Man Steve Morse Dark Lord - Limited Edition
- Review 29-12-2015
Music Man Steve Morse Dark Lord is quite a unique guitar.
(Steve as most of us will know is Deep Purple's long time
guitarist.) This particular model evolved from the Steve Morse
Y2D model, which itself in turn was an evolution from the
original Steve Morse model.
Back in 2011 the Y2D was modified by none
other than Joe Bonamassa and his former guitar tech for a
series of shows. The basic premise of the guitars remains
but Joe added chrome covers to the pickups and most importantly
a reverse headstock neck, with a profile based on his preferred
'59 Les Paul.
Music Man then asked Joe Bonamassa if the
model could make it to the production line and he was fine
with the guitar been released, as long as Music Man had Steve
Morse's blessing as after all it was originally his signature
So there we have it, a guitar with input from two guitar greats
which, is produced in a limited run both as a Ball Family
Reserve and as a Guitar Centre Ltd Edition. The later is the
one we are reviewing today, although please note that BFR
inlay aside both models are identical.
The guitar features a solid body made from
popular and is finished with a figured maple top in transparent
black which, allows to the grain to show through the polyester
finish. Polyster or "Poly" is usual for Music Man
Instruments (As opposed to Nitrocellulose for high end vintage
Fender and all Gibsons). The 25 ½ inch scale neck has
been "roasted" in high tech ovens and attaches to
the body with a five bolt plate with a sculpted heel. The
roasting process visually makes the wood look darker and also
removes the moisture and impurities for a highly stable neck.
The neck is finished with Music Mans proprietary gun stock
oil and wax blend. A separate rosewood fingerboard finishes
this off. The headstock front is painted to match the body
and the back is finished with gloss varnish, while the back
of the neck is left natural for faster playing without the
sticky varnish some players complain about on finished necks.
All the hardware is finished in chrome; frets
are jumbo sized. The rather original and unique bridge is
fixed and of Music Mans own design. Tuners are Schaller M6-IND
locking items with the trademark four up two down Music Man
arrangement to provide a straight string pull for better tuning
stability, but remember this is a reversed headstock as mentioned
earlier so it is really 4 + 2 arrangement.
Moving on to electronics, a pair of DiMarzio
humbucking pickups are installed, more specifically the DP-205
in the neck and DP-200 in the bridge position. These are both
Steve Morse signature items. A custom would single coil pickup
is also placed just in front of the bridge humbucker.
As mentioned by Steve himself the position
of the pickups is very important and is one of the reasons
the guitar has a 22 fret neck so that the neck pickup is correctly
placed. The single coil is installed as again Steve prefers
it as it cleans up better when rolling down the volume pot
during a quiet passage for example.
Pickups are selected with a standard five way switch. This
switch allows selection of the bridge, neck and single coil
in different combinations as follows.
* Position 1 (nearest to rear) Bridge Pickup
* Position 2 Single Coil and Bridge
* Position 3 Single Coil Only
* Position 4 Neck and Bridge together
* Position 5 Neck Pickup
Fit & Finish
With its price in the premium range for an
instrument we expect the fit, finish and quality to very high.
The paint finish is flawless and so far seems stands up well
to normal use. The fret work is of a high standard with very
smooth rolled edges. The gun oil infused neck makes for a
fast playing and slick instrument. Electronics are top notch
and should have no problems through years of use.
Sounds & Playability
Plugged into my Blues Junior valve amplifier
the Dark Lord is certainly a raucous guitar, capable of a
multitude of tones. Between the three pickups there are many
possibilities such as bell like Strat type tones from the
single coil, mellow jazz tones from the neck humbucker to
hard hitting overdrive from the bridge humbucker.
The guitar certainly lives up to its name
and to my ears at least has a "darker" character
than my Luke 3 or Les Paul for example. When playing live
I found myself mainly using the bridge humbucker with overdrive
or the single coil a cleaned up sound. This is one guitar
which will definitely sound its best with a treble rich amp,
like a Fender valve amp for example.
The neck although having a fairly thick and
round profile is comfortable enough to play and wasn't an
issue when I used it recently for a gig. The guitar is also
fairly light (just under 8lbs) and does not feel heavy on
At the moment it is strung with a hybrid
set of strings which are from a 10 gauge set for the treble
strings and a 9 gauge set for the lower strings. I have to
decide if to go the same way when new strings are required
or to go for a normal 9 gauge set for easier bends.
A superbly made and unique guitar, which
should appeal to guitar players of all styles.
By Ernest H Slade