Contemporary Artists and the Gibson Explorer

Contemporary Artists and the Gibson Explorer插图

Explorers in modern rock and metal bands:

The Gibson Explorer continues to be a popular choice among contemporary rock and metal bands, serving as a go-to instrument for musicians seeking powerful tones, aggressive playing styles, and a visually striking presence on stage.

In modern rock bands, guitarists embrace the Explorer’s raw and punchy sound to deliver hard-hitting riffs, soaring leads, and energetic performances. The guitar’s high-output pickups and solid construction allow for tight, articulate tones that cut through the mix, making it ideal for creating powerful and catchy guitar-driven hooks. Bands like Royal Blood and Highly Suspect have incorporated the Explorer’s dynamic and powerful sound into their modern rock soundscapes, contributing to their signature styles.

In the metal realm, the Explorer continues to be a staple for guitarists in various subgenres. From thrash to progressive metal, the guitar’s aggressive tone, fast-playing capabilities, and striking aesthetics make it a favored choice. Artists like Matt Heafy of Trivium and Jake Bowen of Periphery have utilized the Explorer’s high-gain capabilities and modern metal tone to deliver crushing riffs, intricate solos, and complex compositions that define their respective genres.

Explorers in the hands of emerging guitarists:

Emerging guitarists are also drawn to the Explorer for its unique sound and visual impact, using it as a tool to establish their own musical identities and stand out in the crowded music scene.

In the alternative and indie rock scenes, emerging guitarists embrace the Explorer’s versatility to create their own distinctive sounds. They explore a wide range of tones, from jangly cleans to gritty overdrives, adding a touch of individuality to their music. The Explorer’s iconic design further contributes to their visual appeal, helping them make a statement on stage and in promotional materials.

Explorers in experimental and avant-garde music:

The Explorer’s unconventional design and versatile sound have found their place in experimental and avant-garde music. Musicians in these genres often seek to challenge traditional notions of sound and composition, and the Explorer provides a platform for sonic experimentation.

In experimental music, artists utilize the Explorer’s unique tonal capabilities to explore unconventional playing techniques, extended techniques, and the integration of effects and electronics. The guitar’s aggressive and distinctive sound serves as a canvas for sonic exploration, allowing musicians to create textured soundscapes, atmospheric layers, and dissonant tones.

Avant-garde guitarists, such as those involved in free improvisation and contemporary classical music, appreciate the Explorer’s ability to deliver both subtle nuances and explosive bursts of sound. The guitar’s versatility enables them to navigate a wide range of musical expressions, from delicate and intricate passages to chaotic and intense sonic explorations.

Use of Explorers in fusion and progressive genres:

Explorers have found a place in fusion and progressive genres, where musicians often demand technical precision, tonal versatility, and a balance between complexity and melodic sensibility.

In fusion music, the Explorer’s ability to deliver both articulate clean tones and high-gain leads makes it a versatile instrument for guitarists looking to blend elements of jazz, rock, and other genres. The guitar’s fast-playing capabilities and ability to articulate complex chord voicings and intricate solos enable musicians to navigate the genre’s demanding improvisational nature.

Progressive rock and metal musicians also gravitate towards the Explorer for its ability to handle complex compositions, odd time signatures, and intricate arrangements. The guitar’s ergonomic design and comfortable playability allow for the execution of technical passages, intricate melodies, and extended instrumental sections.

Artists in these genres, such as Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders and Guthrie Govan, have harnessed the Explorer’s capabilities to deliver virtuosic performances, blending technical proficiency with musicality and pushing the boundaries of their respective genres.

In conclusion, the Gibson Explorer continues to have a significant presence in contemporary music, particularly in rock and metal genres. It remains a favored choice among emerging guitarists who seek powerful tones and distinctive aesthetics to establish their musical identities. The Explorer’s versatility has also made it a go-to instrument in experimental and avant-garde music, enabling musicians to explore new sonic territories. Additionally, the guitar’s tonal range, comfortable playability, and dynamic capabilities have made it a staple in fusion and progressive genres. As emerging and established artists continue to push the boundaries of contemporary music, the Explorer remains a reliable companion for those seeking sonic exploration, technical proficiency, and visual impact.

History of the Gibson Explorer

The history of the Gibson Explorer dates back to the late 1950s, a time when Gibson was looking to introduce innovative designs to compete with Fender’s popular solid-body electric guitars. The Explorer, with its radical and futuristic appearance, was unlike anything Gibson had ever produced. It was introduced in 1958 as part of a series of “modernistic” guitars, which also included the Flying V and the Moderne (which was never released initially).

