Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Who Are The Great Flatpickers? Clarence White

Clarence White

Who Are The Great Flatpickers?

Who the great flatpickers are is totally a matter of personal opinion, and speculation. Music isn't a contest, but I damn sure enjoy seeing the flatpicking guitar contest at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. But music is not a contest, music is a celebration, an art form, a lamentation, a personal expression, and a communication that is beyond language and words. Music is more than those things that I just mentioned, and modern mass media promoted music is far, far less than any of the things that I listed.

If someone is interested in Flatpicking, then there is no better resource available in the entire world than Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. Dan Miller is the owner and publisher, and I've met Dan, a very nice guy, at the Walnut Valley Festival, in Winfield, Kansas. There's no reason for Dan to remember me from there - but he also has a website that supports his extremely useful magazine, and of course I have a profile there - I do a lot of talking and writing and listening to music, and I do the same things concerning the types of guitars that are used to make that same kind of music. So in other words, the owner of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine might recognize my name, or he might not - it doesn't much matter.

The "mission statement" from the website that supports Flatpicking Guitar Magazine says it all about who the great Flatpicking guitarist are, observe the following:

"Flatpicking Guitar Magazine is a bi-monthly periodical, and companion audio CD, dedicated to presenting all aspects of the art of flatpicking the acoustic guitar as pioneered by such great guitarists as Doc Watson, Clarence White, Norman Blake, Tony Rice, and Dan Crary. Our goal is to help you increase your own skill level and enjoyment of this fine art as it pertains to the musical genres of bluegrass, old-time, folk, Celtic, Western swing, gypsy jazz, new acoustic music, and acoustic rock. "

Clarence White

The Great Flatpickers - Clarence White

From the quote from the Mission statement of the website that supports the finest resource that I know of for Flatpickers - you get a clear list of names concerning who the great ones are. I could easily produce a Hubpages article about all of those persons, and in time, I just might do that. For this article, however, we are going to talk about the greatness of Clarence White. No disrespect here to Doc Watson, as he probably - I'm not positive - pre dated Clarence White in the genre, and the both of them are not "just" flatpickers. Doc Watson is a well known fingerpicker, vocalist, and even plays some banjo. One of the oddest things about Doc Watson's story is that he'd not started off playing fiddle tunes on the acoustic guitar, no - Doc Watson started off his folk music career playing fiddle tunes on a Gibson Les Paul!

I want to focus on the greatness of Clarence White here - but I also would like the reader to understand straight away that the most amazing music that I've heard performed by Clarence White exists on a copied cassette tape that I have, is bootleg material, and isn't going to be something that I can present for you to enjoy, or judge here. Not only that - but the most amazing electric guitar work by Clarence White. . . .I've never found in video, but that music is available on compact disc, as it was recorded with The Byrds. But Clarence White was more than that - Clarence White, though the proof is hard to find, had seemed to have gotten tired of the acoustic guitar, and flatpicking scene. By the early end of his life he'd moved on into things like hybrid picking, which is a combination of both fingerpicking and flatpicking, and also the electric guitar country blues style that he'd performed with The Byrds.

What Makes Clarence White Great?

What makes Clarence White so great? Clarence White probably didn't think he was so great, and in my opinion, that's a huge part of what made Clarence White so great. No, don't get me wrong here - I'm sure the man knew that he was a cut above the rest, but he never really tried to show off, he ALWAYS tried to do the small things in support of everything in every band he participated in, his goal was not to outshine everyone else in a band, but to always make the entire band, and any given song, sound as close to perfect as possible.

Clarence White was a flatpicker, a crosspicker, a hybrid picker, and electric guitarist, a vocalist, a mandolin player, and someone who never stopped experimenting with things in music that most people never experiment with - timing. Clarence White was the person who would play a mind blowing solo that was basically simple. How is this? What do I mean? I mean that the solos that Clarence would play could actually be simple in that they wouldn't take a huge amount of technical proficiency - except for the fact that he'd place notes exactly where you wouldn't expect them to be. He was a master of syncopation.

Clarence White was someone who dabbled in "tricks," and when Clarence White had tricks - nobody else could figure out what the hell that it was that he was doing. Now, what I want to show you first has nothing to do with flatpicking, yes, Clarence White is something like a "God" to flatpidkers, but he's also a guy who made people like Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame say things like,
"How the Devil Does He Do THAT?"


The True Beauty of Flatpicking Via Clarence White!

