Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Indie #13 - 'Two tone' blue & white stripe

This replaced a Vintage AV3H I had because well, it's just so much nicer.

Body: Hollow body
Body Top: Alder
Body Binding: Single cream
Neck: Hard maple
Neck Binding: Single cream
Neck Construction: Set neck
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Fingerboard Inlay: Square mother of pearl
Headstock Binding: None
Head Machine: Diecast chrome
Top Nut: Graphite
Bridge: Tune-o-matic with stop tail
Hardware: Gold or chrome
Pickups: 2 humbucker
Electrics: 2 volume, 2 tone,3-way toggle switch
Truss Rod: Standard
Scale Length/Frets: 628mm(24.7")/22 frets
Finish: Blue with White Stripes

The AV3 looked great with a flamed maple top in translucent red but the sound was very flat and uninspiring to my ears. This was probably just the pickups and could have been rectified by replacing them but I fancied a slightly more traditional 335 style guitar. It's noticeably bigger than the AV3 and apparently has 'mickey mouse ears' which means it's styled after a particular era 335. Not that I've noticed.

The M8 pickups in it are so much rockier sounding than you'd expect from a 335 so it suits me well.

The blue glitter finish with white 'shelby stripe' won't be to everyone's taste but it's the exact finish I wanted, having waited a while for one to come up. You can get custom semi-hollows in the same finish and I think I'd quite like one, even if it would be duplicating an existing guitar in my collection. It's not like this has stopped me buying multiple Les Pauls after all.

Indie #11 - 'Super T' natural

Want a hot-rodded Telecaster at an affordable price but can't be bothered to build one? Buy an Indie Super-T! You get the Tele style body but with a humbucker at the bridge and a strat neck pickup as standard.

Body: Solid basswood / Agathis
Body Top: Flame
Body Binding: None
Neck: Hard maple
Neck Binding: None
Neck Construction: Bolt-on neck
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Fingerboard Inlay: Dots
Headstock Binding: None
Head Machine: Diecast gold
Top Nut: Graphite
Bridge: TC standard
Hardware: Gold or chrome
Pickups: 1 humbucker/1 single
Electrics: 1 volume, 1 tone, 3-way lever
Truss Rod: Standard
Scale Length/Frets: 648mm(25.5")/22 frets
Finish: Natural


This recent Super-T is closer to the trad Tele than my black one, which has a mahogany body and lacks the binding too. I think I prefer the bound mahogany body, which has a hard straight edge to the top, but this is a nice variation on the Tele theme.

Mahalo #1 - Blue

A whole 12 frets of nylon strung plinky plonky madness. My parents comedy Christmas gift to me backfired when I spent days wandering round their house driving them and any visitors mad by plinking and plonking away at it.

Unlikely though this sounds, it may actually get used. I don't have an acoustic after all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Indie #19 - 'IPR hollow' tortoise

So, given I really like the IPR1 I picked up a while back, when a hollow Indie IPR came up I couldn't resist it. That it looks stunning always helps.

Body: Solid mahogany/hollow body
Body Top: Best quality quilted maple
Body Binding: Single cream
Neck: Canadian hard maple
Neck Binding: Single cream
Neck Construction: Set neck
Fingerboard: A-grade ebony
Fingerboard Inlay: 5mm dot abalone
Headstock Binding: Single cream
Head Machine: Grover tuner
Top Nut: Graphite
Bridge: BH115/combination
Hardware: Chrome
Pickups: 2 alnico humbucker
Electrics: 1 volume, 1 tone, 3-way toggle switch
Truss Rod: 2-way dual action
Scale Length/Frets: 648mm(25.5")/24 frets
Finish: Natural

As far as I know, it's constructed in the same manner as a 335 i.e. a solid body guitar that's been partially routed out and had a top put on. Obviously it's visually similar to a PRS hollowbody but it's not had quite as much wood removed, having the full 335 style sustain block down the middle of the guitar.

Playing wise it's definitely not a 'semi acoustic' in the sense that you could use it unplugged, there's only a tiny bit more acoustic volume than something like a Les Paul. However it does have a lot more warmth so if played acoustically it loses the sometimes rattly sound of an unplugged electric.

Plugged in it does the classic twin humbucker thing nicely. I'll have to do a back to back comparison with the IPR1 and some other solid body Indies to see if I can better pick out what the hollow body brings to the sound.

It's definitely not something to stick EMGs in though. ;-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Isn't technology great pt. 1

Going back years ago there were some songs I tried to learn and just plain failed, not because they were overly difficult but because they were just slightly off standard tuning. Just enough to put me off when working it out and if I had a transcription, given I tend to learn things by playing along with them, just enough to stop me trying because it sounded godawful.

