Acoustic Jazz by Woody Mann and Duck Baker
Their not so standard treatment of the standard Just Friends
05/20/18 – Brooklyn, NY
Wonders of Nature is a new performance space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Wonders of Nature is a new performance space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
While the details remain intentionally vague to create anticipation and “buzz”, the look of the instruments and what they say about the old guitars implies the new Collings T Series guitars are close reproductions of vintage Martins.
The participants in the video speak of the necks, and the weight and balance, and show bridges and scalloped braces that all seem quite vintage Martin-esque. Even the cases have been designed to evoke a vintage mystique.
But what Bill Collings’ describes as a fundamental midrange free from intruding overtones suggests the antithesis of traditional Martin tone, which has all sorts have harmonic overtones and sympathetic bottom end undertones continually mingling with the fundamentals. His words hit closer to vintage Gibson tone, even if no Gibson has the lengthy sustain of a Collings. But really, his overall account evokes typical Collings tone, with perhaps even fewer wondering overtones. And the actual guitars heard in the video seem to comply, while also having a more open echo under that pure Collings top voice that does have some vintage “old wooden box” vibe.
But what is clearly very much like vintage Martins is the shaping of the neck. They do not discuss that in detail in the video, so I went looking for particulars.
The Collings T Series instruments have the same headstock pitch and fingerboard thickness of previous Collings guitars. But the carving of the solid mahogany neck is entirely new for the small Austin, Texas company known for the uncompromising quality of their exquisite guitars and mandolins, and whose many devotees include A List artists Lyle Lovett and the late fingerstyle virtuoso Pete Huttlinger.
According to Mark Althans, Manager of Artist Relations, Customer Service, and Repairs for Collings and Waterloo Guitars, “It is a fairly faithful recreation of a late 30’s Martin 000 or D carve… Smaller in depth in the early frets than our standard Modified V, it’s a soft V with a more exaggerated taper (increased neck depth) into the upper frets…with the V becoming a bit more pronounced.”
That description does indeed fit many pre-war Martin necks, even if Althans seems to use “taper” to mean how a V neck increases in depth and girth as it moves toward the body, where Martin defines taper as the specific widening of the fretboard as it advances up the neck.
“The fingerboard edges are rolled over quite a bit as well, to create a nice worn-in feel. It’s a wonderful feeling neck,” Althans continued.
Now this I gotta see! There is something comforting about the worn feeling to a vintage Martin with an unbound neck. And Gibson builds their guitars with a rolled fingerboard from the get go.
But one of the things people love most about Collings guitars is how effortless and comfortable the necks feel. And yet at the same time, other people, usually those with larger hands or longer fingers, can find the Collings necks to be too shallow or narrow for their liking and the strings a bit too close together. Well, the T Series guitars may be ideal for just such guitarists.
Collings Traditional Series guitars come with a 1-3/4″ width at nut and 2-5/16″ string spacing (a favorite combination of mine.) And that should automatically require a slightly wider fingerboard in the upper frets from a standard Collings guitar. In combination with the vintage V neck shaping, that does appear to add up to a traditional feel indeed.
Something most modern makers get wrong is how vintage Martin necks do not have a perfectly-graduated slope from heel to headstock. They get quite shallow down in the Cowboy Chords area, at times with no V at all, but the thickness increases rapidly above the 5th fret. And Mark Althans suggests that is what they were going for with their new T Series necks.
“At this point,” Althans concluded, “we don’t currently have any nut width or saddle spacing options, but we intend to add at least one neck option, hopefully this year.”
While all that is said and appreciated about traditional guitars from bygone days, these Traditional Series instruments retain the usual Collings internal neck construction and engineering that play an integral part in creating the unique Collings tone.
They have the same modern truss rod of other Collings guitars, reinforced with four spring steel strips, which add mass while reducing vibration in the neck. And they have the usual Collings neck joint. It is a hybrid of a dovetail and bolt-on neck design. Like a traditional dovetail, the mortise and tenon are flared wider than many bolt-on necks, increasing the area where the body and neck come into contact.
