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  #1  
Old 12-24-2018, 02:44 PM
RichardP RichardP is offline
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Default Godin Kingpin ii Question

I have had my 5th Avenue CW Kingpin ii for about two weeks, and I am having trouble "bonding" with it. I think it may be me and not the guitar. I am pleased with the look and the quality. I also like the plugged-in sound. However, I don't really know what I expected acoustically. Describing sound is always difficult but it sounds duller (if that is a word) than I anticipated. My "regular" ones are a Taylor 414ce-R and a 1950 D18 (my dad's old one). I didn't expect that kind of sound, but I did expect more than what I am hearing. Any suggestions on listening more objectively or changing strings or ???

Thanks,

Richard
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Old 12-24-2018, 06:44 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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If you're only used to flattop guitars - especially a bright-sounding one like your Taylor - you'll find archtops as a whole to be a very different animal, and even more so when the top vibration is compromised by two built-in pickups and the requisite controls (the reason many hardcore archtop players prefer pickguard-mounted pickups on their solid carved-top instruments); FYI I own the identical instrument as well as its all-acoustic counterpart, and while the characteristic archtop tonal response - punchier, more forward-sounding, midrange-focused with less extension in both bass and treble - is common to both, there's a clear difference in volume. In addition, there's a whole different skill set involved in bringing the best out of these babies, what the Big Band players of the '30s-40s used to call "coaxing the velvet out," that's closer to orchestral-string technique in practice and as much a function of mindset as technical execution: think "stroke" instead of "strum," "glide" rather than "pick," and let the guitar do the work - all of which run counter to what I've observed in the flattop players I worked with over the last five decades. Finally, IME the acoustic "sweet spot" is also narrower on the Godin srchtops than on the Seagull mini-jumbos; once you find it, though, you'll be rewarded with a sweet, mellow, very engaging (some might say seductive) tone that lends itself well to low-level late-night practice - whereas my acoustic 5th Avenue is set up to be an old-style comp box (I was using PB 14's until very recently) the CW II is my couch guitar supreme, the perfect after-hours companion to some 18 Y.O. Macallan single malt...

As regards your choice of strings I'd recommend the heaviest gauge you can comfortably handle, in order to get some "wood" and punchy attack into your electric tone (I believe the CW II ships with D'Addario 11-49 roundwounds, too light for a laminated-top deep-hollow IME) - since you're probably using 12's or 13's on your current acoustics, I don't think it'll be as much of a learning curve as for a hardcore electric player accustomed to 9's or 10's with a plain G. I use flatwound 13's on my CW II, with extremely low action - the classic '50s bop/rockabilly combination, and still the preference of many traditional jazzers and roots players - along with the factory GraphTech bridge to give the unplugged tone just a slight hint of brightness (I installed a StewMac rosewood bridge on the acoustic for a more traditional '40s tone); again, you have the option of raising the bridge for more volume as well as a more familiar "acoustic" feel, virtually identical to the aforementioned (and well-respected) Seagull mini-jumbos. If you still feel you need something with a little more acoustic brightness and edge, D'Addario Half-Round EHR350 (12-52) or EHR360 (13-56) should fill the bill; personally, I'm not a fan of roundwound strings on this type of guitar, especially with single-coil or mini-bucker (Gretsch, '60s Epiphone) pickups but, as with anything else, YMMV...

