The concept of a signature guitar relies heavily on a unique design, innovation and communication with the artist at hand. If any of these three components are found wanting, there’s every chance you end up with an instrument that merely mimics the makers’ stock model. Ernie Ball Music Man’s St. Vincent signature guitar, thankfully, avoids falling into this trap; from design, to construction and playing experience, it’s a shining example of a signature model bringing something entirely new to the table.
A WORK OF ART
The angular shape, rounded shoulders and bold finish make the St. Vincent a striking piece of eye-candy. Like Annie Clarke herself, this is a guitar bursting with personality. The African mahogany body, in the case of the reviewer’s model, is dressed in a black, high gloss polyester finish – light bouncing off the angles of this stunning outer layer. In true EBMM style, the rosewood neck is finished with a gunstock oil and hand-rubbed wax blend, its dark earthiness combining beautifully with the smooth craftsmanship. Offset against the rosewood fingerboard are custom inlays, which add another dimension to the instrument’s futuristic character; likewise the parchment coloured pickguard against the body’s deep black finish. With Schaller locking tuners and a Music Man modern tremolo, it’s equipped with a sophisticated setup to match its aesthetic appeal.
MOVING IN SYNC
The St. Vincent is a streamlined instrument, made to interact with the player’s movement and performative expression. If you have ever seen St. Vincent play live, you will understand the sense of theatre in both her onstage presence and playing style. Thus her signature guitar has been designed to hug the body, almost acting as an extension of the torso. I use a rather short guitar strap, and so this body shape suits me well, however for players who like to let their guitar hang down low, or are looking for a substantially weighted axe, the guitar’s proportions may take some getting used to. Weighing in at a measly 3.31kg, it’s slight and slender – the compact nature of which is a real joy to play.
FIVE FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
Three DiMarzio custom mini humbuckers and a five-way selector switch navigate the guitar’s many tones. A control function diagram comes with the guitar, and helps to explain the wiring of each position: positions 1, 2, and 3 utilise a single pickup, position 4 combines all three pickups in parallel, and position 5 mixes the outer two. These unconventional electronics provide expressive tones that respond to the way you attack the guitar, and across the board offer solid, natural sustain. In position 1 there’s brightness, but it isn’t jangly, rather sweet with a pronounced sonic width. At position 3 you can dial in a bass-ier crunch and pummelling fuzz with the extra girth. The St. Vincent brings clarity and exceptional articulation to a multitude of different tones – you will find that it impacts through richness in sound, rather than relying on massive grunt.
ONE OF A KIND
The way the St. Vincent is unique is how it looks, feels and plays. Its small stature is comfortable and aesthetically appealing, while the tonal versatility on offer here is quite extraordinary – a signature guitar in the truest sense.
For more details on the range of Ernie Ball Music Man products, head to cmcmusic.com.au.
Hits and Misses
A myriad of tones
The conventionally-minded guitarist is going to struggle with this one