The Epiphone Sheraton and that gorgeous Vampire Weekend guitar tone

Columbia University graduates, Vampire Weekend are one of a seemingly endless stream of bands to have come from nowhere and gained huge popularity almost overnight, and long before they did anything as mundane as release an album, thanks to the internet. In Vampire Weekend’s case, it was indie music blog, Stereogum that played a crucial role.

For once, the hype surrounding the band was justified by its eponymously-titled debut album which, for me, is one of the best albums of the year so far. And not just me. Uncut’s John Mulvey said in his review: ‘when you’ve heard these songs more than once, it’s hard to shake them out of your head.’

That’s certainly true of tracks like Walcott and I Stand Corrected, both of which are more conventional than other tracks on the album but none the less enjoyable for that. The inclusion of beautiful orchestral strings adds to the rich tapestry, but it’s that wonderful guitar tone that time and again, track after track, adds something special to the album.

Vampire Weekend combines the band’s much-documented blend of Afro beats and pop melodies with smart, intelligent lyrics in which the band occasionally come across as trying a little too hard to be clever.

Oxford Comma, the second track on the album, is a case in point. Lead vocalist and guitar player, Ezra Koenig, explained the song in an interview: “Part of the idea of Oxford Comma is the idea of grammar as this obviously construct that a categorical imperative because it’s so specific to the English language. It’s kind of linguistic imperialism.” See what I mean?

We can forgive Ezra his verbosity, however, because as well as fronting a band which has produced a great album, he plays an Epiphone, a Sheraton II to be precise, as you can see from the pictures.

Vampire Weekend have been busy touring over the summer and at the end of June played two terrific sets at the Glastonbury festival.

Click on the video below to see and hear Vampire Weekend play Oxford Comma at Glastonbury.

The Anatomy of an Epiphone guitar. Part 1: The Humbucker

The humbucker, or humbucking pick-up, is a feature of most of the electric guitars made by Epiphone and its parent company, Gibson.

The humbucker is a two-coil pick-up with coils of reversed polarity, reverse wound, and connected in series. The name is derived from the fact the design of the pick-up significantly reduces the noise and interference associated with single coil pick-ups used in other guitars, such as Fender’s Stratocaster. In other words, they ‘buck the hum.’

Guitars which are fitted with humbuckers have one at the neck and one at the bridge, along with a three-way switch to choose either pick-up individually, or both together. Humbuckers are often covered with a metal plate; where they are uncovered, the coils and six magnetic pole pieces are clearly visible.

Originally invented by a Gibson employee, Seth Lover, in 1957, the humbucker is strongly associated with Gibson, and in particular the Les Paul, although it’s widely used by other manufacturers. Like every other guitar pick-up, the humbucker works by ‘picking up’ the vibrations of the guitar strings, which then induce an alternating current in its coils. The key difference between it and single coil pick-ups is that it is unaffected by the electromagnetic interference which causes an audible hum from a single coil pick-up.

The reason for this is that the twin coils are reverse wound and reversed in polarity, this means that the electromagnetic interference induces current in opposing directions in each coil and the interference from each coil cancels out that in the other. By contrast, the signal from the vibration of the strings is increased. This is known as common-mode rejection.

The humbucker is known for its fat, warm tone which differs from the clear, bright tone produced by single coil pick-ups.This tone is key to the sound of guitars like the Les Paul and SG, as well as archtop guitars like the Casino and Sheraton. The reason for the tone is that the two coils resonate at different frequencies and therefore, the resonant peak is broader than that of a single coil pick-up.

Epiphone Riviera

The Epiphone Riviera is a hollow-body electric guitar, based closely on the Gibson E335 and originally manufactured between 1962 and 1969. It has a maple side and top, one-piece set mahogany neck, and a rosewood fretboard with trapezoidal pearl inlays.

The pick-ups are mini humbuckers and each has a volume and tone control. The Tunomatic bridge is partnered by a lovely Frequensator tailpiece. The Epiphone Riviera was initially available with a sunburst finish and from 1965 in cherry. Like the 335, there was a 12-string version of the Riviera, which shipped from 1965 to 1969.

For reasons known only to those running the company at the time, Gibson chose to price the Epiphone Riviera almost identically to the Gibson ES335. It should have been no surprise to the company that the 335 outsold the Riviera by around 8 to 1 for the six-string and 5 to 1 for the 12-string. The Gibson brand was far stronger than that of Epiphone, and presumably most customers didn’t see the sense in shelling out for what they thought was an inferior model when they could have the real thing for the same $400 price tag.

