Warmoth – Finally Taking the Plunge

There are so many ways to get a “custom” guitar these days that it’s hard to keep track.  There are so many small builders, big companies offering mass-personalization, and even better building tutorials.  But for some reason, I’ve always gone back to Warmoth.  It’s part because I’ve had friends get guitars from them that turned out great.  It’s part because they are the only ones I know of with a pretty comprehensive online building tool.  Plenty of folks will build one-off vintagey strats and let you pick the color and bridge, but nobody I know of lets you decide everything down to the radius or control cavity layout.

But for some reason I’ve never bought a Warmoth guitar.  I’ve built hundreds of imaginary ones over the past 10 or so years, but always chickened out.  I think part of me knew I wouldn’t want to commit to whatever I built, and the resale value would be terrible1.

That changed recently.  Over the past couple years I started to miss owning a Peavey Wolfgang.  I’ve had two of them, a Special (the cheaper, overseas model with a flat top) and a Standard (the US one w/ a carved top).  I really miss the standard.  It’s hard to explain if you’ve never played one, but they were great guitars.  They felt compact like they have a shorter scale, but don’t2.  The asymetrical neck profile is so comfortable for me.  I love thicker necks, but they can be rough for soloing.  The way the Wolfgang neck curves gives your fingers a little easier access for bending and reaching across a lot of frets.  And I’m a Van Halen nut3.

So I decided I seriously regretted selling my Wolfgang and wanted one back for good.  But I just can’t agree with the price of them on the used market.  They are overpriced, but not terribly expensive.  But finding the exact one I want for a price I’m willing to pay has been impossible.  All the models I’ve liked have been in bad shape or absurdly priced.  Oh, and I keep getting turned off by the pickup selector being in the upper horn.  That’s the one thing I don’t like about those guitars.

Which leads me to Warmoth.  I think a few years ago now, they started offering a body stye similar to the Wolfgang.  It deservedly gets mixed reviews, as it’s not an exact clone and obviously that will annoy the purists.  But it’s close and you could probably mistake one for the EB/MM models at a glance.

my guitar will not look like this

It seemed like a great opportunity to finally dive in.  The best part, is really making it mine.  Most of it will be taking the best of both worlds4 from the Peavey and Music Man models, but giving it my own spin.  IE – I’ll have the same unfinished birdseye maple neck/fretboard, 6105 fret wire, 1.625″ nut… but with a 10-15″ compound radius.  And I’ll do an OFR bridge, but recessed (mostly to make sure I can get the action exactly where I want, but being able to pull up on the bar is nice).  I mentioned not liking the pickup selector location, so I’m going to have it in the place of a normal Strat tone knob.  Some of the details are little, but it’s enough to make it feel like mine.

The toughest part will be the wait.  There’s a lot to be said for instant gratification.  Waiting several weeks can be painful and scary.  But I’ll survive I’m sure.  More to come…

  1. It’s not a knock against Warmoth that used ones sell for nothing, it’s just that it’s hard to place a value on a guitar that is completely yours and you *hopefully* assembled correctly
  2. I cannot get comfortable with anything but a 25.5″ scale.  But the Wolfgangs are weird, it’s like they take up less space and are a little more comfortable to play as a result, but don’t give the crampt spacing that I feel Les Pauls have.  I don’t have an explanation.
  3. My cell # has ended in 5150 for close to two decades
  4. Van-Hagar pun not intended

Band Auditions: Rarely Done Right, Usually Hilarious

I once auditioned a singer, and it didn’t go well at all. He needed to be picked up from a bus stop, which is fine but I don’t live near a bus stop. That should’ve been a sign1 that holding regular practices would be rough, especially since the busses don’t run late by us.

We sat around to chat for a bit, I offered a beer.  He declined because he had to overcome alcoholism.  No worries, just not what you expect from a 21 year old.  Unfortunately, that didn’t preclude him from getting really, really high.

For maybe the first 20 minutes of us hanging out, he was fine.  But you could definitely see things going south fast.  We didn’t really plan anything out, so I tried to do an impromptu song with him.  He had some notes scribbled down on crumpled paper, and he kind of mumbled them while I played.  That wasn’t going to work.