BTW, what are you using for amplification - a nice low-/mid-powered tube combo is a wonderful tonal match for the CW II no matter what style(s) you play...
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Last edited by Steve DeRosa; 12-27-2018 at 10:23 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 12-24-2018, 08:30 PM
RichardP RichardP is offline
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Thank you, Steve, for a thoughtful, excellent reply. You re right in that my experience is only with flattops...and that has been a long time for this amateur. (I sometimes say that I have been playing for 60 years...my problem is that I have played one year 60 times!) In my retirement I have been playing much more with friends, and practicing a bit more. In the process of that I have wanted to expand my horizons and learn a new set of chords and a new style. Hence, the archtop.
When my favorite local music shop opens Wednesday I am going to get a set of flatwound 13's, put them on it and give it more time. As far as an amp goes, the only thing I have here at the house is a Roland AC 33. Since I play mostly for my own amusement and amazement, I will probably hold off on getting another one for a while. Oh...too bad my old tube amp from the 60's is no longer around. Might have been fun to try it.
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Old 12-25-2018, 09:50 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardP View Post
...As far as an amp goes, the only thing I have here at the house is a Roland AC 33. Since I play mostly for my own amusement and amazement, I will probably hold off on getting another one for a while. Oh...too bad my old tube amp from the 60's is no longer around. Might have been fun to try it.
If you have some discretionary cash lying around, you might want to check out one of these:

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Bugera/...r-Combo-Amp.gc

My band-practice/coffeehouse-gig amp (I use the big-brother V22 for everything else short of outdoor gigs - got a '65 Super RI and 100W blackface-Twin style Frontman 212R for that - but see my comments below) - more powerful than you think (but scales down to 1W/0.1W for home practice) with more creamy-sweet tube tone than anything this inexpensive has the right to have, and a set of old-school straight-ahead controls (gain/tone/volume/reverb) that'll let you call up your signature sound the way we both did back in the old days, without the need for a masters' degree in computer science. At $199 street you're not going to find anything better for anywhere near the price, I've seen it as low as $149 during holiday/coupon sales at the big-box/online retailers (I paid even less than that with a little in-person haggling), and with a set of high-quality tubes this little puppy can easily run with the boutique mini-boxes at four or more times the price...

BTW if you're a fan of "big-clean" blackface Fender/blue-check Ampeg electric guitar tone and/or need more dynamic range and headroom (PSA: "big power" in a guitar amp doesn't necessarily equate with ear-splitting volume and massive amounts of gain/distortion) one of these can still be had for well under $400 if you shop around (FYI prices are going up $50 in January, and some retailers have already started advertising accordingly):

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Bugera/...r-Combo-Amp.gc

Swap in a set of good tubes, and it will probably be all the amp you'll ever need...
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  #5  
Old 12-25-2018, 10:04 PM
RichardP RichardP is offline
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Looks interesting. I will count my coins and sese what happens. I dug deeper into some of the forum's posts and found a reference from you earlier (perhaps lst year) about this amp. Price sounds right for practice/home use.
Richard
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  #6  
Old 12-26-2018, 07:05 AM
WildcatGuitar WildcatGuitar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
If you have some discretionary cash lying around, you might want to check out one of these:

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Bugera/...r-Combo-Amp.gc

My band-practice/coffeehouse-gig amp (I use the big-brother V22 for everything else short of outdoor gigs - got a '65 Super RI and 100W blackface-Twin style Frontman 212R for that - but see my comments below) - more powerful than you think (but scales down to 1W/0.1W for home practice) with more creamy-sweet tube tone than anything this inexpensive has the right to have, and a set of old-school straight-ahead controls (gain/tone/volume/reverb) that'll let you call up your signature sound the way we both did back in the old days, without the need for a masters' degree in computer science. At $199 street you're not going to find anything better for anywhere near the price, I've seen it as low as $149 during holiday/coupon sales at the big-box/online retailers (I paid even less than that with a little in-person haggling), and with a set of high-quality tubes this little puppy can easily run with the boutique mini-boxes at four or more times the price...

