So, you want to buy an electric guitar? Let Kitarablogi.com help you find the guitar that’s ”the right one” for you.
There are a few things you should think through in advance, before setting out to your local guitar shop.
**** What guitar do I really want/need?
• The way you feel about a guitar’s looks and design can be an important factor in making a buying decision, and the same goes for the guitar your favourite artist plays. There’s nothing ridiculous in choosing an instrument for its looks, as there’s always a psychological component to how you approach a guitar. If you really dig the way an instrument looks, you will want to play it, and play it more often. This goes the other way, too – if you feel your guitar is ugly, playing it won’t be as much fun.
• Nevertheless, the most important criterion for buying your guitar should be the style of music you plan to use it for. Yes, theoretically you can play any guitar in any style – as Ted Nugent proves by playing loud Rock on an all-hollow archtop (a Jazz guitar) – but if you choose the ”right” instrument for a musical style, it will make things much easier.
Here are some examples of musical genres:
++ Modern Metal: As you’re dealing with large amounts of volume and gain, the best choice would be a solidbody guitar, equipped with humbuckers. Some prefer active pickups, while others like traditional passive designs more. Lead guitarists often go for a model equipped with a locking vibrato system, like a Floyd Rose.
As many bands in this genre use lower than standard tunings, you could consider opting for a seven-string model (which offers an additional lower string), or even go full-out for a baritone electric.
++ Jazz: Most Jazz guitarists like to stay in the traditional sonic space offered by all-hollow archtops or semi-solid ES-335-type guitars. The preferred pickup choices are humbuckers and P-90s.
++ Blues: Blues musicians use a wide variety of different guitars, depending on their personal taste. Here the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your chosen instrument, in order to express your feelings without being hindered by your guitar. Locking vibratos and active pickups are very rarely seen in Blues music.
++ Country: Traditional Country guitarists tend to drift towards guitar models with a lot of chime and bite in their tone. Very often this means Fender-style single coils or a Gretsch guitar. Over the past couple of decades there’s been quite a lot of crossover from Rock into Country music, though, which has lead to more variety in the choice of instruments in this genre.
++ Classic Rock: Traditional 1970s Classic Rock is built upon humbucker-equipped solidbody guitars, which offer enough grit and output for this genre. Think Les Paul, SG or Telecaster Deluxe.
++ If this is going to be your first electric guitar: If you’re a beginner, we would suggest choosing a model that won’t confuse you with a large array of pickup- and switching-options. A non-vibrato bridge would also be a welcome feature, as vibrato bridges are generally harder to set up and keep in tune.
Set yourself a budget and stick to it!
• It is important that you set yourself a budget for your guitar shopping. If you have a good idea of your target price range, you will be able to sift through all the different guitars on offer much more quickly, by leaving out any models that are too expensive (or too cheap). This will make choosing your instrument a bit easier.
Halla Custom Instruments on pieni kitarapaja Tampereelta. Firma on erikoistunut custom-tilauksiin, joissa valmistetaan kaikenlaisia kielisoittimia asiakkaiden toivomuksien mukaan. Halla Customin vetäjä on soitinrakentaja-artesaani Ville Mattila. Mattila kuluu Suomen Soitinrakentajien Kiltaan.
Kitarablogi sai Halla Customilta oikean kaunottaren testiin. Kitara vaikuttaa ensisilmäykseltä kunnianosoitukselta Gibson SG:lle, mutta asiat eivät ole niin suoraviivaisia kuin miltä ne näyttävät!
Kyllä tämä Halla Custom SG (hinta noin 3.000 €) on varsin henkeäsalpaava ilmestys. Se on turkoosinvärinen, uhkeanmuotoinen soitin, johon metalliosien kultainen hohto sopii kuin nakutettu.
Mutta tämän kitaran upea viimeistely (kovalla akryylilakalla) ei ole Halla Custom SG:n tärkein piirre: ”It’s an SG, Jim, but not as we know it!”
Tässä Halla Custom -kitarassa yhdistetään saumattomasti kahden klassikkokitaroiden ominaisuuksia – Gibson SG:n muotoiluun on sekoitettu reilusti Fender Stratocasterilta tuttuja piirteitä:
Vaikka tässäkin kitarassa on Gibson-klassikon virtaviivaistettu runko ja liimattu kaula (tosin paljon sulavammalla liitoksella), käytetään Halla Customissa Fenderille tyypillisiä materiaaleja – nimittäin vaahterakaulaa ja leppärunkoa – sekä täysipitkää mensuuria (25,5 tuumaa/64,8 cm).
