Friday, February 20, 2009

Guitar Fridays: Ibanez JEM Series

This guitar is a little different from the previous ones I've posted about in that it's artist specific. Or at least originated that way. But before we get to that, let's look at the guitar itself.

This guitar sports an alder body, 24 frets with a rosewood fingerboard, an Edge Pro locking bridge system, DiMarzio pickups in a HSH configuration (humbucker, single coil, humbucker), and a look that beckons to be touched.

This sleek and sexy guitar is incredibly versatile. The transparency of sound from the pickups and their 5 different sonic configurations really allow for a wide range of tones, from blues to metal, to even jazz. But it's mostly known for one thing: pyrotechnics. This thing is not only designed for sonic variety, but for speed, accuracy, and whammy extravaganzas.

The JEM was born in the shred-heady days of the late 80s and came to prominence with the help of co-creator Steve Vai. It now has several iterations, including the infamous Universe seven string guitar (which single-handedly ushered in the uber-low nu-metal of the late 90s, early 00s--so if you're a fan, thank Steve). If you're looking for a versatile axe that screams sex appeal even when silent, the JEM is choice for you.

For examples of the JEM in action, I highly recommend Steve Vai's Passion and Warfare.* It is simply one of the greatest guitar albums ever made. Even though it's a shred-tastic wankfest, there are wonderful moments of soulful and emotive playing that few shredders are able to pull off. It's a virtuoso performance by one of the best players alive.

For a quick video of Steve putting the JEM through its paces, here is Tender Surrender from Alien Love Secrets. One of my personal favorites.

Tender Surrender

* The song Alien Water Kiss was purely an improvised piece used with heavy effects. So for the album's official sheet music, Steve had an artist create a beautiful representation of what the sheet music would look like, including strange notations, notes that trailed off the page, and even a puckering fish (yes, strangely enough, it worked).


Elize Morgan said...

Ibanez has a great sound overall. I've used an Ibanez bass (different, granted!) for years, and she was used before I got her and the sound is still beautiful.

I love them. They've got a good heft to them, as well, which is nice.

psa said...

I swear by Ibanez for value, quality and playability. I have five of them, an Artwood acoustic for gigging that is all tone despite not being too deep of body. I have my first Ibanez, a beloved Concord acoustic, so ugly that its beautiful, that I've had for almost thirty years. That guitar plays and sounds incredible and ended up on quite a few albums after people picked it up in the studio and wouldn't put it down. I also have three of the Artcore series electrics, a semi-hollow and two hollow body instruments. I'd consider dropping some new pickups in but they are about as good a guitar as can be had for the low price asked. Fanboy rant over. And what the hell is with Vai and his freakishly long fingers. Jeeziz, his hands are bigger than Ann Coulter's.

Dave Shepherd said...

The 80's gave rise to a battalion of unmemorable stunt guitarists (to borrow Frank Zappa's perfect description), but somehow Steve Vai managed to stand apart. While I don't pay the attention to virtuoso musicianship that I used to, in the rare moments when I want to celebrate the outrageous limits of technique, very few do it with such verve and style.

The Minstrel Boy said...

excellent discussion of a great and versatile guitar, and a very great player.

(it's no small wonder that steve is almost constantly picked up to be the devil, or the devil's rep in guitar duels for the soul)

one of the things that sets vai absolutely apart from everybody else is that his style is totally his, instantly identifiable.

he sounds like steve vai on every note. that's rarer than you think.

dsquared said...

Known to generations of metalheads as "the one with the silly carrying handle"

caseyko74 said...

I just want to say I love these pieces. Nice info into a world I know nothing about. Keep it up.

Christina said...

dsquared, I was going to make a joke about the "carrying handle."

Last Friday when I read this, I didn't think I play with any guys who play Ibanez guitars but then noticed on Monday night that a guy in my soul band is playing a Ibanez. I focused on his sound all night and concluded it was satisfying.

As for Steve Vai... can't get into him much. :-( I recognize he's talented and has chops but his music doesn't move me. I feel the same way about Satriani. Maybe I'm not smart enough to get them?

Anonymous said...


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Anonymous said...

I own this guitar and it's one I play most often. You can play any style with this one. The neck is thin and just has a great feel like no other guitar you will lay your hands around.

As for the "carrying handle" or Monkey Grip ( it's official name ) it's actually quite functional. I find myself using it every time I throw the guitar strap on or off my shoulder.

I urge any guitar player out there to at least test drive one at your local guitar shop. You will be hooked and find yourself taking one home as well.