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Old 05-06-2011, 11:26 PM
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patticake patticake is offline
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wow, that's sounds really wonderful!
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:30 PM
Gibson_101 Gibson_101 is offline
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Wow that thread was treat to read, thanks!!
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Old 05-08-2011, 11:56 AM
GuitarFundi GuitarFundi is offline
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I agree. I can't possibly express how much I have enjoyed this thread! I hope we get to hear more of this guitar!
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Gibson "Custom Late 1950's Reissue Southern Jumbo Triburst"
Taylor 314CE (Built by Ren Ferguson)
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:54 PM
Rollie Rollie is offline
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That fiddle back Black Walnut is simply amazing...
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Old 05-09-2011, 09:54 PM
longdrive55 longdrive55 is offline
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Looks and sounds great.

Fantastic work Howard.

Enjoy it Wade!
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Old 05-10-2011, 01:30 PM
Ryan Alexander Ryan Alexander is offline
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Wade - what a journey! Really happy for ya pal, hope you're well
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Old 05-10-2011, 11:43 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Doing fine, thank you, Ryan. I've been playing the Klepper KJ a lot, as you might well imagine.

Last night I pulled out the 2001 Gibson Advanced Jumbo that inspired the construction of the KJ for the first time since the KJ arrived, and played them side by side. It was interesting to compare and contrast them.

Both are great guitars, and both inhabit a lot of the same tonal universe, just as both my rosewood 000-42 and walnut OM-03W have a lot of similarities.

But the KJ has more potential and a wider dynamic range. It's already a great guitar, and once it gets fully broken in it's going to be a true marvel.

As I stated already at the beginning of this build thread, I already own a number of walnut instruments that serve as nice complements to other rosewood or koa instruments that I use onstage. The rosewood or koa instruments work well when I'm playing solo, while the walnut ones often surpass the others when played in group situations.

This KJ works well in both solo and group situations. It's a keeper, no question about it.

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Old 05-24-2011, 12:06 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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I just posted this in the General Acoustic Guitar subforum under the header

"Learning to appreciate my new Klepper KJ Advanced Jumbo"

Some of what I've written here today does duplicate comments and photos already posted in this thread. But there are several fresh insights, as well, so for those of you who tend to stay more in this subforum and not get over to "General Acoustic Guitar discussion" as much, I thought I'd add it to this long-running thread, as well, just to increase the chances you'd see it. Hope that's okay.

I've also had to split it up, because I had too much to say, frankly. So I've split it into three posts on this thread.


Here's the first one:

Well, I've had this guitar for closing in on a month now. At the same time I've been immersed in a lot of church business, service planning and music planning, naturally, and playing at home in church and in other public venues with this guitar. So I haven't had a lot of time to comment about it here.

Plus I wanted to figure it out a little more before I did.

It's a subtle instrument with all sorts of tone colors. I'm still trying to learn how to use them all.

As those of you who have seen the pictures posted in the build thread over on the Custom Shop subforum already know, it's an attractive instrument:

Since none of us can reach out and touch and play the guitars we see in these forums, obviously most of our immediate attention is drawn to their visual appearance. And this is a nice one; as it happens, this is the fifth custom-made guitar I've ordered with a sunburst top, and it's always been for a sort of amberburst or Martin-style "shaded top" finish.

I suspect that my taste for this fairly uncommon type of sunburst was probably formed by my early experience watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and in their movies. Paul McCartney's Hofner bass, in particular, always struck me as having an attractive finish, and that's probably what I've been trying to emulate ever since:

Don't like the guitar much OR the wallpaper, but I do like the sunburst on the (almost certainly German-made) archtop guitar McCartney is playing here:

But Howard has taken that same idea, and just done it better.

This burst on this KJ is the best sunburst that any custom builder has been able to provide me, and also the first time it's come out EXACTLY as I wanted it to. Roy McAlister also did a really great job on the top of my McAlister acoustic baritone guitar, but this KJ is completely flawless, completely perfect, and tied in so seamlessly that I have to tip my hat to Howard for what he achieved there. I've been present when other sunburst tops have been sprayed, and know how startlingly difficult it can be to achieve the colors and intensities wanted. The chatoyance of the wood can play hob with the color balance - most players have no idea of how much skill it takes to spray consistent-looking sunbursts.

The wood grain in the back and sides is attractive. Truthfully, though, I spend little to no time gazing at the tonewoods. Can't do that while I'm playing...

What might surprise some of you is that this particular set of wood was probably the least dramatic and most homogenous-looking of any that Howard sent me photos of. But there was something intangible about it that made me think it would give me the sound I was after (perhaps the regularity of the grain, but I didn't intellectualize it when I was making the selection, I just said "This one looks right...")

And the tone is all that really matters to me, tone and projection.