BTW if you're a fan of "big-clean" blackface Fender/blue-check Ampeg electric guitar tone and/or need more dynamic range and headroom (PSA: "big power" in a guitar amp doesn't necessarily equate with ear-splitting volume and massive amounts of gain/distortion) one of these can still be had for well under $400 if you shop around (FYI prices are going up $50 in January, and some retailers have already started advertising accordingly):

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Bugera/...r-Combo-Amp.gc

Swap in a set of good tubes, and it will probably be all the amp you'll ever need...
I second the Bugera amp....really a versatile little tube amp for the money.
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  #7  
Old 12-26-2018, 09:07 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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During my archtop quest I played a few Godin 5th avenues. I didn't like how any of them sounded acoustically - to me they were very tight and dead, almost like playing an electric guitar unplugged. I ended up taking my Eastman MDC 805 mandocello and converted it to a 6 string with new nut and bridge. Now the mandocello is intended to have 8 strings, all heavier than guitar mediums, so its braced heavier than its guitar brother the AR805 (according to an Eastman rep I spoke with). I found heavier strings (.013's) really brought out its acoustic voice. Try a set of retro monel .013 or even .014 on your Kingpin.
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Old 12-26-2018, 09:30 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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Double post

Last edited by Mandobart; 12-26-2018 at 09:40 AM.
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Old 12-26-2018, 02:45 PM
RichardP RichardP is offline
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I put Martin Retro Monel 13's on and it sounds better acoustically. More sustain. Still sounds a little like an acoustic strummed close to the bridge...maybe not that harsh, but I know I can't expect it sound like the Taylor. I will try it for a couple of days and see if it grows on me now.

Thanks for the input.

Richard
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Old 12-27-2018, 11:12 AM
slewis slewis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardP View Post
I put Martin Retro Monel 13's on and it sounds better acoustically. More sustain. Still sounds a little like an acoustic strummed close to the bridge...maybe not that harsh, but I know I can't expect it sound like the Taylor. I will try it for a couple of days and see if it grows on me now. Thanks for the input.... Richard
Richard, Iím about four sets of strings in to my quest for better tone and volume and responsiveness, too, on my Kingpin, and Iím starting to zero-in on a much better sound and feel, and really enjoying mine more now. Almost seems like a new guitar and itís about all Iíve played for the past month or so at home. Keep on keepiní on and I bet youíll really enjoy it!... And let us know ó thanks.
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Old 12-27-2018, 10:21 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardP View Post
I put Martin Retro Monel 13's on and it sounds better acoustically. More sustain. Still sounds a little like an acoustic strummed close to the bridge...maybe not that harsh, but I know I can't expect it sound like the Taylor. I will try it for a couple of days and see if it grows on me now...
Found these videos posted on another thread by fellow forumite and archtop aficionado supreme Jeff Matz (aka Mr. Beaumont); the man's got some formidable chops and clearly understands what I mentioned about "coaxing the velvet out" (I could listen to ya for hours, Jeff... ) - should help you get a handle on what good archtop tone sounds like in general and, in the second clip, give you an idea what to expect from your Godin:



1950's Kay: the textbook acoustic archtop tone I described above - although it's difficult to see his right hand, you can hear how he's focused in the "sweet spot" and uses the "stroke/glide" technique to make the characteristic short sustain work to his advantage, bringing out the individual notes in the complex voicings he uses




Godin Kingpin: the non-cutaway version of your (and my) guitar, also set up with Martin Monels after the first generation of electric jazz guitarists to lend a not-quite-electric/not-quite-acoustic amplified tone with the P-90 pickup (you should be able to achieve this tone through the neck pickup with no problem) - his right-hand technique is more visible here, and you can clearly see the economy of motion compared to flattop acoustic guitar




Heritage 575: a two-pickup cutaway jazzbox like the CW II, set up with flatwound strings for that classic '50s-style tone associated with the likes of Tal Farlow, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, et al. (but also extremely effective for rockabilly, early blues/R&B, Western swing, Americana - and don't even think of using anything else for Beatle-era Brit-Invasion) - although your P-90's will have more presence and clarity (the humbucking pickups roll off some of the highs) you can hear that rich, "woody" tone that IME is the whole raison d'etre for these instruments in the first place, and that requires a heavier string (such as your Monels) to achieve

