Holiday Gear Finds 2022
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
The new Gibson Les Paul™ Standard 50s Faded returns to the classic design that made it relevant, played, and loved -- shaping sound across generations and genres of music. It pays tribute to Gibson's Golden Era of innovation and brings authenticity back to life. The Les Paul Standard 50s features a satin nitrocellulose lacquer finish that gives it the look and feel of a long-treasured musical companion. It has a solid mahogany body with an AA figured maple top and a rounded 50s-style mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard and trapezoid inlays. It's equipped with an ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge, an aluminum Stop Bar tailpiece, Vintage Deluxe tuners with Keystone buttons, and gold Top Hat knobs with dial pointers. The open-coil Burstbucker™ 1 (neck) and Burstbucker 2 (bridge) pickups are hand-wired to audio taper potentiometers and Orange Drop® capacitors.
The PRS SE Standard 24-08 is a mahogany-body workhorse guitar with powerful humbucking and true single-coil tones in one instrument. Its PRS TCI “S” pickups are paired with a 3-way toggle switch and two mini-toggle coil split switches that individually split the humbuckers into true single coils for a total of eight pickup configurations. Players can enjoy two full octaves thanks to the 24-fret, 25” scale length rosewood fretboard and wide thin maple neck, and the PRS patented, molded tremolo gives players added flexibility and control over their playing. With sonic range and rock-solid reliability, the PRS SE Standard 24-08 will keep you playing without compromise.
Explore new guitar voicings and open tunings with the new Kaepo™, Gruv Gear's creative tuning guitar capo! Removable fretting pads can be set to any combination for nearly unlimited possibilities. Move the Kaepo quickly up and down the fretboard like a regular capo, without any tedious clamping or setup. Adjust the 7 individual fretting pads without any tools. Kaepo is also compatible with Gruv Gear's new Twistune™ rechargeable color tuner, for quick and convenient tuning on-the-fly. Works with most 6- and 7-string acoustic and electric guitars.
The Gruv Gear Kaepo is available on its own or bundled with the new Twistune tuner. Combine two or more Kaepos to open up even more tuning creativity!
The FlyBy Ultra comes packed with sleek upgrades while keeping the break-away laptop bag design of the original FlyBy. New features include an ultra-tough 1680D Ballistic Nylon exterior, reflective trim for visibility, waterproof zipper tape and new, larger compartments. The FlyBy Ultra also brings ergonomics to the next level with a luggage pass-through, and upgraded straps.
This is the tour pack that DJs and digital creators around the world carry and swear by. Get ready for the ultimate creator experience.
JBL 3 Series MKII powered studio monitors make JBL performance available to every studio. The JBL Image Control Waveguide and refined transducers offer stunning detail, precise imaging, a wide sweet-spot and dynamic range that enhances the capabilities of any workspace. Featuring patented technologies derived from the JBL 7 Series and M2 Master Reference Monitors and, sporting a sleek, modern design, JBL 3 Series delivers outstanding performance and an enjoyable mix experience at an accessible price. Special sale pricing begins Thanksgiving day with the 305PMKII at $109 EA, 306PMKII at $149 EA, 308PMKII at $199 EA, and the LSR310S subwoofer at $299.
Oh no! Stripped a tiny screw on your favorite guitar? Or even worse, scratched your guitar when the wrong screwdriver slipped? Never have that awful feeling again. StewMac has put together the ULTIMATE screwdriver set for every guitar owner. They tracked down all of those tiny specialty and hard to find bits—and we added a few of their favorite problem solvers. The StewMac Guitar Tech Screwdriver Set replaces a whole drawer full of bulky tools with exactly what you need. The set includes 36 essential bits for guitars, basses, and more, plus an easy-grip handle and extender. The included compact hard case is spill-proof and easily fits in your toolbox or guitar case (it’s a must-have for gigs). You won't find this at any hardware store—it’s only at StewMac.
Xvive’s U2, U3 and U4 wireless systems make going wireless easy, reliable and affordable, all with high-fidelity 24-bit/48kHz sound! They all recharge with any 5V USB power source, broadcast over a range of up to 90 feet, and have an imperceptible 5 ms of latency.
U2 Guitar Wireless System is the go-to plug-and-play solution for guitarists and bassists, giving you five hours of trouble-free wireless freedom on a single charge.
The U3 Microphone Wireless System turns any dynamic microphone into a wireless mic, in seconds. It can also be used to replace an XLR cable in other applications—for example between a mixer and a powered speaker cabinet!
The U4 In-Ear Monitor Wireless System gives you a beltpack receiver for your in-ears or earphones and a transmitter to connect to the mixer; up to six musicians can use the system at a time, even with separate monitor mixes.
For more info on these and other Xvive products, visit www.xvive.com and Play Free!
Engineered for great tone and long life, our proprietary, featherweight coating keeps strings sounding and feeling new for longer. Tone-killing elements like corrosion, dirt, oil, and sweat are no match for Elixir® Strings.
