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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:26 pm 
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Hello everyone. I'm new to this forum. A little background. I was given an electric guitar for Christmas back in the early 80s. I was playing an acoustic and wanted to try an electric. I loved the guitar but it was too heavy for me, I was about 11 or 12 years old, and I never really "took" to the electric. I kept it in its case and took it out for short spells. I have just pulled it out now that my kids are begging me to learn and play Black Keys songs for them. I've got an American Strat that doesn't have anywhere near the power this Electra has. I cherish the guitar as my "first" electric and it will probably go to one of my sons along with my Taylor 810.

However, I am curious about the guitar. It looks a lot like the Phoenix X199 on this site. The decal is red "Electra (bird) Westone" The body is Silver with a dusting of black. The neck and head are black. It's extremely heavy and solid. Two humbuckers with a single coil in the middle. Three-way switch. Three buttons that pop out for effects. They pop out The serial number on the back is 4060624. I've even got the warranty card for it. "Electra Phoenix Lifetime Warranty St. Lous Music Supply Co. 1400 Ferguson Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 63133"

I'd appreciate any information on this guitar. What do the outer buttons do when pulled? The middle button selects the single coil. I can also post photos, if anyone is interested, if can figure out how. Kind of cool to own a vintage guitar. My uncle loves to joke, "Good news is we've got vintage Martin's. Bad news is we bought 'em new." This guitar was probably purchased from my uncle's shop in Birmingham, "Fretted Instruments" Well, let me know. Cool website btw.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 10:43 pm 
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It probably is an X-199 or similarly configured model with a custom paint-job. We see a lot of weird one-offs around this site. The other two knobs beyond the coil split are probably a phase-reverse (for the "quack" tone) and a mid frequency roll-off. X189player loves these guitars and knows them well. He can probably provide you with more (and more accurate!) info.

Enjoy your Electra! It is so cool that you are willing to learn songs your children like. I hope that you are planning on teaching them how to play on their own!

Matthew


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 12:03 am 
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I think its a stock color, I remember seeing some like that when they were new, like a metallic charcoal grey with like a dusting of black?

It's certainly an 84, most likely an X189 (bolt neck, right, not glued in? and two-post bridge rather than six-screws?), and yes, they really are classics. Today we realize those unbalanced coil humbuckers are virtually unmatched for tone.

The knobs are Master Volume, Neck Tone, and Bridge Tone. In that order, when pulled out the switches are coil tap, fat (=center pickup on) and phase reverse.

Essentially you either get a thick humbucker sound or coil tap for a thin single coil sound. Pull the middle to switch on the center pickup which adds more complex strat-like overtones into the mix.

Another cool thing about this wiring configuration is that with different sets of knobs pulled out you get different sets of ranges at the 3-way. For instance, pull out the bottom two knobs, and the 3-way gives a very wide range from resonant bassy jazz tones to stinging trebly chirp tones.

FWIW, the necks are maple with rosewood fingerboard and (I think by this time) graphite nut (black, right?). At some point the bodies switched to rock maple, very heavy and bright. the early ones were ash, It's possible some 82-83 models were alder but I'm not certain exactly what's under the paint- some of the 86 models are so light I think they must be alder- anyway, from the sound of it yours is maple.

Interestingly enough, I do believe that SLM will still honor that lifetime warranty- it's against defects of course, not wear and tear, but I recall when I bought my first Electra Phoenix new that warranty was one thing that convinced me they were serious about quality. From the dealings I've had with the folks from their shop, they're pretty serious about honoring their warranties, and they can be, cause the stuff is good.

Enjoy your vintage guitar! One thing that has changed (thank goodness!) is that you can get really good amps now for cheap- if you haven't played through a Vox DA-5 or Roland Microcube, you're in for a treat- excellent sound at good indoor practice levels, and an excellent (and inexpensive) choice if you're thinking of encouraging your kids to play.

Speaking of which, you ought to get em playing it themselves! But that'll be natural- I know if I saw my dad do anything, I knew I could do it to- on hindsight I think his example (even though I used to laugh at him trying anything) really gave me a boost in the right direction.


Anyway, welcome- and we'd love to see pics of your guitar!


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 8:04 am 
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Wow. Thanks for the very fast response. I was not expecting info that quickly. Alright, that inspired me to figure out how to get photos onto the site. Here it goes:

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X189, you were dead-on. It has a a two-post tremolo bridge. The body is sort of a grey-white with black dusting. The neck is completly black. The fretboard might be rosewood but it also is almost black. I LOVE the pickups on this guitar. Still not sure what the buttons will do with combos but it's fun. The neck is bolt-on. Thanks for the amp ideas. Right now I play through a Fender Champion 30 with all effects off. I go through a Digi GNX4. I'm much better with my acoustic than my electric, but my kids love rock and roll so I've got to play some catch-up if I want an audience at home. And yes, I'm encouraging them to play instruments. I try to stay flexible, but they all HAVE to learn piano. Any other instruments they want to learn, we're game.
Neat to hear about the warranty. I laughed when I saw it, but from what you're telling me, I'm still covered. Thanks for the quick responses. I can see how this stuff can turn into an obsession.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:07 am 
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Sure is a beauty!

RCSBlues :oops: :up:

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 4:33 pm 
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Oh lovely, I didn't know that color was available in 84. So you have a Pearl Burst 84, an X189PB. The serial number indicates (we're pretty sure) the 624th Electra guitar made in June 1984. Congratulations!

A couple of comments- these guitars being very well made, they respond very well to setup adjustments. Consider changing the setup to match your playing style- if you're used to an acoustic, what about running heavier strings? Is the action the way you like it? A few easy adjustments may make a huge difference in the guitar playing the way you like.

