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This article was originally published in issue #27
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Desperate to get your hands on a John Petrucci guitar but feel the new Majesty is out of reach? Fear not - there are plenty of JP Music Man models to choose from, including guitars in the 'Sterling by Music Man' range.
Based on the uberbucks Music Man JP6, this is the John Petrucci signature guitar for mortals from Sterling By Music Man. However, whilst this guitar has been assembled with cost in mind it’s clear that standards are still high; the guitars are manufactured in Indonesia but are then shipped over to Music Man headquarters for a once-over in Orange County before being unleashed on the public. Although the quality of Indonesian guitar manufacture has rocketed in recent years, it’s reassuring to see that Sterling is performing final set-ups on guitars which carry its name!
The specs of this multinational guitar are also reassuring, starting with a basswood body, maple neck and a quality piece of rosewood for the fretboard. The guitar features all SBMM’s own hardware in chrome, with locking tuners and an SBMM Modern tremolo. I found both to be superb and tuning stability was fantastic throughout most of my time with the instrument. The floating bridge felt smooth and I found it extremely easy to accurately manipulate pitches thanks to its responsiveness to micro-movements. My only niggle was the allen-key required to adjust the bar itself, a design I have personally never liked. As great as it is for setting up the bar to perfection, I find that playing about with an allen-key on a gig whilst trying to make a quick adjustment is an absolute pain. That aside, the hardware overall was more than satisfactory.
The neck itself was supremely comfortable, a feature that I expected from a guitar that John Petrucci has placed his name on. Featuring a 25.5” scale, 24 jumbo frets and JP Shield inlays, the guitar was set up to perfection straight out of the box. The action was low and fast, inviting the player to shred all over it with terrific upper-fret access thanks to a great cutaway and well-designed five-bolt neck joint. The 16” radius also made a lot of sense on this instrument, being flat enough to help ease wide-stretch runs whilst still having just enough curvature to make chords feel comfortable under the hand.
The guitar features a set of SBMM's own pickups in an H/H configuration. This was a slight disappointment at first, considering the vast array of signature DiMarzio pickups John and Music Man has at their disposal, but I needn't have worried. As it happens, there are versions of this guitar fitted with DiMarzios, but for some reason they cost a lot more - so much more, in fact, that it's hard to see if the extra is really worthwhile. Why? Because The JP60 has an impressive variety of tones under its command, with extremely usable clean tones in the bridge and neck with a three-way switch also accessing a split position in the middle. The bridge had sufficient bite but it was the neck pickup that really shone with clean sounds, producing an extremely full tone that was bright but warmed up beautifully as the tone knob was rolled back a notch.
Once the overdrive was engaged the guitar really came into its own, with a fantastic Rock tone from the bridge pickup that cleaned up well when the output was reduced via the volume knob. The neck pickup was a real winner once again, striking me as particularly articulate for fast picking lines within a high overdrive scenario.
The guitar was finished to a very high standard, with smooth fret edges and no blemishes in the lacquer or paint job. The body shape of the JP60 is extremely ergonomic, with a deep contoured forearm scoop that encourages your picking arm to rest naturally in the perfect position. In general the instrument is extremely comfortable to play for extended periods and has well-placed volume, tone and pickup selector switches to ensure they are easily at hand without getting in the way.
Overall the SBMM JP60 is a fantastic modern Rock guitar that is versatile enough to be used in multiple genres and scenarios whilst still offering all the expected standards and playability of contemporary guitar design. Although all the hardware and pickups are SBMM’s own brand, I found them to be of high quality and this hasn’t detracted from the guitars functionality.
The JP60 should definitely please John Petrucci fans and anybody looking for a solid workhorse of an instrument that excels in rock but could easily be used for multiple other styles and applications.