Our Phosphor Bronze with NANOWEB® Coating is rich and full-bodied with sparkling high-end clarity and a smooth feel.
See a line up of all of our acoustic guitar strings here - https://www.elixirstrings.com/guitar-strings#acoustic
Revolutionary Design and Features:
Optimize your pedalboard layout with durable, snug fitting, strong and lightweight risers. Tailor your pedalboard to fit your stompbox collection and your style of playing!
Space Saving, Easy Wire Routing:
Our riser footprint is virtually the same as the pedal for which it was designed. Whether it's Boss, Wampler, Strymon, MXR, Ibanez, Electro Harmonix, Walrus, Earthquaker Devices, TC Electronic, JHS or any of the popular pedals, our risers take up no more space than the pedal itself. An added benefit of the Elephant Foot design is the ease with which you can route signal and power cables. There's plenty of space under each riser and multiple attachment points for tie-wraps.
Unique Features of Elephant Foot Risers
• Strong yet lightweight
• Cables route easily underneath
• Anchor point for tie wraps
• Hidden screw holes for a super-strong connection to either wood or metal pedalboards
• Works with hook & loop, cloth cable ties or tie wraps
• Unique Pedal "Frames" for your first row of pedals
• Risers can be customized
• 3D printed from eco-friendly PLA
Available in seven standard colors and custom colors available on request.
Benefits of Elephant Foot Risers
• No more accidental pedal stomps
• No annoying pedal wobble when stomping
• No more sloppy pedalboards
• Optimized Pedalboard layouts
• Easy, neat cable routing
• Custom riser sizes available in multiple colors
• Preserve resale value of pedals
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
XPND is the pedalboard that adapts to you. With XPND's patented telescoping technology, you can easily adjust the length of the board to add, subtract, and rearrange pedals how you want, when you want.
The original Cloudlifter® Mic Activator® adds tons of ultra-clean gain to dynamic and ribbon microphones and are the perfect stocking-friendly gift for any musician (or yourself)! Made in the USA. Get Lifted. Get Gifted!
The Horus-WB-FX is the latest model to be developed within the popular Caparison Horus range.
This newly designed fixed bridge version features a carefully considered body construction featuring a Walnut top and an Australian Blackwood back. This unique fusion produces a full rounded tone with a sweet emphasis on the upper mids ensuring clarity, focus and a distinct separation of notes, even with the most extreme gain-saturated down tunings.
When combined with an upgraded Caparison designed, sustain rich, high mass bridge (which effortlessly copes with a myriad of acute tunings and string gauges) Jescar jumbo stainless steel Frets and a specifically designed set of Caparison pickups, the Horus-WB-FX is more than capable of producing arena filling rock tones or creating more subdued, distinctively rich and bell like cleans.
The Horus-WB-FX plays like an absolute dream and features all of the beautiful aesthetic qualities that you have come to expect from Caparison Guitars. The striking body design is complimented by three stunning new finishes and also comes with a choice of either an Ebony or Maple fret board..
The Woman Tone is Aclam’s tribute to Eric Clapton’s amazing sound during his Cream era. The sound that turned him into a god. An accurate approach to the unique tone he attained with a simple yet effective combination of a P.A.F equipped Gibson and 100W Marshall stacks all the way up.
- Eric Clapton's Cream Sound in a box:
Aclam has distilled and bottled in a stompbox the key elements that shaped Eric’s rig. Reproduce his unique rhythmic and solo tones, fine-tuned using both live and studio recordings of Cream.
- Artwork by The Fool's Guitar artist: Marijke koger:
Responsible for the psychedelic decoration of Clapton’s Gibson SG nicknamed “The Fool”, Marijke has created a unique artistic interpretation of the Woman Tone that looks stunning!
- Custom humbucker pickup simulation circuit & tone control:
A pickup simulation circuit emulating the tonal characteristics of a P.A.F style pickup has been incorporated to reproduce the “Woman Tone”. With its buffered input, the guitar signal won’t be affected. Use compressors, fuzzes or whatever effect you want in front of the Woman Tone, and it will retain its tonal characteristics.
- Touch sensitive plexi-inspired overdrive using discrete components:
Inspired by Clapton’s 100W full stacks it results in a powerful overdrive with a great British character! Designed having blues-rock in mind, it will perfectly suit any guitar player seeking a vintage tone!
A hot new gear company from Canada, Templo Devices jumped on the scene with their flagship lithium-battery powered amp aimed at electric guitarists.
Focused on creating problem-solving products with tonal excellence, they've since released several small-batch pedals with wide appeal. Including SPLYCE, a versatile mini-mixer for using a microphone with a guitar rig, the atmospheric TRIPLO modulation pedal and the REEL DEAL tape preamp, as well as their exciting upcoming release, the Pocket Studio Compressor. There is always something exciting coming from this northern innovator.
With plenty of great deals for the holiday season, they have a little something for everyone.
