose so tapping them produces a sound. Since you use both hands to tap, one hand for each side of the neck you can conceivably play a lot of music a normal guitar doesn't allow.

  Of course you can tune it any way you want but one of the standard tunings uses 5ths ascending on the bass side and 4th descending on the treble side. I tried to play classical piano music on the thing. Not really sure where to put it in my musical arsenal. Until our first daughter was born in 1999. All of a sudden time to practice was rare and I neglected the instrument.

  In late 2002 Kwyjibo opened a whole new window for me. For the first time the Stick showed up on live concerts with me. In addition I had revised the tuning. One full track with the Stick appeared on The Rise of Kwyjibo (track 6) and another one many years later on my 'solo' recording Peter's Money (track 7).

  My big problem with the Stick always was that I find it really hard to amplify and cut through a band with a powerful drummer and bass player. But it is a great instrument and I wish I had more time to play it.

Frameworks Classical 7

  Throughout my 35 year career as a guitar player I have always loved the sound of acoustic guitars and especially nylon string classicals. The big problem they all had was not being able to amplify them in a practical way so I could play with a drummer and keep the picking hand under control. The only other guitar I own which comes close is the Godin Multiac.

  After I got heavily involved with my Giannini seven string classical around 2008 I started playing solo gigs on it. That worked out fine because you don't have to be too loud. I tried exactly one single gig with my fake Brazilian band Earplane and I just couldn't get enough volume without feedback. One gigless evening I went online and searched for 7 string classical guitars. I found the Frameworks web site and saw that they make a 7 string classical model. I was fascinated and emailed for a price. Of course, no surprise there, it was a bit out of my league - especially with euro/dollar exchange rates and various import charges.

  I don't visit eBay much. Don't have much money or time to spend. Imagine my surprise when on a hunch I searched eBay for seven string guitars and there was a Frameworks 7 Classical listed - and with MIDI pickup. For less than half price of a new one. A friend had just told me about this web service which places bids for you and raises your chances of winning an auction (this friend has bought a wall of Marshall stacks for a pittance using this service.) I didn't want to let this Frameworks slip away. I signed up and thought I had set up everything correctly. Then I had to go to a gig. After I came back home I checked eBay, the auction had ended and I hadn't won the guitar! Nobody had. No bids were made. This was just too crazy. It had slipped out of my fingers.

  The next day I found the seller's email address from the eBay listing and send him an email that I would buy the guitar from him, name the price. I never heard back from him. But then, thanks to the intelligent algorithms of eBay, I went back on the site and got this picture of the same guitar, "you were interested?." The guy had relisted the guitar. And this time for even less money. I bid. Stayed the only bidder until the end and won.

  And I was not disappointed! While the strange shape might have scared off people to bid on it once it's in your hands it feels great. Very light. Obviously great for late night practice or recording when the family is sleeping in the next room. And the plugged in sound is incredible! I use it together with a Fishman acoustic guitar preamp and go through a PA (if there are monitors). Of course, the MIDI pickup is icing on the cake. Works great with the Roland VG8 guitar synth. To get it in the small bag I take off the black side pieces and the whole thing fits easily into an airplane overhead. At first I did miss some sort of pickguard to rest my right-hand pinky and ringfinger for playing with a pick. But I got used to it and actually find myself not using a pick much anymore.

  Here is a little example of the sound.

Framus 12 string electric

  I bought this truly strange guitar in the early eighties. While playing in a band called Super Suzy in the later 1970's I often used an Ovation 12 string guitar. Since Super Suzy was a very adventurous group I often experimented with various tunings on the twelve string - tuning the string pairs in fourths or fifths was my favorite. These days I have a few patches like that in my VG-8 guitar synth. That Ovation hadn't been cheap and to this day I could slap myself for trading it in for a black Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar I was never happy with and eventually sold.

  This used Framus popped up at Musicland in Germany one day for a ridiculously low price. I thought I couldn't really go wrong. Well, while the guitar has twelve strings and the famous Framus laminated neck it soon turned out that it really didn't sound too good. For some reason the pickups were not only very low output but also actually picked up when you talked into them - I guess you call this feature 'microphonic'. Since other parts of the electronics were compromised too, I rebuilt the wiring and put in new pickups which of course needed custom made frames because, just like on my other Framus guitar, the measurements are not quite standard. It sounds better now but I rarely play it, although the fake, glued-on F-hole is a hoot.

