Review Of The Godin A4 Semi-Acoustic Fretless Bass

Test & Review Of The Godin A4 Semi-Acoustic Fretless Bass

There are a few brands of guitars and basses that I seem to love to play. Some are obvious choices like Gibson, Fender, Music Man, Guild, Taylor, Paul Reed Smith and Martin, and some are the “other” brands out there who make exceptional instruments that are relatively lower cost and I think very high value. I  think Schecter, Babicz, Lakland Basses, G & L (and the tribute line), Laravee and Ovation. I have a particular warm spot for Godin guitars and basses.

I own a Godin Exit 22, it’s one of their lowest priced electric guitar offerings and I love it. It’s probably my least expensive electric and it’s also the one I reach for when I want to play. The test drive today is my first test of a Godin bass and I highly anticipated the event.

The Godin A4 and it’s five string twin, the A5 are visually straightforward and beautiful. They only come in natural, semi-gloss finish with a solid cedar top (some models use solid spruce), a two chamber silver leaf maple body and on fretted models the fingerboard is rosewood, on the fretless models, it’s ebony. The bass comes with a 13 pin “synth access” or you can use a conventional ¼” cable into an amp. I went with cable to amp, in this case a used Fender Bassman 25 watt amp. It has an L.R. Baggs ribbon transducer and that was points in its favor right away: I really like what L.R. Baggs does for acoustic sound.

The feel of the bass is impressive too. The neck is slender, 1 ½” at the nut and nicely formed for excellent feel. It feels very much like jazz bass. The fingerboard radius of 16” is a bit flatter than what I’m used to but not a problem and easy to adjust to. The body itself is only slightly larger than a  solid body bass as opposed to other acoustic basses that I’ve played with jumbo, deep bodies. It’s light and easy on the shoulder and I wouldn’t describe the body as a perfect fit against my body, but a very good fit.

Playing it was incredible. This guitar gives the best “thumpy” upright bass sound I’ve ever heard from a bass guitar. For that matter it probably out thumpied most upright basses I’ve heard. Fretless basses do have a more muffled sound and it makes sense. With a fretted bass, you hold down the string against a hard fret and the string vibrates between a hard string and a hard fret. With a fretless bass, oyu’re holding the string down on the fingerboard with your finger so it’s the hard bridge and your soft finger, it’s somewhat muffled by the soft finger.

The sound this bass produces is incredible. When an acoustic-electric guitar or bass produce a great sound, it’s a combination of all factors including construction materials, design, strings, electronics and  of course, the amp. This was a great combination and the L.R. Baggs electronics are superb at faithfully reproducing sound. With a synth,  you have a world of opportunity to create new tones, but I really liked what I heard just as a guitar through an amp.

I didn’t know if I’d like the EQ controls on the upper bout of the soundboard, but it turns out I did like them there. Instead of dials or knobs, there are sliders and it’s very easy to reach, adjust and see your levels. The volume knob(s) are on the side, also easy to access and nicely recessed.

Two issues that need to be addressed. The first is, most music stores don’t stock acoustic basses, especialy higher priced models. They aren’t huge sellers and dealers can’t afford to stock inventory that won’t move. So trying one before you decide to buy it may be a problem. If you order online, check the return policy; most online stores give you at least thirty, and some as much as sixty days to consider your purchase or return it for a full refund. If you want to try one first, and that’s not a bad idea, you may need to find a store in a major city. If you know of a store that stocks a healthy selection of acoustic basses, please let us know by sending me an email or reply on this blog.

Another issue that I couldn’t address in the store is feedback. Acoustic-electric basses are notorious for giving nasty feedback. It makes sense too, especially wen on stage. Most acoustic basses are jumbo bodies where the sound reenters through the soundhole and resonate and then echoes in the body and is picked up by the transducer. A selling point of the Godin A4 dramatically reduces feedback.

The design tends to support the claim of reduced feedback. The body is shallow, there isn’t a large soundhole but rather a sound “slot.”  It certainly didn’t get uppity when I stood near the amp and put the bas in that direction. I’ll try it out in a few different spots and update you on how it performs in a practice and session and while on stage.

How can I possibly do that from a bass I’m trying out in a store? I was very impressed with this instrument and I bought it….at a discount of course.

Update: Please read my 2 month later review on the Godin A4 semi-acoustic bass – go to Blog and then Prof. Dave’s Guitar Buying Advice. One item right away: USE STRAP LOCKS WITH THIS INSTRUMENT – IT SHEADS STRAPS!

This blog is Prof Dave’s Guitar and Bass Buying Advice. If you have a guitar or bass and you’d like to post an opinion, please write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com – if you disagree with my opinion or have an opinion or review on an instrument I haven’t reviewed, as long as it isn’t too foul (language that is) I’ll post it. I’d love to hear from all you guitar & bass heads. Prof. Dav

How To EASILY Save Money On Major Instrument Purchases

How To EASILY  Save $$$ On Major Instrument Purchases

Is this about “comparison shopping?” Yes and no: with the internet available to us, it’s easy to comparison shop, we all do it all the time and vendors do it too in order to make sure their prices are competitive and they can earn every penny possible on a sale. It’s not surprise that if you’re looking for a Martin Performing Artist Series GPCP3A Acoustic-Electric, the price is $1,999.00. Where? Everywhere you look. The vendors are doing exactly the same thing consumers are doing: comparing prices.

