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Confessions of an ignorant Gibson acoustic owner


babydaddymusic

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I am new to the forum and I have been obsessing about acoustic guitar tones, particularly where my recording studio is concerned, for the last decade or so. 
When I was in a touring band I was an Epiphone endorser so I never really thought too much about the quality of the instruments we had, I was just happy to have different acoustic guitars.

I was in the music business after I got out of the band and we had Gruhns guitars in Nashville. 
this was in 2011 and I knew that I wanted an acoustic that did not sound tinny or too bright so I walked into the shop thinking I was going to buy an old Gibson. I walked out of there with a custom (Gruhns) 0000-15M Martin.

This is a great guitar that I still have but I now recognize that I am much more of a Gibson person than I am a Martin person. 

My next guitar I also bought from Gruhns, which is a 1966 J45 in immaculate condition.

I bought this because initially it had that thud and I just knew I did not want my acoustic guitar to sound like a concert piano so I bought this. 
The truth be told however I’ve never really loved the guitar but I kept using it because I was supposed to love it. 

I became discontented and one day not long ago I was in a local music shop to buy some strings and there was a Gibson L-00 standard on the wall. I’ve always loved smaller body guitars but I have only ever played an old LG Gibson and a 1930’s Martin 00. which I loved. Very ignorantly I assumed that the quality of newer Gibson guitars was not good or spotty at best?  

This guitar spoke to me in the fifth dimension. After playing with it, putting it down and then going back and picking it up I knew I had to buy it. 
I have to tell you that this (L-00 Standard) may be the best acoustic that I’ve ever owned. It’s basically flawless and I can’t believe that a modern Gibson could be this good. I don’t know how to explain it but I just can’t put this thing down and I love it. Larry Mal said that this guitar encouraged him to take chances when playing and I think that sums it up perfectly. As I sat and looked at these three guitars I began recording them and comparing them to see what specifically I liked or did not like about them.

At that time I started thinking to myself why don’t I like this 1966 j45 that I have? I decided to give the old bird one more chance and I restrung it with Martin Monel strings. Much to my dismay the high E and B strings are very thuddy (dead) now. I have been reading about how people hate the adjustable bridges from the 60s so I decided to have a luthier that I trust put a bone saddle on this guitar. The luthier confirmed the strings were digging into the bridge saddle.

I think the adjustable bridge may be a part of the problem for me, I like the reduced sustain and thumping nature of Gibson acoustics but there’s a problem with the way the strings are slotting  on this bridge that is (was) on the guitar. I’m thinking that when I say I don’t love the guitar I’m actually referring to the lack of responsiveness that may directly be related to the  bridge saddle. 
What I love about the idea of an old Gibson acoustic is the ability to really lean into it strumming and have it not break apart and as much as I love my Martin if you lean into it even a little with a medium pic it starts to break apart and it sounds nasty. With the “plastic” adjustable bridge on the J 45 there’s kind of a honking to the mid range on the guitar. It doesn’t sing when leaned into. 

One of my best friends is a collector and he echoed what I had been reading online which was that many people feel that after the mid-1960s that Gibson quality changed for the worse. furthermore, that if you get a “good“ sounding Gibson acoustic from the 1960’s that you are lucky. What are your thoughts about that thought?

Have I dinged the value of myJ45 my putting a bone saddle in it?

Would I regret selling the J45 just because of its age?

I go back next week to pick the guitar up. It will have a hand carved bone saddle. 

 

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First welcome.

I have been playing almost 60 years and "discovered" Gibson acoustics maybe 45 years ago.  Yet I still at times feel like a "newbie".  There always seems to be something new to discover.

 As to 1960s Gibsons in general I think you have a good chance of finding a "good sounding" guitar at least prior to 1968.  I tend to avoid 1960s Gibson 6 strings though.  It does not have anything to do with sound but everything to do with feel.  While I am flexible that is only up to a point.  The combination of the narrow nut, thin neck and skimpy string spacing at the bridge made them a no starter for me. 

Regarding the ADJ saddle bridge they certainly increased the amount of attack you hear.  As to the saddle material I did replace the rosewood saddle on my 1961 B45-12 with one made of bone.  Oddly others kept telling me they felt it "improved" the sound,  That is everybody but me.  I felt that the combination of the rosewood saddle and tailpiece gave the 12 string a kind of an archtop vibe which I liked.

Edited by zombywoof
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1 hour ago, zombywoof said:

First welcome.

I have been playing almost 60 years and "discovered" Gibson acoustics maybe 45 years ago.  Yet I still at times feel like a "newbie".  There always seems to be something new to discover.

 As to 1960s Gibsons in general I think you have a good chance of finding a "good sounding" guitar at least prior to 1968.  I tend to avoid 1960s Gibson 6 strings though.  It does not have anything to do with sound but everything to do with feel.  While I am flexible that is only up to a point.  The combination of the narrow nut, thin neck and skimpy string spacing at the bridge made them a no starter for me. 

