The G&L SC-2

The G&L SC-2 

My dad bought me an original SC-1 way back in 1981 or '82.  I had that guitar for more than 20 years before finally selling it to a collector (I actually bought and sold that guitar three times before getting rid of it for good).  The original version was a one-trick pony: it featured very wide and very low frets on a vintage radius neck that was carved pencil thin and coated in a thick finish. It was also limited to one rectangular MFD pickup in the bridge. It was fine for a student playing cowboy chords, and it sounded great but perhaps too bright. However, it was not much of a player. My difficulty in letting it go was purely sentimental and not due to musical considerations.

G&L has reissued the SC in a two-pickup version and, happily, the design is not true to the original.  I had the opportunity to bag a hardtail in Belair green for $650 (mint condition with warranty -- this was a situation of dealer inventory being bought up by another dealer resulting in a new guitar for a 'used' price). If I had paid a couple hundred more I would still consider it a good deal.

Deviating from the 80s, today’s neck is chunky but fast, the radius has been bumped out to a modern 12” and the fretwork (due in part to the Plek process) is pretty good.  The neck pickup is woody and spanky and the bridge pickup (overwound) is hot and sultry – it will excite your amp.  However, it is a little too hot and mid-rangey for me so I rarely use this guitar for anything more than the neck pickup or the in-between sounds with the volume backed down a bit.

Combined, the ‘in-between’ sound is bouncy and articulate. The guitar sounds unique.  And, of course, G&L uses high quality pots so you can roll back the volume to dial in sweeter tones on the bridge pup.

You have your choice of hard-tail or vibrato bridge and a few colors [update! The SC-2 is now available in any G&L color you care to order]. The only thing you might miss is the maple fretboard option – for the time being anyway, they’re only available in rosewood. Maple with a vintage tint and Belair green would have looked amazing! 

Strung up with a set of 9’s the action is low with the right amount of ‘dig’ around the 12th and 14th frets.  Spunky is the word here. Unlike the originals, the new SC is a joy to play from the first position to the top of the neck.  The body is small and light giving the guitar a very resonant and lively feel. 

Nothing is missing from the SC-2 that detracts from the G&L experience: all the hardware is American-made and solid as hell. The maple and the rosewood in the neck are top grade and I even like the frumpy headstock – noticeably less frumpy than the originals but still sufficiently frumpy! Though, it is a bit large. They could have scaled it down by 10% and it would have looked better.

Problems? Only a couple of minor complaints: whoever buffed the neck out failed to get the satin finish all satiny on one spot on the back of the headstock and the guitar is neck-heavy. Obviously, this is not PRS level quality but not bad either. 

This guitar is perfect for just about any style other than metal -- face it, Belair green with white pickups looks too happy and surftastic for that kind of stuff. 

The SC-2 is one of the best deals in electric guitars today: an American guitar with top shelf components for the price of an Exploitistan import. But that's the story of G&L these days: killer guitars at very reasonable guitars -- and the company just keeps improving

How could it be improved? Stainless steel frets would be killer and oversized fretboard position dots from the old days – that would have been a nice touch. If you’re looking for something different than the old Strat and Lester tones it would be stupid not to give an SC-2 a test drive if you can live with the looks.

[Update. G&L has recently made SS frets an option]

Further: the neck carve is great in itself but G&L probably should have stuck with the thin carve from back in the day and lowered the weight of the neck in so doing. That, and probably reducing the headstock size a bit would have made a more balanced instrument.

My biggest gripe pertains to the balance and weight. It is neck-heavy and might dive on you depending upon your strap.

More of a problem is the bridge pickup. Some people like overwound pickups but I do not. The bridge MFD is just too hot and does not balance with the neck pickup that well w/o rolling the volume back some -- it's like two different guitars in one rather than a single instrument.

UPDATE: These days I rarely ever play this SC except when I want its neck pickup tone for a spot or two in a recording. It just never won a place in my stable of go-to guitars. That's pretty much the case for all my G&L guitars....over the years, they've been displaced by better guitars from PRS and Suhr. I may order a replacement bridge pup and see if I can't forge a new relationship with this guitar, but, considering I already have all my bread and butter tones covered with other great instruments, this SC will probably just remain a niche instrument I pull out a couple times per year for its quirky vibe.