One very reputable online vender that I like is guitaradoptions.com. They have an interesting way to “cloak” their prices, which are discounted below what you typically see in the market. They’ll show you the same price everyone else has on the same item and tell you to put it in you art to find out the price to you and if you don’t like it, you can remove the item. This puts the actual price in a secured cart where it won’t be picked up in a search. They do sell for less BUT they also have a very limited selection in terms of brands and it’s all the very high end, expensive stuff. But if you’re looking for hig end, expensive stuff, check them out.

All online vendors have outlet or clearance centers and one of our affiliates, American Musical Supply (click on the banner ad to check this out) has what I believe are the best outlet deals anywhere. The also have “Deal of the Day” and “Deal of the Week” which have incredible low prices but you have to stay on it and be patient for what you want to appear. If you’re not in a rush, and major guitar or bass pruchases are rarely as urgent, you just may find what  you want with a deep discount attached.

Wait for a sale is a great tip and amazingly overlooked. Not just big purchases, but purchases like strings and accessories. If you change strings often and your favorite strings are on sale, buy them in quantity. But for big ticket items, be patient: sales happen all the time. I recently purchases a Godin A4 Semi-Acousitc Fretless Bass and it sells everywhere for $1079.00 – very cool. But by waiting a few weeks until Guitar Center and Musicians Friend had big sales (Guitar Center had $200 off any purchase over $999 and Musicians Friend had 15% off all purchases) that brought the price of the bass down to $878. And that’s not just $878 at these two vendors, that means $878 everywhere because everyone guaranetees the lowest price and will match prices.

Another cost that can really drive the price up on a purchase is sales tax. If you go to a store, even a Guitar Center, they obliged to collect state sales tax on every purchase. In New Jersey, where I live, the NJ State Sales Tax is 7%, so that means if I make a $1,000 purchase, I pay $70 in sales tax. Sales tax is also collected if I make an online purchase from a vendor in my state.

However, If you order online from an out of state vendor, they have no obligation to collect sales tax and you can save that right off the top of your purchase. On the Martin GPCPA3 mentioned above, that would save you $140 right off the bat on your purchase. Not bad. But I also don’t buy acoustic guitars like that because each one is unique. For me, if I’m making a major purchase of an acoustic instrument, I like to put my hands on it, play it and hear it before buying it.

So do you have any money saving ideas that you’d share? I’d love to hear from you. You can send an email to dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Thanks, Prof. Dave

Great Bass Guitars To Get You Started Playing

Great Basses To Get You Started Playing

I probably spend too much time looking at higher priced guitars and basses and realized that I’m overlooking an important part of the bass guitar industry: good starter basses. Today I’m offering some ideas on bass guitars that sell new for under $300, play great and give a lot for the money. I personally satay away from guitars that are eye catching shapes, like a bat or a fish and prefer basses that focus on being well made, easy playing and good sounding instruments. You pay for style: I recommend substance.

Here are my top choices for basses that sell new for under $300:

  1. Yamaha RBX374 for about $299: In this price range, this is my overall favorite but with the note that there’s a lot of competition and by no means does this leave the others in the dust. For fit, feel, finish, sound and playability, the Yamaha does measures up and is a great choice.
  2. Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar for about $298: The Jaguar bass is sooooo cool and this one ranks well in all of my criteria too. Squier makes its guitars and basses very, very close to Fender specs and it feels and sounds like it.
  3. Schechter Raider Custom 4 for about $298: Great sound and playability. The overall quality is good too and when you’re out shopping, don’t overlook this brand.
  4. Ibanez GATK20 for about $249: Ibanez makes an incredibly popular line of basses, dealers seem to love Ibanez and so do players. This is a solid performer for about $50 less than other basses on the list except for the Peavey.
  5. Peavey Millennium BXP 4 for about $239: This bass has wonderfully crisp electronics and very playable too. I prefer the Millennium to other Peavey models and it measures up well with the competition.
  6. Danelectro Wild Thing for about $299: Danelectro??? What kind of a name is that? Actually, a pretty highly regarded name and manufacturer of some well built, high value instruments. I liked the balance, the feel and sound of this bass. They make good stuff.
  7. ESP LTD TD EC 104 for about $279: I particularly liked the neck on this bass and the sound was very strong, solid and impressive.
  8. Dean Edge 1 Quilt Top for about $219: I don’t usually put Dean guitars in my top lists although I really don’t dislike them, they’re usually not in m top, that’s all. This bass was very comfortable and well contoured, sounded good, played nicely, looked exceptional and for $219, a good, solid, affordable option.
  9. Epiphone EB-3 SG Bass for about $299: How can you go wrong with the classic SG shape. The pickups had a wonderful snap and punch and the SG body is very comfortable and very cool looking.
  10. Flea Bass FB-ST Street Bass for about $299: What can I say? I like Flea Basses. This has a very nice alder body, nicely sculpted neck, and was a lot of fun to play.

