Replacing Pickups in a Guild Nightbird

I was given the unique opportunity to replace the pickups in a Guild Nightbird. This guitar came with Fender HB1 pickups but the owner had managed to get some NOS Guild HB1 pickups in matching gold from the world’s finest purveyor of hard-to-find Guild parts, Hans Moust. When asked if I would do the work to replace them, I jumped at the chance since I love Guilds, I love HB1 pickups, and this guitar was one that I used to own. Not only is this a beautiful guitar (that I was foolish enough to sell), but I knew that it would go from amazing to freaking amazing with the inclusion of Guild HB1s.

The Guild Nightbird is a very cool guitar. Yes, it looks like a Les Paul, but it’s hollow with a very unique internal design which makes for a wonderful sound. The problem with Nightbirds is that they usually shipped with Ken Armstrong or EMG pickups which don’t hold a candle to the vintage Guild HB1s in my opinion. I originally bought this guitar because of the lure of real HB1s in a Nightbird, only to be disappointed when I opened it up and found Fender HB1s. I then sold the guitar, after which it was sold again to the guy who I originally bought it from, who then contacted me to see if I would do the work to upgrade the pickups. We Guild collectors tend to work together, so this bit of provenance is only slightly unusual. (more…)

Guild Pickup Wiring

I’ve owned many Guild guitars, and due to the fact that I have a soldering iron and I’m not afraid to use it, I’ve learned a fair bit about various Guild pickups and their wiring. Since there seems to be little information on the Internet about this topic, I decided to write up what I have discovered.

Though I’ve covered the cosmetic and size differences of the various full-sized Guild HB1 pickups in my article entitled Guild Full-Sized HB1 and SD1 Pickup Variations, this article will cover the wiring of the pickups as opposed to the means of identifying them.

There are many different Guild guitars, and there are almost as many wiring schemes. Instead of covering each scheme here, I’ll describe the pickups themselves, and how they might be wired into any guitar. Other articles, such as The Fascinating Guild S-200 Thunderbird and Replacing Pickups in a Guild Nightbird will cover wiring specific to those guitars. (more…)

The Fascinating Guild S-200 Thunderbird

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Guild S-200 Thunderbird because (hang on to your hats Guild fans), I think they’re goofy looking. They’re nicknamed “Gumby” for a reason, after all. I’m not without my fair share of curiosity, and I’m always willing to be proven wrong, so when a fellow LetsTalkGuild member asked me to work on his, I jumped at the chance. This particular specimen was certainly not mint, but it was structurally sound and played fine with one minor problem – two of the control pots were either dirty or had failed. Since I apparently have a reputation of caring about my work and not being “just some guy”, I was given the opportunity to fix a guitar that was nearly as old as me. My price? The ability to fondle the guitar and write this article based on my discoveries. Read on to discover how my opinion of this Guild classic went from goofy to fascinating.

If you’re looking for the Newark St. S200 T-Bird, check out my review here.

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Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot! Live From the Planet – Review

Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot! Live From The World Album Cover
It’s no secret to people who know me that Brian Setzer is my favorite guitarist. Aprently it’s no secret to Surfdog Records either, because out of the blue, I received an email inviting me to review an advanced copy of Brian’s latest album, Brian Setzer’s Rockabilliy Riot! Live From the Planet. Naturally I said, Hell Yes!, because as much as I like Brian Setzer’s music, I like free stuff even more. I guess they figured out that I was a fan after discovering my fairly well-documented obsession with Brian’s tone. Whatever the reason, I’m happy to write up my thoughts on this record.

This album is a collection of recordings from the recent (2011-2012) Rockabilly Riot tour. If you’re not up to date on Brian’s touring habits, he sometimes tours with the big brass band, and sometimes tours with a smaller rockabilly band. This time, he toured the smaller band comprised of two drummers and two standup bassists. Hell, I’m not going to explain all that when I can just quote the details from the official BrianSetzer.com website, so here is that quote which also explains the Live from the Planet title: (more…)

Guild Full-Sized HB1 and SD1 Pickup Variations

One of the questions I see on the guitar forums quite a bit is, “What kind of pickups does this Guild guitar have?” Since I’ve posted in many of these threads, I seem to get a lot of emails with the same question. I thought that I might write up a quick summary of the differences as I know them. I originally wrote this article in 2011, and have updated it in 2014.

For Guild AntiHum and LB1 Little Bucker mini-humbucker pickup information, check out my article on them here.