History of the Gibson Explorer插图

Historical significance and impact:

The release of the Gibson Explorer was met with mixed reactions. Its angular, asymmetrical body shape was a significant departure from the traditional guitar designs of the time, which caused controversy and skepticism among musicians and consumers. Many felt that the Explorer’s unconventional appearance would hinder its acceptance in the market. However, despite the initial reservations, the Explorer went on to make a lasting impact on the guitar industry and popular music.

Evolution of the design:

The original 1958 Gibson Explorer featured a Korina (African limba) wood body and neck, with a single cutaway, two humbucking pickups, and a simple control layout. The production of Explorers, however, was short-lived, and only around 100 guitars were made before its discontinuation in 1959. Despite its limited initial success, the Explorer’s unique design started to gain attention and appreciation in the 1970s when musicians like Allen Collins of Lynyrd Skynyrd began using it on stage.

In the years that followed, Gibson made various reissues and reinterpretations of the Explorer, with changes to materials, hardware, and finishes. These included models like the Explorer II in the late 1970s and the ’84 Explorer Reissue in the 1980s. Over time, Gibson introduced different finishes, neck profiles, and electronics options to cater to the preferences of a wider range of guitarists.

Famous musicians who have played Explorers:

The Gibson Explorer has been embraced by numerous iconic guitarists throughout its history. One of the most notable early adopters of the Explorer was Jimi Hendrix, who famously played a white 1967 model during his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. This contributed to the Explorer’s growing popularity and established its association with rock music.

The Explorer’s impact in the world of hard rock and heavy metal cannot be overstated. James Hetfield of Metallica is arguably the most influential Explorer player in the genre. His use of Explorers, particularly his customized “ESP” model, became synonymous with Metallica’s powerful and aggressive sound. Hetfield’s influence inspired countless guitarists to pick up an Explorer and explore the realms of heavy metal.

Other renowned musicians who have wielded the Gibson Explorer include Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, who used an Explorer extensively during his time with Nirvana, and The Edge of U2, who incorporated an Explorer into his atmospheric and textural guitar work.

Collectibility and value of vintage Explorers:

Vintage Gibson Explorers have become highly sought-after by collectors and enthusiasts, commanding significant value in the market. The limited production numbers of the original late 1950s Explorers contribute to their rarity and exclusivity. An original 1958 Gibson Explorer in excellent condition can fetch prices well into the six-figure range in today’s vintage guitar market.

Certain factors affect the collectibility and value of vintage Explorers. The condition, originality, and provenance of the instrument play a significant role. Guitars with all-original parts, finishes, and minimal wear tend to command higher prices. Additionally, the desirability of specific model years and limited editions can drive up their value even further.

The popularity of vintage Explorers among collectors has also led to a thriving market for reissues and custom shop replicas. Gibson has released various reissue models over the years, aiming to capture the essence of the original ’58 design. These reissues provide players with an opportunity to own a faithful recreation of the classic Explorer without the astronomical price tag of an original vintage model.

Unleashing the Sound and Tone of the Gibson Explorer Guitar

Unleashing the Sound and Tone of the Gibson Explorer Guitar插图

Versatility across different musical genres:

One of the notable aspects of the Gibson Explorer is its versatility across a wide range of musical genres. While often associated with rock and metal, the Explorer’s tonal capabilities extend beyond these genres. Its well-balanced tonewoods, pickup configurations, and construction contribute to its adaptability in various musical styles.
In rock and hard rock genres, the Explorer’s inherent characteristics, such as its thick and resonant tone, sustain, and midrange emphasis, make it well-suited for delivering powerful rhythm guitar parts. The Explorer’s high-output humbucking pickups excel in producing crunchy, distorted tones, providing the necessary punch and aggression for heavy rock riffs and solos.
The Explorer’s versatility extends to blues and classic rock as well. With its warm and focused midrange, the Explorer can deliver soulful and expressive tones that are ideal for bluesy lead lines and smooth, vintage-inspired rock sounds. Its tonal versatility allows guitarists to dial in a wide range of dynamics, from gentle cleans to gritty overdrives.