Clarence White -Subtlety, and Accompaniment

Obviously, there is a whole lot more to being a musician of any worth than merely being a soloist. Have you ever noticed that "American Idol" is all about the individual? How much of a band is made up by one individual? Typically about twenty, or twenty five percent - which leaves the majority of a band's sound outside the realm of any one person. Clarence White knew as well as anyone who ever lived that the guitar isn't just a soloist's instrument, rather, the guitar was created for accompaniment.

Basically, everything done in the two videos of this section is meant for the whole of the sound, and not for Clarence White to just show you how good he is. Of course the end result here is that you can truly see how great that he was, and you get a bit of an education in what music should be, but no longer is in American mass media. Music is about a group, it's never about an individual. I don't care who you are - if you aren't performing by yourself, then there are supporting musicians that contribute, this is the great folly in what passes for "culture" in America today. "American Idol" is all about individuals who can't even play an instrument, so how are they to be someone's "Idol," by singing?

The "Muleskinner" band was perhaps the greatest bluegrass band that ever existed, but it was never meant to be presented as if it would. It's a collection of young hippies that play Bluegrass music, the new generation of greats that was taking the fore then. In the video, you see Clarence white not even play a solo in the first song, and then he plays a very understated one in the second. If you watch and listen closely you can see how his rhythm guitar playing compliments everything - and of course his vocals here add to the timbre of the whole.

But this next video with "The Crawdad Song," THIS video I want to tell you about. The video with "The Crawdad Song," that is what MUSIC is all about! It really can't get much better - oh sure, the vocalist is a tv show host, and so THAT could get better, but if you are dwelling on that, then you are totally missing the point! The point is that in that video it's just some guys sitting around making music, and that, my friends, is REAL music. Music isn't some whore in spandex doing the dance moves that some choreographer taught him or her to do, singing lyrics that some pop lyrics writer devised, and all on a video that yet another person put together - that crap isn't music at all! The choreographed, ghost written, dancing harlot routine is the paradigm of mediocrity that is sold in America today, but it's damn sure not music.

In "The Crawdad Song" here we see Clarence White doing some of most everything that made him the preeminent flatpicking guitarist of his day, but not everything he is doing is "flatpicking," and that is just fine. If you will watch the master picker's right hand closely, then you will see that Clarence is employing some "hybrid picking" in this, which is to say that while operating the pick with his right hand, he is also doing some bits of fingerpicking with his right hand as well. It's an altogether difficult technique with absolutely beautiful results. What I find most beautiful here is the way Clarence White fills the otherwise "empty spaces" between the vocals with beautiful, soft little bits of flatpicking to fill in the gaps, the whole is always more important than the sum of it's parts, and very few seem to realize that so well as did Clarence White.

Enduring Legend, Clarence White

While I'm a huge fan of persons like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jeff Beck - I'm a bigger fan of Clarence White's. I'm not alone in the least bit with that position either. While Clarence White is mostly featured in this Hub as an acoustic flatpicking guitarist, he does compare to the more famous legends that I just mentioned as he was the primary guitarist for a major American recording and touring act, The Byrds, during the time that the others, and people like Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page - were in their heyday. Of course part of the problem with any comparisons to electric guitarists are that this is a flatpicking article, but while with The Byrds Clarence white pioneered an electric guitar style that wasn't the least bit similar to anyone else's - but that's another article.

While people like Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend made names for themselves by acting stupid on stage, and destroying instruments, Clapton had "Clapton Is God" inscribed by adoring fans in subway stations, and Jeff Beck was forever being Jeff Beck, and doing whatever that entailed at any given moment - Clarence White never drew attention to himself, and was even said to never smile. There is truly a huge difference between a musician and a drama queen or king - even though sometimes the two do intersect on the highway of musicianship, they didn't with Clarence White, and so his cult legend continues to grow not only here in the States, but in far away places like Japan.

The following video, "I Am A Pilgrim/Soldier's Joy" shows most everything that there is to show about the greatness of Clarence White as a flatpicker, and a musician who evolved and created his own distinct style and with it's own characteristics that can't really be mimicked. In I Am A Pilgrim you get all of the legendary syncopation, the experimentation with timing that Clarence is most known and revered for, and a huge dose of hybrid picking as well. Following that, with Soldier's Joy you see a classic and timeless fiddle tune, and the more speedy flatpicking style that most folks today go for with the genre. It could be that some of the other musicians get a bit out of time, but pay them no mind - this is the Clarence White show.