The prices above are for 4 string basses. Most offer a 5 string option for about $50 – $75 more. As I mentioned at the top, none of these blew the others away, there were all good, quality pieces and if you’re shopping for a new low priced bass, these are all worth checking out.

When you go to a music store, give yourself some time to tes a lot of basses, don’t’ fall in love with a look, most of what you’re going to judging a bass by in the future is how it sounds, feels and plays. Be patient and have fun.

Do you have any recommendations for a new bass under $300? I’d like to hear from you. YHou can write to dave@openmindedmic.com or leave a reply on this blog. Thanks, Prof. Dave

Review: Teach Me Bass Guitar

A Review of “Teach Me Bass Guitar” from The Learning Dock

This highly acclaimed instruction program is completely worthy of the high acclaim. Besides beign a musician, I’ve been an educator for almost 40 years, and this is as fine an instructional program as I’ve ever seen in any area of instruction.

About two years ago I developed a problem with my left hand and had trouble with the strings on the guitar so I decided to give bass a try and it was a good choice. The nice, big, chunky strings were a lot more agreeable to me. I knew music and the basics of playing bass, but after a few months I realized that if I wanted to really get to the point of playing at a high level, I needed instruction. I did two very smart things – at the same time no less – I got a bass teacher and bought a copy of “Teach Me Bass Guitar.” Both are indispensable.

Even though I can see where someone could teach themselves bass guitar just by using this program, I still strongly recommend using this program and a bass guitar teacher.

There are a lot of music books, DVD’s, CD’s and other media out there to offer you instruction in playing bass guitar. In my view, the things that make this program unique are the instructor, the breadth and depth of the instruction and some very unique and effective uses of technology.

Roy Vogt, the instructor for this course, is a master bass player with a Masters Degree in Bass Guitar. Very good credentials to start with. Roy has a great way of clearing describing and demonstrating what he wants the student to do and what you need to do to master a particular lesson. In every lesson, Roy plays bass in an ensemble suing the lesson as a basis for playing and then steps aside and lets the student play with the band. Play along isn’t unique to this course, it’s something that’s done in another program that I love and endorse, “Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar” by Legacy Learning. It’s a great tool to enhance the learning.

The material covered is amazing and it seems to cover the full range of skill and knowledge one would need to become an accomplished bassist. One warning, this course doesn’t promise that you crack open the case one day and the next be challenging Marcus Miller or Stanley Clark for bass supremacy – maybe Gene Simmons; I shouldn’t say that. In truth, Gene is a pretty good bass player.

You start playing music immediately and I think that’s important. You gradually begin to learn the notes up and own the neck which is incredibly valuable for playing bass. You go through blues, scales, inversions, learning about major, minor, diminished, augmented and other chords and scales in a progressive fashion so that as your understanding develops, so does your skill so you can deliver the sound you want. You get lessons in power chords, slap, tap, rock, blues, jazz and other genre of music. No matter what music you play, having exposure to different styles and techniques really adds to your bass playing tool box.

There are two technological applications that are unique to Teach Me Bass Guitar: the real time neck and the loop library. The real time neck is a great innovation. As Roy plays his bass, below him on the screen is the model of a bass guitar maple fretboard and as he places his left hand on a string, the fretboard lights up on the string and fret where he placed his finger. Once released, the position remains marked and the next note lights up on the fretboard. This visual enables you  not only see exactly where his finger is, but also gives a great visual of the pattern which is so important to a bass player. This is an excellent innovation.

The other innovation I loved is called the “Loop Library.” For each lesson, you can go to the Loop Library where you can have small segments of a lesson repeated until you advance it so you can really get what was being instructed, practice it and advance. This is particularly valuable in the more complex lessons and spending just a short time with mastering the small chunks helps you to put it all together.

I could not recommend a program more highly than this. You can take a deeper look by clicking on their link on this site. It costs nothing to look.

In this review, I gave a great review of a program that advertises on this site. I make a portion of my income from ads, including Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar and Teach Me Bass Guitar. The ads for these products appear on this web site because I have personally used them, both as a student and teacher and think they represent the best products out there. That’s why when I started this page, and subsequently this blog, I specifically asked them to place ads here and I was very happy when they agreed. These are great programs.

Use this, with a good teacher, and your progress will be amazing: not overnight, but amazing.

What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear from you. Post a reply on this blog or write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com. Prof. Dave

Review: Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar

What You Can Expect From The Guitar & Bass Self-Instruction Programs.

Laura from Philadelphia wrote to me and asked for some details about what’s in the DVD based learning programs that are featured in the banner ads on this page; specifically, “Learn & Master Guitar” and “Teach Me Bass Guitar.” Today I’ll focus on the Learn & Master series and tomorrow Teach Me Bass Guitar. I’ve used both programs both as a teacher and a student and found them to be a terrific resource for accelerating learning. I don’t agree with the marketing folks of these fine products and strongly belive that a skilled teacher is essential for feedback and direction, but using these programs with a skilled teacher will deliver exceptional results.

Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar is an extremely comprehensive program that’s detailed and very logical. It doesn’t attempt to make you an expert performing killer licks within minutes, it’s never that simple, but it does deliver solid lessons, examples and the teacher, Steve Krenz is not only skilled, but lively, informative and very likable.

