Tag Archives: Jazz

1975 Rickenbacker 4001 Bass

Although this is a guitar-oriented blog, it’s important to show love to our four string brethren.  In fact, I’m sure many of us dabble in bass, or at least consider ourselves decent bassists (it’s just a guitar without the top two strings rights?) given it’s similarity to the guitar.  For me, bass holds a special place in my heart – for many a year it was my primary instrument, before I picked up the guitar.


During my “bass period” I played in a multitude of various bands, but focused mostly on Rock n’ Roll.  I had a small arsenal of basses – a Fender Jazz Bass and a Musicman Stingray – but was too young to be a serious connoisseur or collector.  My Dad’s good friend Steve lived up the street, and every time we’d go to his house I’d be drawn to this funky looking bass in the corner – his Rickenbacker.  Steve is an avid music enthusiast and hobbyist who has been part of all kinds of bands throughout his life, and his Rickenbacker was some of the last remaining evidence of his younger musical endeavors.

Originally, Steve was a keyboard player.  He had some wild prog-rock set up that most likely emulated some of his favorites of the day – Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Blue Oyster Cult, Yes, Boston, etc.  At some point, I believe Steve wanted to join a particular band – a group that needed a bass player, not a keyboardist.  In a common twist of fate that has led so many musicians to their true instruments, Steve traded his keyboard rig for the Rickenbacker and an amp.  Now I’m not sure if this was Steve’s true calling (and I have no more information on this particular group) but regardless – Steve acquired this beautiful bass that many years later, another young musician was admiring.

Steve was always a huge supporter of my music – from jam sessions with him and my Dad to my own bands, he was always a positive presence.  So one lucky Christmas day (or maybe it was my birthday) Steve and my Dad decided it was time to bestow the great power of the Rickenbacker upon me.  Alas, I was the proud owner of one of the coolest and most iconic instruments of all time.

This particular Rickenbacker is a 4001 model that was made in January of 1975 (indicated by the serial number “OA499” on the jack plate).  It has all of the classic Rickenbacker features – neck-through construction, triangle inlays, wave-crest headstock, and iconic body shape.  But beyond its aesthetic, there are some really unique features of the Rickenbacker.  Firstly, Rickenbackers have dual truss rods as opposed to the standard single truss rod.  This allows greater control of neck concave, specific to each side of the neck.  Second, Rickenbackers are famous for their stereo output jack.  Yes, as opposed to a single mono output jack, as seen on most electric instruments, Rickenbacker has two outputs, giving the player an option for a stereo/dual-mono sound.  As written on the jack plate, one output is “standard” and together they create the “Rick-o-sound.”  Basically, this makes each output jack correspond with one pick up, so with two cables  you can run them into separate amps or into the Rick-o-sound DI box that allows you to blend the two.  There are many varying opinions about the practicality of this option, but nevertheless, it makes the Rick unique.  Lastly, the neck-through construction gives the Rickenbacker its instantly identifiable tone that has become associated with the likes Paul McCartney, Geddy Lee, Lemmy, and many others.  The 4001 is a truly innovative and unique instrument that has undoubtedly earned its placed in music history.

So overall, this is a very special, classic axe that I am so grateful to have in my collection.  Although now I mainly play the six string, I always come back to my roots and slap the bass with the Rick.  From some random shop, to Steve’s prog-rock bands, to my own musical escapades, this bass has seen quite a bit in its almost 40 year life span.  Vintage instruments are special not only for their tone, but for their history, history that can give a particular instrument distinct tonanilty, unachievable from any physical material – tone only achievable through its own unique life.  I can only imagine what this bass will have to say in another 50 years!

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“Melodic Expressions: The Art of the Line” by Jon Maclennan

Today, there are endless ways to learn about the guitar.  From traditional teachers, to YouTube, to books, to good old fashioned trial and error, there are so many ways to go about your journey towards guitar mastery and musical nirvana.  But what if there was a new medium that combined the best of all these methods?

