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Ultimate Sorta-"shredder" Guitar:


Dave I
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Hey all,

For one of my eventual builds, I would like to make a shredder guitar of sorts for putzing around with high-gain and doing metal playing. Just for fun. The other, serious, consideration is making a guitar that is super easy for playing scales and modes up and down the neck. So what I am really looking for in the design is a super fast neck with the best upper fret access. It is also a way to indulge in the guilty pleasure of playing the old Megadeth, Metallica, Pantera, and Slipknot tunes that I grew up on that are not my main-stay but really fun to play and great ways to release my aggressions.

Design: I am tossing around the idea of a point V-shape, either an off-set V like a Jackson Randy Rhodes or a symmetrical-V like Dave Mustaine's ESP or Dean designs, probably with a Floyd (not that I play much vibrato, but just to have it as an option). However, I would also consider something like a double-cut Jackson Soloist or Carvin DC design. So my design questions are:

1) Will the V-shaped guitars sound much different in the neck pickup with the less-mass at the neck joint, or offer much difference in upper-fret access than something double-cut like a super-strat (e.g. Jackson Dinky or Soloist)?

2) Aside from being impossible to play sitting down, is there any noteworthy con of making a V?

3) Neck-thru or set-neck?

4) What would be a good scale and profile for the neck?

Wood: I would like to use this for high-gain rock, metal, and any noisy/experimental stuff that might pop into my head. However, while I would like it to cut through and have a nice metal presence for riffs and (don't laugh) solos, I also do not want people's ears to bleed, especially on the upper frets. Would all-Alder be a good choice, or Maple neck and Alder wings? Something else? I am kind of going for a nice clear sounding guitar capable of Megadeth's guitar sound, or the early Metallica sound: nice clear clean-tone stuff and good clear heavy sounding distorted tones, without it being TOO bright or harsh, and I THINK Alder might give me the best range between aggressive, cutting tones and Fade to Black sad, minor-scale depressing or pondering sort of stuff.

Any thoughts?

-Cheers

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One more thing, I am thinking of this as a guitar to complement the rest of the guitars in my collection, which includes (or will) a Hamer Studio, Agile Cool Cat Prestige (Gibson L5 clone), homemade ES-335 (planning on making that this coming spring or summer), and a Les Paul Double Cut (homemade build planned for late next year if all goes well).

Not sure if that affects anybody's recommendations or not.

-Cheers

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2) Aside from being impossible to play sitting down, is there any noteworthy con of making a V?

For a while, the fold-out lap rest was available aftermarket. It currently isn't available through Yo Music, but you might be able to find it elsewhere, or just make one yourself.

Does anyone know if it's available through Gibson? They used to have it on their V's when they bought Steinberger.

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The "sitting" comfort factor is the big one with a V, but depending on your playing style you can actually play seated classical-style with a Rhoads-styled V with just a bit of adjustment by putting the middle of the crook of the V so that it hugs right thigh (assuming a right-handed playing position)

Personally, if you can find the wood for it (as in a body blank large enough,) I'd recommend an Explorer-style guitar. It's a bit of my own internal bias for shapes, but they're actually incredibly comfortable to play. Upper-fret access is excellent, you have the same large back bout to rest your arm on that the V has that I find really locks the guitar to your body and moves the neck to the right playing position. Also, they actually stay on your leg if you play sitting down.

For pickups, I'd recommend active EMGs or Guitarheads Active humbuckers (you can get a set of them off of eBay for $80 or so) if you're really looking for clear, precise cleans and distorted tones... either an 81/85 or a 81/60 if you go EMGs. Seymour Duncan also makes actives, but I haven't tried them yet.

If you'd prefer passives, you can go with the time-tested (and at one point Mustaine's favorite) Duncan JB/Jazz combo, or perhaps a JB/'59 or a pair of Invaders.

If you go active (or extremely high-output), the wood and construction have a bit less of an effect on your tone. Alder and Basswood are very even-toned woods, with Alder being a bit brighter and harder. An all-mahogany guitar has a lot of "push" with actives, putting out a lot of every frequency band. I prefer maple necks for a little extra attack and stability (especially if you want to make a skinny flattish "shredder" neck) but you can easily make a carbon-fiber reinforced mahogany neck that's just as stable.

