Seymour Duncan announces the Alex Skolnick Signature Humbuckers, Warren DeMartini RTM, Exciter and Little '78 pickups.
Alex Skolnick Signature Humbuckers
Emerging in the late '80s as the teenage prodigy of thrash metal legends Testament, Alex Skolnick immediately established himself as one of the genre’s premier guitarists. In 2002, after earning a degree from New School University, he crossed over into jazz with the Alex Skolnick Trio and numerous other instrumental collaborations.
Designed with Alex for his signature guitar, these humbuckers have been a popular Custom Shop made-to-order set. Both pickups complement the expressive melodies and aggressive palm muting that define his genre-spanning tone. The bridge pickup is wound hot and designed to emphasize midrange frequencies. The neck humbucker is lower output and vintage voiced to deliver an articulate counterbalance to the boldness of the bridge pickup.
Warren DeMartini RTM
The driving force behind Ratt’s metal anthems like “Round and Round” and “Lay It Down”, Warren DeMartini quickly solidified his status as a best-in-class lead guitarist and songwriter. Recognized for his inventive and technically gifted guitar work, his multi-platinum songs set the bar high for aspiring players as the band churned out hit after hit and dominated radio and TV in the 1980s.
The Warren DeMartini RTM ("Rattus Tonius Maximus") is a high-output bridge humbucker with an Alnico 2 magnet. It was designed to produce aggressive and balanced tones that complement the complex chord voicings and precision solos Warren is known for.
The Exciter bridge humbucker, based on the highly sought-after tone from the early 80s, is designed to harken back to the era's signature sound. Loaded with a high-output Ceramic magnet, The Exciter is voiced to deliver powerful dimensions, bold harmonics, and firepower that define the glam rock's heyday. Roll back the volume a bit and the tone is transparent enough for classic slightly gritty tones.
Sometime in '78, Eddie Van Halen gave Seymour Duncan a P.A.F. to experiment with, along with instructions to rewind it with the intent to enhance the reproduction of artificial harmonics and “hot wind” a little for some extra “juice”.
The Little '78 Strat is the single-coil version of that experiment. The magnet and output combination lends itself to a warm crunch with biting leads and overtone-laden tapped runs. While this was not the final destination for Eddie, it offers players the opportunity to revisit a waypoint in the early days of his legendary pursuit of the ultimate tone.
If you’re a player who demands a high-performance tone the Little '78 Strat just may be your ticket.
For more information, please visit seymourduncan.com.
The Dao of Acoustic Jerry Garcia
The Grateful Dead leader’s guitar playing traveled a long and complex road that begins in the dusty fields of American music. Here’s your guide, from the Black Mountain Boys to Workingman’s Dead to Dawg.
Twenty-eight years after his death, Jerry Garcia may be more famous than ever. There are reputed to be over 5,000 Grateful Dead cover bands in the U.S. alone. Guitarists in towns small and large mine his electric guitar solos for existential wisdom, and his bright, chiming tone and laid-back lyricism continues to enthrall successive generations. What is less talked about is his acoustic guitar playing, which is, after all, where it all began.
One cannot fully understand the man without knowing how powerful and enduring the acoustic guitar remained in his life. Picture the West Coast in 1962; this is before everything went electric. What’s in the air is the Folk Revival. A generation of young urban kids had discovered American folk music, old-time, bluegrass, ragtime, and Delta blues, whether it was Woody Guthrie, Clarence Ashley, Bill Monroe, or Reverend Gary Davis. Plenty of future rock ’n’ rollers, including Jorma Kaukonen, John Sebastian, and Mike Bloomfield, absorbed this music, but none climbed as deep into its corners as Garcia.
Our recorded evidence goes as far back as 1961, when Jerry played banjo and guitar with the Black Mountain Boys, the Hart Valley Drifters, and other Bay Area outfits that included contemporaries like Eric Thompson on guitar, future Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter on bass, and multi-instrumentalist Sandy Rothman. What strikes the listener is how burning these early recordings are. Jerry, barely out of his teens, mostly on banjo, has gone straight into the hardcore stuff. This music, coming from the likes of the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, and the Osborne Brothers, is not for the faint of heart. It’s virtuosic, wild, and, in its purest form, downright scary. Death and violence run amok in many of their lyrics. As Jerry’s longtime ally, mandolinist David Grisman, put it, “Back then, all of it was pretty hardcore compared to the ‘pop grass’ of today.”
Jerry followed Bill Monroe around for close to a year and is reputed to have approached the father of bluegrass to audition for his band. He studied numerous lesser-known figures, too: Dock Boggs, flat-picker Tom Paley from the New Lost City Ramblers, Mississippi John Hurt. In the mid-’60s, he set aside the banjo to focus on guitar, because as he put it, “I’d worn the banjo out.”
