Entries in collings (14)


John EZ and the Gigolos

Last Sunday (8/15/15) some friends and I played a short set at the Lanchester Fiddlers Picnic in Atglen, PA. We called this impromtu band "John EZ and the Gigolos." I'm playing my Collings D1ASB, and the sound guy did a great job amplifying my guitar.

Thanks to Lynn for taking this videos, and to Jeff for editing/posting them.

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This looks interesting!


Thank you Mr. Collings, you made this D1A for me

A recent sampling of eight of Collings dreadnoughts, which culminated in the purchase of a D1A with a sunburst finish, has me reflecting on my attraction to Collings guitars. I have had the good fortune to own serveral Collings across the years, moving from an OM2HA to OM1SB to D1VSB to Baby 2H to CJMhASB, and now to a D1ASB (yes, I know this is a lot of acronyms, but the Collings naming/numbering system is actually pretty logical and informative when you get the hang of it). Although I have been going through a Martin phase over the last few years (see here, here, and here), I consistently have liked (and usually loved) just about every Collings guitars I've had the opportunity to play.


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40 reasons to drive 9 hours to try 8 Collings guitars

Having just turned the corner on 40, I decided that I could splurge for a new guitar. I love D-18-style guitars (i.e., mahogany and spruce dreadnoughts), and wanted something with even more cut and volume than a Martin D-18 (which I have and love; it's a classic bluegrass, folk, and singer-songwriter guitar). I dig Collings guitars, so I quicky honed in on a Collings D1A. In the past I had a D1VSB (i.e., vintage neck and sunburst top) that I traded for another Collings some years back, so I had a pretty good idea that this was the direction I wanted to go.

It's not as simple as just running down to a local shop and getting a D1A (especially since Acoustic Roots closed several years ago); there are lots of different options that one can get on top of the standard adirondack spruce and mahogany configuration:

  • standard sitka bracing vs. adirondack bracing
  • neck profile and corresponding string spacing at the saddle: 1-11/16", 1-23/32", 1-3/4" standard, vintage now, and vintage necks
  • standard vs. varnish finish
  • standard bracing or sans tongue brace
  • sunburst or natural finish
  • standard or vintage/cut-through saddle
  • other cosmetic bits like bound fretboards and pegheads, back strips, etc.

Rather than ordering online, I decided I had to get my hands and ears on guitars with these various options for a purchase of this magnitude. Luckily, a top Collings dealer is within driving distance, so I decided to take a road trip to Acoustic Music works in Pittsburgh. They have about 200 Collings in stock, and a great variety of different D1A configurations.

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Changing strings: Martin's Tony Rice "Monel" bluegrass strings

I recently picked up three sets of the new Martin Tony Rice Monel strings from Elderly Instruments. My usual strings (at least on D-sized guitars) are Martin 80/20 bronze Marquis strings in medium gauge. The Monels are a nickel alloy, and at similarly gauged (the B, D, and A strings are a shade lighter than the Marquis 80/20s). Interestingly, the Monels have slightly higher string tension (184.9 pounds) than the Marquis (181.1 pounds), although they feel a bit looser/lighter than the the 80/20s. The more important question, of course, is how they sound. Well, they have been on my 1956 D-18 for a few days, and here are my initial impressions.

Generally, my D-18 seems to have lost its mojo with these strings. There's not the same snap, crackle, and pop with them; the sizzle and power in the guitar seems to have disappeared. The Monels sound more jangly to me, and the richness and quality in the tone has melted away. The bass is muted in favor of trebles, and this is a guitar that doesn't need to lean further in that direction. Overall the volume seems lessened and there's a thinner tone. The guitar doesn't sound "bad," but the Monels don't let this special guitar shine.

The reviews and chatter on various discussion boards seem to be about 4-to-1 in favor of Martin's new Monel strings. I still have two sets and I'll try them on some other guitars, but so far I'm in the minority that doesn't love them. The question is whether I leave them on the D-18 and play them until they need to be changed (maybe they'll get better!), or if should pull them off and put my old stand-bys back on.

Of course, your experiences may differ with your guitar, ear, and preferences. And I reserve the right to change my mind as these strings break in and/or the weather (i.e., humidity) changes...

Update: I'm still not too keen on the Monels with the D-18, but I tried a set on a Collings CJ (mahogany with an adirondack top) and they okay, at least to me, on this guitar. Some of what I said before still holds (more jangle, less bass), but that works better on the CJ than the Martin. This isn't to say that they are better than the Marquis on the CJ. Just different, but in an acceptable way. I don't have the urge to immediately go back to Marquis like with my D-18. We'll see how these strings settle in on the CJ...

Update 2: My D-18 is strung back up with medium Marquis, and it has its mojo back...


Spruce, according to Collings


What I'm GAS-ing for

"GAS" = Guitar Acquisition Syndrome

Everyone knows I like guitars; nice acoustic instruments are really my only vice. If a big pile of money fell into my lap, I'd buy the following in a heartbeat:

1. A late-40's to mid-50's Martin D-28. I know that I'll never be able to afford a pre-war D-28, but one from a few years later isn't totally out of the question. Someday.

