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Angel Vivaldi Wows Again in New ‘Oxytocin’ Playthrough

Charvel Guitars - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 10:02

The enigmatic and incredible Angel Vivaldi has blessed his fans with another mind-blowing play through of “Oxytocin” from latest album SYNAPSE.

With his seven-string Charvel in hand, Vivaldi’s unbelievable fretboard skills are shown in full in this simple, but must watch video. Joining the gifted musician is the equally talented Gus G. from Firewind.

The two trade off solos in a full-on shred fest that you can watch below.

Categories: Manufacturers

Yamaha FG Guitars Still on the Job

Guitar International - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 09:05

By: Rick Landers

1971 Yamaha FG-300 - Photo courtesy of Swedish Vintage Guitars

1971 Yamaha FG-300 – Photo courtesy of Vintage Guitars (Stockholm, Sweden)

There’s a lot of information and misinformation to be found on-line about Yamaha FG guitars when seeking out their history. And it’s often a frustrating journey trying to get authoritative specifics about any particular FG model.

Prior to 1966, the Yamaha International Corporation sold many guitars under the “Dynamic” name. Several different styles and construction types were offered and the Dynamic era featured models named numerically that included: No. 20, No. 25, No. 100 and more, some with solid wood bodies, others were laminated with veneers.

During the 1960s, it’s said Yamaha’s guitar exports experienced trauma in shipment, with wood guitars warping, cracking and breaking. Financial losses by breakage became intolerable and Yamaha began to focus on improving the company’s bottom line, yet in a way to not degrade the sonic quality of its product.

Around 1966, the Dynamic name would give way to a new Folk Guitar (FG) series of guitars. The FG line was developed to emulate the sounds of more expensive world class guitars, replicating or improving upon them, with many of their guitars wrapped in laminates of rosewood, mahogany and other tone woods.

 Rick Landers

1973 FG-200 and 1979 FG-312 – photo credit: Rick Landers

It was a Yamaha FG-150 handed to Country Joe McDonald in 1969 at Woodstock that grabbed the attention of many music enthusiasts around the world.

And for today’s Yamaha aficionados, the rest is history.

During the ’70s Yamaha guitars could be seen on stage in the talented hands of such guitar masters as John Denver, Bert Jansch, Paul Brady, John Martyn, and decades later in videos of the remarkable singer-songwriter, Elliott Smith.

Still, today FG series guitars have fans around the world, with a few attaining some level of cult following.

One sought after FG is the FG-180, an all-laminate guitar and most notably those with green or red labels that cite “Nippon Gakki” (Japan Instrument). Although, some Elliott Smith fans seek out the Taiwan built FG-180 guitar he played. Regardless of their origins, both “versions” are wonderful acoustics.

Yamaha went offshore in ’71 or ’72, moving production of many of their FG guitars to Taiwan.

The early Taiwan built guitars have red labels and a “T” fronted serial code. The “T” designated the guitars Taiwan origins and it would make sense that Yamaha used up their stock of red labels, and excluded the Nippon Gakki print. It’s also possible the Taiwan guitars had red labels slapped on them because they were meant for export. The history is muddy.

  Elliott Smith plays “Between the Bars” on his FG-180 (Taiwan).

Today, the labels on these early Yamaha guitars have become factors in how they are valued. A red labeled guitar with “Nippon Gakki” is generally valued more than a Taiwan guitar with a red label without the Japanese origin.

Some claim that the earlier Japanese FGs are better guitars than the Taiwan built FGs, however, it’s a belief that seems more subjective than accurate. But, maybe this is just a manifestation of “Love the one you’re with…” or “Sweet dreams are made of this…”.

Even comparing one FG with another to make a definitive series-wide sound quality conclusion is faulty. There are just too many variables, like strings, age, construction materials, consistency in production processes, and the players themselves.

Sound comparisons between all laminated guitars and those with some solid wood features, can likely be drawn with more conclusiveness.  Some will be “S” designated models, that more often than not indicates that their soundboards are solid, with the backs and sides laminated. Some find these have more clarity and a punchy responsiveness. Still, it depends on the guitar and all of those pesky variables.