“In the mid-’60s, he set aside the banjo to focus on guitar, because as he put it, ‘I’d worn the banjo out.’”
Garcia’s voracious appetite for American musical history drove him to dive into a subject and completely exhaust it, absorbing new influences like proteins. A set in those days might include bluegrass staples like “Rosa Lee McFall” and “John Hardy,” but also folk tunes that Peter, Paul and Mary or Joan Baez might cover: “All My Trials,” “Rake and Rambling Boy,” “Gilgarra Mountain.” There were also classics from the old-time repertoire, such as “Shady Grove” (a Doc Watson favorite) and “Man of Constant Sorrow,” along with Mississippi John Hurt’s “Louis Collins” or Lead Belly’s “Good Night Irene.”
The locus for this outpouring of West Coast roots-music activity was the South Bay, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park—community gathering spots where the culture turned from beatnik to hippie. The precursor of the Grateful Dead was the Palo Alto-based, all-acoustic Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. Jug bands had roots in early African American history, but at that time the main influence among the young, white players in the genre was the Jim Kweskin Jug Band.
Hot dawgs: Garcia and his acoustic-mandolin-playing cohort, David Grisman, clearly enjoyed hanging out together on the 1993 day in Mill Valley, California, when this shot was taken.
Photo by Susana Millman
When most musicians play traditional American tunes, especially bluegrass, they hew to a set of timeworn principles and licks from which they extrapolate. Jerry didn’t do that so much, though he knew plenty of those licks. He made the music his own. He accompanied himself as a singer on acoustic guitar as much as he did on electric, with a simple, strong picking hand. In solos, he ranged freely around the neck, not content to stay close to first position, like bluegrassers Jimmy Martin or Carter Stanley might. You never feel that he’s relying on much besides his ear. We hear the ever-present pull-offs, the chromatic approach tones, the hints at Tin Pan Alley harmony, and even the note-bending—all the stuff you find in his electric work.
“Calling himself ‘lazy,’ he suggested that playing acoustic could be a battle, and that this guitar generally made life easier.”
Consider “The Other One,” which often became a springboard for the Grateful Dead’s long electric jams. In more fiery renditions of this staple, Jerry plays long lines of eighth notes—a relentless stream that builds the energy much like a bluegrass solo, where the right hand never stops and rarely slows. In “Deal,” you hear the pre-war Tin Pan Alley sound, with echoes of early jazz. In “Cold Rain and Snow,” “Wharf Rat,” and “Loser,” you hear the modal drones of early country gospel, and the way Garcia solos evoke the primeval fiddle lines and moaning vocals of the nascent 20th century, back when death, murder, destitution, and lost love made up a lot of the lyrical subject matter. It’s a perfect mating. His flatpicking is at the heart of “Me and My Uncle,” “Cumberland Blues,” and “Brown-Eyed Women.” You hear some of early Merle Haggard and the Bakersfield sound, too.
In the mid-’60s, Garcia set aside the banjo to focus on guitar, because as he put it, “I’d worn the banjo out.”
Photo by Jerald Melrose
And what of the gear that Jerry used through four decades of creating his signature approach to acoustic American roots music (which includes rock ’n’ roll)? Let’s start in 1980, when the Grateful Dead did an acoustic and electric tour of 25 shows with three sets per gig—the first set unplugged.
Jerry had grown tired of dealing with the sound of a miked acoustic. It was too unpredictable, too woofy. The sound of the guitar, he said, comes at you from a number of directions. To simply put a mic near the soundhole captures only a portion of the sound waves. When the first guitars with built-in pickups were made, and could be plugged straight into the soundboard, he went for it, bought a Takamine EF360S, and never looked back. Compared to, say, a Martin, these guitars are rather snappy in tone, emphasizing highs and mid highs. Jerry sometimes opted to further emphasize the brightness by picking close to the bridge. He told interviewer Jas Obrecht that he also favored the Takamine for how easy it played, compared to some of his earlier dreadnoughts. Calling himself “lazy,” he suggested that playing acoustic could be a battle, and that this guitar generally made life easier.