The program, which has the golden name of “Gibson” attached – golden at least to those of us in the music industry who know what a magnificent lineup of guitars they produce – and true to its namesake, there’s nothing second rate about this. The program takes you from the basics of chords formation, developing hand skill, strumming, ear training, and then explores different styles of playing, lead and improvisation, and understanding the basics of music theory. There are “jamalong” CD’s in the package that give you the opportunity to practice your skills.

If you follow through on this program, you truly can set the foundation for becoming an accomplished guitarist. Included in the $149 package are 20 DVD’s, 5 CD’s, a large, detailed instruction book and access to their web page for additional learning. For my students, I feel it’s a great investment to have this comprehensive package instead of buying a $25 book every couple of months that’s not as informative or helpful. It’s certainly worth checking out so if you’re interested, just click on the “Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar” banner and you’ll be taken to their web page.

Learn & Master has a wide range of such programs, and the programs listed below also have home schooling programs available to make it part of a home school curriculum. When you visit the site, you can also check these programs out:

  • Learn & Master Piano
  • Learn & Master Drums
  • Learn & Master Ballroom Dance
  • Learn & Master Photography
  • Learn & Master Painting
  • Spotlight Series Learn & Master Blues Guitar ($89)
  • Spotlight Series Learn & Master Guitar Setup ($49)

The Spotlight Series programs are shorter and more focused instruction. My advice at this point is simple: click on the banner to Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar. It costs nothing to check it out.

Now that I’ve raved about this product, I’ll state the obvious that this is advertised on this web site and part of the income of Open Minded Mic is revenue from ads. In the case of Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar and The Learning Dock’s “Teach Me Bass Guitar” are ads I sought because I’ve used both of these products both as a teacher and a studnet, thought they were excellent and wanted them represented here.

If you have any comments or reviews of this item, or suggestions for other materials please write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or post a reply on this blog. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

A Test Of Some Very, Very Cool Basses

Test Of Very, Very Cool Basses

On this adventure to the local Guitar Center I got my hands on some very wonderful basses, and because it’s a Guitar Center, nobody bothered me, rushed me or even spoke to me as I sifted through the inventory. For the most part, the inventory was pretty predictable in terms of what was available for demo purposes, a nice assortment of Fenders, Squiers, a few Epiphones, a lot of Ibanez and a smattering of Peavey, a used G & L, the L-2000 and a used Traben. They also had two Fenders that I’ve been wanting to try at the same sitting, a Geddy Lee Jazz Bass and a Marcus Miller Jazz Bass. It was also a rare opportunity for me to test Godin’s Semi-Acoustic A4, so I had my four target basses. I played them thorugh a small, excellent Fender Bassman amp and kept the settings the same so sound differences were from the bass, not the amp.

I liked them all and they all had their own signature feel and sound.

Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass:  This very slick bass is on display in almost every music store that I visit that carries Fender, and Fender is one of the most available and widely distributed line of guitars on the planet. When I played the Geddy Lee and the Marcus Miller in sequence, they felt almost identical. The both have slim, C shaped neck, 1.5” width at the nut and a tightly curved neck. I couldn’t find the specs on the radius of the Geddy Lee but the Marcus Miller is an exceptionally tight, round 7.5” radius and the Geddy Lee felt to be the same. If you’re not familiar with the term “radius” as it refers to a guitar neck, I have a brief discussion of that below. The body of this bass is alder, a very fine tonewood, the neck is maple and so is the fretboard with very distinctive black block inlays. Great looking and superb feel to this bass.

The Geddy Lee played beautifully, beautiful tone but not a ton of puch from the passive jazz pickups. The highly regarded bassist, Andy Lalasis showed me his Geddy Lee which he upgraded with a pair of EMG active pickups and altered his beautiful bass from a light, smooth, “smacky” sound to a cannon. Andy has described his Geddy Lee as a corvette, a jet and I’m inclined to agree. At $999, the Fender Geddy Lee is a great selection, especially if you’re looking for a solid jazz bass.

Marcus Miller Jazz Bass: I don’t find too many Fender Marcus Miller basses hanging in music shops so this was a great opportunity to try one. As I mentioned, it felt very much like the Geddy Lee, thin, very fast neck with a slinky 1.5” nut width and a very tight, round 7.25” radius. Like the Geddy Lee, it was very balanced and very easy to play. The big difference between the Marcus Miller and Geddy Lee was in the electronics. The MM had an active-passive pickup system that used a toggle to switch between the two. The passive setting sounded very much like the Geddy Lee to me, the active produced a knockout punch sound. At $1199, or about $200 more than the Geddy Lee, it seems to be more versatile.

In past blogs, I’ve spoken highly of the G & L line of guitars and basses and for good reason: they make great guitars and basses. There is a relationship between Fender and G & L too, the “L” in G & L is for “Leo”, as in “Leo Fender.” After Leo sold the guitar company that bears his name, he worked with Music Man (another incredible line of instruments) and then started G & L. When I played the Marcus Miller it occurred to me that the MM measured up extremely well against similar and awesome G & L basses except in one area: it costs less. If you can tolerate spending a few hundred dollars less, this is a great instrument to put on your wish list.

