Saturday, April 28, 2012

1984 Guild F-45CE (2)

My 1984 Guild F-45CE is an interesting guitar with a great vintage look and sound.  First there's the oval soundhole and venetian cutaway.  Very cool.  Then there's the beautiful Mahogany arched back that helps add depth and projection.  Finally, there's the slim neck and two retro pre-amp knobs that add to the electric guitar-like playing feel of the guitar.

The F-45CE was a happy eBay find.  I bought it at a reasonable price because the electronics did not work due to corrosion in the battery holder.  I was even able to buy the original full-page color ad for this very model from the January 1984 issue of Guitar World, also on eBay for a couple of dollars.  After my go-to luthier replaced the battery holder and connecting wires that had blackened beyond use, the guitar was once again in full working order.  I enjoyed playing her, but with my total guitar count having crept up in the interim, it was time to find her a good home.  Several Craigslist postings later, I met up with her new owner today.  No haggling was necessary after he picked out a few bluesy licks and confirmed that she was in pristine condition as advertised.  It was love at first sight!  I got my asking price, and he got a beautiful vintage instrument with many years left in her.  It's nice to know that she will be appropriately appreciated.  Happy trails!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

G.A.S. (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome)

Being new to the blogosphere and various online forums for guitarists and guitar enthusiasts, it is not unusual for me to come across unfamiliar acronyms.  One common term I repeatedly encountered and for which I had to look up the meaning is "GAS," or Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.

And OMG, I recognized all the symptoms in myself.  It is basically the uncontrollable urge to purchase "just one more guitar."  It is in fact a highly contagious condition that tends to be propagated by fellow guitar enthusiasts, with known hot spots being well-stocked local guitar stores and various online guitar forums.  (I'm talking about y'all at "Let's Talk Guild!")  It is also enabled by such online portals as Craigslist, eBay, and all the online guitar stores with the cool guitar eye candy.  It's now clear I've got a recently re-acquired and virulent case of GAS after being in remission for a couple of decades.  The dangers of this affliction include financial hardship and marital difficulties.

When I relayed this humorous acronym to my wife, her only comment was "it's not funny."  LOL!  So it's time to winnow the herd, as they say.  No more purchases until I can sell a few of my recent acquisitions that are not keepers.  Not unless a screaming buy happens to come to my attention, of course...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

30-Year Closet Find (1979 Yamaha FG-335)

Finding a good used guitar on Craigslist is all about knowing what you are looking for and serendipity. Good guitars at attractive prices are often scooped up within hours while overpriced models get re-listed over and over. Short of checking the local listings often enough to respond to the good listings immediately, I wondered if there was an online service that could automate the task with an email alert. And, of course, there is one. Craigslist Checker will run your search hourly and send you an email with links to any listings that pop up for the item you are seeking. Free searches are good for seven days.

Yesterday, a vintage Yamaha acoustic that had been in a closet for thirty years popped up for short money. Within an hour, dozens of prospective buyers popped up as well according to the buyer, but I was upfront with all my contact info and how much I was willing to pay, so I got the call back when the first buyer no-showed. Going in I knew the original chipboard case with its missing handle and other scars was worthless. Nor is a 1979 Yamaha FG-335 anything like a vintage Martin closet find. The guitar was also missing one of its plastic bridge pins. Upon inspection, there were also a few more small dings than advertised. Even with only five 30-year-old strings on it, though, the guitar had decent tone. The white binding had that vintage yellowed appearance and overall the condition of the guitar was excellent. I was able to close the deal for less than $100, 30% below asking.

With a little TLC, some new strings, a replacement set of matching bridge pins salvaged from another guitar, and a hardshell case I had left over from another used purchase, this now makes for a solid traveling guitar for those campfire outings. It even still had the original allen wrench in the old case pocket that I was able to use to tighten the truss rod and bring the really high action down. Note the cool wood truss rod cover (Yamahas went to truss rod access above the heel block shortly after 1979).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yard Sale Treasures (1938 Martin 000-28)

With spring having sprung, yard sale signs are starting to sprout on the weekends and you never know what treasures will lurk among the usual junk.  My current favorite tennis racket, for example, is a $10 yard sale find from several years ago.

According to the press release for this week's Heritage Auctions' Vintage Guitars Auction at the Dallas Guitar Show, the top vintage acoustic guitar for auction this year is a $75 garage sale find from many years ago, now appraised at $40,000+!  It's a 1938 Martin 000-28.  Unsurprisingly for a garage sale find, it is in only fair condition with several top cracks, a small break in the side waist, and moisture damage to the finish.  The listing notes severe wear to the original frets and severe playwear to the body.  One of the original tuners was replaced with a non-matching one and there is a hardware store bracket screwed right into the top back of the headstock, presumably for a strap (or to hang the guitar up in the garage?!).