Unlike traditional Gibsons and Martins, where the tenon is craved out of the solid mahogany, the Collings tenon is a separate piece attached to the neck heel, with a solid birch dowel inserted in its center for extra strength. And the whole thing is held in place by two bolts, rather than being glued into a solid wood neck block, like the nineteenth-century dovetail joinery still used at Gibson and Martin.
This modern design allows future neck adjustments without having to deal with un-gluing, and even without removing the neck from the body in many cases. But it also further reduces the exchange of potential energy from body to the neck and back again. In Collings’ own words, their unique neck engineering “redirects string vibration back to the body for enhanced tone.”
In fact the actual voices of these guitars, as heard from the videos, say to my ear that the Traditional Series guitars sound more like traditional Collings guitars than anything else. They have very fat, strong, and yet very pure fundamental notes, and that very low to no undertone/overtone influence. Most any sympathetic tone from the back and sides reflects and enhances that top voice of fundamental notes with their lengthy, straight-as-an-arrow sustain. When sympathetic harmonics arise, they bloom late and hover in their own strata. One might say the T Series instruments sound like the very best Collings guitars, only more so.
Here is a video of Julian Lage performing on an OM-2H T, which gives a stellar demonstration of the strong yet ultra-pure Collings tone of these new finely-crafted T Series guitars.
In a word, AWESOME.
I am looking very forward to getting a Collings T Series guitar in my hands soon, and see how it compares to their other instruments, and how they compare to other maker’s vintage-like guitars.
And that is one man’s word on…
Acoustic guitars make up but one tributary of the mighty NAMM river feeding the sea of music-oriented retailers. And I am focusing on acoustic guitar news from NAMM over the next few days before my first hand reviews can begin to flow from my own fonts.
The economic downturn finally caught up with the acoustic guitar market over the past couple of years, with mixed results. And this year’s NAMM has some guitarmakers focusing less on new models to add to crowded catalogs, and more on exhibiting models they already have in production, or limited editions like artist signature models, and showing off just what their custom shops can do for customers who will pay cash on the barrel head before an instrument is built.
One company that has put out an array of new models is, of course, C . F. Martin & Co.. Martin has at least one model entering every instrument series not scheduled to be phased out of production.
With other Martin news to follow as it develops.
Collings Guitars of Austin, Texas announced a new Pete Huttlinger signature model.
Bourgeois Guitars always offers an entertaining NAMM experience. This year singer Courtney Hartman stopped by to play some guitars. She is also appearing in the promotional video for a very special 2017 offering from Dana Bourgeois.
Bourgeois Guitars is celebrating 30 years of the Schoenberg Soloist cutaway OM with a 30th anniversary collaboration with Eric Schoenberg.
Santa Cruz Guitar Company is an exhibitor focusing on amazing one-off custom guitars is the Their custom shop gets its own display area as large or lager than the one exhibiting standard models and artist signature instruments.
Vintage Guitars offer up a retro-cool Statesboro 12-string dedicated to Blind Willie McTell
Taylor Guitars has partnered with Guitar Center to offer a limited edition John Petrucci Artist Choice 916CE model. New guitars appeared in the new Academy Series of affordably priced instruments, as well as the new 800 Deluxe Series, and the super cool GS Mini Bass head up the latest in Taylor Guitars innovation.
What’s new from Collings, Breedlove, and all the rest?
Keep checking back for new and interesting reports
According to Collings, “the first 15 will feature his handwritten signature on the label and a portion of the proceeds of each guitar will benefit the Pete Huttlinger Fund for Adult Congenital Cardiac Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.”
Pete Huttlinger is the only artist ever honored with a Collings artist signature model. Like his original OM-1A cutaway from 2011, this 2017 limited edition guitar features South American mahogany back, sides, and neck with 1-3/4″ width at nut, African ebony fingerboard and bridge, and Adirondack spruce top.
