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March 14, 2008

Hancock UCC debrief: guitar selection

I've mentioned before that the live music U2charist at Hancock UCC earlier this week was recorded on video, both for broadcast on television (local cable, I gather) and DVD. Dana (the totally cool associate minister in the congregation) was kind enough to send me a DVD, and I've just had the courage to take a look at it.

This is the third time in my life that I've listened to a recording of me singing, and the first time I've watched a video of me doing so. Oh, there have been lots of recordings -- soundboard recordings of solo and band gigs and of U2charists, and some U2charists (including that first one in April of 2004) was recorded to video. I just haven't had the guts to listen to or view those recordings. I've preferred to judge how it went by how the crowd reacts, as music is just about the only arena in which I have a perfectionist side.

I'm watching the Hancock U2charist DVD now, and we've only just gotten through the preludes [which were "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"] so I'll wait to say more about the music and how it worked -- I'll wait at least until I've seen the whole thing for that.

So far, I'll say this: Nadine (my guitar) performed admirably. Nadine is a Reverend brand guitar -- a "Charger HB-FM," to be precise. This is a great guitar to cover a breadth of U2 material. The Edge (U2's guitarist) typically plays fifteen or more different guitars over the course of a concert -- acoustics, Fender Strats (Stratocasters) and Telecasters (Teles), Gibson Explorers, and Les Pauls, and even occasionally a Fender Mustang. Each of these guitars has a different sound:

Fender guitars have a neck that's bolted on to the guitar, which gives the guitar more "attack" and sometimes a bit less "sustain." Most Fenders also have a longer neck, which makes for more tension in the strings -- resulting, among other things, in a twangier sound. Edge plays Fenders for much of U2's material from The Joshua Tree and before. It was hard for me to imagine "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" on anything other than a Strat, for example. Fenders that haven't been modified uses a "single-coil pickup" -- again, for a twangier and more cutting sound, but which can produce a hum or buzz.

Gibson guitars have a neck that's set into the body and glued on, which makes for more sustain (i.e., notes can be held longer). The Gibson Explorer, which Edge plays for "I Will Follow" and a lot of U2's very early material, is great at chimey tones and that almost bagpipe-like sound that a lot of that early material has. A Gibson Les Paul guitar has a deeper body made of mahogany, and has deep, rich tones -- "muddy," for people who don't like it. And Gibsons either have what's called "P-90" pickups (which Edge doesn't use at all, as I recall) or what's called "humbucker" pickups (each one of which has two single-coil pickups wired together so they don't hum or buzz).

Nadine -- my Reverend Charger -- has a bolt-on and longer neck like a Fender, but a mahogany body, like a Gibson -- but the mahogany has chambers dug out of it, so the guitar is lighter, more resonant, and without the "mud" of a Les Paul. And Nadine has humbucker pickups, like a Gibson Les Paul, but Reverend brand humbuckers are, I think, better in many ways than most Gibsons -- they're a bit warmer. Nadine is also topped with "flame maple" wood on top of the mahogany, which adds to the guitars brightness and "attack."

But the biggest advantage Reverend guitars have for musicians who need a guitar or two to stand in for the sixty or more that The Edge tours with is a "bass contour" knob. With that knob rolled up, The bass tones are fuller, and Nadine does a convincing impression of a Les Paul -- only warmer and cutting through the mix better, in my opinion. With that knob rolled down, the guitar gets twangier and janglier, like a Fender Strat or even a Tele. Between that versatility and that of Guitar Rig software, Nadine stood in admirably for a variety of the The Edge's guitars -- and even for an acoustic guitar (as she did for "40" at the Hancock UCC U2charist).

For the most part, I don't expect that musicians will be buying guitars especially for U2charists, but if you're an acoustic guitarist contemplating getting an electric, I highly recommend Reverend guitars -- not only for their versatility with that bass contour knob, but for their quality and remarkably low price (you can get a new Reverend for as little as $500, and a used one for as little as $350 -- sometimes even less).

The Charger model with humbuckers has been discontinued, but you can still find them used on Craigslist and eBay from time to time. If you see one, pounce on it! Otherwise, I think if you wanted a guitar to cover as much as possible of the range of Edge's guitars, I think I would go with a Double Agent FM, a Gil Parris signature model, or a Warhawk II HB (a Warhawk I HB might be even better; the Warhawk II is a bolt-on neck like a Fender, while the Warhawk II is a set-neck, like a Gibson, but you'll have to find the Warhawk I on eBay or Craigslist, as it's been discontinued).

And no, you can't have Nadine. :) I love that guitar!

March 14, 2008 in Guitar tips (electric) | Permalink


I've been doing a lot of research on the Reverend Charger HB-FM, and your site keeps popping up :-) So I've been reading a lot about Nadine, who sounds like an amazing instrument, especially for my favorite style of mysic - coldplay/U2 shimmery guitar pop.

I've recently found an opportunity to buy one used, locally too (I live in Arizona, where yours came from too ironically :-), and it's going for $425. Is this a good deal? I can't seem to find much info on the net about its value or cost (as it's no longer being sold anywhere).

Also, do you have any video or audio samples of you and Nadine? I'd love to hear what you do with her on U2 material :-)

Thanks a lot,

Posted by: Ashley | Nov 5, 2008 1:50:14 PM

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