Clarence White, one of the legends and "Godfathers" of flatpicking guitar, was much more than that - he pioneered some amazing electric guitar techniques, demonstrated the possibilities of difficult techniques such as hybrid picking, and was an interesting vocalist as well. He died very young due to being ran over by a drunken driver while getting equipment out of the back of a touring van. I'm told that he is survived by a wife and daughter, and of course, millions of guitarist and fans worldwide.

In a future article, or several, I'll probably get into the many high end acoustic guitars that are modeled after the one that Clarence White made most famous, his 1935 Martin D 28, very modified, and currently owned by the only person who can compare to him in the realm of flatpicking, Tony Rice.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Ovation Legend Guitar

The Ovation Legend Acoustic Guitar

The Ovation Legend Guitar

Now, there will probably be people who never really accept Ovation guitars for what they are - simply because they defy all traditions for acoustic guitars by being. . .partially plastic. I'm here to tell you that Ovation guitars, especially from the Ovation Legend series on up, are extremely fine instruments. Sure, it's true - the Ovation Legend isn't really something that was meant to compete with acoustic guitars made by companies like C.F. Martin & Co., The Santa Cruz Guitar Company, or Collings Guitars - but it's a fine instrument in it's own right, and has it's own niche carved out for it in this world.

Listen, my beautiful Santa Cruz flat top has a hairline crack in the top side of it's beautiful Brazilian Rosewood body. My guitar is an absolute canon of an instrument that is so loud, so clear, and has such dramatic overtones in it's sound that people mistake it for a pre war Martin D 28 virtually every time I've played it in mixed company somewhere. These Ovation guitars, with the plastic, rounded back - there really are no sides on the things - these guitars will never have such problems.

I do not own, and have never owned an Ovation guitar, but I have spent as much time with an Ovation Legend guitar as I have with some guitars that I have owned. I've probably actually spent MORE time with one particular Ovation Legend guitar, which belonged to a friend, than I have with some of the Martin guitars that I've owned. Now, I could tell you a story about the hows and the whys behind that - but it would probably wind up being a good hundred thousand words or more - so I'll hope that you can just trust me on what I will tell you.

The Rounded Plastic Back Of The Ovation Legend Guitar

The Ovation Legend Guitar - Deep Bowl Back

The only real problem that I've had with an Ovation Legend guitar - is that because of the rounded plastic back, I don't much like the way the thing sits in my lap when I play one sitting down in a chair. Whoop DEEE DOOO.

These guitars come with pre amps, high output pickups, and whatever other electronics needed to plug the things in, and have them amplified. Clearly, these guitars are meant to be stage guitars - they are factory equipped with the ways and means for performance in front of an audience - you would need a cord and an amplifier, and of course, an audience - and that's it.

Now, having good posture while playing such an unforgiving instrument as a steel string acoustic guitar is a must, so my slight discomfort concerning playing an Ovation Legend, or any Ovation guitar - they all have rounded plastic backs - is a serious enough concern. Put a strap on the thing and stand up, however, and that problem is solved.

The Ovation Legend Guitar in black finish

The "Op Pro" on the Ovation Legend

The Ovation Legend Guitar Specifications

Now, the Ovation Legend, as a title, does not indicate one specific guitar - but rather, three different models of Ovation Legend guitar exist in production: I'm only going to discuss this one, as it's the one that I'm familiar with.

The Custom Legend 1769 ADII A guitar basically designed in cooperation with the Jazz Fusion guitar legend, Al Di Meola.
Legendary jazz guitarist Al Di Meola partnered with Ovation’s R&D team to design every aspect of his signature instrument. Handcrafted in Ovation’s flagship workshop in New Hartford, Connecticut, the Al Di Meola Signature features a premium AAA solid-spruce top with A-bracing. The Deep Bowl composite body delivers rich, powerful tones and maximum acoustic output. A cutaway offers full access to the custom low-profile, 5-piece mahogany/maple neck. The traditional center soundhole has a gorgeous laser-cut oak-leaf and abalone rosette. The Al Di Meola Signature includes Ovation’s high output pickup and its OP-Pro preamp features a special +4 dB volume-boost switch.