Pete Huttlinger played Collings guitars from 1997 until his untimely death in 2016. A true friend of many at the small-shop luthiery outfit in Austin, Texas, this Collings model is truly an affectionate commemoration of a much loved and sincerely missed artist of the highest character and caliber.
click photos to enlarge
NAMM 2017 News As We Find It – Taylor, Bourgeois, Santa Cruz, Martin, et al
Ok, I guess I’m a guitar geek because I love all of this information! And, it makes me wonder about mine….
Long story short, I played a lot of different Martins, figuring out what I liked. I ended up with a custom, a 000-28, Adi top with 1/4″ scalloped Adi braces, and a 1-3/4″ short-scale mod-low-oval neck.
I did specify short-scale and the 1-3/4″ nut; but I didn’t specify a width for the 12th fret: looking at the build sheet specs, it shows it at 2-1/8″, not a surprise.
But this string spacing is not 2-5/32″, it’s 2-3/16″ (which would be 2-6/32″.)
It’s great, I’m not complaining all, just geeking out, wondering why my custom Martin has wider spacing.
First of all, allow me to congratulate you on your taste in guitars.
I have a custom short-scale rosewood 000 with Adirondack top and 1/4″ bracing as well. But mine has the Golden Era neck and 5/16″ string spacing, having been made before all this modern taper business came about.
Your mystery is easily solved. My inner Sherlock Holmes deduces that your guitar was ordered before 2016 and the Custom Shop “starter model” was an OM-28, made with the customizations you requested.
Therefore, it would by default have the High Performance taper and corresponding string spacing of 2-3/16″, which Martin changed to 2-5/32″ in January, 2016.
The change came because the right people in the right places (probably touring professionals who Martin actually listens to) complained that it was too easy to pull the high E string off the frets up near the neck. This is an issue I have dubbed string “derailment.”
According to Tim Teel at Martin, “the difference in spacing is literally the width of a unwound light gauge E string.” But he feels it is enough to correct the issue.
When it comes to necks with a modern taper, Taylor and Collings use 2-3/16″ string spacing, as do other brands. So Martin went with that for their new taper, at first.
I have heard of the derailment issue from Collings and Taylor players, but not players of Huss & Dalton guitars, which actually have even wider string spacing of 2-7/32″ for their standard 1-3/4″ neck taper.
H&D does not base anything on the fretboard width at the12th fret. I called to ask, and Mark Dalton told me the measurement there is 2.184″, a smidge narrower than 2-3/16″. So its wider at the 12th fret on their standard taper than on that of Taylor, Collings, or Martin’s High Performance taper, if not by much.
Personally, I believe it is an issue for any guitar with frets cut at too steep an angle, too far into the fret, regardless of the string spacing or taper. But having the string closer to the edge certainly increases the odds of a derailment happening.
The times I have encountered this issue tended to be specific to a guitar, not a across multiple examples of the same model. And I tend to naturally adjust my playing over time to compensate for the occasional derailment of the string.
Since your guitar has the short-scale neck, the string spacing will not be exactly the same as on a long-scale Martin at any point along the string, except right where it terminates at the saddle and nut. If I remember correctly, the strings widen farther up the neck relative to long-scale guitars.
So you may never experience the derailment issue. Plus, your frets might not be cut as severely as guitars that have the issue.
“Having not looked at the tag when I first played this Collings C10 Deluxe Custom, I assumed its pale blue body was made out of maple, and that I would hear clear, prancing top notes with dry open prairie behind them. I got plenty of Collings clarity all right, but I felt plenty of power in the bridle, and I was happily surprised by the warm presence rising from under the low-mids, like the comforting waft of just-baked biscuits filling a ranch house kitchen.
The back and sides are made out of mahogany, and that provides a dollop of richness to the otherwise clear and cheerful voice of this beautiful piece of luthiery. The top is made from very good Sitka spruce, my favorite top wood for mahogany, when it comes to accentuating its strength and subtle warmth. It is especially my favorite top wood for Collings mahogany, since the clarity and definition one looks to mahogany to provide is part and parcel of the default Collings build…”