#1
So I'm looking into buying my first guitar, and a bit overwhelmed by the choices and uncertainty over things like active vs passive pickups. If anyone has any suggestions on the below I'd love any advice you can give me.

To set the scene, my favorite guitarists (or in some cases, just the guitarist from a favorite band) are;
Billy Gibson
Page Hamilton
Stephen Carpenter
James Hetfield
Jim Martin
Brett Hinds
Adam Darski
Jeff Hanneman

I guess Billy Gibson sticks out from a tone perspective - I might have to leave him out; not sure if there are many guitars that can do blues and proper metal, but I'm happy to be told I'm wrong.

Active vs passive pickups - I don't mind so long as I can coax the right sort of metal crunch from them. I had the impression that pretty much meant EMG or go home, but then I noticed Hanneman apparently had a Les Paul with passives (not stock) for Slayer's first two albums. So, now I'm not sure. Can't help but note that actives are more common with the guitarists I listed. Humbuckers seem like a given for metal and blues from what I can tell.

Budget - £1000 or so. I've been looking new simply because I don't really know what used guitars should cost, and it feels like as a noob I could well end up with a used lemon and not even realize it. Been talking with a friend who's been playing for years about heading down to Denmark Street to check out prices - I live just outside London, UK.

As far as other little details go; only preference on body shape is avoiding the wackier BC Rich shapes. I suspect I'll want a thinner neck, and I have no idea how many frets I'd want. I'm not actively looking for a trem, but wouldn't rule out a great guitar that had one (like the Hanneman ESPs, possibly). I don't currently have an amp, which probably needs a thread on its own.

Some possibilities I've seen - if nothing else it'd be great if someone could tell me if any of these truly suck for the sound I'm after:
Ibanez RGIT20FE
ESP LTD MH-1000ET
Gibson Les Paul Studio Traditional (probably not great for metal without changing the pups)
ESP LTD JH-600 (Hanneman signature)
Any of the 7 string Carpenter ESPs (seven string probably a bad idea for a new guitarist?)

Sorry - this post looks pretty long. If you made it all the way through I'd appreciate any thoughts you have!
#2
What you've listed as suggestions are all drastically different guitars which suggests to me that you have no idea what you actually want. You need to go down to a guitar store and find out what you actually desire in a guitar, the more specific the better. Things like number of frets, whether or not you want a Floyd Rose and things as fundamental as the ergonomics of the body shape are all critically important things to know whether or not you want before buying anything. You'll never know unless you actually try some guitars yourself and make your own decisions.

There's quite a lot of misinformation that you've posted in your OP. You don't need active pickups to play metal. At all. This talk about pickups is going to be pretty immaterial until you get an amp first. Amps matter far, far more than the pickups do for achieving any kind of tone. A Gibson LP will do great for metal if your amp is up to it.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
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Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Jul 7, 2016,
#3
Your best bet is to go to a store and try some guitars out. You should instinctively "know" what guitar you prefer, and we can speculate and ramble all day about it, but no one can really tell you what YOU like.

I will try to sway you away from floyd rose type guitars for your first one (in case you find one you like). You can grow into that later if you want it, but you aren't stuck with horrendous tuning issues that may dissuade you from even playing the guitar. Once locked in, a decent floyd setup is one of the best setups around (imo), but if it gets knocked out of tune, break a string, any string changes for that matter, down tuning (sounds like something you wanna do), it just really feels like youre better off with a hard tail to start. Your selections are quite admirable though, and I dont feel you will go wrong with any of them.
#4
First guitar and you have a budget of £1000? Why?
Also stop worrying about pickup types for your first guitar in terms of active vs passive. Get a guitar with humbuckers for a few hundred and spend the rest on a good amp.
#6
Generally LPs are good for both blues and metal, though pickups are a factor. You may want to check out the LTD les pauls which I believe have JB and 59 pickups which would be a great combo.