I guess sometimes it was deliberate, sometimes down to the mastering process or dodgy production and frankly sometimes because they tuned up by ear without being perfect at it. Who knows but they were just slightly out. I could have carefully tuned my guitar until I was in tune with the recording but frankly never could be arsed. Down or drop tuning puts me off enough already and you don't have to go fishing for that.

Nowadays I have a computer where I practice and tend to play back things on that. I got recommended a program called 'Best Practice' which allows you to arbitrarily change the pitch and speed of either MP3s or CDs. Best of all it's easy to use, open source and free. Although it looks like the developer hasn't touched it for a while, maybe some donations would encourage him, must do one.

With it you can set something playing and tweak it a cent at a time until it's spot on. Or if it's difficult to pick out, slow it down. Or both. If you really slow something down a lot or change the pitch greatly it sounds glitchy, but for the small adjustments I've needed it's been perfect. Then you can loop the bit you want to learn. You can also save the results as a .wav file for burning to a CD. I've made a couple of practice CDs that have 'corrected' material on and it's really helped.

If you're finding the same problems I did give this a shot. Windows only I'm afraid, but there you go.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Indie #10 - 'Fleur-de-lys Special' cherry sunburst

Somewhere, somebody one day decided that a cherry sunburst Les Paul simply wasn't shiny enough, they called out "Igor, fetch the bling" and the Indie 'Fleur-de-lys' was born.

Body: Solid mahogany
Body Top: Quilted maple
Body Binding: Abalone & cream
Neck: Hard maple
Neck Binding: Abalone & cream
Neck Construction: Set neck
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Fingerboard Inlay: Fleur-de-lys abalone
Headstock Binding: Abalone & cream
Head Machine: Diecast gold
Top Nut: Graphite
Bridge: Tune-o-matic with stop tail
Hardware: Gold
Pickups: 2 humbucker
Electrics: 2 volume, 2 tone, 3-way toggle switch
Scale Length/Frets: 628mm(24.7")/22 frets
Finish: Cherry sunburst

Indie #9 - 'Standard 2000' Natural

If I have a 'go to guitar' then this is it. Well unless I'm playing at being a thrash metal shredder when it's one of my EC29s. That is why this guitar is pictured at the top of my blog.

This was another secondhand purchase as a job lot with an Indie IT-30 amp. These had not been brilliantly cared for. The guitar had one odd machine head where the button from the original had been smashed off and one of the studs for the tailpiece had been pushed into the body damaging the lacquer on the top around it. It took me a while to notice the second fault and I suspect the seller didn't even know it had happened. There was a matching ding in the head of the bridge stud so it'd probably had quite a smack. Other than these two faults it had very minor play wear, almost like these had been done in a single incident perhaps during shipping or storage. The seller had recently moved house so maybe it was the removal men.

The machine head was easily solved as I discovered the generic 'tulip' machine heads sold by CH guitars on eBay were in fact identical to the ones used by Indie. Lots of the Korean guitar hardware sold by them (and AxesRUs) is identical to that used on Indie guitars, which was very useful to find out for my various modding projects.

The spec. is the usual good Indie stuff...

Body: Solid mahogany
Body Top: None
Body Binding: Single cream
Neck: Hard maple
Neck Binding: Single cream
Neck Construction: Set neck
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Fingerboard Inlay: Crown inlay
Headstock Binding: Single cream
Head Machine: Indie diecast tuner
Top Nut: Graphite
Bridge: Tune-o-matic with stop tail
Hardware: Chrome
Pickups: 2 humbucker/Indie standard
Electrics: 2 volume, 2 tone, 3-way toggle
Truss Rod: 2-way dual action
Scale Length/Frets: 628mm(24.7")/22 frets
Finish: Natural


...with this being a slightly modern take on the classic single cutaway Les Paul shape. It has Indies tidier later headstock design and their very nicely redesigned heel joint and cutaway. The curve of the upper bout follows through the heel and down to the cutaway. This makes for very good upper fret access and a slightly more distinctive design.

The simple mahogany body with natural finish looks great. In some ways I prefer this understated look to the more bling models. Nevertheless I thought the chrome hardware and pickups looked a bit anemic set against this and decided to undertake a little modding project.

Since discovering the wonder of P90s with my first Indie I'd been lusting after a Gibson BFG, which is a bare basic unfinished Les Paul with a P90 at the neck. As this was a very understated natural finish guitar I thought it would be interesting to do an Indie take on this.

