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This article was originally published in issue #9
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Steve Morse isn't just one of the world's most respected guitarists, he isn't only our cover artist for this issue, he's also the brains behind one of Musicman's most interesting guitars. Danny Gill gives his impartial video verdict on the Morse Y2D, while we asked Musicman insider, Jamie Humphries, to give us a user's eye appreciation.
Steve Morse has had a very long association with the Ernie Ball Musicman company, and has been playing their guitars exclusively for more than 20 years. I myself have been a Musicman artist for the past 15 years, and work also as a demonstrator for Musicman, so I have a real in-depth knowledge of their products. My love for Musicman guitars actually started when I first saw a Musicman advert with Steve Morse in it, and I loved the look of his original blue Steve Morse model, and the cool four and two headstock design.
Having got that out of the way, it's obvious that I'm not claiming to be 100 per cent impartial on the subject of Musicman - but I do know a lot about them! Danny Gill, who filmed our review, is not a Musicman player, though, so if you like, take him as the impartial view and mine as the honest view of a user!
The Steve Morse guitar was originally based on Steve's customised Fender Telecaster that he modified himself and called the "Frankenstein Telecaster". The guitar had a Tele body, a Strat neck and a Gibson Tune-o-matic bridge. The guitar also included humbucking pickups in the neck and bridge, with a single coil fitted directly next to the bridge pickup and a slanted single coil between the neck humbucker and the single coil next to the bridge humbucker. Steve started to work with Musicman in 1986 and produced the first Steve Morse signature model. Although based on his original Frankenstein Tele, the guitar featured a double cutaway body, although still with a slab Tele-style body. The first 50 were all hand signed on the headstock by Steve, with him keeping number 1 of 50, and you can see that very guitar in our exclusive video interview in this issue. Steve has used that original guitar on every tour and album since it was first built for him! The guitar tells so many stories, with Steve even having taken a grinder to the neck joint and plate to enable him to still play it on one occasion, when his arm was set in plaster after he broke it!
The original Morse model was and still is a great guitar, but some people found the switching slightly complex; although it's pretty logical once you get your head round Steve's way of thinking. The SMY2D guitar came about as a slightly stripped down version that suited Steve's roll in Deep Purple. The guitar still has the same original double cutaway body, but the new model features a quilted maple top which comes in either a stunning "Deep Purple" or "Blue Burst". The guitar also features a clear plexiglass scratch plate, protecting the top but still allowing you to see it. The guitar includes the classic four and two head stock that serves two different purposes. The first and most important is it provides a totally straight string pull, meaning minimal friction resulting in more stable tuning. Also this design of headstock means that it is slightly smaller, and makes the guitars easier to fit in the overhead compartments of aeroplanes; that is a fact!
The guitar has a birds eye maple neck, with a rosewood board, and 22 high profile wide frets. The neck profile is also based on Steve's original Strat neck off of his old Tele.
Now onto the pickups and controls and as I have mentioned the Y2D is slightly stripped down and features three pickups instead of four found on the standard Steve Morse guitar. These comprise two custom wound DiMarzio Steve Morse pickups, delivering lower output but with slightly boosted mids. There is also a single coil pickup mounted directly next to the bridge pickup, and Steve uses this to produce cleaner tones by just flicking the five-way switch. The pickup selection is based on Steve's favourite settings from his original guitar, which features a two-way toggle, a three-way toggle and a three-way lever switch. Be sure to check out Danny's demo of the guitar to hear the different settings, which are basically bridge, bridge and single coil, single coil, neck and bridge and finally neck, so you can see you can get a wide variety of tones from the guitar, which you can also hear in my Steve Morse Tech Session, where I use my very own Y2D guitar.
The tone of this guitar is slightly brighter than the original Morse model, due to the maple top, but the guitar still produces a very tight bottom end, that Steve favours for Deep Purple, and it also has slightly those boosted mids for soloing. You can also produce shimmering cleans with the bridge humbucker split with the single coil, or the single coil on its own. The 250k pot enables you to clean up very crunchy tones, and is the perfect combination with the lower output signature pickups. The tone and volume and five-way lever are in easy reach of the picking hand for switching, and if you are familiar with Steve's playing you will know he is constantly manipulating his tone with the controls!
A signature guitar is never going to be everyone's choice of guitar, as let's face it, it's built for someone else! Steve is a very unique guitarist and is very particular about what he wants and likes, so this guitar will very much appeal to the Steve Morse fans. But saying that, this is a thoroughbred Rock guitar, capable of producing a myriad tones. The build quality is flawless; with a huge attention to detail where the finish of the instrument is concerned. And as with all Musicman guitars, the neck is to die for.
Am I biased? You could say I am as I play the instruments, and this was always going to be an issue with me writing this overview. But then ask yourself this; I'm a professional guitarist who has been playing Musicman guitars exclusively for the past 15 years, on every CD, tour, DVD and TV show I have ever performed on. I think that says enough. If you are in the market for a beautifully built, versatile and stunning instrument, then the Steve Morse Y2D should be at the top of your "must try" list.