2. A mid-to-late-30's Gibson L-00 or similar. Something ultra-light, oozing with mojo. Update: ended up with one of the first Waterloo WL-14X guitars available to the public in fall of 2014. How cool are these? And at half the cost of a vintage Gibson, the price is right!

3. A Bourgeois Slope-D, Fairbanks F-35, Santa Cruz Vintage Southerner, Walker Wise RiverCollings CJ (new Mass. Street Music custom; update: what they call the "CJ35" now), and a vintage Gibson J-45 or J-50 (pre-1955). Not sure why I'm so into slope-shouldered guitars right now, but I want them. All. (note, a Kopp K-35 isn't on this list because I have one :-)

4. An early-30's Martin OM-18. Probably will never happen, so a newer OM-18GE might be as close as I get. But maybe a late-30's 00-18 or 0-18 could happen some day. Ditto on a pre-war 000-18 and contemporary 000-18 Authentic. A D-18 Authentic wouldn't be too bad either.

1953 D-28...Click to embiggen. Photo from vintage-instruments.com.


Another groovy Collings video


Dawg's 1956 D-18

Yesterday I went down to McKenzie River Music in Eugene to play some guitars. It's a fantastic shop with lots of vintage Martins as well as newer stuff by Collings, Bourgeois, Santa Cruz, etc. I played a 1966 Martin D-35 which I liked more than I had expected to, a stellar Collings DS3 with an adirondack top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides, and a nice Brazilian Bourgeois Signature D.

The superstar of the day, however, was a 1956 D-18. What an awesome guitar. Dry, punchy, yet still warm, and really light-weight. Tight-grained spruce in at the center opening up to really wide-grain at the edges. Lots of honest playwear, but it's all original and no structural issues other than the (repaired) era-typical B-string crack and three small cleated cracks on the back. It's had a neck reset so it plays great, and I was surprised that I didn't find the 1-11/16" nut width to be too tight given that I typically prefer 1-3/4".

What's even more interesting about this guitar is its backstory, although there is no formal documentation of this narrative. Apparently MRM got the guitar from a lawyer in California who said he had received the guitar in trade for legal services from David Grisman. Yep, that David Grisman, "Dawg," the fabulous mandolin player. Of course, the guys at MRM have no way of verifying this, but it's a nice story. Then in October of this year, Grisman, who is playing a show at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene that night, walks into the shop to check out some vintage instruments, and they say "hey, do you recognize this D-18?" He confirms that he swapped it for some legal work...So, no official paperwork, but the story according to the nice folks at MRM is at least consistent from two sources, including Dawg himself.

Update: 3.5 years later I visit MRM for the first time since purchasing this guitar. I remind them that I bought the '56 D-18 a few years back, and they launch into the same story about how it came from Grisman to them. So at least the story has remained consistent, which helps it credibility.

Read more about this guitar here.

(click on the pictures below to enbiggen)

pictures from www.mckenzierivermusic.com


Lyle Lovett on Collings

I know, I've been sharing lots of Collings videos recently. But I couldn't help myself with one more....Lyle Lovett talks about Collings and plays a tune.


The Collings sunburst...drool

It's no secret that I love Collings guitars...especially the sunburst variety. I've loved sunbursts ever since my first "good" guitar, a 1976 Guild D-40SB that I bought at the little music store in Grinnell, Iowa, my senior year in college. That Guild has since moved on, but I still dig a good sunburst. And no one does 'em like Collings.


The public debut of the "chubby little bear"

I've been living with my new guitar for about three weeks (the same amount of time it took it took to build it), and I've nicknamed it the "chubby little bear." Last night was my first opportunity to play it with other folks (thanks JD!), and it kept up just fine. Even though it's a "small" guitar, I think it was probably louder than the Sigma and Taylor dreadnoughts in the circle. It definitely had plenty of bass "whomp," but it's not muddy and each string has nice definition. The shorter scale makes it easy to play, although I'm still getting used to the 12-fret body.

A few people have asked me if it's my "favorite" guitar now. It certainly compares well to my others (a Martin and Collings), but has it's own unique voice. It sounds different, but just as good, as expensive small-shop (and factory) instruments. Guitars are like children (so I've heard)-- they each are different and you love them all equally. I don't have favorites, but I do feel really connected to this instrument.

The bottom line is that if you use quality materials, plan the design with care, and are attentive to the construction details, it doesn't take a pro to build a really fantastic sounding guitar. I'm looking forward getting to know #1 more in the months and years to come and to building #2 eventually!


Inside Collings Guitars: "Instrumental" by Tim Edwards

Man, I love Collings guitars. Kudos to Bill Collings and his crew for making some of the best guitars (and mandos and ukes) out there. This is a great short film about the Collings way of thinking about and building guitars.


Photo of the week - March 15, 2011

Nikon 10.5mm DX fisheye @ f/4.5, 6 seconds, on a Nikon D90. Converted with Nik Silver Efex Pro. Oh, and that's my Collings OM1SB.