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Fender VG Stratocaster preview

vgstratFirst Line 6 with the Variax – then Gibson with it’s HD.6X now Fender have jumped onto the guitar modeling bandwagon with the VG Stratocaster.

Unveilled at NAMM 2007 (along with Gibson’s Digital counterpart) the Fender VG Stratocaster is set to radically update Fender’s classic guitar, which for over 60 years has been a mainstay. The VG forms one of the results of a 10 year relationship with Roland and looks to fight for market share with the likes of Line 6 and Gibson.

So what’s different with the Fender VG? Well it’s got two things going for it – firstly the guitar modeling, the VG has three standard American Series single coil pickups but additionally it has a Roland GK Bridge pickup. With the GK Bridge Pickup comes five distinct guitar “models” – which are Stratocaster, Telecaster, Humbucking pickups and acoustic. There is also the option of bypassing the circuitry and invoking the guitars normal tone.

Secondly the VG Strat has the ability to alter tunings on the fly the VG has a “Tuning” knob that allows the player to select from a number of predefined tunings – Normal, Drop D, Open G, D Modal, Baritone and 12 string.

The two options are controlled by two extra control knobs fitted to the guitar and allow the player to change settings at the flick of a switch

Other than that it’s a traditional strat in everysense of the word – design, hardware etc all remain the same – this is good news as some of the Line 6 guitars have had some criticism levied at the build quality of some of their lower value guitars. And with the VG you get Fender’s built quality.

The downsides? Well it’s too early to tell (we’ll need to have a listen to truly get a picture) but if you contrast the Line 6 Variax – the variax has more guitar models (and there based on multiple manufacturers not just Fender) – there is the option of the workbench software (to extend the range of sounds available) – The plus sides – well obviously it’s a Fender so you should get the usual quality instrument that Fender is well known for – it’s simple – Fender have opted for a standard guitar and output – so know need for external devices – strange cables and the like.

The result? Well we’re certainly interested – Guitar Modeling is getting a real foothold in the industry and there’s no getting away from it – while it may never offer the subtleties of a real instrument – to our ears they come pretty darn close – with Fender and Gibson entering the market there’s some real competition and innovation so we will be watching the developments closely!

 

For more info check out Fender.com

buddyguypolkadotBuddy Guy has been one of the driving forces behind Chicago blues for years and his loud and aggressive tone influenced a huge range of guitarists from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan. In celebration of this hero of the blues – Fender have produced two Stratocasters the Buddy Guy strat (which features active electronics and lace sensor pickups) and the Buddy Guy standard Stratocaster

Here we take a look at the standard Buddy Guy Strat which features a stunning polka dot finish.

Based on the tradition Stratocaster design, featuring an alder body, “V” shaped maple neck (with satin polyurethane finish) – hardware wise it doesn’t stray far at all from the usual Fender setup – two tone controls, master volume, vintage style tremolo, chrome hardware – 3 ply pickguard.

The neck is nice a comfortable to play it’s subtle “v” shaping making it great for those with smaller hands – action is fast and great for those legato runs up and down the 21 medium jumbo fret neck.

Sound wise – the tone is powered by 3 standard single coil strat pickups (ceramic magnets) which really sing and can provide tones from subtle cleans to screaming leads – the five way selector switch adds the versatility that Fender is renowned for. The guitar has a characteristic mid-range and packs a really loud punch.

Whilst the Buddy Guy signature Stratocaster featuring fender lace pickups has more tonal options – if you want a good Fender blues tone look no further.

For more info check out the  Fender Guitar website

Fender American Ash Telecaster

ashteleThese day’s guitar manufactures seem bent on cherishing their illustrious past, we have the reissues or vintage versions from the likes of Gibson, Gretsch and Rickenbacker – Fender of course is no exception and it has produced many fine axes over the last 60 years. Continuing this theme the American Ash Telecaster is a modern spin on the classic 1952 model telecaster.

Differing from the standard alder Telecaster body, Ash bodies can vary in weight and tends to produce heavier guitars than other woods – this telecaster is no exception. This one’s based on the 52 model and it’s dimensions, the body is a great big slab of ash which feels as though you could drop it from the empire state and it’d stay in tune.