Distinctive characteristics of the Explorer’s sound:

The Gibson Explorer possesses a set of distinctive sonic characteristics that contribute to its recognizable sound. The Explorer’s tonewoods play a significant role in shaping its sound. The choice of tonewoods, such as Korina, mahogany, or maple, influences the overall tonal profile of the guitar. Korina, for example, provides a warm and balanced tone with an emphasis on the midrange, resulting in a rich and smooth sound. Mahogany, known for its depth and warmth, contributes to a strong low-end response and sustain. Maple offers a brighter and more focused tonal profile, enhancing clarity and note articulation.
The Explorer’s shape and construction also impact its sound. The solid-body design, coupled with its resonant tonewoods, contributes to excellent sustain and resonance, allowing notes to ring out with clarity and depth. The inherent thickness and weight of the Explorer’s body further enhance its sustain and overall resonance, providing a robust and powerful sound.

Impact of pickups on tone:

The pickups in the Gibson Explorer play a crucial role in shaping its tonal characteristics. Gibson has utilized various pickup models in different Explorer models, providing players with a range of tonal options to suit their preferences.
The choice of pickups, such as the ’57 Classic humbuckers, Burstbuckers, or Dirty Fingers pickups, can significantly impact the overall sound of the Explorer. The ’57 Classic humbuckers are known for their vintage warmth and articulation, offering a smooth and dynamic response that is well-suited for blues, classic rock, and jazz genres. Burstbuckers provide a balanced tone with enhanced clarity and note definition, suitable for a wide range of musical styles. The Dirty Fingers pickups offer a higher output and more aggressive tone, perfect for players seeking a powerful and edgy sound for hard rock and metal genres.
The position of the pickups also affects the tonal response of the Explorer. The bridge pickup delivers a tighter and brighter tone, ideal for rhythm playing and cutting through the mix, while the neck pickup provides a warmer and smoother sound, suitable for lead playing and achieving a rounder tonal character.

Differences in sound between various Explorer models:

While the Gibson Explorer’s fundamental tonal characteristics remain consistent across different models, there can be variations in sound due to factors such as tonewoods, construction methods, and pickup configurations.
For example, the original late 1950s Explorers made from Korina exhibit a unique tonal character with a warm and balanced sound, distinctive midrange response, and excellent sustain. Reissue models made from Korina strive to capture the essence of these early Explorers, aiming for a vintage-inspired tone.
Explorers constructed from mahogany offer a rich and resonant sound, with a strong low end and warm midrange. This tonewood choice imparts a slightly darker and deeper tonal character compared to Korina.
Explorers with maple bodies or tops provide a brighter and more focused tonal profile. Maple offers enhanced note articulation, clarity, and a snappier attack. This tonewood contributes to a more pronounced high-end response and tight lows, adding definition and presence to the Explorer’s sound.

Making it Your Own: Customization and Modifications of the Gibson Explorer Guitar

Making it Your Own: Customization and Modifications of the Gibson Explorer Guitar插图

Aftermarket pickup swaps and their effects:

One of the most common modifications made to the Gibson Explorer is the installation of aftermarket pickups. Swapping out the stock pickups for different models can significantly impact the guitar’s tone and versatility. There is a wide range of aftermarket pickups available, each offering distinct sonic characteristics and tonal options.

The choice of pickups depends on the player’s preference and desired sound. Some may opt for high-output pickups for increased power and aggression, while others may prefer vintage-style pickups for a more classic and warm tone. Different pickups can provide variations in output, frequency response, and tonal shaping, allowing players to customize their Explorer to suit their playing style and musical genre.

Changing hardware to enhance performance:

Another common customization made to the Gibson Explorer involves changing hardware components to improve performance and functionality. Upgrading hardware such as tuners, bridges, and tailpieces can enhance tuning stability, intonation, sustain, and overall playability.

Replacing stock tuners with higher-quality locking tuners can improve tuning stability, making it easier to maintain accurate pitch during performances. Upgrading the bridge and tailpiece can enhance intonation, string resonance, and sustain. Options such as titanium or brass saddles, or lightweight aluminum tailpieces, can contribute to improved tonal characteristics and resonance.

Furthermore, players may choose to install additional hardware, such as tremolo systems or piezo pickups, to expand the sonic possibilities of the Explorer. These modifications allow for unique effects, alternative tunings, and a broader range of tonal textures, further customizing the guitar to meet the specific needs and creative vision of the player.

Neck modifications for improved playability:

Modifications to the neck can greatly impact the playability and feel of the Gibson Explorer. Players may choose to customize the neck profile, fingerboard radius, or fret size to suit their preferences and playing style.

Neck profiles can be modified to achieve a slimmer or chunkier feel, depending on the player’s hand size and comfort. The fingerboard radius, which determines the curvature of the fretboard, can be adjusted to provide a flatter or more rounded surface, catering to different playing techniques and string bending preferences. Fret size modifications, such as jumbo or stainless steel frets, can enhance string bending and facilitate easier fretting.

