I blame my younger brother for this one. As some of you may know, if you’ve read my blog long enough, that I sold my beloved Historic Les Paul when I moved to Davao. Along with that I sold my vintage ’58 Fender Harvard. I had determined that maybe this wasn’t the best environment for them, and of course I needed the money.
Before I sold those I had made a new plan, and that was to buy and play an acoustic. I purchased an Epiphone Masterbuilt AJ-500R that was made in China but a very nice guitar none the less. I had that shipped over and I’m glad I did. So what happened?
I will admit that it had started before my visit to see my brother. I had been stopping in at the local JB Music in SM City and had grown fond of a Hamer Echotone that they had there. It is a ES-335 style guitar, made in Indonesia, and they had one in my favorite finish – tobacco sunburst. I was surprised at how well it played, even considering the strings had probably been on it for years. It was much better than I had thought it would be, and it was only about $450-500 USD. But I had been able to resist buying it. I didn’t really have the money, and I had no amp to play it through.
That all changed when I, finally, paid a visit to my brother in Manila. My brother is a jazz musician, mostly sax and some flute. He is also involved in a club there. We spent most of our time at his club, or the clubs he was playing. That really got the itch going for me again. I’ve never been at the level that you could consider professional, but I did play in local bands when I was much younger. Seeing him, and others play really made me want to get back into it. Not that I expect to play out, but I have the time to study and practice. A perfect way to keep from getting bored.
I actually saw another Echotone for sale in Manila, and tried to buy it but the owner had it sold already. So when I got back to Davao I got serious about getting the guitar. I was able to “hangyo” with the manager of the local JB and got the new guitar for almost the same price as the used one in Manila. I felt pretty good about that. They weren’t hurting though, because of course that led me to buying an amp, too.
The choices aren’t good here for amps, either. I found that they carried Laney and that there was a series from them that used tubes, the only thing that I would consider. The middle model, Cub 10, used the tubes that I prefer (the same as my Harvard) – 6V6GT for the power tubes and is also 220v. It took me awhile to get around to getting the amp, money at first and then they had trouble getting it in.
So all that brings me to how this relates to living here. To start the choices for musical instruments is limited if you want good quality. There are stores that carry Fender (Perfect Pitch) and Gibson/Ephiphone (Crescendo) but they mostly have the low end stuff and it is REALLY expensive. I believe you can order in the better guitars, but you might be better off making a trip to the states, as you would surely save money and get to pick what you really wanted, with a chance to play it first.
Also parts, decent ones, are mostly not available here. The Echotone has inferior electronics, tuners and pickups. These are parts I’ll change out, but I didn’t get them here. I’m having a balikbayan box sent over with them. For example, there are literally hundreds of Humbucking pickups available in the US, and even up to a hundred or so of the PAF (vintage pickup) copies that are the style I like. There are NONE in Davao, and I was not able to find any in Manila either. Other parts like the tuners have numerous choices and brands overseas, but you are pretty much stuck with a few Asian low quality ones here. I won’t go on part by part, but the point is there is next to nothing here, and seemingly unlimited choices elsewhere.
The same is true for the amp. I’ll change the speaker. There are a few choices here, but…. so many, even custom in the US and elsewhere.
The other thing, since there are so few quality guitars, is is really no one to work on them here. Things like setups, nut jobs, fret work, etc. is really not an option. I imagine it would be a difficult go to make a living at that, but it seems like a nice side line and I’m wishing I would have apprenticed in that trade, as I had often thought about doing. In the meantime, I’ll attempt my own but changing frets is out of the question.
Just to be clear, the guitar and amp can be played as is, without upgrades. Having done this for many years, the upgrades are half the fun for me. I like trying to get a certain sound, and tinkering with the equipment to do so. They are usable as is….but they could be better
I’m really happy to have an electric guitar again. The 335 style has always appealed to me, and this Hamer Echotone is a really nice inexpensive example. It gives me something to pass the time, both with playing and upgrading it.
I recently meet a professional blues guitar player here (blues is what I play, too). He sent over his guitars and amps. If you are serious about it, that is really your only choice. But if you are just doing for home use, like me, there are options that are not so bad here.