Gear Q&a

This is­sue: Lock­ing limbo, sick Supros, and way cool Ju­niors…

Guitarist - - Contents -

THE AD­VEN­TURES OF SUPRO MAN...

I have found a gui­tar that I re­ally love and have bonded with – a Supro Jame­s­port. I love ev­ery­thing about it ex­cept that the G string is no­tice­ably more dead than the other strings – it’s duller-sound­ing and has much shorter sus­tain, es­pe­cially above the 12th fret. I re­placed the strings (I use Ernie Ball Beefy Slinkies tuned to E), and the ac­tion is on the high side, the strings are not buzzing or fret­ting out. Could a re­place­ment sad­dle or bridge fix this prob­lem? Or should I look for a re­place­ment that res­onates bet­ter? Luke Han­ning­ton, via email This is a bit of a tough one, Luke. While the Jame­s­port has all the curb ap­peal of the vintage Supro mod­els, the com­pany has made ef­forts to make the gui­tar’s per­for­mance as mod­ern as pos­si­ble. The fixed-neck for­mat and an­chored tune-o-matic bridge, not to men­tion the Fen­der­style scale length, are de­signed to pro­mote plenty of sus­tain across all six strings. From ex­pe­ri­ence, we also know this gui­tar is ca­pa­ble of a medium to low ac­tion.

The first step would be to com­pare your gui­tar to an­other ex­am­ple of the breed. If that’s not pos­si­ble, let’s take a closer look. The Jame­s­port has good-qual­ity hard­ware so it’s un­likely that you’ll need to re­place the bridge or one of its sad­dles. That said, is the slot in the sad­dle big enough to ac­com­mo­date the G string? The string should sit hap­pily in the bot­tom if it slots with­out be­ing pinched. The same goes for the top nut. The string should sit se­curely in its top nut slot. If the slot is too tight, it can af­fect tun­ing sta­bil­ity and re­duce sus­tain. If it’s too slack, the string can buzz and again, you might have sus­tain is­sues. So, get that looked at.

Not all guitars have sus­tain is­sues above the 12th fret but it’s not un­usual. Les Paul play­ers of­ten com­plain of this prob­lem and short of ad­just­ing the setup, the qual­ity of the fret dress and rais­ing the string gauge, there’s not much that can be done about it. Some swear by in­creas­ing the head­stock mass with a Fatfin­ger de­vice. Drop­ping the height of your pickup could help too. Some­times, if a pickup is set too close to the strings it can starve them of some sus­tain.

You’re ob­vi­ously not afraid of heav­ier gauge strings. The Beefy Slinkies 0.011 to 0.054 spec should pull more sus­tain out of the gui­tar than you’d get with a set of 9 or 10s. So, you might want to con­sider a set with a wound G string. It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that when Supro guitars orig­i­nally made the scene back in the 50s and 60s, heavy gauge tape­wound strings were all the rage. Ever since the rise of round­wound strings, play­ers have been grip­ing about the tun­ing sta­bil­ity, in­to­na­tion and sus­tain of their G strings. A wound G might just give you the sus­tain boost to bring it in line with the other strings. If it works you can then con­sider drop­ping the ac­tion a bit. Supro. Smash­ing. Great.

A PAIN IN THE NECK?

I’ve been sniff­ing around a 1966 Gib­son SG Ju­nior. I’ve not pulled the trig­ger on it yet and that’s sim­ply be­cause of the fin­ish on the back of the neck. The body and the head­stock look stun­ning. There’s loads of lac­quer check­ing, the kind of relic’ing that only comes with real age and a life on the road. In com­plete con­trast, the back of the SG’s neck is glossy, un­blem­ished and just too good to be true. Is this thing a ringer? Should I just walk away or is there an­other pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion other than some­one dis­guis­ing a neck break? H Ri­ley, via email With­out see­ing the SG in per­son, it’s not pos­si­ble for

us to give you a de­fin­i­tive ap­praisal. You’re right to be wary, though. Vintage guitars have likely passed hands many times and it’s al­most mirac­u­lous when you find one that hasn’t been butchered or at least tweaked. The fact that only the rear of the gui­tar’s neck has been re­fin­ished sug­gests that it was done for the right rea­sons. Like many other vintage guitars, old SGs can suf­fer from heavy wear to the back of the neck. Sweaty mitts, jew­ellery and a few decades of wid­dling can strip the fin­ish or at least leave it pock­marked. It’s not un­com­mon to find these guitars have had fresh lac­quer ap­plied to the back of the neck to make them playable again, and to pro­tect the tim­ber be­neath. You can ex­pose re­pairs with a black­light. If you don’t have one of these clas­sic hippy tools lurk­ing in a drawer with your old Kaf­tan and the keys to a VW camper, then you’ll get one online for less than a ten­ner. It will re­veal ar­eas where the neck and body of the Jr have been blown over with fresh lac­quer. It can also high­light head­stock re­pairs. If, af­ter some in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the gui­tar ap­pears in­tact, plays well, pleases your ears and eye­balls and comes in at the right price, then the lac­quer re­pair re­ally shouldn’t be an is­sue. Best of luck!

DOU­BLE WHAMMY?

I’ve been think­ing about up­grad­ing my old Ja­panese Stra­to­caster. I ei­ther want to ditch it or have it mod­i­fied with a lock­ing vi­brato for rock-solid tun­ing. I took it to a luthier who sug­gested I fit a set of lock­ing tuners in­stead. Out of the play­ers I know, none rec­om­mend fit­ting the Floyd Rose.Why are they so unloved? Steve Mears, via email Ac­tu­ally Steve, there are a lot of Floyd fans out there. But you need to de­cide if a lock­ing vi­brato is what you need. These days, a well-cut nut, stretched strings and a set of lock­ing ma­chine­heads – cour­tesy of Sperzel, Grover, Go­toh, etc – will give you ex­cel­lent tun­ing sta­bil­ity. Where a Floyd ex­cels is in its abil­ity to re­turn to pitch af­ter se­ri­ous di­ve­bomb­ing and whammy bar abuse. A float­ing Floyd does present is­sues, how­ever. They don’t take kindly to dou­ble stops and pedal steel im­pres­sions – those ma­noeu­vres where you bend one string to match the note of an­other. Bend­ing the strings causes the float­ing bridge to move, which com­pro­mises the pitch of the other strings. If, how­ever, you do that sin­gle note shred­ding stuff that sounds like R2-D2 get­ting his end away with a sewing ma­chine, the Floyd will do you proud. Oth­er­wise, go with your luthier’s ad­vice.

The Supro Jame­s­port ain’t no fun with a dead G string

Check your Gib­son SG Ju­nior won’t bea pain in the neck

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