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  #1  
Old 12-30-2017, 11:24 AM
Theleman Theleman is offline
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Default Archtop recommendations

I am for a new archtop, as it is guitar I have not.

There seem two options,

1. Go for a new one - seems a lot available brand new archtops in good price.

2. Go for a vintage old one - there seem a few old archtops from 1940s - 1950s with repairs and restorations on ebay and local news paper for sale colums and gumtree ads.

If the price were same, which option is better? I am learning to play Blues and maybe later, Jazz.

Thanks
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  #2  
Old 12-30-2017, 01:13 PM
TLJ TLJ is offline
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There is also the option to buy a very lightly used guitar that the original purchaser did not connect with.

There are several options listed for sale on the AGF site.

TLJ
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Old 12-30-2017, 01:17 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Grab a nice cold beverage of your choice, take a deep breath, and sit back - this is going to take some time...
  • First off, if you haven't listened to (or played) many acoustic archtops you might want to get acquainted with their general tonal characteristics (very different from a flattop guitar - quicker response; narrower, midrange-biased tonal spectrum; harder/punchier attack; less sustain - and very unforgiving of technical deficiencies) before you consider laying down your money; there's no doubt they're unbelievably cool and classy-looking - what Ibanez justly referred to in a recent ad campaign as "guitar royalty" - and many players buy them for that reason alone, only to be disappointed when they don't meet up to their preconceived notions of tone. Archtops can be excellent blues instruments (and they're synonymous with the term "jazz guitar") - just don't expect the same results you'd get from an old National reso or Kalamazoo flattop...

  • Addressing your two options:

    • For reasons I'll explain below, I'd restrict myself to new instruments for a first purchase - good news is that there are currently more new archtops available on the market than there have been in nearly sixty years, ranging in price from US$500 to $50,000+, so the only determining factor is how much you're willing to spend. The lowest-priced instruments (those under $1000) occupy the niche of the old Harmony/Kay student archtops from the '40s-50s - serviceable, playable instruments (far better-built than the originals, BTW) with acceptable tone, and a good inexpensive introduction to the genre for a first-timer; while some of these - Epiphone Masterbilt Olympic/Zenith/Deluxe, Gretsch New Yorker, Loar LH-300 - have solid tops (carved in the case of the Loar) I've found the effect on overall tone to be negligible. Frankly, if I were asked to recommend an instrument in this price range I'd go with the all-acoustic, all laminated Godin 5th Avenue (FYI they make a single-pickup electric version as well as a two-pickup cutaway); interestingly enough, a laminated top doesn't have the same detrimental effect as on a flattop - upright bass players have been using laminated instruments for the last 80 years, and savvy working players in the post-WW II era often bought a 17" Gibson ES-150 as a true dual-purpose (acoustic and electric) guitar...

      When you reach the US$1500 range you're looking at all-solid-wood, fully-carved instruments made by one of the Asian firms, as well as some dual-purpose guitars like the Guild A-150 Savoy. There are generally two schools of thought here: close adherence to vintage designs and specifications - with tonal characteristics to match - and a more contemporary approach, adopting visual/tonal cues from present-day luthiers like Benedetto, Buscarino, Monteleone, et al.; again, you need to decide what your musical needs are, as well as what's most comfortable for you to play. By way of example, the Loar LH-700 - a near dead-on copy of a mid/late-1920's 16" Gibson L-5 - will get you that incisive, brash, old-time tone in spades, but if you're not used to playing vintage instruments you might find the period-accurate, thick deep-V 1-3/4" neck difficult to negotiate; similarly, the comparably-sized/priced Eastman AR605 possesses a somewhat softer, mellower tone, but has both a more modern-feeling neck and a 21st-century visual aesthetic...

      Crack the US$4000 mark and you're beginning to get into the domain of hand-carved, luthier-built guitars - the only limits here being what you're willing to pay for fancier woods/trim - as well as upscale factory-production jazzboxes from the likes of Gibson and Heritage. While I don't think you'll be looking at one of these for a first purchase (although my father's mechanic had a rare circa-1950 18" Epiphone Deluxe that he bought brand-new and never really learned to play - I should have grabbed this one for the $200 asking price back in 1969 ) I'd strongly recommend playing one or more of these if the opportunity presents itself - learn what the big-ticket stuff feels/sounds like, and use that as one of your criteria for evaluating your purchase...