Framus SG copy

  This was my very first electric guitar whose purchase in late 1974 pretty exactly dates my entry into guitar-player-hood (or hell/heaven). At that time in history Framus guitars were everywhere in Germany - right after the sought after but expensive US brands. Countless times did I look through the Framus catalog. I didn't really know what I wanted, needed or liked - just a guitar you could plug into an amp. Then I saw this beauty in the used rack of our local music store, Musicland, which was a hole in the wall filled with guitars back then.

  Since this was my only electric guitar for many years it saw a lot of use and abuse. Luckily the neck on this thing is laminated and could probably be used as a baseball bat without taking damage. After about a year I exchanged the stock Framus neck pickup by a DiMarzio. Of course the DiMarzio pickup was narrower than the Framus cavity so I had to build my own pickup mount from molten plastic - all on mother's living room table.

  This guitar has experienced a lot. When I was about 16 I traveled to the US visiting my dad. I took the guitar in a very cheap bag - the only bag I owned. The trip to Louisville, KY went fine. But on the return trip, after I was done with the passport controls in Frankfurt, all my luggage had come out on the belt, except for the guitar. I spent a long time looking all over the place and was close to tears when I saw a guitar leaning on a wall on the other side of the huge hall. It was my Framus SG copy - without a bag but in one piece and in tune. I never found out what happened (and maybe I don't want to).

  After I got my George Benson GB10 the Framus SG copy became my experimental guitar. It was four-stringed, with a minor seventh tuning, for a few years. After I bought my Chapman Stick in the early 21st century I used the Framus to fool around in 5th tuning - half of the strings were bass strings. The neck is still as straight as ever.

  In the Summer of 2014 I restored this guitar. Details and photos are here.

Giannini 6 string classical

  This 'classic' classical guitar has no remarkable features except that it actually sounds very nice and it smells great. It was made in Brazil and there is something about the wood - same thing with my other Giannini guitar. I have had this one since the late seventies.

  My very first guitar had been a smaller sized acoustic with nylon strings which I had bought from my friend Klaus around 1974. Clearly, as a beginner (and teenager) I didn't know how to treat a guitar. I put a cheap magnetic pickup on only to discover that you need steel strings for that to work. So I put steel strings on. Not good an a non-reinforced neck. At one point I painted the top of the body black with some left-over plastic paint I used to paint my Revell airplanes with. When I moved out from home my brother took it and I don't know what became of it.

  But after a few years of only electric guitar I started playing classical guitar music and needed a cheap classical guitar. Until around the mid nineties most of my own music was composed on this guitar. And it did appear on a whole bunch of recordings. As with my other Giannini classical the action is very low which makes some of the strings buzz a little every once in a while. But since I am not a classical guitarist by any means that has never bothered me.

Giannini 7 string classical

  For some reason I always took to slightly unusual instruments. More strings = better. I had been fooling around on a Schecter Blackjack 7 for a while. While trying to make sense of that added low B-string I thought that for a classical guitar a low B-string could be really useful - especially for solo performances. After a quick search on eBay I ended up with this Giannini 7 string classical. For a long time after I had received this I hardly touched any of my other guitars. The fact that the string spacing is the same as on a normal classical guitar makes this very useable for finger picking (even though the neck does get a bit wide).

  It's no surprise that all of a sudden my favorite chord switched from being an open Em11 to an open Bm11 and most of the new tunes started or ended there.

  This guitar did come with an on-board pickup system but either it didn't work right or just sucked out of the box. I never got a good amplified sound out of it. In 2010, after some internet research I had it retroffited with a K&K pickup. It does better now through an amp but I prefer my Frameworks 7 classical in loud situations.

  Just like my other Giannini this one smells really good!

Godin A6 Ultra

 Funny, I don't have to say much about this guitar because I use it rarely for one big reason. After many good experiences with Godin guitars I thought I couldn't go wrong with this one. Around 2005 I was playing in a Django Reinhardt style quartet and the only amplifiable acoustic guitars I owned were nylon strings. Not ideal. The A6 is a steel string acoustic - although it's only partially hollow. It has a sweet sound unamplified and the added magnetic pickup adds some extra sound control. The magnetic and piezo pickups can be routed to two different outputs on the instrument. The one feature that killed this guitar for me is that it just doesn't stay in tune. It's funny how some guitars do that. You experiment with different string brands. You make sure everything is tight and well set up but it doesn't make a difference. One of these days I'll try to conquer that unlucky feature again.