Meet the Taylor GS Mini, one of the world's most popular acoustic guitars: a smaller body and a compact feel with a big, bold tone that punches far above its size. Based on a scaled-down version of our Grand Symphony body shape, GS Mini guitars boast solid tops and a variety of tonewood options serving up different flavors of vibrant acoustic tone. The GS Mini family is also home to the GS Mini Bass, a super-compact four-string acoustic bass with a slinky feel and a punchy response. Whether you're looking for a campfire guitar, a songwriting tool or just a great-sounding acoustic that's up for anything, the GS Mini has you covered.
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
The TASCAM DR-05X stereo handheld recorder is a great-sounding portable recording solution with helpful workflow options. Use the TASCAM DR-05X's built-in omnidirectional condenser microphones to capture vibrant stereo recordings anywhere, anytime. Use Auto Recording mode to automatically engage recording when audio signals reach a certain level. Use the Overwrite function to make easy punch-in audio replacements. Or use the TASCAM DR-05X as a 2-input/2-output USB audio interface with your Mac or PC. Whatever your portable 2-channel recording needs are, the TASCAM DR-05X has you covered. It's a fantastic and easy way to record your ideas, rehearsals, or gigs. Simply remove the SD card and pop it into your computer and send your song ideas to bandmates or collaborators. It's small enough to take with you everywhere and fits easily in a guitar case or small bag.
The cardioid MD 421 has been one of Sennheiser’s most popular dynamic microphones for decades. The large-diaphragm, dynamic capsule handles high sound pressure levels, making it a natural for recording guitars and drums. The MD 421's full-bodied cardioid pattern and five-position bass control make it an excellent choice for most instruments, as well as group vocals or radio broadcast announcers. One listen and you'll know why it’s a classic.
Every once in a while, a product comes out that makes you go “Wait… WHAT?!?!”. Well, those words are music to our ears! This game-changing pedalboard allows you to power all your pedals, including pedals that need isolation and different voltages, with a single power source. Yep, either our rechargeable battery or AC adapter fires up all your pedals without additional power bricks. No more Velcro carpet to rip pedals off! You can literally change pedals on the fly. But the flexibility of EARTHBOARD doesn’t end there – Our Lifeline Tether carries power off the board to connect a WAH, or daisy-chain multiple EARTHBOARDs together. EARTHBOARD comes in 2 sizes: double row (holds 12 standard size pedals) and single row (holds 6 standard size pedals). They are available as Complete Pedalboard Systems (includes all necessary components to play) or as a Build-a-Board and "ala cart" accessories!
See video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3iwDgLnN6w&t=8s
The Nobels ODR-1(bc) has bass cut, 9-18 volt input, and glow-in-the-dark knobs. The ODR-1 is rated the best overdrive by Nashville studio guitarists and creates a natural, tube-amp style overdrive that is versatile, amp-like, and affordable. The ODR-1 has been on the market for over 30 years and remains the number one choice. Creates crunchy rock and blues sounds or extra boost for soloing without smothering the natural character of your guitar's tone. The Spectrum controls optimizes tones from single coil chime to powerful humbucker rock. When adjusting the Spectrum control up or down the circuit ensures you have plenty of clarity and full dynamic range.
Bass cut switch
Solid metal chassis
Nobel's remote control jack switching system
German Engineering. Made in China.
Click here for Audio Clips
Modeled after Orangewood’s full-size Oliver guitar, the Oliver Jr. is a scaled-down version of Orangewood’s best-selling grand concert model. But don’t let the small body fool you. Sporting a beautiful, woodsy solid mahogany top, this junior guitar sings a bold and bright tone that’s easy to love. Whether you’re looking for your new travel companion or simply want a compact guitar to live near your couch, you can’t go wrong with this perfect-sized guitar.
Prefer a full-size model? This holiday season, every Orangewood guitar includes a professional set up and free shipping right to your door with a premium gig bag included. Plus, get extended holiday returns until January 31st. That’s over 60 days of commitment-free playing, so you can gift a guitar that they’re sure to love.
Jump straight in and explore 100 presets, the CODE50 has all you need to start performing and recording with. 50W of power that’s portable enough for you to practice at home or in the garage. Sync with your phone or online so it’s always with you for those creative moments. This fully digital amp is loaded with 14 MST preamps, 4 MST power amps and 8 MST speaker cabinets for you to create sounds that suit you. Using the Gateway App you can connect via Bluetooth to control CODE and stream music from your iOS or Android device. MyMarshall has a global library of user presets that you can upload to and download.
Catalyst® 100 is a 100-watt, dual-channel 1x12 combo amplifier that performs like a traditional guitar amp—while providing the increased versatility of a modern amp. Catalyst 100 offers six Original Amp Designs—ranging from pristine clean to modern high-gain—crafted using our renowned HX® sound design techniques to ensure exceptional tone and feel. Ideal for stage or studio.