Yamaha apparently used quality tone woods, directionally layered to remarkable effect, and in a manner that can produce responses as good, and oftentimes better, than some other more expensive branded solid wood acoustic guitars.

Regardless of their materials, when fitted with a pickup and a few effects, the “Yammies” can be stunning beasts.

The masterful John Martyn, with his scruffy Yamaha FG in 1973 (BBC).

Out of thin air it seems some owners of the Taiwan made FG models have conjured an idea that the early Taiwan guitars were built by many of the same Japanese craftsman who built the Nippon Gakki guitars.

From a business perspective, it would have been a smart practice for Yamaha to have relied on its experienced Japanese craftsmen to train and mentor its new Taiwan workforce. So, it’s a rational rumination.

But, so far there’s no proof in that pudding.

1971 Yamaha FG-300 - photo courtesy of Shamrock Music Shoppe

1971 Yamaha FG-300 – photo courtesy of Shamrock Music Shoppe

Some guitar owners just have some hankering to have in their hands a Holy Grail guitar, one with a provenance that makes it special, unique or shrouded in some historical mystery or significance. And, the more that kind of lore is laid on a guitar, the more sellers will ratchet up their prices.

Thousands of the old Yamaha FGs may have bounced around the holds of ships, been left in cars to bake, or suffered an artful delivery toss onto a hard front porch. Still, in all likelihood the guitars just shook off such bad behavior and kept their side of the bargain.

For most peoples’ money, like any guitar, an FG is only as good as how easy it is to play, how melodic it sounds and if it consistently and reliably does its job. Simple. Find a good one, put your favorite strings on it and make some music. Play it straight or install a pup, either way you’ll have some fun when you let her rip. And, definitely, give it a chance to show it’s true colors in some alternate and open tunings. It’ll come alive!

                                                Yamaha FG-300 – Video courtesy of Bernard Vdd.

The bottom line is the Yamaha FG guitars were both hardy and inexpensive guitars, except for a few notable exceptions, and targeted a growing singer-songwriter market.

Today, many owners can honestly say Yamaha nailed it with the FG series. They not only met the needs of the Boomer generation, they exceeded them. And a half-century later thousands of these old Yamaha FG guitars are still around being played, and many are sleeping quietly in darkened closets, waiting to be reawakened and loved by a whole new generation of guitarists.


Editor’s Note: Rick Landers has no affiliation with the Yamaha Corporation. He has recently acquired several vintage Yamaha guitars: FG-180; FG-200; FG-312-12; FG-412 and an FG-300.



Categories: Classical

Norma Guitars

The Unique Guitar Blog - Sun, 02/11/2018 - 19:25
Norma Guitars
In the mid 1960’s, a wholesale musical instrument distribution company existed known as Strum and Drum. They were based in Chicago, Illinois and imported guitars from all over the world and sometimes re-branded them for sale to United States music stores, or anyone who owned a business and wanted to sell guitars.

Don E. Noble & Company
In the 1950's company called Don Noble and Co, was founded in the 1950’s by Don Noble, a well-known accordion player and entrepreneur.  He began by importing Italian made musical instruments, mainly accordions, in an era when the "stomach Steinway" was very popular and accordions were being sold door-to-door, and accordion academies were common in most larger cities. But he also imported guitars under the Noble brand name.

Somehow Noble became involved with business man Norman Sackheim.  Eventually the name became Strum and Drum.

Italian made mid-1960's Nobel Guitar

Between Nobel, and Sackheim they imported quite a line-up that included Italiian guitars from EKO, Avanti, Wandre, and Goya.  In 1969 Strum and Drum purchased the National Guitar brand name.

Norma  EG-470
However from 1965 until 1969, you could find guitars with lots of pickups and switches under the brand name Norma, which was the feminized version of Mr. Sackheim’s name. He made certain the name adorned the headstocks of thousands of inexpensive guitars back In a time when everyone wanted to be the next big rock star.

The logo was a stylized music staff, with the name Norma entered with the "N" as artistically designed 8th note. On some "high-end" models, the fret maker inlays were done in the letter "N".

1966 Norma Guitars
The manufacturing origin of these guitars is somewhat of a mystery, but for the most part they seem to have been manufactured at a plant called Tombo. We are for certain most of the fancier versions had their origin there.