Godin A4 Semi-Acoustic Fretless Bass: I had fun playing this bass and it’s a wonderful alternative to a typical acoustic bass. This bass doesn’t have a traditional soundhole in the front of the guitar bot a long slot and a group of slots in the upper left corner of the soundboard. One significant plus I noted was that even when close to the amp, there was no feedback, a common problem with acoustic-electric basses. The design is supposed to resist feedback even with onstage noise and that’s a huge advantage over other acoustic basses I’ve tried.

This isn’t a booming sound, not even close. But, if you’re looking for a bass guitar that gives you a remarkable upright bass sound, this one is the winner hands down. The sound is produced by a Lace low profile pickup and a Goding bridge transducer and the body has a two chamber, silver leaf maple body and either a solid spruce or solid cedar top depending on the model. The price range is between $999 and $1249 but I found it difficult to find one to demo. If you’re out and see it, give it a shot for future consideration. If you know of a music store that has them on display, let me know and I’ll put the owrd out. As I write, the New Jersey Guitar & Bass Center in Edison, does have some nice A4 or A5 on the racks.

Used Traben Phoenix Sun 4 String Bass: Urethane finish
Body: alder
Neck: maple, thin “C” shape
Fingerboard: maple
Two vintage Jazz Bass single-coil pickups
Hardware: chrome
Machine heads: standard
Pickguard: 3-ply parchment
Bridge: Leo Quan Badass II
Block fingerboard inlaysMany bassis overlook Traben because of the rather garish appearance of the large bridge, metal patterns over the body and fancy, flowing inlays on the fretboard. The appearance is striking and a Traben signature and people either seem to love it or hate it. I’m blind, so it didn’t matter to me.

This is a nice feeling, fine playing bass. The five piece neck is slim with maple and walnut that is supposed to prevent warping. The oversized Fender style bridge and the ornate metal extension of the bridge combined with a steel nut are intended to improve sustain and the bass certainly doesn’t have any trouble with that. The strings are only in contact with metal, and even old, cruddy strings, like the one on this bass, still had great sustain. The active electronics were loud and had a huge range of tonal options. For about $500, this is a fine choice for a high quality, great sounding bass that looks either magnificent or disgusting, depending on your personal taste. Like I said, I’m blind and don’t really care how it looks.

If you done a test drive of any basses, please let me hear from you and get your opinions. You can write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or set a reply on this blog. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

Updates On Guitars & Gear At Work

Updates On Guitars & Gear At Work: The Babicz Spider Identity (retail $1488), The Breedlove Atlas Solo C350 Rosewood (Retail $899); A 30 year-old Guild F50 (retail today $2099)  Let’s handle the bad news first. When I played the Breedlove Atlas Solo C350 while on a test playing mission with my friend Fred and I loved it. That’s not the bad news. We played it though a Roland Micro Cube, a great little amp and enjoyed the hell out of both. The Breedlove was very playable, sounded great in the store and had a unique soundhole on the up side directing sound upward to the player. A concern I had, after recommending the guitar as a buy, was would the sound being directed up credate a problem with a microphone picking up the guitar sound? Before I could register my theoretical concern, Fred called me with a real concern: he couldn’t contain the feedback once the guitar was being amplified through a larger amp in a large room. Large amplification and large rooms are two things musicians hope for when they perform.Fred’s not only smart, he’s experienced too. He didn’t need my advice because my advice was exactly what he did without advice. He returned the guitar immediately because a good store, and Rithchie’s Music Center in Rockaway is a good store, will accept returns within reasonable amounts of time. This was less than24 hours. Fred wound up buying a Takamine Dreadnought and is as happy as a clam although I have no idea why we use that expression because it doesn’t occur to me that clams are overly upbeat. OK, I do know – the full expression is “happy as a clam at high tidc.” Why are clams happy at high tide? Because clammers can’t get to them. But star fish can. OK, clams probably aren’t happy but Fred is happy.

Feedback on acoustic – electric guitars is a problem and most guitars made today do a good job at managing that and most quality PA systems likewise do a good job at suppressing  feedback. To me, a good lesson is that what works in the music store or looks great online, maynot work for you once you start to use it. Know the store’s return policy. Most online stores give you 45 days to return an unwanted item. It’s your money, don’t be shy.

I’ve owned my Babicz Spider Identity for 5 yeasr and it’s one of a few guitars in my collection that is simply never to be traded or sold. Mine was a prototype and a road warrior that went around with Jeff Babicz and his partner, the lovely and talented Jeff Carano and after meeting these two incredible men, they sold this one to me.

Mine is solid mahogany back, sides and soundboard, mahogany neck and some very unique, and useful design features. The new Spider has an Englemann Spruce top instead of mahogany. Mine has a warm, paino-like sound and I imagine the spruce top brightens the sound.  L.R.Baggs provides the sound and the sound is warm and wonderful.

