The Jeztone Problem Page: Tremless from Nottingham writes

I recently got an email from my former bandmate, Heroes of Switzerland guitar partner and all round good egg Ian Lockwood.
Alex Lifeson with Floyd Equipped LP

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…. 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… 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.

The R-word: Recession, Recession, Recession

So here we are, quite a few months into the “worst recession since the 1980′s” or biggest “economic crisis since the 1930′s” as described by various media outlets intent of frightening us all.

This man has your pension in his hands....yum!

Are we having fun yet?

From this guitarists perspective several interesting things have happened in the last few months.

In terms of the wider economy and currency markets both the Dollar, Euro and Yen have risen sharply. So prices have gone up across the board, most horribly is the now near 20% rise in the value of the Yen, which has basically made grey importing a Japanese Fender or other far east exotica (ESP/Burny/Caparison etc) uneconomically viable. The unofficial Clapton type J-craft Strat I’d finally set my heart on (I was still gonna replace those nasty small frets with Dunlop 6100 fretwire though) was suddenly going to come into the UK for near £750 used as opposed to £550, so that idea was quashed finally.

It didn’t get much better thanks to the rise in the Euro, although its now dropped slightly, suddenly all thos nice deals on suddenly looked very unaffordable. In April a Fender Richie Kotzen Telecaster was near £1200 as opposed to just under a grand previously, its now just over a grand….ouch!

The drop in VAT to 15% seems to have made didly squat to guitar prices as many companies announced large price hikes in January 09 and the currency markets cancelled out a lot of this. So saving £30 here and there on a £600+ guitar really seemed meaningless.

What has suprised me was Ebay, the prices commanded on there seeemd fantastical, especially for used Gibsons, all of a sudden people were paying used prices that were virtually the new retail price a year or so earlier. From what I could see this was people in a feeding frenzy hoping to get a good deal, but really just supporting a fantasy land.

Back in March when I was looking to purchase a used Gibson SG I was amazed how many advertisers were trying to sell me a 2001-2005 guitar for around the £800-850 mark. At the time Gibson had raised the price of a new SG standard to £1199 and the dollar had affected this, however it soon dropped back down to £999 in most dealers. After browsing Gumtree for 3 weeks I found a totally mint 03 SG Standard in heritage Cherry for £650.00 so it appears some sellers are realistic.

In terms of Fenders though, things are now bordering on the ridiculous. American Standard Guitars have gone through the roof again and are obviously not selling as Fender are offering a free Fender Champion 600 practice amp if you buy one from them now….why not simply drop the price. Irrespective of currency values, that is the most automated guitar factory on earth. It shouldn’t cost so much.

But with Fender everything has gone up, the newish Mexican made “Road Worn” Strats are on the £800+ price point too. I tried one in Cologne in April and I thought the relic’ing was about the same standard as one of Trev Wilkinsons “Vintage” brand copies. It was ok, but not the best Strat I played, and fender have never gotten away from the “insubstantial” feel on their Mex Strats. i’ve tried the basses and they’ve always been fine. But for some reason I can always tell Im playing a Mexican Strat, whatever is missing, Im picking up on it.

So where does that leave the humble guitarist?

Well there is an upside…despite Soundcontrol going to the wall. I’ve noticed a slew of new independant guitar shops that have risen out of the ashes of the “Dixon’s of music retail”. In some cases these are new shops, in others, just smaller businesses that have expanded. But I see that as tremedously healthy for the british guitarist. As now there is less of a sense of monopoly out there,m which means shops can get on with being competitive, giving good customer service and all the other old fashioned shit that chain retailing scum like Soundcontrol tried to extinguish. In addition, not everyone is classified land is a complete idiot. There are some great guitar deals out there just waiting to be had. If you’ve got the cash now is a brilliant time to buy anything musical. Just as long as you do your research and avoid people trying to panic you.