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Why You Shouldn’t Base Your Purchase Off A Video

Why You Shouldn’t Base Your Purchase Off A Video

First off, when watching a video, that is not what the guitar sounds like. If someone sends you an iPhone recording, that’s what the guitar sounds like when recorded with an iPhone. If someone is playing a Gibson Custom Shop ’59 Les Paul through a Carr Rambler amplifier and using an SM57 microphone, unless you have that set up, the ’59 Les Paul will not sound like that. People demoing guitars can (and do) modify the sound in recording software, so those “comparison videos” are all horse shit. 

During the pandemic, our shop is getting a lot more people asking for demo videos. These videos aren’t completely worthless. You can gauge the playability. You can listen for buzzes. But, mainly, people want to hear how the guitar sounds. Unfortunately, they aren’t. In most cases, the video makes them feel better about the purchase. Even though it’s not what the guitar will sound like when it’s in their hands, it still helps them make a decision. And, even though it doesn’t sound like the video when they get the guitar, in most cases it sounds better than the video. But this is really only the case with acoustic guitars.

It’s much more difficult to base your decision off a video when purchasing an electric guitar. You can’t demo an electric guitar acoustically. You have to use an amp. And all amps sound different. To record the amp, you have to use a microphone. And all microphones sound different. I believe 100% of the time you purchase an electric guitar based off a video, you will be disappointed with your purchase. Eventually, you will get used to the sound of your set up and it will be fine, but, at first, you will be underwhelmed with your purchase. 

 Comparison videos are stupid. With recording software, someone can make a pawn shop guitar sound better than a Collings. For example: If someone recorded a Collings guitar and EQed the bottom end completely out, they can make the guitar sound thin. Then they could record the pawnshop guitar and add compression, EQ, and reverb to make it sound better. Anyone who doesn’t know about recording software tricks will assume that Collings is a waste of money. AGAIN, comparison videos are phony baloney non-sense. In almost all cases, the more expensive guitar is a better guitar and worth the money. 

Nothing beats trying out a guitar for yourself. But, in the age of internet shopping, what is your alternative? 

 – Message boards with reviews from real people is a good option. You can find out which stores people trust. Pros and cons with certain brands. 

 – Buy from Reverb sellers with 5 stars.

 – Buy equipment used by your favorite musicians.

 

On The Road To Nick Drake

On The Road To Nick Drake

It was a long time ago and therefore a bit murky. As best I remember, the first time I became aware of Nick Drake was seeing a copy of his album Bryter Layter in the import section of Rhymes Records in New Haven, Connecticut. I wondered why anyone would choose to pose with an inexpensive mahogany Guild M-20 and passed on buying the record. I had never heard Nick’s music, and import records were pretty expensive.

Not long after, the printing company I worked for printed a New Times Magazine feature on Nick, written by Arthur Lubow. To my knowledge, this was the first feature written on Nick in the USA, though a few reviews of his records had appeared in other publications. Arthur’s piece captured my attention and boosted my curiosity. I drove back to New Haven and bought the LP. I was an instant believer. To this day, the song “Fly” gives me the chills. Its haunting beauty was like no other song I had ever heard.

The next Nick Drake LP I found was Five Leaves Left. It appeared in a Greenwich Village record shop. Five Leaves Left affected me even more deeply than Bryter Layter. “Time Has Told Me” and “Riverman” held me in a trance. How could these two amazing records not be major hits? Nick’s third LP Pink Moon proved to be very hard to find. Luckily, after a few trips back to NYC, I scored a copy in another record shop in the Village. There was a bit of a cult demand and some original gatefolds of Pink Moon were actually fetching over $100, but I was determined to own it, so I didn’t flinch. Soon I was back home in Connecticut dropping the needle on the first track of the LP, Pink Moon. To say I was not ready for what I heard was an understatement of biblical proportions. It opened a door to another world. I played it start to finish more times than I can recall. It became the only LP I played for quite some time.

Many years later, I was playing a gig and someone in the audience bought one of my cassettes after my set. He said to me, “You should know that the only other cassette I own is Nick Drake’s Pink Moon. Pink Moon had become and is, to this day, deeply rooted in my DNA. Anyway, once I owned all three of Nick’s LPs, two things became apparent to me: First, Nick was not using the same alternate tunings everyone else was using and in the case of the Pink Moon, a lot of songs were in their own unique tunings. Secondly, the Lubow article quoted a line from a song that was not on any of the three LPs.

