Tom's Guitars Manila

Tom's Guitars Manila
Vintage and rare guitars!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Apps for the Modern Guitarist

Today's guitarists are quite lucky. Having a gadget like an iPad can help improve your playing, if you have the perseverance to learn. Compare that to thirty years ago when learning a new song means playing the tape recorder repeatedly until you get the riff right. Here are some apps that I stumbled on lately.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Guitar Signal Chain

Electric guitars are instruments that convert your guitar playing to electrical signals, which are then amplified and converted to sound by guitar amplifiers. Tone is a result of several factors, starting from the guitarist to the speaker. This is the guitar signal chain.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Guitar Model Numbers and Old Guitar Catalogs

When buying a used guitar, it is common to find sellers who cannot provide information on the model number. These are useful in determining the quality of the guitar as compared to other models released in the same period. Higher models typically use less wood pieces, premium flamed tops, and better pickups. Some MIJ guitar models indicate the selling price at the time. For example, an EG-700 model was sold at 70,000 yen. If you know the model number and year of manufacture, you can check the catalog to validate how it should look like.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Guitar Buying Guide

This is the day! You are going to buy that guitar, take it home, and jam all night. Armed with nothing, you will go to the store or meeting place, take a quick look at that beautiful guitar, excitedly pay for it, and take it home. Only to find faults the next day.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What to Check Before You Buy a Guitar

While browsing through the ads, something caught your eye. You see your dream guitar at a price within your budget. What do you do next? Before you call and arrange to buy that guitar, here are things that you should do.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Checking the Guitar's Wood

Understanding the following concepts are key to knowing if a guitar for sale is a probable bargain or otherwise. This is especially useful if the exact model is unavailable, as in the case of lawsuit-era guitars.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Guide to Luthiers and Guitar Techs in the Philippines

Are you looking for someone to repair, set up, customize, or upgrade your guitar in the Philippines? Check this list of luthier and guitar tech in the Philippines!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Made for Metal Guitars

Guitars made for metal have double cutaways to allow access to the entire fretboard, and slim necks for faster licks.

Cycfi Guitar: Proudly Phillipine Made!

More than sixty years ago, the electric guitar was born. Today, we see the same guitars, albeit, with a few cosmetic changes. Most guitars still use the same, tested tone woods. Only a few dares to deviate from the norm.

Music Stores in the Philippines

I see occasional questions on where to find specific brands in the Philippines. Here is a short list of guitar stores, along with their supported brands, as of this writing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Choosing the Right Guitar

It sounds simple, but I still see posts asking for advice on what guitar to buy, as if the best guitar for us is also best for them. Here is a simple guide on choosing the best guitar for you.


Saving for Your Guitar Budget

The most expensive guitar is not necessarily the best guitar for you. Your dream guitar should be the best that your budget could afford. However, a guitar that you will be afraid of using for fear of being scratched is not a good guitar, unless you are just a collector and not a guitarist.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Semi-hollow Body Guitars

The Rickenbacker, as popularized by The Beatles.

Fender Guitar Models

The Telecaster is the first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar. It was originally named Broadcaster, but Gretsch claimed that they own the trademark so it was renamed to Telecaster. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Gibson Guitar Models

Les Paul Standard 
The Les Paul model is one of the most popular electric guitars of all time. It is Gibson’s first solid-body electric guitar and was an answer to Fender’s Broadcaster (early name for the Telecaster). Gibson worked with Les Paul, a guitarist and inventor, though his contribution to the design is unclear. The standard Les Paul model has a mahogany body and a maple top. It uses humbucker pickups that results in less noise and fuller tone. 

Gibson and Fender in Japan

If you do not like the lawsuit-era guitars because they were not licensed by Gibson and Fender, but you cannot afford the US originals, then these are the next best thing.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lawsuit-Era MIJ Guitars

Lawsuit-era guitars refer to Gibson and Fender Japanese replicas made in the late 70s to the early 80s. These quality-instruments look like the real thing when viewed from a distance. Look closer though and you will see labels like Greco, Burny, Tokai or Fernandes.  

