Finish-up Those Christmas Lists: A Musician’s Guitar Collection, Wish List, and Recommendations

By Jim Fusco:

Christmas is almost here and that means your list is probably complete and you’re just waiting for the big day- and hoping that you’ll get that special guitar you’ve always wanted!  Well, if you haven’t made your Christmas list yet, or if you’re looking for an idea for the guitar player in your life, then look no further.  I am here to take you on a journey through my guitar collection and my wish-list, which will hopefully give you some ideas.  Below each guitar will be a description and reasons why I have it and what makes it different from the others.  I’ll even give you tips on what to buy for each type of guitar player!  So, let’s get started…

My Guitar Collection:

Ibanez Artcore AM73T Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar


Without a doubt, this will always be my favorite piece of hardware.  It’s just perfect- the styling is classic, there’s great symmetry, and it has that wonderful Bigsby tremolo.  If you’re a classic rock’n’roll fan, this is definitely the guitar for you.  I channel Chuck Berry when playing this axe and the semi-hollow body style is perfect for a much fuller sound than you’d get from a solid-body.  So, I purchased this guitar for three reasons: a) it was literally a tenth of the price of a Gibson that looked exactly the same, b) it’s simply beautiful, and c) it has that great old-fashioned guitar sound.

I will note that I ended up changing the pickups on this to make it a “hotter” (louder) sound.  I put in some serious Gibson pickups and now this thing really rocks!

Ibanez ARX320 Solid-Body Electric Guitar


The Ibanez above may be my overall favorite guitar, but this one is my favorite electric to play.  It’s much lighter than the Artcore guitar above (which induces a large amount of back pain) and is beautiful, as well.  The guitar doesn’t have a ton of features- no whammy bar, no tremolo or anything like that.  But, when I need to rock and it needs to be loud and “cutting”, I pick this guitar up.  It’s a really good multi-purpose guitar.

The guitar is even prettier in person than in the photo- trust me on this one.  There’s good sound and this guitar is a good one for any type of rock music, as it can play both clean and with a lot of distortion.  I asked for this guitar because it looked great, was very inexpensive at the time (it has since gone up for some reason over $100 to $449!), and gives that straight-ahead electric guitar sound without sounding as retro as my Artcore.

Dean Boca 12-String Electric Guitar


Ah, the newest weapon in my arsenal- this guitar is a great value.  Try looking for a 12-string electric guitar online for less than $1,000.  It’s just about impossible, other than the Dean Boca.  I really wanted a new guitar (I had three in mind) because Musician’s Friend had a 20% off sale going.  So, I chose this guitar over the other two because I would get a different sound.  That 12-string sound, used on songs by the Byrds, the Beatles, and many, many others, is so distinctive.  I know I’ll be using this in almost every song I record in the future.  I hope to make it a signature sound of mine, especially because 12-string electrics really aren’t used much in today’s popular “rock” music anymore.

This guitar is definitely for the throwback musician or a guitarist that has tried everything and needs a new sound.  And I would highly recommend this one in particular, as it plays great, sounds great, and looks fantastic.  At around $300, you can’t go wrong, and it’s a guitar I’ll have for life.

Fender Jazz Bass Special Edition


How I got this one?  Well, let’s just say I got it from a desperate person that just wanted to get rid of it.  And, boy am I glad he did!  Let me begin by saying that I had an electric bass already (a really good one, too), but when someone offers you a new Fender Jazz Bass Special Edition for $125, you DON’T say no.  You hand over the money and grab that guitar as quickly as possible.

And that’s what I did!  This thing weighs a ton, but the sound is great- it even smells great due to the quality woods they used.  They style, which is just a natural wood finish, is really beautiful.  Unless I break down and buy either a Hofner bass or a Rickenbacker bass in the future, I really don’t see myself needing anything more than this Fender Jazz Bass.  This one’s good for all types of musicians from rock to blues to whatever!

Rouge Lap Steel Guitar


This one’s just for fun- my parents are always looking for new instruments for me to try and they thought this would be a good idea.  And I love it!  I’ve always loved that lap steel/pedal steel sound.  There have been some great solos done in rock music on these lap steel guitars.  And I’ve already come up with a couple of solos for some new songs I’ve been working on.  This particular one is a quality instrument, as well.