Floyd Rosella varustetulla Hallalla on kartiomaisesti muuttuva otelaudan radius (ns. compound radius), jossa otelaudan kaarevuudesta tulee sitä loivempi mitä lähemmäksi runkoa mennään. Reunalistoitettuun ruusupuisen otelautaan on asennettu 24 kullanväristä teräsnauha.
Kaksi grafiittitankoa kaularaudan vieressä lisäävät entisestään kaulan lujuutta.
Laadukkaat, kullanväriset virittimet ovat peräisin japanilaisen Gotohin valikoimasta.
Huippulaadukas Floyd Rose tulee sekin Gotohilta. Ruuvattavan vibrakammen istuvuutta säädetään nailonkauluksella ja pienellä kuusiokoloruuvilla.
Halla Custom SG -kitaraan on asennettu kaksi firman omaa humbuckeria. Halla Venla -nimiset kaksikelaiset ovat vintagea selvästi kuumempia tapauksia.
Neljä säädintä ja kolmiasentoinen vipukytkin – asetelma näyttää harmittomalta, mutta tähänkin on lisätty yksi herkullinen lisäominaisuus:
Tässä Halla Customissa on mukana passiivinen (= ei tarvitse paristoa) säröpiiri, joka laitetaan päälle kaulamikin tone-säädintä nostamalla.
Myös sisäisesti Hallan työnjälki edustaa ehtaa custom shop -laatua, jollaista on lähes mahdotonta löytää ison tuotannon soittimista.
Asiantuntijat ovat varmasti jo huomanneet, että volume-potikoihin on myös lisätty treble-bleed kondensaattoreita.
Tätä Halla Custom SG:tä on tilattu hot-rod Rock-kitaraksi, jossa on Gibson-kaltainen ulkonäkö, mutta Superstrat-tyylinen soundi.
Voin vain todeta, että tuli täysosuma. Tämä on suorastaan fantastinen ja erittäin inspiroiva soitin!
Jotkut Gibson SG:t voivat tuntua hieman hauraalta, ja monilla yksilöillä on sisäänrakennettuja vireongelmia soitintyypin erittäin pitkän kaulan takia. Halla Custom SG on täysin vapaa tällaisista ongelmista – soittotuntuma on (sanojen parhaassa mielessä) erittäin tukeva ja tanakka. Tämä kitara rokkaa!
Omistajan valitsema paksu kaulaprofiili, kaulan grafiittivahvennukset, Hallan Gibsonia paksumpi leppärunko, sekä Ville Mattilan osaaminen soitinrakentajana nostavat Halla Custom SG:n selvästi valtavirran yläpuolelle.
Testikitara oli säädetty omistajan toivomuksien mukaisesti Es-vireeseen ja se tuli hyvin matalalla kielten korkeudella. Soittotuntuma oli erittäin nopea ja vaivaton, ja kevyellä plektrakädellä kitara soi rämisemättä koko otelaudalla.
Myös soittimen Gotoh-floikka toimi kiitettävästi.
Halla Customin valmistamien Venla-mikrofonien soundi sopii täydellisesti rankempaan Rock- ja Metal-meininkiin. Mikrofonien lähtötaso on suhteellisen korkea, mutta – ihme kyllä – niiden soundi on silti vintage-maisesti avoin ja helisevä:
Halla-kitaran sisäinen passiivinen säröpiiri on erittäin kätevä lisäys, etenkin kun käytössä on yksikanavainen kitaravahvistin:
Tätä kitaraa on kuitenkin luotu rokkaamaan rankasti, ja niin se tekeekin selkeällä atakilla ja rouhealla äänellään:
Halla Customin SG on loistava esimerkki soitinrakentamisen erittäin korkeasta tasosta täällä Suomessa.
Tällaisella käsintehdyllä laadulla on luonnollisesti hintansakin, mutta vastineeksi saa tässä aidon custom-soittimen, joka on tehty kokonaan omien toivomusten mukaan.
Halla Custom Instruments SG-Style
Halla Custom -kitaroiden hinnat lähtevät noin 1.200 eurosta ylöspäin, riippuen kitaratyypistä, sekä soittimen varustelusta ja viimeistelystä. Testatun kitaran hinta olisi noin 3.000 €.