1966 Tombo Guitar

As an aside “Tombo” is the Japanese word for Dragonfly The company is still active, but no longer manufacturers guitars. They now specialize in harmonicas under the Lee Oskar brand name. Some of the Norma guitars may have been manufactured by Teisco.

1969 Norma electric
  very similar to a Goya Rangemaster

The necks on these guitars were rather thick, possibly due to not have an adjustable truss rod. The single coil pickups are basic, and some guitars had as many as four pickups.

1966 Norma Bass Guitars

Then there are switches and knobs; lots of them. Most of these guitars and bass guitars were sold with a chipboard case, and retailed well below $100.

Mid 1960's Norma Catalog

Unfortunately after purchasing National Guitar, Norman Sackheim was killed in a plane crash while on a trip to Moscow. I know the company existed at lease until 1972.

'68 Norma 12

By far my favorite Norma electric guitar was their 12 string. The body was based on an exaggerated version of a Fender Stratocaster.

Head stock of 12 string

The headstock was an exaggerated version of a Rickenbacker 12 string.

1968 EG421-4

This guitar also came in a six string version with four pickups, lots of switches, and knobs.

Categories: General Interest

My eBay Listing: Vintage Stanley No.5 Jack Plane, Type 5/6, 1888-1892

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Sat, 02/10/2018 - 14:38
Vintage Stanley No. 5 Jack Plane, Type 5/6. Please click here to see the listing.

Everything about this plane says that it is a Type 6 (1888-1892).  The plane body, cap iron, plane iron, lateral adjusting lever, all have the proper dates and lettering on them to make this a Type 6 plane, but the brass adjusting nut is a right handed thread, not left handed, which was used on Type 5 planes.

Rosewood knob has typical tool box dings and wear, but is in good shape; rosewood tote is not original to plane, it was salvaged from a broken Stanley No. 7 jointer plane, Type 11. There is about 80-85% of the japanning left on the body.

This plane belonged to my grandfather, Rufus Wilson (1881-1955), who was a carpenter and old time logger, and my mother told me that he owned this plane when they moved to their house near Mineral, California in 1940. I was given this plane in 1978 when I was 16 years old. I tuned up the plane in the early 1990's, the typical work of flattening the sole, the back of the iron, etc. I used this plane to make my first musical instruments. I set it aside about 15 years ago to keep as a collectors item, but I have decided to let it go to someone else. It is a great user plane! Please ask questions! I will not ship out of the United States, no international sales!

Totally Guitars Weekly Wrap Up February 9th, 2018

On The Beat with Totally Guitars - Fri, 02/09/2018 - 18:40
Improve Your Guitar Skills with the online guitars lessons from Totally Guitars! Totally Guitars News Podcast This week I was inspired, partly by a couple lessons, to mess with some instrumental versions of songs. So what else is new? You might ask. I think it really started last week with the lesson on Girl From […]
Categories: Learning and Lessons

The Guitar Foundation of America Needs Your Help

Classical Guitar - Fri, 02/09/2018 - 12:41

Earlier today, GFA president Martha Masters sent out an email asking for some help.

Dear GFA Members,

In the past six months, GFA has begun dialogues with five school districts in Southern California about adding guitar programs throughout the district. These dialogues have all originated from personal connections with Superintendents, members of the Board of Education, or local politicians. Do you have a connection in your district, someone you’d like to invite to a meeting to discuss the idea of adding guitar in your area? With your introduction, we can assist with advocacy, and introduce various possibilities for implementing a guitar program in your district.

School districts are an area where cold-calling doesn’t typically work. We need your personal connections and your passion. Will you help us? If you know someone who could be influential, we would love to talk with you about ways in which we can work together. Please reach out to us at info [AT] guitarfoundation.org. We look forward to working with you to change the face of music education in your community!

~ Martha Masters, President, GFA

Have some connections that could help guitar guitar into local schools? Reach out to info [AT] guitarfoundation.org.