The tone is great. It's tonally balanced: no part of the tonal register drowns out any other part. When Howard first agreed to build this guitar, the biggest single thing that I harped on about was that there be equal tonal balance between the notes of the chords, regardless of where on the neck they happened to be played. I also insisted that there be good separation between the notes, so that each is distinct, even on those rare occasions when I'm playing all six strings at once.

To my mind, the biggest single danger in a dreadnought-sized guitar like this one is that the bass will predominate and the chords will be too muddy to hear every little subtlety clearly.

What I told Howard before he started was: "I want this to sound like a Triple O on steroids - complete balance, complete sweetness and musicality, yet enough power and projection to blow the hat off somebody's head standing twenty five feet away."

And he did that. It's just a great guitar. The tone is everything I hoped for and more, and it projects beautifully.

I've posted these before, but they're what I've got. Here's Stevie Coyle (of The Waybacks) playing "The Water Is Wide" on my KJ:

And here he is playing "Embryonic Journey":

Those soundclips are good enough, for what they are, and of course his playing is fine, but what they don't quite convey is the power or the dynamic range of the guitar, or all the different tone colors I've pulled out of it just by shifting my hand position or striking the strings at a different angle.

They're sort of a Cliff Notes version of the KJ's sound, and give you sort of a basic idea, but without the three dimensional sort of sound that this guitar possesses really coming through.

Best we could do on the fly, though, and I'm grateful to Stevie for taking the time to do that.

Stevie LOVED the guitar, and I guess Howard had to just about pry it loose from Stevie's fingers after hours upon hours of playing it.

"One more take, Howard! C'mon, let me record at least another take or two!"

"No! I have a HOME I want to get back to!" Howard told him. Or words to that effect...

Here's a picture of Stevie Coyle pretending he can't hear Howard telling him to hand the guitar back:

In short, Stevie played FAR longer than mere courtesy required. He liked the KJ a lot.

As did Eric Schoenberg:

Eric Schoenberg is one of my guitar heroes, and the fact that he approved of the guitar meant more to me than just about anything. A couple of days after he'd played the KJ, Eric posted on a thread on the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum that he'd just played Howard Klepper's latest guitar, an Advanced Jumbo that he'd absolutely loved.

So some folks with some seriously educated ears have been genuinely impressed by this guitar. Bruce Sexauer, another highly respected builder and good friend of Howard's, told Howard that he thought it was the best-sounding Klepper guitar yet. Schoenberg said the same thing when Howard brought it by.

Neither of those guys feels any need to suck up to Howard or anybody else. They've both got "gold standard" ears, and both have handled and played literally thousands of the finest acoustic guitars on the planet. So if they were impressed (and they were,) it means something.

Eric told Howard that he liked this guitar even better than the original vintage pre-war Brazilian rosewood Gibson Advanced Jumbo that he'd had in his shop, the one that Howard had gotten the dimensions that he used as a basis for the KJ.

So in terms of the tone, Howard knocked the ball out of the park. Not just a line drive, but over the fence and into the parking lot beyond. And the tone is really what's most important to me.

Okay, how about the neck?

It's very comfortable to play. The nut is 1 3/4 inches, my normal preference, and the neck profile is a pleasant "modified C," I guess you'd call it. It doesn't draw attention to itself, it's just a neck, but I've played the guitar for hours on end repeatedly since it arrived, and the neck hasn't made my hand ache.

Something I do when I play, when the song calls for it, is wrap my thumb around the neck to grab a couple of low notes on the low E string. (It's tough to play "Lay Down Sally" and get that F# on the low E any other way...) And this neck profile allows me to grab notes with my thumb whenever and wherever I choose.

And with that observation, I have to curtail this here because it's too long to post in one piece. Look for the next one if you're still interested enough to read on.

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Old 05-24-2011, 12:23 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Picking up where I left off:

What else - the Gotoh gears are great. Ever since Gotoh developed their "Rock Solid" line of tuners I've replaced most of the Schallers on the various instruments I own with Gotohs. At one point Gotoh was in second place to Schaller in terms of accuracy, for a long time, actually. But in the past ten or fifteen years the Schallers have declined in quality while the Gotohs have gotten much, much better, better even than Schallers were at their best.

Howard initially offered to put Waverlys on this guitar for me, at no extra charge, but I like the Gotohs better than Waverlys, particularly when the Gotohs have the X-gold ("antique") finish on them. The luthier Kevin Ryan was involved with Gotoh helping them develop their first 510 tuners, and what Kevin told me is that the Gotoh "X" finishes were developed initially not for an antique look, but as a self-lubricating and anti-corrosive finish. Kevin told me that the Gotoh gears with X finishes on them are actually a degree more accurate than the same gears with shiny plating on them, and they're much more resistant to corrosion, as well. So the plating on a Gotoh X-gold finished tuning gear won't wear off the same way that regular gold plating on the same type of tuner will.