• 100-watt, dual-channel 1x12 combo amp (with optional LFS2 footswitch)
• Catalyst 100 operates like a traditional amp—but provides increased versatility
• 6 Original Amp Designs—pristine clean to modern high-gain
• Dedicated Boost and Reverb sections (6 reverb types), 18 Effects (3 types)
• Power attenuator (half power, 0.5 watts, Mute) for reduced volume
• XLR line output for pro connection to P.A. or recording devices
• Effects loop and Power Amp input for integrating external devices
• MIDI In via DIN connector
Every Tool You Need in One Acoustic Pedal
We created the Venue DI so you can travel light, set up fast, and sound incredible anywhere you plug in. The Venue DI gives you complete control by combining a full-isolation DI output, 5-band EQ with adjustable low & hi-mid bands, variable clean boost, and chromatic tuner all in one acoustic pedal. With its all-discrete signal path, hi-graded semiconductors, and exclusive use of audiophile grade film capacitors, the Venue DI is on par with the world’s elite preamps and provides a studio quality sound for the stage.
The LP-6 V2 is Kali's best-selling studio monitor, and it's made its mark in studios across the globe ranging from humble home setups to state-of-the-art recording facilities.
Kali's innovative 3-D imaging waveguides create a crystal-clear stereo image, and also help the speakers to perform their best in challenging acoustic spaces. Kali-programmed boundary EQs take this a step further, tailoring the sound of the speaker for its placement on stands, on a desk, or close to walls.
With accuracy and translation at the forefront, the LP-6 delivers transparent, full sound that gives you a complete picture of your mix. Whatever you mix on the LP-6, you can be sure that it will translate nicely to other speakers, earbuds and headphones, car systems, or whatever else your listeners are using for playback.
The H90 Harmonizer® is Eventide's next-generation multi-effects pedal. Whether you want high-quality bread and butter effects or experimental sounds unheard, the H90 has everything you need to inspire your creativity with an intuitive UI designed with players in mind. Discover why top artists and producers have chosen Eventide through the years with 62 effect algorithms and hundreds of Program combinations curated for a variety of instruments and genres. With its comprehensive I/O and flexible routing options, the H90 is designed to be the heart of your rig.
Wilkinson's R series range of pickups are the result of Trev Wilkinson's years of creating and listening to thousands of pickups. Time spent with legendary and iconic individuals such as Seth Lover and Leo Fender, with whom Trev questioned about all aspects of sound, construction materials and production methods. All this combined knowledge has been the template for the R Series range of pickups, a pickup range Trev is proud to place his signature on, and say " These are the finest pickups Wilkinson has produced in the history of the company".
Featuring Single Coil's for both S and T style guitars, P90 and Humbucker models, the R Series has era specific models to capture the tone and vibe of the time and the players that influenced generations of players and Hybrid designs to influence future players.
For a limited time only, get two FREE expansion packs with the purchase of a five-piece guitar rack. Showcase your collection while safely and securely storing seven to ten guitars. The Hercules GS525BP-HA205 is covered with Specially Formulated Foam rubber at all contact points and features a one-piece design that sets up and tears down easily. The guitar yoke is designed for acoustic, electric, and bass guitars with four pick slots on each yoke. This special pack comes with a total of seven guitar yokes leaving room to expand to ten. Available while supplies last.
Ultimate DSP 2 channel noise reduction pedal. Patented technology that will remove the 50Hz or 60Hz and all associated hum harmonic components with total transparency. Combined with the patented Decimator G technology and dynamic sliding low pass filter, the Hum Extractor is the pinnacle of noise reduction technology. The Hum Extractor technology is dynamic in operation which compares the level of the audio signal to the hum harmonic components. Dynamically removes hum components when they become dominant. Made in the USA.
Click here for video
With the multi-touch display integrated with HILAVA OS, the LAVA ME 3 provides easy access to play and customize tons of built-in effects and loops.
Comprising eleven of Brian Wampler’s favorite delays, the Wampler Metaverse is a full-featured, small-footprint multi delay stomp box that is fully programmable, preset capable, has stereo inputs and outputs, allows full MIDI control, and has an expression input that you can assign to ANY of the parameters. The Metaverse also comes with a software version of the pedal via a set of 11 AU and VST3 plugins compatible with most popular DAWs - FREE to all customers that register their Metaverse online.
• Studio quality conversion 48 kHz Sampling rate with 24-bit audio
• Full 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
• 11 Studio-quality vintage and modern delay effects
• Simple user interface
• All parameters controllable via an outboard expression pedal
• 8 onboard preset locations to save your favorite patches, 128 total via MIDI
• Full MIDI control with CC and PC commands
• Stereo or Mono I/O
Gator's Transit Series acoustic gig bags provide rugged case-like protection without sacrificing the lightweight portability of a bag. The red soft-lined interior and thick foam padding safeguard your guitar from drops and bumps, just like a regular case. A weather-resistant blended fabric exterior protects against the elements and features backpack straps, each with a concealable zipper pocket to switch between backpacking and briefcase carry modes. So for the gear you love the most, Guard it with Gator.
