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Old 12-29-2020, 12:24 PM
Hobo_King Hobo_King is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 137

I currently own a 1920 L3, and have previously owned a 1920 L1. I've had my hands on about 6 of these types of guitars total, mostly when I was shopping for the L3 I finally purchased. First off all the necks on these are huge by modern standards, so be prepared for that, using a capo past the 5th fret can be a challenge. Being 100 year old plus instruments, I can say everyone I played was very different from the other, either due to how it was built or due to repairs over the years. That said they are a quiet instruments in general and best suited for the style of music that was popular when they were first available, which is finger picked parlor style music. Works very well for finger style blues and ragtime playing too. The two I owned also had a decent tone, though quiet and very balanced for strumming open chords. What they don't do very well is comping chords for jazz, they sound very thin compared to a later archtop, which makes sense since jazz was still very new to most people in the late teens and very early 20's. I have no evidence, but based on the small sample model years I have played, every one that was built during Lloyd Loars tenure at Gibson was better than earlier models. He wasn't building or signing them like the famous L5s and F mandolins, but he was overseeing many parts of Gibson's design and production. The other thing I can mention is they work better on their own vs playing with other guitars or a band setting. Other things to consider and look for would be originality vs playability. Mostly with the bridge and tail piece. Originals will have a non-adjustable bridge and a pin-style tail piece. They work ok when in good condition, but having a more standard archtop bridge and tailpiece does make them a little more user friendly. I recently had to look into replacing the tuning gears too. The plastic buttons on these hold up better than some of the 50's Gibson's I've seen that develop dry rot, but the buttons can start to come loose from the shaft making it harder to tune, and if not replaced eventually will just pull free.
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