Harem Scare-em : A Collection of Five Guitar Stories

I play the electric guitar, and am currently part of three bands that caters to different genres of music – Bulagta is mostly concerned with original songs grounded in blues / rock, Shinkan is largely a j-pop / rock cover group playing mostly in conventions, which is unfortunately currently on an indefinite hiatus, and Urusai, an off-shoot of Shinkan mostly concerned with hard rock / metal music.

As you may have guessed by now, the electric guitar is an indispensable tool for me, allowing me to express myself in the form of music. I currently keep five guitars in my stead, four of which are currently working and in top gig worthy condition, and one currently awaiting parts for a restoration job.

Today, I’ll talk about each one of them, how I acquired them, and select stories about my memories with them. I’ll be referring to my guitars by name, and oh yes, I do name my guitars, and it’s always via a girl’s name. I will list the pros and cons of these guitars, and if you stumbled on my blog while looking up for a particular guitar, I hope it can help you with making a choice.

Before I go on, my guitars are all strung with D’addario 0.10s and set up to have a string action of around 1.2mm on the low E string at the 12th fret. I was previously an Ernie Ball Slinky user, but completely switched due to unfortunate string breaking incidents where the 1st E string broke at the ball, one broke mysteriously, the other unwound some then broke. A current exception is my Flying V, string with EB Slinky .10s. Also, while I keep the maintenance on them and am able to do basic set-up myself, they all go to Papi’s Guitar Shop, my trusted guitar tech for initial set-up, and check if anything else needs to be done to keep my guitars gig worthy. 

D’Addario strings user for the past few years now. Very satisfied!


Name : Nina

Brand : n/a

Type : Stratocaster

Frets : 22

Bridge : Fender style synchronized

Pickups : formerly S-S-S, now changed to a single bridge humbucker
Originally, my father owned this guitar. She was brought home one day back in 2003 as a package consisting of her, a Morris electric A.I.R p-bass, and an all tube Roland Cube40 bass amp. When she first came home, I had little idea how to play a guitar, let alone how an electric guitar functions. However, I began to pick her up and fiddle with her a little because I was beginning to be exposed to instrumental guitar music at this point in my life. However, I thought she sucked because she doesn’t sound anything like Joe Satriani’s guitar. and does not have a Floyd Rose tremolo, which I thought instantly made any guitar into an awesome instrument. I bought a new pickguard with an H-S-S configuration, installed a friend’s humbucking pickup, and off I went. Later on, when I got heavily influenced by Eddie Van Halen, I  ditched the single coils and played the guitar with just one humbucker.

I learned a whole bunch of things with Nina, in terms of technique and overall musicianship. I recorded heavily with her, mostly instrumental songs and a couple of songs with my *ehem* singing voice on it. Most of the things I now know about a guitar was learned and honed with her. My proudest moment with her was then I joined a band competition back in 2006 at the 5th Toycon, for which I formed, fronted and sang my own song. After that, I started to go out and play regular gigs before I went back to the local j-rock scene. One day in 2009 though, while fiddling around with her, I accidentally destroyed the wiring, and selector switch. I was unable to get her back to working order and she remained in operable since then. I’m still putting money together to get her the necessary stuff she needs to get put back into shape, and be playable again.

A Stratocaster, even in stock form, is a very versatile guitar sounding guitar, especially if yours has a 5 way switch. It’s well balanced, and the neck will feel fine with most hands, although there are different neck shapes depending on the year of production or it’s a particular kind of Stratocaster. The only issue I have is it doesn’t feel very comfortable playing fast at the highest registers since the heel sort of gets in the way. The synchronized tremolo allows easy adjust of the saddles, and allows you to introduce vibrato with the tremolo bar. As long as you don’t abuse the bar, tuning is very stable. Go ape with it, and tuning will rape you.

Lastly, Nina is named after the main character in my favorite magical girl show, Ultramaniac.


Name : Maya

Brand : Epiphone

Type : Les Paul (Special Model)

Frets : 22

Bridge : hard tail

Pickups : H-H (Gibson Zebra on the bridge)

DSC_1014

Maya is the first guitar that I actually saved money to buy. Remember how I fucked up Nina’s wiring back in 2009? Well, my friends in the office are supposed to do a set during our company’s Christmas party, and I just happened to destroy Nina’s functions while trying to prepare for it. With about a month to go before the party, and with me wanting a new guitar anyways, I readily bought Maya. She was owned by a forumer on Philmusic and was sold to me for what seemed to me as a steal. She was strung with 0.12s as the former owner played some kind of heavy metal music, which I immediately changed out to cater to my style of playing. What I knew on Nina didn’t exactly translate to Maya – no trem meant no dive bombs, and my hands had to adjust from the longer Strat scale.