Experience exceptional clarity and articulation in a Filter’Tron format with Lindy’s unique Fralin’Tron design. Featuring a focused single-coil vibe with a rich, warm midrange and crisp attack, you’ll wonder where this pickup has been all your life. When Lindy started designing the Fralin’Tron, he did so with a particular goal: to get as much clarity and articulation as possible out of this design.We’re thrilled with the result! Our Fralin’Tron features a scooped midrange and defined bass and highs. In addition, you can expect more nuance out of the wound strings, unlike the original design. Furthermore, the treble strings have a round, warm quality, making our Fralin’Tron perfect for all styles of music – from clean to dirty. Lastly, this pickup features a dynamic and punchy attack that gives you back what you put into it.
The DL-225 is handcrafted exclusively from all mahogany, producing a warm and brilliant sound. The soundboard of the DL-225 features a vintage bracing pattern resulting in outstanding projection and tone with brilliant highs, strong midrange and subtle but full bass. The DL-225 has an extremely bright and dynamic sound. This guitar has the sound of a large body guitar. In a fingerpicking demonstration comparison we did with a name brand dreadnought the DL-225 was +3 dB louder.
Its smaller size and depth make the DL-225 a very comfortable guitar to play.
Click here for video and audio examples
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
If you are looking for a single pedal solution with multiple degrees of gain from light overdrive to full out saturated fuzz tones, then you’ll surely love the Ratsbane. The Ratsbane is based on a true benchmark sound amongst guitarists that has been heard on thousands of famous recordings.
In typical Wampler fashion, Brian improved the circuit’s flexibility by adding two new switches. The Gain switch offers three distinct choices. In the middle gives you the “stock” gain for this pedal. The left position offers a firm, yet smooth boost in gain, whereas the right delivers an insane level of creamy distortion. The Voice switch subtly alters the compression and clipping of this pedal. It tightens the distortion to be more manageable with greater levels of gain, while rolling back some of the fuzz qualities, to deliver a modern, high gain distortion.
Click here for video clips
Reverb and distortion collide and shapeshift via joystick control in Walrus’s latest weirding machine.
The Melee was designed to unapologetically use a joystick to meld reverb and distortion into one massive blaze of sound. With the flip of the order switch, run the distortion into the reverb or reverb into distortion; signal chain is your call now. For the explorer, the Melee can run one of three different reverb programs Ambient, Octave, and Reverse.
In a "less is more" approach, Walrus has intentionally decided on controls that are fun to use and will inspire a wealth of creative output. Use the joystick to control the amount of distortion by moving it up and down. Moving the joystick left and right will adjust your reverb mix. The tone and decay toggles have low, medium, and high settings. Modulation can be added to the wet signal by holding down the bypass switch and moving the decay toggle. The left position is no modulation, the middle is a slight modulation, and the right is a high modulation. Learn more here.
PRS himself talks about learning from Ted McCarty, building guitars for the stars, elbowing the competition, his distinctive headstock design, and more.
Paul Reed Smith could be gloating. At a time when other majors have made layoffs or are coming down from the lockdown-era sales buzz, the company the luthier founded literally with his own hands in 1985 has become a $100-million business. PRS Guitars’ $849 SE Silver Sky—a 6-stringed Clydesdale—was this year’s top seller on Reverb. Recently, the Stevensville, Maryland-based operation introduced its debut pedals, plus a limited-run Robben Ford signature axe that’s a Rolls-Royce with strings. And a raft of new instruments are already in the wings for 2023.
Instead, at an early November party Smith threw at Nashville’s Soundcheck rehearsal complex during CMA week, he reflected humility. Smith addressed the roomful of players, emotionally recalling the 2015 CMA Awards, where the count of PRS instruments onstage was literally neck-and-neck with the population of Fenders and Gibsons for the first time. That ceremony was an ignition point for greater success as well as an affirmation for the guitars that bear his name.
“We don’t want to be a brand,” he told the crowd. “We want to be guitar makers. Country guitarists really helped take us to another level. I am truly grateful.”
“We didn’t have heaters and we were wearing winter coats inside, because if you opened the door for a delivery, it got to be 30 degrees in there.”
Besides his passion for pursing all aspects of what goes into creating guitars, that humility—sometimes inflicted upon him—has played a role in his success. Smith found his calling while at St. Mary’s College, at the opposite end of the state from his native Bowie, Maryland. Lacking a guitar and the cash to buy one, he persuaded a music teacher to let him build a guitar for credit. He got an A, of course. He also dropped out to play and repair guitars, opening a shop in a reputedly haunted garret in Annapolis.
“As a repairman working on every conceivable type of guitar, I became convinced that vintage instruments were desirable not because they had improved with age, but because they had been built differently from current models,” Smith relates. “The reason some of the electrics from the ’50s and early ’60s felt and sounded so good was that a great attention to detail went into the manufacturing process, and that the manufacturers had a real sense for the subtle points.”
Racked and ready: Four decks of PRS guitar necks wait for their final destinations at the company’s Stevensville, Maryland, guitar-building location.
