The Mexican and the Fishman… A Proverb

Fishman Fluence Single Width

Fishman Fluence Single Width


It’s been a while since I have been so “chuffed” (if you’re not English, look it up!) with a guitar, and I haven’t been able to put this guitar down over the holidays! You may know the Strat – a Mexican Stratocaster that was re-fretted in stainless 6100 wire by Ronnie D. – and generously passed on to me as he continues to engage in Grissomesque PRS tones. I loved the Mojotone Steel Pole pickup assembly (with Blender pot) that Ronnie had in there, so I have left it intact for future use. Added was a gold anodized aluminum pickguard with the new FISHMAN FLUENCE SINGLE WIDTH pickups. I first heard these pickups when the wonderful Greg Koch did a clinic in our town (yes, Greg, you did make a splash in Barrie, Ontario!!!). GK pretty much uses these pickups exclusively, and there’s good reason. For one, they are completely silent – NO NOISE! Another fab thing is that they have a pull pot that changes the pickup voicing – not just superficially – but by accessing a different wind in the coils. You get a very natural Strat tone, and then a beefier, more mid-rangey tone when you pull the bottom tone pot. The magnets are “normal” Alnico IV, but the coils are printed on multi-layered circuit boards that give a very consistent result from pickup to pickup, as well as many tonal possibilities. I found that wiring these pickups was pretty easy when I allowed lots of time and followed the YouTube video step-by-step. I wired the Tone controls with one on the neck pickup and one on the bridge pickup – as I always do. I also employed the 250 hour battery backplate that you charge with your computer (or into the wall) … these pickups are “active” – although you’d never know it!

Da Battery Pack

Da Battery Pack


So how do these pickups sound? Well, I compared this guitar to the “gold standard” – my 64/65 Troiano Stratocaster. Tonally, I found the “Mexican” to be very much in the same park – and that’s saying a lot! The pull pot to fatten up the pickup tone added even more color. I’d have to say that the Fluence pickups hang very well with the vintage Strat. The Fluence bridge pickup has a tad more highs, but this can be useful… and that’s why I have moved the tone control to the bridge pickup from the middle pickup. The straight Voice 1 sound is VERY vintage, very “Stratty”, and the notch positions just sing a little more than with conventional pickups. I almost tend to forget the added bonus that these pickups are dead quiet. So here we have a rainbow of wonderful Stratocaster tones, all with no noise, it’s just a revelation! Through my Friedman Smallbox 50, it’s devastating!!!

I really don’t see myself moving off these great pickups… really! The Fluence pickups come in several flavours – including a 2 voice PAF that I think sounds amazing – as well as a Tele set that was developed with the input of the Gristle King himself (no, I don’t sell these pickups or work for the company!!!). I bought my set at a “show special price”, but they are very reasonably priced anyway. They come with pots, extra color coded wires, etc. The Battery Pack – which I really recommend over 9V battery operation – just for convenience – can be purchased separately.

Twang on!!!

The "Offender"... Mex Fluence Stratocaster

The “Offender”… Mex Fluence Stratocaster


Have You Heard The “Gristle King”?

There are some guitar players who just inspire one to pick up the guitar and play… and then there are the kind who make one say: “why do I even bother?”. Jeeze, I don’t want to sound negative, but Greg Koch is one of the second kind… he’s just a “savant” – and he is not only a technical master, he plays with humour, and musicality! Greg Koch is “on the radar” alot these days – perhaps because, other than being a “Fender Official Clinician”, he’s just done a whole whack of on-line guitar demo videos for Wildwood Guitars… and a bunch of shows with Joe Bonamassa. You just have to watch this youtube video… the Led Zeppelin stuff is hilarious. Mercy! The sounds Mr. Koch gets out of his Fender Telecaster! (he unabashedly refers to himself as “Greg Cock” – rather than taking  the easy way out and pronouncing it like it’s spelled… “Koch”). Just check this out…

Oh my!!! Steve Vai hailed Koch as a genius… I love that Tele tone! Really edgey and nasty. Certainly not “thin” – a potential pitfall for those of us who fancy the first production solid body. When Koch spanks the plank you get the feeling that there’s nothing he can’t do – and on a Tele too!!! What’s with that? If you’ve never thought about a “B Bender”, Koch might inspire you to go in that direction. Recently, I’ve been spending at least a 1/2 hour to an hour every day just working on my banjo rolls – pick and 2 fingers – with the logic that, while perhaps not immediately applicable to my playing, it can’t hurt. It will certainly increase the facility of my right hand – even while playing Albert King licks. I think Greg Koch is a testament to that theory. He’s got a bitchin’ right hand roll that he seems to have incorporated heavily into much of what he plays.

I encourage you to check out Greg Koch futher. I find him to be such a musical player – even though he has a ton of technique. Oh ya… I love what Greg Koch says about Eric Clapton… and I am paraphrasing here: “even if Clapton hasn’t learned a new lick since 1979, his foundation as a player is so musical – look at the Beano album and Cream and the Dominoes – that he can still play a few notes and it’s better than someone who can play 32nd notes with precision…”. Given what Koch is capable of, I have to respect his opinion as an educated opinion with alot of weight.