As others said though, for a first guitar maybe it's best to keep your budget low
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#7
Quote by derek8520
First guitar and you have a budget of £1000? Why?

This was my reaction. I've met plenty of people over the years that never get past some basic cords. Cause it's just not for them. I think it's cool you've don't so much research though. Just kinda slow down a bit.

Look at epiphone or a lower level ltd if your interested in those shapes/brands.
#8
I'm gonna throw in my 2 cents on the blues / metal thing. you have to make a compromise or 2 but nothing radical. metal orientated active pups probably wouldn't be a good choice for blues. something with a medium output can work fine for both genres though. as mentioned Floyd Roses (or other locking trems) not a good choice for beginner guitar players. they have a big of a learning curve and as mentioned are a pain in the ass when changing tunings.

don't get caught up in the "metal" guitar or "blues" guitar thing. you'd be surprised what works for either. often use a BC Rich Eagle to cover my humbucker needs and that includes both blues and metal. not the guitar that you see at the blues jams (and yes I've gotten some odd looks) but its way more about the player and the amp than the guitar.
#9
If he has £1000, why not? If you buy something crappy you'll just waste money if you come to upgrade later.

Not sure heading to denmark street to check the prices is that great of an idea, the prices there tend to be pretty high. there's a bunch of pretty decent shops not too far from london that might be a better idea (wembley guitar centre, coda, peach, andertons, guitar village, guitar guitar might have a branch near london too, probably a load more too that i'm forgetting since i'm not from london).

as the people above are saying, you don't need actives for metal. you may well prefer them, but you'd want to know that before deciding you definitely need them. metal and blues might be easier with passives, but it depends on which is more important, plus emg has lower output pickups these days (which I haven't tried) and an 81 in the bridge with something lower output in the neck might be a way to achieve that. However, odds of that pickup combo coming stock on a guitar are fairly slim, whereas quite a few guitars have a hot passive bridge pickup combined with a lower output neck pickup (like the seymour duncan JB/'59 combo mentioned above, or a distortion/59 combo).

the amp's very important too, as they're saying, but it depends on what your playing situation is- if you live in an apartment you might need to get something which is fairly quiet.

trying a bunch of guitars is ok in theory, but that's hard to do if you don't play already, and is quite intimidating as well depending on what your local shops are like- whether they encourage you to try every guitar on the wall (which is great and the ideal) or whether they start affectedly sighing if you ask them to lift a guitar off the wall and ostentatiously check their watches when you're trying the third guitar (which is not so great).

I've been playing for years and was recently trying acoustics (I'm totally an electric player) and I felt pretty intimidated/embarassed trying stuff out. So yeah, I guess what I'm saying is it's pretty easy for us to sit here and tell you to try more out, but that can be more difficult in practice. FWIW, though, wunjos in denmark street is normally really good at letting you try stuff out, so although i said to avoid denmark street, wunjos might be worth a look (and if you're there anyway you might as well check out the other shops too).
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
Last edited by Dave_Mc at Jul 8, 2016,
#10
Quote by Dave_Mc

trying a bunch of guitars is ok in theory, but that's hard to do if you don't play already, and is quite intimidating as well depending on what your local shops are like- whether they encourage you to try every guitar on the wall or whether they start affectedly sighing if you ask them to lift a guitar off the wall and ostentatiously check their watches when you're trying the third guitar.

I've been playing for years and was recently trying acoustics (I'm totally an electric player) and I felt pretty intimidated/embarassed trying stuff out. So yeah, I guess what I'm saying is it's pretty easy for us to sit here and tell you to try more out, but that can be more difficult in practice. FWIW, though, wunjos in denmark street is normally really good at letting you try stuff out, so although i said to avoid denmark street, wunjos might be worth a look (and if you're there anyway you might as well check out the other shops too).


Most of what you say I agree with but that bit I don't.