Regarding the ADJ saddle bridge they certainly increased the amount of attack you hear.  As to the saddle material I did replace the rosewood saddle on my 1961 B45-12 with one made of bone.  Oddly others kept telling me they felt it "improved" the sound,  That is everybody but me.  I felt that the combination of the rosewood saddle and tailpiece gave the 12 string a kind of an archtop vibe which I liked.

Thank you! I am glad you mentioned the feel. The neck is much thinner than any guitar I’ve had. I hadn’t thought about the spacing but you may shedding light on some of why I have never loved the guitar. I like to play big chords and I have noticed that I prefer the neck on the L-00 by a wide margin. You see what I did there?

I think I’m responding to the crowding when it comes to my playing

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7 hours ago, babydaddymusic said:

 

This guitar spoke to me in the fifth dimension. After playing with it, putting it down and then going back and picking it up I knew I had to buy it. 
I have to tell you that this (L-00 Standard) may be the best acoustic that I’ve ever owned. It’s basically flawless and I can’t believe that a modern Gibson could be this good. I don’t know how to explain it but I just can’t put this thing down and I love it. Larry Mal said that this guitar encouraged him to take chances when playing and I think that sums it up perfectly. As I sat and looked at these three guitars I began recording them and comparing them to see what specifically I liked or did not like about them.

 

 

That's me! I don't remember saying that but I'm glad you like the L-00. I actually own two at the moment, that Standard, and a 12 fret model. 

Modern day Gibson is great. 

But I bet the bone saddle makes a pretty big difference with your old guitar. Let us know!

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Best of luck getting the astound you want.. I look forward to hearing how it comes out..

Like most here I fell in love with J-45’s many moons ago.. One day I heard that Gibson  Bozeman was building a Ltd Edition Masterbilt Solid Top J-160E.. (For the past 30 years, In addition to Electric Guitars, I played Acoustic Electric Guitars with Bands).

I’ve played many plywood Top J-160’s & just never thought they sounded very good.. 

I was reluctant.. But, I always thought John Lennon’s J-160E was about the best & coolest looking Acoustic Guitar…. Period!

So this new Ltd Edition J-160E had Solid Spruce Top with Mahogany Back & Sides, a P-90 (which I love) & great looking, very functional Volume & Tone knobs conveniently located on the front of the Guitar.. I ordered one..

Long story short.. In many ways it was very reminiscent of many J-45’s I’d  played.. In it’s Sound & feel..  Acousticaly it seemed to have a bigger Sound.. Plugged in to my Fender & Vox Amp the P90, WOW, what a great Sound!  I think I really lucked out with this one..

I’ve been wanting to get another J-45 & have played a bunch.. All very nice! But, I haven’t found a better Sounding one than my J-160E.. 

I still am looking for the right J-45 though….

Edited by Larsongs
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15 hours ago, DanvillRob said:

sounds like you have the ear and resources to search for “your” guitar.

like you, in my mind, an acoustic guitar should be a Gibson, (and an electric should be a Fender).

let us know how your J-45 sounds when you get it back.  

DanvillRob,

To each his own.

Remembering that I also own a J-45 that I like very much, in my mind, an acoustic guitar should be a Martin, (and an electric should be a Gibson (ES-whichever).

RBSinTo

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I bought my 1933 Gibson mandolin from George (Gruhn) when they were on Broadway.

I like the new store, though. He knew how stupid it was getting downtown.

My J-45 RW ebony is a 2003, so I guess that's modern, but it's a tone Hoss and I dig it. But, my J-15 has opened up and will hold it's own in any jam it's been to.

Best to ya, tone is an adventure.

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I don't know how this will play here.  Let me give you some long tern perspective from the vintage world.   I have over 50 old GIBSONs (c 1900 - 1965) and 50 old Martins (1893-1969).

First the actual golden era instruments (mid 20s to early 40s) truly deserve all the hype, but they are rare, expensive now,, and harder to maintain than more modern instruments.  The wartime Gibsons (banners) are definitely a step down in power and tone, but have their own unique sound qualities and are loved by many -- including me.  From there power ramped down sort of continually until about 1970, which was a low point for Gibson and Martin both.  For many, 1945-1950 was still very desirable, 1950 -1955 still had pretty good stuff, 1956-1965 noticeably diminished , 1966-1970 falling quickly.  There can be exceptions in every period, and also your style is very important in what works for you.  But this general perspective should provide some context.

All the best,

-Tom

 

 

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4 hours ago, RBSinTo said:

DanvillRob,

To each his own.

Remembering that I also own a J-45 that I like very much, in my mind, an acoustic guitar should be a Martin, (and an electric should be a Gibson (ES-whichever).