While I can personally tell you that a solid spruce soundboard is a highly recommended thing, and without a solid top, a guitar is basically a beginners model guitar, I have to admit here that I know very little about electronics for guitars. I'm an acoustic guitar snob, and this is about as close as I get to an electric guitar. I've spent . . .no telling how many hours playing one of these exact guitars, but I never plugged the thing into anything. I'm positive the electronics on the thing are outstanding - it's an Al Di Meola designed guitar, and Al tours the whole freaking world with one of these guitar.

Obviously to the eye, there is an ebony fretboard and some nice abalone inlay in the neck - this is a very attractive instrument with an attractive sound. It's only not going to be so loud as something like a Martin. . . .unless it's plugged in.

Looking at the Ovation website, you can find this specific Ovation Legend model guitar, the Al Di Meola 1769 ADII for $3,000.00 Keep in mind that you can do things with this guitar that you can't do with a standard Martin HD 28, but also, you can do things with an HD 28 that this guitar just won't do without plugging it in. Below are some bullet point specifications for the Ovation legend:
  • Description: 6-String Acoustic/Electric
  • Body Type: Deep Contour
  • Top: AAA Grade Solid Spruce
  • Bracing: Scalloped LX
  • Scale Length: 25 1/4"
  • Fretboard: Bound Deluxe Ebony
  • Fret Inlay: Abalone Dots/Diamonds
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Rosette: Inlaid Abalone Oakleaf
  • Pickup: Original Patented Pickup
  • Nutwidth: 1 11/16"
  • Machines: Gold w/Pearl Buttons
  • Includes case

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Picks For Acoustic Guitars, A Vital Part of a Great Sound

The Hawksbill Sea Tortoise, and Faux Tortoise Shell Picks

Picks for Acoustic Guitars, The Right One MATTERS

The acoustic guitar is traditionally an un amplified instrument, and even if one features a pre - amp and pickup for amplification, the importance of using the right sort of plectrum or pick can not be overstated. I write a lot here about high end, high quality acoustic guitars; but spending a thousand dollars or more for a great acoustic guitar, and then playing it with a .10 cent Fender thin pick or plectrum completely defeats the purpose of having purchased such a great instrument. If you're going to play an acoustic steel string guitar with a Fender thin pick or plectrum, then you shouldn't have wasted your money on a great sounding guitar because you will get no great sound out of the instrument with such a pick.

Originally, the guitar was thought of as a rhythm or backup instrument, and chords were strummed on it behind a soloist playing the violin or the mandolin; and this was all well and good and made for some wonderful music. The guitar, however, always had the capabilities and possibilities that today are well known to be limitless. I think most everyone can agree that melodies either fingerpicked or played with a plectrum are altogether some of the most beautiful sounds that one can hear. But the acoustic guitar is not a loud instrument on it's own, it pales in comparison to a fiddle or violin's ability to produce loud, clear, soaring notes. It doesn't compare to the mandolin or the banjo, or any other stringed instrument in ability to be both loud and clear either. Playing solos or melodies on the acoustic guitar without amplification takes some real work, skill, and effort; and the right kind of pick.

Tortoise Shell Picks

In the mid-to-late 19th century there was a high demand for items made from the shell of the sea-going Hawksbill Turtle. It's shell had proerties that made it very desirable to the touch. It was warm and comfortable. It just plain "felt good" to the touch. It was immune to static charge. That's why so many items made from it were items that were held close to the body. Ladies' hair combs, knitting needles and fountain pens were but a few of these items made from the shell of the hawksbill turtle. The problem was that the shell material was difficult to come by and therefore very expensive. An alternative was sought out.

Now, I shouldn't have to say this, but killing a beautiful sea tortoise for me to have an awesome guitar pick isn't really cool, and it never was cool. At the same time, I do have to admit that I have more than one of them, that they are simply outstanding, and have physical characteristics unlike any synthetic material that seeks to imitate them. I believe that it has to do with the density of the material, and if I were to hold up one of my tortoise shell picks, and drop it onto a hard surface, it makes a peculiar sound, and you'll not find another pick or material that makes the same sort of sound. You'll also never find another material that produces such a beautiful sound when played on a steel string acoustic guitar. It is what it is, and it's illegal to sell these things. I have some, they are not for sale. I've even had one of my tortoise shell picks STOLEN before. Why? They sell for around $50.00 to $100.00 a piece, but as I said, that's an item that is legal to own, but illegal to sell. If you want to buy one, you have to get it for free, and leave a nice large tip towards the giver's health and happiness; it's just that easy.

