Archive for November, 2007

12-String Archtops

November 28, 2007

Nicolai Foss

These are surely very rare. Here is a 1941 Martin. I wonder whether this model emerged as one of those many attempts during the big band-era to add punch and volume to archtops.

Dominant Archtop Designs

November 26, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Scholars who study technological development have coined the notion of a “dominant design,” that is, a specific construction that sets the standard for innovative activities within an industry. For example, the dominant design in automobiles has pretty much been with us since before the First World War (i.,e., gasoline driven, four-wheeled vehicles with steering wheel, etc.).

There is surely also a dominant archtop design, which on the very overall level, is the original Gibson L5 (f-holes, archted top etc.). However, technological development takes place within a dominant design, and while the L5 design itselt may have been dominant until just after the Second World War, the ES-175 pretty much took over until around the mid-1980s, when the D’Aquisto design began to become the dominant standard. To see this, look at the what the copyists are copying. The early Asian copyist producers, like Ibanez, Aria, Hondo, Yamaha, etc., were all within the ES-175 mode (with lots of variations, of course). More recent copyist producers, like Peerless, D’Aspiranta, etc., have directly copied the D’Aquisto (New York) design, however, and countless other builders have accepted this design as the basis for further innovation.

Want a Selmer?

November 25, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here is no. 823. Offered for an “achat immediat prix” of only 20.000 Euros! This has been offered for sale for more than a year. I wonder why they seller doesn’t try to sell it on US Ebay, or offer it to a US vendor … The interest loss alone is already substantial.


November 25, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here. Made by Framus. Bizarre.

Grant Green Article

November 24, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here is a learned and informative online article by Andrew Scott on Grant Green’s approach to the blues. The article includes three transcriptions. A key point is that Grant’s improvisatory approach was consistent throughtout his career, and didn’t change during his later “commercial” period. Here is a summary of the article:

My intentions in this article are twofold. First, I provide a musical and style analysis that aids understanding of Green’s improvisations. Second, I use my analysis of the three solos to counter writers Michel Cuscuna and Ben Sidran who assert that Green’s “commercial” output was inferior to his jazz recordings. [6] My transcription and analysis dispute these aforementioned critics, demonstrating that Green’s improvisatory style remained consistent throughout his career. Lastly, I suggest that rather than his playing, it was Green’s changing aggregations and repertoire that critics found problematic.

Blackstone Massacre

November 22, 2007

Nicolai Foss

We need to have penal code that will allow the legal system to prosecute people who commit this kind of crime! Grrrrr….

UPDATE: Here is one more Blackstone massacre, not as bad as the first one, but surely bad enough!! Why can’t people do this to real craptops only, like Harmony or Framus arctops, and leave quality archtops alone?

The New Asia-made Höfner Archtops

November 21, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Apparently, Höfner is now following the general outsourcing trend. I first noticed this when I visited a musical instruments shop in Soho a couple of weeks ago, and spotted a very beautiful new Hofner archtop (it resembled a President) priced at about a third of the normal price. I was told that the reason for the low price lies in outsourcing to Asia. Here is a rather pretty, Korea-made specimen, priced at only 389 Pounds. (I haven’t been able to locate a listing of which models are now produced in Asia).

I am a bit surprised at the low price quoted for these guitars. Other manufacturers with at least as much brandname capital as Höfner, such as Gretsch, have also outsourced production of high-end archtops to Asia (I own an excellent Japan-made Synchromatic G400), without, however, having to reduce prices as much as Höfner has done.

A key issue obviously is whether Höfner is outsourcing all manufacturing, or whether they want to run a budget-line (as in fact Gretsch is doing with their cheapo line of wanna be Synchromatics) and keep a Euro-produced high-end line with a heavy price premium.

Seller Codes

November 19, 2007

Nicolai Foss

As we all know sellers like to exalt their products. However, many sellers are also reluctant to engage in too dishonest and/or non-credible selling rhetorics. So sometimes they will insert little indications that provide a good signal of the true quality of the good offered for sale. Or, alternatively they are too stupid to see that their exaltations are just not credible. Anyway, sellers of archtops, too, make use of certain standard phrases. Here are some of the classics:

Excellent for slide playing.” The true classic (as well as its variations, such as “plays good slide too in open tuning”)! Usually means that the action is impossible, usually due to a warped neck. Beware!

It has that mojo“. = “I couldn’t find anything objectively nice (i.e., as can be seen in photos) to say about this guitar.”

I have tried many L5s, and this is at least as good as the best of them.” Yeah, right!

This guitar is going to appreciate strongly in value over the coming years“. Errh … why don’t you just keep it, then?

The guitar has had a later addition of an excellent [producer] pickup.” Some dimwit destroyed a beautiful top.

Does the J&A readership have any juice examples of archtop seller codes?

Jeeves and Wooster Soundtrack

November 19, 2007

Nicolai Foss

I am a bit of a Jeeves & Wooster-head; not so much Wodehouse’s original books, as the dashed fabulous ITV series with Hugh Laurie and Steven Fry. Here are some classics, as performed by Bertie Wooster/Hugh Laurie. What ho!

Gretsch Collectability

November 18, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Among archtop collectors, Gretsch archtops have seldom been considered worthy of much attention. However, having followed prices for archtops offered at ebay closely over the last five years, I am pretty certain that I can discern a tendency for the better Gretsch archtops to fetch increasingly large prices, particularly early Synchromatics. Perhaps archtop collectors are finally seriously turning their attention to Gretsch?

Although I tend to think of Gretsch archtops as generally somewhat less aesthetically pleasing than high-end Epis and Gibsons, there are some very fine specimens among their early archtop models. Here is a particularly fine blonde example of the Artist Model (with some later additions, including the finish)