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Guitar Village Welcomes – Paul Reed Smith! PART 1

Adam Leaver: April 22, 2023
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Paul Reed Smith joins Sam in this interview for a discussion of all things PRS. From their unique pickup design to the development of PRS’ standout finishes and the creation of the all-new PRS range of pedals, join us on a deep-dive into this most exciting of guitar brands.

Full Transcript

Hi Sam from Guitar Village here and today I have the honor of being joined by the man himself Paul Reed Smith hi Paul how are you good I’m here I like being here and this is my first trip back to the UK in almost three years wow so so pandemics Bid And Gone near enough gone I hope they’re saying it’s gone I’m not sure it’s completely gone we’re still losing about 400 people A Day in the United States but down from thousands and thousands so it’s better but I think life’s got to go on and and you know I I decided to get on an airplane and come and visit everybody and here I am yeah and it’s it’s an absolute pleasure having you here so what we’re going to do is just talk about some of the models we have in just to understand a little bit more about them so this is uh the Custom 24 this is a 10 top model and this is in a custom color can you tell us about the custom color just the way we decided to to go for that when I was a kid we had a thing in America called the Sears catalog yeah and that you could buy a guitar for 100 bucks it was a green guitar with a black burst called a tisco Del Rey yes and it convinced me that making guitars was possible because for a hundred bucks they had to fret it they had to make the neck they had to put a trust right in it they’d put tuning pegs on it they had to make pickups they had to put a bridge on it they had to spray a summer said all this stuff and I just thought why don’t you just do each part better I mean as a kid it just made sense to me so really that’s the color it’s that beautiful um faded green with a burst on it so see how it’s darker here than it is here yeah that really jumps out and that’s not done with a spray gun that’s done by hand well so stained stained more and more as it goes this way wow yeah it’s it looks incredible I mean it makes the the flame Maple really pop out on this one as well you know what’s interesting you handed me that guitar and it was playing through our new pedals and it just sounded beautiful I was happy with the guitar this thing’s going to go away it’s a good sounding guitar magic guitars have a way of Disappearing have you ever find their own home they opened the case and somebody goes I’ll have that yeah I’ll have me one of that you wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve been in the shop and I’ve just been we do routine maintenance so we check the guitars make sure the strings are fresh they’re clean and so on and you restring the guitar and you play it you think this is great how’s no one bought this and then literally you wouldn’t believe the next day somebody comes in and buys it it’s like it’s magic so the Custom 24 it’s been through a lot of changes over the years it sure has the thing that interests me the most actually is the pickup so these are now TCI tuned yeah so TCI means that we are literally tuning them by changing the capacitance and inductance of the coils so if you listen to a strat there’s a high note in every note you play the pickups are literally whistling at that note no matter what note you play you hear that note all pickups do that they have a they’re like a whistle or like a parametrical as equalizer that are whistling in a note and we’re adjusting that note we’re not just adjusting what note it’s at we’re also adjusting how loud the note is okay that’s and so you know for me um these are really clear pickups met for a pedalboard that’s what those pickups in a custom 24 are made for made from and I you know they seem to work um it sounded it sounds great through all house call now yeah the um and with the Custom 24 I mean you like I said it’s been through a lot of changes you know since since its Inception I guess you’ve got you know we’re phase three locking tuners now with the phase uh three tremolo system what made you decide to go for the gold in there as well because

if you put all gold Hardware on the guitar that’s one thing then it’s a gold Hardware guitar but to have it mixed between the gold and the nickel seems to we call it hybrid Hardware it seems to give it a bit of class without being too opulent you know yes and it’s always worked for us so you know when something works just leave it alone yeah absolutely I think it looks it looks incredible on the guitar as well you know I mean I guess we have a gold fret and then a silver fret and a gold but that would wow I don’t want to do that it would it would certainly be confusing for the first kind of couple of weeks of owning the guitar trying to get used to it much money it was a joke look I was in Japan three days ago and now I’m here and so you know people don’t give much credit to jet lag but it it’ll wipe you out yes I can imagine so you yeah from from Standard Time in America you’re five hours behind us where’s Japan on the 13 hours in front of us wow see America so you you have no idea what time of day is in your head at the moment I know that I’m sitting here in a in a brand new photo studio in your place in in England that’s it that I’m aware of it’s right you’ve got Jazz with you as well to take care of you so well you do make sure you’re in the right place you guys have been a wonderful shop this place people like buying guitar sure they don’t really want to walk out without one some places you walk into a store and you you don’t want the salesperson to sell your guitar rocket here and you feel bad if you didn’t walk out with something I walked in and I wanted to buy something yeah that’s how I feel every day I think coming here let’s have a look at a couple of the other guitars then because

