Greetings, and thanks for reading this monster... but theres a good story to tell.

    

For the past few months Ive been actively looking for my first "real nice" electric guitar, one that I would keep and really enjoy for a long time ... I have owned/played various beginner strats but nothing that felt "just right." Really, I've just begun to play electic after years of acoustic. After saving enough dough to lay down for a nice american strat or maybe a gretch DaddyGod just decided to blow my mind.

 

An (amazing) friend from church came to me after choir practice this week and said, "Aaron, when I die I want you to slip a thousand dollar check in the coffin just as they are closing the door and we will call this deal square ok. I cant take these with me when Im gone anyway right?"  Then he hands me his 1976 Gibson Les Paul Custom with a huge smile on his face.  I hadnt told him about my plans to buy a new guitar... He just said he could tell that it would bless my socks off.

 

As you can guess, Im still reeling from all this... Im just so flabber-gasted that someone would just give something like that away. Im really really blessed with an amazing church family, Ive known that... I just never would have dreamed in a million years... what else can I say?

 

The guitar itself is beautiful (Ill post pictures soon)... cherry sunburst. Well played and traveled but without any real damage. I plan to have the local luthier have it set up soon, what else should I have him look at when I take it in? I've never had my hands on a vintage guitar and am clueless to what should be done and what shouldnt...  I dont want to take anything away from this guitar by having needless work done, but I do want it to play this beauty... a lot... Are there any electronic things that I should have done/checked? A buddy told me to have the pots and wiring updated with Jimmy Page push-pull-something-or-others so that I can control the sound better.... Youtube had cool vid's on the process, Have any of you seen it done?

 

Also, what amps/combos should I be looking for leading worship, playing in a medium sized building (150-200 people)... priced at or below $650.  To give you a bit of the church's sound, our music style ranges from Tomlin to Jesus Culture and I love a smooth bluesy Overdrive. Im thinking a TubeAmp but dont know what the upkeep intails, and any advice is really appreciated. I know Ill take your suggestions to the MusicStore and play til it sounds just right... but every time I go to that place I get lost. Ive never shopped for amps and dont want to be there for hours and hours with a salesperson suggesting a big sale item.... I just want a good sounding amp that I can cart from home to the church, play at the house and not blow my wife's ears off yet get good versitile tone for services.  

 

Again, Im so amazed at what God is doing and I really appreciate your thoughtful, educated, responses.


Aaron

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Aaron,

 

You are blessed.. and you should be grinning and thank God for this Gift!!!

 

With the luthier, if I were you primarily you should check these:

1. Fret Height... after these manuy years these should have worn out... maybe the guitar needs defretting

2. Neck Setting

3. String Gauge ... so that you will know what gauge you need when you will be changing the strings as this would effect the playability, action, etc

4. Plug it in ... then start turning the knobs if you hear like a griding white noise you know that you might need to clean or change the pots.

5. Pickups... check that both pickups (in any selection) is working.

 

Basically these are the normal service procedures ... The luthier, if a serious one, whould know how to take good care of your new baby!!!

 

Treat it with respect .... its a vintage!

 

Amps: I presume that you will be micing the amp, as you seem to be playing in a large hall. I would go for a Fender Tube Combo if you like Blues..> Something like the Hot Rod Series (they have the Blues Junior).. should work very well for you. If you do not like to carry heavy loads do not go over 30-50 Watts (as that means over 50LBS)! And tube amps are heavy and loader.. so yes if you crank it all up at home you might be sleeping in the garage!

 

Been (actaully am) there ... know that! heheh ;)

 

One thing... now that you have a great guitar do not mess it (the sound) up with a crappy amplifier! and use good cables as well (gold plated), you will notice a great spectrum of sound coming out of these babies!!!

 

God Bless and Happy Rocking

 

Charlot

 

Thanks so much Charlot! The luthier in Eugene is reportedly one of the best in the state... Im sure he will be able to guide the discussion. He comes very highly recomended.

 

Will add the Blues Jr to my list of posibilities... have you played the Vox Night Train? 

 

(And Yes, Im still grinning from ear to ear.)

Hi Aaron,

 

I've just seen the picture you uploaded... thats a real gem mate!!!!

