Entries in g.a.s. (7)


What I'm GAS-ing for, summer 2016 edition

Every couple of years I get the urge to make a list of guitars I want (see fall 2012 and fall 2014 editions). I've been playing with a gigging bluegrass band since the start of the year, so I've been playing a lot more guitar and less lap slide, banjo, mandolin etc., and am on the lookout for interesting guitars to expand my tonal palette.

  • The Paul Beard A Model Odessey (a round-neck resonator). How cool are these?
  • A gyspy jazz guitar. I'm still on the fence about it being an oval- or D-hole, although I do think the D-holes look cooler. Right now the leading contenders are instruments by DuPont and Shelley Park.
  • A Waterloo Jumbo King. More Waterloo mojo, in a bigger package.
  • A Bourgeois BK. Done! Our NSF grant was funded, so I got summer salary for the first time :-)
  • A baritone lap slide; either a Weissenborn-style or Tricone. Something with a 27-28" scale that is tuned to open C (or B?).
  • A late 40s to mid-50's Martin D-28. A '53 with a "mystery spruce" top would be perfect. An early D-21 would also fit the bill (1955-1957ish). Done! 1956 D-21. But then I remind myself that I almost always prefer mahogany guitars to rosewood.
  • One of the new Collings Traditional dreadnoughts, especially with a Sitka spruce top (since my Collings D1A has red spruce). These look sweet.


An acoustic oddity - The Rickenbacker 730S Shiloh

Prelude, part 1 - When I was in college in the mid-90s, all I wanted was a Rickenbacker electric guitar. While most 20-year old guys have pin-ups of women in bikinis in their room, I had a picture of a blonde Rickenbacker 381 on my wall. By the late-90s I was fortunate to be able to get a Rickenbacker 360 (see here), but gradually moved away from playing electric guitar and found the 1-5/8" nut width to be too small, so it moved on to a new home. However, as a fan of the Beatles, the Byrds, Tom Petty, Susanna Hoffs, and the Who, I've always had a soft spot for Rickenbackers.

Prelude, part 2 - I love mahogany guitars; my main players the last few years have been a Collings D1ASB and some various Martin D-18s (see here, here, and here). I tend to prefer mahogany guitars to rosewood, but over the last few months, the latest bout of GAS had me thinking about rosewood guitars as a way of rounding out my tonal palette. Something with a bit more bottom end than my other guitars, without getting tubby (like some rosewood Martins, at least to my ear). Given my taste for nice Martins and boutique instruments, I spent way too much time browsing at the usual rosewood suspects online: various flavors of new and vintage Martin D-28s, Collings D2Hs, Santa Cruz D/PWs and Tony Rice models, and similar offerings from Huss & Dalton and Dana Bourgeois. Sadly there aren't many good guitar shops in my neck of the woods, so I had resigned myself to waiting for the next time we took a roadtrip or taking a flyer on an online puchase.

* * * * *

Today was the semi-annual Philadelphia guitar show. I usually go to a least one of shows each year, but until last year I had never purchased anything there. This year there were some particular interesting guitars, including a 1947 D-28 (with a refinished back; $8.5k), a 1961 D-21 (~$6k), a 1947 Gibson J-50 ($6.5k), a 1950 J-50 (refinished back; could have been purchased for under $4k), a 1995 custom Martin HD-28S (i.e., 12-fret; didn't ask, but it should have been in the $2-2.5k range), a Gibson Jackson Browne model (i.e., a Roy Smeck-style guitar; $4.1k), a Collings 0002HBaaSB (or some such acronym; a 12-fret 000 with a sunburst sitka top and nice Brazilian rosewood back and sides; $6.8k), a 1953 Martin D-18 (I lusted for this same guitar last time I was at the show, but at $10k it's out of reach and not that much nicer than my '56 D-18), and a Weissenborn Style 4 Hawaiian guitar from the late-1920s ($4k). Other than the Martin HD-28S, most of these are out of my league at this point, so after wandering around the show for a couple of hours I decided to make one more loop around the hall before leaving.

I usually don't pay much attention to the booths that are primarily stocked with electric guitars, but there is usually a vender that specializes in Rickenbackers at the show, and given my affinity for them, I usually at least walk by. I was about to head home when I saw one of my guitar unicorns (i.e., super-cool, but pretty much don't exist): a Rickenbacker acoustic guitar. WTF? Rickenbacker makes acoustic guitars?

I've vaguely known about these Rickenbacker acoustics for years, but have never seen one in the flesh. And I always figured that (a) they wouldn't sound that good (at least compared to the Martins and Collings that this guitar snob tends to prefer), and (b) that the necks would be too small (they are spec-ed with a 1-5/8" neck like their electric siblings). But how often do you get the chance to play a Rickenbacker acoustic guitar? So I asked if I could take a strum...

It's a Rickenbacker 730S Shiloh, dating from November 2000; a dreadnought with a sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood back/sides, a maple and walnut laminated neck with a rosewood fretboard bound in white and sporting the classic pearloid "shark fin" inlays (very similar, in fact, to my departed 360), with gold Schaller tuners on the traditional Rick-shaped headstock, a rosewood bridge, and white binding with a classy black/white checkered purfling around the body and soundhole. It just oozes with cool.

Holy hell! This thing is an absolute cannon! But the floor of guitar show is always uber-loud thanks to all the wankers cranking up amps (yes, I did hear more than one asshat playing the intro to Stairway today) and I couldn't get a good sense of the tone of the guitar other than sensing that it didn't suck. So I offer to leave my drivers license with the seller so he'll let me take the guitar to a back room that is tucked away adjacent to the men's restroom, where at least it's a bit quieter.

