Back in April 2019, I was touring the guitar shops of Manchester, and ended up with a lovely Fender 1960 Relic Stratocaster. I played a lot of guitars in those visits. One guitar which left an impression early on was a Gibson SGM.
I’d never played an SG until recently. I was surprised how light it was. This particular guitar had a weird automatic electronic tuning system, called Min-eTune, which works by picking up vibrations through the headstock, and adjusting special machine heads fitted with servo-motors. It was all a bit futuristic, and, frankly, a bit off-putting.
On top of that, being an “M” variant of the SG (effectively, an SG Junior + Min-eTune), a lot of corners had been cut to bring down price. There was no binding or pick-guard. There was no lacquer. The logo was screen-printed, and the inlays were plastic. The red stain job looked cheap. And the fretboard wood was just weird and grainy. It just felt a little bit home-made. What’s more, one of the tuning buttons was missing, and two others were cracked. I gave it a good play, had a nice chat with the shop guy, and cautiously returned it to its place in the window. It seemed a lot of money for something with so many negatives.
Six months later, I returned to the guitar shop in search of a 12-string acoustic guitar to replace the damaged one I’d sadly had to bin a while earlier. After trying the one on offer, I asked about the SG. Sure enough, it was still there, being avoided in the window. The shop guy told me he’d given the frets a polish and offered me another play. So, not wanting to be rude, I gladly obliged. It was then that I realised I really liked this guitar, warts and all. So, half an hour later, I walked out of the shop with a 2014 Gibson SGM with shiny frets.
The guitar was really well set up. The nut was cut perfectly. I had to reverse the Tune-o-matic, because it had been put on backwards. I bought a bag of used eTune machine heads off eBay, and managed to get 6 good ones with what I had. I tried to give the fretboard a makeover with lemon oil, but it was still weird when I’d finished with it. Finally, I bought a matching truss-rod wrench, and dropped the action 10 thousands of an inch, to just-about-perfect.
My practice room now hosts a Gibson and a Fender, which fight for my attention. The more I play the SG, the more I like it. It might even be my favourite at the moment. It’s a very different animal to the Strat: humbuckers instead of single coils, a mahogany body instead of alder, a 12″ fretboard radius instead of 7.25″, 24 frets instead of 21, a hard tail instead of a tremolo, and of course a 24.75″ scale instead of 25.5″. So, I can justify having both, using the “horses for courses” excuse! Sometimes it helps to be delusional, and ignore logic.