z Gear Stories Episode 39

Gear Stories 39  Cordoba-Got Nylon?  Ampeg- Got Crunch?




Greeting friends!  It’s time for another episode of “Gear Stories!”


If you are new to this, Gear Stories is my monthly newsletter about music gear and instruments.  If you are not interested in getting this e-mail, let me know and I’ll take you off the list, but try it… you might like it!


One quick note!  The special deals I was able to extend on Marshall and Epiphone guitars last month are going to be extended all the way until Christmas!  So call me if you know somebody who wants to get into a lovely guitar rig this year!


We start off with the “Deconstructed Song” and this time, the focus is on using the right musicians, rather than the gear.  In my many many years as a professional recording engineer, I have seen it over and over… customers came to me for a project, and to save money, they have their buddies come in to play for them, because their buddies would do it for free!  Unfortunately, the buddies that came in to play on their project were usually far from professional.  In the long run, it cost them more because the buddy took a lot longer in the studio to get the parts down.   It also hurt the final outcome of the album because the buddy didn’t have a pro level instrument or could not play the part as well as it should have been played.


It is truly amazing what can happen when one just hires the right musicians and gets out of the way!  The track I am presenting features some truly amazing musicians, and if you are looking to have a project done, ALL of them would be interested in working for you….  One of the things that is particularly  exciting is that one of these musicians is truly a living legend… Bakhiti Khumalo, Bassist from the Paul Simon “Graceland” album.  HIS SOLO IS TRULY AMAZING!


Enjoy this month’s “Deconstructed song!”   http://www.dreamrodeo.com/wordpress/y-song-notes-liberia-manu


Also, in case anyone is into the “Dream Rodeo” project… we have posted our first video… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxybDJAF5Vo

(By the way… I’m the hooded figure at the keyboard!)




Now, on to this month’s gear stories… which are particularly focused this month at those who play (AND record) guitar!  I have been focusing on that a lot lately, but there has been exciting stuff going on in that realm… I promise, next time I’ll focus on keyboards and recording!


We start with…  CORDOBA!   Got Nylon?


Years ago, when Sweetwater began carrying guitars, we could never have predicted just how popular they would be, and in truth, Guitars have kind of dominated the voice of popular music until the dawn of hip hop and modern R&B… but outside those realms, guitar is still a force to be reckoned with!


But if you go back a bit farther, the guitars that we know and love in pop and rock music are relative newcomers to the world.  Prior to the common steel stringed guitar (which evolved into the hollow-body electric guitar and then the solid-body electric guitar) the original guitars did not have metal strings, but much softer, “gut” strings.  I don’t really want to go into the reason they were called “gut” strings, because that time is long gone, and kind of gross, actually… so now the voice of the ancient guitar is heard in nylon strings!


Nylon string (Or “classical” or “Folk” guitars) are incredibly popular all over the world, but the craze has not really taken hold here in the United States.   That, however, is changing.


Perhaps it’s because they are easier to play… since the fretboards are wider, with more room for fat fingered blokes like myself… and the strings don’t make the tips of your fingers feel like they have been dancing on razor blades if you haven’t played for a while.  Perhaps it’s the mystique that just playing two or three notes can evoke images of Antonio Banderas in the Zorro movies (Which then leads me to Catherine Zeta Jones, and that’s enough to put a smile on MY face!).


But I think that the biggest reason is the simplicity.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that Nylon string guitars are simple to play… There is nothing that truly being good at is simple!   But you must admit that there is an appeal to being able to just pick up an instrument and put your hands on the strings and there it is… beautiful sound!


You don’t have to plug it in (But you CAN).  You don’t have to turn it on… the most troublesome thing about them is having to tune them up… which takes a minute or so, and you are off!


Sweetwater has just added a line of nylon string guitars called Cordoba.  (There has been much controversy as to the pronunciation of this word, but we have been assured that it is “COR-doba”, and not “cor-DOE-ba.” … That is apparently important to SOMEBODY!)


The thing that is important to me is that they are fine instruments!  Here is a link to the entire line…  http://www.sweetwater.com/c987–Cordoba–Classical_Guitars


With a range in the line from $189 all the way up to $1999, there is surely something for everyone here!