I'm sorry but not trying something cause your embarrassed is a good way to end up with something you aren't happy with and not really something I would encourage. Nobody cares about what you're playing in a guitar store. The people that do are cocks anyway and you won't see them again. Even if you do, who cares? It's your money and you're trying to spend it and you want to make sure you're 100 percent sure.


I'd rather have a kid in my shop try a guitar 5 times and then buy it after than a kid who orders something online, decides he hates it and ships it back to me and now I have to sell a formally new guitar as used.


If I worried about what people thought of my playing I'd probably own 1 guitar instead of 13.
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#11
^ yeah but everyone is different, some people are more easily embarrassed than others. it's all well and good saying, "Ignore them, who cares about them anyway?" from your seat in front of the computer (I know I've done that too, even to myself to kind of tell myself not to worry about them) but when it comes to the bit and you're actually in the store it's a lot different.

Quote by H4T3BR33D3R

I'd rather have a kid in my shop try a guitar 5 times and then buy it after than a kid who orders something online, decides he hates it and ships it back to me and now I have to sell a formally new guitar as used.


yeah but you have sense. not everyone does. you're also forgetting that a lot of guitar shop workers seem to think that a lot of the people coming in to try stuff are just timewasters. They're not thinking about it the way you are there, they're thinking, "Here's that timewaster again, I bet he won't buy this time either." (Forgetting of course that their attitude is actually decreasing the chances of a sale.)
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
Last edited by Dave_Mc at Jul 8, 2016,
#12
Quote by Dave_Mc
^ yeah but everyone is different, some people are more easily embarrassed than others. it's all well and good saying, "Ignore them, who cares about them anyway?" from your seat in front of the computer (I know I've done that too, even to myself to kind of tell myself not to worry about them) but when it comes to the bit and you're actually in the store it's a lot different.


yeah but you have sense. not everyone does. you're also forgetting that a lot of guitar shop workers seem to think that a lot of the people coming in to try stuff are just timewasters.


Yes some people get more embarrassed but that doesn't mean that going into the store to try things isn't the best thing to do if you actually want to make sure you like the guitar. You have to compromise. You're not gonna be happy with settling just cause you're too scared and embarrassed to pluck a string in a store. I just personally don't think that's the right way to go about it.


Yeah, some people are dicks but really if you're not tire kicking then I just go straight to a salesman and tell him that's what I'm here for and some people are more sensitive and that's unfortunate but they should still try before you buy for the most part. That's just IMO though.
Quote by zgr0826
My culture is worthless and absolutely inferior to the almighty Leaf.


Quote by JustRooster
I incurred the wrath of the Association of White Knights. Specifically the Parent's Basement branch of service.
#13
Quote by Dave_Mc
If he has £1000, why not? If you buy something crappy you'll just waste money if you come to upgrade later.


Money is all relative, keep that in mind. If mom and pop are giving him L1000 to buy a guitar, then why would he NOT get one (not saying this is the case, just offering a scenario). I am mostly on your side of the field, but we dont always know the entire situation either.

With that money, he can get a great "starter" guitar, a really decent amp, a bunch of accessories if needed, and still have room left over.


edit: @op -> I will say, dropping 1000 pounds "because you can" on a guitar you've never seen or touched doesnt make much sense. The best way to handle it is to go to a decent guitar shop (make the drive to andertons imo), and play a bunch of guitars. You might find one you really love that you wouldn't really think you would like. You can djent on a fat strat for example, just requires a pickup swap and the right amp.
Last edited by bob493 at Jul 8, 2016,
#14
A Les Paul and a good amp. A great OD wouldn't hurt, either.
OBEY THE MIGHTY SHITKICKER
#16
Quote by H4T3BR33D3R
Yes some people get more embarrassed but that doesn't mean that going into the store to try things isn't the best thing to do if you actually want to make sure you like the guitar. You have to compromise. You're not gonna be happy with settling just cause you're too scared and embarrassed to pluck a string in a store. I just personally don't think that's the right way to go about it.