Way back in the early ’60s, Garcia played a big-bodied Guild F-50, and then a Martin D-21. As the decade progressed, he chose an Epiphone Texan, and a Martin 000-18S and 00-45. During the rail-riding 1970 Festival Express tour—captured in the excellent 2003-released film Festival Express—he was spotted playing a Martin D-18 and a D-28, and in 1978 he was using a Guild D-25. Jerry reportedly revisited his Martins in later years, but most often he performed and recorded with the Takamine or an Alvarez Yairi GY-1, aka the Jerry Garcia Model. The GY-1 was designed with Garcia’s input by Kazuo Yairi in the early ’90s. It boasts solid rosewood back and sides, an ebony fretboard, gold tuners, custom fretboard and headstock inlays, and Alvarez System 500 electronics. Today, vintage GY-1s sell for between $850 and $1,500, depending on their condition.
“He had the three T’s: tone, time and taste. And, most importantly, he had his own unique voice, immediately recognizable and distinctive.”—David Grisman
Jerry’s acoustic playing is at the heart of early Dead albums, such as Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. When you hear “Ripple,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Dire Wolf,” “Uncle John’s Band,” and later, “Standing on the Moon” or “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” you’re hearing an incredible evolution of American song, in part thanks to his stellar fretwork.
The Alvarez Yairi GY-1 became known as the Jerry Garcia Model. It was designed with Garcia’s input by Kazuo Yairi in the early ’90s. It boasts a solid rosewood back and sides, an ebony fretboard, gold tuners, custom fretboard and headstock inlays, and Alvarez System 500 electronics.
Photo courtesy of Dark Matter Music Company/Reverb.com
I was at a couple of the Grateful Dead’s shows at San Francisco’s Warfield in 1980, during their acoustic and electric tour, and the experience was a revelation. It showed how strong the songs were, without the hue and cry of electricity. Sure, the Dead were a dance band, and a decidedly psychedelic band, but their acoustic playing revealed depths of intimacy that were a lovely counterpoint to all that. Some of Jerry’s most mournful material, Garcia’s “To Lay Me Down” and American Beauty’s “Brokedown Palace,” is even more heartbreaking when he’s in this setting. You feel the band’s subtle chemistry in a new way.
But as an acoustic player, Jerry is most clearly represented in his side projects, such as Old & In the Way, a first-class bluegrass outfit (with Jerry back on banjo) that stretched past traditional repertoire into songs by the Rolling Stones as well as mandolinist Dave Grisman’s and guitarist Peter Rowan’s “newgrass” originals. The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band of the late ’80s harkened back to the Black Mountain Boys. The fiddle player in the band, Kenny Kosek, says the group started when some of Jerry’s old friends gathered by his hospital bed when he was recovering from his diabetic coma in 1987. They encouraged him to use the band as an opportunity to heal and renew.
During his early years in bluegrass and old timey music, Garcia’s first recording instrument was the banjo, which he played in groups like the Black Mountain Boys.
Photo by Jerald Melrose
A charming piece of history is also found in the album The Pizza Tapes, an informal 1993 jam—released seven years later—with Grisman and bluegrass-guitar icon Tony Rice that was recorded in Grisman’s home and released after a bootleg began to circulate. It’s useful to contrast Garcia’s solos with Rice’s. Save for Doc Watson, Rice was possibly the greatest bluegrass guitarist to walk the planet, with enough technique to steamroll you right off the stage. But Jerry doesn’t flinch. He just wanders up and down the neck being Jerry—a little behind the beat, playing melodies … always melodies. He’s not out to compete with Rice, and, indeed, his collaborative approach was one of the Grateful Dead’s pillars. But it’s clear Garcia is no visitor to these stylistic realms as they play songs by John Hurt, Lefty Frizzell, Dylan, and even the Gershwins. He lives there.
The final act of Jerry as an acoustic guitarist was captured on the four Garcia/Grisman recordings of the ’90s. Talking to Grisman, who coined the term “Dawg Music” to describe the mix of bluegrass, folk, and jazz which he and Garcia loved, one can infer that this trove of material, recorded over many sessions at his house, came about partly because the Dead had become such a monolith. Stardom had its burdens, and Jerry didn’t care much for the pressure of being an object of worship. This music was a refuge, and Grisman describes the undertaking as “providential.” It’s moving to hear Garcia reach back to his roots with accumulated wisdom and gravitas … before he leaves us. His playing is deeply relaxed, his voice authoritative, resonant. He is an emotional interpreter, getting right to the soul of the tunes. These lesser-known recordings are some of the true gems in Jerry’s protean career, and luckily there are deluxe editions with a lot of music at Grisman’s acousticdisc.com.
The musicians who played acoustic music with Garcia all note the wide reach of his repertoire. Kenny Kosek describes feeling fully supported by Jerry, who infused that support with a sense of openness and playfulness. Grisman adds, “He had the three T’s: tone, time and taste. And, most importantly, he had his own unique voice, immediately recognizable and distinctive, reflecting his heavy addiction to listening to great music of all types.”