My good friend, fellow UCLA alumni, and passionate guitar player Jon Maclennan has just released an iBook titled, “Melodic Expressions: The Art of the Line,” designed specifically for the iPad.  What is an iBook?  It’s a “multi-touch textbook,” an interactive electronic book that integrates audio, video, photos, graphics and more, bringing content to life in ways previously unimaginable.  It’s everything you’d get from a book, and then some.  Plus, it’s digital, so you can store thousands of iBooks in a single iPad, while saving the trees!

Like me, Jon is an avid fan of guitar great Carl Verheyen, and Carl’s approach to improvisation.  In short, this school of playing is based on “lines,” instead of scales and arpeggios.  So often guitarists become trapped by scale shapes and boxes that ultimately inhibit their melodic creativity.  With this new alternative approach, the player practices “lines,” or melodic phrases, that can be used in improvisation.  In the same way a player would use a scale shape or an arpeggio when improvising, they can use these “lines” to create far more interesting and creative phrases, and ultimately more personalized expression.

Jon’s book is divided into three sections – Major, Minor and Dominant expressions.  Each section is filled with various licks, corresponding to the given harmony, that range from Rock to Blues to Jazz and even Country.  With the interactive iBook medium, each lick has multiple audio samples, and the option for you to plug into your own iPad and play along!  There’s also a “general tips” section, where Jon will teach you  how to create your own melodic expression and cultivate your own personal harmonic vocabulary.  Very cool!

Ultimately, I find this approach to improvisation and general music making to be the most fun and effective.  Although it’s important to familiarize oneself with scales and arpeggios in order to understand music in a theoretical way, these tools should not become crutches in developing your melodic voice and improvisational style.  It’s much more fun to create exciting lines and phrases that express your personal style and sound like you.  Although at first it may be difficult to write your own licks, books like Jon’s are a great place to learn the craft and gather inspiration.  So check out Melodic Expressions: The Art of the Line” today on iTunes and take the first step on your journey towards developing your own personal melodic sound!

Check out this promo video on “Melodic Expression: The Art of the Line” for more info, and be sure to check out Jon Maclennan’s website for more about him and his music.

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South Austin Music – Austin, TX

Lamar Boulevard in Austin, Texas is the street for guitar shops, and one of the coolest shops on the block is South Austin Music.  Established in 1986, SAM is now a staple of the Austin Music scene.  With a wide-ranging, unique inventory, SAM will entertain and surprise any guitar player, from novice to life long enthusiast.

One thing that makes a great guitar shop is the vibe.  Coming into a guitar shop can put a customer in a vulnerable state – you feel pressure to play well, talk the talk, buy something – for some, it can be very overwhelming.  That’s one of the reasons why SAM is a such a great shop – the staff create a very positive environment that welcomes all.  From the moment you walk in, you know you are actually allowed to play the guitars, not just stare.

SAM has a great selection of electric and acoustic guitars.  Aside from of all of the usual suspects (Fender, Gibson, Martin), SAM has a large variety of Eastwood, G&L, Danelectro, and Nation Reso-phonic guitars.  Of course, there are also some fantastic classics and lots of vintage pieces that’ll keep any connoisseur busy, all easily accessible and quite playable.

SAM also has a killer amp collection.  A large amount new and vintage Orange, Fender and Marshall amps pepper the shop’s perimeter.  They also carry some extremely hard to find Divided by 13 amps – wow!  And of course, they have many acoustic amplifiers and boutique makers.

Last but not least, SAM has an amazing pedal selection, filled with all the classics and newcomers.  From MXR to Xotic to Ibanez to Fulltone, they have everything you could want – and at very reasonable prices.  And once you’re through with all of this, SAM has every pick, string and accessory you could possibly imagine.  I ended up with a sweet new guitar strap!

So if you’re in Austin, TX, South Austin Music is a must!  Visit them @ 1402 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, Texas 78704 or on the SAM website

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Andy’s Guitar Shop – San Diego, CA

Some may be surprised to hear that San Diego harbors a thriving and ever-expanding music community.  A mandatory Southern California destination on any tour, San Diego has as many local musical acts as it does big time visitors, keeping it lively on any given night.  Of course, the greatest by-product of a thriving music scene – guitar shops!  And one of the coolest shops in San Diego is Andy’s Guitar Shop.

