Marty Friedman: I Don't Know Anything About Tonewoods or Fret Sizes or Scale Lengths

UG exclusive: "It's really like talking to a saxophone player about guitars. I'm really useless."

Ultimate Guitar
Marty Friedman: I Don't Know Anything About Tonewoods or Fret Sizes or Scale Lengths

Marty Friedman talked about crafting his new Jackson Signature MF-1 guitar with a limited knowledge of guitar technicalities, telling UG interviewer Steven Rosen:

"The people at Jackson spent a lot of painstaking months and almost a two-year period going over little details with me and sending me prototypes and dealing with my limited knowledge of what goes into making a guitar.

"They really put up with a lot because I don't know anything about tonewoods, fret sizes, scale lengths... It's really like talking to a saxophone player about guitars. I'm really useless.

"I'll give them something like, 'It feels cheap. It feels wrong. It doesn't sound strong enough. The tone is not glassy enough. Fix it.' I’ll give them this abstract stuff and they'll send me another prototype and lo and behold it has fixed a lot of my things.

"At the end of the day, I have an instrument you can really beat the hell out of and it stays in tune and keeps its intonation.

"It has all the sonic things I need and all the playability things I need. They were able to decipher that from my bad comments. I'm brutally honest because I don't know how to be subtle when it comes to things like a guitar.

"If you've seen me play live, I beat the shit out of it and there's nothing gentle with the way I play it. If you're playing melodies all the time like I am, shit's gotta be in tune."

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Asked if he used the MF-1 on his latest album "Wall of Sound," Marty replied:

"Yeah, the record was recorded with many prototypes of the new Jackson.

"Also, give a shout out to Engl who did a signature amp with me called the Inferno. At the exact same time I was working on the Jackson, they were sending me prototypes of that and what better way to guinea pig an amp than when you’re in the studio.

"I did some EMG prototypes also and all they were all done on the 'Wall of Sound' record. I was A/Bing it with other guitars, other amps, other pickupp and really tweaking things to get it to the sounds I wanted on the record so it was a really good litmus test."

Focusing on the album, Friedman discussed collaborating with Black Veil Brides guitarist Jinxx, who played on violin on "Sorrow and Madness." He said:

"It was great. His spirit to do it was the same as mine. He's not known for that type of violin playing and he's got a lot of really devoted fans who love the music he makes and he makes a lot of great music.

"He, like myself, we both like to challenge what people expect of us. So to get us both in the same room on the same song really got us crazy to create this monster that was gonna shock his fans, my fans and any new fans along the way."

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49 comments sorted by best / new / date

