Guitars are undoubtedly the most influential piece of guitar player’s sound. While some choose to go with popular options, there is a class of guitar players who simply aren’t that quick to conform. Jerry Cantrell is one of those guitarists. Today we are going to check out a guitar that is extremely similar to one he uses, and see what makes it so attractive. The brand is G&L, which will surely rings some bells with the more experienced crowd, but new players might be left confused. G&L Superhawk tells a very interesting story that is worth checking out. That is exactly what we are about to do. Lets get to it.
Fender guitars are known all over the world. What not many people know is that Leo Fender left this brand in search for his true inspiration. The company that was born as a result of that search is called G&L. Fans of Mr. Fender will tell you that G&L is where he designed some of his best work. In all honesty, just lining up a Fender Strat and an equal G&L model proves that beyond any shadow of a doubt. Guitars such as Superhawk were designed long after Leo Fender left this world, however they are full of his spirit and passion. Here’s what Superhawk is all about.
In terms of design, a careful eye might see the silhouette of a Strat in G&L Superhawk. If this was the first thing on your mind, you are not alone. While Fender definitely did some of his best work with G&L, he didn’t really alter that Strat body shape too much. As it is, this profile is about as good as it gets. G&L Superhawk shares the same body as the guitar Cantrell was using, the Rampage. The main difference aesthetically speaking, is the addition of a neck pickup where Rampage only rocks a bridge humbucker. In many ways, Superhawk represents a logical upgrade to the Rampage.
The finish of the guitar is different as well. G&L went with a very delicate blueburst over flamed maple top. Where Cantrell’s Rampage reeked of practical simplicity, Superhawk is all about style. The guitar feels and looks like something you could easily put in a frame and hang on the wall.
What makes G&L Superhawk, as well as the older Rampage model, so awesome are the materials and hardware used. G&L went with the same select maple wood for the body, as well as the neck. This makes the guitar pretty well balanced but ultimately soft. Fretboard is an ebony piece, which makes the neck handle much more consistently.
When it comes to hardware, G&L made several awesome changes as well. Superhawk isn’t only prettier, but it is more sound than Rampage. For starters, they changed the bridge and added an G&L Saddle Lock unit. Compared to the previous piece of kit found on the Rampage, Saddle Lock feels much more comfortable and low profile during playing. Then we have the pickups. Superhawk brings that same Paul Gagon custom made humbucker, but this time you get two of them. Rampage was awesome in a sense that it focused on that single bridge pickup, forcing the user to extract the last ounce of juice out of it no matter the genre of music. While that is great for those looking for a challenge, having two at your disposal is a much better solution. Here’s the kicker, G&L complemented these humbuckers with a three-position pickup select switch and split coil knobs.
This increases the versatility and flexibility of this guitar by a large margin. In some ways, it feels like G&L took the Rampage and pushed it into adulthood.
The sound is what makes the whole Rampage/Superhawk platform popular among the pros. Passive humbuckers are known for their increased expression of detail as well as fidelity, but not so much their output. Superhawk changes that. It is still very much a passive setup, but those custom humbuckers definitely feel semi active if that makes sense. They are sharp, sensitive but ultimately pack a lot of range. With split coil available, you can switch from heavy rhythm applications to more refined lead uses.
If you are coming from a Strat background, this guitar will be a whole new type of beast. Surprisingly, a similar thing happens even if your previous axes were double humbucker setups as well. There is something about the combination of hot humbuckers and that soft maple that makes the Superhawk a very unique experience. That is exactly what many pros, including Jerry Cantrell, tend to exploit to the fullest. If you are a fan of Alice In Chains, this guitar will get you right into that sweet spot of grungy dist and meaty sound.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning how this thing feels when you handle it. Despite it sharing much with Strat side of the family, Superhawk tends to come across as bulky. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, they used maple, but they also balanced the guitar to near perfection. Neck offers a lot of real estate, however it is ultimately comfortable for both shredding and riding those riffs.
G&L guitars don’t get the attention they deserve. That is the truth that probably won’t change anytime soon. G&L Superhawk offers so much potential and versatility, that just trying one out is enough to turn even the most conservative fans of other brands. What is most unreal is the price. You can get one of these without breaking your bank account. Needless to say, the value for the money overshadows the investment with overwhelming dominance. Taking the G&L leap takes some guts, but most who make that move never look back. Their guitars are just that good. After all, these are the pinnacle of Fender’s ingenuity.