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This article was originally published in issue #54
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In the late 70s and throughout the 80s BC Rich was the weapon of choice for many of the rock co-gnoscenti, who chose the instruments not only for their outrageous looks but the luxurious build quality and high-end appointments
A return to the classic designs of the 70s and 80s
Huge array of cool and interesting tones
The unique shape could put some players off
Many know and recognise BC Rich as “the brand with the pointy guitars,” but their heritage and quality go far deeper than that. Nick Jennison puts their latest incarnation of the Mockingbird, the MK7 through its paces.
In the late 70s and throughout the 80s BC Rich was the weapon of choice for many of the rock cognoscenti, who chose the instruments not only for their outrageous looks but the luxurious build quality and high-end appointments. Lita Ford strutted and scowled with a Warlock; Joe Perry cut a dashing silhouette with a 10-string Bich, but perhaps the most iconic model of the era was Slash’s Floyd-equipped red Mockingbird.
As a young guitarist, I was fascinated by this guitar. It looked dangerous, like an Explorer from the wrong side of the tracks. The controls looked baffling, with a vast array of switches and knobs. I had no idea what any of it did, but it looked cool.
Inspired by the classic guitars of this era, the set neck MK7 sits squarely in the middle of the updated product line, which ranges from affordable bolt-on designs all the way up to the neck-thru MK11. It’s thoroughly tricked out with about every tonal option you could possibly desire, a licensed Floyd Rose locking vibrato and a slim and fast 24-fret neck. This is not just a guitar to be photographed with - it’s a versatile, toneful, player’s guitar.
Left to their own devices, the dual humbuckers are warm and dark, with a surprisingly convincing jazzy clean tone. While you’re probably going to get scowls if you take this to your bebop gig, it’ll be the look and not the tone that’s drawing them. Distorted, the sound is thick and beefy with plenty of weight for chunky rhythms and smooth leads.
The real fun comes when you start to mess with the plentiful controls though. There are individual coil splits for each pickup and a phase reversal switch for when both pickups are active - all of which serve to “skinny up” the tone in interesting and unique ways. A slight gripe is that the phase reversal is active in the switch up position, while the coil cuts are engaged with the switches in the down position. I'd have thought a “set down for fat, up for skinny” layout would be more intuitive, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the sound. The phase reversal is gloriously quacky, and the coil splits bring a sparkle and shine to clean lines. If you’re a single-channel amp kind of gal/guy, you might try spitting the neck pickup and using the independent volume to dial in a clean sound and switch to the bridge humbucker with the volume on full for dirt. Slightly confusingly, the bridge volume is closest to the strings while the neck volume is tucked away behind the 3-way pickup switch. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it hints at the “neck for clean, bridge for everything else” approach.
By far the coolest feature on this guitar is the varitone. Unlike some other varitone designs, this one features an inductor, and progressively darkens the tone but with a subtle wah-like quality. In the first two positions, distorted leads howl and scream with a classic 70s honk. Keep rolling it off and the effect is similar to rolling back the tone control, but with more bite and snarl. It’s a really cool circuit that greatly expands the tonal palette of this already versatile guitar.
It brings me a great deal of joy to see such a return to form from BC Rich. The last decade or so hasn’t been that kind to them as a company, but it seems as though the new management has the right idea and that all important healthy love and respect for what made these guitars so impressive in the first place.
Floyd Rose Special Tremolo
6 Position Varitone Electronics
Heel-less Neck Joint