RBSinTo

RBS, yes....I was only stating MY preferences.... I very much like Martin Guitars, and I very much like Gibson ES's and Les's & SG's.   I draw the line at Yamahas &  Taylors....but again, that's just me!

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1 hour ago, tpbiii said:

I don't know how this will play here.  Let me give you some long tern perspective from the vintage world.   I have over 50 old GIBSONs (c 1900 - 1965) and 50 old Martins (1893-1969).

First the actual golden era instruments (mid 20s to early 40s) truly deserve all the hype, but they are rare, expensive now,, and harder to maintain than more modern instruments.  The wartime Gibsons (banners) are definitely a step down in power and tone, but have their own unique sound qualities and are loved by many -- including me.  From there power ramped down sort of continually until about 1970, which was a low point for Gibson and Martin both.  For many, 1945-1950 was still very desirable, 1950 -1955 still had pretty good stuff, 1956-1965 noticeably diminished , 1966-1970 falling quickly.  There can be exceptions in every period, and also your style is very important in what works for you.  But this general perspective should provide some context.

All the best,

-Tom

 

 

Wow! Thank you. You sound like my friend - very good information here, from someone who had put their money into the journey 

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2 hours ago, Murph said:

I bought my 1933 Gibson mandolin from George (Gruhn) when they were on Broadway.

I like the new store, though. He knew how stupid it was getting downtown.

My J-45 RW ebony is a 2003, so I guess that's modern, but it's a tone Hoss and I dig it. But, my J-15 has opened up and will hold it's own in any jam it's been to.

Best to ya, tone is an adventure.

Thank you - they finally moved to 8th Ave on West End 

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14 hours ago, Larry Mal said:

That's me! I don't remember saying that but I'm glad you like the L-00. I actually own two at the moment, that Standard, and a 12 fret model. 

Modern day Gibson is great. 

But I bet the bone saddle makes a pretty big difference with your old guitar. Let us know!

Larry! Love your posts. I can’t tell you how surprised I am by this L-00. I’m away from it the last few days and I am thinking of it like a long lost love! Recording wise it is surprisingly versatile, and I love the feel of it. 

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Larry you mention modern day Gibson. I’m starting to wonder if the 2019 L-00 is actually a better instrument than my 66 J45. I definitely feel it’s more versatile. What I’ll be interested to see is if the 66 becomes the ultimate pure open chord strummer with the bone saddle.

I was very biased against modern Gibson until this L-00. I’m starting to think outside of 20’s to 50’s Gibson, the new models are actually better than what I have. I have no interest in owning a museum piece

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I have a ‘66 J50 that is my fave guitar ever. My previous opinion was Gibson Acoustics from the ‘60s-‘70s  were mostly dogs, but then I found a couple J50s I really liked. 
 

The ADJ bridge is a huge part of the ‘60s sound IMO. I personally find the bridge to help the guitar “sound right”, and fit right in under my vocal. I think the non-ADJ bridge makes a lot of the modern Gibsons sound too “full” and a bit boring in comparison.  Especially for recording. 

I think anyone can do whatever they want to a guitar, but I would think if you don’t love a guitar, changing the bridge will not make you love it. When I am looking for ‘60s Gibsons to buy, I do not consider those which have replaced parts on the ADJ bridge. 

I’m 6’1” and the skinny neck is just fine for me. I can play things across the board that I can’t on any other guitar. 

There is a sort of sound that the ADJ Gibsons have that I was always searching for from records but never knew what it was until recently. 
 

 

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17 minutes ago, Donny said:

I have a ‘66 J50 that is my fave guitar ever. My previous opinion was Gibson Acoustics from the ‘60s-‘70s  were mostly dogs, but then I found a couple J50s I really liked. 
 

The ADJ bridge is a huge part of the ‘60s sound IMO. I personally find the bridge to help the guitar “sound right”, and fit right in under my vocal. I think the non-ADJ bridge makes a lot of the modern Gibsons sound too “full” and a bit boring in comparison.  Especially for recording. 

I think anyone can do whatever they want to a guitar, but I would think if you don’t love a guitar, changing the bridge will not make you love it. When I am looking for ‘60s Gibsons to buy, I do not consider those which have replaced parts on the ADJ bridge. 

I’m 6’1” and the skinny neck is just fine for me. I can play things across the board that I can’t on any other guitar. 

There is a sort of sound that the ADJ Gibsons have that I was always searching for from records but never knew what it was until recently. 
 

 

Thank you for this! It’s a great take on things for sure. 

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22 hours ago, tpbiii said:

I don't know how this will play here.  Let me give you some long tern perspective from the vintage world.   I have over 50 old GIBSONs (c 1900 - 1965) and 50 old Martins (1893-1969).

