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Guitar Musician e-zine     08/31/05

In This Issue:

  "... even when I'm touring, I feel like a sideman ... everybody's working together. We get to play longer solos; it's not just "Here's the record! Thank you for coming Goodnight" ... it has always had a "band" feel instead of being a singer and his backup band..."

                                                                                      - Vince Gill

Some Humor

  Dumbest Kid in the World?

When a young boy enters a barber shop, the barber whispers to his

"This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you."
The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other,
then calls the boy over and asks, "Which do you want, son?" The boy takes
the quarters and leaves.

"What did I tell you?" said the barber. "That kid never learns!"
Later, the customer leaves and sees the same young boy coming out of the
ice cream store. "Hey, son! Let me ask you a question. Why did you take
the quarters instead of the dollar bill?"

The boy licked his cone and replied, "Because the day I take the dollar,
the game's over!"


Click here for all products by Babicz.

Babicz Identity Series Guitars

A new voice in the acoustic-guitar gallery

By Leonard Russell

Babicz Identity Series Guitars It's a story about tension, really. The incredible tension the average acoustic guitar must withstand to delay its sacrificial suicide�death in pursuit of ultimate tone�as long as possible. The steel strings that an acoustic guitar is strung with put a lot of stress on the top, which needs to move to produce sound. Light bracing ensures that the top responds quickly to the strings and vibrates powerfully to move the most air and produce the most sound. However, light bracing also makes it likely that the soundboard will eventually bend and bow under the strain of the strings.

And so it was with tone, tension, and top implosion in mind that professional luthier and former Steinberger employee Jeff Babicz (pronounced bab-its) began developing the icZ Acoustic System, a design different from any other. Instead of settling for a guitar destined for the trash heap with uneven sound, iffy intonation, and nearly unadjustable action, he came up with the icZ system. It relieves the stress from the top of the guitar, makes it more comfortable and adjustable, and therefore more playable. The icZ system is applied beautifully in the Identity Series, a more affordable take on Babicz's custom shop creations.

Take me to the top
The top of the guitar is the first thing guitarists, and people in general, notice about a Babicz Identity Series axe. Instead of a standard bridge where the strings are pinned through the top with bridge pins or anchored by slots in the bridge, the strings pass over the bridge saddle and through a rosewood string retainer before fanning out across the lower bout and terminating at anchors near the edge of the soundboard. Not just a visual gimmick, this construction helps the guitar achieve a sound that more accurately renders the natural tonality of the top.

The middle of the top is the most flexible point on an acoustic guitar and traditional bracing has to be heavy at that spot to resist the pull of the strings. With the icZ system the load of the strings is spread equally around the top. With that tension relieved the soundboard can be braced with fewer and lighter braces for more unrestrained vibration. When you play a Babicz guitar you hear the top freed from heavy X bracing. The string anchors are also reinforced as lightly as possible so that the strings' pull on the top is unencumbered by heavy bracing. The anchors don't require heavy bracing because the main load of the strings has been shifted from an upward pull to a lateral pull and spread across a much wider area.

Click to Enlarge Crossing the bridge
The bridge used on the Identity Series also deserves some attention. As mentioned above, it's far from being a standard acoustic bridge. First of all, it's a two-piece system instead of a standard single-piece bridge. The split design keeps the strings aligned with tension across the saddle but redistributes much of the load normally carried by the bridge. Secondly, the two-piece bridge is attached to the top by special fasteners, not glue. The advantage is you've got much more adjustability to correct faulty intonation. The bridge section can be loosened and moved forward or backward in special slots to intonate your guitar.

The use of a string retainer with fanned individual string anchors offers an advantage beyond reducing the tension on the soundboard. It also reduces tension in the strings, making the Identity Series easier to play. Even though every Babicz uses standard acoustic strings right out of the box, it uses much more of them than the average acoustic, extending the strings past the bridge by about six inches. With more string in play and less tension, each string's sweet spot is extended and the feel is relaxed.

At your command
The icZ Acoustic System really delivers the goods when it comes to playability, too. The neck uses a special joint that is freely height-adjustable for the ultimate custom-fit string action. At the joint, the neck is unattached to the top and sides of the guitar, only joining the back. This allows constant adjustment and also frees the top of the guitar even further for more resonance and pure soundboard projection.

