Other Guitars

Acoustic Jazz Guitars

1

Spartanman already started a thread about jazz guitars, but that seems to focus more on electric guitars.

Piano teacher of my daughter asked me to join their jazz group to play guitar. But they are playing acoustic and would like to have also acoustic guitar (Freddie Green style). I have used my Martin HD28, but I have started look for acoustic archtops. (Just when I thought that I do not need more guitars). Partly because of the looks, but also for something more mid range emphasized sound that would cut through the band.

Gretsch G100 Synchromatic looks nice, as well as G9555 New Yorker. Then there are Epiphone Masterbilt series guitars. Loar has also some affordable archtops. There seems to be often also some old 50-60 archtops (Harmony) for sale at decent price. But I don't know anything about these guitars, so any advice appreciated.

2

I suggest you take a look at D'Angelico. They have some archtop guitars -- some with single neck pickups and (at times) acoustics (with/without piezzos). I've had a D'Angelico EX-SS for about 4 years. It is a gorgeous guitar and the workmanship is absolutely top notch. Excellent playability, tones, etc.

4

What's your budget? Vintage arch tops are actually a really good value for money purchase. I've had several very high-quality acoustic Kay and Harmony arch tops. Have you ever tried a gypsy style guitar? I have been using mine almost exclusively for jazz these days. I find it very loud very lightweight, easy to play and given the comparative low cost something I don't worry about compared to my vintage ones. Installing a pick up is also a good bit easier to achieve on these. Plenty of proper F hole choices though if that's your preference. I used a battered old Gibson 50s country and western for that purpose for years though, and it did just great.

5

Hit post too early – have you tried one of those Guild A 150 reissues yet? They look the business, can be had inexpensively, and come equipped with a D Armand. Really expensive for a used one.

6

My advice is to look to the vintage era. You mentioned the Gretsch and for one of these using a pup, would give a very nice tone, but given the laminated nature of the top, I'm not convinced it would give the warm and especially resonant tones of a vintage carved top archtop. There are a wealth of vintage archtops in the market at any given time and they run the gamut from low end models with few or any decent hardware and body appointments to those fully decked out. A great number of the lesser appointed ones also seem to be a very dark sunburst - ugly as hell to me - so there's that consideration as well, depending on your tastes.

I'm currently playing a '41 Gretsch Syncro 100 that has all the high end features and even with it's 15 7/8" wide (x 3 1/2" deep) body has terrific resonance and would cut through any band scenario. It's a beautiful blond with a gold G-cutout tailpiece, a rosewood bridge and base, solid brass Grover open back tuners, full tortoise shell binding on body neck and headstock, an original bound tort pickguard and it's a carved top. Few things made today will compare with it.

The restoration of my [will be] blond '55 Gretsch Fleetwood cutaway is on the home stretch and will be ranked up there with D'Angelico's and Gibson's 400's. Freddie's was a non-cutaway model and while mine's cutaway wasn't made correctly - part of the body protruding past the neck instead of flush with it - my luthier Nicole is correcting that. My Synchro 100 well see less playing time when this comes home. If you could score a Synchro like mine or a Fleetwood or an older Gibson acoustic archtop - L5 or L7 - you would have a terrific guitar for acoustic jazz.

BTW, Knavel had the twin to my Synchro for sale at an extremely affordable price last year and I didn't hear that it had been sold. He said it did need a neck reset IIRC, but that wouldn't bump the total cost enough not to consider buying it and having the reset done. Here's a pic of mine minus the pickguard which I sent to Frank in the Netherlands to have rebound, and he did a fantastic job.

8

Hit post too early – have you tried one of those Guild A 150 reissues yet? They look the business, can be had inexpensively, and come equipped with a D Armand. Really expensive for a used one.

– spike

Here is a review from Let's Talk Guild: Guild NS A-150

9

Thanks for the information!

Budgetwise I was hoping somewhere around 500$€. With that I could get Epiphone masterbilt (there is one deluxe classic for sale), some gypsy style guitar or vintage Harmony Airline archtop (one for sale 450€). But it makes no sense to buy something cheap if the sound will be worse than with my Martin flat top acoustic.

Local music stores does not offer much, so it is quite difficult to compare. They seem to have few gypsy guitars, that I should go and try. Though I love the gypsy guitar sound, I am not sure if it would fit to this band. I have never played a gypsy guitar though, so I might change my opinion after I try it.

I need to check if any stores have the Guild or D'Angelico. Vintage archtops are quite rare here, unless I buy something from eBay overseas.

10

Jukka, you just made a comment that warrants a little discussion. You just said you didn't want to buy a cheaper acoustic archtop that will sound worse than your HD28. Fair enough. And totally understandable.