Joel Harrison wishes to thank David Grisman, Eric Thompson, Steve Kimock, and Jack Devine for assistance with this article.
Hear the Grateful Dead tackle an acoustic rendition of the 1920s song “Deep Elem Blues,” alluding to Dallas’ historic African American neighborhood. Yes, Jerry solos!
Get Some Jerry in Your Ears
If you’re not already familiar with Jerry Garcia’s acoustic playing, here are a few recommended recordings:
- “Uncle John’s Band,” Workingman’s Dead, The Grateful Dead (1970)
- “Jack-A-Roe,” Reckoning, The Grateful Dead(1981)
- “Whiskey in the Jar,” Shady Grove, David Grisman and Jerry Garcia (1996)
- “Louis Collins,” The Pizza Tapes, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and Tony Rice (2000)
- Before the Dead, four-CD/five-LP compilation of Jerry Garcia’s pre-Dead bands (2018)
Shure GLXD16+ Wireless Review
Strong signal and colorless connectivity with improved battery life.
Good range, solid connectivity, easy to use, sturdy, no lag.
Pushes the budget for van dogs.
Over 20 years, I’ve used different brands and models of wireless transmitter and receiver systems, always on the budget side. Some were very prone to dropouts, which are a real issue for those of us who play rooms with metal stairs, brick pillars, and other signal blockers. And all the units I’ve used added compression and slightly blunted the high end.
The GLXD16+ allowed me to be, and sound like, myself.
But these days, since I’m using Carr amps in stereo, I want nothing coloring my tone. So, connecting with Shure’s new pedal-format GLXD16+ system was a pleasure. I had the same full-range sound that organically emerges from my amps. Through four sets at Clarksdale, Mississippi’s sizeable Ground Zero Blues Club, I experienced just one drop-out, and, since I was playing outside the building with a thick brick-and-cement wall at my back, more than 200 feet off stage, I was asking for it. Otherwise, the GLXD16+ allowed me to be, and sound like, myself. Chalk that up to the device’s improved dual bandwidth, which can operate at 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz, and automatically scans for the cleanest available frequencies. Other charms include a rechargeable lithium battery with a 12-hour life. The receiver is rugged metal (as is the transmitter) with raised bumpers to protect the controls, which link the receiver and transmitter. The receiver also includes a mode button to lock in the signal, a link button for linking with other transmitters, and a built-in tuner. There’s also a 1/4" input jack, should you want to use the pedal as a tuner alone, and a battery charger is included. I’m hooked.
The new GLX-D+ Wireless Guitar Pedal System features the WA305 Premium Guitar Cable, the GLXD1+ Digital Bodypack, and the GLXD6+ Guitar Pedal. Go wireless without compromising your tone or complicating your rig.
NAMM 2023 Gallery
Dig into the details of a pile of new gear from Martin, Revv, Walrus, Dunable, Jam, and more!
Martin's D-18 StreetLegend
Jam Pedals' Harmonius Monk
One of the most buzzed about pedals is Eventide’s H90, which could be seen as a pair of H9s, but that would be selling it short. It packs a mind-boggling amount of features, sounds, and options while keeping a fairly intuitive interface. In our demo we caught some of the new polyphonic algorithms which were really amazing.
Dunable's DE Series Asteriod
The Asteroid is one of Dunable's latest additions to their import line. The V-style vibes of the Asteroid include a Floyd Rose trem, hotter blade-based humbuckers, and more. Plan is to have them available soon for around $1200.
Walrus Audio's Fundamental Series
Walrus' Colt Westbook wanted to give players that are just starting out in their guitar journey affordable options that not only can handle the wear and tear but sound good. The Fundamental Series is a group of nine stomps that have ultra-hip sliders and a toggle that lets you pick between three different modes. I'd say the standouts were the delay, phaser, and fuzz but since they start at only $99 it would be easy enough to pick up a few.
Revv's Dynamis D25
REVV’s Dynamis D25 cranks up the company’s popular D20 amp by another 5 watts, but with footswitchable gain boost (a button the front does the same) and reverb powering up a Celestion V-30-equipped combo. It weighs about 30 pounds and uses Two notes ’ reactive load and impulse response XLR-out, and takes REVV into the low-gain game, with gain and volume controls, and 3-band EQ. The new variation on Shawn Tubbs’ Tile Overdrive/Boost doubles up on the original Tilt, with boost and drive sides, plus EQ and a 3-position tight switch, and top-mounted outputs. The pedal streets for $269. Also, instead of 12 dB boost, the new tilt has a 20 dB bump.