If you look at the picks in the picture above, those ARE NOT tortoise shell picks, they only look like them. Fake tortoise material is everywhere, and is practically universal on acoustic guitars as the pickguard under the soundhole. That's just plastic unless you've found a really old Martin or Gibson; and you'd be a damned fool to take the pickguard off of one of those to make it into picks. What the picture up above IS is a synthetic material that not only looks like tortoise shell, but is supposed to sound like tortoise shell as well. I've got LOTS of guitar picks, and I've got a lot of picks made from "tortex," and though those don't really sound like tortoise shell to me, they are very, very good picks.

What Else?

The point of this whole article is to stress that you can't get a good tone from an acoustic guitar with a thin, or even a medium pick; you've got to have a stiff, or heavy pick to get a good, loud, clear tone from an un amplified acoustic. Thin guitar picks are for electric guitars, and even with an amplified acoustic guitar, they make a pretty awful sound. Besides tortex, or tortoise shell picks, any good stiff plastic or synthetic material will do. I've got picks made out of elephant ivory, again; such things can not be sold legally; and it was never cool to kill an elephant for picks, nuts, saddles, or bridge pins - I have that stuff, and it's great for what it does, produce an amazing tone; but I don't advocate buying or selling it. There's lots of other bone material that is used nowadays, and it's just as good as ivory. So if you play acoustic guitar, get a stiff pick!

What Is Flatpicking?

What Is Flatpicking?

Just like you, I live in the internet age; and so I do a lot of my socializing online. I imagine that most people are pretty choosy about who they talk to online - and I am too, but in a very different way. I always wind up talking most often to people that I've never seen - and truly those people are my best friends other than the few that I've known in my personal life, and for a very long time.

I've got a friend over in Italy that is a very good jazz guitarist. If you understand how Facebook conversations go, then you can see how I could be talking to a German guitarist about flatpicking, and then our mutual friend, the Italian jazz guitarist comes into the conversation, or "thread" as they like to call them now, and asks me,

"What is this flatpicking you are talking about? My pick is flat! Am I flatpicking?"
Please note! The question above is the only question asked by Frank, the Jazz guitarist - the rest of the "interview" or conversation is my fabrication, and the make believe character in no way resembles Frank, the jazz guitarist, or his personality at all.

Truly, this modern world has some amazing, and wonderful things to offer to us - but we are being compensated for what has been lost.

Traditional Flatpicking and Flatpickers.

Wesman Todd Shaw - an amateur flatpicker.

Doc Watson, One Of The Original American Flatpickers.

Clarence White - One of The GREATEST Flatpickers to have ever lived.

Django Reinhardt - the French Gypsy Jazz Master Flatpicker.

David Bromberg Has Been A Flatpicking Master for a very long time.

What Flatpicking Is.

Of course my Italian jazz guitarist friend had a legitimate question, and only the most bizarre plectrums are not flat, so naturally, flatpicking is playing a stringed instrument with a plectrum, or "pick." But the truth of the matter is that when someone is talking about flatpicking, they aren't talking about playing jazz on a guitar with a plectrum at least not in the traditional sense of the word, and neither are they talking about Jimi Hendrix, or Eric Clapton playing Fender Stratocaster electric guitars plugged into Marshal amplifiers either - even though flat picks or plectrums are used for this.

"So, what is flatpicking?"

Flatpicking is simply the playing of traditional music, or new music with traditional roots, on a steel string acoustic guitar - that, my friends, is an over simplified answer, but it's a legitimate answer. I'm not always so pleased with Wikipedia, but I think that the Wikipedia article about flatpicking is really pretty good, very clear, and surprisingly informative. That being said, I've been interested in flatpicking for twenty five years out of my thirty seven, so I think that I can tell you quite a bit more about it.

"What do you presume to mean by your term, not mine - 'traditional music?' traditional for who?"

That's really a very good question. I'm sorry that I was vague - it was unintentional. When I say that flatpicking is playing "traditional music" on a steel string acoustic guitar, and playing that music with a "pick" or plectrum, what I mean is that it's playing the music that was and is traditional for the original European immigrants to America. When I say that, I do not mean to say that this does not include the music of the Irish immigrants that came later. Celtic music is a huge part of, and influence on what I am saying is the traditional music of the original European immigrants to America.

"So it sounds to me like what you are saying is that this flatpicking thing is all about white people, white culture - and all of those things that we know are bad!"

