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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

Permalink Surf setup questions

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Hey all, long time lurker, first time poster. I'm interested in surf guitar, but don't know too much about it so be gentle on me!

Alright, I'm about to acquire a Fender Twin Reverb, relatively new - but free is free right?

I play guitar and bass already, but for surf I'm going for the Stratocaster reissues (diggin' the seafoam green!).

So I figure that's alright for that surf tone right?
I've read that some people swear by the Jag, some the Strat, and some swear by their own other choice. I'm pretty much settled on the Strat, but I could possibly be swayed.

But, assuming I stick with the Strat like I'd like to, what about strings? what about pick ups?
I've read Dick Dale uses some crazy thick strings, but doesn't that cause tremendous tension and stress on the neck / truss rod?
Or are there some specific strings that the community swears by?

And for pick ups: Well, I'm not even sure if you DO change the pick ups out.... But I know I've found some that claim they're designated for surf.... Would a strat with heavy strings + the twin reverb and some 'surf' pick ups be... 'too much'?.. Is there even such a thing?

Thanks all - by the way, for as long as I've been lurking I want to say that this seems like a welcoming and helpful community, so before anything gets answered I want to thank every one in advanced.

As a long-time lurker myself, I'll say you'll get a ton of good help here! For me, I love the strat, and it's my go-to for a bunch of other genres as well. As for strings, well, there's a 15 page thread on that - check out the sticky at the top of the gear forum. You'll find a ton of good info and opinions in there.

Welcome, and have fun!

Play what feels right. Seriously. The heavy strings are great for the tremolo picking. They feel right. Don't use them if you don't play that way that much if you don't like them. Get accustomed to surf and then decide what YOU need- not what some other guy- even a legend- plays. A Strat is a great all-around guitar. I have a Jag I hardly ever use and I would have never guessed that's how it would be. I end up using my Jazzmaster mostly as that is the sound I like, Duncan pickups and heavy strings. But, that doesn't cover all the sounds I like. I really love the quack of my vintage Mustang and I use a Strat Plus live a great deal. Not a real surfy look, but a hell of a workhorse. Never goes out of tune. Takes a ton of abuse. What I'm saying is you can't guess what your "thing" is going to be until you have put in the time. A guitar is a tool. I leave guitars at home wishing I could take them out as they seem more my style, but I go with what works best. Just PLAY for now. Make the music and then the part about knowing what tools you need will follow. Also, FREE is always good.

Twin Reverb is a great amp. Tons of clean volume, great vibrato and reverb as well. Can't go wrong with a Fender tube amp, especially blackface. Strats are great too, you don't need a rare Showman and Jaguar to play surf, and also I've never played with flatwound strings but I've heard they're something to look into. Best of luck!

Pretty much any single coil equipped guitar, a good tube amp, played pretty clean with an unfashionable load of reverb will get you in the right place. If you want the 'drippy' echo as well, then your only option is really a tube reverb tank, but a good amp reverb will get you by.

Anything else is details, obsession or personal preference in my opinion, but all avenues are worth exploring. I suspect we've all been there, and I wouldn't have discovered Moshay picks otherwise. Enjoy the journey. Make sure you learn some songs and don't get too bogged own with the equipment. Find a sound or tone you like and then it becomes your sound. That's probably the whole point of this post.

You are so stoked you are getting a Twin for free!

There's a mod where you can improve the Twin Reverb reverb with simply a 1/4 to RCA cable. I don't know it EXACTLY off hand so I'll let someone else post the link/explain

Way to go on the twin. Awesome.

The strat should do. Any American strat pickups will get you a good surf tone with that fender twin. Custom shop pickups are great- I can tell you I've heard some killer surf tone from texas specials et al.

Scoring the Twin Reverb is a major coup, especially if you want to play surf. I will back up what others have stated about just practicing, learning songs and getting the feel.
If you want the big drip sound like DD, you may need an outboard tank. Otherwise, with a stock AVRI or Classic Player Stratocaster, you should be good. Once you starting getting it down, maybe venture into the other Fenders or a Mosrite, but it's not neccessary.

Last edited: May 04, 2012 08:25:29

The Twin Reverb is a great amp for Surf and that platform will serve you well.

