Sunday, March 18, 2012

How I Love a New Guitar and a Big Breakthrough!

Saturday afternoon, after deciding that playing this weekend was pointless, I picked up my newly-acquired Yamaha EG112 from Shepperd's guitar shop. I wasn't actually sure it was finished as he hadn't called me, but we were out running errands on that side of town so I figured we might as well pop in to see how things were going.

Apparently things didn't go well. At least, not at first.

When I told Mr. Shepperd what I was there to pick up, he said, "Ah, yes. The infamous Yamaha." Then he told me to come back to the work bench area because he needed to show me something. Despite the fact that I was prepared to screw this guitar to the wall as a decoration, my heart sank a little. It sank even more when he held up a guitar neck with a Yamaha headstock dangling by a few splinters at the nut.

Yep. That was my guitar neck. I figured I just spent $50 to have a box of parts boxed up.

Nope. Mr. Shepperd said not to worry, it had all worked out just fine. "OK, sure," I'm thinking. "But at what price?" As he pulled my guitar out of its case and showed me the brand new neck and finger board my wallet actually winced a little. "No charge," he said. "It happens." The original neck had a slight outward bow to it even with the tension rod loosened completely. So, he tried to "massage" the neck into shape - something he says he's done a thousand times or more - and it just sort of exploded like a maple baseball bat. He says that's happened to him two or three times but never quite as violently as it did with my Yamaha. He had a nice little nick on his hand to prove it.

As it happened, he had a bunch of brand new necks in stock and one of them fit my Yamaha just fine. He had to cut the high end of the finger board down about two frets to fit on my EG112 body.  The jacked up frets on my original finger board were no longer an issue. Oh, and because the headstock on the replacement neck had slightly different sized holes than my stock Yamaha neck, he put new tuners on it, too. Of course, I no longer have a headstock with "Yamaha" emblazoned on it - but I consider that almost an added advantage. I now have NOTHING on my headstock - no brand at all, which sort of makes it look like I've got some sort of custom-built one-off guitar. Which, I guess I sort of do.

I definitely got my $50 worth and I'll definitely take my next set-up job to Mr. Shepperd.

So, when we finally got home from running errands, I was eager to play with my new toy. All the angst of the past few nights sort of dissolved in the excitement of having a practically brand new guitar. I couldn't wait to play it. So, I did.

This thing is awesome. Sounds fantastic except possibly when I have the selector all the way on the neck pick-up and the tone adjustment set toward the high end; then it sounds a lot like a bagpipe. Which could actually be quite cool, I guess. Sustain is beyond anything I've ever played. It just keeps going until I physically mute the strings. Whammy bar works and doesn't seem to cause any tuning issues. And, it's much lighter in weight than my LP Special II or Junior. It does ride a bit lower in the strap than my Epi's and I may need a shorter strap to get things situated where I want them.

I immediately bumped a couple of songs up above the 200k mark (Run Back to Your Side, chords, and Angela, single notes) - something I'd been trying to do all week on my SII with no success. And, I managed to better my RS Forum Weekly Challenge Song score by about 3000 points (Surf Hell up to 205,787). Count me one happy customer, Mr. Shepperd!

Although I said I wasn't going to do any new songs for a while yet, I even jumped in on the chord part of Free Bird with my son in multiplayer mode. And, I started working my second of the three Christmas DLC songs - Carol of the Bells.

The De Armond M65 is on its way this week. Not sure whether I'll take it straight to Shepperd's or hold off until I can afford to have the SII set up at the same time. (In fact, I'm not sure I'll even have the M65 set-up; I may just pull the pick-ups off and use them on my Special.)

One thing this taught me is that you've got to keep fresh strings on your guitar. I don't know how much of my success Saturday evening was the guitar and how much of it was simply new strings, but I suspect very strongly that much of my agony with the SII last week was a result of worn out strings. I put new coated strings on the SII about a month ago and it sounded great until very recently. Lately, however, it has started to sound a bit off. Especially the G-string. Playing 2-3 hours (or more) per day for a month is probably grounds for replacing strings, right?

I learned my lesson on buying cheap strings (see earlier post), but I really hadn't been thinking about how soon I might need to restring given the amount of playing I do. If anyone has a good rule of thumb or other input on how often to change strings, I'd love to hear it. Seems like something that would be useful for all RS players to be aware of.


  1. Hey,
    It is good to hear you got your MOJO back! I usually keep strings till they stop staying in tune.

    One thing i am curious about is how the pickups would affect RS. I am waitin on the PC and only have one guitar, but it wouldn't surprise me if some pickups (when you are at the highest levels) work better than others. For example if a guitar had a lot of electrical noise or hum or distortion or somehow didn't match what RS was looking for, i would expect it to miss notes.

    Have fun,

    1. That's an excellent point, Tim. It seems like the pickups on my EG112 are much quieter than the ones on my Special II. Maybe that accounts for some of the improvements in my scores. . . Worth checking out! Let me get my kid guitars project knocked out and I'll start looking at pickups.