Halla Custom Instruments is one of a number of cool small instrument makers in Finland. The company is run by trained luthier-artisan Ville Mattila and specialises in one-off custom electric and acoustic string instruments. Ville Mattila is a member of the Guild of Finnish Luthiers.
Kitarablogi received a stunning Halla Custom electric for testing. The guitar may look like a tribute to the Gibson SG, but there’s more to this Halla than meets the eye!
Just looking at the Halla Custom SG (price approximately 3,000 €) I had to catch my breath. This is a turquoise bombshell of a guitar, with a healthy dose of additional glitz added by the golden hardware.
But the fantastic paint job (using very hard acrylic lacquer) is only part of the story: ”It’s an SG, Jim, but not as we know it!”
The Halla Custom SG fuses design aspects from two classic guitar models – the Gibson SG and the Fender Stratocaster.
We find the classic lines and the set neck of an SG, but the Halla uses Fender-typical materials – namely a maple neck and an alder body – as well as a long scale (25.5″/64.8 cm).
The Floyd Rose-equipped Halla comes with a bound rosewood fretboard with a compound radius and 24 gold-coloured stainless steel frets.
Hidden beneath the fretboard lie two neck-stabilising graphite rods, placed either side of the truss rod.
The instrument sports a set of golden Gotoh tuners, as well as a neck wrist-strengthening volute.
The Floyd Rose is a top-drawer Gotoh unit, which comes with a screw in vibrato arm. An adjustable nylon cuff lets you decide how loosely (or tightly) the arm stays in place.
The Custom SG is equipped with a pair of Halla Custom’s hotter-than-vintage Venla-humbuckers.
There’s a nice little twist to the seemingly standard four controls plus three-way toggle set-up:
This Halla Custom guitar features a built-in passive fuzz circuit, which can be activated using a push/pull-switch hidden in the neck pickup’s tone control.
You really get what you pay for with a Halla – quality components, ultra-clean workmanship and thoroughly applied foil shielding.
The eagle-eyed among you will surely have already spotted the treble-bleed caps on both volume pots.
The Halla Custom SG was ordered by its lucky owner (a man known as Make El Weirdo) as a hot-rod Rock guitar with Gibson-esque looks, but a Superstrat sound.
What can I say? This is a fantastic guitar that ticks all the right boxes!
Some Gibson SGs can feel a little bit insubstantial, and many suffer from tuning problems due to their long necks. The Halla Custom SG has no such problems, this is a rock solid, chunky instrument.
The owner’s preference for a ”baseball bat” neck profile, this guitar’s thicker-than-a-Gibson alder body, and Ville Mattila’s considerable skills as a luthier take the Halla Custom SG to a different level altogether!
This Halla came tuned to E-flat, and set up with a very low action, as specified by the customer. The playing feel was extremely fluid, and with a light picking technique this Halla played buzz-free all across the fretboard.
The Gotoh Floyd Rose worked great, too.
Halla Custom’s own Venla-humbuckers are the bee’s knees for fans of the harder styles of Rock guitar. The pickups pack an enormous punch, but miraculously manage to sound as open and chiming as vintage, low-powered ’buckers:
Halla’s built-in passive fuzz is a fun little addition that’s more than a gadget, especially when you’re playing with a single channel amp:
But with a guitar such as this, you will surely spend most of your time enjoying its precise attack and chunky crunch:
The Halla Custom SG is a shining example of the high standards of luthiery in Finland.
Naturally, handmade quality such as this comes at a price. If you have the money, though, you should really ask yourself if you want to spend it on an off-the-peg, production line guitar, or rather on a special instrument made exactly to your own specifications.
Halla Custom Instruments SG-Style
Prices for Halla Custom guitars start from 1,200 €, depending on the guitar type and options chosen. A similar guitar like the reviewed instrument would cost approximately 3,000 €.
American guitar guru Grover Jackson is a genuine living legend. When Jackson bought Wayne Charvel’s small shop (in 1978) nobody would have guessed that this man would single-handedly define two new types of electric guitars.
The – mostly bolt-on necked – Charvel guitars from the Eighties kicked off the Superstrat-phenomenon in earnest.
The original Jackson-branded instruments became famous as hiogh-octane Metal-guitars, which combined first class playability with bold graphic finishes. The most legendary Jacks model is surely the Concorde/RR, which Grover Jackson developed for Randy Rhoads.
