Swing Guitar

Dedicated to pre-bebop jazz guitar.

Monday, July 11, 2005

GEAR: What I play. Guitars

It's often said that a poor workman blames his tools, and while it may be true that Django or Charlie Christian would sound like themselves on almost any instrument, having the right tool for the job usally makes it easier and allows you to do a better job. Since we're talking about a vintage style of music, that usually means vintage gear. But there are some other options as well - I thought I should let you in on my various gear choices. My pragmatic collection has a vintage piece or two, but is mostly new and was assembled piece by piece as cheap as I could get them.

2003 Eastman AR810CE - "Golden Age" (which means Blond) finish, 17" Cutaway Archtop w/Pickup:
My 810CE is strung with GHS White Bronze strings (14 / 18 / 26 / 36 / 46 / 56), and has some pretty knarly action (I'll update this when I get it measured). Because the guitar has a floating pickup, it does double duty for acoustic rhythm, acoustic solos, and electric solos. I generally use a mic, so all I have to do is roll up the volume knob to go from Freddie Green to Charlie Christian. The GHS White Bronze are not actually Bronze, but are magnetically active and still sound "acoustic" when playing acoustic stuff. Although a cutaway always reduces the acoustic quality of a guitar, this thing has no problem - it's still one of the loudest archtops I've ever played.
Eastman Guitars are a fantastic value for an archtop, but they would also be great at twice the price. Why? They are designed to be acoustic guitars first and foremost. Most luthiers are so used to making electric guitars that their great imstruments lack that acoustic cannon quality. Then again, most jazz guitar players don't play acoustic music - too bad for them. Eastman is really the only serious choice besides going vintage. Of course, like buying a used car, it can be problematic for the uninitiated. At least with an Eastman you know what you are getting.
I used this guitar on almost everything on "Crazy Rhythm" (except for "Dark Eyes" and "Comes Love") as well as all of the rhythm guitar parts on Jeremy Wakefield's "Steel Guitar Caviar" (and also the lead guitar on the tunes "Delaware Drive" and "Dark Circles").

2002 John Le Voi 12-Fret Petite Bouche - Vintage Finish, Short Scale, Oval Hole Selmer-style:
This guitar is a hybrid design, featuring the small, oval hole and body of the later Selmer-style guitars, with the shorter scale of the earlier Maccaferri-style guitars. Personally, I prefer the long scale style, but I got such an amazing deal that I couldn't turn it down, and I couldn't possibly get rid of it. The top has unbelievably figured bearclaw spruce, the back and sides superlative birdseye maple and the neck is flamed maple. I use GHS Custom Shop Gypsy Strings since they are cheap and last as long as any of the other brands I've tried. Gypsy-style strings are silver-coated copper, and are therefore very weak - they break, the windings come undone, etc. Also the GHS gauges are just slightly heavier through out. Mine start an .011. The guitar came with a dual pickup system - a highlander bridge and a macintyre feather. Both sound terrible - I have a feeling that's why the original owner who commissioned the guitar sold it. John usually puts in a Bigtone, but this customer wanted that combo - his mistake. Again, I mic the guitar, so I have few problems.
The guitar does sound superaltive and I used it on the "Crazy Rhythm" tracks 'Dark Eyes" and "Comes Love"

2005 Eastman AR805E - Sunburst, 16" Non-cutaway Archtop w/pickup:
This my newest acquistion, thanks to the fine guys at Eastman. I wanted a guitar just for acoustic rhythm work, and an 16" non-cutaway is the perfect guitar for that. 16" archtops aren't as full and round sounding as a 17", but since they have a bit more zing and cut, they sometimes work better in cutting through a dense band. Also this has a slightly wider nut width, which make Allan Reuss-style chordal work a bit easier.
As with all Eastman Guitars, it came set up with D'Addario Nickel 12's. I just got it last Thursday, so I strung it with what I could find, which were Martin 80/20 SP 13's. Even without bumping the E and B up to a 14 and an 18, the guitar is clearly the loudest thing I've ever played.
Although I was planning on just getting an acoustic, they only had guitars with pickups already on 'em in stock. They did send me a couple pickgaurds, so I'll definately be getting rid of the new Chuck Wayne-style gaurd.

Other guitars:
I have several other guitars, bu I don't use them for Swing playing.
1998 Ibanez PM20 Pat Metheny - That guitar is a great value in a compact, electric jazz box. I served me well for almost 5 years, and I used it for all the electric guitar parts on "Jammin' the Blues".
1996 Gibson Les Paul Standard - Another guitar that has served me well. It has the Fat 1950's neck on it and is strung with .011's. It's pretty beefy.
1999 Taylor 310 - I got this after playing for 6 years, and never having a regular 6-string acoustic. Go figure. Bad news is that I have absolutely no use for a dreadnaught guitar these days. I'd much rather have a Martin OOO or OM instead - I prefer Taylor, but I prefer Martin's in the small body range.
1995 Ovation Celebrity 12-string - The guitar that isn't worth enough to sell. I got this a long time ago, and since then I have rarely played it. It's hard to play, but I have used it on a few recordings. I would sell it, but I'd get less than $300 on Ebay. I'd rather keep it just in case I ever get a call for one.


  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger El Ultimo Bastardo said…

    nice guitars !!

    I tried to listen to your real audio excerpt on your web site ... but it did not work ....

  • At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hello,how is the Le Voi gypsy guitar line rated ...?...thank you...Hollywood Joe http://www.hollywoodjoe.com


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