Playing on the Holy Grail of Electric Guitars: 1960 Les Paul Standard

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, Vintage guitars

Some time ago I had the opportunity to play on a real “Burst”, a 1960 Les Paul Standard. You will probably know that Les Paul Standards between 1958 and 1960 are something like the ‘Holy Grai’l for guitar players and collectors, with prices ranging over $ 200,000. (And yes, Mark Knopfler has even two of these!) As you might guess from the surrounding in the video, the guitar belongs to the same collector as Mark Knopfler’s sunburst Schecter Strat, or the blue 1961 Stratocaster I played in one of the last videos. Only about 1,700 of these were made (possibly 434 in 1958, 643 in 1959, and 635 in 1960). After that the model was discontinued because it failed commercially, as it was too conventional looking for Rock’n’Roll players who prefered Fender solid-body guitars, and not conventional enough for jazz players who prefered Gibson arch top guitars. It was some years later when players like Eric Clapton or Peter Green made the model famous and sought-after again when they played these guitars and showed them on their albums (e.g. a probably 1960 Les Paul on the Bluesbrakers album). So these Les Paul became something like the first vintage guitars. Gibson made Les Pauls again starting in 1968 but these had some different specs than the old sunburst Standards.

Early 1960 Les Pauls are almost identical to the 1959 model, however, later in 1960 the neck became flatter, and the red colour that is known to fade when exposed to sunlight was replaced with a more resistant and darker red dye.

What does it sound like?

This is probably the most important question everyone asks himself. Is such a guitar really worth all the money? The answer is surely “no” as it costs more than 50 times as much as a good replica with original features, and the sound cannot be 50 times better. Still, those old guitars have a magic that the new ones don’t have, and the sound also might have some details thatmake it different from newer ones (apart from the simple fact that each guitar is an individual piece and sounds different than any other), so the question is rtaher how much you think these little details are worth for you. And it is all a matter of taste so you might like some new ones really better.

I recorded some minutes of video, and I recorded some sound samples directly into my recorder so that I can compare the guitar to any other later.

This first video has the directly recorded sound which I reamped with a software amp.

In the second video the guitar was played over a Tone King Metropolitan amp and was recorded with the camera mic. Obviously these do not like the volume typically produced by a guitar amp and thus heavily compress dynamics or cause distortion.

And here I finally compared it to my own 1974 Les Paul Custom. I recorded my guitar into the same recorder, and reamped it with the same software amp, all settings 100% identical. The Custom has an ebony fingerboard instead one of Brazilian rosewood, and some other construction details are different so it will never sound the same. My guitar is equipped with Haeussel 1959 pickups so you can listen yourself to how these compare to the original PAF pickups.

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A/B Comparing Mark Knopfler’s Schecter to my Strat with the loaded pickguard

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, MK guitar style and licks

In these videos I am a/b comparing two different guitars side by side: Mark Knopfler’s famous sunburst Schecter Dream Machine Strat and my pink part-o-caster, built from a Japanese Squier body in metallic pink with a nice bird’s eye maple neck I bought on ebay some time ago (actually a noname product), equipped with the loaded Schecter-style pickguard with the F500T pickup replicas, and with a prototype of the coming brass Dream Machine tremolo bridges (to be released as it seems at the end of this month, note that this prototype is not finished yet, the release version will be available in chrome or gold plated, like Schecter).

Of course these guitars do not have too much in common, the body wood and the kind of laquer alone (poly on mine 🙁 )  are reason enough so that they can never sound 100% identical – besides one has a value probably 50 times as much as the other –  but of course I was curious how my guitar compares to the Telegraph Road Schecter, especially to see how close I can come with the F500T-style pickups in my pickguard. (After measuring various  specs on the Mark Knopfler guitar pickups, I meanwhile even updated my pickups to have not only electrical values of a Schecter guitar but of this particular Schecter.)

Both guitars re-amped with identical settings

As I recorded the Schecter directly into a portable recording device (via a buffer that avoids the normal treble loss you will encounter when recording a guitar directly into such a device), I could do the same later with my guitar, which means both were recorded not at the same time and in different countries, but with the same cable into the same buffer and into the same recorder. I then re-amped both guitar samples with the same software amp, of course with 100% all identical settings, not even a volume match. This way I got two absolutely comparable files, with the same signal chain except the guitar itself.

Both guitars were recorded directly into this Olympus PCM recorder, the box is a buffer as the Olympus does not have a guitar input
These are the effects and the amp settings for the videos. By the way, I “built'” the amp myself years ago while I was working for the Creamware company who developed the recording software

When I had the chance to play the Mark Knopfler Schecter, I filmed about 20 minutes. I tried to play the same licks on my guitar so that I can edit both videos to put the same licks side by side for ideal comparing. This video might also be of great help to see in how far it is the guitar that matters (“Do you need the same  guitar to get that sound?”), or do only all the other sound factors matter, or just the player  (“It’s all in the fingers”). All in all I am pleased with my 1,000 Euros guitar against such a famous piece of rock history, however, there are moments when that Schecter sounds so beautiful, just listen to the tone on the Tunnel of Love licks (2nd video towards the end, well, it IS the Tunnel of Love guitar  (live version) 🙂 ).

some chords on the different pickups, various licks and tunes, Where do you think you’re going:

Sultans of Swing and Tunnel of Love stuff:

More info on the loaded Schecter-style pickguard

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Down to the Waterline on 1961 Fender Stratocaster Sonic Blue

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in MK guitar style and licks, Vintage guitars

When I had the opportunity to play on Mark Knopfler’s sunburst Schecter Strat some weeks ago, I could also try out some other great guitars over there. Here is a video of a 1961 Fender Stratocaster in all original sonic blue that really impressed me. Some slab board Stratocasters from the very early sixties can have a rather dark or even muddy sound, that’s why some players prefer Strats after summer 1962 when the transition from the fat slab board of Brazilian rosewood to the thinner curved fingerboard was. Not so this 1961 Strat, it rang like a bell and sang like a bird (IMHO)! But listen and decide for yourself.

The guitar was played through an Ernie Ball volume pedal into a Tone King Metropolitan amp. The strings on the guitar were 09-42. Recorded with the mic of the camera, that’s why you hear that much compression (almost all cameras have a built in compressor to avoid distortion).

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