Grover Jackson left Charvel/Jackson at the end of the 80s, and he went on to design instruments for a number of different brands, like Washburn for example. The Charvel and Jackson brands are nowadays part of the huge Fender conglomerate.
Grover Jackson has recently launched a new guitar-making outfit, together with (ex-Fender man) Jon Gold. GJ2 Guitars is a small Californian outfit which concentrates on small-run high-end guitar making.
Kitarablogi.com takes the first five instruments to arrive in Finland for a spin.
The GJ2 Glendora NLT (this version 1,717 €, incl. gigbag) is the most traditional guitar of our group of five.
The review sample’s body has been crafted from light ash (custom option) and finished in gloss Antique White. The basic version of the Glendora comes with a body made from either basswood, alder or poplar.
The satin-finished maple neck joins the body in traditional fashion.
The Glendora’s headstock is a stylish variation on the classic six-in-a-row design.
The tuning machines are quality units from Gotoh.
The contemporary two-post vibrato bridge is also a Gotoh design. The bar is simply pushed into the block and kept in place by an adjustable nylon collar.
The rosewood fingerboad sports 22 gleaming jumbo-sized frets.
For his new GJ2 guitars Grover Jackson has perfected a new method of applying a compound radius to the fretboard. A compund radius means that the frets have a steeper curve near the nut and get shallower further up towards the body. This gives you the best of both worlds with easy open position chording and effortless string bending higher up the neck without string choking.
GJ2 Guitars use their own Habanero pickups as standard. Our review sample comes equipped with an HSS-setup, but you can order your Glendora with several different pickup combinations, like the vintage-style SSS or two humbuckers.
The controls comprise a five-way switch, as well as master volume and tone controls.
The Glendora FR (this version 1,930 €, incl. lightweight case) is the Floyd Rose-equipped version of the Glendora.
Our review instrument comes with a standard body (basswood, alder or poplar), but apart from that the basic build is the same as on the Glendora NLT.
One of the custom options available for a surcharge in the Glendora-range is a matching headcap, just like on this guitar.
GJ2 Guitars use only top-drawer quality parts, like the Schaller-made steel Floyd Rose bridge on the Glendora FR.
It’s a Habanero-set of two single-coils and one humbucker for this guitar.
The GJ2 Arete is one of Grover Jackson’s new designs based on a through-neck. There are three different basic versions of the Arete available, called 3-Star, 4-Star and 5-Star.
The Arete 4-Star (this version 2,231 €, incl. lightweight case) is the middle model, which is crafted almost completely from South-American mahogany. The neck uses three long strips side-by-side for added stiffness.
Two mahogany wings make up the streamlined body. The more affordable Arete 3-Star is made from sapele, while the more expensive 5-Star counterpart gives you several different body woods to choose from.
The Arete 4-Star comes in a hand-rubbed oil finish. The cover plates are made from aluminium.
The headstock sports one of GJ2 Guitars’ special features – the Invisible Binding. This is achieved by routing out a shallow ”pool” on the headstock’s face, into which a large rosewood plate is then inlaid.
All Arete 4-Star guitars are vibrato-equipped – they come either with the same knife-edge bridge as on the Glendora NTL, or with a steel Floyd Rose as on our review instrument.
The black pickup bezels feature a structured surface.
The bound rosewood fingerboard sports Mini Bull’s Eye inlays, as well as 22 jumbo frets.
The basic version of the Arete 4-Star is equipped with two Habanero humbuckers, but you can also order HSS- or HSH-configurations, should you so desire.
The three-way toggle is mounted between the master volume and tone controls. GJ2 Guitars’ cool Flying Saucer-knobs not only look great, but are also easy to adjust.
A through-neck crafted from three side-by-side strips of maple flanked by basswood wings – this is the basic recipe behind the GJ2 Concorde 4-Star (this version 2,768 €, including hard case).
All Concorde-models feature a full-length, 64.8 cm (25.5-inch) scale.
The Concorde 4-Star is available in five gloss finishes – Jet Black, Stark White, Antique White, Sports Car Red and GJ Blue – and either a Floyd Rose vibrato (as on the review sample) or a Gotoh hardtail bridge.
The hardware on a Concorde 4-Star is chrome-plated.
The fretboard is equipped with 22 jumbo frets and pearloid inlays.
The volume knob is easy to reach with your pinkie.
Two Hanbanero humbuckers, one master volume, one master tone control and a three-way toggle – what more does a Rock God need?
The placement of the output jack is a nifty little feature.
