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Best Small Bodies


DesertRatt
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I'm an old (71) player of maybe intermediate skill (if I am kind). I only recently re-engaged with the guitar after many years of playing ukuleles because of arthritis in my hands. Long story short, the arthritis improved and I decided I missed the guitar, So, I started buying guitars trying to find the "right" fit. 

I'm a small guy, and my wife and I just play at home for fun. I can't handle big dreadnaughts and jumbos.  I'm kind of in love with parlor and smaller bodied guitars that can be comfortably played in chairs. I began with a Gretsch which was just too heavy and bulky. Then a Cordoba 3/4 nylon, but I didn't like that style of guitar.  Then I purchased a new Taylor 214 GS on a whim, based on trying it in the store. But, it was way too big once at home. I traded that back for a GS Mini, which I am using now.  We play pop/rock from 50s to 80s, and I generally try flat picking. 

Ok, all that out of the way, I really want a brighter "spruce top" tone, and I am drooling for an older Gibson, maybe even vintage. I am however, endlessly confused by the myriad model designations and trying to figure out which are the smaller bodies? So far, I think the L-00, L1 and L2 are the only ones small enough. But there are many, many other designations that I just don't know  the size. 

In the NEW category, I am intrigued with the Parlor Rosewood M. But I've never had a vintage guitar and I am wondering what I am missing? 

Any advice on small models appreciated!

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Howdy Ratt, if I may call you that.  You are facing a giant number of comfortable to play, good sounding, small bod 00 and 000  guitars in your open hunt.  Your affordable price range will also dictate, but being a 67 yr old flat picker with old hands I have fashioned my search and collection toward those little guitars you are looking for. 

My easiest and most valuable comfortable player is a '35 L00, while my most comfortable sweet sounding thousand dollar guitar is a '62 Guild F30, which sounds and plays better than my '62 Martin 000-18.  I have others and will chime in when I get a brainstorm, but prepare yourself for a zillion great suggestions from this tribe.

Hope you live near a larger metro area so you can sample old and new in a variety of shops.

Edited by jedzep
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I am also of a certain age (72), with old, often-stiff hands and frequently-aching shoulders. I still have several Gibson slope-J largebodies, but for sheer comfort sitting on the couch  or in my office and playing, my Gibson L-00 Legend takes the cake. That is a reproduction of a 1937 L-00. 

These guitars, and their vintage counterparts, have a big voice for being small guitars.

I bought the Legend after spending a year trying vintage equivalents, almost all of which had one issue or another that needed addressing before they were truly everyday players.

In recent years, Gibson has done a number of different high-spec L-00 re-issues, most quite accurate reproductions, but without vintage problems. they aren't that common, but they are worth looking for if you want a smaller guitar that doesn't feel like a toy.

I also have a couple of smaller travel-style guitars in both carbon fiber and more traditional construction. Those have their place, but they are no match for a "proper" small-body guitar that you can play anywhere, including performing for others.

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I've recently got into the small bodies and they are quite comfortable.

I had a vintage LG1 but did not care for it.

The one in the center is an L00 which is your spruce over mahogany which sounds like what you're looking for. It's a '32 reissue and has the vee shape neck and may not work for you.

I think the modern versions may have a neck profile more to your liking. Most of the new studio models are using different tonewoods (mostly walnut) and different fretboard and bridge materials and different finishes to keep the cost down and you may not get the sound you're looking for.

On a side note, I'm close to you on age and a few years ago my arthritis was bothering my playing and my golfing. I started exercising and stretching my hands and it didn't take long before any neck was comfortable. Golf still sucks.

Small Bodies

 

 

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15 minutes ago, Dave F said:

I've recently got into the small bodies and they are quite comfortable.

I had a vintage LG1 but did not care for it.

The one in the center is an L00 which is your spruce over mahogany which sounds like what you're looking for. It's a '32 reissue and has the vee shape neck and may not work for you.

I think the modern versions may have a neck profile more to your liking. Most of the new studio models are using different tonewoods (mostly walnut) and different fretboard and bridge materials and different finishes to keep the cost down and you may not get the sound you're looking for.

On a side note, I'm close to you on age and a few years ago my arthritis was bothering my playing and my golfing. I started exercising and stretching my hands and it didn't take long before any neck was comfortable. Golf still sucks.

Small Bodies

 

 

Dave, what's that natural-top guitar in the lower middle with the parallelogram inlays?