That's truly something that a mentally challenged person would say. It's very shameful that American media promotes only music that celebrates materialism, sexual promiscuity, and "gangster culture." Flatpicking certainly isn't promoted in mainstream American mass media, and we'd not have it any other way. Flatpicking is an honest person's art form. It takes brains and talent, honesty and integrity to succeed in traditional music from any culture. Nothing glamorized in American mass media is of much value. I'd personally hate to see flatpicking destroyed by any association with mass media.

"It still sounds to me like this flatpicking thing is all about 'white people,' and just isn't very cross cultural - it's like hillbilly crap, or something"

That's a completely ignorant statement that can only be based in a social prejudice that I find to be disgusting. One of the things that the Wikipedia article did not mention is that most of the truly great flatpickers in the world recognize Django Reinhard, an early 20th century French jazz musician of Roma, or "Gypsy" decent as one of the founders of not only flatpicking, but of any style of music that has a guitarist playing leads or melodies with a pick or plectrum. Truly, the "Gypsy Jazz" music of Django, and his fiddle playing sidekick, Stephan Grappeli, is timeless music without which modern music would not be so interesting. Other prominent flatpickers are persons like David Bromberg, Steve Kaufman, and Russ Barenberg - and if you don't know, then these are Jewish names. Flatpicking is an art form that anyone can take up, and try to master. We flatpickers, and flatpicking fans welcome all who are interested in our music.

"Dude, it's clear that you hate the media - but has this flatpicking thing of which you speak ever been a part of popular culture in America?"

Of Course it has! Doc Watson, one of the persons I like to consider as one of "The Godfathers" of flatpicking - became well known during the hippie folk revival of the 1960s. Doc Watson is still alive, but he's very old. I believe that Doc still performs live sometimes - it would be a treasure for anyone to get to see him. I'm very unfortunate in that I've never seen Doc play live. I've met some of the great flatpickers - but I've never seen Doc Watson.

Another of the founders and greats of this style of music is the late, great Clarence White. Clarence White became a professional musician at a very young age, and I have compact discs with Clarence White playing bluegrass music with Doc Watson. Later on, Clarence White became the lead guitarist, and occasional singer for The Byrds. If you don't know who The Byrds are - then I can't help you.

James Patrick Page, or Jimmy Page, as he is most often called - was a fan of both Clarence White, and Doc Watson. When Jimmy's group, maybe you've heard of it, Led Zeppelin, created their third album, Led Zeppelin III, Jimmy Page brought a Martin D 28 into the studio, and recorded some songs with definite flatpicking influences, and out right Doc Watson "licks" in them. Also, Jimmy Page became one of the first persons to copy some of Clarence White's electrical guitar ideas, and soon he had himself a Fender Telecaster with a Parsons/White "B Bender" installed on it, and he used that pretty extensively with Led Zeppelin as well.

Also, . . .

"STOP! Why don't you just show me some flatpicking in modern music, not that old time stuff you keep talking about!"

You interrupted me, and that's pretty rude. I don't much care for that - but I am eager to hear some great flatpicking. The first video that I'm going to show you is by a country rock band called Pure Prairie League, and their song, Aimee, has one of the finest flatpicking guitar solos in it that I've ever heard in popular music. Once at the Walnut Valley Festival, in Winfield, Kansas - I saw a kid who couldn't have been older than twelve, and he played that solo perfectly. further further ado, lets hear some flatpicking!

Continuing Interview Concerning Flatpicking.

"Okay, yeah - I'd heard that 'Aime" song before. It's got some nice lead guitar in it - I'll grant you that, but that 'Aime" song is older than I am!"

Well, chill out, bro! This Hubpages article is my show - and it's Mother's Day today, and I'm going to make my yearly appearance in church. Let me find you something a bit more modern, and in a different genre, okay? The thing is this though, Flatpicking will always be mostly a country, old time, Celtic, Folk, and Bluegrass music thing - it's mostly about ancient fiddle tunes being played on a Martin "flat top" guitar. But here you go, if you listen to this tune by Days Of The New, there's some flatpicking in the guitar solo.
"NICE! I really enjoyed that! You know, everyone knows that rock and roll music was based upon the blues for the most part. So maybe this flatpicking thing is cross cultural!"

I'm glad to see you are catching on. I've got to get ready for church, and I don't often go, or get up this early in the day - Especially considering that I stayed up late talking to you, correcting your ignorance, and talking to some wonderful, and some not so wonderful friends on Facebook last night.