The American series comes with a maple neck with a 9.5” radius a 22 fret neck on a maple fingerboard. The neck has a vintage U shape and the frets are rolled at the edges resulting in a really nice guitar which plays easily from the off. As usual with tele’s they string through the bridge (in this instance chrome) the American Ash Telecaster features a steel bridge plate for greater sustain. Another common feature is the 6 brass saddles on the bridge to manage intonation – tuners are managed by Fender®/Schaller® Deluxe Staggered Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines which do a fine job as you’d come to expect.

Fender have opted for modern Vintage telecaster pickups here (the standard telecaster configuration) and it’s the usual single coil in the bridge and “lipstick” pickup in the neck. The pickups shouldn’t be confused with the noiseless pickups that Fender also offer as part of it’s modern range (they are fitted to the deluxe version though) – however the pickups fitted here are quiet enough and do their job well.

Telecaster’s tend to be one of those guitars that sit in a certain niche – sure these guitars can be versatile (after all guitarists from Prince to Springsteen have played these) but what you want from a Telecaster is that Tele sound – thin and wiry with a bit of bite – here the American Ash Telecaster delivers it in spades. Unlike some other telecasters the neck pickup isn’t at all muddy and offers a mellow smooth tone. Like country? For a classic telecaster tone try the middle position on the pickup selector switch and feel that classic honk. The bridge offers some clear articulation and suits finger pickers down to a tee with each note clearly articulated. Add a suitable valve amp and the pickups subtle nuances come through and deliver a fine warm tone.

Fender offer a couple of finish options here, there’s a “honey blonde” and sunburst finish available and they both feature a Polyurethane Finish – which sets of the body nicely – and does little to alter the tone – overall the finish here is particularly impressive, as you’d expect from fender and the guitar has a beautiful look to it.

With great sounds, coupled with the right looks the American Ash Telecaster is destined to be a classic telecaster.

1981 Fender Bullet Delxue review

fenderbulletdeluxeFor starters if your knowledge of the Fender Bullet is limited to it’s current incarnation under Fender’s Squier brand you may want to acquaint yourself with our article on the Fender Bullet Guitar History.

As we discuss in our article the Bullet series has a long history spanning over 25 years with the original Bullet introduced in 1981. Since it’s introduction the guitar series has undergone a few changes and before we look at the guitar it’s interesting to take a quick look at the point in time when Fender first introduced the guitar. In the early Eighties Fender was coming under increasing pressure from foreign imports and cheaper copies of it’s Stratocaster and needed to react or suffer the financial consequences – Fender at the time was owned by CBS and was subject to cost cutting regimes and this period is not looked at as one of fantastic quality and craftsmanship.

The Bullet was introduced to counter the introduction of cheaper imitations and also to appeal to the beginners market as a “first guitar”. Rumor has it that that too keep costs low the first Bullet production was originally expected to be carried out in the far east (Korea) but after initial trials production was moved back to the USA due to quality control problems – The initial 1981 run of Bullets benefit from the higher craftsmanship and attention to detail that Fenders USA production facilities offered.

The original Bullet’s came in two styles a standard and a deluxe – The deluxe had a few extra features above the standard namely a white Stratocaster-style pickguard and Strat style bridge (“hard tail” without the traditional tremolo). The Bullet Deluxe features the Fender decals on the headstock coupled with a silver star – The serial number to look for has the prefix of E (for Eighties).

From the off the 1981 Bullet Deluxe comes across a little of a Hienz 57 a hybrid and seems to feature a little bit from a number of Fender’s popular lines such as the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Mustang. Colors on the early Bullet’s were limited and the Deluxe came in either cream or red. 25 years on the original paint job has suffered a little and a few dings and scratches are to be expected.

The body of the 1981 Bullet is reminiscent of the Fender telecaster although with slightly more of a countered shape – the guitar featured a maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. The necks were identical to the Fender Telecaster necks of the period and the headstock came equipped with Kluson tuners. The guitar was originally aimed at the beginners market and as such the neck is quite comfortable (you can imagine it being targeted at smaller hands) – the Fretwork is nice and above all the instrument is quite playable and sturdy.

The volume and tone controls on the guitar are as you’d expect from a traditional Stratocaster layout although the bullet deluxe features only two controls (one tone and one volume). The jack socket is mounted where you’d expect to find the third control knob on a traditional Strat – for Fender users this may take a little getting use to and you do find yourself reaching for that other tone control from time to time.

The pickups are single coil – with the positioning again similar to the Telecasater placement (i.e. one bridge and one angled pickup at the neck). Rumour has it that the pickups were taken from the Fender Mustang line – and these add a nice difference to the sound.