Also, if you're not sure you want a Floyd, DON'T PUT ONE ON. Use a wilkinson-style, Kahler, or even a Steinberger double-ball setup, but I can't honestly recommend a floyd. I love shred-style playing and my first project guitar had a Floyd. I ended up putting a Tremsetter on and rigging it so the lower two strings stayed unclamped so I could easily drop to D. Tuning up and changing tunings on those things is a pain in the butt. Hell, if it's only dive-bombs you want, put a Fender or Wilkinson-style bridge on there so that its baseplate is securely against the face of the guitar. It's incredibly stable that way.

The remainder of the "metal" accoutrements would probably include extra-large frets, a wider nut width (I'd go for either 1 11/16 or even wider... my friend has a guitar with a 7 string nut width modified to fit 6 strings, and it's incredibly nice for lead playing and bending.) Also, a flatter (14"-20") radius fingerboard is more comfortable for quicker runs in my opinion.

And of course a black paint job. If you go mahogany, I'd definitely recommend a black or dark red stain, but use a solid color for alder or basswood as they're not terribly pretty to look at usually.

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I think offset-V's are cool, but I have to say that pretty much any guitar shape can make for a good shredder if you pick the right neck carve and pay attention to upper fret access. Balance is critical, too. You can't play fast and hold the neck up at the same time.

For neck shapes, everyone likes different stuff, but there are lots of shredders that like the Ibanez Wizard neck. It's extremely thin (17mm at the 1st fret) and flat with a 16-inch fretboard radius. 25.5" seems to be the preferred scale length, and neck through seems to be the consensus among the people I know. That may be because they've never seen a really slick bolt-on or set neck joint before, though, and I personally prefer the sound of a bolt on.

Also, I very much doubt the geometry of a V vs. a Soloist will affect the neck pickup sound.

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a neck through will be able to get you the best upper fret access as you dont need a tennon there.

An Ibanez Jem has the best upper register access of any guitar I've ever played... and its a bolt on.

As for the best "Shredder Guitar"... That's a stupid question. Design the guitar based on YOUR preferences, not other people's.

Personally, I'll shred on any of my guitars (Jem, Les Paul, Strat, Godin, Various Customs).

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a neck through will be able to get you the best upper fret access as you dont need a tennon there.

Call up your friends and see if they've got a Carvin neckthrough, and check that bad boy out!

Shape doesn't matter at all, as already stated. People seem to forget that everyone from Iron Maiden plays Fender :D

Pickups are kind of on the same principle, it matters HOW you play them more than what they are. If you want to go tried and true, get EMGs and plug them into a Triple Rec *gag* Also, the amp you've got makes a difference. Find out what already sounds good through your amp for what you want to do, and start your search there. Yngwie and Paul Gilbert don't play super high output pickups by any means, but they're still metal. Rumor has it EVH ripped his bridge pickup out of an ES335. It's all relative. If you like the Metallica/Megadeth route, mahogany guitar, gibson scale, active/hot pickups will get you into the ballpark quickly.

PS. I built a maple neck/mahog body Explorer with EMG pickups for my first build. I myself am not too fond of the EMGs. For my next build, it's a maple/walnut neck/mahog body V with PAF Pros. Both shall be used to shred. It's all relative.

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An Ibanez Jem has the best upper register access of any guitar I've ever played... and its a bolt on.

In general, I'm pretty impressed with the upper access on my Jem but, if I'm doing wide interval runs above the 12th fret, I find that the pointy bit on the end of the lower cut-away gets in the way of where my fretting wrist wants to be. (I have to drop my wrist down in order to get the reach with my little finger). For this reason, I plan to build a guitar with little or no horns on the lower cut.

I also like the idea of neck throughs so enable nicer shaping near the 24th fret (but I do think Jem does about as well as possible for a bolt on)

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a neck through will be able to get you the best upper fret access as you dont need a tennon there.