The Srat is great guitar (some say it's "the Surf guitar"). Personally I like the vintage style tremolo units like on a Jaguar or Jazzmaster. I've never been crazy about the Strat style floating trem, especially with larger strings.

If you're new to the genre I say just start a with decent set of 10s and go from there.

  • Really imho, performing Surf music is more about technique than equipment, but there's no doubt certain equipment is condusive to capturing "the sound".

I'd suggest checking out some other guitars besides the standard Fenders. Fenders are great but everybody and their cousin plays one so..? There's really a lot to choose from now-a-days.

Here's my current rig:

DiPinto Galaxie IV
DiPinto Mach 4
Fender Vibroverb RI amp
Various pedals - reverb, Tube Screamer, delay, clean boost, tuner
Strings = D'Addario 11s

METEOR IV on reverbnation

Last edited: May 04, 2012 08:39:14

Yep. What Las Barracudas said:
"•Really imho, performing Surf music is more about technique than equipment,"

One other gear comment: If you find the Twin too loud when going for that edge of break-up/tube compression effect (like D.D.), you may find a quality clean boost helpful in achieving this without becoming hearing impaired.

Last edited: May 04, 2012 08:41:13

I'm going for more of the Chantays sound, I've been trying to find info on the guitarist, but all I can find is that he used a Strat, and I've seen him use it in live performances. The other guitarist uses a Strat and some times a Jag.

But for starting out, between a Strat and a Twin Reverb I should be fine in getting a good surf sound, right? Or will I need pedals, as Strat O Rama mentioned?

Is the Twin over kill? Should I sell it for the deluxe reverb? Or does that suffer from considerable tone loss?

Thanks all for the help so far!

I had a twin as one of my very first amps (30 years ago). It was so loud that I couldn't put it past 2 without hurting my ears at the time. It ended up being a very sterile sound because you really need to push the amp to get a more musical tone. That's why many players prefer lower watt amps.

There are techniques and devices to get around this which may be worth exploring. Or, just play with the amp a bit, and if it's not your cup of tea, sell it and get something else.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is go see some live music, check out the gear, listen critically, and then engage the guitarists in discussion about it.

Danny Snyder

aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

Please check out our latest album FUTOURISM, it's a deluxe box set with original artwork from 10 artists and a bonus download sticker.

So the Twin might be too much for an apartment setting then?

Should I opt for the Deluxe Reverb?

If I were you, I'd stash it for a while. Pick up a small practice amp and start woodshedding. Once you join a band and have a rehearsal space, you can fire that baby up. If it's still too much, then look at switching. But don't be so quick to get rid of it, this forum is littered with seller's remorse ;)

Danny Snyder

aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

Please check out our latest album FUTOURISM, it's a deluxe box set with original artwork from 10 artists and a bonus download sticker.

Well, I might keep it then, because it was free - but then what amp should I go with? I've only ever heard the Twin or the Deluxe Reverb were good for surf.... I thought the Twin was THE amp for surf.

Danny Snyder

aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

Please check out our latest album FUTOURISM, it's a deluxe box set with original artwork from 10 artists and a bonus download sticker.


Danny, I appreciate it very much.

N0_Camping4U wrote:


Danny, I appreciate it very much.

This is covered in the thread Danny linked...but I'd highly recommend the Fender Mustang I amp. You can get one new for $99 and they're amazing little amps, especially for the cost. You don't need a computer but p, by using it with the Fuse software, you can really tweak amp types and effects, and it's great for practice.

Shawn Martin

I have a slightly different take on this. I would use the twin. You got it for free, so there's no need to buy another amp. It will sound just fine at low volume. Just stick it in the corner of the room & have fun. You certainly aren't going to hurt it playing it at low volumes. My Showman never leaves the house & I play through it everyday with the volume down. Sometimes I open it up, but usually I have the volume on 2 or 3. Tone-wise, to me it sounds nearly the same at 3 as it does at 10, just a whole lot louder! As for break up, your twin really isn't gonna break up. It's a clean amp. If you want a little overdrive, just put a pedal in front of it. They take pedals very well. An attenuator? I wouldn't do it unless you like to buy new tubes on a regular basis. Bottom line, just plug, play & have fun.

Otto & The Ottomans
Kennedy Custom Guitars

Last edited: May 06, 2012 02:18:11

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