I had to know more, so I called his publisher and asked to speak to him about the story. I was told that he did not speak to people he did not know. I left a message, stating that I had read the piece, tracked down and bought all three LPs and I had a few questions and would love to talk to him. He returned my call about a half-hour later, appreciative that his article had inspired me to search out all of Nick’s music. After speaking with Arthur for some time, he decided to give me Nick’s parents’ phone number in the UK and suggested they would very much enjoy talking to me.

I mustered the courage and made the first, of what was to be many trans-Atlantic phone calls. Nick’s mother, Molly, answered the phone. She projected a beautiful spirit and an amazing amount of generosity to me. After a while, she put Rodney, Nick’s father, on the phone and he shared the same qualities. They were amazed that I had found all three LPs (By that time, I had also acquired a copy of the very rare USA compilation LP of the first two LPs). I mentioned that I had learned to play all of the songs on the Pink Moon LP and various songs from Nick’s other LPs. I said I would send them a cassette.

A short time later, I received a very long letter from Molly thanking me for the cassette of me playing Nick’s music. She also sent me a cassette of Nick’s demos and “bedroom” recordings. From then on, we shared many letters, cards, and phone conversations. Molly also shared many of her observations regarding my own music. Years later, I learned that she was also a songwriter.

During the course of one of our conversations, Molly suggested I contact TJ McGrath, another fan of Nick’s music, who also lived in Connecticut. At that time, TJ was the editor of the music fanzine Fairport Fanatics which went on to become the magazine Dirty Linen. TJ and I met for a night of playing Nick’s music and sharing information we had discovered about Nick and the music associated with his, such as John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Fairport Convention and earlier influences, Davy Graham, Jackson C Frank and Bert Jansch. Each new door that opened led to another and after some time, there was a network of people connected by their love of Nick’s music. At a certain point, it felt like we were part a secret society and that was going to pretty much be the way it would be.

Then in 1999, one Thursday at 8pm, before an episode of Friends, the haunting chord that opens Pink Moon was heard across the USA. The song “Pink Moon” was the soundtrack to a VW commercial. Within a few days, everything was different. Pink Moon became one of the top selling CDs on Amazon. After that, Nick’s music also started showing up in movie soundtracks. I’ve been continually struck by the great care exercised by Nick’s estate in determining who is suitable to be licensed to use his songs.

By this time, I was working at AcousticMusic.Org, which is a Martin guitar dealer. It has become known that Nick only posed with the Guild M-20 on the album cover. The guitar actually belonged to the photographer. While we could talk about my theories regarding what guitars Nick owned and didn’t own, we know Nick’s last steel string guitar was a Martin 000-28. We know by its serial number that it was imported into the UK after Nick had recorded all three of his LPs, so the only recordings he could have used this Martin on were the last five songs: “Rider on the Wheel,” “Black Eyed Dog,” “Hanging on a Star,” “Voice from the Mountain” and “Tow the Line” (found many years after the other four songs).

Around 2004, I contacted both CF Martin Guitar Company and Nick’s estate to propose the idea of a limited-edition Martin Custom Shop guitar, based on Nick’s 000-28. It would take until 2019 with the support of Nick Drake’s estate, Leonard Wyeth (owner of AcousticMusic.Org), and the CF Martin Custom Shop to make a limited edition run of ten guitars possible. These ten guitars will be available exclusively through AcousticMusic.Org. We arrived at a guitar that is sonically perfect for the style of music that Nick composed. We chose understated design elements that will appeal to fans of Nick’s music, as well as to other musicians, for whom this guitar may be the door that leads them to the music of Nick Drake.

Iconic Guitars: The Gibson J-45

Iconic Guitars: The Gibson J-45

There are few acoustic guitars that are as recognizable and influential in the world of music as Gibson’s J-45 model. It is regarded as Gibson’s most famous and widely used acoustic guitar, and countless guitarists throughout the second half of the 20th century relied on a J-45 or J-45 variant in the studio, the writing room, or the stage.

In general terms, the J-45 is a slope shouldered dreadnought with a spruce top, mahogany back and sides, a mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard, and a 24.75” scale length.

The roots of the J-45 go back to 1934, when Gibson introduced the Jumbo. Before the Jumbo was produced, the largest flat-top that Gibson manufactured was the Nick Lucas model, which was a fairly narrow guitar with a deep body. The Nick Lucas was popular for a time, but in 1932 Martin introduced the Dreadnought, a large body guitar that was much louder and deeper sounding than anything in the Gibson catalog.

