The design theory and drive behind the super-strat classic Hamer Californian circa 1988.
Guitar models are designed and manufactured for different reasons. I’ve written about the marketing and business side of things, and I’ve also touched on the idea of solving an actual problem or satisfying a musician’s needs (imagine that!). There are, however, times when all the planets align and both of these reasons collide with a third compelling force: competitive nature. Builders are not without a sense of rivalry and a willingness to go head-to-head in the arms race of product design. Such was the case for the Hamer Californian model of 1988.
As the 1980s moved into the shred era, guitar makers began to push the envelope of design to accommodate the enhanced playing (and stage costume) styles of the day. For me it began as early as my 1979 design for the Hamer Prototype model, and later with the 1982 Phantom model—the precursors to the “super strat” phenomenon.
As weird and wonderful as those guitars were then, today they seem a little incomplete to me. That said, I’m particularly proud of my Californian design whose name was a direct reference to my friend Grover Jackson in the Golden State. I’ve long admired Grover’s work, and I think his Soloist can be counted among the most iconic of guitars. Since Jackson had thrown down the gauntlet, I wanted to create a kick-ass shred machine that would prove that we Chicago boys could shake the earth in our own way. My intention was to fashion a “super strat” that looked as though Ferrari had sculpted it.
To provide the Cali a more angular appearance than the traditional form, I downsized the body and employed radical contours and beveling in the cutaway areas. This improved access to higher fingerings and gave the horns an aggressive appearance.
Probably the most recognizable feature was the addition of extra frets at the end of an angled fretboard. Uli Jon Roth created the Sky guitar with 30 frets, but not only was it difficult for Roth to play, it was impossible for the average shredder to play. The Californian, in contrast, clocked in at a more useable 27 frets. This was six more than the average Strat and three more than the (then) current crop of 24-fret shredders. And the scalloped cutaways allowed access to the high-fret G that could be bent up a step—giving shredders a new high A. Oh joy.
Parallel Axis pickups from Seymour Duncan—which were new at the time—or active EMGs were used to ensure proper buzz-saw tone. In a nod to the wishes of the sales staff, massive pickup output was very important for standing out on Saturday mornings at Guitar Center, where products vied for dominance.
In EVH fashion, a humbucker was placed in the bridge position while a single-coil was used at the neck. The neck pickup was basically there to provide some additional clean tones when used with the bridge pickup—so essential for power-ballad intros and bridges. I placed it on a rakish angle that complimented the end of the fretboard. This was primarily for styling purposes, since it would probably have sounded better angled the other way. But I figured that someone wearing leather underneath the searing heat of 500 PAR lights could put up with a little compromise for the show.
The addition of “boomerang” inlays was the final touch that brought the entire guitar together by mimicking the repeating angles of the headstock, fretboard, pickup, and cutaways. The locking system from Floyd Rose was the bridge of choice, but string-through and Tune-o-matic variants were also made.
Another innovation I’m proud of is the location of the output jack. A Strat-style jack plate was placed on the edge of the guitar’s butt end just below the strap button and angled upward. This setup—known internally as the “Californian Jack”—was perfect for a wireless system, since the cable could come straight down the guitar strap and into the jack. It also worked great for looping a cable under the strap—an elegant solution to an age-old problem.
Sonically, the Cali was in a similar arena to many guitars that employed the same hardware of the day, which is to say that it could compete with most shred guitars. They tended to be sharp and direct sounding, which worked well with the outboard gear of the era. Cutting through plenty of effects-loop chicanery was the name of the game.
The Californian could be special ordered in almost every combination imaginable, including a bolt-on, set-neck, and even a double-neck version. At a time when highly figured wood was not enjoying mainstream popularity, some of the most eye-catching Californians featured solid flame-maple bodies—a clash of aesthetics that I enjoyed creating.
The Californian enjoys a rabid cult following and remains one of my favorite designs. The overall balance is excellent and the cosmetic and functional aspects of the guitar are completely in harmony. The additional frets are clearly the Cali’s calling card, but the build quality and design integration details are its true legacy. The name Californian was the exclamation point on a very complete sentence.Will the Cali ever occupy a place in a hall of fame for guitars? I doubt it, but only time will tell.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.