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