yes this I wanted to ask you about the colors this is uh faded well blue isn’t it yeah it looks like blue jeans it’s uh is that the most popular color on the Custom 24 would you say it’s almost the most iconic in my mind I don’t know that but there’s a lot of them in the factory and it goes really well for us and people seem to enjoy enjoy it I like it because it it’s just um you wouldn’t be so scared to ding it I mean everybody’s like don’t touch my guitar right and I’m like take it to the gig let the bass player back into you don’t worry about it if you don’t play if you don’t play it and let it do its job somebody asked me today why don’t you Relic guitars and I said it I don’t want to put War wounds in babies you can put the your own War wounds in it yeah yeah I mean it it’s why vintage guitars are so popular because you know and it surprises you get a brand new guitar and people don’t want to get that first dent in there yeah well but you get an old guitar that’s got loads of dents and people absolutely love them yeah but maybe that old guitar was made by people who knew how to make guitars and that has something to do with it too yeah which which you know makes me uh think about you know you starting out you know it’s a as a young Builder I’ve I have got a guitar that I bought in as a bit of a surprise so here we have this is a late 70s Gibson Les Paul Standard I need to take a look at it tell me this guitar would have been around just as you were kind of pottering around playing guitar and building your own so tell me what you know when you look at this guitar what made you think I’m going to build my own guitar this isn’t the guitar that made me think that which guitar I was just a guitar is where I was repairing in a repair shop um I had a 53 Les Paul with a trapeze tailpiece uh um that I thought was the beginning of understanding real neck shape I had um a lot I was the repairman for most of the old telecasters in my area it’s a lot of the old strats and you’d hold those guitars and they’d teach you they’d teach you about neck shape and they teach you about tone and they teach you about um what players look for in an instrument and they would teach you something magic coming out of the amplifier and it was fascinating actually so for me this was a guitar that I repaired in the old shop they had trouble at this period with the necks used to be warped up high there were there was that has a maple neck on it yes right before that they were three-piece mahogany necks that’s a three-piece Maple neck and then after that they were multi-layer bodies um of this ilk some of the Les Paul Customs were wonderful really yes so um this guitar is a lesson in what to do and what not to do both oh well I mean I always I always thought that these things these pointers were thumb slicers if you went faster that’s what I named I call them thumb slicers that’s why we don’t put them on our guitars but this always worked well you know simple you’re right there yeah the thing you know first chorus sections you’ve got a big distinction between it yeah all right well thanks though let’s check out a couple more of of your guitars anyway I do have a lot of questions actually regarding your Electrics why do they sound so good you know what do you do inside the guitar with the electrics to to really make these jump out no matter what mic you put on Barbra Streisand she’s not going to sound like Paul Rogers so it’s nice it’s not all the pickups although the pickups are a big deal if the guitar is making a vowel sound of an e it’s hard to get that sound out with the pickups to my ear the best sound is an on Note

ooh it’s a little low or oh it’s you know a little dark right and so we’re trying to get an eye note out of the guitar and a really good guitar the low strings have a lot of high end and the high strings are big and thick a bad guitar the low strings are really thick and the high string sound like Dolphins so uh which I don’t like so when you’re talking about that it’s a combination of working on the acoustic tone and working on the electric tone and you want the pickups to have an on note and you want the guitar to have a Honda look you can find out how to go to guitarist with stopwatch a guitar that rings for 12 seconds is not as good as a guitar that rings for 40 seconds period end of story because one of them’s deadening strings and the other one’s not so you you have uh in a safe hidden way the rules of tone and I presume this this uh this is about what you do to the guitar I watch a lot of YouTube as well you’ve done a few videos you did you did in one of the videos yes

