Category Archives: Experiences

The Ibanez RG350M – Such a JEM . . .

I have a fixation with Ibanez guitars.  The company’s retro styling, commitment to playability, constant innovation, and  iconic neon color schemes make them truly original (which is ironic as they faced law suits in their early years for plagiarism of competitor’s models).  As a result, many of their guitars are works of art, and have become collector’s items.  One of the guitars that helped establish Ibanez as a serious company for the serious player was the JEM.  Introduced in 1987, and co-designed by Steve Vai, the JEM was a Super Strat that came in Shocking Pink, Desert Sun Yellow, and Loch Ness Green.  Probably the most iconic features were the “Monkey Grip” handle cut out and the multicolored disappearing pyramid inlay – cool!

Of course, today these guitars are fairly rare and infinitely more expensive than they were in the late 80s.  I mean, we’re not talking 1954 Stratocaster rare, but a vintage JEM in good condition will definitely take some research and cost upwards of $2700.  Not horrible, but you’re still buying a vintage instrument, which means all of the problems that may come with it.  So in my quest for a JEM, I had to face the reality that it was not in my best financial interest to purchase a real vintage JEM (although they will probably appreciate nicely).  Luckily, Ibanez still produces a guitar that bears resemblance to the mighty JEM – the RG350.


So, for roughly $430 I got a new Yellow Ibanez RG – the foundation for the 2011 JEM project.  Now there were a few elements I would never have – the Monkey Grip, the disappearing pyramid inlay, and the pink tremolo bar depression cut out.  I mean I could have gotten these things, but at that point and cost, I might as well have shelled out for the real deal.  So first I scoured the online community of JEM fanatics – Jemsite – until I found a parts supplier, Ibanez RulesFrom Ibanez Rules I ordered authentic neon green (with black writing) Volume and Tone knobs, and a Pink selector switch tip – all to match the original.  Next, it was time for the PUs, which were obviously to be Dimarzios, the only company still producing the late 80s aesthetic.  To sound like the best, Paul Gilbert, I got two PAF Pros for Neck and Bridge, and an  FS-1 for Middle position.  To match the original JEM, I got neon pink PU covers, and one creme/black zebra cover for a personal twist.  Lastly, I installed a neon green Dimarzio ClipLock strap – my late 80s JEM reproduction was complete!

Ultimately, this was a fun project!  Of course, it’s no spitting image of the original JEM, but it’s a modern progeny with the same general character and a much smaller price tag.  The Dimarzios sound killer, and at the very least, the guitar is a great conversation piece that fills the void in my arsenal of a late 80s shred machine.  So if you’ve got a thirst for some rare, vintage axe but lack the funds to obtain – make it yourself!

For more on the Ibanez JEM, check out Jemsite.

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NAMM 2012 – Tape’s Rolling!

Like many first time bloggers, I completely neglected my brainchild after its initial incarnation.  Although in my head I have big plans for this little blog, the first step towards realization is the hardest.  So, I made my 2012 New Years Resolution to kick start Riffs of Wisdom!  Here it goes . . .

Last weekend was a very special weekend for all of the music community here in Southern California (and world wide) – it was the annual National Association of Music Merchants convention in Anaheim, CA – aka, the 2012 NAMM show.  In essence, it’s a business convention where music equipment manufacturers, education companies, distributors and representatives from all facets of the industry gather to examine new products, make connections and create plans for the upcoming year.  In reality – it’s a massive music party where companies set up elaborate booths, showcases and demos to promote their brands and products.  There are performances, Q and A’s, autograph signings, contests, and a host of other exciting events designed to turn attendees into loyal consumers.  High profile musicians, celebrities and just about any YouTube music sensation can be spotted while perusing the over 6 halls and 4 floors of industry exhibitors.  Sounds like fun!

The Orange Booth

As a guitar player, NAMM makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop.  I can roam from Fender to Gibson to PRS to Ibanez to Martin and beyond, playing guitars and learning about this years new product lines.  I visited T Rex, Electro Harmonix, Dunlop, Xotic, TC Electronics and others, checking out killer pedals and effects.  And of course there is the amp buffet – Marshall, Orange, Vox, Bogner, THD, etc – supplying hours of endless fun.  And that’s just the guitar stuff!  NAMM also has an extensive exhibitor list of drum, pro audio, key board, brass/woodwind/orchestral instrument, education and specialty companies.  A lot to take in!

Despite the fun of seeing all these great products, the most rewarding thing about NAMM is seeing and hearing the amazing musicians.  Over my last two years of attendance, I’ve had the great fortune of seeing the likes of Guthrie Govan, Carl Verheyen, Alex Hutchings, Victor Wooten, Andy Wood, Joey DeFrancesco, Steve Trovato, Tim Lerch and many others, perform and play in a casual setting.  Nothing compares to seeing these iconic players doing their thing at a little booth – it’s like a private concert, very cool and inspiring.  Youtube is littered with NAMM videos, so I’m sure you can find some great NAMM performances from your favorite players on there.

The Marshall Booth

So overall – NAMM is awesome, you should try and go!  Because it’s a business convention, NAMM is not open to the public.  I have been fortunate enough to gain entry though a student program called Generation Next, geared towards helping future industry professionals.  However, your local music shop can probably get you a badge – if they like you.  And although getting the badge can be tough, not everybody in NAMM is a music industry professional.  There are plenty of NAMM tourists, aimlessly roaming around, trying to film performances for their YouTube Channel, mingling, etc.  It’s all in good fun!  For more info check out the NAMM website

There it is, the first real entry!  Not exactly filled with Riffs of Wisdom, but hopefully it’s an interesting insider view on a world few get to see.  Stay tuned for more Riffs!

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