I'd acquired a couple of Kent Armstrong humbucker sized P90s cheaply so already had something for the neck position for this project. I also had a vintage handwound Kent Armstrong PAF+ from the 80s which I wanted to make use of. This is a featureless epoxy potted lump with metal terminals protruding from it, quite unlike most pickups bar those used in the Dan Armstrong plexiglass guitars of the 70s.

The P90s had gold covers so I acquired a set of gold Les Paul hardware, swapped everything out, plonked the pickups in and wired it up. The result is a fantastically versatile reworking of the Les Paul formula. The neck P90 is creamy and the handwound bridge simply lovely. I wired it for coil tap and phase reversal with push-pull pots so you can get a load of different sounds for it. Being an Indie it plays beautifully, obviously.

I christened the result the 'BFI', being an obvious play on 'BFG' which I like because it's also an abbreviation many people I know use for 'brute force and ignorance'.

It stayed like this for some months but I was still unhappy with how it looked, I wanted more contrast between the body and the hardware. So I bought a set of black hardware and picked up a secondhand GFS Dream 90 for the neck position.

When I first swapped the hardware I left the chrome bridge & tail bushes in the body as the mismatch with the gold hardware didn't stand out too much. This time it was going to show so I built myself a basic puller using a block of wood, some nuts, bolts, and washers and a bit of old inner tube to stop it marking the body. I was very worried about getting the studs out but it proved pretty easy. The stud you can see removed in the photo is the one that had been pushed into the finish. As you can see the damage is very minor.

To tap the new ones in I screwed a bolt into them and placed a wooden block on top then gently used a deadblow hammer. This meant I wasn't damaging the finish as it went in. Having carefully lined up the splines on the new bushes with the path the old ones had cut they were a perfect fit and not loose at all.

I then put the original chrome machine heads back on as that felt the right way to go. Black machine heads in a black faced headstock didn't feel like it would be in keeping with the contrast between body and hardware I was creating elsewhere.

With the replacement pickup wired in and all the hardware fitted I also put some completely plain black knobs on in the place of the speed knobs to complete the 'minimal' look I was aiming for. I think it now looks as stunning as it sounds, all I've got to do is persuade Indie to do this as a production model with a soapbar P90 at the neck. :-)

Indie #8 - 'IPR1 Anniversary'

So, by this point it was blatantly obvious I'd started collecting Indie guitars. If Indie have such a thing as a 'collectable' model then you're either looking at their very early output with things such as the 'Dragon' or this 'Anniversary' model IPR.

The 'Anniversary' is their PRS-alike with the bling turned up to the max. The spec isn't massively different when you look at it on paper.

Body: Solid mahogany
Body Top: Best quality flamed maple
Body Binding: Single cream
Neck: Canadian hard maple
Neck Binding: Single cream
Neck Construction: Set neck
Fingerboard: A-grade ebony
Fingerboard Inlay: Tree of life
Headstock Binding: Single cream
Machine Heads: Grover
Top Nut: Graphite
Bridge: BH115/combination
Hardware: Gold
Pickups: 2 alnico humbucker
Electrics: 1 volume, 1 tone, 3-way toggle switch
Truss Rod: 2-way dual action
Scale Length/Frets: 648mm(25.5")/24 frets
Finish: Anniversary

However what you've got here is one seriously beautiful guitar at a very sane price. Like most of my stuff I picked it up secondhand from eBay but it's in near perfect condition with just a few play marks.

To my knowledge Indie only made 100 of these to celebrate their first anniversary in 2004 and this is #58. I've seen the odd one come up for sale since so they are out there if you want one, I came close to buying a second.

The only thing I don't like about it is Indies use of cheap looking toggle switches for the coil tap. Oh and I'm not a massive fan of combination bridges, but it does work fine.

Needless to say it plays as well as it nestles jewel-like in its case. Must get this one out more.
Correction, it seems they made 200, not 100.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Indie #7 - 'Designer' Union Jack

I came to Indies perhaps the other way round from most people, starting with their own designs and picking up several before I bought one of their 'copies' in the shape of the S type.

Having got a strat copy the next obvious thing to try was a Les Paul. My first ever guitar was an old Columbus Les Paul but since that I've been very much a 'thrash metal' kind of guy, owning a series of superstrats and an Explorer.

I saw these Union Jack designs on their stand in Birmingham and really fancied one so had been keeping an eye out for one on eBay. Eventually this came up and it's lovely. A very straight Les Paul copy but unlike so many the proper thickness and weight. It's a monstrous mahogany millstone of a guitar.

The pickups are actually pretty 'classic' sounding rather than resorting to fitting very hot ones and it does a very good take on the classic rock thing. There's something very Def Leppard about the design but I don't care.