The neck is smooth, sleek and probably the best acoustic guitar neck I’ve ever played. The neck also has a patented adjustment feature that allows the player to quickly change the string height without disturbing the tuning. Martin Guitars put out a guitar with this feature but discontinued it and Michael Kelly “Visionary” Acoustic uses this system. Many people I’ve spoken to think it’s a gimmick on first inspection, but I’ve used it for years, and it’s no gimmick.

If you play slide guitar, you can insert the allen wrench  and quickly raise the action. The same if you use open chords. If you do more leads you can lower the action. This is a great way to precisely adjust your guitar to your playing and music style.

Another great feature is the most obvious feature when you look at the guitar. It has 6 metal button-like “things” on the soundboard down by the edge of the guitar below the bridge. At first it looks like a strange ornamentation, but it’s not. It’s the “ica” and strings aren’t fed down into the bridge and then pinned, they’re fed through the metal near the edge of the guitar and fed through a stress reducing bridgte. So there’s no upward pulling on the bridge, in fact, the the strings place downward pressure on the bridge. This means less bracing, I believe better sound and durability.

After 5 years, it’s clearly a keeper. You can only buy Babicz Guitars directly from them. If you’d like to learn more about this guitar, go to the “Links for You” tab and scroll down to Jeff Babicz Guitars.  For clarity, Jeff isn’t an affiliate or a sponsor and I won’t make a penny on this, but I think y ou should check it out anyway.

So an update on a 30 year-old guitar? Why not? My Guild F50 with a beautiful spruce top and magnificent flamed maple back and sides. It has always had a magnificent voice and age has onloy sweetened it. The construction is rock solid and it needed its first setup 2 months ago – and the adjustment was very slight. It holds it tuning better than any instrument I’ve ever seen and from top to bottom, it’s a fine instrument that will last a lot longer than I will.

So guitar and bass buying lessons for today:  shop, compare and make your best choice but know if there’s a return policy so  you don’t get stuck with a guitar you don’t want. Even the most careful shopper can make a mistake.

Another lesson is that there are various purchasing stratgies and initiatives and they all have some virtue and I think it’s important to know what your looking to buy. If you’re looking for something with enduring quality for the long haul, save your money and invest some time and energy, play, compare, but and love it for a lifetime. That’s sounds wonderful, and I guess it is, but it’s not for everyone.

Some people are looking for a step up to a more functional guitar that they can use, will decently retain value and will be sold or traded in the future. There are lots of good choices if that’s your mission, be flexible on brand and learn about features.

Some buyers want to buy low price and then put a few improvements and that’s a skill and a passion. You can get a lot of guitar for a little money if you have the skill, patience and buying savvy.

Some acoustic-electric guitars very worthy of a look:

  1. Guild GAD-F40E Grand Auditorium (retail $1149) comes with solid flamed maple back & sides, solid spruce top and solid performance on all levels. I have a great fondness for Guild Guitars and a particular fondness for this one. It’s a great value.
  2. Yamaha CPX1200 Medium Jumbo (retail $1349) has solid rosewood back and sides, solid spruce top, great design and playbility and beautiful electronics.  A problem some people have with Yamaha is perception, not reality. For many of us, our first starter guitar was a Yamaha so many equate Yamaha with “cheap” stuff. My opinion is that Yamaha is the “good stuff” with a low priced line. They compete well in any market in which they sell.
  3. Takamine Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric (retail $1549) has a solid spruce top, solid rosewood back & laminated rosewood sides – a bit of a compromise but it’s a very good laminated side. The electronics are great on this guitar and the playability if very good too.
  4. Martin DCPA4 Dreadnought (retail $1199) is a great performer with solid sitka spruce top and solid sapele back & sides.  Great solid wood guitar.

The next few blogs will deal with update on actually working with amps, PA systems, electric guitars and bass guitars. What’s you opinion? I’d like to hear from you so send me an email at dave@openmindedmic.com or simply reply on this blog. Prof. Dave

 

Some Things You Should NEVER Do To Your Guitar or Bass

Some Things You Should NEVER Do To Your Guitar or Bass Without Training

Once we have our new guitar in our hands, the urge to adjust it, perfect it, and care for it like a newborn is irresistible to most of us. There are many things that you can do without training. Here’s a few things that I recommend that you DON’T do unless you’ve gotten some training.

