Sunday, March 25, 2012

New guitar! Ventures Strat-style

Just bought a new guitar yesterday to keep me occupied during my year in Seoul. I visited the famous Nagwon Arcade in Jongno, Seoul in the hopes of finding a nice used guitar, or a cheap new guitar I wouldn't miss too much if I had to leave it behind when I go home. While the Arcade was impressive, and there were thousands of guitars there, I did not find what I was looking for until I went outside and visited a very small shop on the second floor of a building across from the subway entrance (#5). The store is called Guitar Muse, and they had a decent selection of used guitars, including some very nice Gibsons and Fenders. Even these premium guitars were reasonably priced. There was a 1980 Gibson Les Paul custom (Black Beauty) for 2.5 million Won (around $2100)

After looking around at the selection, I determined that all of the used guitars were either out of my price range, or not exactly what I was looking for. That's when I saw this beauty hiding between two other guitars on a rack. The brand is "Ventures", a sort of house brand for the store. The guitars were made in China, but they are some of the best quality I have seen in a Chinese guitar. After viewing several incarnations of this model, I determined that there was very little consistency in the construction, set-up, and overall feel of the guitars. One had the wrong strings on it, one had a horribly bowed neck, and the three that I tried all had very different neck thicknesses and profiles. This one was almost perfect. It had a little fret-out on the 15th fret when bending, but the gentleman at the store fixed it for me.

The body is solid maple, with a flamed top, and the neck (also maple) is nice and skinny, and also has a flamed figure to the wood. The frets are made from beefy stainless steel jumbo fret wire, and the inlays are even real mother-of-pearl! The electronics are all functional, though the single-coil pickups are MUCH weaker than the humbucker. The machine heads are vintage Kluson-style in-lines, and they hold tune well, and have very smooth action. Overall, I am very impressed with this axe. I spent the whole afternoon playing it, and it didn't let me down once. It has great tone, especially when driven a bit, and it feels and looks spectacular! The best part: the price. This guitar cost me 150,000 won ($132). Nowhere in North America could you find a guitar of this quality for even close to that price. So if you're in Seoul, or planning on traveling there in the future, be sure to check out Guitar Muse, and keep an eye out for one of these beauties!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Update: Broken Sigma Guitar

Since it appears that this guitar is still not considered garbage by local trash collectors, I have decided to document its slow decay and deterioration through a series of photographs. The chopsticks are gone, but someone has stuffed a twisted clothes hanger inside, and it looks like it's been stepped on. Stay tuned for more tragic updates on the worsening condition of this once-beautiful and still interesting guitar!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Broken Sigma Guitar

A broken Sigma (Martin) guitar I found lying on the street outside my new apartment in Bangbae, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Korea. I guess these are more common here than they are back home in Canada. It's a real shame that this one is beyond repair; I've known a few of these guitars in my time, and they are gorgeous instruments. This is (was?) one of the earlier Korean-made Sigmas, which came into production in the 1980s, when Japanese manufacturing became too expensive to compete in the entry-level market. Made from high quality materials and built to the same specifications as their American cousins, these guitars are renowned for having a fantastic sound, and being able to take a beating (though, apparently, not this one).