To make serious adjustments to the action on a standard acoustic, the neck must be re-set to adjust the angle of the neck, which also changes the scale length. In contrast, the icZ neck joint can be adjusted by simply turning an Allen-head bolt with a supplied wrench. Since only the height is changing, the guitar is still in tune and fully intonated.

Click to Enlarge In performance
When I played the Babicz Identity Series Jumbo that Musician's Friend sent for review, I was amazed first by its sound, and second by its smooth and silky playing characteristics. Notes rang true and loud from one string to the next, all the way up and down the neck. I quickly found that slight pitch changes were possible by pushing down or pulling to the side of the exposed string running from the retainer to the string anchor. Picking the string behind the bridge produced tones that ranged from harmonic-type pings to tones reminiscent of a mandolin or harp, useful for special accents. It also seemed to diffuse the normal soundhole-centered amplification of an acoustic. Its solid spruce top seemed to resonate more freely from side to side and top to bottom. The adjustable neck joint made it easy to go from slide-style to low, electric-style action with a simple turn of the wrench.

Babicz has produced an innovative, distinct, and original design that takes every aspect of acoustic craftsmanship and improves it. Many artists, from Todd Rundgren to Porcupine Tree, have proven its appeal by making it their acoustic of choice. With the Identity Series, guitarists everywhere can have a completely stable, very playable acoustic with tone to spare.

Features & Specs:

  • icZ Acoustic System
  • Solid spruce top
  • Solid mahogany or rosewood back and sides
  • Continually adjustable mahogany neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Adjustable rosewood bridge
  • Rosewood string retainer
  • Rosewood headstock overlay
  • Black string anchors
  • Sealed black Grover tuners
  • Black/white/black binding
  • Satin finish top and neck
  • Gloss finish back and sides
  • 2-way truss rod
  • 25-1/2" scale
  • 20 polished frets
  • 1-11/16" NuBone� nut and compensated saddle
  • Hardshell case with Babicz Logo and comfort figure 8 handle
  • 3-year warranty
  • Standard D'addario strings
  • Dreadnought, Dreadnought Cutaway, Jumbo, and Acute body styles available




How Can I Create Harmony Guitar Leads?

Mark Mezzonate; Charleston, SC

Q: I listen to a lot of Classic Rock like Iron Maiden and Judiest Priest and they have lots of harmony guitar sections that sound real cool.

How would I write a harmony lead section? I know my scales cold from your Intermediate Learn Rock Guitar DVD; it really rocks and has helped my be able to solo like I always wanted to, but I can't get a grasp of the harmony thing...please help me.

A: Most Harmonies are based off thirds and fifths and to completely understand them it does require music theory knowledge but I have a trick I will share with you that will have you sounding like Maiden in a blink!

Take either the Natural Minor or Major scale that you learned and create a simple melody using either scale, not shredding just a basic slow melody.

Now count up three scale degrees from each note in the melody, this will create a harmony of thirds for that melody. Try recording the melody then playing the harmony over it, it will sound cool I bet!

Next, try to count up five notes from each melody note. This will create a harmony in fifths. Again, play this over the melody and hear the sound of a fifth harmony.

Experiment with other intervals and try to create complete harmony leads. You can even play multiple harmonies like a third and a fifth together over the melody to create a full sound.

Hope this helps!

Yours in Music
John McCarthy
Rock House


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  Two and Half Weeks: 3 Doors Down's Matt Roberts
by Adam St. James

"Kryptonite" was just the killer beginning. For the guys in 3 Doors Down, who first scored big in 2000 with that Superman-inspired hit, and again in 2002 with Away From The Sun the real deal is their new disc, Seventeen Days. And even after six No. 1 singles and 12 million albums sold, the band is really excited about the new release. And they should be, it's rockin'.

Guitarists Matt Roberts and Chris Henderson have been criss-crossing the continent these past few years - the lesser mortals who are their bandmates in tow - laying down riffs for the masses. And if all you know about these Mississippi natives is that simple initial hit, you just don't know how these guys can play. has spoken with Henderson a couple of times - even gave away an autographed guitar signed by the entire band (and the hoodie right off Henderson's back, also autographed) in 2003. This time around we decided Roberts deserved some props.