The Guitar Foundation of America Needs Your Help from Classical Guitar

Categories: Classical

Dhani Harrison Talks New Record & Charvel in ‘Premier Guitar’ Interview

Charvel Guitars - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 09:52

After fronting his band thenewno2, recording and touring with Fistful of Mercy, and workingwith a gamut of legendary performers including Bob Dylan and Wu-Tang Clan, Dhani Harrison continues to forge his musical journey with the release of his In Parallel album this past October. Harrison sat down with Premier Guitar magazine interviewer Paul Kobylensky to talk about his history in music and how his Custom Charvel S-Type helped in the making of the song “Summertime Police.”

Being the son of a Beatle, Harrison was surrounded by music from an early age, but he didn’t always want to be.

“I grew up in the studio,” said Harrison. “I always played music since I was a kid: piano, guitar, drums. And I sang a lot too. So, I got my 10,000 hours early. I’m pretty sure I tried everything possible to not do music. But I knew I was going to come back to it at some point.”

Harrison is also the proud owner of a Custom Shop Charvel S-Type built by Paul Waller. The guitar helped bring a more shreddy vibe to his new In Parallel album, specifically when playing the track “Summertime Police.”

“It’s got to be bold. It’s got to be rude. You know what I mean,” Harrison told Kobylensky. “And Jon [Bates] was saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to bring back some shredding on this record?’ And it made the cut. And then I was like, ‘Oh, great. Now, I’ve got to get a Charvel or something with a locking nut, because I’m going to be playing all these songs with these huge bends in them.’”

Watch Harrison perform “Summertime Police” on his custom Charvel live at The Knitting Factory below.

Read the full Premier Guitar interview with Dhani Harrison by CLICKING HERE.

Categories: Manufacturers

John Mayer Shares the Wealth with Instagram Live Guitar Lessons

Charvel Guitars - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 07:49

Inspired by the countless number of NAMM related social media posts that flooded his feed at the end of January, mega-talented guitarist John Mayer took time out of his busy schedule to sit down in front of his camera phone and record a down and dirty Instagram Live guitar lesson for his hungry fans.

Armed with his trusty skate-inspired Charvel Custom Shop guitar, Mayer fielded questions from his 2.7 million followers. The 42-minute video, which has since been uploaded to YouTube, is filled with incredible information for beginners all the way to experts with topics ranging from the simple subtleties of utilizing a Floyd Rose to tips on adding bass lines while also playing lead.

Watch the full video below and see what you can learn.

Don’t miss out on any future lessons — follow Mayer on Instagram by CLICKING HERE.

Categories: Manufacturers

Sully Guitars Conspiracy Series

I Heart Guitar - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 19:22

(Little Elm, Texas –  February 6, 2018) Luthier Jon Sullivan of Sully Guitars introduces the Conspiracy Series, incorporating the distinctive designs and close attention to detail found in his handmade instruments, but at a more affordable price.

Designed by Sully Guitars and made by World Musical Instruments in South Korea, the Sully Guitars Conspiracy Series debuts with three models: the ‘71 Starling, the Stardust, and the ‘71 SD, which is the Stevie D Signature Model for the Buckcherry/Josh Todd and the Conflict guitarist, with Conspiracy Series versions of other Sully designs to follow.

The ‘71 Starling (MSRP $1199 USD) is a set-neck guitar with a 25.5” scale length, Mahogany body, three-piece laminated Mahogany neck with 22 Jumbo Stainless Steel frets, Ebony 12-16” compound radius fingerboard, Luminlay side dots, Hipshot hardtail bridge and locking tuners, direct-mounted humbuckers wound to Sully specs, and volume and tone controls with a push-pull coil split.

The Stardust (MSRP $1099 USD) is a bolt-on guitar with an Alder body, three-piece laminated Maple neck with 22 Jumbo Stainless Steel frets, Ebony or Maple 12-16” compound radius fingerboard, Luminlay side dots, Hipshot hardtail bridge and locking tuners, humbuckers wound to Sully specs with a direct-mounted bridge and a pickguard-mounted neck model, and volume and tone controls with a push-pull coil split.

The ‘71 is inspired by a classic but with many very ‘Sully’ twists. “When I started playing guitar as a little kid, all I ever wanted was the guitar Ace Frehley played” Sullivan says. “But I eventually realized that I never kept them because of the scale length. So I started drawing. I let the design breathe a bit; I probably spent a little over three years coming back to it before I finally made the first prototype. The ‘71 definitely got its foundation from the classic American single cut, but the similarities end there. It’s got a more modern feel with compound radiused fretboards and stainless steel frets, the back of the body is contoured to be more ergonomic with effortless upper fret access, and ultimately, it just gets out of your way.”