First the actual golden era instruments (mid 20s to early 40s) truly deserve all the hype, but they are rare, expensive now,, and harder to maintain than more modern instruments.  The wartime Gibsons (banners) are definitely a step down in power and tone, but have their own unique sound qualities and are loved by many -- including me.  From there power ramped down sort of continually until about 1970, which was a low point for Gibson and Martin both.  For many, 1945-1950 was still very desirable, 1950 -1955 still had pretty good stuff, 1956-1965 noticeably diminished , 1966-1970 falling quickly.  There can be exceptions in every period, and also your style is very important in what works for you.  But this general perspective should provide some context.

All the best,

-Tom

 

 

Which 2 Gibsons & which 2 Martins do you play the most?

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14 hours ago, Larsongs said:

Which 2 Gibsons & which 2 Martins do you play the most?

1935 Jumbo and right now, 1940  RW  J-55.  These two are both spectacular flat picked and fingerpicked with picks as well.  The RW J-55 is very like the 36 AJ but not so valuable.

1939 D-28 and 1935 D-18, mostly for bluegrass. 

Tone is not the only issue -- some don't go out because their cost/condition are too high.

Best,

Tom

 

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12 minutes ago, tpbiii said:

1935 Jumbo and right now, 1940  RW  J-55.  These two are both spectacular flat picked and fingerpicked with picks as well.  The RW J-55 is very like the 36 AJ but not so valuable.

1939 D-28 and 1935 D-18, mostly for bluegrass. 

Tone is not the only issue -- some don't go out because their cost/condition are too high.

Best,

Tom

 

I would love to see hear those Diamonds! I get what you’re saying about not going out due to cost & condition..

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On 12/25/2022 at 12:20 PM, babydaddymusic said:

Larry! Love your posts. I can’t tell you how surprised I am by this L-00. I’m away from it the last few days and I am thinking of it like a long lost love! Recording wise it is surprisingly versatile, and I love the feel of it. 

 

On 12/24/2022 at 9:34 PM, Larry Mal said:

That's me! I don't remember saying that but I'm glad you like the L-00. I actually own two at the moment, that Standard, and a 12 fret model. 

Modern day Gibson is great. 

But I bet the bone saddle makes a pretty big difference with your old guitar. Let us know!

So I got the J45 back with the new bone saddle.

In a word, stunning. It has totally changed the way that I feel about this guitar. Now I grant you that it’s brighter than the original ebony saddle, but man, does this saddle bring out the wood and responsiveness of the guitar. I’ve been messing around with recording it as a strummer (like Moonlight Mile) or finger picking like M-Ward. It does it all now.

Now here’s the kicker. I just double tracked the J45 with my new L-00, and it sounds stupid crazy balls great.

And…

If I pan those two left and right and put the Martin 0000-15 in the middle, it sounds like Moonlight Mile on acid on fire in a toy store.

 

If I had to rank the guitars in terms of practicality-

  1. 1966 J45
  2. Martin 0000-15
  3. 2019 L-00

I’ve learned something in this process. I made a playlist of acoustic based songs that really resonated with me. What I realized is that some songs the player is using a pick, and many songs they are using their fingers. Most of the songs that I connect with have strings on the dead(ish) side but not 100% of the time (depends on the song).

Larry Mal mentioned that the L-00 made him feel like he could take chances in his playing and I know exactly what he means. I have an emotional attachment to it and what I have learned is that what it does, it does VERY well. Could I maneuver with it as my only studio acoustic? Probably- it’s a nice strummer if you use a lighter touch. But the J45 is just begging to be strummed like Band on the Run or Take it Easy. It has a shimmer and not as much mid-wonkiness with the bone saddle.

If I HAD to sell one it would be the Martin, and I can’t believe that I am saying that, but I am largely a Gibson guy I have discovered.

Against the Gibsons, the Martin has a certain mid focused voicing with high overtones, which is great, it’s just different than the Gibson thing. There is a percussive thing to the Gibsons that just seems to suit me. The Martin is more polite I guess you could say.

Anyway- right now the plan is to keep all three and sell some other gear so I can feel less guilty about the L-00.

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5 hours ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

Do guitars need to be practical? Why feel guilty about buying a guitar? Sell the Martin if it not your thing anymore.

Some weird stars must be in rare alignment but I gotta go with Sgt. Pepper on this one. A guitar doesn’t need to be practical. It just needs to be a guitar you’ll play.

I’m “down” to three guitars — a paltry herd by the standards here — and sometimes I think it’s two guitars too many. I worry that some folks think about their guitars more than they play them. Unless you’re a pro intending to make money off the guitar, little of what we do is going to be heard by others, so you might as well own guitars that make YOU happy.

I know I might be in the minority on this score, but I think a smart player gets a decent guitar they adore and then tailors his or her style to it. To me, that is one of the attractions of my J-35. It’s a very versatile guitar — more so, I would posit, than a run-of-the-mill J-45.

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