The Bullet deluxe produces a nice trebley tone with plenty of warmth. The Bullet’s sound benefits from the guitar’s heavy body which produces and has a reasonable amount of sustain. You can imagine the guitar being a belter for great blues or country. 20 odd years on the pickups produce a nice warm vintage tone without a huge degree of noise (although you may want to give the electrics and connectors the once over to ensure everythings as tight as it should be.)

While there’s nothing new here, there is enough of a difference from today’s Fender’s to give the Bullet a unique voice – this is something to dwell on if your looking for a different sound and is a good selling point of any vintage instrument.

Plugged into a reasonable amp and the 80’s Bullet produces some good tones – you’ll probably want to avoid using it for metal or adding too much drive but in the right circumstances it produces a workmanlike performance in most genres – we think Jazzers would like it too. As we mentioned earlier, Strat players may miss the extra tone control but the 3 way pickup switch offers enough versatility for most.

The early Fender Bullet’s benefited from some nice craftsmanship and some 25 years later have become moderately sought after by collectors and reasonably priced models (around the $500 mark) crop up on Ebay from time to time. The original “tele” style Bullet was only around for a short period – in just one year Fender had modified the design to be more strat like and added humbucker pickups to the available options – this first “original” Bullet Deluxe had a very short run and while it’ll never garner the same adoration as a vintage Stratocaster – it’s an interesting guitar from an interesting period in Fender’s history.

As for problems, well as with any 25 year old instrument – pristine examples are rare so ensure that the electrics are sound and check the neck for any signs of warp – rust is a common problem on the tuners and bridge so take a good look here also. Expect the paintwork to have the odd mark. Above all – one of the benefits of a vintage instrument is that you can expect it to be warn in – as long as the 25 years haven’t added anything life threatening to the guitar – 25 years adds a certain character to the guitar.

In summary we can’t help but like the 1981 Bullet Deluxe – it offers something different, has an interesting history and enough tonal possibilities to suit most – given where the Bullet is today in Fenders squier line up the original seems a world away with the original Bullet Delxue – to paraphrase Star Trek – “it’s a Fender but not as we know it!”.

Fender Bullet Guitar History

fenderbulletThe Fender Bullet, introduced in 1981, was originally targeted at those looking for an entry level guitar at a reasonable price. Fender took the option to release the USA manufactured Bullet under mounting pressure from far east imports and inexpensive “strat” copies which were flooding the market.

The early Bullet series offered a small range of guitars with minimal color and equipment choices – The original design looked somewhat like a contored telecaster (the headstock was the familiar tele shape). Pickup wise the guitar came with two single coil pickups (neck and bridge) and to finish off there was a single tone and single volume control.

Sound wise the early versions produced a decent enough sparkly treble tone – again reminiscent of a telecaster – a 3 way pickup selector switch allowed for some versatility and the guitar itself was fairly playable with a nice smooth slim neck. Indeed the necks of these early Bullet’s often cause much discussion as to whether they are actually Telecaster necks.

A year on from it’s initial release in 1982 Fender reinvigorated the series by modifying the design – the shape became a double cutaway (traditional Stratocaster type body) and there were more versions with a greater variety of hardware and electronics (for example humbuckers were introduced and there was the option of two humbuckers or one humbucker one singlecoil.) Fender also added a coil tapping button for the humbucker equipped guitars.


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With the improved range of hardware – sonically the guitars could produce a more varied palate of tones which could encompass more harder rockier sounds (the original Bullet’s being better equipped for a clean tone). Fender also expanded the color options going from 2 to 4 (sunburst and brown being added).

These early bullet guitars have proved particularly durable with models appearing on ebay some 20 years later still in reasonable condition (watch out for rust on the bridge and tuners though). They make an interesting addition for any guitar collector or for those wanting something a little different.

In the mid eighties the Bullet was swallowed up by Fender’s Squier Brand produced in the far east. Today Squier still manufacture the Bullet albeit, now a closer cousin of the Stratocaster – aimed at the beginner or student – today’s bullet features 3 single coil pickups and the traditional Fender Strat layout on a laminated body. Today’s Bullet can be had for around $100 which is a bargain for anyone starting out.

Overall in the 20 odd years since the bullet was originally introduced it’s seen quite a few changes – however the name still remains and the modern Bullet is squarely marketed at the beginner guitarist offering not only value for money but also an interesting heritage too.

