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Old 09-29-2023, 07:34 AM
jacf jacf is offline
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Default How 'good' does a gigging guitar with a pickup fitted need to be?

So I've been looking at buying a smaller guitar that I can lug around from gig to gig on a little European jaunt. It'll be played plugged-in, mainly fingerstyle strumming on solo singer/songwriter gigs. I ain't young any more and I'm planning travelling by train if possible, so I'm looking to keep things as small and as light as I can.

I already have some nice guitars but I'd been thinking about a little all-mahogany Guild M20, but given this would just be for live work, probably with a soundhole pickup fitted (Baggs M80 or Fishman Blackstack), would I be as well just going with the Chinese M-120? I love having nice guitars to mic up and record with but do I need these attributes playing a few smaller gigs or house concerts? I suppose I'd have less of a concerns about it getting damaged or stolen, and I'm pretty sure the audience won't notice either way.

I tend to gig my good guitars when possible (and will continue to do so when I can), so I've never had to make that choice or compromise before but I'm wondering if some of you folks have opted to take cheaper guitars for gigging and if you have been happy or unhappy with the outcome? Is there a downside I'm missing?
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Old 09-29-2023, 07:44 AM
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I have seen all kinds of people playing cheap guitars at events. True they don't sound as good as the more expensive guitars but only a guitar player would even notice. My bet is that M-120 would be fine. Guild Chinese guitars are better than most. But to be honest a Guild M-20 is not expensive to me. That is just about where I would want to be if this was me.

But I don't have any personal experience so take it with a grain of salt. Just my opinion on the matter.
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Old 09-29-2023, 07:49 AM
beachbum205 beachbum205 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacf View Post
I love having nice guitars to mic up and record with but do I need these attributes playing a few smaller gigs or house concerts? I suppose I'd have less of a concerns about it getting damaged or stolen, and I'm pretty sure the audience won't notice either way.
In terms of your audience, I agree. More than likely they will probably not know the difference. I have always felt that when I play live, I want to really sound my very best, but honestly I think that matters much more to me than most of those who are listening.

The only downside of a cheaper guitar that I can see is playability. And a quality setup could possibly eliminate that issue. Just my two cents.
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Old 09-29-2023, 07:56 AM
The Bard Rocks The Bard Rocks is offline
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Not "know" the difference - I'd certainly agree with. Not "sense" the difference - not so sure.
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Old 09-29-2023, 08:26 AM
Bob from Brooklyn Bob from Brooklyn is offline
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I've seen homeless guys shredding on Walmart guitars. Don't overthink it.
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Old 09-29-2023, 08:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacf View Post
So I've been looking at buying a smaller guitar that I can lug around from gig to gig on a little European jaunt. It'll be played plugged-in, mainly fingerstyle strumming on solo singer/songwriter gigs. I ain't young any more and I'm planning travelling by train if possible, so I'm looking to keep things as small and as light as I can.

I already have some nice guitars but I'd been thinking about a little all-mahogany Guild M20, but given this would just be for live work, probably with a soundhole pickup fitted (Baggs M80 or Fishman Blackstack), would I be as well just going with the Chinese M-120? I love having nice guitars to mic up and record with but do I need these attributes playing a few smaller gigs or house concerts? I suppose I'd have less of a concerns about it getting damaged or stolen, and I'm pretty sure the audience won't notice either way.

I tend to gig my good guitars when possible (and will continue to do so when I can), so I've never had to make that choice or compromise before but I'm wondering if some of you folks have opted to take cheaper guitars for gigging and if you have been happy or unhappy with the outcome? Is there a downside I'm missing?
Hi jacf

For me the essentials (regardless of the guitar I'm playing live) are:
  • Action height up to fret 15
  • Neck profile
  • Intonation
  • Qualities of string tension, attack, sustain, and ability for me to hear the guitar acoustically as well as amplified (this is why 2 of my 5 'live-play' guitars have side ports)

If those properties can be had in a less expensive or different model instrument, great.

The neck profile and other qualities (found in abundance in my Olson) are also mimicked by my Voyage Air - VAOM-04 I paid $400). It folds up and goes into a backpack, and is my 'travel' guitar.

My Bashkin OM, Kronbauer Mini-jumbo, and Recording King 000-18copy ROS626 and Voyage-Air OM each have their unique voices…but all are equally playable so I'm not focused on wrestling with technique but on the music.