First, the neck doesn't feel tiny in my hands. I prefer 1-3/4" necks usually, and can live with some 1-11/16" necks like the one on my '56 D-18. But I can't believe that I'm finding this 1-5/8" neck to be very comfortable. How can that be? My hand doesn't deceive; the Rickenbacker actually measures at 45mm, which is a smidge over 1-3/4" (yes, this geek carries a small ruler, along with a kit of flat- and fingerpicks, capos, a bar for playing lap steel, and a tuner, when going to the guitar show). So much for the specs on the Rickenbacker page which shows a 1-5/8" neck (the specs also show a 25" in scale, but this guitar measures 25-5/16"). The frets are low and flat, like (surprise) an electric guitar, which takes a bit of adjustment.

Click to read more ...


What I'm GAS-ing for, fall 2014 edition

A couple of years ago I posted on "what I'm GAS-ing for..." (i.e., what Guitars I wished I could Acquire, which is a bit of a Syndrome). Here's an updated list of what I'm currently lusting after:

  • A Weissenborn-style lap slide guitar. Mission accomplished.
  • A 12-fret dreadnought, like a D-18S or Collings D1, or a Gibson Roy Smeck-style guitar (converted original, or Fairbanks/Kopp take on this model). July 2016 update: found a nice Santa Cruz RS, all stock specs except for a European spruce top.
  • I'd like to play a Collings CJ35. I'm not necessarily jonesing to buy one, but I'm really intrigued by this guitar.
  • I have a tenor guitar incoming from luthier David Cavins, which should be here in a couple of months, and I'm looking forward to that a lot. It's here!
  • A case or gig-bag for my banjo (update: I ended up getting a Reunion Blues Continental bag). The case it came with is crap. I should probably get a better case for my vintage National Tricone Squareneck too, but I don't see taking that with me to jams much, so that's less pressing.

Ben Harper and his Weissenborn.Surprisingly, that's about it. I've pretty much satiated my desire for guitars, other than what's above. I have a banjo, mandolin, ukulele, and a couple of resonators, so I'm pretty much flush. At least until I take up the fiddle :-)

It's interesting to see that the 2012 and 2014 lists are pretty different. It's not that I've aquired everything (or anything, for that matter) from the 2012 list. But tastes and interests change. As much as I'm first and foremost a guitar player, my interest in banjo and resonator guitars has taken center-stage recently. That being said, all of the stuff on the 2012 list is still appealing to me. I was seriously considering a Martin OM-18 Authentic as my 40th birthday present, but ended up going for a Collings D1ASB instead. Would still like that Authentic, though.


So true...

(this actually isn't too far off...see here)


Einstein explains the science behind why I need another guitar


Martin 00-DB: Overcoming preconceptions

A couple of weeks ago I commented on the conservative nature of guitar players and their preferences in materials and construction techniques. Exotic tonewoods. Ebony appointments. Dovetail neck joints. Traditionally X-braced tops. And I started thinking about the use of sustainable materials in lutherie. What guitars out there have been designed and constructed with environmental concerns in mind? I started digging around and ran across a guitar that I had vaguely been aware of previously, but hadn't thought about at the time: Martin's 00-DB Jeff Tweedy signature model. I'm typically not a fan of artist-sponsored models, but this one has an understated elegance to it, and is FSC certified, fully using sustainable materials. Plus, it's got some other attributes that make it an interesting guitar...Mahogany top, sizes, and back, 00-size, deep body, 1.75" nut with a V-shaped profile. And Wilco is one of my favorite bands.

It does buck some traditional construction choices, at least by Martin standards. In particular, it doesn't use Martin's standard dovetailed neck joint; it's built with Martin's "hybrid X-bracing" rather than the bracing design that has been used by the company for a hundred years; it sports a synthetic fretbroad and bridge made of Richlite rather than ebony or rosewood.

I've been interested in a small-bodied guitar with a mahogany top for a while, so I issued a challenge to myself (as if a guitar purchase can be considered a challenge!): could I get over my preconceptions about guitars and be open to these non-traditional features? I like the idea of supporting environmental causes with my wallet; that's not a particularly difficult challenge. But I found myself slipping back into old ways as I did my internet research...What about moving up to a Santa Cruz 00 1929, a modern guitar with its fair share of vintage features? Maybe small-bodied Collings with a mahogany top? A custom mahogany-topped Martin? After a couple of weeks of cognitively chasing these options (and mentally doubling the cost of an eventual purchase), it dawned on me that I had lost the point of this guitar: The 00-DB is cool guitar that makes use of modern design and construction choices and is a statement about environmental sustainability. So here it comes...I'm looking forward to it arriving.* Here are the specs (PDF) and an article about it in Martin's The Sounding Board newsletter (PDF; #33, July 2012).

*I did play a 00-DB Jeffy Tweedy for a few minutes at a local "big-box" store where I refuse to spend money. It seems to me that this guitar is exactly opposite to the big-box store mentality. I don't understand why people shop at places like this; the prices are higher than what you can find at good independent shops and they aren't cool places to hang out. I can't comment on the sound of this guitar yet, although I enjoyed the one I played.

image source: http://thedailywilco.tumblr.com/post/20658381160/jeff-tweedy-playing-his-new-signature-series


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.