First, let me say that I am by no means the expert on Guild guitars. That honor goes to Hans Moust, author of the excellent book entitled The Guild Guitar Book. Much of what I’ve learned about Guild pickups, I attribute to Hans helping me via email and through forum posts. If you’d like to learn more about Guild guitars, I heartily recommend that you pick up a copy of his book.

To the best of my knowledge, there are two types of Guild HB1 pickups – the mini humbuckers (affectionately called “mini-hums”), and the full-sized humbuckers. This article focuses on the full-sized pickups, which, for reasons that should soon be clear, are often confused. We’ll be looking at three different pickups, all of which look very similar from a distance, and some of which look identical from the front. I’m not entirely sure of the correct names, but for the sake of this article, I will call them Guild HB1s, Seymour Duncan SD1s, and Fender HB1s. There are some others in there as well. Read on to learn more.

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Cap Job on my 1963 Fender Bassman

If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that I recently purchased a 1963 Fender Bassman amp (6G6-B). Old amps like this often need a lot of work to make them playable, but what attracted me to this one was the fact that the work had already been done. The problem, I would soon discover, was that the work had not been done correctly, or with quality parts.

That’s not to say that the seller was dishonest. The amp worked, and it worked well, but it did not deliver the stellar tone that these amps are famous for. Since I have a soldering iron, and I’m not afraid to use it, I set out on a quest to make a great amp even better. (more…)

1963 Fender Bassman Face Lift

As I wrote in, How to Capture Brian Setzer’s Tone, I bought a 1963 Fender Bassman head in my quest for tonal nirvana. In a further attempt to deliver the goods, I bought a barely used Mojoton 2×12 cabinet. Though this combination sounded good, it looked like it had been pieced together from parts sourced on Ebay and online classifieds which, of course, it had.

I’m far too obsessive to let mismatched components coexist under my care, so I did what any obsessive nerd would do. I set out to completely change everything.

The cabinet I’d bought was designed to look like an original 1963 Fender Bassman cabinet, which was cool and all, but I’ve never been a fan of the all-blonde look. What really does it for me is the blonde/oxblood combination found on the earlier 1962 Bassmans. Though my amp wouldn’t be historically accurate, I thought this combination would look killer, so I set out to get what I needed in order to make my vision a reality. (more…)

Death of a Vacuum Tube

I was working on my 1963 Fender Bassman, when I decided to plug in my Gretsch and see if I’d wired the speakers properly. Expecting the delicious tones of the early ’60s amp, I was disappointed to hear silence. Not even a hum! I quickly shut everything down and checked all my connections. The speakers showed the proper resistance, there were no shorts, and the guitar cable was fine. Stymied, I reverted to old-school thinking. This was no digital modeling amp filled with transistors, chips and software, after all. This was a tube amp that was built before I was born—and I’m old! (more…)

How to Capture Brian Setzer’s Tone

Question: What do I need to sound like Brian Setzer?

Answer: Decades of experience, a virtuoso’s mastery of the guitar, complete knowledge of every scale, mode, chord, and inversion, in-depth understanding of multiple styles, and the ability to mix it all together with ease. As they like to say on Internet forums, “tone is in the fingers.”

That and, “Why would you want to sound like someone else?” are the two standard answers to, “How do I get <insert famous guitarist’s name here> tone?” I hate those answers, and I’ll bet you do too. So I’m going to show you the steps I took on my quest to nail Brian Setzer’s tone. Not only that, I’ll show you two different ways to do it: mostly analog, using a real Fender Bassman, and mostly digital using a Fractal Audio Axe-FX Ultra.

This is a long article—much longer than my usual fare. There are many details to be explored, but if you’re interested in the topic, I think this will be a fun read. Please remember that what I’m recreating here is Brian Setzer’s live tone. In the studio, Brian uses a variety of guitars, amps, and effects. On stage though, his rig is usually the same. Remember too, that Mr. Setzer is an extremely accomplished guitarist who changes techniques on the fly. If you’re 90% there and you can’t figure out what’s missing, try to catch a video of him playing the song in question. He may have gone from flatpicking to finger picking in the middle of the song, and that can really change his tone. PIcking dynamics are important too, but now I’m getting too far down the, “Tone is in the fingers” side of things, so let’s talk gear.

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Vox VT30 Valvetronix Amp Review

I am a tube amp snob, or at least I used to be. The warm glow of tubes as they crunch my guitar’s signal into auditory bliss is just something that feels right. I also disliked most modelers until recently. Every time I tried some modeling gizmo I hated it. That is, until about a year ago when I bought a little Roland Micro Cube. The little cube sounded pretty good, but I didn’t really care so much about sound quality because I used that amp to amuse myself in the park or the back yard. (more…)