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You could do worse than buying a used Gibson Blues King L-00 to get you started while you learn all the model millions... (I just put my BK down after playing an hour, it is absolutely great!)

 

 

 

Or a new L-00 Vintage:

 

 

or a new/used Gibson L-00 Studio made with walnut:

 

 

But then you have vintage L-00s!!!:

 

 

 

or even move to vintage LG2s!!!

 

 

 

And on we go!

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

Edited by BluesKing777
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10 hours ago, DesertRatt said:

. . .  my wife and I just play at home for fun. I can't handle big dreadnaughts and jumbos.  I'm kind of in love with parlor and smaller bodied guitars that can be comfortably played in chairs. . .I traded that for a GS Mini, which I am using now. 

. . . We play pop/rock from 50s to 80s, and I generally try flat picking. 

. . .  I really want a brighter "spruce top" tone, and I am drooling for an older Gibson, maybe even vintage.

. . .  I think the L-00, L1 and L2 are the only ones small enough. 

. . . But I've never had a vintage guitar and I am wondering what I am missing? 

Nothing is going to give you "brighter" than the Taylor you're currently playing. That GS Mini was a good move back from the bigger Taylor you had.

A vintage LG-2 would be a more versatile guitar than the L-00 sized guitars, especially considering the type of music your wife and you are playing.  LG-2's can be found that are more woody sounding and more versatile than many L-00's ('found one). Keep the Mini, get a vintage LG-2, and cycle back and forth between the two just to even out the wear (on the guitar and you) and to give your ears something different to hear. 

The LG-2 should give more warmth than the L-00's, and considering where you're playing, you'll never miss the larger guitar sound. . . unless your wife is playing a superjumbo.

Edited by 62burst
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12 hours ago, jedzep said:

Howdy Ratt, if I may call you that.  You are facing a giant number of comfortable to play, good sounding, small bod 00 and 000  guitars in your open hunt.  Your affordable price range will also dictate, but being a 67 yr old flat picker with old hands I have fashioned my search and collection toward those little guitars you are looking for. 

My easiest and most valuable comfortable player is a '35 L00, while my most comfortable sweet sounding thousand dollar guitar is a '62 Guild F30, which sounds and plays better than my '62 Martin 000-18.  I have others and will chime in when I get a brainstorm, but prepare yourself for a zillion great suggestions from this tribe.

Hope you live near a larger metro area so you can sample old and new in a variety of shops.

Sadly, I'm in a guitar desert with nothing but a Guitar Center near. I'm 4 hours from LA. 

I'm glad to hear there are lots of choices though! I guess the other thing I need to be aware of is NECK SHAPE. I don't think I like biggish necks. 

I'm trying to keep my cost under $2K. But, that's beginning to look too low.

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When it comes to "small"  there is, of course, body size but also nut width and,  as you note. neck carve..  Hard to argue when it comes tp  the Advanced Body L guitars.  I own a 1932 L1 12 fretter.   Gison built nothing like them before or after (unless you count the Legend L00).   Be advised though the L00 had a V neck which may not be to everyone's liking..     If you do not want to deal with old guitars there are a bunch of modern takes on the L00.. The only one which replicates the structure of the originals though would be the  Legend Version.  The others all have Gibson's standard scalloped bracing and are built  a bit heavier. The ones I have played though also have q V neck.  

If I were looking for an LG-2 -ish size guitar, I would go to a CF-100.  These were built from 1950 to 1959 and then disappeared.  The guitar buying public was just not ready for a cutaway flattop.  Gorgeous instruments though with a Florentine cutaway and Les Paul-style position markers.  They were expensive in their day and still are although I would say comparable to a 1930s L-00.  One word of advise though.  If you are unwashed when it comes to 1930s and 1940s guitars it is best to buy from a reputable dealer or have somebody you trust check the instrument out for you.

 

 

Edited by zombywoof
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11 hours ago, Dave F said:

I've recently got into the small bodies and they are quite comfortable.

I had a vintage LG1 but did not care for it.

The one in the center is an L00 which is your spruce over mahogany which sounds like what you're looking for. It's a '32 reissue and has the vee shape neck and may not work for you.

I think the modern versions may have a neck profile more to your liking. Most of the new studio models are using different tonewoods (mostly walnut) and different fretboard and bridge materials and different finishes to keep the cost down and you may not get the sound you're looking for.