Indie make a big thing about putting the Union Jack on their products which is something you don't see much nowadays as it seems to have gained negative connotations.

The picture doesn't really show it but the white in the design is very much ivory rather than arctic white. I think some of this is down to age, which I wasn't expecting, as the Bullseye Designer I picked up later has definitely aged in the light.

Indie #12 - 'Super T' black sunburst

This is another Indie 'Super T', but an older one that's had a quite hard life prior to me getting hold of it.

I picked this up very cheaply from a studio that was relocating and getting rid of all its gear. There are knocks and chips all over it, even a couple of nasty digs in the back of the neck where it's obviously been repeatedly leant against a hard edge.

Even so it's 100% fine to play which made me decide this would make a fun modding project. There have been a couple of evolutionary stages to get to this point but what you see is how I think it'll stay for a while.

The main change is that I bought a 'Nashville' style Tele pickguard and two lipstick tube pickups from GuitarFetish. By default the Super T is routed for just one single coil and this was my first venture into routing guitar bodies. In the end I found it was quite simple really and I made a fairly tidy route even without using a template. The only bit I got wrong was that the lipstick tubes are quite tall when you include their brackets so I had to drill a little deeper at the ends of both routes after I started putting the guitar back together. Before this the pickup mounting screws were touching the bottom of the route. I tried shortening the screws but then the pickups were really close to coming undone all the time.

The bridge pickup is the original Indie humbucker. I briefly toyed with a P90 in there but wasn't happy with it. In order to make it match the lipstick tubes I've bought a gold pickup cover, soldered it on then wax potted  it. Another first for me, but it seems to have come out well.

While I was there I put in a phase reverse push-pull on the middle pickup so you can do out of phase sounds. Not something I'll use a massive amount but I like doing stuff like this "because it's there".

The hardware started out gold but some of it was scratched and corroded so I've changed it to black. While I was doing that I tried out some of the unbranded locking machine heads AxesRUs started selling. These are similar to locking Sperzels, with a thumbwheel on the back which you use to tighten a pin onto the string as it passes through the hole in the stem of the machine head. I've not described that very well, but suffice to say they work very very well indeed. I shall be buying more of these should I need to replace any machine heads in the future.

With all this done I've added a little versatility to it and in my opinion improved the looks a bit. The two lipstick tubes give me a really bright strat kind of sound but the bridge humbucker is quite high output and very rock. There's a nice contrast between the two.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Taming the Nanovalve

OK, so you'd not think that a 5W amp needs taming but nevertheless 5W is far too much to use at home given you want to wind it all the way up to get a reasonable degree of overdrive.

JayGee suggested I try an L-pad with it as he'd had success with one on his Mesa 5:25. So I bought a suitable one and mounting plate from Wilmslow Audio.

Waving the mounting plate at the cabinet suggested it'd fit tidily in the side so I stripped the guts out of the Peavey. You just need to undo the four screws at the back and the two that hold the handle on then the whole thing slides out. I also undid the speaker to avoid getting sawdust in it. The speaker really is nastily made, it may yet get upgraded with a Celestion Super 8.

The mounting plate was just the right size that my biggest holesaw would suit it nicely, I centred it by eye then got a passing JayGee to hold the cabinet while I attacked it with the drill.

Smell of burning MDF aside this was trivially easy and pretty soon I had the plate tidily mounted.

I figured I also wanted the option to drive an external speaker as experimenting with this had show it to be worthwhile. So while the guts were out I put a hole for a jack socket in the grille at the back of the amp.

Following the instructions that came with the L-pad I made a simple loom which would allow me to connect this up without modding the amp itself. The spade connectors normally connected to the speaker just push onto the L-pad instead.

After this is was simply a case of just bolting it all back together and connecting it up.

Now with the L-pad fitted you can wind the amp all the way up but turn the volume down until it's perfectly usable for neighbour friendly practice. It does a very nice 'dirty rock' sound and has transformed the amp from something I just wouldn't use into something I probably will. I reckon the L-pad does rob the amp of some treble but not enough that it's a problem, it was almost overly bright before.

The good thing about using the matching mounting plate for the L-pad is that it almost looks like it came this way from the factory. Only the white wires loosely routed in the back of the cabinet really give the game away.

Only time will tell if it'll supplant the Indie IT-30 I normally use for weekend practice sessions. Provided we're playing 'rock' and not 'metal' it should certainly manage it OK although I'd definitely be tempted to change the speaker.

It's currently lurking downstairs as my 'check things while fettling' amp and it works brilliantly for that.