I like 12's, which are quite heavy- they mean a little more work for the left hand (and building callouses) but the payoff is they are far easier to play for the right hand- light strings are so slinky that it's easy to get bogged down in them, kinda like running on sand. With heavier gauge they're tighter, so it takes less to strike them and you can move more quickly.

That said, if you run the gauge up to 12's, you'll probably want to adjust the truss rod, not that it's hard to do. 11's you can probably run without the adjsutment.

Another thing is how the bridge is adjsuted- is it flush against the body, or free-floating? IF it's free floating, you should get in the habit of giving a little wiggle to re-center it right before you tune it, and any time you use the whammy bar. Eventually it will get a sweet spot and tend to return on it's own accurately.

Or maybe you don't use the whammy bar- I don't, myself. But in the 80's EVH made veryone think they needed a full-floating trem on their guitar. The first step was this two-post bridge, which is unique to 84 as it doesn't have fine tuners. In some ways this is an ideal bridge. But every guitar buyer felt the need to dive bomb radically and have the guitar return to perfect tune instantly, and for that you need a locking nut and that means fine tuners on the bridge. Sure enough, the following year in 85 this guitar (and all simlar variants) got a new version bridge, the Bendmaster FT, which is much teh same but with a cast metal ridge with fine tuners. It works wonderfully, but really it's all overkill for most people.

If your bridge is set free-floating, leave it that way and see if you can get it to stay in tune without problems (probably). If you remember to wiggle it, that helps a lot. However, if you decide you don't want to bother with it, you can always open the back cover and tighten the screw on the metal claw the springs attach to, effectively pulling the bridge flush against the body. You may have to lower the posts and raise the bridge saddles to return the action to where it should be. The result will be absolutely no tuning issues whatsoever, and you'll still be able to bend downwards, just not upwards.

That's a really lovely guitar you have there, the Pearl Burst is a beautiful and tasteful color that you never see on any other guitar I can think of. Thanks for posting the great photos!

For general family music use, I'd highly recommend the Roland Microcube. To be honest, the Vox DA-5 sounds better, but the Roland has a built in tuning note and a setting for plugging in a microphone! That and a used Shure SM58 might be all you need to inspire your young vocalists to sing! And if you haven't tried the convenience of onboard effects, it's amazing- $500 worth of effects pedals built into an amp a quarter of that price. It's a great way to let kids learn about using effects (and why shouldn't they?) Why, if Id'a had that stuff back in my day.... </coot>

And actually, on that note, if you guys haven't heard Smoosh, check them out- a pair of Seattle kids who got their first gig opening for local acts when they were 10 and 12. Three years later they're veterans who have toured and played with bands like Death Cab For Cutie, Pearl Jam, the Eels, and Presidents of the United States of America.

If you ever need reminding that the artistic output of kids is jsut as relevant and brilliant as any adult, check these guys out. I jsut can't get over how cool it is that their parents take them seriously enough to let them play professionally.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=18879

http://www.smoosh-online.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoosh

http://www.myspace.com/smooshtheband


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 8:24 pm 
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Just gorgeous! Oh, how I wish I had unlimited funds!! These guitars, along with the other Matts, would have to be the greatest guitar secret ever but I think the world is catching up; get 'em while ya can!!
Quality in sound and finish as well as innovation; it just don't get any better than that!!
Lovely pics, BTW!!


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 8:46 am 
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X189. Again thanks for all the info. I'm an acoustic player and there is actually a very steep learning curve coming over to electric, especially with strumming. All the info you've given saves me tons of time. As for the bridge. Early on, not sure when, I locked the tremolo bridge into place. I was having lots of trouble keeping the guitar in tune. Of course, I was playing it like an acoustic and probably not using the whammy bar correctly. I don't remember how I locked it. I think I mainly tightened the bridge. I have zero problems with tuning now. I also just learned about intonation "not needed with acoustics" This guitar was actually easier to intonate than my Fender. Thanks for the advice on strings. I've got light "9" strings on there because I love light strings on my acoustic but I'm learning how much more sensitive the electrics can be even to the type of metal in the strings. I'm 35 years old but picking up this hobby is making me feel 13 again.
I do encourage my kids to sing. I've got two Audio-Technica Condenser mics and I send everything through Apple's Logic express. I'm more of a singer than a guitar player. Which means I can hardly consider myself a musician :) I paid my way through Grad school with 9 other guys we started an a cappella group called, The Vineyard Sound, on Martha's Vineyard. We performed at pretty much every bar and hall on that island. They're still some guys keeping the group alive. 15 year reunion coming up this summer.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:32 pm 
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Cool stuff! Sounds like you've got them off and running,a dn you know I think the most powerful influence of all is example, I know I played music because I saw my dad do it.

Sounds like you set the bridge correctly. Strings are cheap, get one each sets of some brand you like (I use GHS mostly), 009, 010, 011, 012. Then string it up and see how you like it- then swap up to the next higher set. You'll be surprised at how well you'll handle heavier strings. As it turns out, high action has more to do with how hard the guitar is to play than how heavy the strings are. I've played some guitars with very heavy strings and very low action, and they were like butter.

Frankly, the issue that I think holds many people back with heavy strings is they swap to higher strings, and because there's more tension, the neck is bent more and so the action is higher. SO the guitar suddenly is much much harder to fret in the middle of the neck. The solution is a quarter turn at the truss rod, sighting downt he neck until you see it's almsot straight but not quite. Basically that's something you'd do once you know what gauge string you like- so all of that makes most people say WTF, just leave it the way it is.

But it's not hard to do all that, sounds like you're on top of setup anyway. On the other hand, once you know what gauge strings you want, find a really good guitar tech and have them set it up for you. I do my own work but there are some techs around who can do magic as far as making a guitar play well for you.

(which reminds me, I need to get a guitar in to one of those guys, hm.)


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