And contrary to the thought that a pickup sounds like a pickup…when I use a ToneDexter each sounds like itself through a PA.

Hope this adds to the discussion.



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Old 09-29-2023, 10:28 AM
Mobilemike Mobilemike is offline
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For me...

It needs to be good enough that I enjoy playing it. Good enough that I'm happy and look forward to playing it for hours on end. Good enough that I look forward to the sound of it. Good enough that it inspires me to take risks and try new things when I play it.

I gig with all my guitars.

-Mike
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Old 09-29-2023, 10:44 AM
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I suppose a lot depends on what you're playing through, as in what kind of amp or PA. If you're plugging in then most any guitar with a decent pickup system will sound, well, decent enough for live work. Going with just a magnetic soundhole pickup you'll want and likely need some decent tone shaping abilities from a preamp pedal of some kind. Audiences are generally pretty forgiving (meaning they really don't care as long as it sounds good).

I suppose to a certain degree it also depends on the venue and type of music being played. If you're playing delicate ballads to a quiet house with a rapt-attentive audience then you'll want and need a better pickup system with more control over tone. Playing upbeat strummer cover songs to patrons that are well lubed on adult libations in loud pubs and the like then not so much. But I agree about schlepping around a smaller, lighter and less expensive guitar.
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Old 09-29-2023, 10:57 AM
Charlie Bernstein Charlie Bernstein is offline
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I liked my cheaper guitar for gigging (and jamming, recording, and woodshedding) so much that I sold my D-28. Just didn't need it anymore. Terrific guitar, but ten years later, haven't missed it once.
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Old 09-29-2023, 11:35 AM
Nymuso Nymuso is offline
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I dunno, a lot of people were not fans of the Guild Songbird Eva Cassidy chose to play, but nobody really cared. Her singing and playing overshadowed her instrument's voice - boy, did it ever!
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Old 09-29-2023, 12:10 PM
L20A L20A is offline
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I have thought about this one for my gigging guitar.
Eastman PCH.
https://www.chicagomusicexchange.com...-finish-800790

I like it's looks and the price is great.
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Old 09-29-2023, 12:15 PM
Joseph Hanna Joseph Hanna is online now
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For many years (back when I played live), I chased the Holy Grail. I don't know if there was a rock I didn't overturn looking for the best live guitar/sound. Mercifully, I had encountered enough other players using Takamine's, somewhere along the line, and realized virtually all of them sounded great. It's not a perfect reproduction of an acoustic, but a really great, solid, live acoustic sound. I picked up a mid-level Takamine and never looked back. I'll admit there wasn't much enthralling about the guitar outside of live, but it was low maintenance, played great, and provided a stress-free, great sound at gigs. As far as the consistent comments here about whether or not the audience can tell the difference, be it picks, guitars, mics, or pickups, I find that a difficult position to work from. I have to be happy with what I hear. What others do or don't perceive is secondary. I certainly hope the sound is good to the listener, but I won't cut corners because I think they can't hear the efforts.
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Old 09-29-2023, 12:20 PM
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Honestly, I feel like if you're gigging your way across Europe, you're probably perfectly qualified to answer this question yourself.
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Old 09-29-2023, 12:21 PM
Sadie-f Sadie-f is offline
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As good as the performer wants / can manage. I know a fairly "struggling artist" performer who owns two spectacular luthier-built instruments, both with built - in pickups .. probably because most venues make that far easier.

Necessary? Yeah, if the user / owner so deems it.
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Old 09-29-2023, 12:25 PM
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For the majority of my gigs now I play either my Gibson 50's LG-2 or my Martin 000-17. Both are excellent guitars and I love playing them. However I've usually kept a less expensive but still good quality gigging guitar, usually with a Baggs M1 pickup that I use for rowdy venues or adverse weather conditions, etc. I have never had anyone notice that I'm playing a lesser guitar than my main gigging guitars at an event. And honestly the playing field get's pretty level as soon as a guitar is plugged in. I've been without a barroom brawler for a while so today I took delivery of an Eastman E1OOSS-SB and for an inexpensive guitar this thing is really nice. All solid wood, excellent craftsmanship and it sounds great. Popped in a M1, added a strap button and new strings and it's ready to gig. Tried it out through the Loudbox Mini I keep in my office / man cave and it sounds great amplified. I wouldn't hesitate to use it for what you are describing. As long as the performance is good, the pickup is solid and you're having fun, no one will notice.
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