DSC_1016

I was in the middle of transitioning from a purely shred oriented player, to being more of a blues player. I haven’t recorded anything with Maya except for a few videos, but she gigged heavily, and was my main axe (check out this old video) when I entered Shinkan.

Me playing with Bulagta @ Victoria Court, Pasig

Me playing with Bulagta @ Victoria Court, Pasig

At a recent gig for Beehive Productions @ Conspiracy Bar

At a recent gig with Bulagta for Beehive Productions @ Conspiracy Bar

My fondest memory of her is when we joined the Otomonogatari in 2012, and while our band settled for 3rd place, I bagged an award as Best Guitarist, which I think is because I bombed out during our set. Currently, she serves as one of my backup guitars for Shinkan, and as my main guitar for Bulagta. She is also currently the only one among my guitars with a battle scar – happened about a month back during a gig when Ep rammed his bass accidentally into my guitar. I didn’t think too much about it though, perhaps she’d look sexier with some dings and dents as a relic guitar.

The Zebra's top pickup height screw is somehow already stripped. To hold the pickup in place, I  jammed a pack of Pall Mall Reds...

The Zebra’s top pickup height screw is somehow already stripped. To hold the pickup in place, I jammed a pack of Pall Mall Reds…

DSC_1018

Check out the huge ass ding, a reminder to never be in the way on stage.

Maya is named after the main antagonist in Ultramaniac.


Name : Yuri

Brand : Epiphone

Type : Superstrat (Pro II)

Frets : 24 on the top 3 strings, 22 on the lower 3

Bridge : Schaller floating tremolo (non-locking)

Pickups : H-H (OBL / slanted) with push / pull coil split

DSC_1002Yuri is my third guitar, something I bought back in 2012 when I was looking for a Christmas present for myself. I didn’t exactly have anything in mind when I was browsing the Philmusic forums, and this only attracted my attention because it was within my budget, and I was listening heavily to Dokken at the time. The owner also lived fairly close to my house, so we managed to meet up, and allowed me to check the guitar first before sealing the deal. By this time, I was already re-gaining my interest in studying guitar more seriously for Shinkan since j-rock often features a higher level of technique than your usual blues / rock and Western-style pop music.

High speed on high places? No problemo.

High speed on high places? No problemo.

Yuri is easily the most unique and versatile guitar in my current arsenal. This mostly has to do with the fact that most people equate the Epiphone brand to the Les Paul, since it is essentially a lower model Gibson, much like how Fender has a Squier line that offers the same style guitars for a lower price bracket.

A lot of people have a lot of trouble believing Yuri even exists. A quick look on the headstock is quite mindfuckish.

A lot of people have a lot of trouble believing Yuri even exists. A quick look on the headstock is quite mindfuckish.

Also, most people know the Pro model to be a Les Paul because there is indeed a Les Paul Pro. When people ask my about it and I tell them it’s a Pro II, then go on to describe it, they are often confused, if not outright disbelieving my claim. Since she has 24 frets on a pretty thin neck, you have no problems with high performance techniques for shredding, although it may feel awkward to play on if you’re not used to a thin, wide neck . The coil split option allows you to get single coil sounds, allowing you a wide range of sounds for a wide range of music. The Schaller floating trem allows for smoother dives, and some degree of pitch up options. It’s a top loading trem basically, and the big knob allows you to dial in spring tension to handle various string gauges and allow you to slip on new strings, without removing the back plate.

DSC_1006The neck is a thin D, with a large radius, and also a recessed heel that allows you to reach the high frets with ease.  It also looks pretty, but only if you’re into 80’s glam metal since the headstock is taken from an Explorer in a sleek, arch-top body, loaded with slanted pickups…

One does not simply get replacement pickups. You mad bro?

One does not simply get replacement pickups. You mad bro?

…which also happens to be its biggest con. Because of the way the pickups are oriented (fully slanted, as opposed to just mounted in a slanted hole) it’s hard to find replacement pickups, and currently only Seymour Duncan’s JB Model will fit, short of having a custom made pickup made for it, which I’m considering right now.

Interestingly though, my Pro II has a twin called the KR-660 from Samick. It is essentially the same guitar, just a different headstock, 24 full frets, conventional H-S-S and a double locking tremolo. This being said, I theorize that while my Pro II is Epiphone branded, it was most likely made by the Samick Music Company in Korea, due to the great similarity to the KR-660. Some info on the net says that the original Pro superstrat was made in the US (marked with USA on the truss rod cover, and sporting a double locking tremolo), and subsequent units produced after were made in Korea. Unfortunately, I cannot positively ID it because the serial numbers are no longer on the headstock, someone must’ve removed it during the guitar’s life.