Epiphone re-started production of the Riviera in the 1980s and produced a signature model named for Jefferson Airplane guitarist, Jorma Kaukonen. The Epiphone Jorma Kaukonen Riviera Deluxe had classic humbuckers instead of the mini version, dot inlays on the fretboard, and a Vibrotone tailpiece coomplete with tremelo arm instead of the Frequensator on the original Riviera.

Currently, Epiphone makes a signature model named for Strokes’ guitarist Nick Valensi. The Epiphone Nick Valensi Riviera P94 has, as the name suggests, Gibson P-94 pick-ups instead of humbuckers, a Trapeze tailpiece, and is finished in Antique Natural.

You can buy the Epiphone Riviera here on Amazon

Check out this video of an Epiphone Riviera in action

Epiphone Byrdland

The Epiphone Byrdland, part of Epiphone’s Elitist range of guitars, is a stunningly beautiful archtop hollow-body electric guitar that was born to play jazz.

Originally designed and built by Gibson in 1955, the Epiphone Byrdland takes its name from its two designers, jazz guitarists, Billy Bird and Hank Garland.

The current incarnation of the Byrdland has a single Venetian cutaway, the same as the original Gibson Byrdland. Gibson modified the cutaway between 1961 and 1968, using the deeper and more rounded Florentine cutaway.

The carved solid spruce top is complemented by AAA flame Maple sides and back. The maple/rosewood neck is a five-peice job, having been three-piece on the original Gibson model between 1955 and around 1965. Fingerboard is ebony with trapezoidal inlays and the nut is bone. Tuners are Grover with Imperial buttons, which really look the part in 24K gold.

Down at the other end, the neck is set at the 24th fret, and the rhythm and treble humbuckers each have volume and tone control pots. There’s also a three-way pick-up selector, making it easy to switch between rhythm, treble, and both pick-ups. And the lovely 34K gold tailpiece and black scratchplate look perfect next to the carved spruce top.

Click here to see Epiphone Byrdland guitars currently listed on Amazon

The Byrdland has been available in a number of finishes over the years, including Natural, Sunburst, Wine Red, VIntage Cherry Sunburst, and Ebony. The Epiphone Elitist Byrdland is available only in Natural.

Interviewed in 2004 by Epiphone, The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn described his Epiphone Byrdland as ‘a beautiful guitar, probably the most beautiful guitar I’ve seen in my life! The, wood, the gold hardware and pickups, made with Japanese precision, it’s just gorgeous’ High praise, indeed.

The 10 best songs ever played on an Epiphone guitar

Everyone loves a list, so I thought I’d put one together containing what I think are the ten best songs ever played, either live or on record, on an Epiphone guitar. I’m sure there will be much disagreement, so please feel free to argue in the Comments.

I could have filled the list several times over with Beatles’ songs, but instead limited it to three, one each for Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison, all of whom played Epiphone guitars at some time during the Beatles’ career and afterwards. You can read more about the Beatles and their Epiphone guitars in this excellent feature.

Read on for Fretboard’s run-down of the 10 best songs ever played on an Epiphone guitar, and don’t forget to tell us what you think.

10. Champagne Supernova/ Oasis

Noel Gallagher’s famous Union Jack guitar was a specially made Epiphone Sheraton II, and was made available by Epiphone as a signature model called the Supernova, as a tribute to this track from the band’s second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

9. Close to Me/ The Cure

Guitarist Porl Thompson rejoined The Cure in 1983 and played an Epiphone EA-250 between 1983 and 1986. Close to Me, from the album, The Head on the Door, was released as a single in 1985.

8. Last Nite/ The Strokes

The Strokes guitar player Nick Valensi uses an Epiphone Riviera with Gibson P-94 pick-ups as his main guitar. He has several models of the guitar including a red 12-string. Epiphone produced two signature models, the Elitist Nick Valensi Riviera P94 in 2005, and two years later, a standard Nick Valensi Riviera P94. Valensi also plays a Casino and a Dot fitted with P94s.

7. Taxman/ The Beatles

Written by George Harrison with a solo by Paul McCartney. Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney had all acquired Casino’s by the time this track was recorded and McCartney used his for the solo on Taxman.

6. Paint it Black/ The Rolling Stones

Keith Richards’ is known to have played an Epiphone Casino throughout 1966, both live and in the studio. Paint It Black was recorded in March 1966 and released as a single in the US and UK that year, hitting number 1 in both countries. It was also included in the US release of the 1966 album, Aftermath.

5. Boom Boom/ John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker. The great bluesman played a Sheraton for long periods of his career, and indeed, Epiphone launched a John Lee Hooker signature model Sheraton shortly before his death. Hooker’s early work, such as Boogie Chillin’ was recorded before the introduction of the Epiphone Sheraton, so I’ve gone for Boom Boom, released in 1961.

