When Jeff Beck’s first signature guitar hit the streets a decade and a half or so ago, eyebrows were raised at the audacity of both Beck and Fender to put out something so… weird.
Apart from a pair of Lace Sensors joined together at the bridge, there was the neck: it was a monster! It actually felt deeper than it was wide, and the most common description was ‘baseball bat’.
Big necks do mean big tone, but there has to be some compromise in order to make a guitar do that other important thing that’s required of it – play!
Some people did find the original Beck model to their liking, and others struggled with it because they wanted to be like their hero; but the general consensus was that it was a lump too far.
So on this latest incarnation (and the later standard Beck models), out goes the huge ‘U’ of the old model and in comes a wholly manageable ‘C’ shape. Like the Clapton, Beck’s guitar has 22 frets, but here Jeff has opted for a bit more meat.
As a player renowned for his fretboard antics, it’s understandable that he would want the extra bending and vibrato facility afforded by more metal under the fingers.
The Beck also features a select alder body and maple neck – this time capped with a rosewood board.
Other differences include the modern, two-point floating vibrato with stainless steel saddles, locking Schaller tuners and an LSR roller nut; a system that provides virtually friction-free operation for Jeff’s amazing whammy antics.
One further concession to playability is a contoured heel area for extra top-end access.
Again, Lace Sensors have given way to Fender’s ‘stacked humbucker’ Ceramic Noiseless pickups. Legend has it that, when asked what he’d like in his original signature Strat, apart from the big neck Jeff asked for fake pole-pieces to be painted on to the Lace Sensors of a Strat Plus. Doubtless he’ll be pleased with the cosmetics of his latest model.
What a great neck. The thick rosewood board, 9.5-inch radius and meaty frets make for blues-rock heaven. Big bends, heavy vibrato and speed are all catered for superbly.
The set-up is dead right, and this extends to the wonderfully in-tune vibrato system. Pull up and the top three strings give a semitone, tone and minor third respectively, making some interesting pedal steel effects possible, while pressing down on the bar allows the kind of control that Beck’s playing demands. It’s a stunning player.