Formerly known as El Rayo Guitarworks, current owner Andy Greenberg changed the name to Andy’s Guitar Shop after his old partner left the business.  A no-nonsense, little shop, Andy’s is a truly professional store, specializing in repairs and set-ups.  Essentially one giant repair room, split into an entrance/guitar showroom and full on “employee’s only” repair shop, Andy’s makes no pretense about its purpose.  Stocking a small supply of acoustic and electric guitars and a good selection of picks and strings, Andy’s Guitar Shop is predominantly a world-class guitar repair shop.

I waltzed into Andy’s on one of those rare rainy San Diego days.  Andy himself was in the repair side of the room, fiddling with a guitar.  I glanced over the small collection of axes dangling on the wall, and was drawn to a modified Epiphone hollow body.  I asked if I may noodle, and an employee granted my wish, even offering to change the strings if they felt too dead.  After a short bit of playing, Andy invited me to the repair half of the room to plug into a stellar Dr. Z amp.  He explained how he had modified this guitar, put in a Piezo PU and a stereo/mono switch – no easy feat!  Although I was just browsing, I was surprised by how he had transformed a seemingly middle of the road guitar into a professional, tonally diverse axe that played great.  One thing’s for sure, Andy definitely knows what he’s doing – I look forward to having him set-up some of my axes in the near future.

So if you’re in San Diego and want to check out a great shop, breathe life into an old, neglected  guitar, or just get a great set-up, visit Andy’s Guitar Shop @ 3043 Adam’s Ave. San Diego, CA 92116

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Stevie Ray Vaughan

I recently visited the “live music capital of the world” –  Austin, Texas – a city drenched in American culture.  Although its roots date back to the mid 19th century, in the last 50 years Austin has become well-known as a hotbed for musical artists.  From country blues to Texas swing to “South by Southwest,” Austin is a city on the pulse of American music culture.

One of the greatest musical treasures and cultural icons to emerge out of Austin was Stevie Ray Vaughan.  From local guitar hero to international blues ambassador, Vaughan is now a legend.  Achieving great success with his group, Double Trouble, Vaughan pioneered the sound of modern blues guitar, evolving what Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Jimi Hendrix had previously made contributions to.  But more than just a blues artist, Vaughan crossed over into pop culture.  His debut album Texas Flood went double-platinum, and he was a featured musician on David Bowie’s infamous Let’s Dance.  SRV continued to make groundbreaking records and give inspirational performances until his early death in a tragic helicopter accident following a show with Eric Clapton.  At age 35, SRV made an early departure, leaving behind a legacy that is still shaping the music world today.

Aside from his amazingly innovative and identifiable playing style, SRV is known for his guitar tone.  Although he used other guitars, Vaughan is almost exclusively depicted using Fender Stratocasters, most often a 1962/63 model called “Number One” – his favorite.  He used “heavy” .12 gauge strings which, like many other blues greats, he tuned down a half step, thus allowing greater flexibility when bending strings.  Another crucial element to his distinctive tone was a 40-watt Fender Vibroverb amp, which he often blended with other amps, most notably a 150-watt Dumble.  SRV was also a huge proponent of the infamous Ibanez Tube Screamer overdrive pedal, which became a staple of his dirty sound.  Fascinated by the endless combinations of all elements of guitar tone, Vaughan created many iconic tones that enthusiasts everywhere are still trying to emulate!

So in a nutshell, Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of the most innovative guitarists and musicians of his era – a true American musical icon.  As you walk the streets of Austin, Texas today, you can hear Stevie Ray Vaughan everywhere – in every club, band, and musician contributing to this musical hub.  The echos of his legacy still ring loudly, and his playing continues to inspire generations.  Next time you’re in Austin, be sure to visit the Stevie Ray Vaughan memorial statue to pay tribute to one of America’s greatest cultural icons, SRV.

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The Guitar Connection – Venice, CA

Serious guitar collectors are a breed all their own.  Often afflicted by a serious case of G.A.S.  (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), many enthusiasts have gathered collections that could easily be featured on an episode of “Hoarders.”  Constantly buying and selling, always looking for the next piece of equipment, begging you, “no matter what, do not let me buy another guitar,” every guitarist, and their significant other, can relate to the never-ending cycle of guitar collecting.  At The Guitar Connection in Venice, CA, one of the most bizarre and interesting guitar stores in the world, owner Mike Van Voorhees has made his own personal collection the inventory of his small business.