all right we’ll get the location for everyone don’t worry it’s in my office it’s easy it’s a gun cabinet it’s a gun cabinet yeah but but I I mean you can’t tell us what’s on there I understand but it’s interesting but does that refer more to the design in terms of the building the manufacturing of guitars it’s complicated so if you make the guitar and everything on the guitar is dead right except for the third Frets in the wrong place you’ve got a problem yeah if you make the guitar dead right but the volume control jumps on it goes beep beep you got a problem if you if if you make the guitar and it sounds and plays great but you just don’t like the way it looks at all you got yourself a problem if you love the way that it sounds and looks and you don’t like the way it feels you got yourself a problem so you know guitars are almost like the opposite of grocery stores if you’re in a grocery store and they don’t have cantaloupes you still have a grocery store but if you don’t have the cantaloupe with a guitar you’re dead it’s a series of that you need all stuff so maybe that wasn’t the best analogy but I think you understand where I’m going yeah you need everything to be right so one of the rules of tone would be that the Frets have to be calculated to be exactly in the right place and you’ve got to move the nut to the right place so that it stay it plays in tune with a guitar that doesn’t stand tune or play until you get yourself problem yeah so you you want to put a guitar out there consistently which is the hardest bit I think consistency with guitars and PRS absolutely have the consistency that you’re going to get a guitar that’s going to stay in tune play well across the whole neck you know you’re not going to get dead spots which you know is very common you can have great sounding pickups in there and the guitar is going to ring acoustically as well well yeah and the rules are 21 rules and if you follow them all you got yourself a magic guitar as you break each rule you lose it okay that’s how it works uh some obviously I guess more drastic than others as well so if you

put rubber nut on it the guitar is not going to sound fair enough so so this is the the 509 can you tell us how the switching works on it so you’ve got well there’s five pickups and nine tones right so this is fairly simple standard five-way switch this one and then these two and then this one and then these two and then this one but these switches make this one a single coil in this sense single core so if you were to get rid of this coil in this coil you’d have three single coils in the guitar so all those tones are available to you so you’ve got loads of options built into one guitar just flick a switch or two and you’re there and they’re thicker than most single coils um you know very often it’s almost an art to play um really trembly single coils and people get used to playing differently it demands you play different and these single coils are in between humbuckers and and single coils so you don’t really need to relearn how you play that was the whole idea yeah absolutely I mean they sound incredible you’ve got loads of tones on board it’s a bit of a no-brainer for a lot of people that would be they’re nice but the guitar how long have you had this has been here a little bit right no this turned up um we’ve we can’t keep them in stock at the moment ready PRS what that you’re making me smile that’s great no we we’ve had a lot of demand for them you know I’ve been saying that you’re building absolutely incredible guitars at the moment the standard is so consistently high that that people are catching on to it and they they want a PRS right so I actually have a way of thinking about this imagine for a minute there’s a line between me and you I’m the worst guitar ever made and you’re the best guitarist oh man okay somewhere around here it goes guitar guitar guitar guitar it becomes a musical instrument it becomes something that you can make your living on there you could play records on and our range is pretty narrow I mean if you buy one of these off the web or you or you buy this one they’re pretty close in tone but my job is to keep moving the line up and up and up so you you have say a pocket of of quality I guess that you set as far as possible so it’s good yeah and consistent and then you just try and slide that up the scale as well so some other brands you could buy 10 of them or you get 10 of them and there’s a big range between you know a beautiful musical instrument and something that’s not going to do its job our range is much narrower and we’re always pushing it up so you know when I came in here I picked up that Custom 24 and that uh wrap around green burst fade and I thought the guitar sounded beautiful playing through the pedal so by the way this is the first time I’ve been in a store since we released the pedals wow so yeah we will we are very honored to have you as well it’s been you know it’s great it’s the first time I’ve tried the pedals out we’re gonna uh Tom’s gonna to you know show us some of the pedals on here as well um they sound incredible that’s nice we’ve been you know really really stunned by these and you’re getting really good feedback on them from from industry leaders as well you never know how that’s going to go I mean we called one of them horse meat and that’s I you know it’s been it’s not a lambasting it’s mostly positive but you know the courage of to call it that but the pedals you can name almost anything you want I can’t call a guitar horse meat that isn’t that great oh this is not Wind Through the Trees this is not Mary cries right but petals they’re more fun you can have more fun with them um my problem with petals is that people buy them and they have 50 pedals but only six of them make the pedal board and I want pedals that make the pedal board and stay on the pedal board that was the insistence I said if we’re going to do it I don’t want just any pedal I want something that’s going to make the pedal board and stay on it yeah and um somebody gave us feedback today they thought that turning Mary cries on just made it sound it was just a sound better pedal it wasn’t really a compressor which was you know that’s kind of the intention yeah step on it and somehow it sounds better I mean people using guitars as synthesizer controllers the pedal board is actually synthesizing a new sound you know yeah it’s it’s incredible actually when you look at some players pedalboards they have you know you have such extremes from the guy that turns up with two pedals they just run them off battery so then you know it’s not not cost effective to buy a power supply and then you have you know the guys that have pedal boards bigger than their guitar case yeah well I’ve seen people carry the guitar and not care about it and carry the pedal board like it was God itself so the pedal board was their guitar I don’t use a pedal I I keep a tuner pedal on my amp I unplug out of the amp plug it in the tuner pedal tune up and plug back in because I don’t want anything in my signal path straight into that but that’s old school you know that’s the way I learned um I like pedals because when you’re in the studio sometimes it’s the only thing that will modify the tone and get it out of the way the vocal and still have it be beautiful on the outside so the vocal on the base and the bass drum can be in the middle so um I don’t know I I like it I I found and over the years I’ve found beautiful petals here in England that I’ve bought and and you as you know I searched the shop when I got it what you had um I found uh things that changed the way I thought about pedals in this country I mean there’s some England likes its pedals yes we we do we’ve uh you know the the range of pedals that are available now is I couldn’t even put a number on how many pedals are available in the world but yeah we do really love our panels and the problem I find with paddles is that they’re so easy to change out because you know buying a guitar you know you can it’s two three thousand pounds on a guitar you’re not going to do that as regularly the pedal for two three hundred pounds it’s easy just to buy another one swap it out yeah and your pedal board changes so drastically that way yeah you know even swapping light for like you know you get you I think your hearing must change over time and that pillow you’ve loved for a long time also they act different with each other yes um the whole goal here was that these were usable pieces of professional audio gear that you would use you know um and so far it’s going well I I didn’t know how everybody was going to react but you know we as a team decided we would have them have the same general kind of look we would have them be um direct through when you when you turn them off you know it wouldn’t be buffered uh there was lots of things about them that we all insisted and so far so good um the results do speak for themselves as well and say are you going to do a video show people how these things work at some point yeah absolutely yeah we’re gonna yeah this is brand new demos on these and you saw earlier today I was learning how to use my own pedal I was I was playing early before we started filming uh just through the the incredible sounding Custom 24 just into our Cornell amp and and Paul was was kind of explaining how the pedal works and and kind of tinkering with it and it’s hard to get a bad sound out of these you will let me Place through the green guitar earlier and we set the pedal up maybe we should show everybody what I was showing you yeah let’s let’s do it all right so we’ve got uh straight into the amp here we’re going into our little house call now that’s just sat behind me

