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Archtop frustration


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I think most that come with a pickup on them are not designed to be as responsive acoustically as the older pre pickup ones as to minimize feedback.

Even later ones specially ordered without pickups were probably not as lightly built as they once were when they were used acoustically.

I have only one archtop L5CES Historic 58 made in 1997/8. Never plug it in

Pure Nickel Strings 10-48 ...just loud enough for my wife ,I & macaw to hear at breakfast most mornings.

It is so much more playable than any of my flat tops. I love it. No struggle.

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Hi Scott,The archtop is a peculiar beast and when I first encountered it I had no idea how it was to be played. A very nice old guy told me the secret. There is nothing wrong with the guitar it's just the players approach to it.

 

The archtop guitar was never meant to be a solo instrument and in a band setting it never was played with single note lines. It was always a rhythm instrument that was played with a very heavy hand. Why the archtop? because no matter how hard you played it it never broke up. Never. It was always played with a walking bass line and the the players were masters of the inside chord with passing chord lines. When Gibson introduced the ES150 Charlie Christian changed the world. He was responsible for palying the first single note melody lines. He could be heard over the horns with this electric archtop guitar and the whole style of playing was changed.

 

It's very difficult to learn the jazz style these instruments were designed to play but once you learn nothing else will do. I love to watch the old movies from the 20's and 30's as I always look for the musicals with big bands. They always have a archtop player in the rhythm section next to the drummer amd the guy is busy as hell with walking bass lines and the boom/chuck style of playing. He would never try to play melody lines as he would be lost in the mix so to speak. Boom /chuck or bass/chuck was more of a snare drum approach. There is a wonderful example of this in the opening theme to the Antiques Road Show on PBS. I love this style and am not good at it as my music theory leaves a lot to be desired.

 

 

So... Whack the hell out of the archtop. It'll take it and it'll come alive in your lap. I have 5 archtops and wouldn't part with them for any flat-top. My 1976 Guild X-175 is the best for electric but my '80 Ibanez FA-800 it the very best acoustic I have ever encountered. The harder you play it the better it sounds. Flat wound mediums. Whack!!!

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I mainly play flat tops but I like the archtop sound. Going from flat top to archie is a bit wrenching and it takes a little while to start finding the right touch. As Hogeye said you have to dig in quite a bit and at least mediums and a stiff pick help. The Godin 5th Avenue is a fun one to try because it is somewhere in between a traditional archtop feel and a flat top and maybe a little more accessible to a flat top player. The top is pressed wood and somewhat thinner than the usual arch top.

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So... Whack the hell out of the archtop. It'll take it and it'll come alive in your lap. I have 5 archtops and wouldn't part with them for any flat-top. My 1976 Guild X-175 is the best for electric but my '80 Ibanez FA-800 it the very best acoustic I have ever encountered. The harder you play it the better it sounds. Flat wound mediums. Whack!!!

 

 

Boy, you're right there. I had been approaching playing the archtop like a flat top, and it just doesn't work. My luthier (Ross Teigen) is an old Gibson archtop guy. I had my '48 L-7 in for a setup and a new finger rest installation (the original was starting to outgas), and I admitted I was having trouble coming to terms with it. I played a couple of timid full-chord licks for him before he took the guitar away and starting whomping out these big ascending/descending rhythm figures on it.

 

He hands it back to me and says "play it like that".

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Boy, you're right there. I had been approaching playing the archtop like a flat top, and it just doesn't work. My luthier (Ross Teigen) is an old Gibson archtop guy. I had my '48 L-7 in for a setup and a new finger rest installation (the original was starting to outgas), and I admitted I was having trouble coming to terms with it. I played a couple of timid full-chord licks for him before he took the guitar away and starting whomping out these big ascending/descending rhythm figures on it.

 

He hands it back to me and says "play it like that".

 

That's a good one. I got the very same lesson. '48 L-7 wow... Archtops are not loud they are meant to be played loud. You could throw a archtop in a wood chipper and it would be happy as hell. Don't try any sissy boy light picks. Get the thickest thing you can find and Whack it.

 

I will tell a funny story on Ren. He was using Mike Stanger's L-7 as a prototype for Montana's reissue. Mike is a graphic artist as well as Gibson's very first spray booth manager. Ren let me play it and then took it down to the buffing room for a nice buff and polish before he sent it back. Ren had been buffing flat-tops for a million years and when he rolled the archtop across the wheel it grabbed the f-hole and the guitar launched into the wall. It made the most amazing sound when it hit. Think the lost chord here. Sort of a B flat minor 7th. Well Mike was crushed as was the guitar and the only thing Ren could do was to pay him the going rate for the guitar and build him a new one.

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That's a good one. I got the very same lesson. '48 L-7 wow...

