[Slowhand] EC, Gibsons, Heritage, Various and Sundry ...
almighty_geetarz at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 9 11:18:47 EST 2008
Happy New Year, Y'all ...
To touch on a few topics of note (I am as usual a month behind on
reading email <g>):
1) Gibson (Montana) *is* making some superlative guitars these days - I
would argue, in terms of consistency, perhaps the best ever acoustics
bearing the Gibson name. While the "reissues" aren't as accurate as they
could be, that is a separate issue from quality. I had occasion to own a
reissue J-45 for a while that was a stunningly good sounding guitar, but
ultimately I couldn't handle the "modern" neck profile. Should Gibson
elect to produce a J-45 with a nice hand filling 'v' profile neck, I'm
in there ...
2) The 1970s Gibson acoustics were indeed, in general, mediocre.
Lutherie is a business, and the main problem, at least on the acoustic
side, was that the corporate owners of the brand wanted to see a
reduction in warranty returns. An acoustic guitar, at its heart, is an
engineering compromise between the tension of the steel strings
(several hundred pounds of force at concert tuning) and the strength of
the bracing. Of course, one could put strings on a block of concrete,
steel, or solid wood, and on the other end, one could produce a
stunningly "open" sounding acoustic, that would fail structurally quite
quickly. The trick to producing a "production" acoustic, is to find a
happy place between these two extremes. I used to frequent a local
builder's shop for years, and on the wall they had a 1970s Gibson top
mounted, braces out, with a sign that had some sort of pithy comment on
it (I can't remember the exact wording). The point was, the bracing on
that 1970s Gibson top, was MASSIVE and tone-deadening, and the Gibson
top was the epitome of what they were striving NOT to produce.
Nowadays the larger acoustic manufacturers seem to have found a happy
medium, and brace their tops strongly, but not overbuilt, for most
purposes. It's one of the reasons that an independent builder will
usually always have an edge, tonally, over a mass produced guitar like a
Martin or a Gibson, because the builder can get closer to that
theoretical "edge", especially with some one on one interaction with the
player. Obviously someone who will play fingerstyle jazz is going to
want a more responsive, less braced box, than Pete Townshend, who
probably NEEDS those 200's braced with carbon fiber ;)
3) Someone asked if EC had ever been spotted with a Gibson acoustic, and
the closest I can think of, is that during the late 1980s at least in
concert, EC did occasionally use a Gibson "Chet Atkins SST", this was
actually a quite clever semi-solidbody that looked like a (thin)
acoustic, fitted with piezo pickups. Since piezos (at least in my
opinion) pretty much sound like crap whether they are in a $100 solid
body or a $10,000 Martin, the Chet SST always struck me as a great
"acoustic" for stage work. EC also played the gut string version of the
Chet on occasion, again it was a solid body guitar that gave the
appearance of a classical guitar, at least from the front. But I don't
recall seeing EC with any standard Gibson acoustic, at least not doing
any stage work. Meanwhile Martin will keep cranking out the EC
"signature" editions, and hopefully the income will help buy Chris
Martin IV a better hairpiece (if that's not a hairpiece, it's simply the
worst haircut this side of Don King).
4) Last but not least, who needs real guitars when one can play AIR
GUITAR, and now there's a new product to help us all with that:
One can only hope that future versions will include an "EC Buckle".
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