An Ibanez Jem has the best upper register access of any guitar I've ever played... and its a bolt on.

As for the best "Shredder Guitar"... That's a stupid question. Design the guitar based on YOUR preferences, not other people's.

Personally, I'll shred on any of my guitars (Jem, Les Paul, Strat, Godin, Various Customs).

not disagreeing with you, but a neck through designed to have great upper register accss will be able to get better acess easily as you dont need the room for the screws.

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I love the look of either the Jackson King V or Randy Rhodes, but upper fret access is known to be less than ideal. So I would lean towards a super strat for the fret access or the Explorer or Kelly, or even the Warrior. It depends on the look you want. If you want the thing to scream metal, the Warrior is great, but if you gig and decide you love the tone out of it, a Warrior is a little out of place for blues or jazz, but a super strat looks fine. The guitars that you see most for metal are alder or poplar bodies. Just because you are looking at a large slab of wood I would lean towards alder to keep the weight down. Neckthrough is going to give you the nice transition into the body. Tone is subjective. I'll agree about staying away from the Floyd unless you know you want one and nothing else will do. They are a pain to set up, once set up they are nice, but they also make changing tunings an annoyance. I would lean towards a Kahler if you want a high end trem, if you want something to do some work on but not much I would lean towards a standard 2-point trem. I know Metallica loaded their rigs with EMG's, but Mustaine plays the SD JB/Jazz combo. A lot of people find the JB a little too bright and go with a Custom Distortion or Custom Custom in the bridge to get a fuller sound.

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not disagreeing with you, but a neck through designed to have great upper register accss will be able to get better acess easily as you dont need the room for the screws.

As you say, It depends on the design I guess. I had a neck through 1986 American made Kramer and it was the most dissapointing guitars I've ever owned.... and upper register access was not all that great. Still better than a strat though.

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As for the best "Shredder Guitar"... That's a stupid question. Design the guitar based on YOUR preferences, not other people's.

I was mainly asking about the "best 'Shredder Guitar'" for upper fret access. The King-V seemed like the perfect choice, but I am hearing it does not have the best access to the last few frets. I am not a fan of the Warrior, Explorer, or Kelly from an aesthetic standpoint, and the V's have grown on me a bit. Still, I have shorter fingers, so that could be a big con for the King-V shape. So a deep-cut Super-Strat might be nice, I usually like the simple, understated but classic guitar designs the best.

As for the rest . . . Just gathering opinions and recommendations for things to try I might otherwise overlook or not think to try/consider.

Thanks for all of the replies so far.

-Cheers

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As for shredding, the type of guitar is immaterial. I really don't think anyone would argue that Les Paul himself could do some serious shredding on a guitar known for it's limited access. What's more, he did it without distortion to cover his tracks. Prince was tearing it up at the Superbowl last year on some kind of Tele. It's all up to your personal taste.

As for high access, I notice that nobody's mentioned an SG yet. Maybe it's 'cause you mentioned V's, maybe not. In any event, SGs are great for upper access. So are Steinbergers.

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I just want to play devil's advocate for the bolt-on real quick.

This is a the neck joint on a Dingwall Afterburner II bass:

ABII_back_w.JPG

The neck joins the body at the 24th fret. It's got really good upper fret access, and it looks good, too. That's what I mean when I say a lot of people haven't seen a really slick bolt-on joint before. There are a lot more ways to do a bolt-on than just the stylized Strat heel. Same thing goes for set necks... they can be designed to have just as good upper fret access as any neck-through. Strangely, there seems to be a lot more innovation in the bass world for this kind of stuff.

Anyway, I'm just saying to pick your neck joint for sound or whatever factors are most important to you. The fret access will fall into place with good design.

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I just want to play devil's advocate for the bolt-on real quick.

This is a the neck joint on a Dingwall Afterburner II bass:

ABII_back_w.JPG

The neck joins the body at the 24th fret. It's got really good upper fret access, and it looks good, too. That's what I mean when I say a lot of people haven't seen a really slick bolt-on joint before.

Hey, that IS really slick!

