Noteworthy guitars I had the chance to play pt. 4

Only two guitars today, but both are pretty noteworthy.

Martin 000-4S Mark Knopfler. Spruce top, rosewood back and sides, slotted headstock, and Mark Konpfler’s signature! It was obviously a very well crafted guitar, and it sounded great too, but it didn’t blow my mind. Unfortunately, I think there was a superficial factor that went into it not devastating me, and that was the price. On one hand I was a little afraid to play it – the longer I hold it, the better chance I have of dropping and nicking it. On the other, I considering how much it cost, I expected to sound like John Fahey. Trying to be objective, I think the 000s are just not my bag. They’re good fingerpicking guitars, but it’s more like delicate, beautiful chords fingerpicking, not the aggressive, heavy alternating bass a-la the aforementioned Fahey fingerpicking. It didn’t have enough bass, and it just didn’t sound as good as the Santa Cruz Pre War OM from a couple of weeks ago. When I think about it, it’s exactly the kind of acoustic guitar I’d expect Mark Knopfler to play and endorse. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fine guitar, and I felt quite fortunate to play a guitar of which only 155 were made.

Taylor K-22 Koa. This one was made in 1998, and is a different than Taylor current offering of K22s, hence the lack of a link. The top, sides, and back of this guitar were made of Koa. The neck I believe was mahogany with Ebony fretboard. The coolest thing about this guitar’s cosmetics was the tortoise binding, which worked really well with the Koa. Anyway, what made this guitar stand out among other Taylors is that it didn’t have a cutaway nor electronics. I’m not a fan of cutaways on acoustics because I rarely ever need to play there, and they always make the guitar look cheap. The electronics I can take or leave, because I don’t need to use it, but I’m always sad when holes were drilled in the guitar’s side to accommodate for knobs. Beyond that, the guitar had a comfortable setup with action measuring 3/32″ on the bass side and 2/32″ on the treble side. This guitar made me want to keep playing it, and it sounded spectacular – with plenty of bass and clear highs. I actually liked it better than the Martin.

This is unrelated to these two guitars, but the more time I spend working on guitars, the more weary I become of buying guitars online. For instance, so many guitars have twisted necks! It’s crazy. Some of them are new, some are old, but pretty much anything with a strat-like neck is twisted and that’s a bummer. No online seller will say the neck is twisted, some probably don’t even realize it, and it’s impossible to see it from the usual pictures you see in an auction. Honestly, I think most people don’t notice the twist when playing the guitar, but the more time I spend setting up guitars, the more I realize that the twist is one of those things that prevent a guitar from having a perfect setup. On the other hand, I don’t know if it’s healthy to fall into the vortex that is finding the right guitar. I have friends who buy and sell guitars almost every week in a hunt for the right guitar, and it’s a bit of an entitled approach. Did Skip James have the best guitar he could lay his hands on? Doesn’t Ash Bowie from Polvo play cheap Strat knock-offs? A friend of mine told me once that “if a guitar looks cool and the pickups work, then it’s a good guitar”. I try to balance these two approaches and I think it works. Even though they don’t make it to this blog, I found that I’m quite welcoming of cheap guitars.

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