Pondering how to reintroduce these characteristics in the instruments he wanted to build, Smith hit upon the idea of contacting Ted McCarty, who was president of Gibson from 1950 to 1966—the golden era of electric guitar making. “I would sit at the shop, and I was afraid to call him,” Smith says. “We didn’t have heaters and we were wearing winter coats inside, because if you opened the door for a delivery, it got to be 30 degrees in there. So, Clay Evans [a friend and, later, early PRS executive] and I are wearing our coats, and Clay’s saying ‘Call him! Just call him!’ And I’m like, ‘I can’t....’ But I called him and explained who I was and what I did, and he asked, ‘Would you be willing to come visit?’ So, we picked a date, and I went.
“The first time I went, he got very, very upset at the end of the interview. It was about three hours. And I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He goes, ‘Nobody’s asked me these questions in 30 years. Nobody’s asked me how to glue the fingerboard on, what glue we used to glue the frets in…. All they want to know is how to get rich quick. ‘Where can I find a Les Paul? Where can I find a Flying V? Where can I find an Explorer?’ Nobody’s asked me these guitar-making questions, and this is how I made my living.’
“I thought it was beautiful,” Smith continues. “I just kept coming back and coming back. I was very grateful for his attention, and it ended up being a grandfather relationship. I sang to him on his deathbed, with a guitar.” And, of course, Smith also paid tribute to his historic mentor with PRS’ vintage-informed McCarty series.
Over the decades, Smith and his team have made guitars for a coterie of world-class players that includes John McLaughlin (including a 6- and 12-string doubleneck), David Grissom, Nancy Wilson, Mark Tremonti, Jimmy Herring, Mark Lettieri, and, of course, Carlos Santana.
“What Robben Ford wanted and what David Grissom wants is that every one of those models we ship is a his-caliber instrument. He doesn’t want just the couple we tweak for him and then put his name on a bunch of others.”
“The first guitar I made for Carlos Santana changed my life,” Smith offers. “At first, he didn’t see me as a guitar maker. He made me earn his respect, which I honor. He said the first instruments I gave him were ‘accidents of God.’ He thought it was like somebody wrote a hit song, but it was almost an accident—and he didn’t see me as a repetitive hit writer. He literally said, ‘Okay, it’s an act of God, can you make me another one?’ Then, after the fifth instrument, which was a doubleneck, he called me up and said, ‘Okay, you’re a guitar maker.’ That was tremendous. Every Christmas he would call and thank me about the sound coming out of his guitar. He thought of it as a big, male saxophone tone, and he adored it.”
So, what does a world-class musician demand in a guitar? “If you look at guitars in general as a line, and about four-fifths of the way along that line you draw a vertical line through it, what’s beyond that graduates from being a guitar to a musical instrument,” Smith says. “They want musical instruments. What Robben Ford wanted and what David Grissom wants is that every one of those models we ship is a his-caliber instrument.
Initial sanding happens after the overall body shape, electronics cavities, and other cuts are made.
He doesn’t want just the couple we tweak for him and then put his name on a bunch of others. Carlos Santana wants a guitar that he can take out of the factory, put in the limo, go to the gig, pull it out, and play it. And by the way, I’ve watched him do that. It’s a little scary to have him play to 15,000 people with a guitar that’s only been played about a minute-and-a-quarter its entire life. David Grissom does not take a guitar to clinics. He takes ones off the wall at the store to hold my hands to the fire. Carlos calls me constantly and has requests to make ’em better. David wants them better. He just got one that has a hollow, single f-hole in it, and he’s losing his noodles over it.”
It’s been years since Smith has built a guitar himself. “I have a bench where I repair audio gear, and I’m my wife’s furniture repair person, but that’s it,” he says. Nonetheless, he is a regular presence on the PRS factory floor, checking the progress on models in development, eyeballing the wood inventory, checking out pickups, offering suggestions, and evaluating as he formulates plans for the company’s future. “It’s almost a soothsayer job,” he offers. “It’s like having a crystal ball, but you gotta do it from experience, with your ear to the tracks.”
A high-quality instrument starts with good tonewood, and the factory keeps an abundant inventory for both necks and bodies.
Part of that is trying to rout the competition, which he obviously enjoys. At the Nashville party, Smith recounted a story about paying top dollar for a Klon Centaur, and then putting it through its paces. Pleasing at it was, he felt there were shortfalls in tone and control, so he decided to try to beat it. The result is PRS’ Horsemeat Transparent Overdrive (get it?), but his company’s engineers took it a step further, also designing the Mary Cries Optical Compressor and the Wind Through the Trees Analog Flanger, which all debuted in September. Nonetheless, Smith’s goal was not to expand into pedal making, but rather to lure players who’ve avoided PRS. “I’ve actually heard comments like, ‘I like these pedals, maybe I’ll look at their guitars again,’” he says.
