An articulate, immaculately constructed Annapolis native that speaks in many voices.
An extremely well-made guitar boasting easy playability, stand-out looks, and super-impressive sonic versatility.
It's pricey. You'll want to ensure you're onboard with the Narrowfield voice before you invest.
$4,660 with 10 Top, as reviewed ($4,000 with standard top)
Even among a stable of instruments known for their versatility, PRS's Studio model is arguably one of the company's most sonically and stylistically malleable instruments. Reintroduced to the U.S.-made Core lineup for 2021 after first appearing in 2011, this new Studio is hyper-flexible, configured with a distinctive humbucker set and modified switching that takes that versatility up a notch.
Whether or not you're a habitual PRS player, it's almost impossible to cradle a guitar like the Studio and not find yourself in free flow—playing away without pausing to think "is this neck right for me?" or "maybe I'll tweak the action." The Studio feels good right off the bat.
It looks right, too. PRS is fond of fancy dress in general, and our review sample is gorgeous in person, without being over the top (a perspective dependent on your own tastes, of course). The "Eriza verde" finish lends a lively, three-dimensional sense of motion to the flame in this maple 10 Top, and beautifully contrasts the dark-brown rosewood fingerboard and stripy rosewood headstock overlay. The natural mahogany of the back and neck display a premium grain, while the abalone bird inlays and mixed gold-nickel hardware add further visual excitement.
The set neck is carved in what PRS calls their "pattern" shape, which many players consider ideal. It's a full-feeling '59 Les Paul-inspired profile with a very slight V, soft shoulders, and an easy playing feel. The nut width is 1 11/16" and the scale length is PRS's traditional 25". Put it all together, and the playing weight is around 8.2 pounds, which is quite reasonable for a chunk of solid mahogany and maple.
So, with many of these features being familiar components of other PRS Core models, what makes a Studio a Studio? It's the pickup selection, by and large. In addition to the 58/15 LT humbucker in the bridge position, the guitar comes with a pair of PRS Narrowfield pickups in the middle and neck positions. Narrowfields have returned to the lineup for 2021 in the Studio and just one other model. These narrow humbuckers possess a more single-coil-like magnetic field, delivering a tone that's somewhere between a full-sized humbucker, a P-90, and a narrower single coil—all with the benefit of hum cancelling performance. Add a push-pull coil split for the 58/15 LT on the tone control and a 5-way blade switch, and you've got seven distinct pickup settings.
These narrow humbuckers possess a more single-coil-like magnetic field, delivering a tone that's somewhere between a full-sized humbucker, a P-90, and a narrower single coil.
Hardware includes PRS's well regarded Gen III tremolo, and Phase III locking tuners. They pair with a lubricated nut to keep the guitar in tune, regardless of heavy vibrato use. Playability is faultless all across the board.
Bucking the Trend
Played through a 50-watt Friedman Small Box head and 2x12 cab, a custom tweed Deluxe-style 1x12 combo, and a Neural DSP Quad Cortex into studio monitors, the Studio delivered the versatility that the design promises, hopping confidently between varied sounds and styles. It pivots from grinding heavy rock to mellow balladry at the flick of a switch. The sounds are meaty, original twists on the HSS range of tones you once encountered on the average superstrat. The middle, neck, and in-between voicings are thicker, fatter, and gutsier than genuine single-coil pickups would be. That, of course, is entirely the idea.
By sacrificing some of the single-coil glassiness and the trebly spikiness of a traditional Strat single-coil, the Narrowfields add extra grunt to near-clean tones, edge-of-breakup settings, and overdrive sounds from a Tsakalis Six, JHS Angry Charlie, my amps, and the Neural. These pickups shine when you ask them to crunch and wail.
The 5-way switch, varied voice of the Narrowfields, and coil-split humbucker mean you can ably deliver convincing Strat-like sounds in the in-between positions, though they are generally darker than a true Stratocaster—a tone signature that's further colored and re-enforced by the mahogany/maple construction and glued-in neck. The format is a great alternative for HSS superstrat players of old who came to regard the high-output pickups typical in such guitars a touch too spiky and yearn for more grit and gristle to go with the snap and chime. And when you want to skip approximation of single-coil sounds entirely, you can revel in Les Paul-like girth and grind when the bridge humbucker is unleashed with all coils blazing.
