Keeping Your Ego Out Of The Song’s Way

Thanks for coming to this page but it’s moved!

You can find it now on Guitagrip.com.

Thanks for dropping by.  I hope to see you at guit-a-grip!

BKP (Bare Knuckle Pickups) 8 String Cold Sweat Pickup

Recently, I got a call to play on a forthcoming X-box title and the composer asked me to bring a couple of guitars for some uptempo rock solos. (Unfortunately, I can’t post any audio from the session – but when the game releases I’ll post a link to any trailers for it.)

The session seemed like the perfect time to bring out my Schecter Omen 8 – particularly since I recently got Seth Mayer to install a Bareknuckle Cold Sweat Pickup and a kill switch on it.

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Bare Knuckle Pickups

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bare Knuckle Pickups, they are one of the few companies that are making hand-wound (!!) passive 8 string pickups (in addition to their 6 and 7 string line).

When I was first looking into this – I sent an email to Tim Mills, to see what he recommended for someone needing a lot of tonal flexibility with a basswood body 8 string and he recommended the painkiller.  After reading the forums and listening to a lot of samples – I found that Axe Palace had an 8 string cold sweat neck pickup in stock for $160 and I bit the bullet.

(BTW – I had a really good experience with the Axe Palace guys, so if you’re looking for a U.S. Dealer to purchase from – I’d recommend them.)

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Cold Sweat Neck Close Up

The new Bare Knuckle website is excellent and absolutely full of useful information.  For example here are some specs taken from the bare Knuckle Website.  Each pick up now has this information posted so it’s really easy to compare and contrast different pickups and get a good idea about how they’re going to sound.

There are some mp3s on the Bare Knuckle Cold Sweat page – but having done some quick mp3s of the original schecter pickups, I thought I would post a couple of mp3s for comparison.

First, here is the Line 6 POD Farm patch I’m using for both clan and dirty sounds:

Here is a 4 octave B minor scale played with a clean tone ascending and descending using the neck (cold sweat), middle (Cold sweat and stock bridge) and Bridge (Schecter).

Here is a 4 octave B minor scale played with a dirty tone ascending and descending using the same pickup order as the clean tone.

Here are some clean chords played on the upper strings.  While the pickup allows for a coil tap – I didn’t have have the push pull pot to have it wired for that – but I’m sure that allowing for a coil tap – would give clean sounds like this even more tonal variety.

Here is chunk style low end riff.  The amp setting here is a little muddy to begin with – so you’ll notice that the Schecter actually cuts through pretty well.

And here is the same idea but with the tube screamer turned on.  With the added gain – the Cold Sweat takes on more definition.

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A quick sum up

This is a short review, because rather than regurgitate a lot of information that’s on their website – I’d recommend that you go straight to the source and get the full description.

For the xbox title – I ended up playing the FNH Ultrasonic and the Schecter in front of a Marshall 4×12 and for leads – the Cold Sweat made the Schecter just scream.

The fact that they’re hand wound – is insane to me – in the best way possible.  It speaks volumes about the commitment to excellence that BNK has towards its products and tone.  This isn’t the cheapest pickup that you’ll ever buy – but it blows an EMG out of the water and comes with a lifetime warranty.  Buying a Omen and installing one of these in it – is still cheaper than a Damien Elite – and I think it’s a better sounding guitar.  You owe it to yourself to check out what they’re doing.

Schecter Omen 8 String Review Part 2 – String Observations And Sound Clips

Some observations about strings

I mentioned a lot of the issues I had with the  low F# string in part one of this review, as well as some specifics of getting an .007 up to pitch as the high A string.  I still haven’t has a change to get the guitar properly set up, so everything I’m posting here should be taken with a grain of salt.

While an .007 D’Addario can be stretched up to pitch on the 26.5″ scale neck and the strings can be bent a 1/2 step or so from the 12th fret up – it is pretty tempermental (I snapped the 5 strings I ordered from juststrings.com over the course of a couple of days).  Since the Octave4Plus strings may take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to get shipped, I’ve ordered 30 sets of the .007s in the meantime (about $.50 a string versus about $6 a string for the Ocatve4plus – but if those strings don’t snap when you look at them the wrong way – it’s a good investment).

I like the D’addario .010 7 string pack set a lot for this guitar.  With the extra scale length – the tension is a little closer to an .011.  While I can’t really bend on the .007 – I can dig in on the other strings and be a little more aggressive with the bending.

Because I ran out of .007s (and none of the local music stores stock them) I found place that carried single .008s.  Those strings will not handle being tuned to high A (apparently Octave4Plus .008s can handle this tension at this scale – FYI) – so I’ve been playing the guitar tuned down a 1/2 step to acomodate the high Ab.