Earlier last year, he took on the template, working-player’s Stratocaster with the release of the SE Silver Sky, a low-cost, high-performance version of PRS’ John Mayer signature model. When I mention the guitar, his immediate response is, “How about those pickups?” He then related that he worked with his suppliers in Indonesia, where the guitar is built, for two years on the remarkably wide-ranged pickups. “Initially, they weren’t right, and we didn’t have direct control over their creation, like we do with models we build here, but the pickups still had to lay in exactly the right place sonically. When John played ’em, he thought they were the best overseas-made single-coils he’d ever heard, and he signed off on them literally that second.”
“The first guitar I made for Carlos Santana changed my life,” Smith offers. “At first, he didn’t see me as a guitar maker. He made me earn his respect.”
Although much has changed over the decades at PRS, the company’s distinctive three-and-three headstocks have remained unchanged since the early ’80s—despite being a turn-off for some trad-minded players. Smith explains why: “The design was half practical and half reflective of the front curve of the guitar. It’s like a Dan Armstrong headstock, where the strings went straight to the tuning pegs. On a Fender, they went straight to the tuning pegs, but they were all on one side. That it goes straight to the tuning pegs is important.
“When I started putting tremolos on guitars, Carlos Santana ordered one and he goes, ‘It’s gonna stay in tune, right?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ I had no idea how I was going to do it. Turns out what makes a difference is how you cut the nut, having it as close to the tuning pegs as possible. Also, the strings need to be as straight as possible, and you have to reduce the headstock angle. It’s a combination of those three dimensions.”
PRS Guitars Factory Tour
Remembering the art and life of one of the world’s greatest and most innovative instrumentalists, who died on Tuesday, January 10, at age 78.
Legends are immortal, but not human beings. And so, Jeff Beck, an immortal of the electric guitar, died from bacterial meningitis on Tuesday in a hospital near his sprawling county estate, Riverhall, in Wadhurst, England, at age 78.
To call Beck a giant of the instrument nearly diminishes his monumental and singular accomplishments. He established his own supremely influential language of the guitar and spoke it fluently for more than six decades. Although he never sang on his recordings, in his hands the 6-string was vocal—fluid, melismatic, melodic, and most important, full of heart. Attending a Jeff Beck concert was to witness inspiration at its most wild and relentless. And to bask in a tone so large and purposeful that it could seemingly be heard around the planet.
Which it was. Beck was known and revered across the globe—an instrumentalist who made albums for the first two decades of his career, (starting with the Jeff Beck Group’s still stunning and innovative 1968 debut, Truth) that routinely made the top 20. Those include his groundbreaking duo of mid-’70s recordings, Blow by Blow and Wired, that transformed fusion into part of the soundtrack of popular culture. But Beck was not a jazz or rock guitarist. He was an omnivore, who digested every style—country, rockabilly, swing, Tin Pan Alley, punk, skronk—to both put his seal on them and twist them to his own ends, turning the Beatles’ “She’s a Woman” into a reggae playground and transforming an idea taken from a theme by composer Maurice Ravel and turning it into the epic, soaring, and harmonically supercharged “Beck’s Bolero.”
“Whenever I pick up a guitar, it will always be heavily blues influenced, but I try to push it further, because you have to expand your scales and melodic thinking.” —Jeff Beck
When I asked Beck about his approach, during the ’80s, he replied, “Whenever I pick up a guitar, it will always be heavily blues influenced, but I try to push it further, because you have to expand your scales and melodic thinking. But I’ll play a blues solo on a non-blues song, bending the notes into whatever the song takes. That’s my whole thing: trying to explore the blues to the maximum, really. It’s in the blood.”
Note that Beck said, “whatever a song takes,” not whatever it needs. The courage and will of his playing were consistent, impulsive, and limitless. Listen to “Morning Dew” from Truth. His guitar toys with themes, playing fragments of melodies, dropping patches of wah wah, howling, rather than weaving a defined rhythm or tune through the song. Then hear “Pull It,” from 2016’s Loud Hailer, an album cut with vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg of the English punk outfit Bones UK. Made nearly 50 years after Truth, that song is also telegraphy as music—dots, dashes, fuzzy blots of tone. And yet both performances not only work—they’re riveting.
Beck considered blues to be the core of his music but saw its opportunities for expansion as limitless.
Photo by Ross Halfin
Beck was born in Wallington, Surrey, England, on June 24, 1944. Les Paul was his first guitar hero, followed by Cliff Gallup, B.B. King, and Steve Cropper. He became friends with Jimmy Page when they were both teenagers, and, while attending Wimbledon College of Art, he fell in with David “Screaming Lord” Sutch, with whom he first recorded in 1962. But Beck really began his 60-years-plus of breaking rules in 1965, when he replaced Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds. There, he pushed the group’s blues envelope with his inflammatory guitar on “Shape of Things” and the demented “Over Under Sideways Down,” where his hammer-ons, slides, and bends created the number’s sitar-influenced riff. Although Beck was unhappy in the Yardbirds, his 18-month membership earned him his first induction into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, followed by a second induction for his work as a leader and solo artist in 2009.