The Stardust gets its inspiration from Sully’s lifelong love of David Bowie. “I wanted to take the ‘71, break it into quadrants, turn it around and meld it into an offset that didn’t necessarily look like a traditional offset guitar,” Sullivan says. “It definitely goes to that neighborhood, but then it drives through. Finally, I wanted to commemorate Bowie’s passing with more than just the model name; I wanted it to look like  something that he might have have played.”

Stevie D says of the ‘71 SD (MSRP $1249 USD), “It’s the meanest machine! It seamlessly bridges style, tone and playability, and the combination literally gets out of your way so you can be you!”

Sully Guitars artists include Stevie D (Buckcherry/Josh Todd and the Conflict), Acey Slade (Dope/Murderdolls/Joan Jett), Dee J Nelson (solo artist, Doug Marks Metal Method instructor), Adam Nañez (solo artist, Serosia, Roscoe Empire), Justin Hold (Stareview), Greg Marra (solo artist, Plenty Heavy), Perfecto De Castro (solo artist, Ariel Pineda), and Shane Lively (VII).

Contact Jon Sullivan
Instagram: @sullyguitars


The post Sully Guitars Conspiracy Series appeared first on I Heart Guitar.

Categories: General Interest

Kazuyoshi Saito J-35

Gibson Acoustic Instruments - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 08:45
Categories: Manufacturers

SG Standard Bohemian

Gibson Electric Guitars - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 01:56
SG Standard Bohemian
Categories: Manufacturers

Modern Archtop

Gibson Electric Guitars - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 01:53
Modern Archtop
Categories: Manufacturers

Les Paul Custom Ice Flame

Gibson Electric Guitars - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 01:34
Les Paul Custom Ice Flame
Categories: Manufacturers

Les Paul Custom Boogie Van

Gibson Electric Guitars - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 01:34
Les Paul Custom Boogie Van
Categories: Manufacturers

1959 ES-335 Rose Tattoo

Gibson Electric Guitars - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 01:33
1959 ES-335 Rose Tattoo
Categories: Manufacturers

Les Paul Junior Mosaic

Gibson Electric Guitars - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 01:31
Les Paul Junior Mosaic
Categories: Manufacturers