    • Archtops are, by nature, highly-idiosyncratic and often-temperamental beasts, and few players/guitar techs born after the Eisenhower administration really understand what makes them tick; that said, I'd never buy a repaired/restored vintage archtop from eBay, Craigslist, newspaper classifieds, et al. Unless you're familiar with the specific needs of these instruments - neck geometry (extremely important, far above and beyond that of a flattop), bridge fitment (base contouring, range of adjustment), top contour (sometimes what looks like a "sagging top" really isn't - and sometimes it is), tailpiece alignment (I've seen a few that have been off-center), etc. - there's just too many ways to get burned, and I haven't even touched on the usual caveats of neck warp/twist, binding disintegration, improper refinishing, worn/non-level frets, and the like; IME too many of the instruments you're likely to find in the classifieds were "project" guitars for amateur would-be techs at one point or another, mostly around the time they went out of fashion, and it'll cost you far more to get them "right" than it would to buy a similar piece from a reputable dealer - or a new one with a full factory warranty...
Hope this helps...
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Old 12-30-2017, 01:32 PM
Big Band Guitar Big Band Guitar is offline
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Default agree

I agree with Steve
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Old 12-30-2017, 01:35 PM
Theleman Theleman is offline
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Thank you for very comprehensive information about the point.

I am glad that I didn't go for the vintage archtops on eBay with headstock break repairs. Although it is cheap, it could be just buying an old lemon with a lot of hidden problems.

My budget is not big, as a newbie. I am looking for a low budget one, but which plays nice with good action and intonation.
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2016 Epiphone EJ200 Artist
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Came back to practicing on 09/2017 due to great Youtube Guitar Lessons available.
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  #6  
Old 12-30-2017, 01:38 PM
Jabberwocky Jabberwocky is offline
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My short answer: 1950s Gibson ES-125 for about $1200. Check that the neck angle is sound. Check that the arch in the top has not caved in. A re-fret with brand-new frets runs about $300 to $350.

You will always get your money back if you take good care of it.

A 1992 Gibson ES-165 Herb Ellis with a single pick-up for $1500. I would take a serious look at this one.

https://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/m...439236214.html

It is Craigslist with its own set of caveat emptor and caveat venditor.

Old guitars are fraught with dangers if you do not know what to look out for. Be warned. Don't let it turn into a money-pit. Some folk think that old means vintage means $$$$$. Not necessarily so.
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Old 12-30-2017, 02:45 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
...A 1992 Gibson ES-165 Herb Ellis with a single pick-up for $1500. I would take a serious look at this one.

https://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/m...439236214.html

It is Craigslist with its own set of caveat emptor and caveat venditor.

Old guitars are fraught with dangers if you do not know what to look out for...
Checked out that CL ad:
  • I've got guitars nearly twice as old with no "fine finish cracks" - and I don't keep them in an "environmentally controlled...recording studio" setting;
  • I almost bought one of these back in the day - they came in a very nice factory hardshell case;
This one stinks like month-old herring...

Caveat emptor, indeed...
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Old 12-30-2017, 03:10 PM
coldfingers coldfingers is offline
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If you're looking at used instruments, archtop.com has a good reputation and usually a good selection. Much safer than buying from eBay or craigslist.

What Steve said about adjusting your expectations when coming from the world of flattops is really important. You'll have to change your technique to coax the best sound out of an accosting archtop. The standard campfire strum just doesn't usually work well. As a starting point, I suggest trying one of those small, heavy, teardrop shaped jazz picks. I like the Pro-Plec 1.5mm picks. It will help you focus on individual strings, even when chording.
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  #9  
Old 12-30-2017, 03:12 PM
coldfingers coldfingers is offline
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Dang that spell check! What's an accosting archtop anyway, you wonder?
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Old 12-30-2017, 05:10 PM
lgherb lgherb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coldfingers View Post
Dang that spell check! What's an accosting archtop anyway, you wonder?
Don't sell yourself short. That was an AMAZING typo!
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