Godin Glissentar

  Sometime around 2006 I happened to drive by Guitar Center in Indianapolis. I usually try to stay far away from that place. Don't like to be called "Buddy" by some sales guy.

  But that day I had a little time to kill and nowehere else to go. Just because it was tremendously loud on the main sales floor with several young customers wanking away on electric guitars at various skill levels I stepped into the acoustic guitar room. This is where this Godin Glissentar stood lonely in a far corner. Once I had it tuned up it was such a joy to play that I looked at the price tag. Used, and for sale at a fraction of a new Glissentar.

  Like all the Godin guitars I have played this one is well made and has a nice, easy neck. The electronics work as they should and the instrument stays in tune (as much as can be expected of 11 nylon strings). So, yeah, it's a single low E string but all the others A to high E are double strung. Not in octaves like on a steel 12 string but both strings at the same pitch. So there you have your natural chorus. I think this instrument is somehow a modern version of a North African oud. Forget playing chords without frets! But blues is lots of fun. While I think Pat Metheny has a custom made fretless guitar there are a few recordings he uses it on and that's what the Glissentar sounds like.

  On my 'solo' recording Peter's Money (track 9) I use the Glissentar in a 'middle eastern' flavored setting called 'The Tonic (is blown in the wind).'

Godin LGX electric guitar

  In the late 1990s it became clear that I needed a new electric solid body guitar. So far I had been using the George Benson GB10 and the Kist 02 for my electric needs. Also since I now was using a guitar synth with the Godin Multiac I thought an electric with a synth pickup would be a good idea.

  If I remember correctly affordable guitars with synth access were somewhat rare then. A call to Sweetwater Sound in Ft. Wayne, IN, convinced me to make a trip there. At the time they were the only dealer relatively close to me carrying Godins. Out of the dozens of Godin electrics my sales rep Kenny showed me I picked this beautiful LGX.

  These guitars have three pickup systems.

  1. The two humbuckers which work pretty much like on a normal electric guitar.
  2. A set of piezo pickups in the bridge which are supposed to deliver a somwhat 'acoustic' sound
  3. The Roland synth pickup, also in the bridge

  Very versatile and for a while there also a little confusing with all the sound possibilies. Since this guitar uses a 5-way toggle switch a la Fender Strat and I was used to a Les Paul-type pickup selector with seperate volume and tone control for each pickup I spent more time searching for the right setting than thinking about the music. But eventually I did get used to it and now prefer this configuration.

  One thing I noticed early on (actually on the sales floor at Sweetwater for the first time, but I thought I imagined it) was that the two magnetic pickups didn't really put out a strong signal. They sounded great, though! I started using a SansAmp preamp to boost the signal a bit and soon forgot about it.

  Early 2000 or so I ended up buying a second Godin LGX. This was a slightly less fancy guitar although it had the same 3 pickup systems, played the same and had a tremolo. The main difference was that it had Seymour Duncan pickups and they were so much more powerful than the stock Godin pickups. I had these two Godins set up differently for many years. The LGX here as a 'Jazz guitar' with .11 D'addario Chromes and the LGXT with .10 D'addario Round Wound strings for Rock and Fusion. When I ended up using the LGXT more than the LGX I realized I really didn't need two identical guitars and I ended up selling the LGXT.

  Around 2009 I finally decided to replace the Godin pickups by a pair of Seymour Duncan blues pickups. It was a pretty 'wiry' affair. After all, the Godin pickups each had a coil tap which could be engaged by pulling the tone knob out. So lots of wires to cut. With the new pickups this instrument sounds powerful and much rawer than before. I have to admit since I am in my '7 string phase' I currently don't play this guitar much unless I need access to the guitar synth. But it is one of my favorites!

Godin Multiac classical guitar

 The Multiac was the first Godin guitar I purchased. Around 1995 I was very much into John McLaughlin's acoustic trio with Kai Eckhardt on bass and Trilok Gurtu on percussion. I had been looking for a while to find a classical guitar that was easy to play and sounded good through an amplifier - and it had a MIDI pickup (although I didn't know at first what I would use that for.)

