By Jim Fusco:
Welcome to another edition of “Jim Fusco’s Guitar Collection” here on the Laptop Sessions music blog! The Ibanez ARX300 electric guitar, the subject of today’s post, is one that I loved at first sight.
I remember the moment quite well- looking through a Musician’s Friend catalog and seeing its wonderful double cutaway body and flamed maple top. I noticed that it was from Ibanez, my favorite guitar company at the time. Then, I only had two real guitars- my Ibanez Artcore acoustic and my Ibanez AM73T electric guitar. So, I knew it would be another Ibanez in my collection after seeing this ARX300! The funny thing is that I only just now learned that this has a CARVED maple top! That’s the kind of top you only see on much higher-end guitars, like American-made Gibsons. Most guitars in this price range (I think it was about $300 to $350 at the time) have laminated or veneered tops. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but a carved quilted maple top is oh-so wonderful.
I was also interested to learn today that this is the ARX300 and not the ARX320 like I’ve been calling it for so long. I guess the ARX320 came out a bit later. It looks essentially the same, except mine (the ARX300) has a black painted faded edge and the 320 doesn’t. The 320 also has silver-looking rings around the pickups where the 300 has cream-colored rings. Personally, I think I like the cream color better- I guess more “shredders” (who this guitar was made for in the first place) like the more “metal” look.
Of course, anyone that knows the style of music I play here on the music video blog knows that I don’t “shred”. But, I wanted this guitar for the look alone. I was getting tired of everyone pigeon-holing my musical style because of the look of my AM73T guitar. That looks like an old-fashioned electric guitar from the 1950s. I wanted to be known as a more modern rock’n'roller while I was in the band Masters of the Universe, or MoU. So, the Ibanez ARX300 would be my “harder rock” guitar.
So, I played it for a few years before I got another electric guitar. I actually didn’t even have another 6-string electric until I bought my Fender Deluxe Player’s Stratocaster many years later. So, this was my only alternate to my semi-hollow electric I love so dearly.
When I realized I had too many electric guitars (that was before I got the newest two, mind you), I decided that the best way to quench my thirst for new stuff was to upgrade the guitars I already have. So, I started thinking of ways to give each guitar its own identity. I already had the semi-hollow guitar with the Gibson Burstbucker Pro pickups in it, the Strat with single-coils, the Epiphone with hand-wound PAF pickups, the Gretsch with its own signature sound, the P90s with their own type of biting sound, etc. So, what would the identity of the beautiful Ibanez ARX300 be?
Well, I decided to go back to its “metal” roots and make it my hard rock/soloing guitar. I did a ton of research and eventually decided on something completely different- new active (battery-powered) pickups from EMG! I chose the same pickup combination that James Hetfield from Metallica uses. I didn’t do that on purpose- just turned out that way. After removing my old pickups and doing an intricate splicing job (as the Ibanez was wired much differently than a normal guitar- just my luck), I was greeting with a great new look on my guitar (as these are “blackout” pickups that have just a matte-finished black covering on them) and an axe that was ready to rock.
To be honest, I’m not in love with the bridge pickup. I think it’s the EMG-81. It’s too tinny for my tastes- sounds like a fly buzzing when you play it. I’m sure it’s great for certain types of music, but for my style, I just don’t hear it fitting-in. But, the true magic of this set is the EMG-60 pickup in the neck position. Good God. The thing has this full sounding overdrive without even turning it up- it’s so “fluid” sounding. I just love the way it makes you instantly feel like a better player. I can’t wait to bust this out on a future recording- I’m telling you, my guitar solos are going to sound so much better than ever before. I hope that these new EMG pickups will make my solos stand-out better in the mix, as well!
So, that’s it- I now have an upgraded electric guitar for soloing that looks the part, as well- I’m so glad I was able to breathe new life into my Ibanez ARX300 guitar because I think I’ll always be in love with its amazing looks. Listen for it on my future original songs!