When a guitar is just a dog, lemon, whatever....

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by tfarny, Dec 14, 2019.

  1. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    I just borrowed a friend's guitar to give it a setup - it's her first electric guitar and I don't think she has a basis for comparison, but she never plays it, preferring her acoustic (which is inexpensive but sounds and plays great). So....I hate it! I'll be able to get it playing much better, but it just sounds bad. And it should sound pretty cool - it's a Gibson SG Standard with P90s. Anemic and thin on the bridge pickup, warm but not-real-interesting neck pickup. I suspect I could change out the pickups though and still not enjoy it, but I couldn't tell you why. I will give it a real nice cleaning polish frets, nice setup, new strings, but I have the feeling it will still sound bad.

    Isn't it hard to pinpoint what makes some guitars duds and others studs? Ever have to tell a friend that their fancy (for her) new (for her) guitar kind of sucks?
     
  2. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    I know this sounds trippy ( and maybe more relevant to acoustic guitars) but IMO the way ( how good/bad) a guitar is going to sound happens on a molecular or almost intangible level. Of course good construction and setup are essential.
    But it's just how good that combination of body wood, metal, pickups, tuners, bridge, neck, etc., all come together to form a great sounding instrument, and it just doesn't happen every time.
    It ALL has to be there?

    ( maybe, if not all there originally, I guess ' weaknesses' can be identified, and improved upon to make a really great instrument)
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2019
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  3. AlbertaGriff

    AlbertaGriff Tele-Afflicted

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    Do not do this.
     
  4. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the reason, but some guitars are just duds. It’s not my job to reason why. I just know it’s true. You can jump down the rabbit hole trying to make it sound better, but unless there’s something to hold onto, it’s better to pass it on, flip it, whatever and move on.
     
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  5. Toadtele

    Toadtele Tele-Afflicted

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    It is intangible. And it’s relative. A friend of mine picked up an ESP at the local pawn shop. He’s a experienced player and tech. After about a week he gave it to me. He said you keep this thing, it’s a lemon. Plays and sounds horrible.
    I love it. I raised the action just a tad to my preference and it’s good to go. It’s the only guitar we’ve ever disagreed on.
     
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  6. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    You can't flip your friend's guitar so it's down the rabbit hole for you or you risk a disappointed friend. We don't always get good choices in life. Assuming the guitar has pots, caps, and resistors, not a Gibson PCB, I'd check the pots, especially for the too warm pickup. I'd check the pickups too. Maybe a resistor in series with the thin bridge pickup will help. Sometimes a thin pickup just has to be raised. Can you easily raise the bridge pickup or will you have to shim it? Caps are unlikely to be bad on a newer guitar but you may get more of what you want with a change in value. So for me, it would be down the hole, especially for a lady friend. I like to think very few guitars are duds. It's usually something simple holding them back. It just might not be easy to find what it is.
     
  7. jonnyfez

    jonnyfez Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Yeah, something's not right. An SG with P90s shouldn't sound anemic. Raise those pickups/pole pieces.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2019
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  8. RottenTheCat

    RottenTheCat Tele-Holic

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    Since I own a really nice SG Classic, maybe this will help -

    The Gibson P90's should be fairly powerful, both are identical, there is no RWRP going on. Without too much trouble, but with soldering and a bit of small shrink tubing, the RWRP can be achieved. The wiring is two wires (white & black) plus braid. Reverse them, keeping connections neat, and reverse the magnets. You'll be aghast to see that Gibby basically "bent" the brass plate to hold the magnets in place.... That can be corrected if you wish.

    The bridge pickup likes to be pretty close to the strings, and it does sound a bit tinny otherwise. The neck pickup will therefore sit a bit lower than you'd expect, but should sound pretty good. Pole pieces are more or less "flat" with them fairly low, maybe a turn and a half above being flush with the top of the cover.

    I found raising the tailpiece or a wrap over got rid of some of the brittle tone.

    I find that "pure nickel wrap" strings seem to give the best tone - by my ears of course. Been running Ernie Ball "Classic Slinky" as they feel nice and are available in a hybrid size, but I used to use plain ol' Fender 150's and they sounded about the same... hard to tell... no issues at least. I did have some Fender ball ends "unwrap" from plain strings a few times, which I've never seen before.

    As with every modern Gibson I've owned (only seven) the SG Classic had a really tight G string slot at the nut, which caused all sorts of grief when bending that particular string. Dunno why they cut 'em so tight, but they do.

    And finally - and its a biggie - amplifier settings. Should be obvious, but I was once guilty of the mindset of "this is how my amp should be set", and I expected those settings to be close to optimal for everything I plugged into it. Of course, experience has shown that ain't the case at all. In particular, my SG Classic requires very little or no "presence", and good deal less treble on my own (and lightly modded) 5F4, which is a bit more modern than vintage, and sports G10 Vintage Celestions. That is in comparison to say, my own Thinline with No-Caster pickups (and a very warm neck), or my GF's ES-335.

