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November 2005
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January 2006

Buzz Feiten Tuning System

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Buzz Feiten may not be as well known as Floyd Rose and his locking tremolo systems, but like Rose, he's an accomplished guitarist who has solved a problem that has long vexed guitar players frustrated that they can never get their guitar in perfect tune.  I always assumed it was just me, or my guitars, but I often found some chords or notes wouldn't sound right.  It turns out, it's not me (or at least it's not just me!) but rather the way guitars have been designed they can never be perfectly in tune at all times... until now.

Feiten's system uses some basic Pythagorian mathematics which you don't need to really understand in order to bring an imperfect system a little closer to perfection.  The way its done is by retrofitting your guitar with a different nut on the headstock that moves it closer to the first fret by about 2 milimeters.  The guitar is then intonated according to a patented pitch by adjusting the bridge saddles ever so slightly until everything is balanced across the entire fretboard.  The operation has to be performed by a licensed guitar shop and the cost is typically under $200.  Washburn, Tom Anderson Guitars, RKS Guitars and a few other boutique guitar makers are licensing the Buzz Feiten system so that it's standard on their guitars from the get go.  For an existing guitar, you can take it into any authorized Buzz Feiten retrofitter or send it off to Ed Roman's Guitar's in Las Vegas and he'll take care of it for you.

Does it work?  It seems to have the attention of Robben Ford, Steve Vai and dozens of other players.  If you get a chance, test it out yourself on a factory installed system. 


Fender G-DECs at MediaPlay

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A recent posting on the Fender forums pointed out that MediaPlay, which is shuttering all of its stores in January, has the Fender G-DEC practice amp as well as various low-end Fender Squier, Dean, BC Rich,  Switch Music and OLP guitars available for cheap.  I headed over to their only California store at the Great Mall in Milpitas.  They had 8 unopened G-DECs piled high near the back register along for the low, low price of $216, which is quite a good deal.  The lowest price I've seen them for sale otherwise is $270 and even that's a pretty decent deal for what you get.

The Fender G-DEC includes a full range of over 50 effects covering classic rock, blues, punk, reggae and metal (ok, a lot of metal) effects as well as built in drums, backing tracks, electronic tuner and more.  It's a practice amp with a somewhat underpowered 15 watt sound, but for practicing in your bedroom or office, it's probably all you'll want.  (Or more precisely, it may be all your spouse wants!)  The G-DEC also includes input jacks for MP3 / CD players, MIDI as well as as headhone output jack. 

Fender appears to be selling oodles of these amps and at quite a decent margin.  I suspect that in 2006 we may see a G-DEC II announcement, and while there's been some speculation about what Fender should do, Fender hasn't said anything, and I've yet to hear any substantiated evidence that there is something new in the works.  (And believe me, I keep digging!)

At any rate, if you've got a MediaPlay store in the area, you might want to pick up a G-DEC for Christmas for you or your favorite budding guitar player.

Also check out these links on the G-DEC:


Floyd Rose Discovery Series

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Ok, I must admit I was surprise to run into these Floyd Rose Discovery series guitars at Guitar Center.  The design is subtle and elegant and then it hits you that there's no machine heads on the headstock!  Where'd they go?  In fact the headstock has a big hole in it!  Then it dawns on me that it's a bit like a Steinberger "headless" guitar with the tuning pegs down at the bridge.  Not sure why they bothered putting any headstock on it, but it does give it a subtlety that makes it look more normal.  Personally, I prefer the headless style myself, since it's a more radical, but for most people it's probably an easier adjustment to have some kind of headstock.   

The other amazing thing about these guitars is that they don't require a thousand dollar investment.   The guitar center price put these puppies at around $400.  While that's not as cheap as a garden variety strat clone, it's a good value for such a unique guitar.

Probably every guitar player in the world has heard of Floyd Rose and his patented locking tremolo bridge systems.  They were made famous by Eddie Van Halen in the eighties enabling guitar virtuosos to do some amazing dive bombs without throwing the axe out of tune.   Floyd Rose floating bridges soon became a hot technology licensed by several metal-focused guitar makers.  Since then, Floyd Rose hasn't been sitting on his laurels; he invented his latest "speedloader" system that uses a "double bullet" guitar string that can be changed in less than a minute.  Since the length of the string determines the tone, the strings are basically sized for exact tuning.  You thread the string as you normally would on one end (though now at the headstock) and then insert the other end with it's fixed length "bullet" into the snap in locking mechanism.  You open up the mechanism much like a ski binding and just snap it back down to lock the string in place with a perfect in-tune pitch. 

There are thumb wheel "micro tuners" at the bridge, though they are less cramped than on a Steinberger.  When I tried out the guitar at Guitar Center, all the strings were within a quarter turn of perfect tune.  The guitar I tried had a nice style and high quality feel to it.  It was comfortable to play and you can get your pick of the classic three single coil, dual humbucker or single-single-humbucker configurations.   And you can still tune down if you need to do something fancy, though it's going to be more work than on a standard guitar. 

If you hate dealing with an out of tune guitar or you just want a guitar with a more unique style and personality, you should efinitely check out the Floyd Rose Discovery Series guitars.  They're fun and versatile.  And best of all, you can use the headstock as a handle to hang the guitar on a coat hook if you need to.