Additionally, players may opt for a satin or oil finish on the neck for a smoother and faster playing experience. This modification reduces friction, allowing the hand to glide more freely along the neck, resulting in improved speed and agility.

Artistic customization and unique paint jobs:

Some players choose to personalize their Gibson Explorer with artistic customizations and unique paint jobs. These modifications go beyond functional enhancements and focus on creating a visually distinct and personalized instrument.

Custom paint jobs can include elaborate designs, patterns, graphics, or airbrushed artwork. These artistic modifications allow players to express their individuality, make a statement, or pay homage to their favorite artists or themes. Custom finishes can also involve techniques like relic’ing, distressing, or aging the guitar to create a vintage or worn appearance.

Artistic customization not only adds a visually striking element to the Explorer but also creates a one-of-a-kind instrument that reflects the player’s personality and creativity. These unique paint jobs make the Explorer stand out on stage and contribute to its overall visual impact.

In conclusion, customization and modifications provide guitarists with the opportunity to tailor their Gibson Explorer to their specific needs, preferences, and creative vision. Aftermarket pickup swaps can significantly alter the guitar’s tone and versatility, while hardware changes enhance performance and functionality. Neck modifications improve playability and comfort, while artistic customization and unique paint jobs make the Explorer a visually distinct and personalized instrument. These modifications allow players to create an Explorer that is uniquely their own, reflecting their individuality and musical expression.

Beyond the Explorer: Other Instruments Inspired by the Gibson Explorer Guitar

Beyond the Explorer: Other Instruments Inspired by the Gibson Explorer Guitar插图

Other guitar brands producing Explorer-style models:

While the Gibson Explorer remains the iconic original, several other guitar brands have produced their own Explorer-style models, offering players alternative options with similar design aesthetics. These brands have drawn inspiration from the Explorer’s unique body shape and angular contours, creating instruments that pay homage to the original while adding their own twists.

Some notable guitar brands that have produced Explorer-style models include ESP/LTD, Jackson, Dean, and Schecter, among others. These manufacturers offer a range of Explorer-inspired guitars with variations in tonewoods, pickup configurations, and hardware options. These guitars often appeal to players seeking a more affordable alternative to the Gibson Explorer or who are looking for different tonal options and features within the Explorer design.

Signature Explorers from famous musicians:

In addition to the standard Explorer models, various guitar brands have collaborated with renowned musicians to produce signature Explorer guitars. These signature models are designed in collaboration with the artists, incorporating their preferred specifications and unique features.

For example, James Hetfield of Metallica has had several signature Explorer models through his collaboration with ESP/LTD. These guitars often feature custom finishes, specific pickup configurations, and other modifications tailored to Hetfield’s playing style and preferences.

Other notable artists, such as Alex Skolnick (Testament), Gary Holt (Slayer/Exodus), and Matthias Jabs (Scorpions), have also collaborated with guitar brands to create their own signature Explorer models. These instruments offer fans and guitarists the opportunity to own a guitar closely associated with their favorite musicians, featuring specific design elements and modifications that reflect their unique playing styles.

Bass guitars inspired by the Explorer design:

The iconic design of the Gibson Explorer has also influenced the creation of bass guitars. Bass manufacturers have drawn inspiration from the Explorer’s bold aesthetics and adapted them to suit the lower frequency range of bass instruments.

Brands like ESP/LTD, Jackson, and Ibanez have produced Explorer-style bass guitars, often incorporating similar body shapes, angular contours, and sharp lines. These basses offer players a distinctive visual presence on stage while delivering the deep and powerful tones associated with bass guitars.

Bass guitars inspired by the Explorer design can be found in various configurations, including different scale lengths, pickups, and electronics. These instruments cater to bassists seeking a unique and visually striking bass guitar that blends aesthetics and performance.

Explorers in alternative materials (e.g., acrylic, aluminum):

In addition to traditional wood construction, the Explorer design has been reimagined in alternative materials, adding a modern and experimental twist to the instrument’s aesthetics and sound.

For instance, some guitar manufacturers have produced Explorer-style guitars made from acrylic, offering transparent bodies that showcase the internal components and electronics. These guitars create a visually captivating instrument with a unique appearance, allowing players and audiences to see the inner workings of the guitar while playing.

Furthermore, there have been explorations in creating Explorer-style guitars from unconventional materials such as aluminum. These instruments offer a different tonal palette and aesthetic, with the aluminum construction adding a metallic and resonant quality to the sound.

