Guitar Talk


Because of the recent spate of guitar questions, I’ve decided to give those of you who are interested a page or two on it. Use it as a reference, burn it in disgust, or change it to your own taste. It’ll probably change anyway. Here goes….

I would have to say that the Washburn served me well when I was in the electric/acoustic mindset. It is a mirage’. NOT a ‘mirage de luxe’. It had a limited tonal range for a solo performer. Something we were always fighting. The reason I stayed with it so long was that it was nice to play. Still is.

A much more rounded sound was achieved with the Gibson ‘Chet Atkins’. Deep in the bass and resonant at the top. However, the B string was a problem because with some impedance’s it became too loud, uncontrollable, influenced the sound, and then the gig. Trying to avoid playing too hard on it, whilst trying to favour all the other strings around it. Great stuff, especially when you’re singing a song that you don’t really know that well. Two distractions are usually enough to render performance less than would be hoped for.

Takamine are good but strictly a live thing. You wouldn’t want to sit round the campfire of an AKG C12 with one. That really would be unplugged. Some of them can be nice to play, but eventually you are faced with the sound that they are not making. You can search and probably find one that sounds better than the rest in it’s class; but that’s a fluke. Same with Fender and Yamaha. Occasionally I used to find a very good Yamaha, but that was when they were £25 and made in Japan, (they are now made in Korea or Indonesia, or by some headhunters in outer upper North Borneo. Places where you would go to find a world class poison blow dart, and plenty of wood, but not usually shaped in the spanish style), and all the guitar shops were on Shaftsbury Avenue!

Godin I have found to be too mushy. You cant really seem to hear individual strings that well. Ovation are good all rounders, but you have to get lucky in the upper reaches of the brand. A bit tinny sometimes. However, they are consistent. They probably need fashion consultants at present. If only to make the older marques more desirable.

The real acoustic guitars are now being built with pickup systems that make them more reliable for electrically enforced performance. Look out for laminated  stuff.. it’s generally rubbish. Gibson have some decent shapes and sizes in the acoustic range and then there are the specialist guitar makers who are quite good, people like Manson, Lowden and Brook, but you’re getting expensive now. And of that sort of range I think that The Santa Cruz Guitar Co. is probably one of the most expensive and also one of the least consistent and overrated. A finicky item. I did find one good one once, but most I pick up in shops get put down again very quickly. I wanted the aforementioned guitar,  but even after three e-mails they never got back to me. My trust evaporated.

I would have to say that the best guitar in general distribution, for the money, in the world, right now is the Martin HD 28. They’ve hit a great seam with that guitar at present. There is probably the best man/woman in the factory working on that one. Or they got lucky with some great wood allocated to that model, or the design really works. Who knows? And it’s 3:07am right now.. and I have to go to bed. There’s another good Martin as well in the 00 series. I think that it’s the 0M42 (orchestra!) Special. Consistently great guitar. Martin have their act back together now, but only if you’re going to pay over £1500. The cheaper stuff is just that.

The best of all is to find the guitar that you really love playing and then put a SUNRISE pick-up in it. You may need a SUNRISE guitar pre amp as well, but for under £300 you’ll have the thing you really want. You can find SUNRISE on the internet. They’re in California. I needed to write this. There’s more. I’ve been researching it for years; but it’s too late now…. and I’m off to bed. Don’t get ripped off.

More later……

Copyright 2000 Roy Harper