Flatpicking is mostly a bluegrass entity these days, and I do love bluegrass. Bill Monroe is thought to be the "Father of Bluegrass," and Bill Monroe, were he still living, would tell you that he was a huge fan of the blues as well. Now, I can't honestly think of any African American flatpickers - but African American country blues players were a huge influence on everyone in rock and roll, bluegrass, folk, and even some of today's rap music. Jimmy Page and Doc Watson both will tell you all about Players like Huddie Ledbetter, Robert Johnson, and many, many more - those guys most often played with their fingers, and with slides, but sometimes they played with picks too.

 Sooner or later - you know it will happen, some young African American kid will take up flatpicking in earnest, and set the world on fire. That's just the way things happen. It's sort of like how Jeff Beck said that after hearing Jimi Hendrix play for the first time - he didn't touch a guitar for six months. Luckily for us all though, Jeff Beck decided to not give up - but to take up the guitar as if he hadn't played it before, and then he created some of the greatest jazz fusion ever recorded.


I hope you've enjoyed this oddball bit about flatpicking. I have to give credit for my weirdness, and credit is due to this very brilliant fellow for a large part of this thing's strange style.
I think everyone should read DRBJ, and his amazing interview Hub style. I only interview the idiots that get in my head, DRBJ interviews the dead - big difference!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Martin D-28 Elvis Presley, a Guitar Fit For A King

Elvis Presley And One Of His Martin D-28


The King, and The King of Acoustic Steel String Guitars.

Four years before the birth of Elvis Aaron Presley, C.F. Martin & Company created a body template for the acoustic steel string guitar which would prove to be the single most successful template for such an instrument ever created. To this very day, so many years later, the Martin D-28 is the most copied design of steel string guitar in the world. Elvis Presley was a genre busting music and film star who was the ultimate symbol of pop culture in the USA from the time discovered by Sun Records until the time he died on August 16, year of our Lord 1977.

Myself, I grew up listening to Elvis because my father was forever into his music and music from the 1950s. I also grew up learning to revere and respect the guitars made by C.F. Martin & Company, and Gibson Guitars. I learned that from the time spent and music appreciated by my maternal grandfather. Elvis was a proud symbol of the USA in his lifetime, and he was proud to represent the best we had to offer, so it is little wonder he'd be performing in studio, on stage, and in film with America's best guitars; and in the end some estimates say he sold over one billion records doing it. It is then rather fitting that America's most respected guitar manufacturer return the favor in tribute and in specific model of instrument, The Martin D-28 Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley Limited Edition Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar. This instrument is modeled after Presley's 1955 Martin D-28

 Number 138 in a very limited edition of only 175 produced, this D-28M Martin acoustic was commissioned in 2008 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Martin & Co. Closely resembling Presley's 1955 D-28
Number 138 in a very limited edition of only 175 produced, this D-28M Martin acoustic was commissioned in 2008 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Martin & Co. Closely resembling Presley's 1955 D-28

There are two distinctly different Martin D-28s made as Elvis Presley models.

If you were to ask or enter the question into Google or another prominent search engine, "what guitar did Elvis Presley play?" Well, you'd get a lot of answers. Let's be honest about this, Elvis was a worldly man with a lot of money, and he played whatever damned guitar he wanted to play. No doubt about it, Elvis had lots of guitars. He'd been photographed and recorded with lots of guitars, and most of them were either Martin guitars or Gibson guitars. It would be many years later the other great American guitar manufacturers other than Fender really became so well known and prominent in the pop or popular rock genres.

This is important, and I want the reader to realize this straight away, there's not just one exact Martin D-28 Elvis Presley model guitar out there. There's more than one, Martin has created more than one issuing of very different sorts of guitars with Elvis Presley's name on it; but make no mistake, these guitars are ALL collectible, and they are all based on the D-28 format of steel string acoustic dreadnought guitar. Some of these Elvis Presley D-28 guitars by Martin are far more ornate and feature more woodworking and decoration than other issues do, likely, the ones with the less work done on them have more utility for the actual player. If your desire is to have a guitar to show people, get the most decked out with engraving, inlay, and binding and signatures instrument you can find; but if you are more an actual guitar player, you want the guitar that sounds and plays the best to your personal style of playing.