[Music] oh no guitar sounds great [Music]

so Shawn went through the treason please [Music]

so I’m going to turn the dry wet down a little bit make it a little teeny bit drier okay [Music]

turn it back off [Music]


[Music] even I like messing with this thing it’s just good fun right yeah so I turn the speed down a little bit on both of them a little more subtle and so you’ve got two flangers fighting each other it’s like two Leslie’s in the room going nuts you know so flanging is in a fairly short millisecond range sound travels to the air at about one millisecond of foot 1.1 milliseconds of foot so if in a Leslie it’s about three and a half milliseconds this flanger but people think on this course devices which are more like 30 milliseconds massive difference a massive difference and you know on a flange they turn this regeneration knob up which is the sound of a flasher [Music] but if you turn the Regeneration Knob Off very very [Music]

so Musical I mean you could use it on almost anything you could use it on Jazz you could use it on Country you use it on a rock you’d use it a lot of piles places we’re just learning how to use this thing and then today for the first time I turned Mary cries on at the same time which is the compressor yeah foreign [Music] [Applause]

maybe we should turn horse meat on at this time oh yeah let’s try it let’s try it


I never did that I got there’s another video on the web where he turns on all three and he’s got the high end cranked up through a Marshall and it just sounds Wicked yeah I’ll bet yeah anyway so I’ve never done that before that sounds super impressive it’s a nice thick sound but there’s still the clarity there as well the whole idea well I think this guitar so yeah it’s a 10 top you were asking me something off off camera about it being a 10 top yeah so when it comes to 10 tops we’re always told buy a 10 top if you can afford it you know because they’re just better tops but what makes it a 10 top as opposed to just a standard one originally it was on a scale of one to ten it was a ten look how deep the curl is here it’s just beautiful right and then the um the definition became clearly defined curl over the entire top but the truth is if it’s on 7 8 of the top and it’s ridiculous it’s you know there’s a little bit of room to fuss with it um I didn’t know people said buy a 10 top if you can afford it that’s new information for me um yeah we asked Paul that you showed me was a zero top it didn’t have any curl at all but that’s iconic in our in our business that’s okay but you know buying curly Maple and getting it and

