When I were a Lad…

I was round at my Brothers house tonight, as a forty- something player with a reasonable level of disposable income, theres always a few tasty guitars about. He generally keeps an acoustic in the living room and rotates an electric on another stand. Currently its a PRS SE Tremonti. But sometimes its a Strat, a Les Paul etc etc. My nephew is 15 and just starting to take his first steps on the instrument after spending the last year learning bass. Lucky him…..I grew up in a house of books and didn’t see my first pro level instrument til my 21st birthday.

Now the Tremonti is not exactly a beginners axe, but for most people buying one, it’s likely to be either their first or second guitar.

Not wishing to bang on about my age, but from then to now, what you get for your money is shocking!

My first electric (A Sakai Strat copy handed down to me by said brother as he headed off to his first graduate job in London) had a plywood body and the shittest electrics ever, zero fret, sharp edge binding and just sounded nasty. The neck was like a club and the action quite horrible. I used to borrow my schools orange Hondo II Les Paul copy, made in Korea, by World Musical Instruments and on sale in Littlewood’s Catalog if I remember rightly.

Mrs Bolt the music teacher used to loan it to me at half term, she also had a fabulous Sloane Ranger type voice, great breasts and wore stockings on a Thursday, but I digress;)

Having said that, I did learn to play Guitar and this was before endless tuition DVD’s and internet tab. I slowed records down on my dads BSR 4 speed turntable and borrowed a few books from the library, mainly by US folk guitarist John Pearse. I watched 80′s music show The Tube and tried to look at what the guitarists in bands were doing, what equipment they were using.

A long way from the spoonfed culture of todays transcriptions and “play like…” aspirations. But the fact of the matter is I made quick progress, I wonder if thats because I had to seek out the information rather than have it handed to me on a plate.

But back to the Tremonti, built in Korea by……wait for it…….World Musical Instruments (nice to know they got better at doing it eh kids?) 22 fret rosewood board, Mahogany neck & body, fixed bridge. It plays like butter and feels really good in the hand. It weighs about six and a half pounds, much lighter than a Les Paul and with better balance than an SG. My only niggles would be the electric’s. The generic Korean made Humbuckers are unrefined and lack warmth and punch thru my brothers Marshall DSL 50. But aside from changing the pickups and gutting the pots/switch for something higher in quality (the volume pot travel is all or nothing) I could go and gig this straight away.

The biggest upset with the Tremonti is the player association. I’m not against signature guitars as I currently play a Richie Kotzen Telecaster in my current gig, but the signature on that is a subtle addition to the normal Telecaster neck transfer. Here the Tremonti logo is a crass violation of the headstock and spoils what is really a brilliant little guitar.

A mediocre sub grunge guitarist, Tremonti must surely have the smallest penis in all guitardom, such is the Napoleonic nature of the Tremonti logo. It’s big, imposing and crass. Kinda like he wants you to remember his name rather than remember names like….ooooh Stone Gossard, Mike McCready or Jerry Cantrell…and suddenly exclaim ” I knew I heard that lick before!”

But back to that logo…..its Crass and offensive rather like many peoples views of Americans. Not mine I might add, most of the ones I’ve met have been lovely kind sensitive souls, and besides if your media is run by an Australian facist, maybe we’d elect a right wing Christian Lunatic too ( Oh……yeah it is…..and we did – Thats Globalisation for you!).

Now I’ve played a variety of PRS, SE (Student Edition) guitars and have always been knocked out by the bang per buck factor. In both Quality and Finish, at UK street prices, theres little to compete with them. I’ve seen these go new for £350-£400.

My big niggle with PRS is not their build quality or consistancy or innovation, no it’s how stupidly priced the American guitars are in the UK. Fair enough if its got a fancy top and inlays, but I’ve seen some very silly prices for plainer instruments and While I quite enjoyed playing the various McCarty’s and Custom 24′s I’ve tried in Music shops over the last 2 years. I’m aware that these guitars are a lot cheaper in America. PRS makes sure it’s US dealers don’t list street prices. But a guy I worked with went Stateside bought a CE 24 in plain old black, with no inlay packs etc. For around £750.00 in a sale (excluding import duty & VAT). That was 5 years ago mind and I’m sure with PRS current brand status as the must have guitar of Nu Metal, that gap will soon close.

Now I’m aware that people have to make a living, but I object to the whole, “If it cost $1200.00 in the US, we will price it at £1200.00″ ethos of the UK guitar industry. Soho Soundhouse have a Custom 24 in plain black with bird inlays for a remarkable £2499.00. Thats absurdly priced.

Now the reason this situation exists is more to do with PRS owners (many of whom are clogging up the Classified ads in Guitar magazines trying to sell used PRS guitars at nearly new prices), who seem quite content to buy a guitar thats almost entirely machine made. Robot Buffing, CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) woodworking machines and an automated fret installer (PRS can’t make a stock production guitar with an Ebony board as the machine would split the board during stamping), Robot paint machines…. Ok a human being puts the electrics in and sets it up. But aside from Private Stock guitars, these instruments are hardly “handmade”. They are a built in the same way that Fender, Yamaha, Gibson and Ibanez make guitars, it’s just modern production methods, and if you tear your eyes away from the pretty maple tops and OTT inlays long enough I have a suggestion.

I’d go onto Ebay and look at what used PRS Guitars go for in the US. I’ve spotted a McCarty at around $1300 for a fairly standard model. Thats just over £700, and a long way from some of the unrealistic prices being peddled out there in the UK. Do your homework on VAT/Duty/Exchange rate and have an adventure. Remember Kids its a Global Marketplace, just ask Mr Murdoch.

However the real issue facing PRS is what are they going to do when they become unfashionable? It wasn’t so long ago that you could buy a used Gibson Les Paul for £300 and Ibanez RG series used prices have taken a massive nosedive since the Widdly widdly glory days of 1988. One day Linkin Park will be as fashionable as Herpes and there albums will be in the bargain bin.

What then?


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