This is GJ2 Guitars’ ultimate Heavy Dream Machine:
The Concorde 5-Star (this version 4,103 €, incl. hard case) can be had – for an additional charge – finished in a custom finish, such as the Randy Rhoads-style pinstripe graphics on this guitar.
The back plates of the Concorde-models are made of aluminium.
The Concorde 5-Star sports gold-coloured hardware. Our review sample had optional, locking Gotoh-tuners installed.
Ebony is the material of choice for the bound fretboard, as well as the headstock inlay.
Here’s a closer look at the golden Floyd Rose bridge.
The inlays on the Concorde 5-Star are genuine pearl.
…and here’s a little peek into the very clean control cavity.
The feather-light ash-bodied GJ2 Glendora NLT is a fantastic S-style guitar for the connoisseur!
The Glendora’s playability is first-rate, and the guitar’s satin-finished neck, with its oval C-profile feels like an old friend.
Played acoustically there’s a hefty dose of woody dryness and sparkling top end, no doubt thanks to the ash body. The Glendora NLT’s displays an open voice with a nicely clucking attack.
I have only good things to say about GJ2’s Habanero pickups – they sound great, they are dynamically rich and the whole set is well balanced in terms of tone and output level.
Here’s a short clip played using the neck pickup:
The workmanship, feel and playability of the Glendora FR is the same as in the NLT-version – simply fantastic!
Acoustically there’s maybe a tad more roundness in the mid-range and a slightly fatter bass on display in the Glendora FR, which is probably a result of its standard body. On the other hand, the steel Floyd Rose adds its own sprinkling of presence bite into the mix.
Because the bridge humbucker isn’t overpowering the guitar’s single-coils, there’s plenty of fun to be had using the second switch position (bridge and middle):
The lightweight GJ2 Arete 4-Star is a very comfortable guitar to hold and play.
Thanks to its hand-rubbed oil finish the Arete feels very organic. If you’re a fan of nice wood, then this is the guitar for you.
The neck profile has a nice bit of shoulders to its slightly flattened D-section, and fills out your hand rather nicely.
The Arete’s acoustic voice is warm and open.
GJ2’s Habanera humbuckers clearly follow the boutique-vintage route, which puts tone and dynamics front and centre, instead of sheer brute force. Thanks to this it is very easy to coax a whole trainload of different tasty humbucker-tones from the Arete 4-Star, which will satisfy both the traditionalist, as well as modern Rock- and Fusion-guitarists.
The Flying Saucer knobs have a very positive grip, allowing you to adjust the guitar’s controls precisely.
Here’s a clip I recorded using the bridge humbucker:
It may come as a surprise to a newbie, but the Concorde 4-Star actually feels extremely comfortable hanging suspended from a guitar strap. Sure, the visuals are very angular, but the feel isn’t.
On the other hand I should stress that the Concorde most probably isn’t the right choice as a couch guitar, because it won’t really stay in your lap. And one more thing – beware of the sharp top horn! But as long as you know this guitar’s boundaries, your in for a fun ride with a light and well-balanced studio- and stage-guitar.
The neck has a chunky D-profile, which is good news for tone and sustain.
The Concorde’s long scale, its maple through-neck, as well as the Floyd Rose system give this guitar a clearer, more precise – and in a positive way – more neutral acoustic tone, when compared, say, to a Gibson Flying V.
The guitar’s Habanero humbuckers do a fantastic job in getting the Concorde 4-Star’s precise attack and growling mid-range across.
The neck ’bucker displays a fluid, flute-like timbre, without any sign of muddiness:
In terms of playablity and ergonomics there’s not much to divide the Concorden 5-Star from its 4-Star sibling.
But there are some clear differences in tone, most probably due to the posher 5-Star-version’s ebony ’board. The Concorde 5-Star has some added presence bite and a tad more twang in its attack, resulting in an even livelier tone.
Here’s a clip played using the bridge humbucker:
What a great thing that Grover Jackson isn’t content with resting on his (considerable) laurels. These new instruments build upon Mr Jackson’s rich past and vast knowledge, while managing to stay foward-facing and fresh.
The sum of this knowledge and experience, coupled with new building techniques and GJ2 Guitars’ obvious attention to detail, result in a range of instruments I would call the best guitars Grover Jackson has ever made.
This type of quality naturally comes at a price. But in light of GJ2’s comparatively small production runs and the sheer quality on offer here, you truly get what you paid for – boutique quality, made in the USA.