Believe the Hype

Regular listeners may know that I have a thing for Flying V’s. Some may say it’s a middle age thing, fat bald man buying an Harley Davidson etc. I say it’s because they hang round my neck just right and they weigh half of what my Les Paul does.
My white one and brown sound very different, play very differently and both make me very glad. But, there’s always been a niggle. The electronics in both are completely different, the white one has Seymour Duncan pickups, a 59′ in the neck and a JB at the bridge, which it came with and I liked right away. A 59 in the neck is a no-brainer and the JB sounds different in this V, not as harshly bright to my ears as I’ve found it in other guitars. The brown one has Gibson 490r and 498t pickups which can sound like nails scraping a blackboard a lot of the time, but in here they sound bright and aggressive but with a lot of bottom end which all helps with my low B/C# tuning. The volume and tone pots, switches and jack socket are all the same.

On Princess I do this bit at the end where a hammer on three notes which ring out with a long delay and some chorus, for geeks, the effects come from my mid 80’s Boss pairing of a DD-2 Digital Delay and Dimension-C, both of which I got when they came out, are fantastic and are frighteningly collectible now. Now, these notes have a swell to them and the feedback comes out in all sorts of lovely overtones which makes it sound like there’s a harmony of sorts although it’s just a single guitar track. It’s just the way it happpened in the studio and I’ve found that nine times out of ten I can do they same again as long as I use the white flying V, other guitars can’t do it at all. The brown V is the one I play most now and it pissed me off that I can’t do the feedback thing as it’s the first song we play in the studio at every practice.

So, I gots to thinking and I decided that it was the Duncan’s in the white V, had to be, better quality pickups. So I took the scratchplates off both guitars and swapped them over, easy on a V, all the controls are mounted on the ‘plate. I took the brown V to rehearsal with the guts of the white one installed in it, and while I did indeed get all the nice overtones in the feedback the guitar sounded a little dull and I was a bit disappointed, I’d change it all back again.
While I was doing this I noticed something I’d overlooked, the capacitors on the tone pots were different. The brown V had the stock component (as seen below) and the white V had the nice Sprague orange drop capacitor I’d fitted when I’d rewired it not long after I’d got it. I had a spare orange drop, so I fitted it into the brown V and put the two guitars back together with all their own bits and pieces.

One week later, the end of the song came and the overtones came singing out, Craig grinned from behind the kit, it’s become a weekly thing, will I or won’t I get the overtones. But, it was more than that, I roll off the treble quite a lot in various songs and the whole tone of the guitar had changed. With the treble rolled off I was getting a deeper throaty growl rather than just a bit of muffling, which is nice too, but I did like the change. A few weeks on and the brown V hits the spot every time.

The moral of the story? Maybe it really is the little things that make the difference. Folk pissing and moaning about tone on guitar forums might actually have a point, it’s still all subjective, most folk will think my guitar sounds like a distorted muddy mess, and they’d be right, but it makes me glad.
£1.96 is what it costs for an orange drop cap in a shop and I can’t believe how much difference it’s made, it’s like the original component was sucking the life out of the guitar. Why the hell not fit better quality components in the factory, especially when they’re this cheap, imagine a box of orange drops at trade price? The one’s Gibson are fitting must be almost free.

Guitars, Corn Flakes, Tents, all it is is product. Never forget that.

4 thoughts on “Believe the Hype”

  1. No way I wasn’t commenting on this!

    Pleased you found a £1.96 solution (some folks change p/ups at the drop of a hat – often because they don’t know how to use their amp). Capacitors (and other small stuff) really are overlooked and when you think about how much variation there is in amp circuits you realize how important electronic jiggery pokery is to sound.

    I went through a phase of soldering gun mayhem but eventually decided that if I left everything stock it’d give me an excuse to buy more guitars when I wanted a new sound! My two LPs are totally different and I love it that way. A ’74 Standard for a bluesy Peter Green vibe and the white Custom for power stance face melting.

    It’s amazing how even top end gear can fall victim to the cost cutting thing. There’s some guy with a calulator who’s worked out that profits are increased by .0002 percent if they stick in a cheaper jack socket or something. Fender were almost destroyed in the 70s after CBS bought them and let non guitarists make the purchasing decisions. Hey-ho, at least it keeps techs in business.

    You’ve got to laugh at 80s kit being collectable now. That’s a prime example of geeks and capacitors. We used to literally throw away TS-9s because they weren’t Metal enough and now the early ones with the JRC-4558 chip are worth a lot, even though the cost of materials is a few quid. And of course the “boutique” companies are cashing in on that. The moral is never throw anything out – you just never know.

    Sorry I’m havering now, but I’m a geek at heart – I realised that when I started hearing the difference between rosewood and maple fingerboards!

    Enjoy the noise.

  2. I’ve got a Frontline distortion that’s branded as Grant’s for the music shop that used to be on Byres Road in Glasgow, which one day I’m sure is going to worth a fortune. Maybe.

    ’74 Standard? That’s a year older than my Custom, is it one of the wacky constructions, 3-piece maple neck etc? My Custom has a maple neck with the volute and a sandwich body. It’s probably a dogs diner in reality, but I love it, it’s beat to hell and weighs a ton.
    My other LP has had the heel rounded off, all the headstock logos taken off and a forearm contour sanded onto it :o)

    The boutique pedal thing is a funny one. I’ve got 20 year old Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe, the current version of which I just saw on ebay for £390. It does have a better tremolo sound that anything else I’ve ever heard, but at a gig no one could tell the difference between it and the tiny Guyatone tremolo pedal of the same age I used sometimes which cost £15 new (not now, they’re collectible as well FFS).
    I’ve got a Way Huge Swollen Pickle (I’ll need to use that as a post title on here) which is getting expensive as these things go and I’ve got a plastic cased Danelectro French Toast which has a fuzz I like much better.

    Is it ears, components, guitar, amp, fingers, mood?
    All of the above I suppose, that’s the joy of it.

  3. Aye the 74 is a pancake body and 3 piece neck. More 70s cost cutting but it really does sound the bollocks in a way that a “better” guitar doesn’t. The Standards weren’t officially re-introduced till 75 so mine’s a custom order which I suppose is cool. Went off most effects a while ago but the Voodoo Vibe’s a winner and who cares what “civilians” can and can’t hear. If it puts a smile on yer face then it’s good kit.

    Got a flash just now of what I would’ve been doing 20 years ago at 2 o’clock on a Saturday morning. I’m away to cry myself to sleep!

  4. “Got a flash just now of what I would’ve been doing 20 years ago at 2 o’clock on a Saturday morning”

    You and me both brother.

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