 Unlike my other two Godin acoustics this one has a full hollow body and is quite loud by itself. The piezo pickup system sounds great and I used this guitar for many life gigs with a drummer. You have to really crank the volume and stand close to your amp to make it feed back. Soon after I thought I should try the MIDI pickup. At the time the Roland GR1 was the only guitar synth available in my price range. It was a good pick as it came with a boatload of sounds and easily connected to the Multiac. The GR1 also had a MIDI out connector (something the VG8 doesn't have). And soon I had it linked up driving two EMU Proteus sound modules. One of my favorite life "shticks" was to use a balinese drum sound with non-equal tuning on the lower three strings. And of course layering all sorts of steel drums and orchestral sounds was spectacular. Unfortunately controlling all of this was complicated (when it worked at all.) Also not every show allowed me to come in two hours ahead to set it all up and sound check.

  The Godin Multiac is a winner for me because it just works well.

Gretsch Streamliner

  I was pretty sure that after playing mainly seven string electric and acoustic guitars for a decade now I'd not buy another six string guitar. This past Summer (2016) we were supposed to record an album in Germany. In the past I have usually borrowed an electric guitar so I don't have to carry one of mine on the airplane. But for a recording I wanted to set the guitar up just right with the right string gauge, etc. So I finally ended up looking at various inexpensive electric guitars at Musicland, Albstadt, where I used to teach 30 years ago(!) After looking at a lot of instruments this one stuck out. It's a fun little guitar - we called it the 'angry little red guitar' because on the recording it's going through a nice distored amp. The huge fret markers are great for my aging eyes and it's not very heavy. It also has individual volume knobs for each pickup and a master volume. Takes some getting used to but I like it. The album will be out in 2017 on vinyl although the title is still pending.

Ibanez fretless bass

  There was a time, when I was 21 or so, when I thought playing bass is easy. Plus, I really liked Jaco Pastorius' playing. Well, one day this Ibanez fretless bass showed up in my favorite music store, Musicland in Albstadt, Germany. And it was very affordable. At the time I was already playing bass occasionally using my brother's old Marathon bass (don't ask me about that one). So this was my first own bass guitar. But even just playing the root notes on pitch proved to be so hard that I only tried it at home. It is a very nice bass, though. The thing doesn't sound like Jaco, too dull. Maybe adding a pre-amp would help.

Ibanez George Benson GB10

  The Ibanez George Benson GB10 was my first 'real good guitar'. According to the label it was made in 1979. I bought it towards the end of my first steady gig in early 1980 (of course I didn't know the end was coming - or I wouldn't have spent that much money). But that aside, it is a great guitar. The compact size always appealed to me and the neck style works well.

Ibanez Ragtime steel string

  If buying a new guitar is like buying a new car then that would explain this one. Another Ibanez. Brand-loyalty. It must have been late 1979 when Manfred Brietzke and I started an acoustic guitar duo - later to become a trio via the inclusion of Ulli Fischer.

  As is so often the case new projects can be very energizing - especially if they take off. In this case I noticed I didn't own a decent acoustic guitar. Since around that time I taught guitar and worked at the recording studio in Musicland Albstadt I had access to new instruments for testing. Unfortunately I also never had a lot of cash. In the case of this Ibanez Ragtime it was a good thing. It was the least expensive of the series and is just a very simple instrument. No pickup. No frills or fancy inlays.

  My friend Manfred bought the slightly fancier and more expensive Ragtime model to play in our duo and it didn't play or sound as well as mine. This guitar has appeared on many records and gigs. It has the same neck and body shape as the black Ibanez AE410 and one would expect them to play the same but the difference couldn't be bigger.

Kist 02 electric guitar

  This is a custom guitar! Although it wasn't build for me. As a matter of fact this freak of an instrument was supposed to die in a fire! In the mid 1970s my friend Lothar Landenberger (who was and still is one hell of a classical guitarist, played bass in my first fusion band 'Satisfiction', picked up various saxophones, and then opened a music store specializing in wind instruments) started an apprenticeship with a guitar builder by the name of Wolfgang Kist in Bavaria. Apparently Mr. Kist started developing a line of eletric guitars for Musicland in Albstadt. This, Kist 02, was one of the first prototypes but was never supposed to become a full guitar because there were problems in the chunk of would to be used for the body - so Mr. Kist threw it in the stove for fire wood.