Yeah, some people are dicks but really if you're not tire kicking then I just go straight to a salesman and tell him that's what I'm here for and some people are more sensitive and that's unfortunate but they should still try before you buy for the most part. That's just IMO though.


I thought like you too and then I got into a situation where I was a lot less comfortable (trying acoustics when i'm much more used to electrics) and suddenly it was way different. All I'm saying is, it's a lot easier to say in front of a computer screen than when you're there.

Or maybe your local shops are better.

Quote by bob493
Money is all relative, keep that in mind. If mom and pop are giving him L1000 to buy a guitar, then why would he NOT get one (not saying this is the case, just offering a scenario). I am mostly on your side of the field, but we dont always know the entire situation either.

With that money, he can get a great "starter" guitar, a really decent amp, a bunch of accessories if needed, and still have room left over.


edit: @op -> I will say, dropping 1000 pounds "because you can" on a guitar you've never seen or touched doesnt make much sense. The best way to handle it is to go to a decent guitar shop (make the drive to andertons imo), and play a bunch of guitars. You might find one you really love that you wouldn't really think you would like. You can djent on a fat strat for example, just requires a pickup swap and the right amp.


Absolutely. I just assumed when he said he had that money that he has that money. He should definitely not spend it if he's struggling to afford that much (but that's the case regardless of how long you've been playing, and how much disposable income he has isn't related to how good he is at guitar, he might have more money than we do).

I agree about not spending £1000 "because you can" (apart from anything else you may well like something cheaper). But some of the advice in this thread has been "Don't spend £1000 even if you easily can" which is pretty much the same fallacy from the opposite end, I'd say.
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#17
gotta go with dave on the don't spend to much thing here. I wouldn't recommend spending that kind of money until you have a few years of playing in and really know what you want from a guitar. there are plenty of great options for half that amount that will keep a beginner busiy and happy for a few years and then make a reasonable backup if you get that far.

years ago back in the dinosaur ages when I first learned to play I had a friend who decided he wanted to play as well. I'd been playing for maybe 4 years and another friend of ours for around 3. he went to the best guitar shop in town (The House Of Guitars) and bought a brand new Gibson Les Paul Custom ($800 at the time). he wasn't really musically inclined and never learned to play more than twinkle twinkle little star on 1 string. sat in his bedroom on a nice guitar stand for about 15 years before he sold it (although I got to borrow it for gigs occasionally).
#18
hang on a minute i thought i was saying if he had the money and could easily afford it, why not?
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#19
Quote by Dave_Mc
I thought like you too and then I got into a situation where I was a lot less comfortable (trying acoustics when i'm much more used to electrics) and suddenly it was way different. All I'm saying is, it's a lot easier to say in front of a computer screen than when you're there.

Or maybe your local shops are better.



Ive been uncomfortable doing certain things like cranking amps up or playing certain things im not super great at in shops but I just wont let that stop me from trying what I want or getting a good idea of a piece of gear. I work hard for my money and I want to make sure I make the right choice you know? I dont want to regret it down the line just cause I didnt want to try it out


Mind you I guess some stores have decent return policies so maybe you can just keep swapping but that seems like a lot of effort.


Either way. Its pretty OT at this point
Quote by zgr0826
My culture is worthless and absolutely inferior to the almighty Leaf.


Quote by JustRooster
I incurred the wrath of the Association of White Knights. Specifically the Parent's Basement branch of service.
#20
Quote by monwobobbo
gotta go with dave on the don't spend to much thing here. I wouldn't recommend spending that kind of money until you have a few years of playing in and really know what you want from a guitar. there are plenty of great options for half that amount that will keep a beginner busiy and happy for a few years and then make a reasonable backup if you get that far.

years ago back in the dinosaur ages when I first learned to play I had a friend who decided he wanted to play as well. I'd been playing for maybe 4 years and another friend of ours for around 3. he went to the best guitar shop in town (The House Of Guitars) and bought a brand new Gibson Les Paul Custom ($800 at the time). he wasn't really musically inclined and never learned to play more than twinkle twinkle little star on 1 string. sat in his bedroom on a nice guitar stand for about 15 years before he sold it (although I got to borrow it for gigs occasionally).