So please enjoy this exclusive interview with 3 Doors Down guitarist Matt Roberts, and be sure to look for Seventeen Days on your favorite download site (a legal, one please!) real soon.

Q: Hey Matt, how are you?

Matt Roberts: Good Adam, how are you bud?

Q: I'm doing well. Are you guys down in Florida today?

Roberts: I think so.

Q: Ah, the rock 'n' roll life!

Roberts: I'm in my bus somewhere in a parking lot.

Q: So you're doing the whole Superbowl party this weekend, that's got to be fun. And you've got the new album, Seventeen Days coming out.

Roberts: Yeah, we're real excited about it.

Q: It sounds good Matt. Tell me about the gear you're playin' through these days.

Roberts: I'm playin' through - I've got so much processing I could launch a space shuttle. I'm using all tc electronics for my processing. For my power amp, I'm using Triple XXX Peavey for my clean, and a Peavey 5150 for my heavy tone. And I'm still with Ibanez. So all that combined makes my guitar rig.

Q: So what are your favorite effects in that tc unit?

Two and Half Weeks: 3 Doors Down's Matt Roberts Roberts: I really like all effects, brother. I'm like the edge. I like the way the tc electronics stuff comes out. It used to be all floor units - the Boss type stuff. But finally I've found a rack mounted unit. Basically I'm pretty happy with everything that comes out of there: the delay, the flange. I never thought I'd be happy with a rack-mounted processing unit. But here I am.

Q: So do you have delay or reverb on all the time? Or compression? What's your basic, starting tone?

Roberts: There's are some songs that are just straight up 5150 tone, or straight up Triple XXX tone. There are some songs where I go from delay/reverb/chorus/flange - and all that stuff. So it depends on the song. Some songs are A and B, and some songs are A through G.

Q: And do you get in and customize the settings on that unit, or do you use the stock tc electronics settings?

Roberts: I spend a lot of time setting the parameters and getting things set the way I like. And we have a rehearsal for the tour. And for some reason, you can put your gear away for a day, or six months, and when you come back it always sounds different. So the last week I've been spending my time rehearsing and getting my rig back to sounding the way I want it to sound. It's kind of a trial and error process, so I think I'm there. I better be there, because I've got a gig this weekend.

Q: Do you have any new guitars you're taking on the road this year?

Roberts: Well, I'm just getting ready to launch the new Ibanez RG archtop.

Q: Cool. The RG line has some great guitars.

Roberts: That's gonna be one of my new axes that I'm really excited about. I should be getting that any day. I'm going to be really happy to bring that out for Ibanez. They're building me a custom guitar with a vintage look. So it'll be the Vintage Archtop RG, and I'll be using that a lot of this tour.

Q: Have you always liked archtop guitars?

Roberts: Yeah, actually that's all I've been playing. They've got their artist series and that's what I've been playing. What happened was I went from their traditional guitars, their flat cut guitars - which have no arch to them at all - to their AR series. Rob Nishida, my guy there, is really good at adapting to what I want. So I'd like to think that this RG Archtop concept is something he threw in there for me.

Q: That's cool. And what does Chris have going on with his rig? Anything new?

Roberts: I really don't know. I know he's still a PRS guy, but between the two guitar racks, you can't keep up. I just can keep up with my own stuff. He's got his arsenal, I've got mine.

Q: So when you're off the road, what are you working on? Or what are you listening to that people might be surprised to know about?

Roberts: Well, when I'm off the road, and I'm not on tour or doing anything, I don't play a lot of guitar. I used to, but I find myself just kind of trying to break away from that. I need some time, man. I spend so many days and hours in the studio that I literally just want to break away. I don't really play a lot. And when I come home, I can't tell you anything that's playing on MTV, or VH-1, or current radio. I'm a big classic rock guy. That's the only thing I listen to. I'm not a very up to date kind of guy.

Q: Well, you'll be having a good time this weekend with the Lynyrd Skynyrd Superbowl bash tomorrow night.

Roberts: Yeah, that's gonna be fun.

