Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Ever Had a Guitar that is too good?

Hi all, well I am having a weird experience with a guitar, sounds crazy but, I purchased a 09 J45 Gibson from a guy a while back because it was a case queen and looked mint, didn’t sound that great but at the low price I figured take a chance, worse case I could resell it.
Well, I fooled with it a bit and realized after really looking close and taking the valley out of the neck, i don’t think it had ever been touched from the factory, that the string spacing was off, really close like a 64th of an inch from the fret bevel on the first string. I would do a pull off and it would literally pull off the bottom of the neck.
It still was stock and had the black nut that Gibson used on the J45 and at close examination I could see someone had cut the slots deeper and when i took out the horrendous neck relief the strings layer on the frets! And the guitar had no sustain or ring to it.
Well I decided to take a chance and put a few more bucks into it and took it to a Luthier and custom guitar builder in Springfield Or. named Rick Kneale. He has a real good reputation and builds beautiful custom electrics and acoustics. He took a look and agreed someone had butchered the nut and it needed set up and a new saddle as well.
Rick had it for a couple of weeks and I picked it up yesterday. New bone nut, new bone saddle and set up done. Played it briefly while I was there and it felt good so home I went. I did notice right away in the shop how it sustained and rang out, sounded great.
Now I have played it a few hours and I gotta say this guitar is amazing! Sustain forever, intonation is dead on, and the tone is just perfect, but most of all, Ease of Play is nothing short of fantastic. When he set the new nut the action at the first position is so good it’s almost like an electric, combined with the short scale, Wow! I am having to spend a great deal of time just getting used to the feel. He set the string spacing at equal distance and not a buzz to be found. At the 12th fret top it is exactly 3/32" , just the best setup I’ve ever had on a guitar.
Now my D18 plays great but in comparison not as well I must say. I love the tone of my 18 and will never part with it but am considering taking it in as well.
This Gibson for the first hour or so was actually too easy to play. It felt like a Jazz arch top. Now I am really starting to dig it. It reduced the stress on my left hand by at least 50%, I realize the short scale is less tension to start with, but I can play this guitar for hours and no stress whatsoever. So as you can tell I’m stoked about this one. Plus it is electric has the Baggs in it.
It is just amazing to me the 150.00 I put into this could make a dead poor sounding and lousy playing guitar into this. I am very glad I did not decide to dump it. On top of the guitar the guy gave me a new Tone Right and humidity gauge and strings etc. so it more than made up for the setup work.
Anyway I am one happy picker right now, have always wanted a J45 but it took a while to get the right one…
If anyone is interested Rick Kneale is online…Jerry

Congrats Jerry. It is nothing short of amazing what a proper set up can do for any guitar, especially an acoustic guitar. And even if the guitar is “properly” set up from the factory, a good guitar tech can dial in the feel and tone to make the guitar really sing for the owner.

I remember when I purchased my M-38 Martin; it played and sounded very nice. However, when i got it home, I immediately did a full fret level and dress followed by a set up (the way I like the guitar to feel). It was pretty amazing the difference. Since then, I have done one more fret level/dress and cut a new saddle to really set the guitar “perfectly” (a subjective feel based on how I like it to play). It is now playing too good. It is, by far, the most perfectly balanced (string to string and tonally), easy playing acoustic I have ever played. But it is not the loudest acoustic in my stable, so it is underplayed since I play a lot with loud instruments (banjos, fiddles, upright basses, dobros…etc).

Is it too good? For me, maybe. But I like it just fine. :smiley:

The J45 can run as high as into the 3,500 dollar mark and some are just a bit over 2.000. I always wanted a guitar like Emmy lou has the jumbo but wound up with a Martin DCPA4 and Iike it it is loud enough . Plays well, have never had it set up but am thinking about doing that this January . I know having it set up properly can bring many benefits to the player as well as the listener. Enjoy your new great guitar sounds like you have a family heirloom in the making .

Thanks DR and Welder, ya it’s funny how it works out sometimes. This is actually the third one I’ve had as well as a J35. The other two when I got them were…well OK, but I sent them both back, the J35 played very well but was a little to bright sounding to me. This one cosmetically for a 5yr old guitar is mint but was as I said in bad need of talented hands to bring it out. I tried neck adjustment and so on myself but am not set up for nut and saddle replacement. Now it’s just a sweet ride!
What i meant by too good is the action is so easy it was hard to adjust to, but I just need more time on it. I sure love the short scale guitars.

It sounds like:

  1. You found a great guitar
  2. You found a great luthier whose tastes suit you well
  3. You essentially got free work done
    Congrats on all three! I’d take him that D18 and bring the 45 when you go. Tell him you loved the setup and want the 18 as close to that as you can get.
    As far as the original question… I have one guitar that has only been played out a few times (and that’s a shame). It’s a great guitar, but I’m not ready to take it where it might get dinged. I have had people run off with nice guitars of mine and go play them in a different circle and I didn’t even flinch, but if they tried it with this one… I might just embarrass myself. So maybe that one is too good. That’s the main reason that I haven’t pulled the trigger on a '31 authentic. I would want to pamper it.

Ahh… another kind of “too good”.

I recently sold off quite a few instruments. Among them was a particularly beautiful, quilt top, Carvin SC-90 that I ordered when I turned 41 (many years ago). I found that even though it was by far the nicest electric I owned, I never took it out for fear it might get dinged (or worse). So it stayed at home, in it’s case, for many, many years. It seemed it was time to pass it along to someone who would take it out and play it… so I sold it.

Am I sad? Nah. I learned a lesson though. I’m a cheap bas&@#% (only when it comes to purchasing a guitar for myself) and I am uncomfortable taking expensive instruments to gigs. Up until I turned 40, I had never spent over $300 on a guitar for myself. And those years of being frugal don’t dissipate quickly. So the Martin M-38 rarely goes to gigs, staying home where it can be comfortable and safe while the much cheaper Chinese acoustics accompany me to my gigs. My 3 year old Recording King has the dings of a heavily played 60 year old guitar, while the 17 year old Martin has nary a smudge on it.

But I’m keeping the Martin cause it is “too good” to let go. :wink:

I hear you DR, my wife has a theory, if you can’t take that thing out and use it why did you buy it?? Just to sit in the house where no one hears it? I have had expensive case queens because my favorite guitar all around is Bourgeois, my total is now 3. BUT, she has a point, why keep it like a museum piece so down the road I sell it at half what it cost and someone else plays the heck out of it for cheap… :mrgreen: In the last few years I have gotten cheap myself and now I look for bargains that may need a tweak or two but end up being great guitars, and I use them everywhere I go.
I went to a Jam session about a year ago and took my vintage D because it sounds so great, first time it had been out, I made sure I had plenty of room on both sides of me and during break put it back in the case. But I admit the whole session I was more worried a music stand or wayward neck would bang into it and it affected my playing in a negative way, because I was on guard the whole time and not fully concentrating. Next time I took my D18 and while I dearly love it I don’t worry so much and had a great time. Both times not a nick anyway. I find now I like my cheaper guitars just fine and have contemplated selling a couple myself.
Sad part is , I look on the AGF and see guitars are so soft in price! I see stuff so expensive it’s unbelievable selling for less than half and still cutting the prices. Not a good market right now.