Gibson Les Paul
Greco Les Paul
How close are they to the real thing?
These guitars have very good build quality and workmanship, generally comparable to the US-made originals. The difference lies in the materials used, notably the use of Asian wood, which is readily available in Japan. The machines used to build these guitars are usually metric-based so replacing the hardware with US-made parts may require some drilling. Electronic parts, specifically the pickups, are generally not at par with the US-made pickups. Change them to US-made pickups though, and you have a killer guitar that may match an original Gibson or Fender. However, not all guitars from the same manufacturer have the same build quality so checking the guitar thoroughly before buying is necessary.

Does the aged wood of lawsuit-era guitars affect tone?
It is believed that naturally aged wood sounds better than fresher wood. There are even suggestions that wood vibrations caused by using the guitar helps improve the tone of old guitars. However, does aged wood really affect the guitar tone? To answer this, we have to understand a few things.
When a wire is passed over a magnetic field, electric signals are produced. This is how electric generators work. This is also how electric guitar pickups work. These pickups have magnets (one per string) that are placed close to the strings. Similarly, electric guitar strings have strong magnetic properties. When strings vibrate, they cut through the magnetic field and electric signals are produced in the pickup wires, which are then passed to the amplifier to make the sound louder. Electric guitar pickups are not designed to produce electric signals from wood vibration.

Pickups play a major role in the electric guitar tone. However, I believe that the top still contributes to the overall tone. Raise your iphone and tap it. Next, put your iphone on top of a table and tap it. Then, put it on top of the sofa and tap it. They sound differently because the material where the iphone is placed affects the tone. I believe that the same is true with guitar bridges and frets—the tone produced is affected by the materials beneath them, though not in the same scale as the pickup. This is just my personal opinion. Perhaps I will try to do some experiments when I have the time and resources.

Guitars from the late 80s and early 90s
Later guitars are not exact replicas of Gibsons and Fenders, mainly due to changes in headstock shapes and truss rod covers to avoid lawsuits. The build qualities are still there, but they are not as valuable since people buy replicas because they look like the real thing. In addition, some guitars bearing the same brand are made in Korea and are not from Japan.

Guitar dating and pricing
Most of these guitars have the year of manufacture indicated in the first few digits of the serial number, if available. If the first digit is zero, the guitar is 1980 if it looks like a replica, but 1990 if the truss rod cover or headstock is different from the US original.
SRP for these guitars are usually indicated in the model number. A Greco EG-700 model, for example, means that the SRP was 70,000 yen.

Here is a table listing popular Japanese brand counterparts of the US originals:
Gibson – Greco, Burny, Tokai, Navigator, Aria Pro, Bacchus, Yamaha
Fender – Greco, Fernandes, Tokai, Yamaha

Other brands from Japan
There are other brands supposedly imported from Japan, but one should be cautious since not all guitars sold in Japan are made in Japan.
Orville, Epiphone and Fender Japan
These are not lawsuit guitars since they are licensed from Gibson and Fender. I will discuss them in a separate article.

Here are links to MIJ guitarcatalogs for your reference.


* Images are from Tom's Guitar Manila

About this site

I used to have a college band in the mid 80s. There was no Internet in the Philippines to influence me back then and I thought that all guitars were created equal. Our college music room had a Fender bass, a Hofner guitar and a Greco SG. We were using tube amps with big cabinets, but I was not aware of the solid state versus tube amp arguments before. My guitar life was quite simple.
Fast forward to the Internet age and welcome to Philmusic and other guitar forums. I now realize that my guitars were crap and I have to upgrade. I saved some cash, bought a guitar and some gears, which I would later sell for better gears. By this time, I have an office band, the kind that only gets to gig during office events. I am technically a bedroom guitarist armed with gears that are several times more expensive than my old gears. However, I do not regret it. Musical instruments retain their value through the years, compared to electronic gadgets that lose their value in months. Someday, my son might thank me for these gears.