The PRS Studio provides a super-solid foundation that's defined by great woods, great components, and high attention to detail that closely allies it with other PRS cornerstone models like the Custom and McCarty. What really differentiates the Studio, though, is the pickup set, and while this configuration might not be for everyone, it's a fatter, thick-sounding twist on the do-it-all HSS template that offers maximum flexibility to so many players. It's not cheap. But it isn't meant to be, and both longtime PRS fans and newcomers to the brand will likely appreciate the substance and versatility that investment delivers here.
PRS Studio Demo - First Look
An amateur builder-in-the-making headed online to source parts and, with the help of YouTube and guitar forums, taught himself how to build a Thinline-inspired beauty.
Location: Staten Island, New York
Guitar: Leslie 56
I'm a newbie amateur at building guitars. After trying out a friend's Thinline one day, I was hooked. I've always liked the looks and design of a Fender Thinline: the f-hole cutouts, the contours, semi-hollowbody, etc. So, I ventured online to search some DIY videos on how to build a guitar, and there were quite a lot on YouTube.
After taking in all the knowledge, I went searching for an unfinished guitar body and a neck. I came across a nice-looking Thinline-style body from a Canadian-based eBay seller called ToneBomb. The body was considerably affordable and attractive, especially the grain. After I made the initial purchase, I looked for ideas on paints and stains. One of the ideas I fancied was from a YouTuber who used a basic shoe dye instead of paint. I was truly amazed by how it came out, plus it looked rather easy to apply.
My next step was to pick a color. Blue was cool, but turquoise was terrific. A manufacturer called Angelus seemed to have a good reputation and good reviews, so I went with Angelus Leather Dye. When the guitar body arrived, I took some advice from a cousin on how to precondition it before applying dye. He said to wipe it down with a damp rag to raise the grain, and then after the grain is raised, use a tack cloth to remove any dust and particles from the body, which I did.
I then applied one coat of the dye and it took nicely. After it dried, I decided to be daring and gave it two more coats of shoe dye. When it all dried, I decided to utilize a finish called Tru-Oil. It's recommended to use at least eight coats minimum. I eventually applied 10 coats of Tru-Oil on the body over the span of three days or so. Tru-Oil dries quickly. However, I didn't want to rush the finish and wanted it to cure, so I took my time, applying it in stages.
After the body was good to go, I needed a Tele neck. With the way the body came out, I didn't want to skimp on a cheap neck. I bid on a Musikraft Tele-style neck, and eventually won it for around $200. I installed the neck, along with a set of Fender tuners. All the hardware was purchased from eBay. I used a Dragonfire Hot Rails pickup in the bridge and a Wilkinson neck pickup. I soldered everything up with much guidance from the internet. The Squier-Talk.com forum was a huge help: A big shout-out to you guys on that forum. After it was finished, I named her "Leslie 56," because my girlfriend shelled out the monies for this project as my 56th birthday present. Thanks Leslie!
The guitar is a beaut, with great action and nice tones. I had a lot of fun doing this project.
Send your guitar story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our columnist debunks some of the many myths surrounding Leo Fender's P-bass design.
Why is it that the majority of today's basses have a 34" scale? The quick answer would be: Because the popular Fender Precision bass had a 34" scale, and most manufacturers simply followed this layout. Then, the question becomes, why did the original Precision—introduced in October 1951—come with a 34" scale? There are lots of speculations on why it ended up with this specific scale and many of these are conflicting. Most of them have questionable and hard to verify sources but unveil lots of creativity.
This is from Legendary Lows: The Precision Bass Story on Fender's website:
One of the most important features of the Precision Bass was its scale length, which Leo Fender, after careful consideration and lengthy experimentation, set at 34".
And in another statement:
Because if Clarence Leo Fender were to be remembered for nothing else, surely it would be the Precision—an instrument—indeed a whole new kind of instrument—that simply didn't exist before he invented it, that would forever ensure his place in history.
