Here we go. The most self-indulgent series of I’ve ever written. Feel free to skip, unless you happen to be a connossieur of non-vintage, non-collectable guitars.
Over the course of more than 20 years of playing music, I’ve acquired a decent amount of gear, but it’s all workhorse-level stuff. Good quality, but modest in price. Nothing high end, nothing vintage.
For years, this was due to a lack of budget. I tried to make a living as a freelancer in my twenties, but with little financial reward. Later, it became more of a philosophical choice – two different less expensive guitars would give me more tonal options than one more expensive guitar, as long as those cheaper guitars sounded good in themselves and played well. None of which is to say I wouldn’t lay down big(gish) money for an instrument if one came along that I fell in love with, but it’s not something I’ve done up to now, and I think it would take something quite special to make it happen. A vintage Martin or Gibson acoustic – something like that.
I’ve written about my main acoustic before. A 1999 Takamine EN10, it’s been a constant companion for more than two decades, and is the instrument I’m referring to if I say “my guitar”. It’s the one I’d rush back into a burning building for, if Mel and our cat CJ were already safe. Cedar top, mahogany back and sides, rosewood fingerboard and that distinctive 1990s Takamine soundhole rosette that always looked smart and no-nonsense to me when I saw them on stage or in adverts, years before I got one. It’s nicely played in (it long ago “let go”, and acquired a woodier, mellower depth than it had when new), and is set up to accomodate heavy, low-tuned strings (I tune CGDEAD). I’ve written 99% of the songs I’ve ever written on it, and the idea of making music without it is close to inconceivable.
Its partner in acoustical crime is my 2001 Seagull S12+, bought from Rose Morris in Denmark Street in 2001, with some of the proceeds of a summer spent doing manual labour in the maintenance department at Westminster Cathedral. Unlike my EN10, this model has not not been discontinued and you can still buy something very similar today. It’s £150 more today than I paid twenty years ago, but still, it’s a damn fine guitar at the price. Mine’s got a lot of wear on it – for years it was my main live acoustic guitar in two separate bands – but it still sounds great, and it’s not all that hard to play for an acoustic 12. The string spacing is wide enough to accommodate fingerpicking, but the neck is not so wide that getting your hand around it is an insurmountable challenge. I tune it DGCFAD to avoid breaking too many high Gs.
A final flat-top spends most of its time in a cupboard. It’s a Jasmine TS70S from the late 1990s. Jasmines were – and I believe still are – beginners’ guitars made by Takamine. This one’s a dreadnought, laminate top, back and sides but not bad-sounding for all that. I often use it for Nashville-tuned parts, or occasionally for a contrasting tone in a mix that contains several tracks of acoustic. It has a somewhat honky, nasal type of tone that cuts through when paired with more mellow, woodier acoustic tones. It’s not much to look at, but it’s a useful instrument to have around, and it finds its way on to a surprising number of recordings. I also use it live sometimes if I’m playing a gig that, for whatever reason, I don’t want to take my Takamine to.
Next time, electrics.