Like many guitar players, when I began, I was all about the classics – Fender and Gibson. Nothing appealed less to me than a Parker, BC Rich, or even Ibanez. These companies were associated with a mentality I didn’t like – I didn’t want to sacrifice soul or character for playability or a Floyd Rose. But as I progressed as a player, and became more interested in “shredding,” it seemed as though my old friends just couldn’t handle the heat. Single coil PUs with hum, low radius necks, heavy strings – not a recipe to sound like Eddie Van Halen. Plus, I was ignoring one major factor – I thought that “soul” came from the guitar, when it really comes from the player. Since then, I have witnessed many character-less solos on classic guitars, and some extremely emotional, original ones on the newer breeds.
Eventually, my interest in the other side prompted me to make a purchase. I went on eBay and bought a factory second, White Ibanez 350DX for about $350. It was the first guitar I ever purchased with a locking nut, “Floyd Rose”-esque system. At first it was weird – the neck was so thin and flat, there were 24 frets, there was a usable whammy bar – but soon it became one of my favorite axes. I loved the way it felt, but the stock PUs were terrible, so I replaced them. Knowing I would hardly use the middle single coil PU, I just put a Seymour Duncan Jazz SH-2 at neck position and a Seymour Duncan JB at bridge. With this change, this guitar became my weapon of choice.
Now, a good guitarist can play on any guitar – but playing with this axe was like using training wheels. So many techniques – legato, tapping, string skipping – that were previously impossible on my Strat or Tele were suddenly pretty easy – and sounding good! Using high output humbuckers, I could finally achieve a distorted tone with cleanliness and clarity. This guitar also became my number one studio axe. It’s totally silent when not being played, and can create a wide array of sounds, from sparkling cleans to death metal overdrive. And the best part – after playing on this guitar for a while, I could suddenly do all these complicated techniques on my classic guitars. It was as if practicing these techniques on a guitar built for them allowed me to better understand their mechanics, and how to implement them on any guitar. Basically, I am so thankful that I purchased this guitar. It has taught me so much about my own playing, and how to coax classic charm out of even the most modern beast.
In conclusion, I advise every guitar player to spend a little time with an axe like this. They are generally foreign made, very inexpensive, and easy to find second hand. I equate them to “rice rocket” racing cars – they are the perfect blank slate, ready to be modified into the ultimate Rock machine. You can learn a lot from having 24 frets and a high neck radius, and may be surprised how much “tone” you can actually get from one of these “shredders.” If you’re into modern guitar playing, yielding a weapon like this is a must.
For more on Ibanez, check out the Ibanez website.