There is no question about his place in history and that he will be remembered for it. But it's worth noting that he wasn't first. Once we agree that an electric bass basically consists of a body, neck, pickup, tuners, frets, and a thick set of strings (neglecting the fact that fretless basses are electric basses, too), the honor of being first truly belongs to Seattle-based Paul H. Tutmarc and his 1933 bass, or bull-fiddle. His final product, the Audiovox 736 had a 30 5/16" scale length.
As a funny side note, here is what his son, Bud Tutmarc, wrote about the motivation behind his father's invention:
My dad, being a band leader and traveling musician, always felt sorry for the string bass player as his instrument was so large that once he put it in his car, there was only enough room left for him to drive. The other band members would travel together in a car and have much enjoyment being together while the bass player was always alone. That is the actual idea that got my father into making an electric bass. The first one he handcarved out of solid, soft white pine, the size and shape of a cello. To this instrument he fastened one of his "friction tape" pickups and the first electric bass was created. This was in 1933.
Turns out it was more of a social project for us poor, lonely bassists?
Many other scales will work just fine, but it's about what is practical, feels right, and where you're coming from.
Back to the 34" scale length question. Here are a few of the myths, theories, and rumors floating around. One is that Clarence Leo Fender was known as thrifty, to say it mildly. He had 25.5" fretting tools, he went for a 34" scale, adding only five lower frets and using the same tools.
This "Cheapo-Leo" argument sure sounds credible, but there is a tiny deviation on these identical bass and guitar fret-spaces. The guitar's nut-to-fret distance is 1.431", while a 34" bass' fifth to sixth fret span is 1.430". To get to 1.431", the bass scale would need to be 34.03". These .001" or .0254 mms are surely within the production tolerance, but it's not an exact fit if it's not exact.
Other authors have thrown in that short-scale Fender guitars were 24" and 22". They were cut on the same fretboard saw as 25.5" scale boards, moved over one or two fret positions. This doesn't add any credibility to the argument if you do the math. These fret spacings are far from being identical!
It's almost the same as with the "Let's just take the middle!" argument. With a standard upright at 43" and a guitar at 25", it's correct that the middle would be 34". Unfortunately, the guitar is 25.5" and, once again, it's not an exact hit.
Another theory is that classic instrument sizes were often given in fractions, like halves or quarters, and, rarely, thirds. With the Fender guitar at 25.5" being 4/4, the 34" Precision comes out at exactly 4/3. Or, vice versa and something bassists might prefer: The 34" bass is the 4/4 instrument, while the 25.5" guitar comes out as 3/4.
Things get credible once they get printed, right? Author Richard R. Smith—who did lengthy interviews with Leo—wrote in his book, Fender: The Sound Heard 'Round the World, that Leo's scale length was derived from information from a physics book owned by Leo's secretary Elizabeth Nagel Hayzlett. I have no secretary, but I do have my own physics books and there is no such optimization process for scale length in physics! It's always an interplay of string gauge, tension, and preferred portion of lower harmonics.
In the end, many other scales will work just fine, but it's about what is practical, feels right, and where you're coming from. And, instead of making anything up, it's way more realistic to simply accept it was just a pragmatic trial-and-error process. Leo's longtime coworker George Fullerton told Smith: "We tried 30" and 32" and possibly 36", but chose 34" for being more practical for the player."
Ethereal drones, big reverbs, and plenty of dissonance go into this often-underappreciated style.
• Produce ambient music using both acoustic and electric guitars.
• Generate atmospheric soundscapes using real-time layering techniques with delays and loops.
• Explore a condensed history of ambient music.
Ambient guitar means different things to different players, which suggests that there is a wide range of approaches to this rather ambiguous genre. In this lesson we'll explore an array of diverse stylistic practices within the idiom and discover how to create ambient music using the guitar.
"Ambient music must be as ignorable as it is interesting." —Brian Eno
Like many genres, the origins of ambient music—and especially ambient guitar—can be difficult to determine. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that Erik Satie's Musique d'Ameublement ("furniture music") —a term the French composer coined in 1917—plays a role in the genesis of ambient music. Rather than being the center of attention, Satie wanted this music to create an atmosphere for various activities, such as the arrival of guests at a reception or eating lunch. Two of Satie's 1917 pieces, Tapisserie en fer forge and Carrelage phonique exemplify his "furniture music." The pieces would be scored for a small group of chamber orchestra instruments and consist of short phrases that are repeated an indefinite number of times. Ex. 1 is an homage to the aforementioned pieces, performed on three acoustic guitars and one bass.