It became known for its volume and projection, and quickly became a much-desired guitar.

Gibson describes the Jumbo in their 1934 catalog as producing “a heavy, booming tone so popular with many players who do vocal or small combination accompaniment for both personal and radio appearances. The bass of this model will amaze you, and of course the clear, brilliant treble is in perfect balance.”

Although the Jumbo was sought after, a price of $60 was too expensive for many musicians in Depression-era America. Gibson stopped production due to lack of sales in early 1936.

Gibson introduced two new models in 1936 ­— the Advanced Jumbo, which was a more highly appointed guitar with rosewood back and sides designed to compete with Martin’s D-28; and the J-35, which was essentially a less expensive version of the original Jumbo, and was intended to compete with Martin’s D-18. The J-35 sold for $35 and was produced from 1936 into mid-1942.

To reduce the price from the Jumbo, Gibson removed the neck binding, replaced the inlaid logo with a silkscreen, switched to less expensive tuners, produced most J-35’s without scalloped braces, and switched the neck, back, and sides to a dark red mahogany from a more labor intensive sunburst finish.

It became a fairly common guitar of the era; Doc Watson was known for using a J-35 in the early part of his career.

In 1942, World War II was straining the manufacturing resources and supply lines of American companies, and Gibson simplified their production line of guitars to reflect these issues. It was during this period that the J-45 was introduced. Differences between the J-45 and 35 were minor; the 45 now featured a teardrop shaped pickguard, the peghead was radiused as opposed to straight sided like the 35, the Gibson logo was changed and silkscreened in a gold color, and the “banner” logo with “Only a Gibson is Good Enough” was added. The neck shape changed from a V to a rounder “baseball bat” shape.

For the rest of the war, the guitars reflected the material shortages that Gibson was faced with. Some guitars were made with maple necks, tops were often not book matched, and there are some J-45s from this era with 4- piece tops instead of 2-piece tops. Truss rods were also not included in these guitars due to a shortage of metal. These necessary changes aside, guitars from this era are known for their incredible tone.

The J-45 remained mostly the same in specification until the early 1950s. The rectangle bridge was replaced with a top-belly design, which offered some resistance to the top’s tendency to start to bulge up, but did not affect the top’s vibration behind the bridge, which is essential to an acoustic guitar’s tone and volume. A 20th fret was added in 1955. In 1956, Gibson began offering their J-45 with an adjustable bridge saddle which was popular with customers, but also known to have a negative impact on tone and volume. In general, 1960s J-45s are very highly regarded and known to be well-built, great sounding instruments.

In 1962, Gibson replaced the traditional brown sunburst with a cherry sunburst, and in 1968, changed over to a square shouldered body style, to simplify production. Gibson could use a single mold for all of their flat top guitars except the J-200. This was the “Norlin era” of the company, and guitars from this period are known to have a marked decrease in quality, appearance and tone. Sales of the J-45 dropped considerably by the late 1970s, and the model was dropped entirely in 1982. Gibson did not resume making J-45 until 1984, bringing back the round shoulders and more traditional aesthetic elements.

Over the years, Gibson has done countless variants of the J-45 with different woods various levels of appointments, and artist signature models, but the tried and true formula of mahogany, a sunburst finished spruce top, round shoulders and short scale length has stood the test of time. Gibson’s current production model is not all that far removed from the models of the 1950s, with some modern upgrades.

The J-45 has become an iconic guitar, and has been used by a tremendous list of musicians over the decades. Some artists known for their use of a J-45 or a variant thereof include Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Woody Guthrie, Donovan, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, James Taylor, John Hiatt, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Gillian Welch, and the list goes on.

As long as music continues to be made, the J-45 will certainly still play a role.

Depth of Sides:

1934 Jumbo 4.44

1937 J-35 4.31

1943 J-45 4.34

1958 J-45 4.39

Martin 00-18 & 00-28

Martin 00-18 & 00-28

Martin 00-18, a stalwart of Martin’s acoustic guitars for 140 years.

Martin 00-18 and Martin-00-28. The 00-28 has rosewood back and sides and 14 frets.

Martin 00-18 & 00-28

Martin 00-18 & 00-28

Martin 00-18, a stalwart of Martin’s acoustic guitars for 140 years.

Martin 00-18 and Martin-00-28. The 00-28 has rosewood back and sides and 14 frets.