This is a great guitar for “classic rock” (70’s) fans and country-rock players.  But, I’m going to attempt to use it in some creative ways in my music, so I hope you’ll stay-tuned!

Ibanez AEG10 Acoustic-Electric Guitar


I asked for this acoustic-electric because we were playing more live shows and I needed something that was easier than using a microphone or an acoustic pickup.  This isn’t the greatest guitar in the world, but it does have a nice Fishman pickup…that blew out on me and I had to have repaired.  Alone, I wouldn’t play this as a normal acoustic, but when plugged-in, it definitely gets the job done, especially for the price.

Ibanez AW100 Acoustic Guitar


This is my first real guitar.  I wanted an acoustic that was around $300 and I asked the guy at Guitar Center which one to get.  And then my love for Ibanez began.  This guitar is great- I will admit that the frets are now worn-down, but other than that, it’s a great solid-top acoustic that sounds bright and stays in tune well.

Laurel Mandolin

I was given this guitar as another “see if he likes it” gift- and this one was a real home-run!  I love playing the mandolin and this is a quality instrument, as well.  If you know someone that plays in an acoustic band, really recommend one of these- it adds a great folky dimension to the sound and can be great for soloing, too.

Arrow ST-369 Classical Acoustic Guitar


If you’ve ever seen my acoustic cover song music videos on the Laptop Sessions music blog or on YouTube, then you’ve seen this guitar.  Coming in at about 45 Euro and making the trip across the Atlantic home with me is this nylon string acoustic guitar.  It’s small, so it’s very portable.  It’s not very loud, but in a nice room, the tone is really great.  It’s SO easy to play- I honestly play this guitar more than any others because I can just sit down and feel like I’m a pro.  It’s fun to solo on this, as well- I really think everyone should have a guitar like this!

Wish-List of Guitars (Relatives, please take note!)

PRS Soapbar Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar


I’ve always loved the look and quality of PRS guitars, but most are very, very expensive.  This one combines good looks with a kind of Rickenbacker styling, plus it’s semi-hollow, which gives that great warm sound I like.  Problem is that it’s not going to be much of a different sound.  I’m just hoping it plays really nicely…

Gretsch Double-Jet Solid-Body Electric Guitar with Tremolo


Okay, so I really want a Gretsch.  I really would like a Duo Jet (which George Harrison is holding on the cover of “Cloud Nine”), but this guitar is so classic-looking…and costs about $2,000 less…  Has the Bigsby tremolo, but this one is solid-body, which should provide a different sound.

Cordoba CK-25 Ukulele


While in Hawaii for our honeymoon, I really wanted a real Koa wood ukulele that was made in Hawaii.  Starting at $700, I figured it was out of my price range for an instrument I’d use so rarely.  And even though I had the opportunity to purchase this Cordoba all Koa wood uke for only $170, I passed on it because of how little I’d use it and the fact that it wasn’t made in Hawaii.  Maybe when we go back for our 25th or something… 🙂

Fender Player’s Deluxe Stratocaster Solid-Body Electric Guitar


My brother Mike has this guitar and I LOVE it.  It plays so well- I need to have it.  He has the natural blonde maple fretboard that’s so much easier to play than rosewood, so it’s great for soloing.  Plus, I can’t believe I don’t have a Fender electric.  I want the blue model with the blonde maple fretboard, but I’d change-out that ugly-looking pickguard.  This is a must-have for me someday.

Finally, I’ll say that I would love to get a Martin like my Laptop Sessions partner (and fellow Traveling Acai Berry) Steve.  His guitar is BEAUTIFUL and plays like a dream.  I understand now why Martin guitars are so expensive.  Also, if you’ve seen some of my recent acoustic cover song music videos, you’ve seen my colleague Noreen’s amazing Gibson 12-string acoustic guitar from 1967.  Just put that on my “yeah right- not in your lifetime” wishlist!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip through my guitar inventory and my wish-list.  I hope this gives you some great Christmas, birthday, or any other holiday ideas!  And, of course, I would love to hear about your guitars and why you got them- hey, maybe one of your guitars will make it to my wish-list, too!

Ibanez ARX300 Electric Guitar – Jim Fusco’s Guitar Collection

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.

Ibanez ARX300 Electric Guitar with EMG 60 and 81 pickups

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.

Ibanez ARX300 Electric Guitar with EMG 60 and 81 pickups

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!