The first of the two D-28s made as Elvis Presley signature models looks much the same as virtually every D28 from the 1970s, and men such as Jimmy Page and Johnny Cash were forever playing instruments almost just like these. The first example is most like the guitar Elvis is holding in the very top photo, another example, the more ornate and probably more collectible and less usable guitar, can be seen here, and is like the second image of a guitar you see on the page as you go downward reading and viewing. My research is showing me the two primary D-28's which Elvis owned and performed with were a 1955 model and the 1972 model. The actual 1972 model D-28 which Elvis used to perform in his last ever show in Los Vegas is the instrument I'm going to provide specifications for, and that guitar sold at auction for $90,000 dollars

Elvis Presley With His 1972 Martin D-28

The Martin D-28EP, a replica of the 1972 D-28 owned by Elvis Presley.

The Martin D-28EP

Now be it known there is a .pdf document available for your perusal should you choose to download it from the official C.F. Martin & Company website, and you can absolutely get that document right here. The .pdf is for the D-28 modeled after the 1972 D-28 Elvis owned and played, the other instrument, a copy of the 1955 model which has all the engraving on the top isn't an instrument I would think anyone serious about making music themselves would or even should want to own - unless they just wanted to own it to hang it on a wall and show it to people or something like that.

The soundboard of an acoustic guitar is the single most important thing such a musical instrument, and one doesn't go engraving things on it should one want to make actual music with the thing, for this reason I'm not interested in the replicas of the 1955 Elvis owned D-28, and I don't think you should be either. The replicas of the 1972 D-28 which wasn't tampered with so horribly is the guitar I'm going to be discussing from here on out exclusively on this article - as it IS an instrument which is both beautiful and well suited to making great music with. I also think it important that I make clear and the reader understands this is NOT a replica in any way of the famous pre-world war two Martin D-28 guitars, this is a replica of a 1972 D-28, and that is a different guitar altogether for several reasons.

Like I said, the most important part of an acoustic guitar is the top of it, the soundboard. This guitar is a VERY interesting guitar, and the single most interesting thing about it, in my opinion, is the wood used for the soundboard, and it is Carpathian spruce. This is the only guitar I am currently familiar with which uses that particular variety of spruce, and you can rest assured there is something tonally different in the wood from other varieties of spruce. Most modern D-28's are of Sitka spruce tops, but for about one to two thousand dollars more, you can get one with Adirondack spruce in the form of either the D-28GE, or the D-28 Marquis.

It's very important the prospective buyer of this instrument understands the bracing pattern on this guitar is not like the ones used before the second world war, and is also not like the ones used on more modern D-28's either, this is not a herringbone trim instrument at all, and neither is it a "high x" braced instrument, as the herringbone trim as a rule is used on the "high x" instruments. This guitar will sound different from those forward shifted X braced or "high x" guitars. The rest of the specifications are as follows, and I'm pricing these on the web for about $4,000 dollars.
  • MODEL D-28 Elvis Presley
  • CONSTRUCTION: Mahogany Blocks/Dovetail Neck Joint
  • BODY SIZE: D-14 Fret
  • TOP: Solid Carpathian Spruce
  • ROSETTE: Style 28
  • TOP BRACING PATTERN: Standard ''X''
  • TOP BRACES: Solid Sitka Spruce 5/16''
  • BACK MATERIAL: Solid East Indian Rosewood
  • BACK PURFLING: Style 28
  • SIDE MATERIAL: Solid East Indian Rosewood
  • ENDPIECE: Grained Ivoroid
  • ENDPIECE INLAY: Black/White Boltaron
  • BINDING: Grained Ivoroid
  • TOP INLAY STYLE: Multiple Black/White Boltaron
  • BACK INLAY: Black/White Boltaron
  • NECK MATERIAL: Select Hardwood
  • NECK SHAPE: Low Profile
  • HEADSTOCK: Solid/Diamond/Square Taper
  • HEADPLATE: Solid Black Ebony /Elvis Presley Graphic Silhouette - White & Black
  • Mother Of Pearl /Large Old Style
  • HEELCAP: Black Micarta with TCB Lightning Bolt Inlay In Mother Of Pearl
  • BRIDGE MATERIAL: Solid Black Ebony
  • FINGERBOARD POSITION INLAYS: Stars - Select Abalone (Bordered In M.O.P.) at 5th, 7th, 9th, 15th & 17th Frets
  • FINISH BACK & SIDES: Polished Gloss
  • FINISH TOP: Polished Gloss w/ Aging Toner
  • INTERIOR LABEL: 2 Labels- 1 Elvis Label w/ Holographic Elvis Sticker Numbered In Sequence, 1 Album Cover Label

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