If you really want to stick with a V body . . . you can always push the fretboard out a little further so it is only the last one or two frets that are still on the body, if any at all.

Would there be anything wrong with a bolt-on 24-fret neck that was extended a bit out and attached to a King-V body at the 22nd or 24th fret with a really deep-set neck for neck stability and a setup like the Dingwall bass? Something in Mahogany, maybe Basswood or Alder, and slightly hotter (but not ridiculously hot) pickups? That sounds like it could be at least fun to try. I think the bolt-on might have a nice snappy attack for the music I am intending this planned guitar for.

Mainly just throwing that out there to see if there are any inherent flaws in my rough planning.

-Cheers

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I just want to play devil's advocate for the bolt-on real quick.

This is a the neck joint on a Dingwall Afterburner II bass:

ABII_back_w.JPG

The neck joins the body at the 24th fret. It's got really good upper fret access, and it looks good, too. That's what I mean when I say a lot of people haven't seen a really slick bolt-on joint before.

Hey, that IS really slick!

If you really want to stick with a V body . . . you can always push the fretboard out a little further so it is only the last one or two frets that are still on the body, if any at all.

Would there be anything wrong with a bolt-on 24-fret neck that was extended a bit out and attached to a King-V body at the 22nd or 24th fret with a really deep-set neck for neck stability and a setup like the Dingwall bass? Something in Mahogany, maybe Basswood or Alder, and slightly hotter (but not ridiculously hot) pickups? That sounds like it could be at least fun to try. I think the bolt-on might have a nice snappy attack for the music I am intending this planned guitar for.

Mainly just throwing that out there to see if there are any inherent flaws in my rough planning.

-Cheers

ive done a similar thing with the build im just about to finish. my "tennon" fits around the neck pup and is then glued in. was originally going to make it a bolt on with some bolts coming from the top and some from the botttom, but ended up gluing it as it was a very nice fit and i didnt want the screws coming in from the bottom. the whole unit is covered in a pickguard to cover the odd tennon.

walnutguitarfnt.jpg

it wasnt made for metal or upper register acess, but it deffinately would work well for it. ill be posting finished photos of the build in the next few days once i wind the bridge pup and wire all the electronics up.

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I vote for the Super-Strat or the Rhoads with Alexi cut.

I made a Super-Strat and that thing has unlimited upper fret access. I just took the strat body design and cut the cutaways deeper. I almost cry when I play my old Kramer now because it has two less frets that are harder to reach. Even the Jems I've played don't have as good of access as mine (mine's a neck-thru by the way). I think that is the way to go. Best of luck, hope this helps at least a little.

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black labb-- that's a frankenstein of a guitar all right! Looks like you used more than glue to hold the odd-shaped "tenon" in place. :D

But that raises an interesting question-- assuming you could do it in an attractive way, or cover with a pickguard, is there any good reason to not bolt the neck "down" into a body instead of from the back? The right hardware, some well-chosen countersinking... the wood equation could be made relatively the same, as far as I can imagine.

Greg

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There is absolutely no reason that you can not make a V with the fret board meeting the body at the last fret. The reason you don't really see it done, is because it is not the traditional way. It will move the bridge further towards the middle of the body, so the King V may be a better style to go with since it is a smaller body than the ESP or Gibson V. A neck through design will give plent of support for a neck like that. Only thing you may want to check out is how far away from your body the first fret will be. Might only be an inch further away, but that might be enough to make it uncomfortable to play.

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black labb-- that's a frankenstein of a guitar all right! Looks like you used more than glue to hold the odd-shaped "tenon" in place. :D

But that raises an interesting question-- assuming you could do it in an attractive way, or cover with a pickguard, is there any good reason to not bolt the neck "down" into a body instead of from the back? The right hardware, some well-chosen countersinking... the wood equation could be made relatively the same, as far as I can imagine.

Greg

there is a bit of walnut dust where the 2 join, but it is a very tight join. its just the surface where its not so tight.

edit: you probably meant the screws, was a bit worried the glue wouldnt hold and put some screws as extra protection as they wouldnt be seen wither way.

Edited by black_labb
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