It’s been 8 months since my last NGIHTCTP installment, and this one is also from a trip to Elderly (on August 8th, 2015)!
I also decided to change the format of these posts and make it actually about noteworthy guitars that I played or worked on. Until now, I pretty much only wrote about awesome guitars, but I really enjoy all guitars, and I particularly enjoy noting what’s good and bad about a certain guitar and how it feels compared to mine. What it means is that my writing will be even less poetic, and sometimes just note the different features a guitar has. Ok, let’s start!
Guild D40 Jubilee. Nice guitar with action that was a little too high for fingerpicking. Makes sense though since it’s a bluegrass guitar. I didn’t think it sounded any better than my F30. Please note that I’m not entirely sure the link is to the guitar I actually played.
Guild F30SB (1974). Really light, at least compared to the D40. This one has a braced back, which means it’s not laminated like my F30. It has the same pale looking rosewood fingerboard like mine, though. I thought it played the same as my F30 but perhaps had a more balanced sound, since sometimes I think mine sounds a little too boomy. However, this guitar was tuned to standard and mine has been tuned to CGCGCC as of late. The funniest thing about this guitar is that the dots at the 12th fret are crooked just like the 12th fret dots on my Guild S-300D. Check it out:
Guild D40NT (1986). This guitar was really heavy. It weighed as much as an electric! It was also very hard to play, and I thought it needed a neck reset, but Elderly’s only saying it needs the nut shimmed and the bridge reworked. Huh.
Guild JF30 (1996). A jumbo F30! This one had arched (and laminated) back like mine, but the back and sides are made of maple. This one was also heavy, and I thought it only played alright.
Santa Cruz OM (New). This is the same Santa Cruz OM I wrote about in the last NGIHTCTP. You can read about all the specs there (or at the link to Elderly’s page for the guitar). This guitar didn’t play very well this time, which was surprising since last time it was one of my favorite guitars ever. The problem was that the neck had way too much relief on it, and the guitar could have used a new set of strings. My theory is that since this is such an expensive guitar most people don’t actually try it out, the guitar is left hanging from the wall and the strings look ok. The people who work there see that the strings aren’t totally dead, so they figure it doesn’t need to be taken down to get set up real quick. But then what happens is that it’s at least 8 months since that guitar was set up, and we’ve been through 3 seasons here in the midwest. It’s hot and humid now and that affects the guitar. So yeah, this guitar was probably set up in the winter and been hanging on the wall since then.
Santa Cruz H Model (New). This one is a parlor guitar that is really well made, but like the OM I thought it drifted out of spec and had way too much relief. I don’t mean to sound like I’m disparaging Elderly – I’m not. The Elderly repair department do great work and the place is hands-down my favorite guitar store. I also know it’s hard to keep a huge stock of guitars set up and at 100% condition all the time. Back to the guitar, the top on this one (and the OM) was really thick. Actually, I noticed that with all Santa Cruzes. The tops are thicker than Guilds, and I believe thicker than Martins too.
Santa Cruz Southerner (New). Short scale dreadnaught made of mahogany back and sides and sitka top. Slopped shoulders. Cute little guitar, but hasn’t been set up in a little while.
I should say that at this point I was getting a little worn out. Trying out a bunch of guitars is a little like going to a museum for me. I start with a lot of enthusiasm and then after 30 minutes I spend less and less time looking at each piece of art.
Huss & Dalton DS Crossroads (New). Dreadnaught with slopped shoulders. Spruce top and braces, and mahogany back and sides, although at the time I thought it was rosewood. The X brace on this guitar was very close to the soundhole. I should have taken a picture. I’m guessing that was done to imitate the sound of prewar Martins (even though the guitar is definitely influenced by Gibson’s acoustics). I honestly don’t remember what this guitar sounded or played like. I think that’s how I felt about that one other Huss & Dalton I worked on in the past. They are very well built and you can tell they have the potential to turn into an awesome guitar, but they don’t leave a big impression.
Martin 000-18 (2008). Mahogany back and sides, sitka spruce top, scalloped bracing. It was set up really well, played great, and was very boomy. Two things really stuck out with this guitar’s construction: The first was that the edges of the nut weren’t rounded. They were sharp to touch and I thought that was a weird choice by Martin. The other was that the fret ends were “hidden”. My guess is that the fret slots aren’t cut all the way to the edge of the fretboard. It looked cool, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t wood binding. Here’s a picture of the nut where you can also see what I’m talking about with the fret ends.
Martin D-18 (1961). Cool guitar that played really nice. The neck was v-shaped and thick and I dug that. The bridge looked like it was shaved to avoid a reset. Looking at the pictures on Elderly’s page I notice that the pickguard shrunk and cracked the top. Look at this picture – there’s this outline around the pickguard, and there’s also the crack between the e and b strings running towards the bridge. That’s a classic crack caused by a shrinking pickguard.
Martin 00-21 (1967). Maybe the best guitar on this trip? Parlor sized, 12 fret neck, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, also had a thick neck, a weird sound (but in a good way. see below), and it played really nice. The low end on this guitar had some classical guitar qualities to it. It sounded almost artificial but also good at the same time.
This brings me to this characterization I have for the different body shapes. Dreadnaughts are very thick and loud. I like to think of the difference between a dread and an OM guitar this way: Playing an open E on a double bass sounds different than playing an open E on an electric bass. The double bass E is thicker, or rather lacking some higher harmonies. That’s how I feel about Dreads. They just have this thicker quality than other acoustics. It’s not good or bad, just different. OMs sound flatter to me. Playing alternate bass isn’t overpowering the melody that’s played at the same time. Then the parlor sized guitars have this exaggerated low end, but not like the Dreads which are a thicker instrument the same way a double bass is a thick instrument. It’s not as natural sounding. Parlors sound like someone boosted the low end with a narrow Q. I know I used the word boomy plenty this time, but it is most appropriate when describing that 00-21, and probably other parlor guitars.
My notes from this trip show I also played a Martin 00-18, but I think that was on the way out; I don’t remember it!
In other news, I was cutting a new nut for my F30, and as I put it back in its stand after testing the fit of the blank I thought it wasn’t sitting right. I looked at it from the corner of my eye, and it seemed fine. Then the next thing I know is that it’s falling face down on the floor. The neck is cracked from the 3rd fret to the headstock. It’s cracked on both sides and these are really tight cracks. I’m heartbroken.