Signature endorsed musical gear is big business for many manufacturers. It isn’t just guitars and basses either, which get the endorsement treatment, there are signature amps, signature stomp boxes, even signature picks. Essentially they are copies of the kit used by famous artists who have tweaked it beyond the normal model.
A signature guitar may have different pick-ups than those found on a normal model, or it may simply be a certain colour.
One of PRS’s best selling guitars is the Bernie Marsden signature. Bernie Marsden, ex of Whitesnake, helped design the guitar, and insisted it would be available as an SE model only. This means it is made in Asia, rather than being a Custom model made in the USA. The price is kept down to around £500 and this probably determines it’s popularity.
Usually though, signature models are at the higher end of the price scale. All of the top priced Fender Stratocasters tend be endorsed models.
Another anomaly to this tradition is the Matt Bellamy signature guitar. Muse’s Matt Bellamy helps to design and plays guitars made by Hugh Manson, and they cost something like £4000. But he now has a signature guitar made by Cort Guitars. It looks pretty similar to the real thing, and both Manson and Bellamy helped in the project, the guitar even has Manson pick-ups… but it comes in at around £500.
You get some nice things on your cut price Bellamy which includes a Kill Switch, pressing this little button gives a stutter type effect as the pick-ups are turned off (killed). What you don’t get is the Kaoss Pad, which Bellamy is pretty well known for using. This gizmo when tapped or rubbed like a laptop mouse pad, creates what can only be described as “weird noises”… it can sample parts of what you’ve just played and repeat it back, or, most times it just seems to do it’s own thing. I guess it needs some practice to work out exactly what it does, as it seems to do something different each time it is touched. Actually to be fair, the Korg Mini Kaoss pad I tried out was attached to a very sexily named Ibanez RGKP6-WK, but it’s the same idea.
I watched a sales demo video for the Gus G signature amplifier made by Blackstar, based on their 200 watt head. All I could gather was that Ozzy Osbourne’s latest guitarist turns his amps to 10. Volume turned to 10, Gain turned to 10. That was pretty much it… it’s a standard 200 watt amp head turned to max… then he signs his name on it. Maybe I missed the tweaks…
Slash’s signature Wah pedal from Jim Dunlop has a slightly longer sweep than a normal model. When you put your foot on it and press down, it goes down a little further than normal, giving a slightly longer sweep of sound effect… a longer Waaaaaaaaaaaah if you will. People have been doing this for ages by taking the rubber bung off the pedal shaft, in fact that’s probably what Slash did way back in the day.
The Vox Joe Satriani Wah pedal is worth a look though, that is different… pricey but different. But a Wah is a Wah is a Wah Wah… They all go Wah Wah. Even my cheap and rather gorgeous Hell Babe Wah goes Wah Wah.
I guess the market for Signature gear is huge, and while people buy them, manufacturers will make them and find new muso’s to endorse. Personally, unless you’re in a tribute band, I don’t see the point. Playing guitar is about creating your own sound, not recreating somebody else’s…