    As a saxophonist in my younger years, I concur that I am useless.
    Kinda surprising he didn't know about them, considering the guy can simply sing with his guitar. Cool dude.
    I think being gear knowledgeable and knowing how to play are completely different interests. Ironically, I've tried to ask people who know about these kinds of things, and they all say, you just have to go to a guitar store and play stuff.
    I love it when legends like Marty say stuff like this, makes me feel a lot better about my own piss-poor technical knowledge.
    Well dear Martin, allow me to educate you -Tonewood: Myth xD (Bring it on UG community!! >) -Fret size: The bigger the frets are the less pressure needs to be applied on the string to produce a note, so the big frets are ideal for shredding. -Scale length: Nobody gives a fuck about scale length. If your guitar hero plays a guitar with shorter scale length (mostly Les Paul, SG, Explorer, V guitar shapes) you'll go and buy a guitar that just happen to have a shorter scale length. If your guitar hero plays Strats, then you'll have a guitar with longer scale length. Cheers!
    Scale length: Nobody gives a fuck about scale length. 
    You'll start caring about scale length when you are downtuning a 24.75" scale guitar.
    You can downtune a 24.75 scale guitar to C standard and you won't have any problem. Just make sure to use heavier gauge strings and proper set up, and you'll probably should cut down in the guitar nut to make more space for the strings (but it's all doable). Any thing below C, yeah, you probably should get a 25.5. But then again, if you are considering going below C the you should consider getting a baritone guitar.
    Zakk Wylde is the king of heavy gauge strings on a LP!!! Think he used a .70???
    He has a .60 gauge for the low E string. His set from high to low: 10, 13, 17, 36, 52, 60. It's a hybrid set so he has 10s on the high strings to ease on the fingers/hand when soloing, and he has thinker gauge on the low strings. If I'm not mistaken, the lowest tuning he ever used was C#.
    He’s done tunings before where he’s dropping the low E to an A, I believe that’s where the .070 gauge would come in. I think the song phones smiles and fake hellos from stronger than death utilizes that tuning.
    Zan595 Tonewood: Affects the sound to a slight degree. Not nearly as much as pickups, your amp, any pedal, or even turning a knob on your amp slightly would but still noticeably. Fret Size: Low and wide frets are technically the best for shredding. The lower the fret is dressed the lower the action can be set, which trumps taller frets in most cases. This one is entirely up to personal preference, if you can't stand how low frets feel then you'll certainly shred better with jumbos. Scale Length: Affects the intonation, string pressure, and playability drastically. Longer scale length=thinner strings, more string tension (harder to bend, tighter timbre), more space between frets. Shorter scale length=thicker strings, less tension (easier to bend), less space between frets. Longer scale length is favored for extended range instruments due to holding intonation better, and being able to use a thinner string for low notes.
    Tonewood: You are correct. There is a slight change in tone depending on what wood you use, BUT! The change in tone is not nearly close to the bullshit that guitar companies came up with for all those years. Fret size: I stand corrected! Low and wide frets are most ideal for shredding (my bad). Scale length: Once again, you are right. The whole scale length part was written in humor (tho there is a lot of truth to what i wrote).
    Yet no one has ever managed to pass a blind test or provide actual peer reviewed evidence that tonewood is a thing. Wood just plain doesn't affect electric guitar tone. Even if it did it would sound like shit; solid pieces of wood don't exactly sound great.
    I've been lucky enough to have worked in luthier shops locally, I can promise you there's a difference between the exact guitar with two drastically different types of wood for the body. I think it has more to do with the actual density and weight of the wood than anything; ironically to the "selling tonewood" standpoint, I think Basswood sounded and felt the best out of anything (besides carbon fiber), which is very cheap wood.
    So you, Mr, no one knows who the fuck you are, u gonna educate Marty Friedman about guitar stuff.. hahahahahahahahahahahahahhaa
    Marty literally stated that he was ignorant about everything that he said.
    Shorter scale lengths buzz like fuck, that's what I know.
    probably just needs a good set up nothing should really be buzzing 
    I think I probably just pick too hard, but they're not really great for metal. A lot of funk and jazz guitarists use them. 
    Just have to use heavier strings.
    Only problem with that is that action gets really high. I'll experiment.
    I have a LP studio and it's got the Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom strings on it.  The action on it is as good as my Ibanez Prestige and RG550, but without Buzz.  I have 9's on those.  I just put 11's on my Tele (from 9's) and the buzz is totally gone, even after adjusting the truss for the heavier tension. My action on my Tele with 11's is even lower than with the 9's, but without the buzz I had with the 9's.  Weird but true. 
    Weybl Himself
    Spot on I reckon on all points except scale length. I love shorter scale length guitars, they just feel more comfortable for me, probably because I'm a smaller guy so anything that brings things closer to my size is appreciated!
    keeps its intonation
    So, he knows what intonation is, but doesn't know what scale length is? Uhhhhh
    I'm sure he knows what the word means, but not what difference it makes or why you may pick one option over another.
    I know what intonation means, but I haven't the slightest idea on how to do it to my own guitar.
    Weybl Himself
    I knew what intonation was before I knew about scale lengths. But then, I'm not Marty Fucking Friedman.
    Kinda surprising that a pro in his position has never sat down and compared a big vs small fret neck to see what was more comfortable...not to mention a long vs short scale length or different tonewoods.  Whatever...guess he's successful enough to pay his guitar tech to do it for him so more power to him  
    Flying Afros
    I think Marty just pretends to be guitar illiterate sometimes... Personally, I think he's somewhere in between of knowing nothing, and having a super advanced knowledge. You don't play like he does with not knowing crazy exotic scales and what guitar intonation is.
    I smell BS.  THIS IS THE SAME marty that claimed he didn't know scales.  Big fan, but i wish he wouldn't play dumb.
    "It has all the sonic things I need and all the playability things I need. They were able to decipher that from my bad comments. I'm brutally honest because I don't know how to be subtle when it comes to things like a guitar."  You would think he would have found the time to sit down and watch a few videos about guitars, before getting involved in creating his own signature guitar.  If he didn't want to do it for himself, then he should have done it out of respect for the people he was working with.
    I've watched plenty of videos about guitar. 90% of them used terms like... "This amp barks!", "bitching guitar sound", "THE TONE!!", "it's a kick ass!", "it sounds light", "it sounds heavy", "THE TONE!!!", "heavy as fuck!", "thats sick man!", OHH THE TOOONNEEE!!!". On a more serious note: most guitar players are not capable of expressing their thoughts using technical terms. And I think it's ok
    Sure, there are plenty of shitty videos.  But I know there are good ones, too. Most guitar players don't spend almost two years working with a company that's trying to give you the instrument you want. 
    Kind of like a Formula 1 racer might not know how to do an engine swap. No biggie.
    Every and I do mean every guitar purchasing decision I have ever made was on three points...  One, does it have a maple fretboard, prefer bird's eye or roasted, two does it look good is the finish cool looking, and how aggressive are the pickups.  Pass that I am like Mr. Friedman and have no idea what the hell to tell Jackson to build.