This particular guitar is currently the one most associated with me and my playing with Shinkan, since its hot output pickups fits in very well with our style of music, making it my main axe of choice for my work with them. I haven’t been able to record any piece of music with her, but we have tons of our vids with me playing on this. Someone on Facebook though who owns another one like her claims that this is a pretty rare guitar, with a limited production of around a thousand units worldwide until it was discontinued in 1998. I have also yet to verify that piece of info, but certainly, she stands out because of her unique features.

@ AME X

@ AME X

I named her Yuri after one of the main characters in Angel Beats, one of my favorite anime ever.


Name : Phoebe

Brand : Peavey

Type : Telecaster (custom)

Frets : 21

Bridge : Wilkinson / Ashtray style

Pickups : H-S (chrome covered humbucker on the neck, single coil on the bridge)

DSC_1007I was browsing the Philmusic forums one day in October 2013 when I stumbled upon a guitar being sold for quite a bit of a steal. The owner had posted a photo of it, and it looked really neat and presentable, and he says he’s looking for a new home for this guitar as he already has quite a lot. I wasn’t exactly looking for a Telecaster, but his guitar was quite a looker so I agreed to get it within hours of him posting the ad. I met the seller, Nino, who happens to work as a college professor in STI-Dasmarinas, and we easily became acquainted with each other since he also plays in a band. I swear, when he removed the guitar from the worn gig bag that held it, I was amazed. He’d told me that he’s already the second owner, but there was no scratch to be seen, and she was very shiny (he did declare it as mint-ish), almost as if she just rolled off the production line and right into my hands. I quickly paid the man, held the guitar and since he was very nice, I promised to keep in touch and meet him again in the future to jam and maybe work on some songs.

However, this never happened – sometime during March 2014, he became a victim in an road accident when a delivery rider hit him while he was just outside the school. He was apparently waiting to cross the road to get something from his car, when the driver, who was speeding, hit him, causing severe head injuries. The driver tried to make off but was stopped by other pedestrians, and subsequently arrested. He died within a day of the accident, leaving behind his wife, and then unborn child. When I went to Nino’s house to pay my respects, I identified myself to his wife by showing her a photo of me and Phoebe, and she at once knew who I was since she knew her late husband sold off the guitar, and had somehow spoken to her about me, and our plans to play together.

Sir Naps in action

Sir Naps in action

Phoebe while she was still in Sir Naps' stead. The good man was guitar the collector as well.

Phoebe while she was still in Sir Naps’ stead. The good man was guitar a collector as well.

I’d recently been using Phoebe a lot for my work with Shinkan, and had been to at least a couple of Bulagta gigs. At first, I delighted in her twangy sound because it had been so long since I had a guitar that sounded that bright. She was slated to be my main guitar for the 2014 Toycon, but during our last rehearsal, I couldn’t figure out how to get her to sound as thick as I wanted so I swapped her out for Yuri at the last minute. Somehow though, I got around to getting used to a single coil sound within Shinkan’s music, so I played her at our next gig at Otaku Tayo!’s event at the Quezon Memorial Circle. I played her during Shinkan’s last gig before our decision to go on hiatus. It was an all LiSA set, and this was the gig that I truly got the tone that I want out of her by top loading the strings – previously the strings routed through the body’s ferrules. I wasn’t aware of this feature of the Ashtray bridge until I fooled around with it enough, and discovered the string mounting holes.

Quite recently, I’ve had people come up to me to ask about my opinion as they want to own a tele, and one guy even went out to buy a tele based on how Phoebe sounded. She’d since become part of our image. She was also used on-stage during a live performance / demonstration by one of my local rock guitar idols, Gary Perez from the classic Anak Bayan / Sampaguita bands.

Do you smell them notes?

Do you smell them notes?

IMG_237613752536574

With local rock guitar icon, Gary Perez. And me looking the other way.

Phoebe is pretty special in her own way – she is currently the only guitar I own with a maple fretboard, and I love how those look compared to rosewood. Her blonde color finish is also attractive, and her vintage styling definitely makes her a headturner. Interestingly, she isn’t the same size as a full sized Telecaster. If you put a Peavey tele side by side with a one by Fender or Squier, you’d find that the body is smaller, and the contours are quite different. The difference is very subtle, almost unnoticeable to the regular audiences. Her single coil pickup is pretty hot for a factory unit, and you can get searing rock tones with it, then switch to the humbucker for a more rounded sound. DSC_1009One of the cons of this unit is that there are only 21 frets, and the heel is not recessed, making it a little harder to use for shred work up there. The vintage styled small radius C neck allows for comfortable playing for chords, and other things, except it’s not what you’d call a fast neck, and big bends can end up hitting on the other strings when bent far enough. The brass saddles are arranged in two over a single screw, independent intonation of each string is not possible. The Wilkinson / Ashtray style bridge takes some getting used to – those used to having their hands over the strings while playing may find it weird that their hands also rest over the side of the bridge.