um and being able to find beautiful wood and stain it right as part of the art of making instruments people have asked for a long time does it make any difference in the tone I don’t think it makes any difference I think curly would have uh of the same species same dryness as same Kiln drying sounds the same it’s interesting quilt quilt logs for quilted Maple yeah are curly on one side of the log and Plain on the other and I just don’t think it makes any difference use one second or the other yeah that’s it’s something that you hear more from acoustic guitar manufacturers you know um uh you know Bourgeois someone like that Dana Bourgeois he will he says that he keeps all the the ugly pieces of wood for his own guitars and and he builds his own guitars with all the ugly bits because he says no one’s going to want to buy them anyway but they sound so good I like using the reject wood too I actually agree with Dana something that somebody else thinks is unusable and I was like that’s going to make a magic guitar at one point I want to do a line of guitars called Magic trash take all the wood that nobody exactly what Dana’s talking about all the wood that everybody would you know wave off and make magic guitars out of it but they’re going to sound great it’s going to be a limited edition run I reckon I don’t think so well you know we have a lot of ideas that don’t make the market and then we have a lot of ideas that do make the market that Custom 24 made the market the poles Couture made the market the 509 made the market that’s fixing 594 made the market there’s an S2 sitting there right yeah we’ve got we’ve got a great looking S2 at the back yeah actually before we talk about this guitar I want to just check out the S2 well you’ve not picked it up before I I will have done but you know we we set all the guitars up when they turn up and you know you get you know like like I guess the guy’s in the factory you know you only have so much time you can actually sit and enjoy and listen to the guitars play the notes but these are an incredible guitar especially for the price point I mean you know that was the whole idea how it’s about two-fifths of money made by the same people and this is just a separate Factory from this is made in the Maryland Factory where the green guitar was made I see same as same assembly line same people and it’s just just No Frills in some ways you know you just cut back on some some of the decoration like you know crazy 10 top let’s say things like that well we also changed the way we made the next so we didn’t use a piece of mahogany that’s this big the the headstock is glued on it’s scarved on but you can’t it’s the joint is so good you can’t even see it jeez um nobody that is that is hidden yeah but was not hidden because we tried to hide his hidden because we did such a good glue joint right but that would cost us less to do without sacrificing any of the quality the way we fret them is a little bit different the way we set them up is a little different but in the end it’s got to work the guitar has got to be controllable it’s got a plug-in sound good that guitar should sound good plugged in here yeah yeah same exact setting you plug it in I don’t know if it’s in tune or not let’s say shop rules say that it won’t be let’s try it well that’s not bad that’s not bad

yeah that sounds great straight away it’s it’s very pleasant to sit with as well the Contours everything you know it’s it’s got something for everyone this guitar I’m pleased that you like it I mean look if we’ve done our job you should be able to take a guitar out of the shop and do a studio session or gig with no adjustment that’s that would be the idea right and so far that that would do both those jobs that would that makes me feel good it’s something that um that John Mayer touched on actually and in in the release of the uh the SC silver Skies it’s just how well the the guitars intonate the whole way up the neck you know it’s just incredible is there any particular magic to doing that yes you have to put the Frets in the right place and it’s not in the right place in the bridge in the right place and the saddle’s in the right place otherwise it will not yes um not so easy to do the Frets are calculated on something called the 12th root of 2 which is 1.0594631 and the reason I know that number is when I was calculating threats in the early days they didn’t have memories and calculators and I had to put the number in over and over and over again for each fret every time you recalculated the next fret I had to put 1.0594631 and then divide by that and multiply or whatever I was doing and I know the number because my calculator didn’t have a memory I couldn’t just go but you know memory memory memory it was early on look

well it’s interesting we didn’t have luthier’s Mercantile we didn’t have stu-mac we didn’t have all these websites where you could buy guitar parts that’s not the way it worked you know so when I see that and I say to the guitar maker how did you calculate the Fret side so I bought a fretboard from one of these companies that was slotted correctly I’m like okay fine but I don’t know exactly how that was done but on that one we know exactly how it was done here it’s um I guess now with with CNC machines things like that you can do that you haven’t got to have someone once you calculate them right you can go and drop in a bit and do exactly the same over and over again the thing I like about CNC machines is once they’re programmed right oh my God they’ll cut that thing exactly right ten thousand times yeah which is which is impressive I have been to the factory and seen the CNC Machines working but what’s incredible so you do have CNC machines that do do a lot of the work but there’s so much Hands-On work that goes guitars as well so the Factory’s half machinery and have people it’s a it’s a human machine really and you know it’s not it’s complicated and uh I take real Pride and how this is turning out you’re holding it and it’s doing its job for me that’s so important that it’s doing its job that you’re picking it up and you can plug into this thing and even though the Wind Through the Trees is throwing things In and Out Of Tune on on um uh you know things that are going back and forth


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