And yet, this is a highly desirable vintage guitar made by Martin pre-war with beautiful Brazilian Rosewood back and sides.  Brazilian Rosewood is a prized hardwood for its outstanding resonance, colorful shades and figures, and floral fragrance reminiscent of roses.  It is only found in Brazil from the eastern forests of Bahia to Rio de Janeiro, and it is now banned for harvest and trade as an endangered species as much of its habitat has been converted to farmland.

Opening bids start at $20,000 plus the 25% buyer's premium (another $5,000). You have one more day to place an online bid.  The auction goes live this Friday!  Or you could just keep an eye on your local yard sales...

If you want a cleaner vintage small-bodied Martin and money is not an obstacle, check out this 1928 Martin 00-44 listed for $100,000.  Back here in Boston, though, I'm perfectly content strumming my unassuming 2002 Martin 000-1 bought last week for less than $500 off of Craigslist.  It's bringing me and my son lots of playing pleasure and none of the headaches and costs of restoring and caring for a museum piece.  Carpe Diem!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2011 Guild GAD-25

Guild Acoustic Design (GAD) series guitars sport the Guild logo, but are built in China.  This allows Guild to offer its traditional designs in solid woods at half to a third of what similar US-built Guilds go for.  If you are looking for a lot of guitar for short money, these are worth at least a try.  I have been curious about this series and yesterday I got my opportunity to check it out when a recently purchased GAD-25 was listed and priced to sell. The gentleman who just bought it in January was unfortunately due for hand surgery.

The Guild GAD-25 is a dreadnought-sized guitar with solid Mahogany front, back, and sides, wood binding, three-piece Mahogany neck, and Indian Rosewood fingerboard and bridge.  The headstock has the Guild name and Chesterfield pearl logo, like the vintage Westerly Guilds. The guitar comes with a distinctive tweed-covered arch-top hardshell case with leather-like trim that is Guild-branded as well.  The GAD-25 listed for $900, and retailed for $500-600.  It looks to have been discontinued for 2012.  

This guitar appeared well-made with a clean finish.  I was pleasantly surprised with the playability and tone.  It is loud with a rich sustain.  Built to Guild specs, the guitar does play and sound like a Guild. I found the factory-set action comfortable and responsive for both finger-picking and strumming.  Being practically new, it has no playing wear and only one unfortunate small scratch on the front of the headstock. It still has the pungent Mahogany smell from the factory.  With a new set of Elixir strings on it, it will be ready for a good home.  In the meantime, welcome to the family!

You can also read about my A/B comparison of the GAD-25 with a vintage US-made D-25.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2002 Martin 000-1

Friday was a good day!  I jumped on a Craigslist listing for a Martin 000-1 guitar that popped up late in the afternoon, and went out to see it that evening.  This guitar has a solid Spruce top with satin finish, solid Mahogany back, and Rosewood bridge and fretboard.  The 000 models are a couple body sizes down from the Dreadnoughts, but the 000-1 retained the full length neck (25.4 in.).  The 000-1 model was in Martin's middle-level line with a solid wood back and front, but laminate sides, that sold for under $1000 between 1995-2005 and has since been discontinued.  This guitar is occasionally available used for around $500 if you're lucky.  By comparison, new Martins below $1,000, including the 000 size, now have high pressure laminate (HPL) back and sides (compressed wood particulates, much like formica). Because the older 000-1 is such a quality guitar in an affordable price range, it usually gets snapped up anytime it appears second-hand.

Having never played this model before, I was immediately struck by how well-crafted it appeared despite its unadorned features.  It was extremely light and comfortable to hold with easy playability and that wonderful Martin tone. There were several deep scratches/gouges in the top of this one, but the satin finish made these less jarring to the eye. That it was not pristine worked for me in any event, because of the reasonableness of the asking price and the fact that this size guitar would be perfect for my son who was showing an interest in taking up the guitar.  His first guitar could be a Martin, just like his dad, and something worth holding on to!  Rounding out the deal was the Martin hardshell case with attractive dark green plush lining (my son's favorite color) and a new set of strings in the pocket.  It was an opportunity I could not let pass.  After a bit of haggling I closed the deal. And I'm so glad I did. This is a guitar that you just want to pick up and play as soon as you put it down.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guitar Caddy

So last weekend I bought a used Gator guitar case for short money and inherited the cheap guitar in it that had been abused by its previous owner.  The seller told me he actually got mad and split the neck at the heel.  I guess he wasn't meant to be a great guitarist...

After stripping the guitar of its tuners, bridge pins, and pre-amp, and putting the neck out its misery by completely breaking it off the body of the guitar, I wondered how to recycle the remaining parts.  Today I finally took a circular saw to the body, cutting just above the bridge. After sanding down the edges and notching the back brace to accept the truss rod sticking out of the back of the neck under the fingerboard, I reattached the neck to the back of the guitar with wood glue.  Now I've got a uniquely appropriate guitar caddy for my guitar strings and other small guitar accessories and parts that have been cluttering the coffee table in the living room lately!