Back in the saddle again

Cape Cod Acoustics - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 12:23
A bit of this and that today, or in the words of the immortal Dude, a lotta in’s, a lotta out’s, a lotta what-have-you’s.
I’ve been bad about staying in touch via this space so here goes!
I fully intended to attend the recent NAMM show in Los Angeles last month but opted for a quick getaway to Key West instead. I’m hoping to attend the show this summer in Nashville, a place I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never visited. Could be a very expensive trip considering the number of amazing guitar shops in that town. We’ll see….
But the trip to the Keys was great as always. The musical highlight was again hearing the truly amazing Ericson Holt at Two Friends bar. He had just returned from Memphis where he made the final 16 of over 800 musicians entered in the yearly International Blues Foundation Challenge. I’m pretty sure Ericson was the only blues pianist/singer to make it that far in the competition. He is certainly worthy. His warm and raw vocals combined with New Orleans/blues piano playing is a joy. He also has a quiet and funny personality and is well loved in Key West. Check him out online or better yet, catch him live if you can. He is truly the real deal.
Unfortunately, my favorite band The Doerfels (now calling themselves Fuel On Fire) have pretty much relocated to Nashville even though their home is still Big Pine Key. They were missed for sure, but they are young and hungry and talented enough to go as far as good fortune will allow. You can’t help but hope for the best for this ultra talented band of five brothers (really!).
The rest of the live music I heard was pretty average, sometimes bordering on mediocre. I have to wonder if they all share some secret set list because they all seem to play the same two dozen or so songs. This is OK I guess, but in my last couple of trips down to Key West I’ve noticed more than a little complacency in the typical one-guy-with-a-guitar acts. Not just singles either. I had dinner at one of my favorite places (Blue Heaven) and there was a duo playing and the first three songs they played were slow tempo, minor key things. Granted, this is a restaurant with an outdoor stage but geez guys, a little energy tells the audience that you like what you’re doing and appreciate that someone is listening. I have a real issue with this: ALWAYS start your set with something that shows some spirit. Doesn’t have to be loud, just energetic. I get the whole laid-back Keys thing but my guess is that someone who plays with enthusiasm and smiles once in a while and even – gasp – talks to the audience would get plenty of work in that town where live music rules.
For my part, I knew I was only going to be there for a week and also knew that there is a nice little guitar shop in town, Grateful Guitars, who happen to be an Eastman dealer and I fully intended to buy an OM size, mahogany body model as that is a gap in my collection right now. And I love Eastmans. But alas, the only one they had did not “speak” to me, plus it had dead strings and was more than a little over-priced, so I passed. Really wish I’d had a guitar that week though to play while sitting on the deck of the houseboat I rented at a small marina. When I return in April I will most definitely have a guitar with me!
As regular readers of this blog know, I am a Martin guy through and through. Strange to say, I am Martin-less right now having sold a D-35 recently. I’ve got a strong urge to take that money plus a bit more and spring for one of the new “re-imagined” OM-28s that Martin has debuted for 2018. This is yet another in the revamped line up of standard Martins and judging by the recent 000-18, 00-18 and D-18 I’ve owned since they started this re-vamp a few years ago the new OM-28 should be great. It keeps the classic herringbone binding, ebony bridge and fretboard, diamond inlays and scalloped bracing but has the new thinner low-profile neck with Performing Artist Profile, all of which are very appealing to me. They also have a revamped 00-28 but my guess is that one will be too close sound-wise to my Eastman AC-422ce, although an entirely different body shape and size. That 00-28 sure is a pretty little thing though! I’m waiting for a call from my favorite Martin dealer about that OM. I will report back when I’ve had some time with it.
A few songs I’ve been teaching students lately:
“Sparkle and Shine”, “Tennessee Blues”, “Days Aren’t Long Enough” by Steve Earle
“Someday” by Passenger
“River Song” by Tom Rush (a great oldie that I recently rediscovered)
“Any Old Time” by Sara Watkins (a real oldie, Jimmie Rodgers, done in a cool Texas swing style by Sara)
“Naked As We Came” by Iron and Wine
“Cavalry”, “House of Stone”, “Daylight” by Mandolin Orange (what a great duo!)
“New Coat of Paint” by Tom Waits (without being asked, Ericson Holt opened with this one when I heard him!!!! GREAT song!!!)
“August” by Mark Erelli
“Life is Beautiful” by Keb’ Mo
“When God Dips His Pen” by Alison Krauss & Union Station (a great old gospel tune that is tons of fun played in a ragtime blues finger-picked style).
These are all great tunes and of varying degrees of difficulty but none are too over the top, playing-wise. Just a reflection of my taste I guess and my students seem to like them. Check a few out but remember it’s just Gene’s way of doing things. Or to again quote The Dude:
Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man!
Peace & good music,
Categories: Acoustics

Stella Guitars

The Unique Guitar Blog - Sun, 02/04/2018 - 10:06
The Oscar Schmidt Factory
 Jersey City, NJ

Stella was the model name given to a series of guitars manufactured by The Oscar Schmidt Company of Jersey City, New Jersey. This company was established sometime between 1871, and incorporated in 1911.

Vintage Stella paper label

The Oscar Schmidt Company not only made some nice guitars, but manufactured a variety of stringed musical instruments, such as lap harps, autoharps, chord zithers, and something called a ukelin (which is a bowed psaltery made in the shape of a violin).

While other instrument manufacturing companies would create instruments to be sold through department stores, or catalogs, usually under the store’s brand name, the Oscar Schmidt Company’s strategy was door-to-door marketing.

A pair of top-of-the-line
Stella guitars with Tree of Life inlay
Each year the company would offer a special edition of an instrument, which was sometimes linked to a current newsworthy event, Salesmen kept detailed records of the customers buying habits, with the intent of reaching out to this customer in the future. Most of the instruments produced by the company were durable, easy to play, and to learn on for beginners.