Godin's Session T
Two-Rock's Vintage Deluxe
The Vintage Deluxe has the DNA of a classic American-style amp, but with a wealth of modern appointments and features. Coming in two different styles (35-watt 6L6 and 40-watt 6V6), this amp is bold with a flair for punch clean tones and rich overdive sounds thanks to the Tone Stack switch that allows you to move to a single-control setup. It also has pure tube reverb, bias tremolo, and a very intersting texture switch that works the midrange.
Santa Cruz Guitars' Catfish Special Pro
When Richard Hoover tells you that a guitar is made out of wood that is impossible to find your ears perk up. The Catfish Special Pro is a parlor guitar that is created from reclaimed wood that dates back hundreds of years. Designed for acoustic blues fingerstyle player Catfish Keith, this guitar barks and is surprisingly loud for its size. Be warned, it comes in at $11,500.
Yamaha FG9 M
Like peanut butter and choclate, phase and reverb work surisingly well with each other. The STS-88 is a shoegazer's dream. The phaser can get bubbly and warm or quick and off-putting (in a good way). With a single knob reverb control you can blend in just the right amount of space with ease. They are available now for $209.
Ovation's Adamas Models
Fishman's AFX Series
Fishman brought its new four-mini-pedal AFX series to NAMM, and showcased their ability to add EQ and preamp, looping, reverb, and boost capabilities to your acoustic guitar’s organic signal. The pedals work in parallel with your signal, rather than altering it, and can be blended alongside in highly controllable degrees. The Pocket Blender allows you to toggle between onboard pickup and mic settings, for example, and can be used as a boost by setting either the A or B section louder and hitting the footswitch for your big solo. It streets for $89.85. The Broken Record looper allows you to loop and overdub, and offers WAV file transfers via USB. The AcoustiVerb toggles between hall, plate, and spring reverb settings, with simple decay, tone, and level controls. And the ProEQMini has a 5-band EQ path. The latter three street for $119.95.
Pro Co's Lil' Rat
Since 1979, Pro Co has been producing more RATS than a New York City fast food joint—but to much better result. The RAT is a classic hard-clipping pedal that’s been on thousands of hit records and helped define the guitar sounds of the ’80s through today. Now, Pro Co has taken the Rat2 iteration and distilled it to a 2"-wide box. Same top-mounted jacks, same distortion/filer/volume control set, and a 9V input. Street price: $89.99.
Magneto Guitars' Starlux
LR Baggs' HiFi High Fidelity Acoustic Bridge Plate Pickups
Acoustic amplification can be a tricky dragon to tame, but L.R. Baggs’ new HiFi pickup is a non-invasive setup that offers a studio-quality preamp with accessible volume and tone controls. It comes with pre-wired bridge plate transducers, an endpin preamp, and over 700 hours of battery life.
Kernom's Moho Magmatic Fuzz Station
One of the most inventive discoveries at the show was Kern’s Moho Magmatic Fuzz Station. Fuzz has a range of flavors and textures and in our demo it was quite impressive how the Moho went from smooth Muff-style leads to spitty, almost glitchy rhythmic pulses. A lot of ground is covered by the mood and electricity controls which work together really well to cover nearly any era of fuzz. Plan is to have them out by July and they will come in at 349 Euros.
Vola Guitars' OZ ZT
With a simplified peel-and-stick installation, the lightweight pickups preserve the integrity of your instrument’s bridge plate without negatively altering your acoustic tone.
This week at NAMM (Hall D, Booth 5406) L.R. Baggs is unveiling HiFi, a non-invasive pickup design that pairs dual bridge plate sensors with high-fidelity electronics, providing exceptional balance, definition, dynamics, and good feedback resistance. With a simplified peel-and-stick installation, the lightweight pickups preserve the integrity of your instrument’s bridge plate without negatively altering your acoustic tone. The construction, materials, size, and shape of the pickups contribute to a balance between string and body energy that represents the inherent sound of your instrument. Lastly, HiFi’s built-in, studio-quality preamp is voiced to complement the pickups for an optimal plug-and-play experience.
One of the HiFi’s most notable features is the all-discrete, high-fidelity endpin preamp, which ensures excellent audio quality. In addition, the HiFi is equipped with prewired bridge plate transducers and soundhole-mounted volume and tone controls. The installation process for the HiFi is simplified thanks to the peel-and-stick method and installation jig to help with optimal placement. The HiFi runs on a single 9V battery, which boasts an impressive battery life of over 700 hours.
We invite you to visit the LR Baggs booth in Hall D (5406) at NAMM for an in-person demo of HiFi.
For more information, please visit lrbaggs.com.