Explorers made from alternative materials provide players with innovative options, pushing the boundaries of traditional guitar design and challenging conventions. These instruments offer a distinct visual and sonic experience, appealing to those seeking a guitar that stands out from the crowd.

In conclusion, the influence of the Gibson Explorer extends beyond the original model, inspiring other guitar brands to create Explorer-style guitars. Signature models from famous musicians offer fans and guitarists the chance to own instruments associated with their favorite artists. Bass guitars have also adopted the Explorer design, providing bassists with a visually striking and sonically powerful option. Explorers made from alternative materials further push the boundaries of design, adding a modern and experimental twist to the instrument’s aesthetics and sound. These Explorer-inspired instruments offer players a range of options, allowing them to find a guitar that suits their individual preferences and musical styles.

Historical Reissues and Reinterpretations of Gibson Explorer

Historical Reissues and Reinterpretations of Gibson Explorer插图

Gibson’s 1958 Korina Reissue and its accuracy:

Gibson has released historical reissues of the 1958 Korina Explorer, paying homage to the original model and its unique tonewood choice. The 1958 Korina Reissue seeks to recreate the essence of the original Gibson Explorer, both in terms of aesthetics and sound.

In terms of accuracy, Gibson’s 1958 Korina Reissue strives to capture the essence of the original model through meticulous attention to detail. The body and neck are constructed using korina wood, a lightweight and resonant tonewood that was utilized in the original design. The neck profile, hardware, and finish are also replicated to match the specifications of the 1958 model, ensuring an authentic playing experience.

Furthermore, the pickups and electronics of the 1958 Korina Reissue are designed to recreate the distinctive tonal characteristics of the original Explorer. Gibson carefully selects and winds the pickups to achieve the desired sound, aiming to capture the vintage vibe and tonal balance of the 1958 model.

Limited editions and anniversary models:

In addition to historical reissues, Gibson has released limited editions and anniversary models of the Explorer to commemorate significant milestones or celebrate iconic events. These special editions often feature unique finishes, custom appointments, and specific design elements that set them apart from the standard models.

Limited editions and anniversary models add a sense of exclusivity and collectibility to the Explorer lineup. These guitars appeal to collectors and enthusiasts who seek instruments with unique aesthetics or historical significance. They offer players the opportunity to own a piece of Gibson’s legacy and can become highly sought-after items within the guitar community.

Contemporary twists on the classic Explorer design:

Gibson has also introduced contemporary twists on the classic Explorer design, offering variations that cater to modern players and evolving musical styles. These contemporary models maintain the core design elements of the Explorer while incorporating modern features and enhancements.

For example, Gibson has released Explorer models with chambered bodies to reduce weight and enhance resonance. These chambered Explorers offer a comfortable playing experience without compromising on the guitar’s distinctive tone and aesthetic.

Other modern features found in contemporary Explorer models include alternative pickup configurations, coil-splitting options, ergonomic body contours, and updated hardware. These enhancements provide players with expanded tonal versatility, improved playability, and a broader range of sonic possibilities.

Reinterpretations by boutique guitar builders:

In addition to Gibson’s offerings, boutique guitar builders have also embraced the Explorer design, producing their own reinterpretations of the classic model. These builders often add their own unique touches, utilizing different tonewoods, finishes, and hardware options to create custom Explorer-style guitars.

Boutique builders may experiment with alternative tonewoods, such as exotic or reclaimed woods, to achieve specific tonal characteristics or visual aesthetics. They may also incorporate custom inlay work, innovative hardware choices, and personalized design elements to create one-of-a-kind Explorer-inspired instruments.

These reinterpretations by boutique guitar builders cater to players who seek a custom and personalized instrument that reflects their individuality and preferences. They offer a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that appeals to collectors, professionals, and discerning players looking for a unique Explorer-style guitar.

In conclusion, Gibson’s historical reissues, limited editions, and anniversary models of the Explorer pay tribute to the original design and its significant place in guitar history. Contemporary variations on the classic Explorer design incorporate modern features and enhancements to cater to the needs of today’s players. Reinterpretations by boutique guitar builders offer unique and personalized Explorer-style instruments for those seeking a custom and distinct guitar. Whether it’s the accuracy of the 1958 Korina Reissue, the exclusivity of limited editions, the contemporary twists on the classic design, or the craftsmanship of boutique builders, these offerings ensure that the Explorer remains a dynamic and evolving instrument, continuing to inspire guitarists across generations.