Unfortunately, I have never played on a VOX, actually the agent for VOX is not that reliable here ... although really wish to. I have purchased a Laney LC50 (tube amp) some 8 years ago for my engagement... as my thought was that all funds will be drained by my better half later on... hehe (which happened ... lol)... To be more sure I purchased my PRS Custom 24 a year before I got married... to be 100% sure that my arsenal was safe in my hands before marriage... I know it... sound hilarious!

 

I was actually going for a Fender Hot Rod Deville (in brown tapestry if I remember well), as at that time I was really in that Blues/Vintage mood. Then it turned out that it was on order and the exchange rate at that time was not extremely favourable. So I opted for the Laney LC50.. however there are numerous makes out there such as Orange, ENGL, Marshall, VOX, etc etc etc it comes down to budget and likes at the end of the day.

 

Cheers


Charlot (from Malta, Europe)

I'm not sure I would recommend that Vox over a Fender Hot Rod series given your stated preference. The Vox is ok, but it's a little sterile and cold for my tastes, not very bluesy to me. I liked it for the rock distortion and crunchy overdrive, but it's clean tone is nothing like Fender clean. And it lacks reverb, so you'd have to buy that as well as a cabinet. Not to dismiss it completely, but from the playing I've done on it, it's not a bluesy amp. I'd look for Vox as a crunchy and swirly sounding rock amp, but it doesn't stand out as a blues thing for me

 

Some folks use Marshalls when playing blues-rock like Joe Bonamassa, but I've not played a good sounding Marshall type amp that was less than $1000. Those little Haze units are just cheap Chinese invasion amps with a Marshall badge. (Just my opinion...)

 

Again, if bluesy is your goal - most of the the blues players that I've seen locally play through Fenders (that I've seen so far at Blind Willies etc.)  Every amp tech knows how to fix them and they are very forgiving when it comes to abuse. The latest incarnation of the Blues Junior is a great amp. It obtains Fender blackface clean better than the previous models, is lightweight and really excels at overdrive.

 

There are the Peavey classic and Delta series. They're similar to the Fenders, but I think the Fenders sound better and I know they are easier to find used. Excellent condition Hot Rod Deluxes go for $400 all day long. When you compare what you're getting for $400 you can't beat it. I've owned a couple myself and my son loves his.

 

Hey, don't guys with tractors play Fenders?

First off, congrats on an amazing gift and a large dose of the grace of God.

 

OK, there's a number of things to be aware of. This is a Les Paul, so it won't play like a strat. This may sound obvious, but while it's possible to strum a strat like an acoustic, that approach doesn't work with LPs, so be prepared for a learning phase where you develop your technique to suit voice of the instrument.

 

As for pickups/wiring, probably best to leave it standard for now. The Jimmy Page thing is a nice idea, but can make life more complicated that is helpful at this stage in the game. It's easy to modify it later when you're a little more familiar with the instrument, but more hassle to put it back stock if you don't get on with it. BTW I like pickups from 70s Les Pauls, and have a couple on one of mine. They were a bit variable, but should be reasonably rich and complex with a bit of an edge and a vintage (i.e. low) output compared to many modern pickups.

 

Amps..... You mentioned the Vox night rain, and this was what sprang to mind while reading your post. Also check out the Vox AC15, Laney Lionheart series, Jet City amps, Blackstar and the Marshall class 5. Also consider a Marshall 18watt clone if you can find one at the right price. Power wise you'll want something in the region of 5-20 watts depending on how much you like to crank the amp. Remember that a small amp can be mic'd up, but a larger one can't always be turned down and retain good drive characteristics. However a larger amp will often have a bit more bass thump at all volumes compared to a small one. For clean-ish single channel amps, remember that you can use an overdrive pedal to effectively give you a second dirty channel.

 

As for time trying amps, ideally I'd suggest setting aside at least 1/2 a day, taking the guitar with you and already knowing which amps you want to try. Get the sales guy to demo how they work (most are quite simple anyway) and then ask to be given some time to try it on your own. Use your ears and hands and see which amp responds to the guitar in the way you like. There's no hard and fast rules here - just go with what works for you and the requirements of where you'll play.

 

Valve amps don't require that much maintenance, especially if they don't have valve rectifiers. Just change the power valves every 2-10 years or so if it starts sounding less good.