    So.... maybe some of that will help. Sorry if I was preachin' to the choir. All of this is also based on my very defective hearing... YMMV, etc., yada, ad-nauseum.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2019
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  9. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks. I will investigate probably tomorrow when I have time. First order of business is playability - the frets appear to have never been polished, so it feels like you're dragging the strings over sandpaper. I played with height adjustments already, and I couldn't find a spot where I liked the bridge at all. The neck at least sounds like a P90, just a boring one. I will have to open it up, test values, and so on. If I can get it in better shape without spending money I'll be happy, and maybe something will click. Or maybe I'll gently encourage her to sell it and get something "better suited for her."
     
  10. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    How old is it? They used to put those P100s instead of P90s in a lot of guitars back in the '90s/'00s. They sounded just like you're saying this one sounds - anemic, thin, boring.
     
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  11. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

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    Many of the modern SGs come with those square frets, feels like your fingers are tripping over parking blocks. Either pay a bunch of money to get them shaped right or replace them. Why Gibson started using that funky wire is beyond me as the originals from the 60 had the much more rounded Les Paul frets. One more way to save costs I guess.
     
  12. PARCO

    PARCO Tele-Meister

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    I think the main thing is how does a guitar sound when it is not plugged in. I think if a guitar sounds good when it's not plugged in then it can be made to sound good when it is plugged in. Does the guitar resonate when you play it? Or is it lifeless? Is it bright sounding or is it dull? When I'm considering buying a guitar I always ply it unplugged first.
     
  13. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    This is my test too. Might be worth a try on the SG. If it feels good unplugged, perhaps it is a bad solder joint or bad out put jack or even the swupitch.
     
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  14. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    It's a 2011, but I'll open it up to see what pickups are really in it. I thought I had the bridge pickup real close to the strings already though.
    The frets do seem weirdly squared off to me. That might be half the problem.
    It doesn't really have much of an 'unplugged' tone but I'm always a bit skeptical of that as a measurement. I don't think any electric guitars sound good unplugged compared to an acoustic guitar. My bass sounds fantastic plugged in, and almost silent unplugged. My Epi full-hollow sounds like a tinny, broken acoustic unplugged but that is just what it needs to sound awesome when plugged in.

    It also has a remarkably thick neck, which works for me, but I'm not sure is the best choice for a woman's hands - I know it's all individual preference, but I don't think she has played a lot of other guitars to compare. Maybe I will loan her my MIM strat and see how she likes playing that, to give her some perspective.
     
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  15. boredguy6060

    boredguy6060 Poster Extraordinaire

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    If it doesn’t have 50’s style wiring, it will need a treble bleed circuit. Two P90’s wired with modern style wiring will bleed off a huge amount of tone if you use either volume or tone controls.
    A treble bleed cost nearly nothing 1resistor and 1 cap are pennies each. You can use jumpers to try it out. I used a standard 150k resistor and a .001uF cap on a dual P90 guitar and it tone went from flat to fat. People think that a treble bleed is just a treble boost, it’s not. A treble bleed like the one I just described will capture a huge about of tone from mid range to treble range, which has the effect of really fattening up the tone. P90’s are not weak or anemic unless they are wired wrong, P90’s are what most R&R began with. But modern wiring ruins their tone but sending half of it to ground.
    It just cost a couple bucks to find out whether it works for you, I suggest you try it.
    Good luck,
     
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  16. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm sure a lot of people on here would think a lot of my guitars sound bad, which doesn't mean I share their opinion.
     
  17. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    My theory ... 10 guitars in a row come off the assembly line ... 1 or 2 are exceptional ... 5-6 are perfectly adequate... 1 or 2 are lemons, turds, firewood...
     
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  18. Boil

    Boil Tele-Holic

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    This is good advice, it's subjective at best.

    Maybe get her to play a different (read better) guitar for a couple of hours, different model not just a different SG, and hopefully she will make a better choice, but it's really her choice to make.

    Why risk hurting someone's feelings when you really dont have to.
     
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  19. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I'm in this camp....^^
    If those are real Gibson P90's, it shouldn't be anemic. One wonders though if there is a wiring issue or bad pot etc. I would expect P90's to be able to be loud and punchy, not anemic, even if the tone is not pleasing in some guitars. But as said, the entire guitar assembly can effect the tone for sure. SG's have never rung my bell.
     
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  20. NewKid

    NewKid Tele-Holic

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    Maybe get a 2nd opinion from a qualified guitar tech?
     
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