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  #1  
Old 08-06-2023, 06:56 PM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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Default Oval and round hole archtops demo

I am strongly considering busting my budget and buying an L75 thatís at RetroFret in Brooklyn; they also have an L3 and an L Junior, which would actually be a good match with my A Junior mandolin.

Anyway, searching YouTube for sound samples of such archtops, I came across this comparison video:

https://youtu.be/OJSxCHeePmA


I had no idea that Gibson had ever done a Super 400 with an oval sound hole! I also never knew that vintage L4s ever had Virzi tone producers (though now that I think about it, I shouldnít be surprised because F4 mandolins from the same era have them). All the guitars here sound great, but the L4 is really special. Donít know if itís the Virzi or the age, but wow.
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Old 08-07-2023, 09:49 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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You might find this of interest - the uber-rare Epiphone Emperor Concert:











BTW that's a genuine 1949 New York original in dead-mint condition - a near-twin to Johnny Smith's personal guitar, and one of only three known to exist; here's the back story:

https://wiedler.ch/nyepireg/closeup28.html

Unlike the L-75 and L-4 this one's an 18-3/8" body, the largest factory archtop ever produced (Elmer and Charles Stromberg's small-shop operation produced the 19" Master 400, acknowledged by many Big-Band players as the loudest acoustic guitar in creation, and the preferred instrument of the legendary Freddie Green), but with some subtle body-contour modifications suggested by Johnny Smith that distinguish it immediately from its standard f-hole contemporary in a side-by-side comparison. I played my share of New York Emperors back in the early-70's, when nobody wanted them and good examples could be had for $500 (I was in college then and couldn't float the cash...) - big, full, powerful, with a velvety richness to the bass and midrange not commonly found in the smaller sizes - and if they're any example I suspect this one is really special: comparable volume but with more sustain and sweetness to the treble register, a true virtuoso instrument for those with the technique to bring out its best, and it's a shame none of us will ever get the chance to hear it...

FWIW most contemporary players are unaware that there was an entire school of "classical archtop" guitar that flourished from about 1925-1940, and upon which Mel Bay based his well-known method; when I was learning in the early-60's the method books bore a statement that they were in fact designed and intended "to place the plectrum guitar in the same class as the violin, piano, and other 'legitimate' instruments" (and if you've never hung around in certain so-called "serious" music circles it's difficult to imagine the pejorative attitude directed toward the guitar, even in its "classical" incarnation)...

By way of background, in its original form the classical-archtop movement drew from the earlier American school of (fingerstyle) 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 nine decades later. Bear in mind that the original L-5 archtop guitar 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, and instruments of this type (Gretsch offered a similarly-rare triangular-soundhole 18" Synchromatic 400 on special order shortly before WW II - Harry Volpe used one, and Johnny Smith may have briefly owned one as well) would have been their ultimate expression...

Here's a couple of samples of "classical archtop" from back in the day (note Harry Volpe's instrument in the photo, with Django playing a conventional Synchromatic):



- and a few from modern revivalists (including fellow AGF'er Rob MacKillop) keeping this historic style alive:





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Old 08-07-2023, 12:13 PM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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Ah, the Emperor Concert! I think RetroFret had one of these for a moment, but I never got to see it in person. Yes, certainly a beautiful instrument. Is that what Johnny Smith used on the ďLegendsĒ recording on Concorde Records, the twofer with George Van Eps on the other side?

https://youtu.be/gMAN6jF1XTQ

As great as he was at jazz, I think of Johnny Smith as the ultimate plectrum guitarist: He took it beyond classical and classically inspired and into jazz. But I guess that was prefigured by Eddie LangÖ

The plectrum school is fascinating; although using an entirely different technique, fully equivalent to the so-called classic banjo. Of course, listening to Robís various recordings makes that clear.
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Old 08-07-2023, 05:24 PM
Dave Richard Dave Richard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L50EF15 View Post
I am strongly considering busting my budget and buying an L75 thatís at RetroFret in Brooklyn; they also have an L3 and an L Junior, which would actually be a good match with my A Junior mandolin.

Anyway, searching YouTube for sound samples of such archtops, I came across this comparison video:

https://youtu.be/OJSxCHeePmA


I had no idea that Gibson had ever done a Super 400 with an oval sound hole! I also never knew that vintage L4s ever had Virzi tone producers (though now that I think about it, I shouldnít be surprised because F4 mandolins from the same era have them). All the guitars here sound great, but the L4 is really special. Donít know if itís the Virzi or the age, but wow.
I too like the round hole Super 400, and the lovely old L4. I own a '34 Epiphone Spartan roundhole, for which I had high hopes. I acquired it as a complete wreck, rebuilt it with a new carved back. It had an odd bracing pattern('reverse' parallel or splayed tone bars), and it just did not sound very good. So, I removed the back, and rebraced it with x-braces. Better, but still not great. I'm considering redoing it again, especially after hearing the 400 and the L-4. Good luck with the L-75!
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Old 08-16-2023, 05:20 PM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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I wound up getting the L Jr. Granted, the L75 was magnificent, but a little too close to what I can get from my f-hole L50, though definitely a smoother bass response. As I said in my NGD post, the L75 made me think of nothing so much as a cross between my L50 and my 000 flattop.

The L Jr. is wonderful. Between that and the sampling of the L1, L3, and L75 RetroFret has, I have an even greater appreciation for round hole archtops. They really are underrated and fall perfectly between the typical flattop sound and typical f-hole archtop sound: More apparent warmth than an f-hole, more projection than a flattop.

Too bad Gibson has abandoned archtops of all kinds. It really was their unique selling point compared with Martin. Iím waiting for some flatpicking prodigy to cause a stir with an L4 or L75 (or L1, L2, L3, L Jr. ) and get them back on the path. The roundhole archtop really is an ideal crossover instrument for players coming from flattops.
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Old 08-16-2023, 05:36 PM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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Jamie Stillway shows the L1 to advantage here:

https://youtu.be/aAlffpwkdTc

As does Jake Wildwood here:

https://youtu.be/_evNLBCWG1k

And a demo of fingerpicking on an L75 here:

https://youtu.be/ojiQ0oQf5Kg

and another here:

https://youtu.be/j5BMSxnNKYg
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Old 08-16-2023, 05:39 PM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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And an L3 under a flatpick: https://youtu.be/Yx_KLWTe6Nk
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Old 08-17-2023, 08:32 AM
Sam Sherry Sam Sherry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L50EF15 View Post
And an L3 under a flatpick: https://youtu.be/Yx_KLWTe6Nk
Thanks. I keep getting dragged toward L1-L2-L3 guitars. That clip was a great antidote!

He plays fine. That's a nice modern resto of a 100yo instrument.
It is not the sound I'm looking for.

A different gear obsession is already coming on . . .
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  #9  
Old 08-17-2023, 04:46 PM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Sherry View Post
Thanks. I keep getting dragged toward L1-L2-L3 guitars. That clip was a great antidote!

He plays fine. That's a nice modern resto of a 100yo instrument.
It is not the sound I'm looking for.

A different gear obsession is already coming on . . .
Ah, GAS is a terrible/wonderful thing!
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