In the eight years since Kevin told me that at the 2003 Healdsburg Guitar Festival, I've put those X-finished gears on a number of instruments, and Kevin was entirely correct. They're just a bit more precise, a bit more accurate, and that much less likely to ever slip.

I won't have anything else on any of my mandolins now.

So I had my choice whether to have Howard put some Waverly gears on the guitar at no charge, or to buy some fairly expensive X-gold Gotoh gears with money I could have spent on beer, pizza and dirtyleg women.

I chose to spend the money on getting the tuning gears I prefer, because I think they're that much better, better even than Waverlys. Waverlys for free or Gotoh's for money out of my pocket, and I went for the Gotohs I had to pay extra for.

As for the dirtyleg women, well, they've got to fend for themselves....

Okay, what about the pickup?

The K&K bridgeplate pickup on it is good, not great. I have K&K's on several other guitars, and they're fine, just not especially inspirational. I've come to the conclusion that - for my playing, anyway - the K&K Pure Mini Westerns are good enough for occasional low volume gigs and for playing in church (where a lot of the sound is acoustic, anyway,) but for louder venues and larger audiences I need something better and less inclined to feeding back.

The LR Baggs electronics have always worked better for me in those more demanding circumstances, and so at some point relatively soon I'll be pulling out the K&K on this guitar and replacing it with a Baggs unit, exact model yet to be determined.

So right now I'm doing my research as to what Baggs unit will work better in this marvelous guitar than the K&K. I'm in no hurry, and there's a chance I'll decide that the K&K is the best option.

We'll see.

Getting back to the guitar itself, it's beginning to open up, and it's really interesting to see how it responds to different attacks. Right now the sound I get with a certain amount of force is quite different than the sound I got with that same attack a week ago.

Which is the sign of a very, very fine guitar. It's kind of like watching time-elapsed photography, where you can watch a plant go from a seed to a sprout to a stem to developing leaves to budding and then ripening fruit. Only this is with tone, not a tomato plant.

It's extraordinary, really. I'm having a blast.

It's loud. I have to throttle back in order to sing with this guitar, and as anyone who's heard me jamming at some of these guitar festival parties can tell you, I'm a genuine leatherlungs Irish tenor. With my voice I can peel the bark off a walnut tree at fifty paces, make Chinese-made running shoes run back to China, and cause hearing damage in nine out of ten drunks stupid enough to try to hold a loud conversation at a table right in front of me when I sing.

Without a microphone.

It's a loud guitar.

I realize this is probably at odds with the image of me some of you may have concocted from reading my posts: soft-spoken, full-bearded, Donovan-song singing vegan fingerpicker.

Well, that's not completely accurate. None of it is accurate, actually....

Back to the guitar: it's gorgeous, though it's no longer flawless. There are a few light pick strokes in the finish between the edge of the soundhole and where the pickguard begins, over the rosette.

Oh, well.....scratches will happen. Howard will have to forgive me, and I just hope he finds it in his heart to do so.

So, short version: I like the guitar even more now that I've had it awhile, and that's saying a lot.

Okay, those of you still with me, I appreciate your stamina. Part Three is the last one, I promise!

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Old 05-24-2011, 12:25 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Okay, I'm almost done here....I'm bushed. I've been putting in as much time on the guitar as I can, but I have two other jobs that I have to show up for. I'm not independently wealthy, and the only way I get to participate in the world of fine guitars is to know a bit about them and to play them well enough to get paid for it.

And save my pennies, naturally.

Well, my guitar fund took a major hit when I bought the Klepper KJ - no, my guitar fund has essentially ceased to exist for a while. But it's worth it. I can't just write a check like a lot of more fortunate people can, but that's okay.

I have to work for it, and maybe it means a bit more to me as a result. I literally have to save my pennies - I've got a tall liter size German stoneware beer mug I found at a thrift store that I toss my pocket change into, and while that's not the only source of savings that I use, every little bit helps.

I've been extremely fortunate that I've been able to serve as a consultant and artist endorser now and then: I helped design a couple of Tacoma guitar models, and got a few guitars in return. I helped design the National Reso-Phonic RM-1 mandolin, and got one in exchange, which is wonderful because I use it all the time.

This sort of agreement has happened for me a few times at least in part because I have a good set of ears, and probably more important, I can analyze what I hear and communicate that in simple language.

Anyway, what my ears are telling me is that this KJ is an incredible guitar, one of the best I've ever played, whether we're talking about my old friend Jimmy Baggett's pre-war Martins at Mass Street Music or John Pearse's guitar room full of wonder or any of the guitars I played at Mandolin Brothers or Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

I also know a fact that I wouldn't have the frame of reference to understand what I've got here unless I HAD played all those incredible guitars, whether vintage or modern, at stores or at Healdsburg. It's a never-ending education.