The Guitar Connection is a unique surprise on the up and coming Venice street of Rose Avenue.  Outside, you are instantly drawn to the pleasing vintage aesthetic, which summons you to peek inside and see what gems are hidden within its walls.  After you’ve been buzzed in by Mike, you enter – well, his living room – which has been transformed into the guitar showroom of the Guitar Connection.  See, what makes this shop truly original is that it is half-house-half-store, and everything for sale is part of Mike’s personal collection.

Once you’ve been let in, Mike watches you browse from his kitchen doorway, asking questions and adding personally commentary about certain items.  Although, and I’m sure he would agree, he is not the greatest salesmen (and his odd antics may scare off many customers), it is evident that this store and its collection are his life, and things he values very dearly.  Every instrument and amp has its own history, which Mike will gladly share with you.  A mixture of high quality and lesser instruments, The Guitar Connection inventory has all the peaks and troughs of any life long player’s collection.

Exclusively used and vintage instruments, some highlights include two Gibson “Black Beauty “Les Pauls, some rare Gibson Hollow Bodies, an original 1966 Fender Bassman amp, and some nice vintage Stratocasters – all set up and maintained by Mike.  There also some vintage 80s shredders, like Hamer and Ibanez, and a bunch of novelty curve balls that you are unlikely to see elsewhere.  Mike also buys used instruments, rents, and does repairs and set ups.  And although I can’t speak to his repair quality or expertise, I am sure he is more than capable of fixing up any axe, and has all of the knowledge and passion acquired by a life long enthusiast.

So for a unique, one of a kind guitar shop, be sure to check out The Guitar Connection @ 633 Rose Ave. Venice, CA 90291.

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McCabe’s Guitar Shop – Santa Monica, CA

McCabe’s Guitar Shop is more than just another guitar shop – it’s a Los Angeles icon.  Opening in 1958, McCabe’s has been a staple of Pico Blvd for over half a century,  defending its self-declared claim to fame of having “the largest selection of stringed things to make music with in California.”  An extensively stocked shop by day, by night McCabe’s transforms into one of the most intimate live music venues in Los Angeles.  An unassuming stage in the main guitar showroom becomes a world-class pedestal that has hosted the likes of Joni Mitchell, Mike Bloomfield, Doc Watson, Jackson Browne, Chet Atkins, and many other legendary musicians.

Aside from being a guitar shop, McCabe’s specializes in acoustic and folk instruments like banjo, mandolin, ukulele, fiddle, dulcimer, oud, and just about any other ethnic instrument you are likely to want.  As for guitar, they supply an extensive list of boutique and specialty makers.  In acoustics, you’ll find amazing axes made by Martin, Taylor, Collings, the Loar, Santa Cruz, Godin, and many other high quality manufacturers.  They’re inventory ranges from entry-level to highly boutique, but you are always bound to find reasonably priced, top notch guitars.

As you can see, McCabe’s also has an extensive supply of nylon string (both classical and gypsy styled), resonator, and arch top acoustic guitars, amongst many other novelty items.  And for a shop specializing in acoustic instruments, McCabe’s has a killer selection of electric guitars and amps.  From Fender Stratocasters to Eastman Hollow-body Jazz Boxes to Gretsch twangers, McCabe’s has plenty to offer the electric aficionado.  And feel free to plug into the array of new and vintage amps from Fender, Pignose, and some other brands you’ve probably never heard of!

McCabe’s is also a great place of learning.  They have a diverse teaching staff that covers every niche guitar style, as well as auto-harp, harmonica, and other novelty instruments.  Personally, I’ve been coming to McCabe’s for years to buy books.  They have the largest selection of music books in Los Angeles.  Real Books, instructional books, scores, song books – if they don’t have it, nobody will.  And you are bound to learn something by just hanging around McCabe’s, as they are always players stopping by, exchanging ideas, and casually running down tunes.

