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About chillybilly

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  1. Get in touch with Towner at townerusa.com - he will mix n match Bigsby parts to suit your guitar. I have a Sheraton that had a Frequensator but I got frustrated with string breakage and fiddling with the two forks when restringing a single string or a full set. Towner sold me a B6 with a B3 hinge plate for full coverage of the butt-end. The Sheraton lacked any tailpiece posts or holes (as you may know) so after some research on others' experience I went with the B6 without any drilling or a Vibramate. Also crucial (for me at least) was the Towner hinge plate adapter which allows a Dunlop strap lock button to be installed along with the Bigsby hinge plate. I also use a Vibramate bridge spoiler which, as you may also know, allows for easier stringing/restringing with the use of the Bigsby. I find that it also decreases the chances of string breakage at the bridge since the string angle from bridge to tailpiece is quite shallow - even more shallow than it was with the Frequensator.
  2. I regard a mod as a significant replacement or addition of components, usually pickups or electronics. Installing a Bigsby is obviously a mod. I regard most other things as improvements. If we consider certain parts in high-end guitars it's obvious they yield an insanely high margin per part eg Grover 18:1 tuners. Changing tuners, switches, nuts and bridges is a small price to pay for stability, a lack of headaches, peace of mind, etc. Mass-produced guitars have advanced light years in terms of variances/tolerances thanks to automation but haste still makes waste and attention to detail - and alterations thereof - will ultimately pay off in playability and tone.
  3. I've played that Riviera at a shop and was unimpressed. Could have been the setup or lack thereof but it seemed quite dull and lifeless.
  4. Long-term update: the UJ has been my main guitar for stage and studio for 8 months. In all candor I sometimes forget the UJ design is on there since I'm more interested in the musical aspects of it! As I think I mentioned previously I installed a replacement nut myself (Tusq XL) that provided huge return on small investment. Better tuning stability, eliminated a pinch in the G string slot (obvs), etc. I also opted for speed knobs for, well, speed. The vintage-style knobs are just a bit too fiddly during quick stage adjustments - I found I had to fumble for the top of the barrel before turning. The speed knobs are, of course, just a cylinder and easier to feel for the edge and turn quickly. Sadly, the stock cable socket gave me fits. It loosened once and I exhausted an evening/night being inducted into the ES-style guitar fraternity of those who must sweat blood trying to fish out a socket that had fallen into the guitar body. Mirrors, magnets, grabber tools, etc. I understand that the socket and the hex nut are meant to stay relatively flush to the guitar body but with so few threads visible above the body it really is fiddly to reassemble with no guarantee of permanence. My hard work came literally unstuck soon after and, to add insult to injury, during a gig in which I introduced an unwanted square-wave tremolo effect to my sound as the socket loosened again and began to cut out. Following helpful advice from another guitar forum, I obtained a Switchcraft replacement with longer threads AND used a star washer. My soldering skills were as cold as my soldering iron which sat unused for many years but I managed to make a decent job of it. The socket, the washer and the nut are now silver i.e. they don't match the gold hardware but that's hard luck because they aren't moving any time soon. To respond to the previous question, I continue to use Ernie Ball Slinky 10-46 on all my guitars. The Cobalts were a nice idea, I suppose, but hardly justified the premium. Coated strings continue to disappoint, although I do use Elixir Nanoweb on my RainSong (all graphite/composite) acoustic. I've broken a few high E strings strictly due to being too aggressive with the pick (I'm using those big semi-triangular Dunlop Ultex 1.0 mm now) and although I've become rather handy at changing one or all the strings with the Frequensator tailpiece(s) it is still a daunting prospect at a live venue with poor lighting etc. I think I also previously confessed to some ambivalence regarding the mini-humbuckers. I suppose it may have been because I'd been bouncing between extremes - EJ Strat pickups and the ridiculously-high-output Burstbucker 1 & 2 in a VOS SG. I soon learned that the minis had their own character. They did well whether dry, boosted or distorted. I have always found the middle position on guitars a bit tepid but I now use the middle position 90% of the time with this guitar. I can't say I'm not tempted to try out some aftermarket minis just for comparison but at least I know the stock units are usable. Can't ignore the amp, of course. Since I got the UJ I've upgraded from a Vox AC15 (technically an AC15C1 with Greenback) to a Vox AC30 (technically an AC30CC2X with two Alnico Blues). All the praise you've heard for the Blues is deserved although, as a knowledgeable guitarist/producer/sound engineer put it, 'You've got to compress the @*$#%^*! out of them.' And so the compressor portion of my Janglebox is on most of the time with the treble boost portion on about 50% of that. The UJ and the Vox are in luuuurve now, handling everything from the Pretenders to the Smithereens to the Foo Fighters with generous help from the pedalboard. My only regret is that I came to my semi-hollow/ES guitar epiphany so late in life, having been convinced that Solidbodies Were It for so long but still obtusely wondering why I couldn't get an airier, smoother, more balanced tone from Fender or Gibson solids. Now I'm on an ES kick and my wandering eye keeps wandering towards....Casinos?!?! I'm not sure P-90s are for me and the shortish neck join might be a problem for leads. And then there's feedback. The UJ rarely gets out of hand onstage...its feedback is musical and manageable but requires the player to be aware of his positioning onstage. An entirely hollow guitar might be a bridge too far with a loud-ish AC30 pointed at waist level behind. For better or worse the teaburst (red-edged) finish on Casinos used by Paul Weller and Norman from Teenage Fanclub (Casino) doesn't seem to be readily available. I know it's probably fodder for another thread but the only red-tinged bursts I have seen were Japanese-market instruments. They are relatively expensive and of course there is shipping & customs to deal with. I'm also intrigued by the smaller-bodied ES models...339 and the Casino Coupe. I do wish the 339 came with block, trapezoid or parallelogram inlays...I just find the dots underwhelming visually...but as usual in my 'slow learner' persona I may find that tone and playability are more important than fancy cosmetics....UJ graphics notwithstanding!