On a side note, I'm close to you on age and a few years ago my arthritis was bothering my playing and my golfing. I started exercising and stretching my hands and it didn't take long before any neck was comfortable. Golf still sucks.

Small Bodies

 

 

Amazing collection Dave!

My hands are never going to stretch to the "4 fret" level. However, they have improved enough that I can play  again.  I think I prefer smallish necks. 

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An LG-2 (sunburst) or LG-3 (natural) would be a good choice as an all-around smallbody. I would pass on an LG-1 because it is ladder-braced rather than x-braced, but that's a matter of personal choice.

If you don't like big necks, you may need to look for a later model, say after 1959. Not sure if the neck pattern followed the same timeline as the slope-J guitars, so this is a case of try before you buy.

There are also very good modern re-issues of the LG, which you may want to consider. The modern re-issues will not have the potential "vintage" issues of an older guitar, so in some ways they are a safer bet unless you are comfortable evaluating the condition of an older guitar.

You may well find a good used modern LG around your $2k budget. A good vintage one is likely to be a bit more.

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30 minutes ago, j45nick said:

 

You may well find a good used modern LG around your $2k budget. A good vintage one is likely to be a bit more.

I think the nice condition vintage is above my budget - based on a quick survey of Reverb. The newer re-issues like Lg-2 American Eagle would be more in my budget. 

Of course, we all want that vintage vibe, but.....I think I may have to save that for another day. 

If anyone has an modern LG-2, - comments?

 

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38 minutes ago, DesertRatt said:

Of course, we all want that vintage vibe, but.....I think I may have to save that for another day. 

 

Vintage vibe is cool, but that's a subset of the Gibson vibe which is cool, vintage or not. 

FWIW Nick Lucas models have been talked about (here's one I saw on reverb, no affiliation) - I have not played one yet, but have a hankerin' to.  This does not give the specs on the neck, maybe others can weigh in - it might be a larger one?

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41 minutes ago, DesertRatt said:

I think the nice condition vintage is above my budget - based on a quick survey of Reverb. The newer re-issues like Lg-2 American Eagle would be more in my budget. 

Of course, we all want that vintage vibe, but.....I think I may have to save that for another day. 

If anyone has an modern LG-2, - comments?

 

Look at the final recent comment from bobouz in the thread   "how I ended up with a custom shop LG2..." 

It's an old thread, but his recent comment may be relevant to your search. You might also send him a private message if you want additional input.

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2 hours ago, billroy fineman said:

 

Vintage vibe is cool, but that's a subset of the Gibson vibe which is cool, vintage or not. 

FWIW Nick Lucas models have been talked about (here's one I saw on reverb, no affiliation) - I have not played one yet, but have a hankerin' to.  This does not give the specs on the neck, maybe others can weigh in - it might be a larger one?

Although the NL has the small body shape it has the depth of a J45

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I'm very inexperienced with vintage guitars and have no local tech's to fall back on, and no way to try before buy. They are also a good bit past my price range. 

Sooooooo, I just made an offer on a 2016 L-OO Standard.  Looks brand new and has HSC. 

That's dipping my toe into the Gibson oeuvre! 

Thanks to all for such great advice!

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My primary advice would be to not buy anything without a good return policy.

Small body guitars are a real crapshoot in terms of getting a hoped-for tone out of them.  Within any particular model line, you can easily find similar-era examples that will range from satisfyingly rich, to boxy, to “stuffed with socks”.

Best of luck in your search!

Edit:  Just saw your post above - Hope the L-OO works out well for you.

Edited by bobouz
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Well, the DEAL is done. I bought a used 2019 Parlor M Rosewood with Tea Sunburst for $1500.  I tried buying an L-OO Standard, but I just couldn't get it at a price I could afford. 

Looks like a beauty to me!

Product Specs

Condition
Excellent (Used)
Excellent items are almost entirely free from blemishes and other visual defects and have been played or used with the utmost care.learn more
Brand Gibson
Model Parlor Rosewood
Finish Tea Sunburst
Categories Built-in Electronics, Parlor
Year 2019
Made In United States
Body Shape Parlor
Right / Left Handed Right Handed
Number of Strings 6 String
Neck Material Mahogany
Fretboard Material Composite
Back Material Rosewood
Sides Material Rosewood
Top Material Spruce
Body Features

Cutaway

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