This one's from Darryl Noda (aka Livingston), another AGF'er - threw it in just for the heluvit to give you an idea of how to make it work in a group setting (in addition to the fact that I always liked this tune anyway ):



Hope this clarifies things a bit; just spent some quality couch time with my CW II before posting, and I hope with time and practice you come to enjoy yours as much as I do mine...
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Old 12-28-2018, 12:57 PM
RichardP RichardP is offline
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Thanks again, Steve, for the input. I listened to all of Jeff's videos and I am beginning to see what you are saying. I think I need to get more involved in listening and watching as I attempt to expand my horizons. The "economy of movement" comment struck the biggest note with me. Just as another thought, I believe the Kingpin and amp are pointing out some lack of precision on my part. When I strum and sing along with my friends on the Taylor, precision gets swallowed a bit and is not as noticeable. After some good time last night with the Godin I am liking it more and more.

Jeff's bit on the Kay gives me another look at the acoustic sound. Actually, the "KAY" brings back childhood memories as a Kay was my Dad's first guitar. As a kid I couldn't even push the strings down because of its high action. Wonder where it is now.

And Sean...I will keep at it with strings until the right set comes along.

Thanks for the comments.

Richard
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Old 12-28-2018, 02:36 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardP View Post
Thanks again, Steve, for the input...I believe the Kingpin and amp are pointing out some lack of precision on my part. When I strum and sing along with my friends on the Taylor, precision gets swallowed a bit and is not as noticeable. After some good time last night with the Godin I am liking it more and more...

Jeff's bit on the Kay gives me another look at the acoustic sound...
My pleasure, and I think you put your finger on the major reason archtops lost their popularity with the advent of rock-&-roll and the concurrent folk revival of the 1950's; in their prewar heyday acoustic archtops were considered virtuoso instruments and, in addition to their pre-eminence in the jazz world (a status they never relinquished BTW) there was a flourishing school of "classical archtop" guitar, which in its original form drew from the earlier American school of classical guitar exemplified by the likes of William Foden, Vahdah Olcott-Bickford, et al. (rather than that of Segovia and his Spanish contemporaries, which would become the accepted concert style and instrument), as well as the parlor, "light classical," and vaudeville music of late-19th/early 20th century America. In addition to transcriptions of well-known classical repertoire, a number of guitarists of the day produced original compositions in a late-Romantic style - music which, while largely out of fashion today, still retains its technical and artistic merit eighty or more years later. Bear in mind that the original Gibson L-5 archtop guitar of 1923 was in fact envisioned as a "classical" instrument both tonally and visually, intended as a part of the mandolin orchestras of the late vaudeville era and designed for hall-filling acoustic projection in the days before electronic amplification; were it not for Segovia's sensational American debut in 1928, the plectrum-style archtop guitar - with its violin-family looks and construction - may well have become the accepted "classical" guitar. As with any instrument so intended, however, archtops are merciless in exposing any technical deficiencies - which would render them anathema to players whose articulation, timing, left-hand precision, etc. are not equal to the demands; when I was actively teaching, I used the '47 Gibson L-7 I owned at the time to take the steam out of many a would-be shredder, who masked his/her deficiencies behind a wall of massive distortion and layered effects - and the fact that you take the position you do above tells me you've clearly got the right outlook, that you recognize which areas need improvement and plan to address them...

BTW there are a number of recordings of "classical archtop" period pieces on YouTube, either in the original (by the likes of Harry Volpe, Al Hendrickson, et al.) or re-recorded by contemporary revivalists; in addition, you might also want to check out some of the work of Eddie Lang (both solo and with Joe Venuti on violin), Carl Kress and Dick McDonough, Tony Mottola, and George Van Eps, among other. Finally, there's an excellent collection published by Mel Bay, entitled Masters of the Plectrum Guitar, that should give you a taste of what might have been...
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