So, this site started off (and does still function on some level) as a companion to an online store where you can buy artisan quality, handmade, boutique effects (go ahead, try it, hit the “shop” button up top – you know you want to). This is odd to me as I’ve never owned an artisan quality, handmade boutique effect. I mean, I still have a chorus pedal I bought from Sears when I was 12, but I don’t think that counts. There’s the Ibanez delay that never truly shut off unless you pulled the battery. That doesn’t seem artisan quality. What about the small truck full of Digitech stuff? No, that doesn’t count because I never even bought a Space Station.
Obviously, in providing content for this place I’m going to have to come at this sideways. In fact, I think “Coming At This Sideways” makes an awesome title, also this being the internet if I can include “CATS” in every post, that’s SEO gold.
Oh yeah, also Ibanez guitars.
At current count I own six Ibanez RGs (five of them are even functional!). One would think that if you own six of one thing you’re very fond of that thing. One would be wrong. Obsessing over something and liking it are not the same thing. My relationship with Ibanez is, in fact, a tale of the worst kind of Gear Acquisition Syndrome/mentally stuck insanity.
As I write this I am just under a month shy of 40. Like many Black men my age I spent my teenage years listening to
gangsta rap hair metal. Coming out of nowhere that anyone cared about (oh, don’t get indignant with me Zappa fans, you didn’t care about Alcatrazz, either) to be the whipped topping on the sadness bowl that David Lee Roth’s solo career would become (and, because I don’t have enough parenthetical asides, let’s be clear: DLR put out better albums without Van Halen than Van Halen put out without DLR) was Steven Siro Vai. This young(ish), Italian man from Lawn Guyland would become a hero to millions of sweaty, teenage boys overnight.
To celebrate his newfound status as a hero to White, suburban males everywhere Vai did the most logical thing in the world. He teamed up with a guitar manufacturer mainly known for being sued by other guitar manufacturers for ripping off their designs and released a guitar that cost more than most of his fan base could afford.
Also, since he’s a mensch, he worked with Ibanez to re-work one of their old lines into a less expensive version of his signature guitars, an act which mainly consisted of not cutting random holes in them. These Roadstar Guitars would be affordable by people with normal jobs. In fact, by the late ’90s, with Kurt Cobain’s shuffling off this mortal coil signifying “the death of rock music” you could grab the highest end RGs, used, for $200 all day long. So, armed with my first job out of college that’s exactly what I did.
- There’s the RG570FM in blue. It came complete with Ibanez V1/S1/V2 pickups that sounded somewhere between “like ass” and “craptastic.” I actually didn’t mean to put “sounded” as they still sound horrible.
- There’s the RG750 in white that I bought by accident. How do you buy a guitar by accident? Daddy’s Junky Music (R.I.P) used to have an auction site called, imaginatively, RockAuction.com. The rules were simple, if you won the auction you won the item. If you came in second place and the first place person decided not to pay up you won the item. Imagine my surprise when a giant package was delivered to my door the day after I got laid off containing a guitar that I thought I hadn’t bought and that I no longer actually wanted. Oddly, it’s the best sounding guitar I own, proving that Ibanez can actually make pickups that don’t sound like the southbound part of a northbound mule.
- There’s the RG7421 that actually plays and sounds awesomely, much better than the
- RG7620 with pickups that sound like they’re always underwater. At first I thought I’d just gotten a bad guitar. No, the pickups in it just suck hard. This is, also, the most expensive guitar that I have ever purchased new.
- There’s the RG550 which was Kevan Geier’s first Ibanez. It’s sort of like owning the golden crack pipe (this makes sense if you know Kevan and his Ibanez obsession). It was a first year Desert Sun Yellow but by the time I got it had been refinished at least twice. Now it’s mostly good for portraiture
- There’s the RG350/450 that has been my nemesis for the last decade or so. You can read more about its hellish birth somewhere else on the internet. Hopefully I will get the pickup situation straightened out this weekend.
So, that’s six guitars, you will note that I only had anything good to say about two of them. This is largely because as much as I love the look of the Ibanez RG and I love the H/S/H pickup configuration of the x50 models and I even love the sound of my 750…
I loathe the Wizard neck profile with all of my being.
I didn’t used to hate it. I was just kind of “meh” on it. I thought that there was something wrong with me. Surely, the object of my desire (I wanted to own all of the RGses) was not so flawed on a fundamental level. I, the guy who always advises people, “do not plug in a guitar before you make the decision to buy it. A good sounding guitar will fool you into thinking it’s a good playing guitar when it isn’t. It’s way easier, and cheaper, to replace pickups than a neck,” had a full collection of guitars with necks that were on the bad side of awful.
The situation came to a head when I sustained a wrist injury helping my future wife’s cute neighbor out at her Tae Kwon Do belt test. You know how to get a repetitive stress injury in one weekend? Hold the board that 30 people will have to kick five times each, that’s how. After jacking up my wrist it became hard to play any guitar. Even now, over a decade later, I still get flare ups that make it hard to play for any extended period. One thing became very obvious to me, though.
Despite what the Guitar Industrial Complex tells you, a thin neck is not “fast” a thin neck is just thin. You want to increase your playing speed, get a guitar with a neck that’s comfortable for your own hands. I have relatively big hands, a neck which is more like the business end of a Louisville Slugger puts my hand in a very natural playing position which lets me play faster and with less fatigue. The Wizard neck profile on the higher end Ibanez guitars does exactly the opposite of that.
This puts me in an interesting position, cheaper Ibanez guitars tend to come with Wizard II or Wizard III necks, which are thicker and thicker still, thus more comfortable. Also, the Wizard 7 necks sit better in my hands than the six string Wizards. What I’m saying is, if I wanted to continue my OCD fueled quest to own all the RGses the best move was to go cheap.
In this space could be a long story about how I tried to buy a GRGA, literally the cheapest arch top RG available (until they discontinued it this year) from a big box guitar retailer. This story concludes with them not giving me all the parts for the guitar (because, that’s almost a given) and me returning it and while being talked off the ledge by one of the floor managers (who I knew from his time at one of my local mom-and-pop stores) I grabbed a Fender Showmaster.
That guitar feels like home.
I had no intention of buying a Fender anything. I’m not opposed to Fender. I have a nice Squire Pro-Tone Fat Strat which is, apparently, popular enough with Squire fans (they exist) that I could sell it today for exactly what I paid for it 15 years ago. The thing that guitar and the Showmaster got right were nice, comfortable necks that I can play for a long time and not feel pain (what they got wrong were the bridges. Ohhhhhh, bridges).
I would have never have gotten that guitar if not for the rank stupidity of the big, chain music store system (oddly, now that I remember it, I had the same problem with the aforementioned Squire that caused me to buy the Fender at a completely different chain). However, I should have. I should have realized at some point that just because I felt compelled to buy new gear that I didn’t need that I didn’t have to buy the same gear. I didn’t have to keep banging my head against the same wall of guitars that looked good, but weren’t terribly fun to play for more than a song or three. I should not have wasted almost 20 years of my life.
I should have tried something new.
I think I’m sensing a theme.