  1. Don’t mess around with the truss rod. There are plenty of things you can mess around with and the worst you’ll do is create a minor problem for a tech to unmess the mess. Adjust the bridge, string height and screw ups aren’t that serious. Play with the truss rod without knowing what you’re doing and you risk damaging or destroying the neck of the guitar or worse. There are many books and DVD programs out there to instruct you. One is from Gibson’s Learn & Master series (you’ll see the banner on our page) and they have a DVD program to learn how to professionally setup your guitar or bass. I think learning how to adjust and fine tune you own instrument is important, but so is avoiding destroying it. One thing you may consider in order to learn guitar or bass setup, purchase a beat up, cheap guitar and learn and experiment on that.
  2. . Don’t use super-glue on a guitar or bass. Luthiers and experienced do-it-yourselfers will use super-glue to do things like mend cracks, fill in dings. They use it sparingly and specifically for certain projects. Guitars are designed to be able to come apart and most guitar parts are affixed by using hide glue and cement / model glue. These hold firm but can be melted or cracked if needed.
  3. Don’t use car wax on your axe. There’s an old expression: if it works on a car, it works on a guitar. That’s true, especially for solid body electric guitars. In fact, there are some high end guitar makers who do the labor intensive project of using a French Polish and then as a final step use Meguires car wax. The results are spectacular, incredible gloss, long lasting and exceptional protection. The key point is they really know what they are doing. Finishes can look great, but expecially on an acoustic guitar can suppress and dull the sound. Unless I’m going to run my guitar through a car wash in order to clean it, I don’t need that strong of a finish. And I tend to like to keep all finishes on my guitars, especially acoustic guitars to bare minimum. I do it that for the sound. Use a regular guitar cleaner and polish, they’re safe and work fine.
  4. Don’t file the slots in the nut with a file. Use a “nut file” that’s specifically designed for the job. Also, keep in mind that if you do file the nut that which has been filed can’t be “unfiled.” Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Suppose you decide to use heavier gauge strings to give you more volume and bottom. You may find that you need to file the slots in the nut to accommodate the larger strings, but if you go back to lighter gauge strings, they’ll sit to deep in the slot and you’ll either go back to heavy strings or replace the nut.
  5. Don’t paint your guitar. I know, you had a totally unique color scheme in mind so you take the new guitar and won’t hurt anything by scraping, grinding, sanding and spray painting the guitar. Beyond color, guitar finishes are a science unto themselves. Secondly, with very rare exception, you’ll drain the value right out of the new guitar. You need to know how to protect other parts of the guitar from damage from the pain, you need to know how to prepare the surface and you need to know how to spray and finish. That’s a lot that you need to know.
  6. Don’t buy a “build-it-yourself” guitar kit. There are a number of kits out there where you can get all you need to build your own guitar. All the parts, cut pieces of wood, accessories, all of the parts including the bridge, tuning machines, nut and even strings. Martin makes an excellent acoustic guitar kit as does the guitar parts headquarters at Stewart MacDonald. Warmouth has excellent guitar bodies, necks and parts to make your own masterpiece and a number of other sources on the internet offer electric guitar kits with a wide range of price and quality. The kits are fine, but don’t underestimate the job of assembly, fitting, finishing and setup. It’s not easy and if you don’t have good woodworking skills or experience in doing major guitar projects, you’re likely in for a lot of frustration and wasted money. If you want to try your hand at this, I recommend you start with a simple ukulele kit from Stewart Macdonald (www.stewmac.com) for about $50. It’s relatively simple, inexpensive and if you find it easy, you might consider moving up to a guitar.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? Do you have an acoustic-electric favorite? Let me hear about it. Write to me ator reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

Test Drive of Taylor, Ovation, Ibanez & Breedlove Acoustic – Electrics

Test  Drive Of Taylor, Ovation, Ibanez & Breedlove Acoustic Electrics

Today my friend Fred & I took a field trip to Ritchie’s Music Center in Rockaway, New Jersey and in spite of the fact that it’s in New Jersey, it’s worth visiting. Rithie’s is a great store with knowledgeable staff and I would say that even if I didn’t think they’d read this and in the hope that they’d dig deep on a discount for my next guitar purchase from them.

Fred wanted to show me a few guitars that he tested the day before: an Ibanez Artwood 3000, a Breedlove Atlas Solo C350, a Taylor 314, an Ovation Standard Balladeer, an Ibanez Montage and we played them through a Roland Mini Cube amp. Fun and informative – mostly fun.

The Ibanez Artwood didn’t have an amplification system, but for $450,it was an excellent, solid wood acoustic. It didn’t compare with the Taylors or Martins but it was only 1/3 of the price. Nice clear tone, good balance, decent projection and sustain. The acoustic electric version sells for around $650, I didn’t test drive that but Ibanez does a good job on amplification so I’d be comfortable recommending that you give this a try when you’re shopping.

Fred was looking to replace his Ovation Celebrity Acoustic Electric CC54I which was the first guitar made with an MP-3 player onboard. Not a bad guitar at all but he wanted a little more wood tone, vibance and sustain. So he handed me a Taylor 314, which sold for about $1500 and it played beautifully, like Taylors do, nice tone and sustain comes equipped with a solid spruce top. Nice, but it didn’t appear to be a great piece of spruce, the grain lines were a bit twisted and curved, but still a solid performer.

The Ibanez Montage was interesting, but seemed to be more of an electric with acoustic qualities. Nice feel, sound but not compelling. This guitar was selling used for $699 and it had some great electronic features built in.

Then I tried the Breedlove Solo C350 and we have a winner. The most obvious feature of this guitar when you first pick it up is it has two soundholes: one of the soundboard where you’d expect it to be and one on the top (side) between the upper and lower bout. Acoustic guitars by design are extremely directional instruments and this guitar directs sound forward and up to the player and into the room.Very different appearance and then I played it and I had a new beloved acoustic electric.

It played flawlessly, vibrant sound, great sustain and with a solid cedar top, solid rosewood backs and sides and great L.R. Baggs electronics. This was a guitar that a guitar lover falls in love with. It was selling for $839 which was at least $60 less than I found it anywhere else. It smoked the others, just smoked them.And, at that price it came with a very well made hardshell case.

