Friday, 29 August 2014

Happy Trails: John Cipollina's Guitar Rig + Technique Analysis - Chapter 1: Guitars (Editorial)

Rig Rundown - Guitars - (see introduction here)

Guitar: John Cipollina and the Gibson SG are as synonymous as Jimi Hendrix and the Fender Stratocaster - any fan can't help but think of one when they hear the other. 

Cipollina's were somewhat special, and came in a more unusual flavour than most SGs of the day. John acquired his first SG, which was an SG Special, in 1965. However, it was not until 1967 that Cipollina started using his most iconic, 1959 Gibson SG. This 1959 SG is the guitar used on his most recognised records, and is of most interest to those trying to capture that 'Cipollina tone'. 

The guitar itself featured several aesthetic and tonal modifications. The guitar featured a uniquely cut pickguard that formed the shape of several bats; mercury dimes glued to the top of its control knobs, and both the fretboard and headstock featured additional mother of pearl inlays. (You can find a enlarged picture of Cipollina's main axe here).

Furthermore, the guitar featured older Les Paul style pickups with the neck pickup mounted in reverse; Grover Imperial tuning machines, and an added Bigsby B5 vibrato unit (a device that became a staple of Cipollina's sound). Additionally, the SG was specially wired to have one pickup fed solely treble, and the other to be fed solely bass (we will touch on this again in the chapter regarding amps).

On a side note, when Cipollina left Quicksilver Messenger Service he went on to use his awarded Gibson Les Paul 25th Anniversary guitar throughout the 1980's, and also used several customised Carvins too. Furthermore, before his discovery of the SG, Cipollina used a Fender Stratocaster, and several Danelectro catalogue-model department store guitars.

Written by Daniel Sharman.

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