It's also appropriate to take a moment to mention the painting in the picture above the piano by Swiss artist and singer-songwriter-guitarist Jean-Pierre Huser.  Thirty years ago almost to the day, Jean-Pierre was embarking on his first American tour and invited my brother and me to perform with him in several local concerts including at Harvard University.  He was the first professional musician to encourage us to perform publicly and pursue professional gigs while we were still in high school.  We learned a lot from just a couple of weeks of playing together with him, dissecting his well-constructed songs, and watching him work the audience.  His playing could be so ferocious that his Martin had pick wear clear through the top.  The following year we traveled to Montreux from Paris to record half a dozen original tracks at his Swiss studio during an intense week of creative activity.  The painting was a gift after a more recent showing of his art and concert at the Swiss consulate in Cambridge a couple of years ago.  Give his music a listen courtesy of Amazon.  Good stuff.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Martin North Street Factory, 1939

Here's some great footage of the Nazareth, PA Martin guitar factory in 1939.

Note the soundtrack "Thank You Mr. Martin, I'm Alright," a song extolling the virtues of a beat up '43 D-18 pawnshop find for $100 (in 1964)!  Makes me wonder who is playing my beat up '72 D-18 these days.  I can still describe every major scratch, crack, and puncture.  Should our paths cross again, a positive identification would be easy...

Friday, April 6, 2012

1928 Martin 00-44!

For you collectors out there, here's a real prize!  Matt Umanov Guitars in Manhattan has a 1928 Martin 00-44 that is the only extant model known (only four were made between 1913 and 1931).  To boot, the guitar is all original, in excellent condition, and has never needed a repair.  Matt Umanov should know.  He is a sought-after luthier whose clients have included Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Judy Collins starting in the 1960's.

Quite a find.  Price tag: $100,000.  If anyone is in New York City, I'd be curious to know how this guitar is displayed.  Behind bullet-proof glass?  Do you have to submit to a background check and put up a bond just to give it a try?  I imagine owning such a museum piece creates all sorts of insurance and security headaches with which we mere mortals need thankfully never deal.

Makes me grateful to be able to enjoy my Guilds without any drama.  I'll take these fine journeyman's guitars every day over a prima donna that has to be practically played with gloves on.  BTW, Matt Umanov carries Guild guitars because according to him they are "beautifully built and have tremendous value" that will last.  My sentiments exactly.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pat Metheny Summer Workshop

If you cannot make it to France this summer for Pierre Bensusan's guitar workshop at his country place, maybe Norwich Connecticut with 17-time Grammy winning jazz guitarist Pat Metheny is more doable.  This five-day Master Artist Workshop in August is a chance to study in an intimate setting with one of the greats.  Private concerts with Pat and special guests every evening will be among the perks.  An all-inclusive package at the Spa at Norwich Inn will only run you $4950.  Space is limited so sign up soon!

BTW, if you want to reproduce the sound Pat achieves above, you'll need a baritone guitar (tuning is down a fifth from a standard guitar).  On this particular song he is using an open A-D-G-C-E-A tuning and no doubt one of his three Manzer baritone guitars made by Canadian Luthier Linda Manzer.  Pat has been playing Manzer guitars for over 25 years.  One of the 30 Pat Methany Signature 6 Limited Edition Manzer guitars will set you back $32,000.  Paul Simon chose #10.  Happy picking.

Monday, April 2, 2012

2009 Breedlove Atlas Stage C25/SR (3)

I closed my first sale today after a number of emails and texts inquiring about my Breedlove Atlas series guitar I had re-posted with a slightly lower asking price.  I'm glad to have found her a good home.  The guitar was sounding much better after a neck set-up to elevate the action and eliminate buzzing.  A new set of Elixir strings completed the transformation.

The Elixir strings were another Craigslist score, part of a stash of a dozen sets of these expensive strings I bought for less than the price of two sets.  I chose to put on the heavier gauge "medium" strings for more tone and sustain.  It was like breathing new life into a dead instrument!  One last once over with a polishing cloth and she was ready to meet her potential new owner.

The meeting did not last more than ten minutes.  The guy had checked out a couple Breedlove models at Guitar Center so he was familiar with the guitar and evidently ready to purchase as long as she was as advertised.  So long Breedlove.  Hope you continue to make music for many years to come.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

2012 Martin HD-28 (2)

Run, don't walk, to your nearest dealer and try out the latest Martin HD-28.

My last post featured this wonderful guitar I was able to play this week while in Milwaukee.  Back home, I headed over to the Music Emporium this weekend to see what they might have. After sampling a few nice guitars and some I did not care for, I asked to try out the HD-28.  "I was afraid you were going to ask me that.  I just sold ours yesterday."  I think Martin has a winner here...

BTW, if you are in the Boston area, don't miss this acoustic mecca.