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New Trend in Bluegrass Guitars?

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by neddyrow, Jul 22, 2019.


  1. neddyrow

    neddyrow Captain of Team Orange Jacket Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Cortland, NY
    warning: guitar content...

    Just got back from Greyfox this past weekend and couldn’t help but notice that many of the guitar players were playing sunburst guitars. Billy Strings and the guy from Dirty Kitchen both have Preston Thompson sunburst guitars but, they weren’t the only ones. Molly Tuttle, Jim Gaudet and both Gibson Brothers also had sunburst guitars. Anyone else seeing this trend or was it just a coincidence?
     
  2. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I haven't seen a lot of it out here in the west yet and I'm fairly active in the festival circuit out here... Older Martin D18, D28, D35, even a D41 or D45 every once in a while. The D16s are making inroads too. Similar styles from Taylor, etc. are pretty popular. Not many cutaways, but some. I do think the newer Martins and Taylors are coming with a variety of finish choices so other builders will follow suit...

    Most of the traveling bands are looking for good tone, good playability, easy maintenance and *easy replaceablity*, and also they're hoping for sponsorships from various builders. These instruments are commodity items for them, a tool that they do their jobs with. For the most part they don't have the time or the money to go after collectables for their festival instruments; they're feeling happy if they're getting paid as agreed, and if their transportation is working well.
     
    Mgaisbacher and james condino like this.
  3. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Yup, the bluegrass world finally caught up to the 1950s.....;)
     
  4. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Reading “new trend” with the word “bluegrass” made my eye twitch.
     
  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    A lot of those sunbursts are Gibsons. Gibsons have been making a comeback since the alt-country thing took off 25 years ago.
     
  6. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Yes, but it's not been an overwhelming come-back for bluegrass, at least not yet...

    Gibson has been doing sunbursts for a century+ now, it's somewhat their moniker on many acoustic instruments. Gibson large-body guitars tend to have a different sound than the Martin-style or Taylor-style dreadnought guitars, but they do appear in bluegrass every once in a while. In contrast, Gibson has had a huge influence on bluegrass with their banjos and mandolins.

    My take on it is that Martin and Taylor using sunburst on some of their models has encouraged other builders to do the same. People that I play around out here in the west seem to still want the Martin sound in bluegrass, but they don't mind if the finish is sunburst.
     
  7. neddyrow

    neddyrow Captain of Team Orange Jacket Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Cortland, NY
    Yeah. The last few times I saw dirty kitchen, the guitar player had a sunburst Gibson. This time it was a Preston Thompson. The funny thing is that the Gibson Brothers were not playing Gibson’s. They also did a country set and pulled out Telecasters, Les Paul’s and even a pedal steel!
     
    unbrokenchain likes this.
  8. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Not a sunburst or bluegrass, but Asheville's Amanda Anne Platt plays a Gibson guitar that she bought from fellow local artist Taylor Martin. So she plays Taylor Martin's old Gibson. Just sayin :laugh:

    Side note, Molly Tuttle is a freakin beast, I had an artist wristband at Merlefest this year for being in the band competition, got to see a lot of shows from sidestage, she packs some energy in that guitar man.
     
  9. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    In general I see bluegrass changing. New artists at IBMA for example are moving in new directions with their own original pieces and it's affecting the genre, sometimes slowly among us older folks, but it's happening. The old classics and the artists who performed them will always be loved, but there's new ground ahead too.

    From the view of a tourist in Europe during spring festival time this year, bluegrass there seems to have been moving for a while, heavily affected by other roots genre. Della Mae was at La Roche and performed some very folky pieces there, as did Molly Tuttle, both fitting in well with the local bluegrass interpretation. It's interesting, and as someone who has often enjoyed a side trip outside of bluegrass I can't in fairness say good or bad, but it seems to be happening -- my personal view is that there has to be change if the young people are going to be interested.

    Anyway, all this to say that I see changes in bluegrass also affecting the instruments we see both in jamming and onstage.
     
  10. logdrum

    logdrum A person! Supporting Member

    Why are Gibson Guitars not as used in Bluegrass as the other 2? I like the tone of Gibson acoustics. Not too trebly. My J-45 is not going anywhere
     
  11. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Because reasons.

    If you show up with a J-45 the kindest thing you are likely to hear is "nice guitar, but it's no D-28"
     
    unbrokenchain and logdrum like this.
  12. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Maybe it's just a local/regional thing, but my experience has been that most of the "traditionalist" sticklers that thumb their nose are actually the younger folks who are new to the scene and out to prove themselves. Most of the older pickers I'm around are about as open minded as with any other genre. It's even more pronounced with the old-time crowd. Crust punk train kids who will only play "source" versions of tunes while the older folks who grew up in the tradition will twist the tunes all around to suit their interest. It's a living tradition, has its cycles I reckon :)
     
  13. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Part of it is tradition, which is really something that cannot be rationally explained. But technically, the "trebly" tone of a Martin cuts through nicely with the loud and "trebly" banjo and mandolin, plus the Martin bass tones project well without competing with the bass.

    Not that a J-45 can't be loud and beautiful sounding, but it can be more boomy, which in bluegrass affects any jam or band that is trying to moderate the volumes and balances, and it affects the sound guys if they know what they're doing.

    All that said, in the hands of a good player, either instrument can sound wonderful.
     
    logdrum and unbrokenchain like this.
  14. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    Strange as it may seem, Gibson acoustics will often be in the majority of those accompanying fiddle players in contests. That's not really a positive statement for their tone, because most fiddlers want a chop rythym and not a lot of loud, clear, ringing tone like a D28. There are exceptions, but fiddle contests & Gibson acoustics seem to go together.
     
  15. anightintunisia

    anightintunisia Supporting Member

    Fiddle contests are not bluegrass fiddle contests. Backup guitar players in fiddle contests are playing Texas swing chords. Gibson has always owned when it comes to fiddle swing music.

    The sound produced by a Martin style dreadnaught, either rosewood or mahogany, fills the audible space correctly in the mix of a bluegrass group. I know a couple of amazing players who play a banner J45 and they make it work, but a traditional bluegrass band essentially needs that extra large body cavity plus bracing style to fill the sound correctly. It is what is.
     
    dhergert likes this.
  16. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    Agree. I've been playing bluegrass about 18 years & have been attending a traditional bluegrass festival twice a year for about the same time, so I've attended at least 30, four-day festivals. The best I can remember, I have never seen a Gibson acoustic on stage. I have seen a couple in the park, maybe only one that I can positively recall, because it was for sale and a friend of mine bought it. I've seen hundreds (maybe over 1000) Martins, lots of Collings, Taylors, several Mossmans, and a few high-end hand made, but no Gibsons. On the other hand, probably a majority of mandolin & banjos are Gibsons.
     
    dhergert likes this.
  17. nFinnyD

    nFinnyD

    Oct 31, 2017
    Utah
    I got a sunburst D18GE in around 2004 or 2005. Being quite young(barely a teenager) and showing up with that guitar I definitely got some strange looks. But I learned from one of the greats in my region, so had some decent chops. I was one of the only lead guitarists in my colleges bluegrass, old time, country, and Celtic amp program that used a sunburst at that time, everyone else had natural tops or maybe an amber tinted here and there.

    I was always kind of eclectic in my taste in music and knew I wouldn’t only play in bluegrass bands, so I didn’t pick a bluegrass guitar(would’ve gotten an HD-28V), I just picked the best guitar I could find in my price range.
     

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