The inevitable formation of his own band, the Jeff Beck Group, featuring Rod Stewart and future Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, occurred in 1967, and with the next year’s Truth, he presaged Led Zeppelin’s recasting of blues as psychedelic manifesto. Beck’s playing on that album remains practically avant-garde at its least restrained, yet still directly speaks a dialect of the blues. But with the notable addition of pianist Nicky Hopkins, the Group tilted further into rock with its next release, 1969’s Beck-Ola. Two more albums, Rough and Ready and Jeff Beck Group, followed, with the latter including “Going Down.” Beck’s version of the Don Nix tune that Freddie King had made famous became an instant FM radio staple.
“I saw Beck use the whammy bar alone to play a slow, lovely feedback melody through his array of amps, and then point the guitar’s headstock straight down into the stage and push himself into the air by placing his hands on the rounded back end of the body. When he touched down, he tossed the guitar—still feeding back—into his arms, hit two notes that revealed where the tuning had drifted, and flawlessly picked up the melody he’d been playing before his acrobatic stunt.”
That band was followed by the short-lived Beck, Bogert & Appice, who released an album of the same name in 1973. The group was a trio, with vocalist/bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice, from the Vanilla Fudge and Cactus. All along Beck had continued to maintain a studio career (which continued almost to the present) and had played on Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book the year before. Beck, Bogert & Appice’s rendition of Wonder’s “Superstition” was one of their album’s highlights, along with a beautiful slide-guitar-dappled reading of Curtis Mayfield’s “I’m So Proud.”
After this soul-music-influenced outing, Beck experienced a kind of rebirth. He was already a Gibson Les Paul player, but while recording in 1972 in Memphis he found a 1954 goldtop that was refinished in oxblood by its previous owner. That guitar is depicted in Beck’s hands on the cover of 1975’s all-instrumental Blow by Blow, which sold a million copies in the U.S. and reached number four on Billboard’s Hot 100 album chart. The epochal Blow by Blow alone is enough to ensure that Beck’s legendary status will endure. It’s full of monumental performances, including his emotional tribute to Roy Buchanan, “’Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers,” perhaps the greatest blues-inspired instrumental ever recorded.
Longtime friends Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton share the stage at the 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Photo by Chris Kies
And the die was cast. Although he went on to make albums and cut singles with exceptional vocalists—perhaps most notably a soulful 1985 version of the Mayfield gospel song “People Get Ready,” with Rod Stewart, that’s become a classic—from that point on Beck dedicated himself primarily to instrumental music.
The next year’s follow-up, Wired, built upon Blow by Blow’s success with performances of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and Jan Hammer’s “Blue Wind” that also set radio afire. More important, though, was the arrival of the Fender Stratocaster on its cover. For the rest of his life, Beck and Stratocasters were mostly inseparable onstage and in the studio. And by using banks of amps and unsparing volume, he crafted a unique sound on the single-coil instrument, huge and compelling, with a horn-like fluidity and endless, sustained tone.
His technique on the Strat’s vibrato arm was extraordinary. It was as if it was grafted to his hand, or, at least, seemingly never left it. His subtle—and often radical—bending and pulling of notes with the bar made his playing even more voice-like, able to carefully craft and negotiate micro- or macro-tonal changes effortlessly. His intimacy with the Strat made for some truly uncanny performances.
In a ’90s concert at the Great Woods Amphitheater in Mansfield, Massachusetts, I saw Beck use the whammy bar alone to play a slow, lovely feedback melody through his array of amps, and then point the guitar’s headstock straight down into the stage and push himself into the air by placing his hands on the rounded back end of the body. When he touched down, he tossed the guitar—still feeding back—into his arms, hit two notes that revealed where the tuning had drifted, and flawlessly picked up the melody he’d been playing before his acrobatic stunt.
Beck’s romance with the Stratocaster caught fire during the recording of 1976’s Wired album.
Photo by Ken Settle
Beck continued to make excellent studio albums—most notably There and Back, Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop, Jeff, Emotion & Commotion, and Loud Hailer. He also racked up high-level session credits, recording with Roger Waters, Jon Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, and Tina Turner. And he accumulated eight Grammy Awards—seven for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. His most recent album was 18, a 2022 collaboration with Johnny Depp. Beck’s final public performance was touring behind that release, on November 12, in Reno, Nevada.
After Beck’s family announced his death on January 11, fellow guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson shared his thoughts on social media: “Hearing about Jeff Beck is a shock. He was one of the most original guitarists I ever heard. He never conformed to status quo guitar or conventional playing, always reaching for a new dimension, which he achieved multiple times. He was the most expressive lyrical storytelling guitarist there ever was and that’s why non-musicians loved him. He garnered more affection from audiences than other guitar heroes because he had such a musical poetry to his playing.
“I believe that he and Jimi Hendrix were the most inventive and original rock guitarists there ever was. I had the gift of being able to visit with Jeff a few times and that is a treasured memory in my life. The guitar world will go on, but it won’t be the same without the most inventive 6-string visionary we have been graced with on this planet. Joyous wishes to you, Jeff, as you soar on to your next magnificent adventure. Thank you for teaching me and inspiring me to want to play guitar.”