4. California Girls/ Beach Boys

In an interview with his brother-in-law, and Beach Boys keyboard player, Billy Hinsche in 1981, published by Guitar One magazine in 2001, Carl Wilson explained that he used an Epiphone acoustic on California Girls and Sloop John B. He also used a Sheraton during live performances with the Beach Boys in the early seventies and had a couple of 12-string acoustics in his collection at the time of the interview.

3. Yesterday/ The Beatles

Paul McCartney played an Epiphone acoustic when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, and still uses one to play Yesterday in live performances.

2. Little Red Rooster/ The Rolling Stones

Brian Jones’ slide guitar was a key element of the Stones version of the Willie Dixon-written, Howlin’ Wolf classic. During a live perfomance of the song on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965, Jones played it on an Epiphone Casino. He is known to have regularly used the guitar during that period.

1. Revolution/ The Beatles

John Lennon famously sanded down and lacquered his Casino during recording of the White Album. His newly blonde Epiphone Casino is prominent on the promo film for this track. The guitar also appears in The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus Film, the Beatles’ Let it Be, and The Beatles’ concert on the rooftop of Apple Records in London. Epiphone later released a couple of John Lennon signature model Casinos, one of which is a replica of the sanded down model.

So there you have it. Fretboard’s pick of the ten best songs ever played on an Epiphone guitar. I’m sure you’ll disagree, so please let me know what you think in the comments.

Jimi Hendrix’s Epiphone

Danny has just posted a great piece on The Guitars of Jimi Hendrix, in which he describes how Hendrix played an Epiphone Wilshire. The Wilshire was a Strat-style guitar made between 1959 and 1970 and which originally featured two P-90 pick-ups and a Tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece. In mid-1962 the P-90s were replaced with mini-humbuckers.

50 Years of the Flying V

Epiphone’s Korina Flying V 1958 was created to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of the original Gibson Flying V. The Flying V was originally issued in 1958 as part of a futuristic guitar line-up that included the Gibson Explorer and Moderne and is one of the most easily recognisable guitars ever made, thanks to its v-shaped body and pointed head. Despite being adopted by no less than Albert King and Lonnie Mack, the Flying V proved less than successful and was discontinued in 1959.

Click here to see a list of Epiphone Flying V guitars on Amazon.

Throughout the early sixties the V was adopted by players as diverse as Dave Davies and Jimi Hendrix and the resultant surge in popularity persuaded Gibson to re-issue the Flying V in 1967. The re-issued version had a funkier pickguard and replaced the original bridge and string-through tailpiece with the stopbar tailpiece used by Gibson on most of its other electric guitars. Some re-issued models also had a Vibrolo Maestro Tremelo arm.

There have also been a handful of signature versions of the Flying V, including Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack versions.

The Epiphone Korina Flying V 1958 has, like its namesake, a body made from Korina, a brand name for Limba, a wood with similar characteristics to mahogany but which is significantly lighter. The Epiphone has a mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard and the string-through tailpiece featured on the original 1958 model. The pick-ups are Alnico Classic Humbuckers. It’s available in a natural Korina finish and an ebony finish.

The imuso.co.uk website reviewed the Epiphone Flying V and described it as ‘the kind of guitar that Birds of Prey would play if they had fingers. If you think you are cool and you haven’t got one of these, you were wrong about being cool. It’s that simple.’ Now, the reviewers idea of ‘cool’ and mine would appear to be somewhat different. But that doesn’t hide the fact thet the Korina Flying V 1958 is a fitting tribute to a great guitar.

 

The Epiphone Les Paul – How The Very First One Was Built

f there’s a single electric guitar range that’s synonymous with Epiphone , and in particular its Gibson copies, it’s the Les Paul. Epiphone currently lists 19 Les Paul guitars in its line-up, including legends like the Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Studio, and the Les Paul Junior.

While it’s widely assumed that Les Paul designed the original guitar which bore his name for Gibson and that Epiphone later made less expensive versions from factories in Korea and Japan, this only scratches the surface of the real, much more interesting, story.

Paul started building what eventually became the Gibson Les Paul in 1941, using Epiphone parts and facilities in Epiphone’s New York factory. The Log, as Paul nicknamed that first guitar was made by attaching an Epiphone neck, fingerboard and body parts to a 4in by 4in board. Les Paul then took a couple of body halves from an Epiphone and attached them either side of a centre block.

Sometime later, while he was in Chicago, Paul took The Log to the Chicago Musical Instruments Company, which owned Gibson. He was politely, but firmly, shown the door. The words of CMI’s president, MH Berlin, who described The Log as a ‘broomstick with pick-ups’, must have stung, but they didn’t discourage him from designing and building guitars. Eventually he managed to attract Gibson’s interest and in 1952, the first Les Paul solid body electric guitar was produced, and the rest, is history.

