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This article was originally published in issue #27
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It's been a decade in the making - and now it's finally appearing in guitar stores around the world - Music Man's The Majesty, the latest John Petrucci signature guitar. Jamie Humphries was one of the first to get his hands on a Majesty. Because Jamie endorses Music Man, this isn't a review - just a very welcome demonstration of a much anticipated guitar.
To many John Petrucci is the ultimate guitarist; not only does he play for one of the biggest rock/metal bands in the world, he also has a technique and arsenal of licks to die for. On top of this he also has a rig that would satisfy any gear junkie. When it comes to guitars, John knows what he wants, and following a short stint with Ibanez he made the jump to Ernie Ball Music Man. John helped develop the John Petrucci signature range, including both six and seven string versions. These guitars are not only super sleek and fast, and look stunning, but they are also versatile tone machines utilising both magnetic and Piezo pickup systems. When you play in a band such as Dream Theater your demands on an instrument's tone and performance are going to be high. The JP range has included various versions of the guitar, and feature changes in body styling, switching, woods, and chambering verses solid body.
2014 has seen the release of Music Man’s most radical and ground breaking instrument to date. Well their slogan for years has been “Play something different”, and this guitar is no exception! Ladies and gentlemen I give you the Majesty. Taking its name from the original name of the band, and including the band’s well known Majesty logo on the first fret; this guitar pushes the boundaries in both design and features. First thing we notice about the guitar is the change in body styling, as it features an extended top horn and greater access to the upper frets. This is also aided by the through neck, allowing for a very smooth and totally invisible join, with the neck simply morphing into the body. As Music Man states, the guitar features a very ergonomic design, with the R&D team working extensively with John to get every detail of the guitar fine tuned.
This guitar features an angled headstock, which eliminates the need for a string tree, as well as helping with sustain with the through neck design. The neck wood is Honduran mahogany, and features an ebony fretboard with a 12” radius, and a very flat, fast profile. The fingerboard includes 24 medium jumbo profile stainless steel frets, and custom mirrored JP Majesty fret markers. As I've mentioned it’s a through neck, into a basswood body, with a laser etched maple top, giving an almost a graphite look. Several matte finishes are available, adding to its slick futuristic feel and appearance. The 4+2 design machine head configuration features six Schaller M6-IND locking machine heads, in black pearl finish. The bridge is a custom John Petrucci floating design, with Piezo saddles. The finish of the bridge is black pearl, with stainless steel saddles. The saddles are also partially covered with a plate, making the bridge very comfortable for resting your hand on.
Now for the electronics, and this is where it gets very interesting. The guitar is loaded two DiMarzio Illuminator pickups, as well as a Piezo bridge. The guitar features three pots, guitar volume, guitar tone, and Piezo volume. There is a small three way switch for pickup selection on the body, and another three way switch on the top horn for either Piezo, Piezo/magnetic, or magnetic pickup combinations. We should now discuss the electronics in more detail, as this hotrod guitar has a few surprises under the hood. First let's look at the pots; The Majesty features a Custom Music Man active pre-amp, with is controlled via a push/push volume pot. This acts as a gain boost, with the pot down the pre-amp is deactivated, push the volume pot so it is in the up position and the pre-amp is activated, boosting the output of the guitar. This is ideal for sending crunch sounds into a searing overdrive, or pushing saturated lead tones into a long singing sustain.
The tone pot also features a push/push operation, which works in conjunction with the centre setting of the pickup selector, and we will come to that shortly. The Piezo volume features a push down program control that enables you to select if the output of the guitar is mono or stereo. In mono both the magnetic Piezo signals will be sent to the tip of the guitar cable, and are ideal if you’re using one amp, or if you’re recording magnetic or Piezo sound separately in a studio environment. In stereo mode the magnetic signal is sent to the tip of the cable, and the Piezo signal is sent to the ring of the output. This is a great feature, and if you use a magnetic/Piezo splitter box, simply using one cable out of the guitar in this mode, means you can then send your magnetic signal to your amp, and your Piezo to the PA or separate acoustic amp. For me this is a great feature, as all my Music Man guitars have dual outputs, and I’ve always used a double cable. Again its attention to detail like this that is a credit to the Music Man design team and John.
