Apr 13, 2014
I’m an extremely impulsive person. Extremely. Which turns out to be an unintentional pun, because a few weeks ago, I went through a massive Extreme/Nuno Bettencourt phase. One day, I sat down to try (yet again, having failed previously) to learn the cramazing (crazy + amazing, that’s a word now) tapping passage from the Extreme classic Get the Funk Out.
But for some reason, for the first time I stopped to listen to the rhythm guitar behind the horn section, and behind Gary Cherone pretending to be Anthony Kiedis pretending to be a male stripper… and goddamn, was it funky! I’ve always known intellectually that Nuno is a great player, but it suddenly hit me just how complete a player he is – blinding fast chops combined with percussive, funky, tight rhythm playing. SO good.
And so, as you do…
I bought a Washburn N4. Whoops.
It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds, though (I think). I’ve always wanted an N4 because of its scaled down superstrat body – full sized Strat and RG shapes have always felt a little uncomfortable on me.
But yeah, in the ultimate impulse purchase, I ended up ordering one in from the great guys at Boogie Street Guitars. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re a company based in Pittsburgh who specialise in Washburn and Parker Fly guitars, with such a great relationship with these brands that they are often able to very cool special order runs for their customers, like this beauty:
I knew from drooling over this guitar years ago as a teenager that BSG were the guys to go to for Washburn-related needs. And as luck would have it, a New Old Stock 2006 N4 ESA (Ebony/Swamp Ash) popped up on their website that very morning!! And at about $1000 less than a new N4 Vintage, it seemed like a great idea!!
Thumbs up for BSG
So I sent a quick email to Eric McKenna, founder and owner of Boogie Street – and got a response back in record time!! It must have been less than an hour before I heard back from him, which was really great – we were off to a good start.
After a bit of discussion with regards to payment method, shipping etc we had a deal! I sent through some PayPal dollars and Eric shipped it off very promptly the next day.
I can’t emphasize enough how great an experience it was from a customer service point of view. From the first emails through to tracking numbers and answering any dumb questions that I had, Eric was prompt, polite and super helpful. Just great.
And another nice surprise awaited me in the case when it got through customs! A small trove of awesome merch, which I think officially makes me a card carrying Nuno fanboy now.
I know, I know. You came for the pictures.
Without further ado…
So what’s it play like?
I love it I love it I love it I love it I love it. That’s what it plays like.
But seriously though. I instantly bonded with the neck profile the moment I picked it up. I think it’s a lightly oiled finish, and it feels nice and broken in from the get go, not stiff or cold or sticky in any way. In fact, the whole guitar feels like this – almost unfinished, but in a really good way.
The N4 has a smaller width at the nut than I had expected – considering Nuno’s propensity for high octane licks and string skip tapping I had been worried that I’d be faced with a wide fretboard that my tiny hands weren’t capable of dealing with, so that was a relief. The neck profile is what I’d describe as a slim D, so it’s definitely a thin neck, just not overly wide.
The Stephen’s Extended Cutaway is certainly an interesting beast. Sitting down with it, you definitely feel the full benefit of having a neck profile that is essentially constant all the way up to the end of the fretboard, without having to worry about running into a neck joint or heel of any description. Standing up and playing, I didn’t think that it made quite as much difference seeing as it’s quite difficult to get your wrist at the right angle to place your thumb behind the cutaway section (especially if you plan in slinging it as low as Master Bettencourt does!!). But still, a really cool feature that I’m surprised has not achieved a higher profile – though I see that it’s being used on some of the newer production Washburns, which is cool.
BITE! Of course, you’re never going to quite replicate the amazing percussive groove and attack that Nuno has (it’s all in the fingers, right?), but pick up an N4 with Bill Lawrence pickups and you’ll find that you’re at least part of the way there. It’s been many years since I’ve owned or played BLs (last time being during my Dimebag phase as a teen, of course), and I was just gobsmacked at how much attack and bite these pickups have. You can definitely hear how these are an integral part of Nuno and Dime’s tone – both players known for tight, muscular guitar tone with lots of attack and definition. I ended up having to dial the Presence control down a fair bit on my Mark V compared to my normal settings. The Seymour Duncan ’59 in the neck position creates a good tonal balance, though the inherently bright and snappy swamp ash body does mean that the neck tones sound brighter than usual for this pickup. Both pickups selected together are great for compressed, snappy funk lines. Nuno has proven how versatile this pickup combination can be time and again, through all the eclectic styles Extreme incorporated into their songs, to his current gig touring with Rihanna.
Anyway, I know you guys just want to see me blunder my way through a Nuno solo, so… here you go. Laugh away
It’s a keeper. My Peavey Wolfgang is gonna have to watch itself for the top spot on the guitar rack. Great tones, playability, and quality. You don’t need to be a Nuno fanboy to like this guitar – but chances are you may end up being one anyway!!