No, not 4′33″—we won't get that ambient in this lesson, though now that I think of it, it probably couldn't hurt for you to stop playing for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and just listen.
How was it?
Erik Satie was a huge influence on John Cage, who referenced Satie frequently in both his public and private life. The Cage pieces I associate with ambient music (and which, to my ear at least, appear to be influenced specifically by Satie's furniture music) are "In a Landscape" and "Dream." Both were composed for solo piano in 1948. I highly recommend the John Schneider (guitar) and Amy Shulman (harp) recordings of these two pieces on the album Just West Coast. Akin to Satie's minimalist compositions, these two works of Cage's also consist of short repetitive phrases, albeit with more variations. Ex. 2, performed on a nylon-string acoustic guitar, imitates the ambient character of Cage's "Dream."
The San Francisco Tape Music Center
Loops are among the fundamental tools used in generating ambient music. But the birth of looping goes back much farther than the popularizing of reliable looping pedals in the 1990s or even the long delay times used in the 1970s. Dating back to at least the 1940s with the experimentation of Pierre Schaeffer, and even Les Paul who performed live looping on television, tape loops became commonplace in the 1960s. This was in large part thanks to the San Francisco Tape Music Center (SFTMC). Founded in 1962 by composers Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick, and Ramon Sender, the SFTMC pioneered many of today's looping practices, perhaps most notably SFTMC member Terry Riley's innovation of the delay/feedback system using two tape recorders. I'm simplifying here, but the basic idea behind this technique, which Riley dubbed the "Time Lag Accumulator," is to play two identical tape loops at the same time, adding delay to one of the loops, varying the delay parameters, and I believe, manipulating the tape speed.
Depending on the music recorded on the original loop, the Time Lag Accumulator results can become chaotic. For ambient music, it would be best if the loop material is minimalistic. Thus, Ex. 3 is based on Riley's original premise but with significant deviations. First, keeping the ambient genre in mind, my original signal has substantial amounts of reverb and delay. I'm also swelling into my chords with my volume knob (more on that later). Most importantly, I'm using two loop pedals, not tape loops, the first feeding into the second, with a delay pedal in between the two. As a result, it is the first loop that is being affected by the delay.
The notation for this example only shows the original four-measure phrase I performed into the first looper. Once I recorded the original signal, I began manipulating the delay pedal's time, level, and feedback. Due to the intricacy of the outcomes from this technique, the music generated by the delay loop is not notated.
Yes, it's finally time for Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. This section might be what some of you have been waiting for: more familiar—dare I say more popular—ambient guitar. In 1973, Fripp and Eno released (No Pussyfooting), an album that was recorded using techniques akin, if not identical, to Oliveros' and Riley's experiments with tape loops at the San Francisco Tape Music Center years earlier. (No Pussyfooting) has since become a landmark recording for ambient music fans, and it ultimately led Fripp to dub his tape-based technique "Frippertronics" and for Eno to describe what they created as "ambient music."
Besides Eno's manipulation of the loops, Fripp introduced two specific concepts on (No Pussyfooting) that are now pervasive in ambient guitar. The first is to create a droning, slow-moving loop as accompaniment to solo over. The second is Fripp's soloing style, which tends to consist of long, sustained notes that sound more like a synthesizer than a guitar.
Ex. 4 imitates the Frippertronics style. It features a droning loop with a constant C bass and additional notes that imply a C to D/C chord progression. Technically that is a C Lydian (C–D–E–F#–G–A–B) sound, but I think of it as G major (G–A–B–C–D–E–F#), with the harmonic emphasis on C. For the sustained notes in my melody/solo, I'm using a distortion pedal with the gain turned all the way up. I'm not using an EBow, but I will in a later example. I should also point out that my loop is only three measures long. This gives the piece a lopsided feel, making it difficult to know exactly where the first measure is. Such off-kilter equivocation is embraced in ambient music.
