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Electric guitars, strings, and amps -- advice please


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I've been noodling with a classical guitar for the past 2 years or so and am looking to finally purchase my first electric and amp.

I love the low tension and thickness characteristic of strings on the classical guitar. It makes playing a breeze. I'm wondering if this is possible on the electric. All the electrics I've sampled so far had high tension, very thin strings. I simply do not like it. Will low tension strings work with the pickups? Do they make electric strings with thicker gauges? For reference, my classical strings (silverplated wound for E-A-D and nylon for G-B-E) range from 0.711-1.090 mm or 0.028-0.043 in.

Also, any recommendations for a guitar and amp combination in the $750-$1000 total range? I want to learn all the genres out there -- metal shredding, blues, flamenco (on my classical), alternative, funk, rock, everything. Any guitars that are easier to play than others and suitable for a variety of genres? Any amps out there that are reasonably priced and offer a good selection of sound effects?

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As far as an amp the Roland M Cube will be your most affordable good amp. Very small but great sound for its size. $110. IMO the most affordable "good" amp you can find. I've found a lot of the Roland Cubes to be pretty solid. As far as guitars, the store I work at deals primarily with Yamaha, and guitars aren't really our thing. How long have you been playing?

I know from experience that the Epiphone SG is solid, good pick ups , good overall setup. Around 300 dollars if Im not mistaken (I may be). What kind of sound are you going for? I've had a lot of luck with D'Addario strings personally.

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I'm not an expert on the subject. Been playing guitar about a year. My first guitar was an Epiphone SG. though right now you can get a Gibson SG for 580 bucks with a gigback or case at guitar center, it's the worn cherry or worn wood colored ones. If you're into that sort of thing it's better than an epiphone.

I used replaced most of the strings with "ernie ball" 'the gauges are 9, 11, 16, 26, 36, 46. I don't know a hell of a lot about strings but my brother says they are called "hybrid slinkys" because the bottom 3 strings (the thick ones) are a bigger gauge to give you a loader rock song and the higher (thin ones) gives you a better sound while still being able to get a crunchy rock sound. something like that, I'm no expert. But they also make normal Ernie ball strings, they're like 5-8 bucks depending.

The amp i have is cool to jam with, more of a practice amp than anything. It's called the Fender G dec (theres 2 different models 15 and 30 watts.) the 15 watt one is like 350 i think. The cool thing about it is that you can play drum loops and bass loops, and kind of jam with yourself. It says like "band in a box" on it, which i suppose is sorta what it is. Though i realize alot of serious music maker would question my purchase.

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Well, don't let anyone tell you what kind of guitar to get. You need to get a guitar that's right for you. I went to the store to pick up a backup guitar for my show last Saturday.

The guy let me try an Ibanez, then a Gibson SG (or something like that), and I didn't like either of them. I saw a funny little strat copy by the name of 'Yamaha Pelican.' It had a white finish, and my intuition just told me to try it out. It played very well (much better than the other two), and sounded pretty good. No, it doesn't have as much bite as my Jackson, but it was brand new and I liked it.

So yeah, it's white, and I'm going to pay an airbrush artist to paint Falkor on it (that big dragon from Neverending story).

It's gonna look fuckin' sweet.

Anyway, to contradict what I said earlier, try out a Carvin if you can. They are expensive, but really badass. They play beautifully (at least for me and my Dad), and the whole guitar is from one piece of wood.

Sweet axe. Amps? Go ahead and save up for a big stack.

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Basically, you want to stay away from Gibson and anyone they're associated with. If you want a great guitar, get yourself a Fender Double Fat Strat. It'll cost you about $350-400 and it's way better than anything Gibson makes under $1000. I also HIGHLY recommend Jackson guitars. Jackson pretty much has the best value for quality ratio among the mainstream manufacturers. For about $500 you can get yourself a smoking hot V or Soloist that will play and sound better than anything in that range. But if you're willing to go as far as that, then you're best off searching ebay for a good deal on a Carvin, they're my favorite!

As far as amps go, that's a more complicated matter. If you want to record an amp, you'll need a decent pro-level soundcard, a good mic, and a good amp. That alone will cost you about $700-800. I suggest you consider amp modeling solutions. The soundcard is a MUST regardless, but what you do after that can vary dramatically. I suggest you look into Guitar Rig 2 and Amplitube 2 instead of an amp. They're much easier to deal with, no effort at all to record with, and are much cheaper than amps of comparable sound quality.

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I also HIGHLY recommend Jackson guitars. Jackson pretty much has the best value for quality ratio among the mainstream manufacturers. For about $500 you can get yourself a smoking hot V or Soloist that will play and sound better than anything in that range.

I have a jackson and it kicks most other guitars I've played in terms of ease to use, so i'll agree with the Snaps on that one. I bought it last March and I'm seriously not kidding: I haven't tuned it once. Unbelievable.

I would also like to recommend Ibanez RG guitars to you. They have much wider string spacing then most guitars, much akin to classical guitars, and in my opinion play and sound better then anything else in the price range. You'll also enjoy the thinner neck compared to most other guitars. Coming froma classical point of view: A mid-range Ibanez RG all the way.

Thin strings are just something you'll have to deal with. The same thing happens to electric guitarists who go classical. It just takes some getting used to.

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Yeah, Ibanez RG all the way. They have a few new ones that look really cool and aren't very expensive. Here's a good one.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Ibanez-?sku=519786

And yeah, if you're going to record, you're going to need more than just an amp. If you're not wanting to record and just need something fun for jamming, get a Roland Cube. Those things rock. They sound great, better than anything else in their price range.

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ESP also makes some excellent guitars for their price, especially the EC-400.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/ESP-LTD-EC400-Electric-Guitar?sku=516662

or

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/ESP-LTD-EC400-Archtop-Electric-Guitar?sku=516661

Two months ago they were $600+, but a price drop has put them into a very affordable price range!