Family music time in the parlor
circa 1920's

During this era the only form of entertainment for families was outings, playing games such as cards, or playing music. Playing music in the family room/parlor, was how the term “parlor guitar” was coined.

1920's Stella               1925 Soveriegn                  1925 La Scala 
The company created the Stella brand in 1899 as low cost and mid level guitars. At the time the company had two other brands; La Scala, and Sovereign, with Sovereign being their top-of-the-line. Stella guitars were made in various configurations, from parlor-sized, grand concert, even jumbo sized.

1920's Stella

To keep the manufacturing cost down, many Stella guitars were made of solid birch. The nicer models were made of mahogany or German spruce. Despite the low cost, the wood was solid. Some of the tops featured unique decal designs. I've even run across those with decals applied to the fretboard. Stella guitars generally used ladder bracing.

1920's Stella

Most Stella guitars did not last throughout the years, as the interior finishing was rather crude, and quickly completed. The bridges were made of rosewood, and on some instruments the strings attached to a trapeze tailpiece.

1935 Stella Westbrook

The fretboard was usually made of birch or maple and it was stained black. Unfortunately this stain caused some of the boards to eventually rot.

Leadbelly with his Stella 12 string
He tuned it down to B

With all that said, Stella guitars sounded great, and came with an affordable price; only $15 for a new guitar. This made the Stella an attractive guitar for Blues players of the day.

Stella 12 string

Leadbelly’s 12 string Stella (he called his guitar Stella, in the same way B.B. King called his guitar Lucille) provided a loud booming sound that could be heard In the Juke Joints or in the house parties during the days when amplification was not available, or deemed necessary. He tuned it down to B.

1920 Stella Regal

The Oscar Schmidt Company flourished for many years. At one point they even had five manufacturing facilities within the United States. Unfortunately the company did not last through the Great Depression of 1929. In 1930 the company’s assets were sold to the Harmony Company of Chicago, although Oscar Schmidt continued to manufacture and market autoharps.

Harmony made Stella H6130

Most guitar aficionados  will be more familiar with the inexpensive  Stella guitars manufactured by Harmony, than those made by Oscar Schmidt. Many of these were made by Harmony using solid birch wood for the bodies, that was painted to appear to have faux flame. The tops were usually had a two tone sunburst.

1965 Stella
Steel Reinforced Neck

The necks were made of poplar. The headstocks proudly announced "Steel Reinforced Neck", although it was not adjustable. The position markers were painted on the fret boar. The machine heads were inexpensive, 3 on a plate, open gear style tuners.

A typical mid 1960's Stella guitar
 model H929

Most models had a stamped metal trapeze tailpiece. If there was a fixed tailpiece, it was screwed into the body.

Stella-type guitar
 under the Winston brand
In later years manufacturing of some Stella-type guitars were built in Japan. These were beginner or student grade budget guitars. A four string tenor model was also available. These guitars usually retailed for a mere $20.00 USD and were made by either Teisco, or Kawai in the mid-1960's. Essentially they were copying (although they refer to it as 'making a reproduction') of an already inexpensive USA made guitar. They were sold under the Winston brand name, and they were actually "badged" guitars, made for an import firm.

Waterloo WL-14

A few years ago, before his passing, luthier Bill Collings, of Collings guitars launched a new venture. He wanted to recreate guitars made in the 1920's, that had "that" sound you would find on a guitar much like an Oscar Schmidt made Stella guitar and other brands of the era. So he founded Waterloo guitars.

Waterloo WL-S Deluxe

Waterloo instruments come in parlor to jumbo sized model guitars that feature ladder braced tops (with an X bracing custom option), necks with a V shape (this was an important feature on older guitars before truss rods were used), tops are spruce, backs, sides and necks are made of mahogany.

Instead of a $15 price for a new 1920 Oscar Schmidt Stella, with a $2.00 cardboard case, a Waterloo guitar with a custom hard-shell case will set you back around $2200.

But they are very nice guitars. 

Currently the Washburn Musical instruments owns the Oscar Schmidt brand name. The company was formerly owned by musical instrument/electronics distributor U.S. Music, but was recently sold to the Canadian firm J.A.M Industries, which also is the wholesale distributor of musical instruments that are made abroad, and electronic musical equipment.

Categories: General Interest


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