Ibanez RG550

RG550 'Speedy' in 2014
RG550 ‘Speedy’ in 2014

Around the age of 14 I was really into Dream Theater, Steve Vai, Sun Caged and Joe Satriani. They all used more versatile instruments than my gold Les Paul, my main axe at the time. With some encouragement from my guitar teacher at the time I started my search for a guitar with a Floyd Rose tremolo, both humbucker AND single coil sounds and 24 frets.

2005, before it's refinish, but the pickguard has already been covered for the first time.
2005, before it’s refinish, but the pickguard has already been covered for the first time.

My parents and I quickly went to search through Marktplaats (a dutch subdivision of eBay) and there we found a Jackson and two RG550s. This one caught my eye so we went for it. In real life the metallic light blue finish seemed to be a dark grey (done by the previous owner) with some flares in the photo. Too bad. But the guitar was ok so I bought it anyway. Funny detail: the previous owner said it was his favourite guitar and had 2 others Ibanez guitars he wanted to sell (an RG 560 and S670 or something) and he was trying to convince me to take one of those with me. He was clearly having a hard time parting with it. And owning this guitar for nearly 13 years now I can see why.

2007, just before the refinish with a lot of stripped off 'binding' and temporary sticker graphics.
2007, just before the refinish with a lot of stripped off ‘binding’ and temporary sticker graphics.

As mentioned before the previous owner had refinished the guitar in a dark grey hammerrite finish and although it looked kinda cool I was always more about bright colours, so as the edges started to strip and I put quite a lot of dents into it I stripped the finish and refinished it in a light blue shade of metallic hammerrite. I also covered the pickguard with some silver stick-on sheets (even before the refinish) and renewed it a few times. Additionally I gave the knobs, tuner buttons and neckplate some relicing by scraping off some of the black coating. In 2016 I installed a Fernandes 401 Sustainer kit in the guitar and took out quite a bit of basswood to make it fit. It messed up the sound of the guitar (because of the circuitery) so I took it out again and filled the remaining switchholes with bolts.

This guitar was the first of my guitars to feature a treble-bleed capacitor and it’s been the inspiration to put it on all my guitars. It made this guitar even more versatile and above all more expressive. It still is one of my favourite sounding instruments and it still features the original V1, S1 and V2 pickups. Although the neck and frets have been through hell and back it doesn’t seem to have any dead spots yet so I won’t refret it soon. Don’t fix what ain’t broken. 

Lately I’ve been using this guitar to study all 6-string songs of Passion and Warfare. My guitar dates back to 1989, a year before the release of that album and 2 years after the initial introduction of this model and it’s bigger brother: the JEM. Therefor a lot of features on this guitar are quite similar to what Steve Vai had available to him during the making of that album. And I noticed already that these pickups and their placement make it possible to absolutely nail the clean sound in ‘Sisters’.

This is one of those guitars that will probably stay with me forever. It has played a huge part in my development as a guitarist and above that it still sounds great.

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