Then he grabbed a guitar.  He started playing one note, I think it was a D on the G string.  I remember, because he played that one note over and over and over.  I think maybe for 10 minutes.  Maybe longer.  I left the room at one point, came back and he was still at it.  Completely zoned out as if he was using that one note to speak.

Thankfully, I got him to leave, with a little force…

These days, auditions are different.  If it’s someone I don’t know, I’ll meet them at a bar, coffee house, anywhere that’s not my house.  Asking people to learn a song or two before coming over is obvious, but overlooked in the majority of auditions I’ve gone to.  It’s not even about safety, but just about not wasting time.  I think too often we don’t take these things seriously, or have a plan at all.  And maybe we miss out on a good musical partner because things are disorganized and frustrating.

Which leads me to this…

  1. Another sign should’ve been the way he talked about his living situation.  He lived on, as he called it, his girlfriends father’s “compound”.  It was a large house, I gather, and he stayed in the guest house.  But he was so against this father and his compound, but not enough so that he’d move out…

Gear Selfies Gotta Go

I belong to several busy guitar forums, guitar facebook groups and guitar subreddits.  They’re generally great, but increasingly I’m seeing the annoying trend of people over-sharing gear photos.

If you do a Google Image Search for “my pedalboard” the results will scroll for about six weeks.  And it’s impossible to really distinguish any of them.

pedalboard-google

Those photos are kind of creepy.  Somehow, pedalboards in abstract like this remind me of those post-mortem photos that were somewhat common in the 19th century.  Just empty looking metal shells against a black background. Continue reading Gear Selfies Gotta Go

My Champion 600 Modded with EQ & More

Shortly after Fender released the Champion 600 around five years ago, folks quickly realized it was a great little amp to mod.  The circuit on this 1×6″ 5 watt tube amp is quite similar to a silverface Champ.  But to hit a $200 price range, it was made in China with a whole bunch of features either stripped out or cheapened.

Still, it’s a great little bedroom tube amp (which is why I bought one) and it’s an excellent platform for experimenting. Continue reading My Champion 600 Modded with EQ & More

Little Looper Shootout

In the past year, and especially very recently, we’ve seen several new loop pedals hit the scene.  All of them boast a very small footprint and super simple operation.  Oh, and low prices!  With each pedal seemingly so stripped down you might wonder what the difference there is between them.  We’re here to help sort that out. Continue reading Little Looper Shootout

Help the Family of ZVEX’s Andy Richardson

There was a buzz this week in the effects world, and not a good one.  On Memorial Day, Andrew Richardson of ZVEX went missing.  Zachary Vex put out an alert on social media and it spread across a lot of the industry outlets and forums.  Things immediately did not look good.

Sadly, he was found dead. Continue reading Help the Family of ZVEX’s Andy Richardson

Wisconsin Pride: Monarch Pedalboards say Goodbye to Velcro

It’s really hard to get excited about pedalboards.  You’re paying $300+ for some plastic/wood with carpet on it.  Then you’re going to velcro your pedals to it, destroying the resale value of your effects in the process 1.  That velcro will lose its grab over time.  It will infuriate you when you remember how much you paid for something you could build at home for $25.

Of course, if you’re real serious, you can get a custom built board where things are permanently mounted in place.  That’s cool, until you buy a new boost and need an engineer to fit it in your pedal chain.

You’ve probably caught on by now, that I write this because I think I have the answer to all your pedal boarding problems.  Better yet2, it comes from a Wisconsin company3.  That means when I heard about the folks at Monarch Pedalboards, I was able to drive across town and actually meet them.  This is what I discovered. Continue reading Wisconsin Pride: Monarch Pedalboards say Goodbye to Velcro

  1. Unless you’re like me and put painters tape between the velcro and the pedal – which keeps the pedal’s value, until the tape comes loose and the pedal falls on the ground during transit.
  2. For me, mostly.  You’ll see why.
  3. Hopefully the first of several that I’ll feature here.

The Strymon Mobius Rabbit Hole

Technology is great, but we can easily become trapped in an endless maze of possibilities that it creates.  This is bad when it gets in the way of just creating new stuff.  That’s exactly my fear when it comes to putting the Strymon Mobius on a pedal board. Continue reading The Strymon Mobius Rabbit Hole