Hello all out there in guitar land. I would like to spend some time talking about the Les Paul Ultra II guitar from Epiphone. Since about 1991, I’ve been a chickin’ pickin’, plank spankin’ sort of guy, with some forays into shredding, sweep picking and economy picking a-la Frank Gambale. This was all on top of my usual repertoire. Before this, however, back in the '70s and '80s I was a straight-ahead knuckles-to-the-pickups McLaughlinesque “see who I can impress” fusion jazz rocker. I’m glad that I grew out of all of that. (So is everyone else around these parts…) The guitars that I used for this were always Gibson Melody Makers that I preferred over everything else because of their neck profile and especially because of their light weight. I have always loved, but never owned a Les Paul for the same reason; it was too heavy for me, and my back. Great guitar, don’t get me wrong — but I just couldn’t do it.
What a great joy when I strapped on the Epi Les Paul Ultra II. This mahogany body and maple cap beauty is chambered out in key places making it one of the lighter electric guitars I’ve ever had over my shoulders! One might be thinking that there is a compromise in tone if a guitar is lighter — this is not the case. This particular guitar is outfitted with Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pros in the neck position and a Seymour Duncan Custom/Custom in the bridge position. There’s only one word that comes into my head to describe the tones that I can get out of this guitar, no matter what I’m doing at the gig or at home. Juicy!
Epiphone has also seen to it that the back of the mahogany neck has a satin finish for guys like me that get stuck, promoting ease of motion. There is something else that I can’t get out of my other guitars that this one has . . . Strummmmability. Strummishness? Strumola. Strumtastic . . . I know they’re not real words, but you know what I mean. Many electrics currently available can’t handle a full on strum like Tom Petty for example who plays electric rhythm with a clean sound. Many of those guitars go out of tune or sound “clangy”. Most folks leave this up to the acoustic guitar, should they have one in their band, or just play solo. As well, most electrics go out of tune should you put a beatin on it, but this baby doesn’t. As a great added bonus, the Ultra II is also equipped with a low impedance cobalt pickup located at the end of the fingerboard. The NanoMag© pickup gives you shimmering acoustic like tones. One achieves this by just rolling back the “southern-most” knob where the tone pot would be on the front in the usual bridge pickup location. There’s also active tone and gain controls for the NanoMag pickup located on a control panel on the back of the guitar. Roll it back to the Seymour Duncan’s, give it a crank, and you’re good to go with songs like Sweet Child O’ Mine, or any fat sounding Les Paul song you can think of without missing a beat. You can noodle around with some jazz tones and I roll back the tone pot, with the neck pickup toggled, and got some very sweet, convincing jazzy archtop tones as well. That also illustrates this point: if you’re a beginner learning everything under the sun on guitar, or if you are a journeyman player taking requests of every sort - this would be the guitar for you! The lightweight construction doesn’t weigh heavily on you over a four hour gig, and the body width and bout are just pronounced enough for you to engage in hours-on-end practicing.