Fender Guitars – Fender Serial Numbers

Like Many manufacturers – Fender place a serial number on their instruments to identify the finished article. Over the years the serial number has changed a few times.The Serial Number is accompanied by thepart number.Modern fender part numbers are in the format PPP-MMMM, where PPP is the code for the manufacturing plant and MMMM is the number. On Fenders the serial number traditionally appears at the butt end of the heel of the guitar neck. Fender, however, have not always been consistent and there are examples where it has been placed in different areas or simply omitted. Because of this, neck dating is useful in roughly determining the age of a guitar, but it is certainly not definitive.

There’s some excellent information out on the web when trying to decipher Fender Guitar serial numbers, for starters try Fender.com followed by http://www.provide.net/~cfh/fender.html which has put together an awesome article on the variations Fender have used with their serial numbering over the years. For starters take a look at the following table which illustrates some of the serial numbers used by Fender.

SERIAL NUMBERS

PRODUCTION DATES

Up to 6000

1950 to 1954

Up to 10,000

1954 to 1956

10,000s

1955 to 1956

10,000s to 20,000s

1957

20,000s to 30,000s

1958

30,000s to 40,000s

1959

40,000s to 50,000s

1960

50,000s to 70,000s

1961

60,000s to 90,000s

1962

80,000s to 90,000s

1963

90,000s up to L10,000s

1963

L10,000s up to L20,000s

1963

L20,000s up to L50,000s

1964

L50,000s up to L90,000s

1965

100,000s

1965

100,000s to 200,000s

1966 to 1967

200,000s

1968

200,000s to 300,000s

1969 to 1970

0,000s

1971 to 1972

300,000s to 500,000s

1973

400,000s to 500,000s

1974 to 1975

500,000s to 700,000s

1976

76 + 5 DIGITS
S6 + 5 DIGITS

1976

S7 + 5 DIGITS
S8 + 5 DIGITS

1977

S7 + 5 DIGITS
S8 + 5 DIGITS
S9 + 5 DIGITS

1978

S9 + 5 DIGITS
E0 + 5 DIGITS

1979

S9 + 5 DIGITS
E0 + 5 DIGITS
E1 + 5 DIGITS

1980

S9 + 5 DIGITS
E0 + 5 DIGITS
E1 + 5 DIGITS

1981

EI + 5 DIGITS
E2 + 5 DIGITS
E3 + 5 DIGITS
V + 4, 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1982
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E2 + 5 DIGITS
E3 + 5 DIGITS
V + 4, 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1983
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E3 + 5 DIGITS
E4 + 5 DIGITS
V + 4, 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1984
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E3 + 5 DIGITS
E4 + 5 DIGITS
V + 4, 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1985
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

V + 4, 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1986
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E4 + 5 DIGITS
V + 4, 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1987
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E4 + 5 DIGITS
E8 + 5 DIGITS
V + 4, 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1988
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E8 + 5 DIGITS
E9 + 5 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1989
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

E9 + 5 DIGITS
N9 + 5 DIGITS
N0 + 5 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1990
(For U.S. Vintage Series, check neck date for specific year)

N0 + 5 DIGITS
N1 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1991

N1 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
N2 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1992

N2 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
N3 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1993

N3 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
N4 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1994


N4 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
N5 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1995

N5 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
N6 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1996

N6 + 6 or 6 DIGITS
N7 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (U.S. Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1997

N7 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
N8 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Vintage Series)

1998


N9 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

1999
1999

N9 + 5 or 6 DIGITS

Z0 + 5 or 6 DIGITS

DZ0 + 5 or 6 DIGITS (Am. Deluxe)

V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

2000

Z0 + 5 or 6 DIGITS

Z1 + 5 or 6 DIGITS

DZ1 + 5 or 6 DIGITS (Am. Deluxe)

V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

2001

Z1 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
Z2 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
DZ2 + 5 or 6 DIGITS (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

2002

Z2 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
Z3 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
DZ3 + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Deluxe Series)
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)

2003

Z3 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
Z4 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
DZ4 + 5 or 6 DIGITS (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)
XN4 + 4 Digits

2004

Z4 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
Z5 + 5 or 6 DIGITS
DZ5 + 5 or 6 DIGITS (Am. Deluxe)
V + 5 or 6 DIGITS (American Vintage Series except ’52 Telecaster)
XN5 + 4 Digits

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