  Except that Lothar fished it back out because he thought burning the body was a waste. He slapped on some hardware and there we go. Several people have tried to own this instrument and wouldn't take it for free - it's not a Les Paul or a Strat. It's pretty much unlike anything I have ever seen or played. Lothar gave me the guitar some years before I moved to the US and it has seen a lot of use and recording. Maybe I have a defect where I prefer the odd weirdo stuff over the brand stuff even (or especially) when it's hard to play, get a decent sound out of and keep in tune.

  Some special features of this instrument:

  • early neck-through-body design, except that this neck is so thin that I can create excellent vibrato effects just yanking it back and forth (thereby destroying any sensible tuning)
  • headstock which essentially is in a straight line with the neck, thereby not providing enough pressure for the strings to stay in the saddle grooves - requiring a metal piece to clamp the strings down (can you say "string-wear").
  • I did replace the very nasty, string breaking adjustable bits at the bridge by string saver bits and that keeps the strings from breaking a bit longer.
  • when replacing strings inserting the new string through the back of the insrument is worse then threading string through a needle - especially in the middle of a set!
  • totally fake(!) door-bell-ringer-push-button that I put in to cover up a little routing.
  • the totally awesome metal plate under the strings with the inscription: KIST 02.
  • 1/8 of a one dollar bill found in the Chatterbox tip jar.

Raines 7 string Modern Archtop

 Before I received this guitar from somebody in Hawaii I had never heard of Raines guitars. The eBay listing didn't mention a brand name and the headstock logo is impossible to read unless you are really close. After I had fiddled around with the Schecter Blackjack 7 for a while and had fallen in love with the Giannini 7 string classical I was looking for a seven string guitar I could play on my trio jazz gigs. While the Blackjack 7 is a great instrument the one thing that makes it hard for me to use is the narrow fingerboard. Well, then I saw this one on eBay, the neck measurements were a bit wider and the price was right - what could go wrong?

 It turned out pretty much everything was wrong with it.

  • The output jack didn't work right out of the box, although that was quickly fixed
  • The neck seemed to be a little warped towards the body and the high E string didn't produce a sound beyond the 14th fret
  • The fretwork was very uneven. Some of the fretwires stuck out on the side cutting into fingers
  • This thing is neck heavy. While the other (un)features could be only on this particular guitar the imbalance was clearly a problem of this model line. Didn't they ever pick these up in the factory and play them? Of course it's a relatively small body and the big headstock with extra tuner adds weight. But at first I thought I had to send it back. Then I did web searches and emailed friends with luthier-ing experience only to find out that maybe I should just wear a non-slippery shirt and a wide strap. After a while I tried to balance the guitar with a water bottle dangling from the strap pin on the bottom of the guitar. It needed about a half liter of water to make this thing hang like it should. It also looked pretty stupid. Then I thought about inserting a 500g tubular piece of lead into a drilled hole in the solid middle section of the body - this would be about a pencil sized piece. After numerous people recommended not dealing with molten lead further inquiries resulted in the recommendation to use tungsten, which is almost as heavy as lead. But a lot more expensive. So far I haven't done anything. Maybe I am getting used to it.
  • Maybe only a matter of personal preference, but this guitar doesn't come with a pick guard. Since I do still use a pick sometimes and I am used to anchor my pinky on the pick guard I had to fabricate something. But then that adds a certain personal touch.
  • And lastly this guitar also has a problem with staying in tune. Even though it has lock-down tuners (you thread the end of the string through a hole in the tuner and then tighten a screw to keep the string from slipping out.) Luckily it's mainly only the G-string.

 The funny part is that I absolutely love this instrument! I play it on pretty much every electric guitar gig where I don't need synth access. To me it has a very bluesy tone. And it is not as easy to play as the Godin LGX and that slows me down and maybe even makes me play more musical.

 To Mr. Raines' credit (yes, there is a Matt Raines who has these things built somewhere overseas) he promptly answered my first email inquiry and readily admitted that this production run hadn't quite turned out as expected. He also offered me one of his brand-new models at a great discount. I like that kind of directness.

Red Beauty 7 String

  By now (2014) it's properly established that I like to have an extra low string on my guitars. Towards that end I went on eBay last Spring to find an inexpensive 7 string electric to travel with. Just as with my Carvin Fretless bass I thought it might be nice to just deposit a guitar in Germany so I didn't have to take it in the airplane all the time.