One historical note: Eno has stated repeatedly that many people were creating music similar to his in the 1970s and before. Nonetheless, it was he who specifically labeled it ambient music and set some basic parameters for the genre, most notably in his liner notes for the 1978 album, Ambient 1: Music for Airports.
Contemporary Ambient Guitar Styles
By the 1980s, countless guitarists started exploring the realm of ambient music. I write "exploring" because, unlike other genres, many of the players most closely associated with ambient guitar also perform other styles. If you do your own investigation on such guitarists as David Torn, Steve Tibbetts, Michael Brook, or Daniel Lanois, you might be confused as to which recordings are considered ambient and which are more experimental in nature. Nonetheless, there are some key elements that the aforementioned players use to create contemporary ambient guitar music. Thus, for the following sections of this lesson, we'll focus more on fundamental techniques, effects, and approaches rather than specific player references. The following examples will also be a bit more guitar focused, rather than sounding like much of the enigmatic, non-guitar ambient music.
Swells of Reverb and Delay
One of the first techniques you need to master is using volume swells. One of the key sounds in ambient guitar music is avoiding the sound of the pick hitting the strings. You can achieve this "no attack" sound with your guitar's volume knob or a volume pedal. I prefer to use the volume knob—I find a Telecaster is perfect for this swelling effect—but not every guitar is laid out the same. Also, not all volume pots swell evenly, so depending on your instrument, you may need to invest in a volume pedal.
In Ex. 5, you'll hear the swelling of a Csus4 chord. The first two times are with the guitar's volume knob turned all the way down, followed by the volume knob being turned up with a smooth—and relatively quick—increase in volume. The subsequent two times are with a volume pedal. While the differences in execution are obvious, the sonic results are similar.
Both these examples include a fair amount of reverb, which is arguably the most important detail to focus on when performing ambient guitar. Ambient music lives in a space, and whether that space is a gothic cathedral, a primeval cave, or digital cage, each serves to imbue the music with its own character based on the environment in which it's conceived.
The second effect you're going to want to experiment with is delay. Similar to reverb, delay enhances both space and character, with the added benefit of notes that can repeat (infinitely, if so desired), blossom, harmonize, inspire, and more, depending on your inclinations.
Ex. 6 is a slow, three-chord phrase that demonstrates the effect of both reverb and delay. The phrase is performed five times, first with no effects, then with three different reverbs, and finally with reverb and delay. Can you hear how each pass lends a distinctive character to the phrase? As with many sounds and tones, I'd suggest that none is better than the others, only different.
I'll also point out that the chords here feature intervals known as seconds, both major and minor. Seconds have a distinctly dissonant sound—they long to be resolved, yet also seem content with their tension. This harmonic contradiction can be found throughout the ambient music genre. Since all but the third chord are missing the critical b3 (in this case, F), the "minor" labels I given them are implied by the overall phrase.
To add color and movement to your ambient playing, add modulation or a combination of effects. For more on mixing and matching effects see my Feb. 2018 PG lesson "Eclectic Effecting 101: How to Use Stock Pedals to Unlock New Sounds."
Ex. 7 is a swelled D chord using drop-D tuning that is performed eight times. First with reverb only, then seven times with seven different effects in addition to reverb: chorus, phaser, flange, tremolo, vibrato, Uni-Vibe, and rotary.
One piece of equipment that many ambient guitarists use is called the EBow. The name of this piece of hand-held gear comes from the fact that it can sustain a note on the guitar the way a bow can sustain a note on other string instruments, such as a violin. For ambient guitarists, one of its most practical uses is demonstrated in Ex. 8. You can maintain a note without decay and without excessive volume or distortion, and this allows you to concoct phrases that are difficult (if not impossible) to accomplish with normal picking techniques and a quiet amplifier.
One final, uncommon—yet rewarding—technique for ambient 6-string is known as glissando guitar. Daevid Allen of the band Gong (a band that's hard to label, but I'd describe as the perfect blend of Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, and Dr. Seuss) developed this technique after seeing Pink Floyd guitarist Sid Barrett doing something similar in the 1960s.
