Entries in rickenbacker (3)


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.

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Photo of the week - October 7, 2014

Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles, at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. Fuji X-E1 with 56mm lens at f/1.2.


Guitar history - Graduate school

Last time I chronicled the guitars I started with through college. All of those are long gone, as are most that were acquired during graduate school (1996-2001). But this was an important time; along with furthering my education in psychology, this is really when I started to learn about what to look for in a good guitar and what I tend to like (e.g., mahogany). Student loans really helped with this part of my education! The fact that West Lafayette didn't have a good Martin dealer (and had an excellent Taylor dealer) very much shaped this stage.

  • Taylor 414K from 1997.Taylor 420R (1997; serial #970604026) - This came from Klaverenga Guitar & Piano in West Lafayette, where I first heard of Taylor. Sitka and rosewood. Sold it in 2001. Reflecting back on my progression through guitars, my feeling now is that Taylors are a great entry to acoustic guitars...They are very "sweet" sounding and accessible. As I got older I started to gravitate towards more complex-sounding guitars, but for me, it was a great way to get hooked on the acoustic guitar.

  • Taylor 414K (1997; serial #971030018) - A koa grand auditorium, limited from 1997. This is when I realized that there were other sized guitars than jumbos and dreadnoughts, and that I prefer 1-3/4" necks to 1-11/16". This one stayed around until 2006, give or take a couple of years, when I sold it on Craigslist.

  • Larrivée LS-05 (1995; serial #16903) - I used money from my first teaching gig to get this at Front Porch Music in Valparaiso, Indiana, in 1998. A nifty little classical-inspired steel-string guitar; ended up selling this at the Philly guitar show in 2005 or so.

  • Taylor 355 (1998; serial #9808xxxxx) - For some reason, I can't seem to be without a 12-string guitar, although admittedly, I rarely play it these days. I've been tempted to sell it, but I suspect I'd find myself wanting another 12 again in the future. This seems like a good one to keep around; a quality instrument, but without too much invested in it. Like the other Taylors, this one came from Klaverenga.

  • Tacoma Papoose P1 (1997; serial #5012) - A neat high-strung instrument with a factory-installed pickup. Bought in West Lafayette in 1999; sold on-line in 2006.

  • Taylor Baby - Mahogany top (1998; serial #981124xxx-x) - Thought I needed a travel guitar. Other than a couple of trips, this one has pretty much sat in its case.

Rickenbacker 360.

  • Rickenbacker 360 mapleglo (1999; serial #9929827) - I had wanted one of these for a long time. I had a picture of a blonde Rickenbacker 381 pinned to my wall in my dorm room at Grinnell, and when I got the Taylors my Guild seemed expendable, so I took a road trip to Elderly Music and traded it towards the 360. A beautiful guitar, although it made me realize a couple of things. First, I prefer larger necks, and the 1-5/8" neck was pretty small; second, I don't really play electric much. So I sold it (and actually made a bit of money) on Craigslist in 2010 or so. Used the money to buy an 85mm f/1.4D Nikon lens.

  • 1977 Taylor 915.Taylor 915 (1977; serial #37x....last digit missing due to a torn label when the neck was reset) - My first internet guitar purchase; I got this from a fellow in New Jersey in 1999...One of the first 400 guitars Taylor ever built...A maple jumbo with an uber-cool moustache bridge. Sold this on Craigslist in 2008 or so.

  • Larrivée Parlor Koa prototype (2000; serial #34226) - A limited run of parlors built in other woods (besides mahogany) for the NAMM show. Bought from Buffalo Brothers; sold on ebay in 2006 (and made some money on it!). A cool little guitar.