 

 

Brain fade on my part. It's actually a 1947 L-7 (A-235), probably from June or July. Picture is above in this thread.

 

Since It's my birth year (I'm about six months older than the guitar), you'd think I would remember.

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That's a good one. I got the very same lesson. '48 L-7 wow... Archtops are not loud they are meant to be played loud. You could throw a archtop in a wood chipper and it would be happy as hell. Don't try any sissy boy light picks. Get the thickest thing you can find and Whack it.

 

I will tell a funny story on Ren. He was using Mike Stanger's L-7 as a prototype for Montana's reissue. Mike is a graphic artist as well as Gibson's very first spray booth manager. Ren let me play it and then took it down to the buffing room for a nice buff and polish before he sent it back. Ren had been buffing flat-tops for a million years and when he rolled the archtop across the wheel it grabbed the f-hole and the guitar launched into the wall. It made the most amazing sound when it hit. Think the lost chord here. Sort of a B flat minor 7th. Well Mike was crushed as was the guitar and the only thing Ren could do was to pay him the going rate for the guitar and build him a new one.

 

"The Bozeman Years: Ren Ferguson and the Revival of the Gibson Acoustic Guitar"

Rizzolli Books

Author: The Right Honorable Hogeye & Sir Ren

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  • 11 months later...

I do realize that no one has posted on this thread for a while but I wanted to give an update on where I am with playing the Eastman 810CE. I moved to a really thick pick like 0.085" black plastic pick. I dropped the string height back down to 4/64"at the 12th fret. I'm still using 13 round wounds.

 

At this point I don't know if its the guitar or my playing style but the guitar is the biggest chameleon I've ever heard. If you push the strings (with your pick) there's lots of bottom end with almost no brightness. Striking the strings with the pick is increasingly bright depending on how much velocity you put on the pick. The tighter you hold the pick the more bass you get. Finger picking is generally really bright with hitting the strings with the back of the fingers being the brightest of all.

 

At this point I'm really blown away and can get just about any sound out of the instrument that I want to.

 

Has anyone tried any of this and if so what kind of response do you get with your archtop?

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Old thread, but don't worry - they are old style guitars!

 

 

Years back I went for some jazz lessons, thinking I was going to sound like Charlie Parker, except on guitar. The old bloke I went to hated that stuff and proceeded to teach me Freddie Green style, and while I got impatient at the ruination of a small dream by this man, if I saw him to day I would kiss him! While I don't use that style at all, it has helped my 'internal' timing for guitar AND vocal immensely. Highly recommend spending some time learning Freddie!

 

I play country blues on my archtops and guess what if I can't get it loud enough? I plug in to my amp!

 

Here is a glimpse or two of the great Freddie Green among a WHOLE lot of greats........... It just don't mean a thing if it ...........

 

 

 

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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What's really interesting to me is watching Mr. Green's right hand work in that video. That's the key to the sound he's getting from the guitar. He and the bass player are carrying the beat. I'm not hearing much from the drummer on that. Although I have to believe the drummers bass pedal is there as well.

 

Do you have any of your stuff up on the Internet? Sound Cloud perhaps?

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I'm with Zomby on this one, I never got the hang of the f-hole arch top…..but these two are the ones for me:

 

IMGP0072-1-1.jpg

'33 Martin R-18

 

1292359120-113JPG_m.jpg

1923 L-2

 

The round hole Martin IS like a hybrid between the flat-top and the arch top, and the L-2 is just unique!!! Both are good for finger style blues, adding a plunky old-timey sound that you just can't get with a flat top…..unless of course you have a '20's Stella…..

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Do you have any of your stuff up on the Internet? Sound Cloud perhaps?

 

 

 

Nothing at all like any jazz mentioned, but I have a Soundcloud track up from a year ago of me fingerpicking/singing a Robert Johnson thing - not what you want at all probably, but in the interests of breaking the jazz/archtop typecast, here it is:

 

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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My understanding is the pre pickup Archtops were more like voiced for louder volume..when the pickup was designed they were voiced differently right across the board pickup or not.

Ive seen some good 1930's L5's for sale in the past..Maybe buy an good old car next time..use the balance for one of those : )

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Hey BluesKing I listened to your Robert Johnson piece, Great finger work, and petty good singing in the RJ style. What guitar were you playing with what strings?

 

 

 

Thanks Dave.

 

I played the '35 Gibson Black Special L50 pictured in my signature and used Gibson MB PB 12s (Because I bought a box of them for my flat tops and they work nicely on my arch top.)

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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In my experience, you Do have to play them differently than those pesky flat tops…..good thing though is that strings seem to last a LONG time on arch tops, I think because of the downward pressure of the strings on the bridge….just doesn't seem to need new strings as often…...

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