Glissando guitar is generated by gently rubbing the strings of the guitar over the body (not the neck) with a piece of metal. I find a disengaged tremolo arm, aka whammy bar, works well. My effects are compression, distortion, chorus, and delay.
I've found that what your fretting hand does is not nearly as important as where your "metal-bar-rubbing-hand" is placed. Ex. 9 is an example of glissando guitar with my metal-bar-rubbing-hand hovering between the two pickups of a Telecaster, while playing a Gm7 chord with my fretting hand. Intriguingly, the pitch goes down as I move closer to the bridge pickup and gets higher as I move back toward the neck.
Putting It All Together
Ex. 10 puts many of the previous elements to work in one complete, live-looping piece. I'll break it down bit by bit.
1) Produce a D drone loop, using a volume swell, drenched in reverb and delay, and with an additional panning auto-filter effect to create movement.
2) Overdub Dm and Am arpeggios with additional delay and Uni-Vibe effects.
3) Perform melody in D minor, with long, sustaining notes using the EBow.
Once I recorded this lesson's final example, I realized I could readily compose another dozen, mixing and matching the assorted techniques and effects we've discussed, creating both radical and subtle alterations on what you've already heard and learned. This is because, as with any genre (the blues for instance), ambient music consists of a few basic ideas but offers endless variations to the imaginative guitarist. I hope you can take the information I've presented here and devise your own ambient music, guitar-centric or otherwise.
This article was updated on July 23, 2021.
The album also features a reunion with former bandmate Mick Taylor.
Ronnie Wood and the Ronnie Wood Band return to the blues with the second installment of his live album trilogy - Mr. Luck - A Tribute to Jimmy Reed: Live at the Royal Albert Hall.
Mr. Luck - A Tribute to Jimmy Reed: Live at the Royal Albert Hall will be released by BMG on September 3, 2021. The 18-track album features The Ronnie Wood Band including Mick Taylor with incredible special guests, Bobby Womack, Mick Hucknall, Paul Weller, and pays tribute to one of Ronnie's musical heroes and major influences, the Mississippi electric blues pioneer Jimmy Reed.
The album is recorded live on a memorable night at the Royal Albert Hall on November 1, 2013. It features stunning tracks including "Good Lover" and "Ghost of A Man." With unique album artwork specially created by Ronnie, Mr. Luck will be available digitally, on CD, as a vinyl release, and as a beautiful limited-edition dual-tone smoky blue vinyl.
When self-taught guitarist Eddie Taylor imparted his skills onto his friend Jimmy Reed, he surely couldn't have imagined the effect this was to have on the Chicago blues scene. Backing up such luminaries as John Lee Hooker, he is best remembered for his work with his former student.
The Ronnie Wood Band - Let's Get Together (ft. Mick Taylor) (Live at the Royal Albert Hall)
Sweet coincidence, then, that in 1974 another Taylor, Mick, would make way for Ronnie Wood in the Rolling Stones, paving the way for these two friends and celebrated guitarists to work on projects ever since. The culmination of this to date is Taylor's place in The Ronnie Wood Band at the Royal Albert Hall for 2013's Blues fest, where they played the now-legendary set that would come to birth to this recording.
In regard to Mr. Luck, Ronnie comments:"Jimmy Reed was one of the premier influences on the Rolling Stones and all the bands that love American blues from that era until the present day. It is my honor to have the opportunity to celebrate his life and legacy with this tribute."
This album marks the second iteration in a trilogy of special and personal albums by Wood and the band, celebrating Ronnie's musical heroes. The first album, Mad Lad explored the work of Chuck Berry as an emotional commemoration after Berry's passing just over two years ago. Ronnie toured with Berry and was a lifelong fan.
2. Good Lover
3. Mr. Luck
4. Let's Get Together
5. Ain't That Loving You Baby
6. Honest I Do
7. High & Lonesome
8. Baby What You Want Me To Do
9. Roll and Rhumba
10. You Don't Have To Go
11. Shame Shame Shame
12. I'm That Man Down There
13. Got No Where To Go
14. Big Boss Man
15. I Ain't Got You
16. I'm Going Upside Your Head
17. Bright Lights Big City
18. Ghost of a Man