  I found a whole bunch of these guitars on Ebay. No company logo, no info who made them or where. At a little over $200 I thought it might be worth a try. It's not a bad guitar at all. The neck is a bit thick and I wish the fret markers were easier to see, But it sounds decent and I like the looks. Also, for the price it's well built - probably mostly by a machine in China. I did put in a new set of tuners and now the instrument also stays in tune. The guitar came with individual volume/tone knobs for each pickup but I recently rewired it - hence the two little holes where two of the pots disappeared.

  Needless to say I ended up keeping the guitar at my house and I play it all the time. I guess I could have bought two of these and left one in Germany. I think these are still on eBay every once in a while but they cost twice as much now.

Schecter Blackjack 7

  Circa 2006 I became interested in seven string guitars. Not knowing much about the subject I did some web research and found that for jazz guitars I would have to spend more money than I paid for my last car. Then I saw this Schecter in a Musicians Friend catalog.

  The first thing I noticed when I unpacked it was that it is very well made. Everything fits, nothing wiggles or is lose. Top notch fret work. It also wears very well - good balance.

  I also realized that I needed a little pick guard to rest my pinky when flat picking Ok, that wasn't hard to build.

  The two major problems for me with this instrument are that it sounds a bit 'peculiar'. There is not as much bottom. Doesn't sound as full as I'd expect. I have read that is because this instrument has 24 frets - two full octaves per string. And all positions are usuable, great neck! But the 24 frets require that the neck pickup is 'off' from the sweet spot and loses some fundamentals of the strings (or something like that). The other, bigger problem for me, is that the neck is not much wider than a six string neck and therefore the strings are very close together. Some chord voicings are all but impossible because my fingers are too fat. Also using a pick or finger picking is greatly affected, although with more practice I could work around that.

  But this is still a great guitar to try the world of seven strings.

Schecter Hellraiser 6

  After gradually switching from 6 to 7 string guitars over the past decade I have hardly looked twice at any 6 string. Until this 6 string version of my two Schecter Hellraisers showed up for a price too low to pass over. I used it live for the first time on a gig whith two bass players - the low B string of a 7 string would have been a little out of place. One of the bass players was Chuck Rainey who played on more recordings than I have ever listened to in my life.

Schecter Hellraiser 7

  This a very similar guitar to the Schecter Blackjack 7 that I have been playing for years. One complaint I had with the Blackjack were very hard to see neck position markers. After starting to mess around with the Hellraiser 8 string guitar I really liked the sound and so just for the heck I started looking for a 7 string version of the same. It was suprisingly quick to find and very affordable. It came in black, played beautifully, sounded great - and then my, by then heavy metal playing older kid snatched it from me! There is not much arguing with a 15 year old. After some more searching I found another one. This one even has the same color and finish as the 8 string. So there!

Schecter Hellraiser 8

  For about a year now I have been thinking about what it would be like to have yet another string below the low B of a seven string guitar. This really only came about after I discovered that Frameworks now also make an 8 string classical. After much tossing and turning I gave up on that idea for lack of funds.

  But I kept checking in on eBay every so often. After all, that's how I found a more affordable used 7 string version a few years back. This past Summer this Schecter Hellraiser 8 string popped up at a great price and I won the auction.

  Just as my Blackjack 7, this instrument is superb! The workmanship is first rate. It has active electronics and sounds very balanced although the placement of the two individual volume knobs - they are reversed from what you'd expect - is a bit confusing and I might do a little soldering.

  The neck has very nicely visible inlays which make it much easier for me to find my way on a dark stage. Of course having an added F# string on the bottom opens all sorts of possibilities and I am expecting an avalanche of tunes in F# minor.

Steinberger Spirit electric

 In the late 1990's we started making plans to take our band BeebleBrox on a tour to Germany. I intended to bring my Godin Multiac on the airplane in it's hardshell case inside of a large keyboard flight case. But I also needed an electric guitar. That's when I bought this Steinberger Spirit. I ended up taking it on the tour and it worked out fine. While the three pickups look impressive the EMG sound doesn't appeal to me as much. It was used on some tracks on the BeebleBrox CD Dominant Domain and the first 3rd Man recording. The neck feels a little tiny and the fact that you have to buy double-ball ended strings limits your choices. But overall this is a very usable guitar.