The more guitars I play, the more I realize that to me, nice guitars are ones that are easy and fun to play. It’s guitars that make me want to play them rather than just check them to make sure everything is working right and move to the next. Hopefully, as I work on more guitars, the definition of a nice guitar will get more precise – what does it mean in terms of action, neck profile, radius, relief, fret condition, etc., and what I can do to a guitar to make it nice.
Here are the guitars that left an impression on me today:
Fender American Vintage 1958 Precision Bass. Obviously a reissue of a 58 P-Bass. It had a black body, maple neck, and gold anodized pickguard, and I must say, the gold and black combination is killer. This bass felt really solid and was well put together. No oversized neck pocket shenanigans or anything like that. Quality hardware too. The best thing was that the bass played really well all over the neck, including the high frets. Fender seem to file some fallaway into the frets of the tongue, so I believe that’s what made it play so nicely after the 12th fret. The pickups were pretty good with a lot of low end and the P-Bass bite (whatever it means, but everyone knows what it means). That bass felt like it was worn in, like someone played it for a few years and it “settled in”. No, I don’t mean it was reliced. It just felt like it’s been played a lot, while looking and being brand new. That’s pretty cool and not something you see often. Also, the guitar was well setup when it got in my hands. I just lowered the action a little bit (3/32nd on the E string, I think 2.5/32nd on the G string). I think it can be had for less than $2000 like it’s advertised, so if I were to buy a new bass, I’d be all over those reissues.
Gibson Les Paul Custom (1980). Ooh boy. This one was something else. Maple neck with Ebony fingerboard, both headstock and neck were bound. Body was Mahogany (did they ever make a non-mahogany LP?) with maple top (also the standard, I believe) that was left natural, and both top and back were bound. The frets were quite low but had no divots, and the nut was original (and well made, too). This guitar felt amazing. It had really low action to begin with, but I managed to bring it down a little more and got no buzz. What a nice guitar. I would have kept playing it for hours.
Also, this is a good spot to point out that I’m really starting to dig Les Pauls and SGs. I’m not a fan of humbuckers, and the shorter scale is a bummer, but so many of these guitars feel so nice. I don’t know what it is. The radius? The profile? I used to be a total Fender guy and I still like them, but I feel like the good ones are hard to come by.
Fano RB6. This one was a Gibson scale (24.75″), with two Fralin P90s, a Bigsby, rosewood fingerboard, and a very reliced Olympic white finish. I was totally prejudiced towards this guitar because of the dumb finish, but really liked it once stringed up. Again, it’s so goofy to talk in terms of what a guitar brings out of you, but I was playing differently on it. Different style, different riffs, and more confidence. Ooh, another cool feature was the safety post tuners. Usually those three-and-three headstocks have through post (is this what they’re actually called?) tuners, so this was a surprise. I get that the more traditional Gibson tuner posts are a look that people aren’t going to give up on, but it’s really nice to string up a guitar in a minute and not cut your fingers on any strings.