I'm not a race car driver, but I'd own a Ferrari.
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#21
JustRooster

but you drive a car right. would you buy a Ferrari take it around the block a couple of times slowly and then park it in the garage never to touch again? we all know what the deal is with new players and while some start and never stop percentage wise many more stop than keep going. not saying to OP don't get a decent guitar just that he'd be better off spending some time actually playing and to get an actual idea of what suites him before spending that much.

I'd own a Ferrari if I could to and I'd buy a super expensive guitar if I had money to burn. I don't so not happening. just giving what I consider to be solid advice but feel free to stop by with your Ferrari and at least let me drive it around the block a couple of times
#22
Quote by JustRooster
I'm not a race car driver, but I'd own a Ferrari.


but it doesn't mean that a Ferrari is what I would learn to drive on his drivers test. definitely would learn to parallel park in. haha.

I am nitpicking though. lol. couldn't resist.

OP if you have the money go for it.
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#23
I can't drive a stick. Never had the opportunity to learn. So if I had enough $$$ to buy a super car, I'm not sure whether I'd be trying before I bought it.

"OMIGAWD! The GEARS! The GEARS!"

FWIW, I one a ridiculous number of guitars, and I still balk at trying stuff in store, I am a wee timorous beastie.

Still, if you feel you can, trying before you buy IS best. If you do, shoo with your hands and body, not your eyes or ears. You can change the way a guitar sounds via pickup swaps, and even appearance is alterable to a certain extent. But if you don't like the way a guitar feels, there isn't much to be done about that. And a guitar you don't like the feel of is a guitar you won't play.

I'd split your budget @60/40 amp/guitar- buying used if you can, of course. Maybe a small Orange amp, like a Tiny Terror? Ibanez is a good option. Maybe a G&L Tribute. If you see a Godin Redline HB, try it.
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#24
Quote by H4T3BR33D3R
(a) Ive been uncomfortable doing certain things like cranking amps up or playing certain things im not super great at in shops but I just wont let that stop me from trying what I want or getting a good idea of a piece of gear. I work hard for my money and I want to make sure I make the right choice you know? I dont want to regret it down the line just cause I didnt want to try it out


(b) Mind you I guess some stores have decent return policies so maybe you can just keep swapping but that seems like a lot of effort.


(c) Either way. Its pretty OT at this point


(a) Yeah me neither. Big thing is if you are embarrassed that impedes your ability to try things in a shop as well as you'd like, and even aside from the embarrassment factor it's still debatable how well you can try things- as you said, not every shop will let you crank things up and stuff like that.

Plus if the shop doesn't let me try properly I don't really want to give it my money. Bricks and mortar shops try to guilt you about shopping online because "you get so much better service locally". If I don't get that service, why should I not just go online?

Plus

(b) Yeah that's the thing- here in the UK you normally have the ability (legally- it's written into law) to return stuff if you buy online within 14 days. If you buy in a bricks and mortar the law assumes you got to try it first so you can't return it. Shops can of course go above and beyond the law- clothes shops tend to do that, for example, but I haven't noticed any guitar shops here which have a return policy if you bought in store. In fact I've seen at least one shop which had signs up saying that all in-store sales were final!

(c) Yep definitely, that's my fault unfortunately, I didn't mean to take the thing away on a tangent. Sorry

Quote by monwobobbo
JustRooster

but you drive a car right. would you buy a Ferrari take it around the block a couple of times slowly and then park it in the garage never to touch again? we all know what the deal is with new players and while some start and never stop percentage wise many more stop than keep going. not saying to OP don't get a decent guitar just that he'd be better off spending some time actually playing and to get an actual idea of what suites him before spending that much.

