I recently got an email from my former bandmate, Heroes of Switzerland guitar partner and all round good egg Ian Lockwood.
Ian had contacted me for some advice on a new guitar he wanted to buy, enjoying the feel of his Gibson Les Paul, Ian wanted to find something similar in sound and feel, but with a tremelo arm for divebombing and other whammy bar madness.
Well Tremless of Nottingham and anyone else in a similar pickle, sit back and take this in.
As far as recent LP players go Alex Lifeson (Rush) & Neal Schon (Journey) both use Les Pauls with Floyd Rose trems fitted, Neal Schon did probably the earliest mod way back in the 1980′s and now has a signature model, trouble is they are all like Custom Shop stuff….with the dollar as it is, its pretty much the price of a car. The Production model Les Paul Axcess which is basically a mass produced version of the Schon guitar is like 2 Grand and Gibson are cranking the prices at the mo so christ knows what you’d pay for one…..let’s see…
Burny (Fernandes own Jap domestic market copies) make a Korean LP copy that comes with a Floyd and a Fernandes sustainer, now I’ve played a Jap Fernandes LP before and its like a high model number Tokai (i.e. pretty much the same build and materials as a real Gibson), but these Korean ones and now some Chinese built are a completely different animal. I played one on Denmark Street years ago it was OK, but at a hot gig???
A few guys on the Guitarist forums rave about these and its probably as good as an Epi LP, but from what I can gather the biggest skimp on a guitar like this… and the biggest issue I reckon you’d have is with the build of the Floyd Style trem, if the guitars that cheap (and bear in mind that in Japan a Burny retails for less than £300) its likely to be monkey metal and fall to bits. I had a Washburn MG40 Superstrat for 2 weeks back in 93, where the metalwork was like something you’d get in a pub ashtray so 4 songs in your tunings fucked. The one I had never left the rehearsal room and I exchanged it.
The whole idea of a Floyd Rose or Kahler (the other big competitor) system back in the day, was that by setting them up properly beforehand, tuning issues will be minimal. In my 80′s rock heyday I used 2 identical Ibanez RG560′s and I never used a tuner live, both guitars would come out of a cold van and into a hot gig. Id keep them in their cases to acclimatise for 20 mins, get them out and… the tuning wouldn’t move and this is at the height of my widdling powers, dive bombs, squeals, tapping whole tone scales across all 6 strings into a backwards reverb unit and getting it to glitch as it struggled to process the notes…. and the air raid siren…..Glory days…Id occasionally have to tweak the fine tuners on the third but that was it.
A replacement either by Floyd Rose or Ibanez (who I still think make the best variant of the design in the Edge Trem) is like £170+, so Id tread carefully.
There are other options however…..
1: Buy another secondhand LP Studio and have a Floyd fitted….You’d get a Studio used for £500 ish, although the cost of getting a proper guitar builder to do this will be at least another £200 in labour I reckon….so were talking £900 ish. You need to go to someone who knows their shit for this, as theres wood to be routed out of the body etc, if they fuck it up the guitar could be unusable. Norworthys at least, maybe Rob Williams in Birmingham?
2: More realistically there is a tremelo system called a Stetsbar that just clips onto a Gibson Style bridge….http://stetsbar.com/. These are an aftermarket replacement and won’t require any alteration. Ive not heard or used on of these yetr and no one I know of has, so its something new maybe? They get good reviews, but just about anything does in Guitarist does nowadays.
From what I’ve read its for subtle trem useage, not massive divebombing so…maybe not what you want.
3: Digietech Whammy Pedal? A cop out I know.
4: An old 80′s classic with trem like an Old Yamaha SG1300T? I bought a beat up one, made mine fixed bridge. That would have been ideal, but again those old SG’s are starting to become expensive for what they are and on a used guitar the Floyd is usually the first casualty of neglect. Because everything is altered with an allen key, those areas are usually chewed to fuck and in the case of some older Japanese own brand stuff, parts are non existent, Fender have kept a lot of their 80′s stuff going and so have Ibanez post Floyd locking system, but they and most other guitar trems that were pre floyd have disappeared. I was there at the time their were hundreds of designs.
The other thing to remember with a Floyd is once you break a string live that’s it for the gig…..by the time you have unlocked and pissed about with it, the whole guitar might need a retune, with locking nuts and the like its not something you can do at the Social. I used to just swap guitars and carry on with the spare, it didn’t happen that often though.
5: A Godin? Godin are part of a massive staple of Canadian Brands (Simon and Patrick, Art & Lutherie etc etc) and they actually source their own tonewoods. There getting popular with people who need maximum versatility, as many have acoustic pickups and roland synth guts fitted… so Steve Stevens plays them as does the bloke in Elbow. There also reasonably priced, but my advice would be to look secondhand for one as they do not have the prestige of Fender or Gibson or PRS so residuals are usually shite the very rare times I see them in the Guitarist classifieds. The Godin might be the best option as they have fulcrum trems with locking machine heads
That’s the pricey one, this is cheaper…
If I were you, this might be your best option as they are well made and durable guitars, and I know you like variation in sounds so there pretty versatile.
6: The only outside option is to buy a secondhand Patrick Eggle. These were a small time British Guitar company who basically tried to be a baby PRS, they changed owners several times and it all went south, but they were very popular in the guitar press in the mid 1990′s and so people bought them and in true defunct British guitar maker style, the depreciation is just out of this world, I just found this on Ebay:
These were something like £1200 new when new, I suspect thats a refin though.
Not bad and not a Million miles away from a PRS Custom 24, I almost bought their Los Angeles model as it was like a Musicman Luke (very compact S-Style guitar) back in the day. Which Framus seem to have nicked the inspiration for their design for their recent Diablo pro:
The neck will be pretty similar to Ian’s LP I should think. The Eggle has a more PRS type feel, but the mahogany body, set neck and whammy bar may be unbeatable at current prices.