Its name might sound slightly pharmacological, but this limited-edition P-90–style axe is tough, mean, and unquestionably virile.

Killer P-90-style tones with Fender spank. Excellently voiced tone knob. Nice playability.

Slightly rough fret ends.

$1049 street (w/gigbag)

Fender Noventa Stratocaster
fender.com

5
4.5
4.5
4.5

If you never learned to count to 90 in Spanish, Fender's limited-run Noventa series sounds like it needs a lot of small-print "Don't take Noventa if…" disclaimers. Once you get the translation down (and remember the term "P-90" is a Gibson invention), it's clear what the series' three models—a 3-pickup Jazzmaster, a single-pickup Telecaster, and a 2-pickup Strat—have in common.


Fender Noventa Stratocaster Review

Played through a Sound City SC30 miked with a Royer R-121 going into an Audient iD44 then into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.

With its transparent red finish (surf green and daphne blue are also available), oversized black single-coils, black pickguard, and hardtail bridge, it's hard not to see our review guitar as a bit of an SG-ified Fender. But even if the visuals seem slightly obvious, fans of burly, bristling, vintage P-90 grit will likely bite their tongue after plugging one in.

Even if the visuals seem slightly obvious, fans of burly, bristling, vintage P-90 grit will likely bite their tongue after plugging one in.

The neck pickup can be positively corpulent, great for nasty blues riffing, particularly with a good helping of overdrive or the guitar's tone knob eased back. Yet, full up, it puts crisp articulation behind formidable brawn. In the middle position, the blend of taut chime and muscle lets you chunk-up rock 'n' roll nasties, sparkle-up strummed chords, or put some stank in your funk. That's because the bridge pickup is rather incisive—a little more so than I expected. With amp or pedal raunch, the soloed unit is glorious for, say, violent Stooges riffs, but with clean tones it can feel somewhat strident. That's where the impressively voiced tone control comes in. With its gradual, consistent taper, the tone knob yields enough shades for everything from subtly muted rhythms to wiry country spank. Best of all, regardless of pickup position, it never imparts über-muffled tones till it's completely counterclockwise.

Test Gear

Sound City SC30, Fender Vibrolux Reverb, SoundBrut DrVa Mk.II, Ground Control Tsukuyomi, SviSound RetroZoid Germanium Fuzz

A new tool for working on Floyd Rose and tremolo-equipped guitars.

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A supreme shredder’s signature 6-string dazzles with versatility.

This immaculately built guitar sounds great and can do it all.

The more affordable price is still out of reach for many guitarists

$2,799

Charvel MJ San Dimas SD24 CM
charvel.com

5
5
4.5
4.5

Charvel’s first Guthrie Govan signature model was released in 2014, after an arduous two-year effort to get the design just right. Since then, the guitar—now in its second edition—has become one of Charvel’s most coveted models. Unfortunately, its $3,699 price keeps the U.S.-made axe out of reach for many.

This year, though, the company released the Made-in-Japan signature MJ San Dimas SD24 CM, which sells for a slightly more manageable $2,799. Needless to say, that’s not cheap. But depending on your priorities, it’s a fair price for a very high quality, pro-level instrument.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema

There’s way more to it than simply mastering chords and scales.

Intermediate

Beginner

  • Understand the importance of structure and space within guitar leads.
  • Learn the power and importance of articulation and motivic development.
  • Construct leads that take the listener on a journey.
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Take a moment and think of your favorite guitar solo. Can you hear it in your head, note-for-note perfect as if you were listening to the track itself? I’m willing to bet the answer is yes. Indelible guitar solos tend to get lodged in your brain that way. Every practicing guitarist not only strives to play these solos as well as the guitar heroes who composed them, but we all long to craft such a brilliant lead ourselves. The million-dollar question is: Where do you begin when attempting to play the next great, iconic solo? The next “Stairway to Heaven” or “Kid Charlemagne” or “Hotel California”?
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