Q: What are you guys doing about a drummer this year?

Roberts: Oh man, we've got a fabulous new drummer. I'm really excited about Greg Upchurch. For the first time since we've been a band I really feel like this is not a hired gun situation. I finally feel like we've got a guy who is part of the band now. I'm just sick of that shit, going through drummers. And Greg was the guy who I really became friends with on the last tour. Greg was just the guy. And we said, 'This is the guy' and called him up and said, 'Won't you come over here and join us.' I feel like he's going to be our drummer until the end of time.

Q: Was he in the studio with you on Seventeen Days?

Roberts: No, unfortunately, he wasn't. Unfortunately our ex-drummer was.

Q: So it's probably going to be a little bit more energetic out there on stage then, with the new blood.

Roberts: New blood baby! It is man. I'm excited, he's excited. He's the new member of the family.

Q: So do you still live in your hometown when you're off the road?

Roberts: No, I live in South Florida. And I have a home in South Alabama. I'm originally from Mississippi. I kind of like to go home and be in the peace and quiet, you know what I mean? And not have people - I don't mind the fame and all, it's just when I go home I just wanna be like a regular guy. And if I go back to my hometown, that can never happen.

Q: As Ronnie VanZant said: "Don't ask me 'bout my business, and I won't tell you no lies."

Roberts: Man, that is such the f'in song man! That song defines it right there brother.

Q: Yeah. So what's the one track on the new album that you're really just dying to get out there and play?

Roberts: Well, I'll tell you, all the bullshit interviews I've done in the past and said whatever about the past records - this record is the real deal man. Johnny K - I just can't say enough about the guy. He really came in there and was the hero for us. He helped us pull it together. And this record is just such a strong record. So to answer your question about my favorite track, I've got several. But there's one: "Right Where I Belong," that leads the record off, and it's a really fast, heavy track. But I just can't say enough about the record as a whole. I'm really excited. We've got Bob Seger singing one song. The record is just so massive, I just love it. I'm really proud of this record.

Q: And how is Seger's voice these days?

Roberts: Bobby! He sounded like Bob man. He's got a little more rasp than he used to - probably about 300,000 more packs of Marlboro Lights since you last heard him sing. Bobby has the thickness and the rasp. He and Brian's voice, they're really distinctive. The track that they're on is really cool.

Q: So you're gonna hit the road hard real soon, I'm sure.

Roberts: I'm gonna hit it hard and it's gonna hit me! It goes both ways, brother.

About the Author:
Adam St. James joined shortly after the website launched in the summer of 1999 and has been the site's Editor for several years. Adam has worked as a guitar tech for Sammy Hagar, and is the author of several guitar and music instructional books, including "101 Guitar Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use" (published by Hal Leonard). He fronts blues and rock bands in the Chicago area. See and for info on all Adam's books, bands, and barstool banter.

Recommended Listening - A Must For Your Collection!

Foo Fighters, In Your Honor
By Shawn Hammond
The first disc from this double album is chock full of the screaming choruses, melodic hooks, and power-chord bombast we�ve come to expect from the hard-rockin� Foos, but disc two features ten surprisingly diverse songs driven by acoustic guitars. A couple are overly repetitive, like some of the Fighters� electric work, but frontman Dave Grohl (vocals/guitar/drums) and Chris Shiflett (guitar) should coax newfound appreciation from detractors with this unplugged set. The sweetly wistful �What If I Do?� oozes a classic country vibe and deliciously twangy leads; the melancholy �Another Round� showcases former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones on mandolin and seems to take inspiration from the Eagles� �Desperado�; �Friend of a Friend� and �Over and Out� feature alternate tunings and angular melodies reminiscent of Michael Hedges� later work (minus the histrionics); the jazzy �Virginia Moon� finds Grohl dueting with Norah Jones (who also provides moody piano work); �Cold Day in the Sun� sounds like a 12-string tribute to T. Rex; and both �On the Mend� and �Razor� turn repetition into gold�the former has only four chords but is so airy and gorgeous it never gets old, and the latter features Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme playing a mesmerizing pull-off pattern that evokes Leo Kottke and Alex de Grassi. (RCA, www.


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