The Gibson Les Paul, in its many and various models, has become arguably the most recognised electric guitar shape on the planet. Only Fender’s Stratocaster comes close. Almost every great rock and blues guitar player has owned and played at least one. And even guitarists like Eric Clapton who later became identified with other makes and models, played some of their best riffs on a Les Paul.

And of course, the Les Paul was introduced to a whole new set of fans when it was used as the basis for the controller in the video game, Guitar Hero III.

Epiphone Sheraton

[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B0002GZQGU” locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41xwGHv01zL.jpg” width=”224″]The Epiphone Sheraton was one of the first Epiphone electric guitars to be made following the purchase of the company by Gibson, appearing a year after the Casino in 1959. The Epiphone Sheraton is a double-cut thinline, semi-hollow-bodied guitar with twin humbuckers.

Check out the Epiphone Sheraton II Archtop Electric Guitar at Amazon

The Sheraton’s body was based on Gibson’s ES-335 and had the same twin rounded horns and the electronics in the same place. One key difference between the ES-335 and the Epiphone Sheraton was the tailpiece. The Gibson used a stop, or sometimes a vibrato, tailpiece, while the Sheraton employed a Frequensator. The Frequensator allows for longer bass strings and shorter treble strings, though this arrangement is sometimes reversed by guitar players. The other difference was the fretboard inlay: the Sheraton had a block and triangle inlay.

Later, the company introduced the Epiphone Sheraton II which swapped the Frequensator for a stop tailpiece. This version became much more popular than the original Sheraton. Both guitars were notable for being played by blues legend John Lee Hooker. Epiphone introduced a John Lee Hooker signature model shortly before the great man’s death in 2000. This guitar along with Epiphone’s other Sheraton II models now has a black on orange/yellow sunburst colouring rather than the black on deep red colour of the original Sheraton and Sheraton II.

Other notable Sheraton fans include Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, and the guitar which Epiphone custom-made for him, the Supernova, is closely based on the Sheraton and the Epiphone Dot.

The Sheraton II is still in production but the original Sheraton hasn’t been made for several years and is now pretty rare. The current Sheraton II has a laminated maple body, three piece maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard. It still features those lovely twin humbuckers.

Know anyone who has an original Sheraton? Ever played one yourself? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add the details to the article.

Check out the Epiphone Sheraton II Archtop Electric Guitar at Amazon

The Epiphone Casino

The Epiphone Casino is a wonderful hollow-bodied electric guitar first made in 1958 and based on the Gibson ES-330. It’s probably most famous for being played by three Beatles between 1965 and 1967. (You can probably guess that Ringo Starr was the odd Beatle out.) In fact, John Lennon loved his so much, he used it for the rest of his time with the band, favouring it over the Rickenbacker 325 he’d been using up to that point.

Thinking about buying a Casino? Click here to see a listing of Epiphone Casinos currently on Amazon.

The Epiphone Casino is famed for its rich, heavy sound. However, its use of Gibson P-90 pick-ups means that the sound is thinner than that of the Gibson ES-335 which uses humbuckers. The Casino, unlike most hollow-bodied electric guitars, doesn’t have a centre block and so is lighter and louder than, say the ES-335, but also more prone to feedback.

The body of the Casino is made of laminated maple, and the neck is mahogany, although has occasionally been maple. The fretboard is either rosewood or ebony, depending on the model. The first versions of the Epiphone Casino had a spruce top but subsequent models, until 1970, had a headstock made of five laminated layers of maple, birch, maple, birch, and maple, set at a 17-degree angle. Since then, the headstock has been set at a 14-degree angle and has five layers of maple laminate.

John Lennon sanded his Epiphone Casino down, recoated it with lacquer, took the pickguard off and replaced the tuning pegs with gold Grovers, making it look like a completely different guitar. Epiphone has two John Lennon re-issues in its current range. The John Lennon 1965 Casino shows how his guitar looked before he modified it, and the John Lennon Revolution Casino sports the Beatle’s modifications. The Revolution is so-called because the modified Casino was first seen in the promo film for the Beatles song, Revolution.

Other notable Casino players are Brian Jones and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, The Kinks’ Dave Davies, Carl Wilson and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ronaldo, The Edge, Paul Weller, and Noel Gallager of Oasis. It has been said that the Epiphone Supernova — Gallagher’s famous Union Jack guitar — was a Casino, in fact it is a custom made guitar closer to the Sheraton and the Dot than the Casino.