  5. I saw that exchange of posts. There are some thin-skinned (guitar pun!) and high-strung (another guitar pun!) people over there. Knowledgeable but touchy. I don't care if they can play like Eric Johnson I'm not sure I'd want to be in a band with them!
  6. I have been kicking myself repeatedly for ignoring semi-hollow options (except for a Ric 12 string) for so long. I love my UJ Sheraton but as Eddie Van Halen once said, a big-bodied 335-size Roy Orbison guitar can look awkward at times. Enter the 339 and 356. I actually tried the 356 at a MARS music store at least 10 years ago - so ignorant was I that at first I though 'Hang on, these 335s aren't as big as they look!' only to later realize my error and the nature of the 339/356. Frankly, I'm surprised it took so long for Gibson to pursue what seems an obvious path with a smaller-bodied ES model. Now that I'm hooked on the gateway drug of one ES model, I'm really looking to acquire another i.e. one of the smaller bodied models. It will be a 'beater' for gigs so with a nut change and a proper setup it had better stay in tune!
  7. A semi-long-term status update...I've had the UJ model for several months and the more I play it the more it becomes the first guitar I reach for. Out of hope or possibly stubbornness I've been trying to make a Gibson Custom Shop VOS SG my default choice but the Burstbucker output is simply too hot for many numbers. Obviously that guitar will get the unmistakable SG snarl but it bucks like a horse when I try to get smoother rhythm parts out of it. Just as well, I suppose, as it's risky to make a rather expensive guitar with its infamously delicate design the 'gamer' for gigs. I include this possibly irrelevant detail as a means of talking about the UJ mini humbuckers which I have grown to appreciate on their own merit. Yes I had to tweak nearly every control on amp and pedalboard for the minis' lower output vis-a-vis the Burstbuckers but that's probably a good thing in hindsight. To state the obvious, there's something about the resonance of a semi-hollow guitar in both feel (physically) and sound - and it's just as keenly noticed when it's absent i.e. using a solid body instead! The other guitarist in my band complimented the UJ's tone. In the interest of full disclosure, he is a Strat man with a latter-day Les Paul standard as a backup. The Strat, unfortunately, has one of those single-coil-sized humbuckers in the bridge and that's his preferred pickup - it sounds like an amplified telephone through a Vox Valvetronix via a Fat Boost pedal so while his praise is welcome his hearing and judgment may be dodgy! To be fair, I have to admit that I was disappointed in the UJ stock nut. Mine was doing that familiar, annoying catch-and-release-suddenly routine during tuning. Lubricant, graphite, etc. made no difference and the process became an exercise in tuning the string, waiting for the string to release in the nut (and hearing the note change) and tuning again. And so for the princely sum of $9 I bought a Tusq XL replacement nut which I installed last night. Reviewers of this nut have raved about its improvement in tuning stability as well as tone (brighter, snapper, more even, etc.). I am fearless when it comes to stringing, intonation and even truss rod adjustments but had my doubts about swapping the nut out. I was THISCLOSE to going to a local repair shop that has done good work for me recently but I got my tools out and took on the job myself especially as it was a Sunday evening and patience is more or less absent from my DNA. I have no one to blame but myself for the scratch I put in the black headstock finish just above the nut. My X-Acto knife got away from me just the once. With the seemingly contradictory combination of large rubber mallet and tiny, thin blade I managed to remove the old and install the new after doing some of the necessary filing and sanding (of the nut that is!). Fortunately GraphTech sell a replacement nut specificially sized for Epiphone guitars although one size definitely does not fit all hence the filing and sanding. But height and string spacing were perfect i.e. they matched the original. Now...I'm not here to tell everyone to replace their stock nut and I'm not here to tell everyone to buy product ABC123 but so far the results far exceed the mere 'fix the original problem' threshold. To keep this message at a tolerable length and to avoid too much negativity I won't give you every detail about the adventure I had when my jack receptacle loosened and the vital parts fell inside only to have to be located, fished out, lined up, reattached and tightened. I guess it's a rite of passage for many owners of ES-style guitars but that didn't make it any less a harrowing real-life game of Operation!