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Some modifications you may want to make / Design Recommendations

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  • The tuners really can’t handle the strings at this pitch.  Since the guitar has 4 tuners on a side – you would need to purchase two 6 string sets to replace them.  While I like Steinberger tuners – I’d have to think quite a bit before I sank $200 into tuners on any guitar.  I’d recommend using the highest gear ratio you can get.


  • While the pickups are better than what you’d expect on a budget guitar, they are a little lackluster.  Here is the sound of a B minor scale played with the neck, middle and bridge pickup settings on a clean amp setting in AU lab with PodFarm.

(Note – if you have a problem hearing the mps3 just refresh your browser window – it’s a little glitchy in Safari but seems to work fine in other browsers.)

Also – while I could have edited the clips a little tighter – the hum from the CRT is present in the clips so this should be a realistic testing environment of what some one would get just pluging this into their laptop.

Here is the sound of a B minor scale played with the neck, middle and bridge pickup settings on a dirty amp setting.

Here is the sound of a dirge type of riff played with the neck pickup.

Here is the sound of a dirge type of riff played with the middle pickup settings.

Here is the sound of a dirge type of riff played with the bridge pickup.

I plan on swaping these out with Bare Knuckle Pickups at some point.  While you could spend $200 more and get a Damien Elite – with better tuners and an EMG set – I’m not really psyched about the EMG tones.  I’d rather have $200 to spend on pickups I like rather than spend $200 more on a guitar and still have to swap out the pickups.

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Update:

Since this initial post – I’ve had a Bare Knuckle cold sweat put into the neck position.  Info, pics and mp3’s here.

  • I like the belly cut a lot – but I plan on getting a wrist cut added to the body to cut down on the slab feeling when playing it.
  • As I mentioned before – the 24th fret on anything other than the highest string is pretty much just for show.  If you really wanted to access those frets, you need to modify the bout.

Final Thoughts

When I play a chord like this C major 9 #11 (if you listen under headphones – you can hear all the harmonics ringing out at the end like a piano with the sustain pedal on) I’m surprised that more people don’t go this route.  Eight string guitars may not be for everyone – but for those of you who are feeling adventurous this is not only most inexpensive entry point for exploration, it also gets you a guitar that is very similar in features to the model that’s $200 more – and stand up to other eight strings costing more than twice as much.

Thanks for reading!

-SC

Schecter Omen 8 String Review

Another guitar?

With the sale of a couple of guitars –  I decided I wanted to experiment with an extended range instrument – but didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  I had been looking at the Damien Elite 8 – which I saw in this video. I liked what I heard of the instrument – but then found the 2011 Omen 8 was released and $200 cheaper than the Elite (with free shipping from Amazon) so I bit the bullet and gave it a try.

I haven’t bought a new instrument in a while so I while I had played a couple of Schecter 6 strings (well made but not my thing) I was curious about what would come in the mail.  Given that a hipshot guitar bridge alone would run me $114 – I couldn’t build a guitar for $399.  My logic in the process was that even if the guitar was sub-par that I could part it out and have FNH Guitars build me a custom model (I can hear FNH’s John Harper’s eyes rolling back into his head with that!)

The Schecter Omen 8 – is a South Korean built guitar that is set up and shipped in the states.  Frankly, it’s a lot of guitar at this price point.

Guitar Stats

The guitar has a basswood body with 2 Schecter brand pickups and eight string bridge.

In comparison, the Damien Elite has a mahogany bodywith a quilted maple top , multi-ply binding and active EMG-808 pickups.  The body itself is surprisingly contoured.  While I was surprised to see a belly cut, a wrist cut would benefit the model as well.  The routing for the electronics is clean, and the finish is top notch.

The string through body bridge works well.  The pickups are functional but a little lackluster.  (Part of this could be the basswood body – Another reason I like bolt on necks vs. neck though body.  In a bolt on neck if you hate the neck but like the body (or vice versa) you can just switch it out. With a neck through body – you buy a new guitar).  I’m not a fan of active pickups so I would probably plan on replacing them even if I sprung the extra money for the Elite.

The 24 Jumbo fret bolt-on maple neck has a rosewood fingerboard and a 26.5″ scale to accommodate the extended tuning of the instrument.  Note: you could make the tuning whatever you wanted – but it’s strung with what appears to be a D’Addario stings (update I’ve been informed  on the sevenstring.org forum that Schecter’s standard 8-string set is: .10 .13 .17 .30 .42 .54 .64 .74 – thank you sir!) for a low to high tuning of F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E.  The  Schecter tuners are functional (you get Grovers on the Damien Elite) and the inlay is a simple dot inlay (instead of the more elaborate “stained cross” inlay on the Elite).