I don't know if you have played acoustic archtops of various makes or of various price ranges, but generally they don't sound anything like a dreadnought, flat-top acoustic, and certainly not like an HD 28. If that is your measure of what sounds good, and it certainly does sound good, you're going to be very disappointed in any archtop, as they are completely different animals. If you're used to the sound of an acoustic flat top, any acoustic archtop is going to sound a little thin and quiet, as they are a little midy / trebley and they project entirely different than a flat-top. Remember, acoustic archtops were supposed to be part of the percussion section of an orchestra, made to project a chunk-chunk rhythm behind all the other instruments.

That is not to say a good acoustic archtop cant sound really full and lively, but they do sound different, that's the gist.

Maybe you know this already, but I thought I would point it out just in case you didn't. Or in case anyone else reading this thread didn't.

11

Andy, good point. I somewhat knew this, but as I do not have really experience on archtops, it will be difficult for me to know if some archtop is just bad or does it just sound bad to me as it will be differentIn this band the role would be mainly the chunk-chunk rhythm. So maybe I could have rephrased my question. Are there 500$ archtops that would do better job on this task than my HD28, or do I need to spend >1k$ to get decent one? I guess I just need to try to get to play few archtops/gypsy guitars and learn the differences.

12

Andy, good point. I somewhat knew this, but as I do not have really experience on archtops, it will be difficult for me to know if some archtop is just bad or does it just sound bad to me as it will be differentIn this band the role would be mainly the chunk-chunk rhythm. So maybe I could have rephrased my question. Are there 500$ archtops that would do better job on this task than my HD28, or do I need to spend >1k$ to get decent one? I guess I just need to try to get to play few archtops/gypsy guitars and learn the differences.

– Jukka

Bingo!

Play a few, and see what you think. Whichever one strikes your fancy, or sounds good to you, go with that. I've played modern New Yorkers that have sounded great and some that sounded not-so-great. I've tried the new Epi Masterbilts and thought they sounded really nice. The D'Angelico's and Eastmans also sound nice, but are on the upper-end of affordable.

I am no expert on acoustic archtops; but I did, after years of having accoustic dreadnought tone in my head, have to re-train my ear to hear good acoustic archtop tone.

13

Andy makes all the points in what an archtop sound is, how it compares to a flattop sound and value for money. Generally speaking, the cheaper archtops, both new and vintage, can have a very thin, percussive and dull tone which is not pleasant, whether in a band environment or not. With the few newer ones I've played, I find they don't tend to have much resonance or sustain. Your Martin give a spectacularly good tone and essentially no archtop can compare to it, but it can get lost in a band whereas a good archtop won't. Remember too that when archtops first became popular they were used to set the beat as there weren't drums in most bands so it had to be heard for the benefit of the other musicians as much as the listeners.

14

This is the <500$ Airline archtop. According the seller it is in good playing condition and has been just serviced by luthier. But I don't have chance to try it before buying as the seller is from another city quite far away.

15

Old budget archtops are a very mixed bag. See if you can get a 100% refund or something similar.

16

Harmony and Kay made some very good Arch Tops during the 60s. They also made some that pale compared to what you can buy these days. If I remember correctly, the better ones usually had a bit of bling to them; i.e., bound fingerboard, block inlays, etc.

I seem to remember a nice Harmony with a cutaway and Fleur-d'lis inlay on the headstock.

17

Loar LH-300 starts to look like a good deal. It has got good reviews and it won't break my bank 379€. There is also 30 days return policy, if I am not happy with it.

https://www.thomann.de/gb/t...

18

I got one of those, pretty decent cheap guitar.

19

Jukka, according to Loar's website that has a hand-carved top!

That is incredible at under $500! Looks like a good choice if you don't want a cutaway. You can still add one of the DeArmond pickups from Guild if you want to and be way ahead of others. I've never heard one but I too have heard good things about them.

20

Got the Loar LH-300 today. Seems like a nice guitar. It plays well, has nice long sustain and I guess it sounds like archtop should. The finish has some details mainly at where fretboard is over the body, that could be cleaner. But generally it looks beautiful to me. Tuners work great and the action is ok. Neck is quite wider and bit bulkier than what I am used to, but after playing it some time I think it will be ok.

Recorded some noodling with it.

21

That's some very nice work Jukka! That's a very rich tone that Loar's giving you. Nice sustain and resonance with none of the dull tininess low end archtops can be infamous for. Could you tell me what strings you're playing with in the video? Thanks.

22

Thanks! I put Martin 80/20 Bronze custom light .011 - .052 strings on it. Maybe could try 0.012 at some point of time.

23

Glad you found something in your price range you like. Great playing, btw! I suspect you can make any guitar sound pretty darn good!

At some point, if you're open to a little experimentation, you may want to try some flat wound strings. I'd be curious to know what you think of them.

24

Yep, round wounds seems to sound easily bit harsh. For the Jazz comping a flatwound dull sound would propbably fit well.

25

Flats should help round out the tone a bit and add a little thump to your bass notes.


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