Last but not least, McCabe’s also has a fantastic repair shop. I’ve had them do everything from setting up acoustics to changing the PUs in my Ibanez, all of which they’ve done well and in a timely fashion.  Also, don’t forget the endless supply of guitar accessories.  Any pick you could possibly imagine – finger picks, felt picks, thumb picks, copper picks, etc – and a wide selection of straps, capos, slides, and every other accessory surround the register.  It’s almost impossible to leave without buying something!

So for a little slice of historic Los Angeles, an intimate evening concert, or a trip to one of the most unique guitar shops in the world, get down to McCabe’s Guitar Shop @ 3101 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405.  For more information, check out the McCabe’s website.

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Vreny Van Elslande – Are you ready to Rock?

Not enough good things can be said about Vreny.  One of the best kept secrets of Los Angeles, Vreny is arguably the most professional guitar teacher in the world.  Not only that, but he is an extremely charismatic person with many diverse interests, which all combine to make him the ultimate guitar teacher.

Born and raised in Belgium, Vreny has an amazing list of credentials.  After a year in the military, Vreny first attended the Academy of Music and Word in Ypres, Belgium, completing a 10-year study on classical guitar and composition in just 7.  Following this, Vreny graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Berklee College of Music, earning a B.M. in Jazz Performance and a B.M. in Music Production & Engineering.  Since then, Vreny has lived and worked in Los Angeles as a free-lance guitarist and producer, but mainly as a teacher.  Vreny’s goal is to “make the world an even more fun place to live in, by sharing the love for music through education.”  Outside of musical academia, Vreny is also an avid psychology enthusiast, speaks five languages, and is a general intellectual, making him an expert on the art of learning.

Personally, as a guitarist and an individual, I owe a lot to Vreny.  Over 2 1/2 years, he took my playing to new heights, giving me an incredibly deep knowledge of the mechanics of music and the guitar, and a great confidence in my ability.  But more than anything, Vreny taught me how to learn.  He pushed my ability so much further than I even thought possible, and showed me, through my own progress, the way in which our brains function.  There were many times when I laughed at the impossible difficulty of a task he assigned, when only weeks later, I found it simple.  And this is not because of my ability, but because of Vreny’s structured teaching style that maximizes results and compliments the brain’s natural process of learning.  Vreny showed me how to target a goal, create a plan of attack, and reach it – a skill that I have since applied to every area of my life.  I could go on for ages, but in short, Vreny is without a doubt the most professional and effective teacher I have ever had.  If you want to learn about a certain musical style, music theory, engineering, life, or just improve on guitar, contacting Vreny is the best way to realize your goal.

So check out Vreny’s website, Zot Zin Guitar Lessons, for more information. He does private lessons, group lessons, and webcam lessons, so get in touch with him now – I guarantee you will not regret it!

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The Vox AC15 Custom 1×12

Although ideally most of us would be practicing through a 50 Watt Marshall stack everyday, few of us have living situations that permit such awesome noise levels.  Sure, you can get an attenuator, but still, size, price, and general inconvenience are issues.  That why it’s important to have a bedroom amp – a smaller, quieter amp suitable for the apartment building or close quarter living.  But just because it’s small doesn’t mean it can’t rock!  That’s why I picked up the Vox AC15, a bedroom amp that doesn’t make me feel like I’m putting on the world’s smallest performance for the local spider population.

Truth is, the AC15 C1 is more of a hybrid bedroom amp.  Today, almost every venue you play at is going to mic your amp and run it through the PA.  You can have a Fender Blues Jr. and it’s gonna come through the PA as loud as a stack.  50/100 watt amps are essentially pointless, unless you’re doing a stadium tour – but they are still awesome.  Nonetheless, bringing a smaller amp to a gig makes transportation easier, and as long as the amp sounds as good as a larger counterpart, will perform equally well when mic-ed through the PA.