 

Oh - also invest in a nice WIDE leather strap. Your should will thank you.

Toni,


Gods poorin on the love this past month or so, I was also asked to be part of my first worship event out in the community this summer. Pretty big deal for this small toun boy, once again, Im amazed... amazing grace, thats a good song!

 

As to the gibson vs strat issues... I was prepared for the sound difference, but how will that change the way I pick/strum?

 

Thanks for your equipment input too... Sounds like I need to make a (not so short) list of amps to look into which just fine. Ive had a blast lookin and  comparing guitars on YouTube, Ill just widen my scope to amps. How small is too small. I was told that the smaller (5-8w) were too thin/tinny... Im not too worried about not being heard, our church isnt too big and the guys are running 1x10solid staters right now.... Im so stoked to play this thing and find out what its made of.

 

Thanks again

Power wise you'll want something in the region of 5-20 watts depending on how much you like to crank the amp. Remember that a small amp can be mic'd up, but a larger one can't always be turned down and retain good drive characteristics.

 

This is and isn't true. Remember, you can't take a 5 watt amp and improve it's headroom, so you may never be able to use it clean. And a 20 - 50 watt amp can easily do nice overdrive at a comfortable level if you have preamp gain like on the Marshall DSL or Fender Hot Rods. And that preamp gain usually sounds much better than an overdrive pedal. Also note that the difference in loudness between 20 and 50 watts is very little. It's all about clean headroom. Some 18 watt Marshall designs have very little clean headroom by design (ie, Brownnote). Some 10 Watt designs won't even distort.

 

Case in point - my Brownface Fender clone is currently set up for 11 watts. I can't turn it past 1 1/2 in church. Our auditorium holds about 400. I start to get overdrive at about 5, but it's ear-splitting loud at that point. Yes, 11 watts can cause hearing loss. In fact, this amp has little clean headroom in it's range. But I'm able to get just enough to make it work in my church setting.

 

Of course this will never replace one thing - playing it loud! We all know that loud sounds better. But we also know that our ears and our wives need consideration...

That was why I made the comment I did about how clean or dirty. Something like the Class 5 will get reasonably loud before it starts to break up, and certainly isn't tinny, and headroom isn't a problem if the amp is mic'd.

 

However I'd probably choose something around the 11-18 watt range with a decent speaker myself, but it's good to try a variety of stuff. Personally I'd rather choose a primarily clean amp and then add drive or distortion from a pedal than from the pre-amp. OTOH I do like power amp drive, but then I am an aging rocker, rather than a young metaller.

Yes indeed. Until I got my Jetter Red Squared pedal, I would never have used a pedal for distortion/overdrive. 

 

The 11-18 watt range is where you need to be the most careful. Those 18 Watt Marshall kits often have little to no clean headroom. 

 

And those little single-ended amps are often fraught with the worst hum. Without some good designs, they will be terribly noisy.

"It's all about clean headroom"

 

Stevo...  Forgive my ignorance, but like I said this will be my first amp purchase not to mention my first tube amp purchase...Can you elaborate on what "clean headroom" means, please. Im hearing it over and over but dont understand the meaning. Is it the amount off volume needed to make the clean sound distort?

 

Thanks again,

Aaron

"Headroom" is another way of saying "reserve power". "Clean headroom" means that the amp can have a "clean" (undistorted) sound, but still be loud. Lower wattage amps will distort at lower volume.

The amount of 'headroom' is really how much volume you can wring from the amp while it remains clean.

 

Some amps are designed to have almost none at all - there was a 5W Orange a while back that was designed in such a way that the preamp would start to overdrive almost immediately, regardless of volume. Others are designed to be almost completely clean right up to max volume - the Fender Twin is an example of that style.

 

Many amps are designed with more than one channel: typically clean and dirty for 2 channel amps, clean, overdrive and distortion for 3 channel amps. The clean channel will normally go fairly loud before overdriving, while the dirty channel will start overdriving at low levels.

 

Be aware of 'gain' as opposed to volume. A gain control is often used to increase the signal level in a preamp (I'm talking in general terms here) in order to control the level of overdrive from the preamp. A volume control should increase noise output without greatly altering overdrive levels - depending on amp design (caveat, caveat!).

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