I'd own a Ferrari if I could to and I'd buy a super expensive guitar if I had money to burn. I don't so not happening. just giving what I consider to be solid advice but feel free to stop by with your Ferrari and at least let me drive it around the block a couple of times


Yeah it's difficult. You don't want to spend too much in case you quit, but if you spend too little that can increase your chances of quitting. The other thing as well is, unless you pick really poorly, a £1000 guitar is going to be much better than a £200 one, even if the £200 one was the absolute best £200 for you.

I guess the answer is, as always, you gotta make your own mind up and go with what you think yourself.
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
Last edited by Dave_Mc at Jul 9, 2016,
#25
Hey guys, thanks for all the honest replies - have to admit you're right, I'm struggling to decide what I really want. I'm going to go back to reading up on a few of these things (frets, pickups), do a bit more research on guitarists whose sound I like, and then see if I can drag a friend out to Andertons - I've got a pretty hardnosed guitar playing friend who can probably save me from any overenthusiastic salesmen.

As far as the cost goes, the money is mine (bit old to be leeching off the parents), but I was operating on the principle that avoiding a cheap guitar might mean I'd get something that would play better (making it more likely I'd enjoy it), and have better resale value if I find it doesn't click. Still, I might adjust my sights downward.

On the amp front, bearing in mind noise constraints (living in a flat), I was actually planning on using Guitar Rig, TH3 or AmpliTube running in Cubase (already have Cubase, there are free versions of those tools that I can try before buying). Sorry about that - I know amp modelling isn't always terribly popular with some folks.

Anyway thanks again for the replies - I'm going to try and put some organized thought into this and then go see how a few options actually feel.
Last edited by Wintermute_k at Jul 9, 2016,
#26
Quote by Wintermute_k

(a) As far as the cost goes, the money is mine (bit old to be leeching off the parents), (b) but I was operating on the principle that avoiding a cheap guitar might mean I'd get something that would play better (making it more likely I'd enjoy it), (c) and have better resale value if I find it doesn't click.

(d) On the amp front, bearing in mind noise constraints (living in a flat), I was actually planning on using Guitar Rig, TH3 or AmpliTube running in Cubase (already have Cubase, there are free versions of those tools that I can try before buying). Sorry about that - I know amp modelling isn't always terribly popular with some folks.


(a) never too old for that

(b) yep definitely, but you also have to like the guitar better and/or have it suit your style of playing and music taste.

(c) yep probably but (i) different brands have different resale values and (ii) you probably will lose more with a dear guitar than with a cheap one, but percentage-wise you'll not lose as much. if that makes sense. For example: A £200 new guitar you might get £100 back if you sell. You lose £100 or 50%. A £2000 guitar you might get £1500 back if you sell. You lose 25% (which is less) or £500 (which is more).

(d) That's no problem, if you have to play quietly there's not really any way round that. I don't have any experience with computer-based guitar gear, though.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
Last edited by Dave_Mc at Jul 9, 2016,
#27
On the playing quietly front, there are all kinds of portable digital modeler so (like Korg Pandora's and Line 6 PODs), MFX pedals, and other devices that will let you play through headphones. I think something along those lines should be a part of every guitarist's practice kit, if nothing else.
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
#28
For pickups it's entirely personal preference about active or passive but generally passives have better tone and tend to be more versatile. For the guitar, given you want to cover a number of guitarists I'd suggest this:

http://www.richtonemusic.co.uk/products/prs_se_custom_24_floyd_sapphire_ltd_run.asp

There's not much you can't cover with one of these and the only weak point is the pickups but for £150 you can get a fantastic set of handwound pickups and you're still under budget.
Gibson Les Paul Studio with Catswhiskers pickups
PRS SE 'Floyd' Custom 24 with Creamery pickups
Fender Standard Stratocaster with DiMarzio pickups
Takamine GN30
BluGuitar AMP1