The Vox AC15 C1 is a great, little amp that gives you bang for your buck.  With just 15 Watts of tube power, this amp has one 12″ Celestion Greenback Speaker and offers the full array of classic Vox tones.  It has built-in analog Tremolo, spring Reverb, a “Tone Cut” knob and full EQ for the “Top Boost” channel, giving you a lot of tonal flexibility.  I use it mostly for “chimey” clean tones and  dirty blues sounds, but have found that it breaks up nicely when pushed, without being overly loud.  It’s just a great amp for getting awesome tones at quieter volumes.  That being said I have used it on multiple gigs where it was mic-ed, and it sounded fantastic – nobody even knew it was a little 15 watt box.  The major downsides are no Effects Loop, and although foot-switchable, it doesn’t come with a foot switch, but at around $520 it’s hard to beat the quality and versatility of this classic amp.  Plus, the aesthetic of Vox is iconic, and their amps looks great on stage, subconsciously forcing the audience to draw connections between you and little band called The Beatles – not bad!

For more on the Vox AC 15 C1, check out the Vox website.

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Lollar Charlie Christian Pick Up

In the world of aftermarket Pick Ups, Lollar is a breath of fresh air.  Started by expert guitar luthier, Jason Lollar, Lollar specializes in boutique PUs for guitar, bass, and steel guitar.  Unlike most aftermarket PU companies, which are geared toward high output, modern tones, Lollar makes classic, vintage-styled PUs – using modern technology to achieve classic tonality.  Their product range is probably the most unusual and diverse of any PU company, making Stratocaster, Telecaster, Humbucker, P-90,  Jazzmaster, Charlie Christian, and “Miscellaneous” PUs.  Within these categories are many classics, like the Stratocaster Vintage Blackface, Dog Ear P-90, ’52 Tele Neck PU, and special PUs inspired by Peter Green, Johnny Smith, and Charlie Christian.  Jason Lollar also makes some unique, one of a kind PUs, like the Chicago Steel, designed for slide playing, Single-coil within a Humbucker, and “the Broiler,” which has a bell-like tone a la John Lennon.  Ultimately, Lollar is constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional PUs, creating exciting and new inventions to compliment any playing style and achieve any tone.

For those of you who don’t know Charlie Christian, he is one of the original guitar legends.  Christian was a key developer of Bebop, the language of improvisation, guitar technique, and was one of the very first people ever to take an amplified guitar solo!  He was most well-known as a member of Benny Goodman’s Sextet, one of the first integrated bands, but has become legendary for his influence at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem – the birthplace of Bebop.  Here, in after hours jam sessions, Christian would exchange choruses with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, and other Bebop greats, as they developed this new style of Jazz.  Christian’s improvisational style is his greatest legacy.  Often said to be “horn-like,” Christian was one of the first guitarists to play single-note solos instead of chords, emulating the solos of a horn.  Through his single note improvisational style, Christian invented many phrases, licks, and ideas that would become building blocks for the language of Bebop.  His influence can be most strongly heard in Wes Montgomery, who learned to play by transcribing Christian’s solos.  Adding to his legend, Charlie Christian died at age 25 from tuberculosis, leaving an incredible legacy behind.

The style of the early pick ups used in the first electric guitars have become known as Charlie Christian PUs.  Preceding Humbucking technology, these PUs were single coils, but had a different sound than the modern-day single coils you would find in a Strat.  They had a depth and richness more akin to a P-90, and a unique fullness that set them apart from other PUs.  Today, Lollar makes Charlie Christian PUs designed to be housed in a traditional arch-top guitar, but their most popular CC model is designed for neck position in a Telecaster.  This is the PU I have put in my Telecaster, and it sounds amazing.  Putting a Lollar CC in a Tele achieves a deep, bluesy tone a la Ted Greene, Keith Richards, and even Jimi Hendrix.  Although you lose some of the “spank” associated with the Telecaster, you gain a new dimension of tone that is sweeter and richer than the conventional Telecaster sound.  I originally used this PU to adapt my Tele for a Jazz setting, but as I have experimented more, I find it’s a perfect sound for Blues, Rock, Pop, and Folk-Rock.  It makes my Tele sound more like a Strat, but even more harmonically rich.  The only downside was the shape of this PU required my local shop to cut my pick guard, an operation they weren’t too familiar with.  However, they learned, and did just fine, leaving me with a unique and great sounding modification to my Telecaster.

So if you’re interested in after market pick ups that will help your guitar, and your tone, stand out from the crowd, check out Lollar Pick Ups!

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