DSC_1011Lastly, the location of the pickup selector does not allow fast switching action without possibly coming into contact with the volume knob – if you keep switching between pickups, this can pose a little bit of a hassle.

Fast switching? No bro.

Fast switching? No bro.

I usually play her through the neck humbuckers, and if I find the need to switch, I have to time my actions to carefully work the switch.

Phoebe is so named because it sounds close, almost sounds the same to its brand name.

Peavey = P(hee)-B(ee)

Peavey = P(hee)-B(ee)


Name : Hanna

Brand : (none)

Type : Flying V

Frets : 22

Bridge : hard tail

Pickups : H-H-H (BHL pickups as found on Epiphone Les Pauls)

DSC_1019This guitar is currently the newest one in my little stead. Those of you who know me will know of my huge admiration for Michael Schenker’s music and style. And in my previous entry, I spoke about how I was quite influenced by the anime “Legend of Black Heaven”. It was only natural that I’d be looking around for a Flying V. I’d actually been on the market for a used V for the past many years. The closest I’d come to actually buying one was during one of RJ’s Christmas Sales where they had a V painted in the classic Michael Schenker half black, half white theme. The only problem was I didn’t make it to the store in time to buy one. I found this particular one, or rather it found me from an uncle (more like family friend) who was looking to remove it from his collection as he has no use for it anymore. It was brought over to the house, and I was told it’s either not branded (custom made) or had the name erased or something.

Custom as fuck. The headstock is not even in any dimension known to Gibson / Epiphone / Hamer owners.

Custom as fuck. The headstock is not even in any dimension known to Gibson / Epiphone / Hamer owners.

It’s got a set neck (a first in my collection), a hard tail and three chrome covered humbuckers, with the bridge and neck pickups arranged in series, and the middle pickup equipped with a switch to turn it on and off.

You can never have too much hum bucking capability!

You can never have too much hum bucking capability!

I’ve only had it for three days, and gigged with it almost as soon as I got it. Bulagta was invited to audition for the Red Horse Muziklaban and we had to play last May 13th at Revamp Bar (formerly Funky Monkey) in Fairview. We played as best as we could with our songs, and we’re waiting to see if we make the cut.

It’s very easily a headturner since Flying V’s aren’t exactly common, and here in Manila where heavy metal music has large following, most shredders either use Rhoads’ style V’s or some more pointed variety of the V, or superstrats. It’s got a plain white color, and chrome covered pickups all scream “VINTAGE!”.

I can’t really say much about it for now, but from what I’d discovered so far is that the guitar is inherently unbalanced. While the guitar looks butt end heady, it actually isn’t and if you let go of the neck, the guitar starts pointing to the ground, with the headstock facing down. Since the guitar is quite unbalanced, you have to support the weight of the neck through your left hand, and sometimes the guitar will have a tendency to move around while playing. A workaround is to raise one leg (preferably the right) and jam the middle part of the horns so it can be stable. Another way is to do the classic Schenker stance – jam the thing between the legs, and hunch over to play. This looks so rock to me, but it’s hard to hold this position for long, which I think is only best for solos – it also makes it harder to use you feet (I prefer my left) to operate your pedal board.

Having a set neck is nice, and many builders believe this increases sustain. However,because of the shape of the guitar, the set neck joint, and the strap holder’s position, access to the upper frets from the 17th fret up can be a tedious task.

Neck joint? Bitch please.

Neck joint? Bitch please.

So far, I haven’t figured a way to use it the way I can use Yuri or Phoebe. She’s not as a small as Phoebe, nor as well balanced. Also, her neck feels pretty small, which is fine with me since I like to stretch. However, unlike Yuri’s thin, wide neck, my fingers overshoot their positions. Over teh weekend I tried busting out some chops on Hanna (which I think has a 24 3/4″ neck, and I found that my fingers stretch like they would on a 25 1/2″ neck, which is pretty much what most of my guitars have. Check out this article about guitar scale length on this fine article. Lastly, while the three humbucker set up works and looks nice, it somehow looks excessive to me, not to mention that if the pickups are arranged in their regular form, I often hit the middle pickup with my pick. However, I found out that when I use the bridge pickup, then open up the middle pickup, I can get a sweet twangy sound – not much quack though. And when I use the neck pickup, with the middle pickup, I get a brighter sound while maintaining the “roundness” of the overall sound.

I named her Hanna, after Hanna Reitsch, the famed German aviatrix from WWII.

~

Does this signal the end of my collecting madness? Far from it I guess. I’m still waiting on a guitar with a double locking trem for premium dive bombing awesomeness. I currently do not own an Ibanez, Jackson or some super-shredding guitar. I’m still looking for a lot of other style guitars too, and I have yet to own a Star or a semi-hollow, or something.

If you ever bump into me during gigs, please say hi to me and my date for that night.

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