Now to the switching of the guitar and the Majesty features two 3 way momentary switches that utilize some of the Game Changer technology. Instead of regular analogue switches, Game Changer technology was implemented to increase the speed and clarity of the pickup switching. This was one of John’s main requests, and with this technology pickup switching is virtually seamless, with selections being under 10 milliseconds and totally quiet. As regards to the pick up configurations; when the switch is in the down position it’s the bridge humbucker, in the up position it’s the neck humbucker. In the middles position with the tone pot down, its coils 2&3, giving a glassy single coil tone. A new feature which is exclusive to the Majesty is the custom middle position setting, which is activated when the pickup selector is in the middle position and the tone pot up. This setting is (1s2)p(3s4), which basically means that coils 1 and 2 and in series, but are parallel to coils 3 and 4 which are also in series. The final switch on the top horn engages different combinations of magnetic and Piezo pickups. In the up position it’s all Piezo, whilst in the middle it’s magnetic and Piezo, which you can blend to your desired tastes with the independent volume controls. In the down position it’s all magnetic. On the rear of the guitar there are a series of small trim pots that enable you to adjust how much preamp gain boost you have, as well as bass and treble and mix control for the Piezo. Ok hopefully from what you’ve read so far you can see that the Majesty is a serious thoroughbred guitar, with a myriad of tonal options.
As I have said early, the visual design of the Majesty is very radical, but as soon as you hold it you are aware of how much thought has been put into the ergonomics of the instrument. It’s incredibly comfortable, with easy access to the higher frets, as well as a flat slim fast neck. The body of the guitar sits very snug to your body thanks to the Majesty’s smooth contours. As well as this the finish is matte, so the back of the neck doesn’t feel sticky. Sonically the Majesty is very versatile, with rich warm clean tones, as well as sparkly single coil tones. Kick in the crunch and the Majesty really sings; the bridge humbucker produces a very tight rhythm sound, and by kicking in the boost control sends the guitar into high gain saturation. The neck humbucker is very rich and warm, even with the boost kicked in making it more saturated. Hendrix bluesy tones are achieved when using a mild overdrive with the pickup selector in the middle position, and the custom middle setting gives a rich honky tone. The Piezo sound is what we have come to expect from Music Man guitars, producing a very rich full acoustic sound which would fool any soundman. Being able to blend the magnetic and Piezo pickups is a great feature; try some slightly crunchy chord arpeggios with a single coil sound and then blend in the Piezo sound underneath to add the clean crisp tone and clarity to the sound. I should also mention the new custom floating non locking bridge, which to my mind has to be the best non locking trem I’ve ever used. The tuning stability is flawless, and the performance of the whammy bar is unparalleled to any system I’ve tried before. You can raise the pitch of the notes like a Floyd, and it will do all of the slurs and gargle tricks that you would want, and return back perfectly in tune! On top of this the plate covering the saddles makes this incredibly comfortable on the picking hand.
The best way for you to get an idea of the performance and tones produced by this guitar, make sure you watch and listen to the full video demo, as well as hearing the guitar in action on this issue's Tech Session.
As this isn’t a full review, more of an overview. I’m unable to give this instrument a rating, as my personal involvement with Music Man could been seen making me biased. But I think the video demo speaks for itself; the sound and feel of this instrument is exquisite, using top grade woods and hardware, as well as featuring ground breaking electronics. Obviously this guitar falls into a high price point, so it’s for the avid Petrucci fan, and the very serious player. But if you’re looking to make the next jump up to a more pro end and highly versatile guitar, then the Majesty is well worth checking out. And if you're looking to go even further, don't forget there's also a seven string version available!