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Cheap "metal beginner" guitars are the open secret to great blues tone


You've most likely passed by these guitars a thousand times. You might want to give them a look after learning how great these things are.

Above is the Ibanez GRX70QA. It comes in several colors. This guitar sells for cheap new, and it literally has everything blues guys want out of a guitar even though they don't realize it.

I'll explain.

Guys who play blues that use solid-body guitars will of course naturally gravitate towards Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls. Those are the two models that the most famous electric guitar blues players use...

...but with both you're going to work three times as hard as you would compared to using the Ibanez above to get a genuinely good blues tone.

This is what happens with the Strat:

You're going to set the action low only to discover you buzz all over the place. The pickups won't be "hot" enough to get those sustaining notes you're looking for. You will always have a problem finding the correct treble amount for both chording and soloing. You most likely will accidentally hit the top volume knob because it's so close to the bridge side pickup.

This is what happens with the Les Paul:

Goes out of tune almost every time you bend a note. It doesn't matter how much you stretch your strings or lubricate that nut, because all the strings are on an angle after the nut to the tuning posts and there's nothing you can do about that. You wish you had two more pickup positions like the Strat has but you don't - especially a middle position for "smoother" chording and lead tones.

This is what happens on both guitars:

The guitar only sounds good when you play on certain parts of the neck but not all of the neck. You either have a good chording tone or good lead tone, but can never seem to dial in a sound that covers the whole neck - and you can't figure out why.

I know why.

Enter the cheap "metal beginner" guitar

Strats and Les Pauls use pickups with AlNiCo magnet pole pieces, but they can sometimes be finicky when trying to dial in an all-neck sound.

The cheap Ibanez uses pickups with ceramic magnets. It's not that they sound any better or worse than pickups with AlNiCo magnets. It's that they're a lot more forgiving and moreover predictable.

Ceramic magnet pickups are typically voiced "flat", and the response you'll get out of them is much more even across the entire neck across all the strings. Some players consider this "boring", but I can assure you that where blues tone is concerned, flat-voiced pickups are better because there are no surprises.

In addition, you're never wanting for a "hotter" sound. All the response you want will be there, so that's one less thing you have to worry about.

On top of that, with the HSH configuration, you get all the tones. Humbucker Les Paul tones and that sweet middle pickup Strat tone. It's all there.

The configuration of the guitar is simple. One volume, one tone, one pickup selector. That's all you need.

The guitar will stay in tune. All the strings go straight from the nut to the tuning posts.

Fingerboard radius is 12", just like a Les Paul - and it's something all Strat players want but can't get on standard models. Note bends don't fret out on a 12".

Absolutely no neck dive issues. Note that the top strap button is directly over the 12th fret. That is the proper position to balance the guitar on a strap when standing.

Volume knob is in easy reach and does not butt against the bridge pickup. You won't hit it by mistake during play as you would on a Strat.

Action can be set really, really low. Even lower than a Les Paul if you like. And you'll still be able to get the good note bends without fretting out.

Why don't more blues players buy these things?

Simply put, it's not a Strat or a Les Paul, that's why.

If an electric blues player were to design a solid-body guitar that had everything he wanted, it would have the following: Predictable pickups with good output, good tuning stability, simple controls, humbuckers and a single coil to cover all the sounds, a thin neck with a flat 12" radius for effortless choring and note bending, and a design that has no neck dive, and cheap to buy...

...which is the Ibanez GRX70QA.

The only fault of the guitar? It doesn't look like a blues machine. But it can handle the task easily.

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