  8. Well hello again ;) I've had about a week with this guitar....although cognitive dissonance is an unpleasant thing I'm happy to report that any I initially had is decreasing. It's my first semi hollow guitar so although I was familiar with and expecting a different, more rounded tone I still had to adjust my expectations AND my rig. Just as it isn't possible for me to switch between a Strat and an SG without changing some amp EQ and/or pedals (boost, comp), this guitar also requires some adjustment of settings. But despite any legwork I regard that as a net positive...it means the rig is allowing each guitar's character to show. Fair play to those who deemed the mini humbuckers 'hot' but for me they are miles cooler than the Burstbuckers in my VOS SG. That is no doubt intentional and in a way confirms my existing suspicions about the BurstBuckers given their wildly stronger output compared to an EJ Strat, dual/single coils notwithstanding. The mini humbuckers are on a par volume wise with the Strat but obviously completely different otherwise. I have grown addicted to the middle switch position on just about any guitar...it can take more tweaking since all the controls are engaged but worth it in the end especially for articulate rhythm work. The sweet spot on each UJ control seems to be 7.5 with an EP Booster and occasionally a comp engaged. Easy to kick the bridge volume up to 10 for lead breaks and/ or switch to the bridge pickup alone for more snarl...fortunately it never produces that obnoxious amplified telephone sound. Although I always planned on doing a string change and intonation straight away, thanks to the person up thread who suggested it. I can understand OEMs saving some cost on all those strings they go through and obviously shipping, storage and handling can affect any guitar/strings. Despite promises of a 55 point inspection the bridge saddles needed adjustment on a couple of strings and after that it tunes up well and stays in tune although there is no denying that semi hollow guitars respond much more to temperature changes - even the body heat of the player so tuning is required a bit more often. The Grovers make Klusons look medieval but that's hardly a news flash. The G string nut slot sticks about 10% of the time even with Nut Sauce so it will need work but in truth I always planned to install a Tusq unit.
  9. I meant my timing worked out for once! This arrived from MF last week....;)
  10. Dumb luck worked in my favor for once...MF is apparently out of stock again and back to 'expected ship date' of Dec 15.
  11. Makes sense...guess I'll have to play mine extensively :)
  12. I agree and don't want to threadjack but here's one more that shows a fairly good contrast I reckon I can buy some and try it myself :)!
  13. At the risk of multiple posts (but attempting to restrict each post to a particular subtopic) and at the risk of heresy among UJ aficionados... Didn't Noel's guitar have silver/nickel pickup covers with gold tailpiece/bridge? I realize that the focus is on the flag design and the model/appointments/electronics and that not everyone is looking for a replica of THAT Maine Road guitar but I suppose I will stick my head above the parapet and ask. I'm also usually of the opinion that gold and silver hardware together on the same guitar - or the same person, for that matter - is not a good look. But again, I suppose it comes down to individual motivations to seek out this instrument. As his then-girlfriend obviously had the resources to customize Noel's guitar I've always wondered why the gold/silver combination was chosen (at worst) or allowed to remain (at best). To give away the end of the film, if one wished to modify his instrument with the nickel pickup covers (a mere $10/ea from suppliers) is such a thing possible for a relatively experienced hand? In scanning some discussions of the mini humbuckers there are warnings about an inability to disassemble certain models but I think they referred to the Firebird pickups as opposed to the models used for the UJ which have the screws in the covers and thus may be swapped out.
  14. Brilliant! The OCD completist in me would want both even if I didn't play both regularly i.e. I preferred one over the other. Have to say the UJ walks it in the headstock department. I can appreciate the simplicity of the little holly emblem (or whatever it is) on my SG and the Supernova but, as with most things Epiphone, I was blind to how lovely that vine design is. I guess I've been so conditioned to the Gibson Mustache that I had reservations about the Epi headstock but now appreciate the ornate, more rounded design. I hesitate to ask considering I've now got a UJ still in the shipping carton in the next room but how do they compare?
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