I would suggest the models with the Duncans over the EMGs, since you're trying to play multiple styles. Many players don't find EMGs as versatile as other passive pickups.

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I think I've found a solution to my picky string preferences --

http://www.daddario.com/DADProdDetail.aspx?CodaID=564&ID=1&Class=AACA

D'Addario 1/2 rounds - Extra Super Lights. Pretty similar in tension to my existing low-tension classical strings.

http://www.daddario.com/DADProdDetail.aspx?CodaID=601&ID=4&Class=ADSA

D'Addario Pro-Arte - Normal Tension

Plus, the 1/2 rounds are grounded and buffed to allow for smooth sliding and minimal finger noise. I can deal with the difference in thickness.

The Roland Micro Cube looks pretty sweet. Of course I'll have to test it out for myself, but if this thing is half as good as the user reviews say, I'm sold.

I'm going to hold off on recording gear for the moment, especially since my computer is crap, but I will definitely keep your advice in mind, SnappleMan, thanks.

As for the guitar, I'll have to stop by Guitar Center again in the next few weeks. I was too hung up about string tension and playability and didn't pay enough attention to guitar tone and functionality the first time I was there, although I could barely hear myself with everyone else around me playing at max volume. (I also noticed that the amp determined sound quality and timbre more than the actual guitar itself -- any opinions on this?) Time to give the Ibanez RGs, Fender Double Strats, Jacksons, Carvins, ESPs, and the other recommendations a good wanking.

Thanks for all the great advice everyone, much appreciated.

Basically, you want to stay away from Gibson and anyone they're associated with.

Are Gibsons total shit, or just overpriced? Being a n00b to the electric world, I always thought the Gibson Les Pauls were supposed to be legendary.

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(I also noticed that the amp determined sound quality and timbre more than the actual guitar itself -- any opinions on this?)

To an extent. A good amp won't make your guitar sound like something better then it is, but a bad amp won't do it justice. Unless you're talking about a modelling amp, eg the Roland Cube, then you just want something thats not worth $50 and will compliment the style of guitar you bought.

Are Gibsons total shit, or just overpriced? Being a n00b to the electric world, I always thought the Gibson Les Pauls were supposed to be legendary.

"Supposed" is the key word there. They've been hyped to shit because lots of famous people play them, but they're really not all that. They aren't 'Total shit' so to speak, but they're definately not worth as much as they sell them for. You hear a lot of stories from huge bands that use Les Pauls; The dude from the Darkness always uses them live, but in the studio he used an Ibanez JEM, because they're just better guitars in every way, they just want the look of the Les Paul to seem 'cool' or some shit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just to add my 5 cents... I've been playing a lot of different electric guitars for around 10 years, and although I used to hate them, the best all round guitar is probably the good old Fender Stratocaster. I have a telecaster myself, which is a bit more twangy in the tone, but also very good allround. The strat is great for everything though... right from clean rockabilly, to clean / drive jazz, to rhythm metal or screaming heavy metal solos.

As for strings, I recommend going with one type of strings, or at least one particular gauge of strings. Rule of thumb is, the thinner the strings, the easier they are to play. Slightly less sustain than thicker strings though, but nothing to be worried about. The reason it's good to stay with one particular gauge per guitar is that a non-fixed bridge will be heavily affected... a floating bridge like the Floyd Rose tremolo system will take an hour to adjust to a new string gauge, I'm not kidding.

As for amps, I actually have a Roland micro Cube anniversary, and my dad has a Cube 20 or something like that. Both are fantastic, right from clean blackface style sound to super high gain. They're a bit simplistic, but they really do sound great. If you want some sound examples, just PM me.

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Just to add my 5 cents... I've been playing a lot of different electric guitars for around 10 years, and although I used to hate them, the best all round guitar is probably the good old Fender Stratocaster. I have a telecaster myself, which is a bit more twangy in the tone, but also very good allround. The strat is great for everything though... right from clean rockabilly, to clean / drive jazz, to rhythm metal or screaming heavy metal solos.

Personally I'd pick a Tele over a Strat any day for an "all around" guitar.

Rule of thumb is, the thinner the strings, the easier they are to play. Slightly less sustain than thicker strings though, but nothing to be worried about. The reason it's good to stay with one particular gauge per guitar is that a non-fixed bridge will be heavily affected... a floating bridge like the Floyd Rose tremolo system will take an hour to adjust to a new string gauge, I'm not kidding.

If strings are stretched properly before being put on the guitar there should be no tuning problems, provided the guitar itself is setup properly. A setup is definitely required with using a new gauge with a Floyd Rose equipped guitar.

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Teles suck overall. I can't understand peoples fascinations with such twangy, ugly guitars. A Fender strat is one of the best guitars you can get for the money.

And yes, changing gauges on a floyd rose requres truss rod adjustment, bridge adjustment, sping adjustment, penis adjustment and anything else found in a typical setup.

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I'm kind of surprised no one really answered your question about string tension correctly.

Lighter-gauge strings can help somewhat, but if you're looking to buy a guitar, you might as well try out the ones with a shorter neck scale. Ask the salesman. A shorter neck translates directly into less string tension (and a sound that isn't quite as "bright" and squealy).

A good neck will also let you drop the height of your strings more at the bridge without buzzing on the frets. I'd been playing the same RG-560 (all other electrics I've picked up in the meantime felt like clunky shit in comparison) for around 15 years before I got around to dropping the strings, at which point I started playing literally twice as fast. Do yourself a favor and look into it.

Edit: Stanley Jordan has some awesome tips for getting low tension with thick strings. Take a look at his website. You'll have to google it.

-steve

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