Jeff Tweedy''s Fender Princeton is on the bench for a summer tuneup.
Temperatures are warming, music festivals are on the rise, and summer is officially around the corner. Working bands will be hitting the road and taking to the sky, spreading their music across the world. But is their gear up for the task? Gear is the lifeblood for any band—without it, musicians cannot do their job and make a living. And while no piece of gear is completely “bullet-proof,” there are steps we can take to ensure our gear possesses the most important quality it can have on the road—reliability.
One band that recently got ready to tour is Wilco. These guys are notorious road dogs and are known to carry a vast array of gear on tour. In this article, we will look at front man Jeff Tweedy’s early-’60s brownface Fender Princeton 6G2-A and getting it ready for their tour.
This amp came to the shop in working order and sounding great, but needed a good cleaning and check over for reliability. At first glance, I noticed that this amp has mostly original components, with the exceptions of the filter capacitors and one of the cathode capacitors in the preamp. Had these capacitors not been replaced, from a reliability standpoint, consideration would have been seriously given toward replacing them. Electrolytic caps, generally speaking, have a life span of around 15 years. After this time, the electrolytic inside the cap can dry up and/or, as is often seen, the capacitor will begin to leak. You will usually see bulges and/or leaks from the positive end of the cap. In the case of this Princeton, only one capacitor in the preamp was original, so it was replaced with a high-quality capacitor of the same value. I always give the original components back to the client, especially in the case of a vintage amp. This way they have all the original parts—good to have for a possible future sale.
As I progressed further into the amp by checking the resistors, caps, wiring, solder joints, and cleaning/tightening the tube sockets—I considered the tubes. There is a 5Y3 rectifier, two 6V6 power tubes and two 12AX7 preamp tubes—all vintage. The preamp tubes, a vintage Bugle Boy and a vintage Tung-Sol, were left alone after testing output and carefully listening for microphonics and noise. These great sounding and reliable tubes have survived many years and should survive many more. The rectifier tube appeared to be in great shape and was left alone. However, the power tubes were replaced with some known reliable ones because power tubes tend to have a shorter life span than the other tubes in an amplifier. When reliability and the demands of touring are important, it’s always a good idea to replace them. It is also a good idea, as a tech, to give the owner of the amplifier an extra set of tubes of the same bias as the ones you are putting in. If the tubes fail on the road, the band can replace them on their own, without worrying about proper tube biasing. I also like to tape an extra fuse or two to the inside of the amp’s cabinet, just in case a fuse blows. These simple things can make an amp failure much easier and less expensive to manage when on the road.
It is important to take a close look at the wiring of an amp before it goes out on tour. Old wires can oxidize and become brittle with age. With the amp on and a signal going through it, it is a good idea to nudge the wires to look for signs of wear and listen for changes in output. Any crusty, worn, blackened, or fragile wires should be replaced with new wire. Also worth checking out is the AC power cable. This should be quality three-prong grounded cable. Touring musicians have more important things to worry about than the possibility of a great-sounding amplifier having the potential of causing them electric shock.
The last step with this Princeton is playing it. I inspect the speaker for unreasonable wear and then turn the amp up to listen to the speaker. Like changing summer to winter tires on a vehicle, a musician will occasionally want to save their vintage speaker from the abuse it may take on the road, and opt for a temporary speaker replacement. It’s also a good idea to burn the tubes in by running a signal through the amp and into a dummy load. This will push the tubes as if you were playing the amp loudly, but save your ears. Finally, I check the handle on the amp. Whoever will be transporting it from show to show will certainly appreciate a solid handle, which can be used without a second thought, about the possibility of it giving out.
Every tour is a little different, and the strain on the instruments changes. It’s important to remember the fine line between “road-ready” and simply sounding good, because both are simultaneously possible—credence should always be given to both. Some musicians are comfortable sacrificing some overall tone for higher reliability, while to others, tone is of utmost concern. In the end, I am confidant that the amps I work on will be solid and reliable enough to handle the rigors of many shows on the long, winding road.
Tim Schroeder is the President and chief engineer at Schroeder Audio Inc. of Chicago Illinois where he is responsible for new product design/construction as well as over seeing repair operations at Schroeder Guitar and Amplifier Repair. schroederaudioinc.com
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.