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Sustainer: First Impressions

My Fernandes Fretless Sustainer guitar arrived.

After just messing around and enjoying the sheer fretlessness of the thing
unplugged, I decided to try the Sustainer features.  Well, I flipped both 
big black switch and the little black switch to all possible combinations,
turned all three knobs to both extremes (haven't owned an electric in 3
years - forgot which way is all the way up and all the way down), and 
the Tone knob to both positions (push-up, push-down).  All to now avail... 
Sustainer wasn't sustaining anything!!!

After I stopped swearing bloody murder, stopped pulling my hair, and took a
few deep breaths, a dim memory came to light.  A memory of how the active
pickups in my fretless bass would only be activated if a cord was plugged 
its jack.  Well guess what, when I plugged a cord into my guitar, the
Sustainer came to life!

I quickly figured out what did what.  The little switch turns it on and 
The big one is a regular pickup selector.  The tone knob doubles as a 
between sustaining the "fundamental" and sustaining a harmonic. The near
volume knob controls master volume while the farther one controls Sustainer
intensity.  The Fernandes says that some models have a third sustain mode
which lets you mix between the first two.  Mine doesn't, but I'm too happy 
care right now.

The first time I heard of the Sustainer and Sustainiac, I thought these 
just made the string vibrate and you didn't have to do anything with your
right hand as far as plucking.  While the Sustainer can in fact function 
way, it doesn't have to.  What I really like off the bat is that I can do
whatever guitaristic things I like with my plucking hand to activate the
strings so the attack I want is there.  This is possible because of the
intensity knob.  I can pluck/strum/whatever, then let the Sustainer take 
if I want.   It is sooo easy now to play something, then dramatically pause
and twist the intensity knob to bring in sustained harmonics without 
having to
blow out my neighbor's eardrums with feedback.   Another thing I really 
is even with all this control, this axe can be a little wild.  Even the
fundamental sustain mode will can bring in octave harmonics depending on 
string and location on the neck you are fretting.  And the "fifths" mode
doesn't always bring in 5ths. :)  And playing with all these sustain modes 
a fretless is just exhilirating.   I've found I can slide up and down a 
and have different harmonics fade in and out with the more extreme 
settings.  To be honest I haven't had this much fun with guitar since the 
I was driving my GR700 crazy (thanks to Belew and Gayle Ellett of Djam 
I learned that the GR700 doesn't deal well with harmonics - you give it a
strong harmonic and it REALLY gets confused and starts spitting crazy stuff
all over the place).

To me, the icing on the cake is that the guitar itself is actually a pretty
decent axe.  Unplugged, you can feel the notes resonate through the neck 
body like on any quality axe.  Amazing how the working class price range
guitar has improved in recent years.  I found the natural, unplugged 
of notes at the 12th "fret" and up to be much better than expected 
(instead of
frets, there are metal lines embedded into the fingerboard).  About the 
modifications I intend to have done is replacing the stock tuners with 
locking tuners and slapping on a hex pickup to drive either a MIDI 
or a Roland VG88.   And maybe adding the glass fingerboard retrofit when it
becomes available.