You may ask, what is the difference between the high end guitars and the low priced ones?  Really the answer is not complicated at all…   It is the quality of the wood, the components and the quality of build.  Anyone who has even played cheap guitars and then picked up a very high end guitar knows the feeling I am talking about.  It’s the solid feel of the instrument… the tone wood… the sustain… the details in the finish… all of those things go into a high end instrument make them easier to play and sound GREAT.  While the lower priced guitars are still Cordobas, and play very well, of course, the high end guitars play like a DREAM and are as beautiful to look at as they are to listen to.


I did learn something new about nylon string guitars when the people from Cordoba were here… That was the difference between a regular classical guitar and a “Flamenco” model.


While a classical guitar strives to create a lovely mellow tone, balanced and restrained, Flamenco is a more passionate music, like a well performed tango!  These guitars, due to the wood choice and the depth of the bodies and bracing, are designed to be more brash, strident and even noisy, creating pops and snaps and buzzes at the artist’s behest!  You may pick one up and think that it’s not the guitar for you… and you may be right… but if you are going for that sound, then the Flamenco guitar is the one for you.  http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SolistaFL/


From now until Christmas, call me for special deals on Cordoba nylon string guitars!




Now for Part two of this month’s Gear Stories…


Ampeg!  Got Crunch?


Ampeg is traditionally associated with bass amplification, and rightly so… The sound of Ampeg bass amps are wonderful!  Ranging from a warm, tubey clean sound, to a horrific overdrive that could scare a member of Nine Inch Nails!!!  (It’s truly a wonder that Ampeg Bass amps didn’t get picked up  by guitarists like the Fender Bassman did back in the 1960’s and 70’s!)


Ampeg actually has a long history with guitar amps, and while they never made tons of them, they are fairly prized by vintage enthusiasts.  Here is s little of their history from the Ampeg site:


“1958, Ampeg adds to its “Universal Series” (which includes the space-age named Mercury and the Rocket) with a new small combo-the Jet. Initially produced with a silver-speckled, navy-colored vinyl, the Jet undergoes a cosmetic change to a new blue covering in 1962 which features a “checkered” or diamond-shaped pattern which signifies the beginning of the “boom” years of Ampeg.

Ampeg debuts a new amp in 1961 that offers a fabulous new effect in addition to the traditional tremolo feature…on-board reverb. Ampeg calls its new amp the Reverberocket R12R and uses the neoteric Hammond spring type of reverb. The Reverberocket is introduced at the summer industry trade show in July, 1961, about a year after Hammond introduced their spring reverberation unit. The Reverberocket is quite possibly the first combo amp ever to be offered with on-board reverb.”



Once again, Ampeg has entered into the guitar amp market… and the results are again unique and impressive!


Unlike some companies that strive to make a different model of amp for every conceivable sound out there on the market, you might say that the Ampeg guitar amp line is a one trick pony… but it’s one HECK OF A TRICK!


There is a very distinctive sound created by Ampeg guitar amps, not unlike the approach they take to bass amps!  It’s just a GREAT tone.


Certainly, there is clean and dirty and you can adjust the levels of the gain… I  didn’t mean to imply that they only make ONE sound…  but in all the sounds, they evoke a certain image… a certain vibe…  A certain Jenny Say Kwa!  (You didn’t know I spoke French, didja!?!)


When I heard the demonstrations of the various Ampeg Guitar amps, all the way from the most basic combo to the powerful heads, I was reminded of the best of Rock and Roll from the 1970’s!  There was a crunch that is only attainable with fine tube circuitry!


All it will take would be one hot young gunslinger to pick one of these up and record one hit song, and the sound of these amps could once again define a decade… or at least a genre in a decade!


I remember the first time I heard the band “Jet” rip out their frantic song “Are you Gonna be My Girl?” which brought a retro, indie rock feel into the 21st century…    It could be kind  of like that!


So at this point, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question…  (and it’s not “Do ya feel lucky, punk?”)




For the complete line of Ampeg guitar amps, take a look here… http://www.sweetwater.com/c622–Ampeg–Guitar_Amps


And call me through Christmas for special deals!


Until next time, I look forward to being of service.


Jon Gillespie, Sweetwater Sales Engineer


800 222 4700 x 1352

260 432 8176 x 1352 (outside the U.S.)

260 432 1758 FAX

[email protected]


Manage the way Sweetwater communicates with you here:



My own personal web site can be found here…  http://www.dreamrodeo.com/


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