I’ve been following the dispatches from various sources at the big NAMM show (National Association of Musical Merchandisers) that wraps up today. I do wish I could attend that show at some point, if for no other reason than to hear some of pro staff demos that are a big part of the show. As you would expect I was especially interested in seeing what’s new from Martin and Taylor. Martin seems to be the winner in terms of interesting new guitars. Their -17 series looks very nice and I listened to a couple You Tube videos demonstrating their new line. It seems well thought out. You can also see the influence of guitarists wanting more in Martin’s line with cut-away bodies. That new cut-away OM-28 with enhanced electronics really caught my eye. The new John Lennon limited edition D-28 is a bit over the top in bling but it sure sounds nice, on the videos anyway.
Taylor has a few new models but nothing that made me drool. My guess is that they will keep issuing drool-worthy fall and spring limited edition models. Bob Taylor has never been one to sit still when it comes to innovations.
Although there weren’t a lot of online images, Eastman looks like it will continue to be the premier maker from China. They continue to bring out understated, elegant looking instruments but their pricing in the upper end is definitely bumping into Martin and Taylor territory. A few of my students play Eastman guitars and I have to say every one I’ve tried has been very impressive.
I also noted than many of the acoustic guitar makers, both here and abroad are jumping on the torrified or “aged” top bandwagon. I’ve only played a couple with this technology (both Martins) and I think the heat-curing process of the wood before it’s used in construction makes a lot of sense. And those Martins sounded excellent, exhibiting a mature sound that is what torrifiying is all about. Time will tell if the imports benefit from the process – or if they will hold together in the long run. Until recently anyway, many of the foreign makers were very good at imitating the cosmetics of premium American guitars but less successful in their results in terms of sound and longevity.
On a much more local note, I am doing what could be a dangerous experiment with humidification in my studio. The generally accepted number for relative humidity for acoustic guitar is about 45%, which is problematic in the winter around here. I do have a humidifier in my studio that I run every day, and also use sound hole humidifiers in all my guitars. The issue is sound. Drier guitars just sound better than ones that are heavily humidified and there is no question the ones I own sound better when they are somewhat dry. So I’m allowing the humidity in my studio to stay in the 35% range. It is a crapshoot, for sure. If I walk into my studio and find a crack in one of my Martins or my Taylor or Guild I will know I screwed up. But for now anyway, the benefit of excellent sound is clouding my judgment I guess. If something bad does happen I will report it here. Or not, because I will be too embarrassed (!).
The other night I watched the excellent documentary about Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, “The Other One.” I saw the Dead a couple times back in the 1970s and I have to confess I was never a huge fan but I totally respect their place in American music. It was a fascinating movie, well worth watching even if you’re not a Dead fan. It intersperses Bob’s comments and dialogue about the band, its history and most of all his friendship with Jerry Garcia with lots of archival footage. Musically speaking, the best past for me was the last five minutes or so which showed him in his home studio with another guitarist I did not recognize playing an acoustic version of one of his songs. It was great, very adventurous without the rambling, unfocused playing that characterizes some of his work. He also seems to be in a very good place, both physically and mentally and has a wonderful family who obviously loves and admires him. A true survivor of a time and place that claimed many. See it if you can.
I bit the bullet and ordered a new case to use on my upcoming annual trip to the Keys, a Hiscox Liteflite II. I breaks my cheap Yankee heart to pay full retail for my music toys but there didn’t seem to be any options. I have decided that I will check the guitar I decide to take (either a Martin or a Taylor) rather than take a lesser guitar as I have in the past (and been disappointed) or take a chance on getting a better guitar on board the plane with me. The Hiscox is supposed to be excellent. If I win the lottery between now and then I might spring for a Carlton, but my guess is that is not going to happen – ha. Again, I will report the results here. Or not.
Peace & good music,