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Top 10 Big 5 Interviews of 2021

This year we uncovered that Billy Gibbons X-rayed his hands, John 5 celebrated his unsung guitar hero, and why Tommy Shaw has beef with the guitar industry. Now see our most memorable chats from 2021.


10. Red Fang's David Sullivan

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The sludge-metal aficionado takes the mic on Teles, "Holy Grails," and how he stays chill in the spotlight.


9. Megadeth’s David Ellefson

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Metal's bass icon on his Jackson's P-pickup mod, Kiss' 'Destroyer,' and the owner of his lonely '80s heart.


8. Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr

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The Southern-rock ringleader opens up about his vintage-refin No. 1 and not letting trolls get him down.


7. John 5 on How He Gets Old-School Tones from His Metal-Friendly Tele

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Plus, find out which guitar hero the Rob Zombie sideman “begs and pleads” with you to listen to.


6. Steve Stevens

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Billy Idol’s trusted sideman digs deep on classic prog and even gets a little zen as he takes on our questions.

5. Yngwie Malmsteen

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How does the same answer apply to three of our five questions? Everyone's favorite sweep-picking Swede loves going against the grain—that's how!


4. Billy F. Gibbons

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The ZZ Top legend on what makes his "Pearly Gates" Les Paul so special, why he recently had his hands x-rayed, and the "slithering" slide guitarist whose work still inspires him.

3. John Petrucci

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The Dream Theater legend shares surprising desert-island-album and guitar-hero picks, and remembers finally saying "screw it " to self-consciousness about his "super nerdy" secret weapon.


2. Warren Haynes Reveals His Secret Studio Weapon

Premier Guitar …And it's not his vintage Les Paul. Plus, the Gov't Mule mainstay "cheats" on his desert-island album pick.

1. Styx’s Tommy Shaw on What Irks Him About the Guitar Industry

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Plus, how he cried the day Wes Montgomery died, and the surprise family connection with his prized '54 Tele.


With a team of experts on hand, we look at six workhorse vintage amps you can still find for around $1,000 or less.

If you survey the gear that shows up on stages and studios for long enough, you’ll spot some patterns in the kinds of guitar amplification players are using. There’s the rotating cast of backline badasses that do the bulk of the work cranking it out every day and night—we’re all looking at you, ’65 Deluxe Reverb reissue.

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Amazon Prime Day is here (July 16-17). Whether you're a veteran player or just picking up your first guitar, these are some bargains you don't want to miss. Check out more deals here! https://amzn.to/3LskPRV

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A technicolor swirl of distortion, drive, boost, and ferocious fuzz.

Summons a wealth of engaging, and often unique, boost, drive, distortion, and fuzz tones that deviate from common templates. Interactive controls.

Finding just-right tones, while rewarding, might demand patience from less assured and experienced drive-pedal users. Tone control could be more nuanced.

$199

Danelectro Nichols 1966
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The Danelectro Nichols 1966, in spite of its simplicity, feels and sounds like a stompbox people will use in about a million different ways. Its creator, Steve Ridinger, who built the first version as an industrious Angeleno teen in 1966, modestly calls the China-made Nichols 1966 a cross between a fuzz and a distortion. And, at many settings, it is most certainly that.

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The author standing next to a Richardson gunstock lathe purchased from Gibson’s Kalamazoo factory. It was used to make six necks at a time at Gibson in the 1950s and 1960s.

Keep your head down and put in the work if you want to succeed in the gear-building business.

The accelerated commodification of musical instruments during the late 20th century conjures up visions of massive factories churning out violins, pianos, and, of course, fretted instruments. Even the venerable builders of the so-called “golden age” were not exactly the boutique luthier shops of our imagination.

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