In many of the forums I researched, people complained about the “baseball bat necks” of the bolt on Schecters.  I didn’t find that to be the case at all.  While there is a heel cut in the body to help access the upper frets:

The joint itself is a little chunky.

Given the amount of string tension on the neck – this isn’t that surprising but it does mean that in performance the top two frets are basically for show.

Setup wasn’t bad but needed a little more tweaking.  In addition to the F# intonation being off the nut action was pretty high for some of the strings.

I know the lowest string needs extra room to vibrate – but it was really high on the E, A and D strings as well. Especially on the higher frets.

In use

The guitar sustains well acoustically without amplification but – the shipped string (I believe a.074) on  26.5″ scale is really too small for the low F#.  At that pitch the string just flops on the fretboard.  Also in terms of timbre – the F# is a little strange to me.  It seems to fight between wanting to be a bass and a guitar. I could get some nice sounds with clean tones – but I had a really hard time integrating it with any kind of distorted tone.  Part of that could be the pickups as well.  The high gain tones that sounds best for single pitches turn to mush on chords so there’s a balancing act there.  Going up to a .08 would probably tighten it up and I may got that route eventually but for now I wanted to go more well rounded.

Having said that – the scale length is workable by getting rid of the F#.  The tuning I’m using right now is (low to high) B-E-A-D-G-C-E-A.  This uses the above mentioned D’Addario 7 string pack with a .007 for the high A.  I’ve also swapped out the .059 for a .062 for the B which seems to feel better.

Tech Tips

Here are a couple of suggestions that will help if you use the high A tuning.

  • You’ll have to adjust the intonation when using a different string.  Start by removing the lowest string (in this case F#).  Before you put the new string in – move the saddle so the front edge is in line with the saddle on the low B string. (Do not adjust the height screws! All you’re doing is adjusting the string length so that the string intonates properly.  Since the other strings are already intonated – this will cut down on time adjusting it substantially).  Leave the top string (the High A) where it is and adjust accordingly.
  • I’ve tuned the B string up to C.  This keeps a 4th between the E and high A string (top 2 strings) and a 3rd between the C & E strings.  This way all of my 3 note per string scale patterns stay the same.
  • There’s a company that sells strings specifically for high pitches on extended range instruments called Octave4Plus.  While I may look into their strings in the future – while I was waiting for the guitar to come – I put an order into Just Strings and ordered 2 sets of the D’Addario 7 string packs and 5 single .007 strings to see if I could do it on my own.  (Update – you can read an Octave4plus review here) – What I wanted to see was if the string would snap near the nut or at the bridge.  When I tuned the first string up – I tried to get it to pitch and it snapped at the tuner.

What I recommend you do is tune the string up to F# or G and let it sit for a while.  Tune the other strings.  Every 3-5  minutes or so – try to bring it up another 1/2 step and repeat until you get it to pitch.  By letting the string stretch at various points – it becomes more stable under pressure.

In using this tuning – I wonder how it would work in a 25.5″ scale.  The advantage of that to me is that I could use .011s (or .012s!) for the 6 strings and then fill in the top and bottom appropriately.  I can’t help but think that heavier gauge strings would drive the pickup more and result in better tone.  The issue there would be the floppy low B. Every variation is a series of compromises – just something to consider.

  • In moving the strings – you will probably have to adjust the nut slots.  I’d recommend having a qualified guitar tech do this if you’re not sure what you’re doing.

Overall Thoughts

I am constantly amazed at the cost point versus quality of work that is coming out of South Korea these days.  If Amazon is selling this guitar at $400 (I rounded up for convenience), that means that it’s probably leaving South Korea at a cost of $150-$200 shipped – which is pretty mind boggling if you think about it.

Count on spending some additional cash on setup right out of the gate.  Further on down the line – you will probably want to put money into pickups and perhaps tuners as well.  If you like active pickups, or want a really nice looking figured top- this is a no brainer – save up an additional $200 and get a Damien Elite 8.  Otherwise – minus the top and the pickups – this is basically the same guitar for 1/3 less money.

I’m still sorting out how to play this!!  In the meantime, you can read more and hear some mp3s here.

If you’re looking for a gig bag for one of these – the Gator Viper is the best deal out there right now.

In the meantime – If you have any questions – please feel free to drop me a line @ guitar.blueprint@gmail.com !

Happy Thanksgiving!

-SC