And, as George Gruhn says, the more you know the luckier you get.

Just as I can't afford to buy many guitars, and mostly do swaps, trades and partial trades, Howard Klepper can't afford to build me a free guitar or even discount one for me beyond giving me my choice of back and side woods without charging me for the upgrade. And I never thought I'd get an instrument from him, frankly.

But we've always enjoyed each other's posts on this and other forums, and have maintained a lively offline communication ever since we first encountered each other. After a LONG time we started talking on the phone once and awhile, and we both enjoyed the blue sky "what if" conversations, even though we're from different faith traditions.

I'm an Episcopalian, he's a Luthier....

So, as you can imagine, it took several YEARS before we went from "wouldn't it be cool if..." to "what I might like someday is..." to "you know, I could build that for you..."

Though it took NO time at all for me to say: "You know I can't afford that."

I'm a bus driver with a second job as a church musician, and sometimes I gig out. But I don't have huge amounts of money.

And that's where it would stay. But we kept having these conversations, though usually months apart. But we'd pick up right back where we'd left off the last time we spoke.

For example, I might make rude flatulent noises at the thought of Adirondack spruce working any differently than any other spruce when we spoke in February, but then the next September when we spoke again Howard would instantly make the reply he would have made had we stayed on the phone ten seconds longer the last time.

Eventually that added up, and eventually we both wanted an Advanced Jumbo in walnut so much that we worked it out. It's not that much for lots of folks, but I drive a school bus.

A month ago I paid Howard the last dime I owed him. "Quick pay makes fast friends!" I told him. "How many years did this take me?"

"It was months, Wade. Not years."

"Felt like years....I had to sell a few instruments to put the money together to buy this."

I expected Howard to take the guitar to Healdsburg, WANTED him to take it there to show, and of course I wanted him to put it in Eric Schoenberg's hands, because to me that would be like getting Tommy Emmanuel to play one of your guitars for some of you.

But Howard wanted me playing the guitar before then, bless his heart. So here it is.

Anyway, now I have it, now I own it completely, and it's just a great guitar. I worked for it, and maybe even I deserve it (even though I can't play it as well as it deserves to be played.)

In a few more days when I have some fresh musical insights, (and I get this upcoming priest ordination on the schedule behind me,) perhaps I'll post some more about how the guitar is developing.

This guitar wouldn't exist if Howard and I both hadn't wanted to try something new, yet grounded in well-proven theory and practice at the same time. And - man oh man - if you need proof that he nailed it, come visit Alaska, give me a call and then play this guitar.

But you'll have to wash your hands first, and if you have a big honkin' rodeo champion-style belt buckle, you'll have to swivel it around to the side before I'll let you within six feet of the guitar. Any scratches or gouges that go into the surface of the KJ, I'd rather be the one who put them there, thank you very much.

Short version: I like the guitar. It sounds good. Some of you might want to consider ordering a Howard Klepper guitar for yourselves.

It's world class, that's all there is to it. Hope that makes sense.

Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:23 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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I just got a query asking what sort of case this guitar required, and whether I got a Calton case with it or something else equally exotic.

Afraid not, not this time. Howard included a good quality dreadnought case with it. I also own a Calton case sized for a dreadnought that I can use if I need to fly with this guitar.

I don't think a Martin dreadnought case would work for this guitar, because it's a bit wider in the lower bout than a Martin dread. But aftermarket dreadnought cases tend to be sized just a bit more generously, and that's what this case is. Fits perfectly.

Howard did ask me what my preference in a case is, and as I recall the conversation I told him that I dislike Ameritage cases because I find them excessively heavy and bulky for the amount of protection they provide. He said: "I do have a regular hardshell dreadnought case here" and I said that that would do just fine.

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Old 08-26-2011, 01:13 PM
Howard Klepper Howard Klepper is offline
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I have (belatedly) received a sound file of Stevie Coyle playing "Rue de Romie" on Wade's KJ.
"Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest."
--Paul Simon
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Old 08-26-2011, 02:25 PM
Berf Berf is offline
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Beautiful song and beautiful guitar... sounds wonderful.
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Old 08-26-2011, 02:52 PM
Broadus Broadus is offline
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Originally Posted by Berf View Post
Beautiful song and beautiful guitar... sounds wonderful.
Indeed. Thanks for sharing, Howard.

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Old 08-27-2011, 06:45 PM
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cotten cotten is offline
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Love the way you've told the story of this wonderful guitar, Wade! It's beautiful visually, and that audio clip Howard posted confirmed what my eyes had told me.

I got the chance to play some of Howard's offerings at Healdsburg, and I was very impressed! I needed another few days, or months, to complete my auditions.

Great thread!

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