Breedlove was born out of Taylor (Breedlove worked for Taylor – and Taylor worked for Martin before he started his own line) and now they’re reunited. Great design, playability and for under $900 very hard to match. Excellent choice. I then tried the same Breedlove model with mahogany back and sides. If I hadn’t tried the rosewood model, this would have been my top choice, but I did try the rosewood so this was my runner-up. Wood choice and tone are personal preferences and if you like the mahogany model, you’ll save some money by paying only $750.

My recommendation to Fred was the Breedlove C350 Rosewood and his outspoken prayer was that his wife doesn’t find out about this until he has a chance to dump some other guitars and equipment and I promised I wouldn’t tell her. You have to promise too. Thanks. She’ll kill him if she knows and that would make all of us guilty of complicity. Blackmailing (Fred that is, not me) is an option in this case.

We played these guitars through a Roland Mini Cube which Fred also bought for $150. This little amp sounds fantastic, it’s light, portable and a great piece of equipment. It has six different amp styles, a p.a. setting four different effects and a tuning fork setting (it’ll give you an “A” pitch). It can run on an AC adapter or six AA batteries. Great to have for small jams or a high end practice amp. This has excellent volume, tone and effects. Lots of fun.

So we had a fine time and Fred left me with a big smile and no guilt. And this, I think, is a wonderful way to spend your last day on earth. Been real Freddy.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? Do you have an acoustic-electric favorite? Let me hear about it. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

Last Minute Gifts For The Guitarist & Bassist

Last Minute Gift Ideas For The Guitar & Bass Players

It’s crunch time and your holiday shopping is almost done except for that pain in the rear musician, and even  worse the one who plays guitar or bass. Of course you can get a gift card to a specialty music dealer or amazon.com that has everything. But we can’t keep gift wrapping little plastic cards, can we? We want some stuff to exchange. Here’s a list of ideas for some “stuff” that you may use to “stuff” a stocking or wrap up as a main event.

A Field Recorder: These devices are great. Very small, easy to operate and best of all, do a great job of recording. The sound quality is impressive and all you have to do is set it up in a room, push a button and then let the music play. Between $100 – $200 you can find quality units made by top names like Tascam, Zoom and Sony. It’s a great gift.

Dunlop System 65 Maintenance Kit: For about $25 you get some great cleaning products to properly take care of a guitar. It includes guitar cleaner & polish, carnuba wax, string cleaner & conditions, fretboard cleaner & condition (NOTE: NEVER USE ANY BRAND OF  FRETBOARD CLEANER & CONDITIONER ON A GUJTAR WITH A MAPLE FRETBOARD!), and a polishing cloth.

Lange Ampwedge Amp & Monitor Isolation Pad: For about $30 you’ll be doing your guitarist or bassist a real favor. The ampwedge is extremely well constructed and it does two very important jobs: first, it absorbs vibration so the amps sound is cleaner and it truly does improve sound. The second job is that it safely angles the amp upward to as high as 20 degrees. This helps the musician hear what he or she is playing while the music is rolling and at the same time doesn’t punish people in the front rows with a full assault of sound. It also helps sound project throughout the room. You can buy a metal stand that will angle the amp too, but they’re more expensive, heavier and bulkier to lug around.

Gibson’s Learn & Master Blues Guitar: This is a very well designed and instructed program that focuses on blues guitar. Steve Krenz is a great teacher, the production is very professional and it’s a great gift for a guitarist who wants to expand his or her ability. It’s a lot of instruction for $79. You can simply click on the Gibson’s Learn & Master link on our web site. Yes, they advertise here – and yes, I’ve used every product that I recommend and if I didn’t recommend a product I’d find something else to advertise here. It’s a great product.

Teach Me Bass Guitar: Another resource that has a link on our page and as above, I’ve used it and this one I continue to use. I take bass lessons monthly with master bassist Andy Lalasis and this course has reintroduced me to proper technique, exercises to increase skill, strength and speed, and bass techniques from beginning to the advanced. It’s a great course and a great gift. The teacher Roy Vogt is nothing short of amazing. The course sells for $187.50 and it’s worth every penny.

CRUZTOOLS GIGTRI GROOVETECH GUITAR PLAYER TECH KIT:  For about $51 you can get the guitar or bass head on your list some really well made, professional tools to do accurate, precise adjustments and repairs. Heavy duty and in a well organized pouch. I have a set and love it.

Planet Waves Headstand String Changing Stand:  For $8.50 this little, overlooked accessory will be used constantly by the guitarist or bassist for changing strings or if they do their own setup. It safely and securely cradles the guitar and serves as the third hand I wished I had (at certain times anyway). Cool little gift for a low price.

Of course, you can always bring home a Martin D-35, Gibson Les Paul Studio, Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass (especially if you’re shopping for me), but these are usually choices we like to make for ourselves – except of course for me and the Geddy Lee bass – I won’t even complain about the color if you bring me one.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you.  Let me hear about any other ideas you have a holiday gift for the guitarist or bass player in your life. Write to me or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave