The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    There are some very knowledgeable members here who have first-hand experience with these quality artist-level instruments. Simply, how are they really different in sound and why do you think so? Marinero

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  3. #2

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    I have played many examples of all those luthiers, and D'Aquisto (real Jimmy's) and the real John D'Angelicos. As a general observation for the sake of some comparison, in a slice of guitars where we're talking 17" width, spruce top and maple otherwise, I'll compare some distinctive characteristics based on the results of the accepted constructive guidelines each has adopted. By that I mean D'Angelico built with a higher arch, Stromberg used a peaked arch and tended towards a single cross brace, Gibsons tended towards a lower more even arch and with the exception of the Johnny Smith, which was built like a D'Angelico, tended to use a parallel brace, and Benedetto used thinner graduations, an even arching and x braces on the ones I've tried.
    Gibsons are all over the place. I've played an old 50's L-7 that had an extraordinary warm clarity to it, and L-5s that were nice, but tight and took a picking technique I didn't possess to get the most out of them. The John D'Angelicos I've played, Exels and New Yorkers from the latter vintage had a pianistic quality to them where each note had a melodic clarity, a unique voice but commonality in them all. Those qualities were brought into sharp focus in the D'Aquistos. Benedettos I've played ranged from even frequency warmth and clarity to some that I personally didn't care for because they seemed 'closed' or not open yet. Those were, to be honest, greener instruments and I have no idea what they are today and how much care and playing they got.

    On that subject, I will say that in cases of Gibsons, those I loved had been played regularly and consistently. This, to the point where I really believe the most important factour in the extraordinary guitar is equally good design and committed musical use throughout its life.

    But this is all my opinion. I may not be an expert collector, but I've known instruments that inspired me to play.
    Last edited by Jimmy blue note; 04-11-2022 at 08:07 PM.

  4. #3

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    There are so many different models of Gibsons and Benedettos that there is no "Gibson" or 'Benedetto" sound. Some Gibsons will sound sort of like some Benedettos, and vice versa. The question is illogical.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    There are so many different models of Gibsons and Benedettos that there is no "Gibson" or 'Benedetto" sound. Some Gibsons will sound sort of like some Benedettos, and vice versa. The question is illogical.
    So, S,
    Then, why are so many musicians brand loyal because they like the Gibson sound, D'Angelico sound , etc. . . . should we assume, then, that all guitars are really the same and that musicians are imagining these differences? Of course, there are differences among the models . . . that's a given but bracing, tonewoods, overall construction techniques, thickness, choice of pickups, etc. really don't matter? That seems contrary to luthier modeling techniques . . especially for handmade wooden, stringed instruments made for a thousand plus years. Can you explain what you mean?
    Marinero

  6. #5

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    Perfectly valid question but I don't have time to post my long winded response just now

  7. #6

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    Marinero, I'll say that there are design differences that a builder will build by. These include graduation thicknesses, arching patterns, size, material, and even neck specifications. Individual players may choose instruments for many reasons. Sometimes I'll find an example of a Gibson (there are lots of them out there) that is exceptionally inspiring. I get on it and I can play all day...I WANT to play all day. The D'Angelicos I've played were BIG. New Yorkers were 18", very sweet and the sound...to die for. But the body size and mass of the neck grip meant I wouldn't want to play it for long periods of time.
    Many players are inspired by some artists they idolize and will put that mystique and fantastic quality over the test of an instrument playing their own music (the more personal your music is [read as the more you practice] the more you'll recognize a heavenly match).
    Do people place the word of others, the seductive pull of some published hype, over their own match based on realization of musical ability? Sure. The entire business is built on it.

    I'm a luthier. I don't build for players who don't know what they want. So I don't get many commissions. But a player who knows what they want and appreciates an instrument that can do that, that's what a hand built guitar excels in doing.
    I'm also a player. I don't let hype sway me. I have a guitar I made and I play it. I also have an Eastman. Why? Because this particular 805 7 string was better than just about anything else I ever played. It's not a collectors guitar but when I pick it up, it disappears and music flows without effort.

    It's good to know good guitars and why they are considered great. It's even better to find your dog and go places you never imagined with it.
    My humble opinion.

  8. #7

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    I mean that all guitars are different. People are loyal to a brand for many reasons, or they aren't. Bracing matters, but the same factory makes guitars with different bracing patterns. Gibson, for instance, has made thousands of both parallel and x braced guitars, and guitars with no braces at all. Thin, thick, solid, pressed, laminate, whatever you can imagine. I have no idea why some people buy Gibson at any price. Benedetto is similar, different bracing, different woods, different sizes, etc. I just think it's not worth generalizing about any of these guitars, because they're so different.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    I mean that all guitars are different. People are loyal to a brand for many reasons, or they aren't. Bracing matters, but the same factory makes guitars with different bracing patterns. Gibson, for instance, has made thousands of both parallel and x braced guitars, and guitars with no braces at all. Thin, thick, solid, pressed, laminate, whatever you can imagine. I have no idea why some people buy Gibson at any price. Benedetto is similar, different bracing, different woods, different sizes, etc. I just think it's not worth generalizing about any of these guitars, because they're so different.
    Hi, S,
    This is, of course, true. But my question(in general) is really more for the experienced player than the dilettante. For example, I own 4 Classical guitars(purchased over the last 30 years) and one Electric I've owned since '66. The CG's are all luthier-built instruments and each has its own voice and they have distinct personalities. However, two of these instruments could only be appreciated by an advanced player with total command of the fretboard and "artistic sensibility" since it is these personal attributes by a player that can unleash their potential on the instrument. The other two CG's fall short in that respect, however, they are very fine instruments for the lionshare of players. My EG is a '66 Gibson ES125TC that I purchased new and has untold hours of gigging(Soul/R@B/ Funk/Smooth Jazz) for about 20 years. Then, it was entombed, in its case, for over 30 years until 2 years ago. It was/is an entry-level, laminate Gibson when it was sold but, for whatever reason, it has a very refined sound. My point is that I could clearly recommend my two CG's to an advanced player and know that he/she would be satisfied with its overall performance but that might not be the case with my Gibson since it may not be the actual build but some "Black Magic" of playing/seasoning that has graced its existence--perhaps, not a "built-in" trait.
    So, to my original question . . . if an advanced player picked up one of the three archtops in question(or even a semi), what general traits would he she be able to notice out of the box? Brighter? Rounded? Greater volume acoustically? Cleaner? Edgier, etc. I hope that's clear.
    Marinero

    P.S. This is not a "trick" question but rather an honest question posed to experienced players on this Forum who have experience with these three unique instruments. M

  10. #9

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    Such a difficult question could well be answered by /for example/ Pat Martino, but he is no longer with us.He was one of the giants who probably played many of these great guitars.
    I'm not just talking about the sound of the instrument.
    The construction design, weight, ease of play are also important, as well as how the instrument works in the studio and during a real concert.
    My $ 1

  11. #10

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    While guitars from all three makers have a lot of variation in sound, I would generalize as follows.

    Gibsons have a traditional archtop sound that has thick mids and a lot of "cut"

    D'Angelicos are similar to a Gibson sound, but with a more even balance throughout the fretboard (how did John D'Angelico do that? Wouldn't every luthier like to know?) and a smoother top end (less cut)

    Benedettos have a more modern sound (thinner, more pronounced high end almost approaching a flattop sound) and less sustain than the other two (probably due to the ebony tailpiece).

    That said, every archtop guitar must be judged on it's own merits. And the guitars made by today's D'Angelico guitar company sound nothing like a genuine D'Angelico. You get what you pay for.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    While guitars from all three makers have a lot of variation in sound, I would generalize as follows.

    Gibsons have a traditional archtop sound that has thick mids and a lot of "cut"

    D'Angelicos are similar to a Gibson sound, but with a more even balance throughout the fretboard (how did John D'Angelico do that? Wouldn't every luthier like to know?) and a smoother top end (less cut)

    Spot on with the noticeably even sound top to bottom. D'angelico's just tend to sit in the warm mid-range and make chord work and single line playing all seem more even. To me this probably why the players in New York doing studio work in the 40's and even through 60's want to record with a D'angelico. Think Johnny Smith!

    Benedettos have a more modern sound (thinner, more pronounced high end almost approaching a flattop sound) and less sustain than the other two (probably due to the ebony tailpiece).

    Benedettos are different and I am fan of the metal tailpiece I believe it contributes to the sound in a more positive way than ebony. Other ears may hear things differently but I would love to have a Benedetto and experiment with it by changing into a metal tailpiece like a D'a or Gibson.

    That said, every archtop guitar must be judged on it's own merits. And the guitars made by today's D'Angelico guitar company sound nothing like a genuine D'Angelico. You get what you pay for.
    Wood is wood and it does things sometime that you don't expect.

  13. #12

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    Most Benedettos have a metal tailpiece, albeit with a wooden cap. Early examples did have a purely wooden tailpiece though, and some modern high-end models still do. I don't hear much relation to flat-tops in the Benedettos I've heard, and there are many examples on YouTube and recordings. The closest I've heard to that is Frank Vignola's oriiginal Benedetto, which sounded rather thin with a floating pickup, compared to cf Jimmy Bruno or Howard Alden or Jack Wilkins et al. Some Gibson ES175s sound thinner to me than some Benedettos. Everyone's ears are different, though.

  14. #13

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    I'm surprised this question can even be answered.

    It implies that, somehow, Gibsons exist on a spectrum of sound that does not appreciably overlap with D'Angelicos nor Benedettos. Same argument for each -- no appreciable overlap. That, despite Gibson making a large number of different models.

    Otherwise, there would be no way to characterize a difference.

    Is this true?

    Maybe we should be comparing archtops of identical scale length only? Acoustic guitars only or are we comparing pickups? (Prior posts sound like maybe it's acoustic only). What about matching age? Size? The Benedettos I've played were smaller than the D'Angelicos. Does that matter?
    Cutaway or not?

    I recall my teacher saying, nearly 60 years ago, that some D'Angelicos were better than others and that not all the guitars he made were great.
    That said, the top players of the time seemed to like them!

  15. #14
    "I'm surprised this question can even be answered." rpjazzguitar

    Hi, RP,
    Well, frankly, I expected many more personal experiences with these instruments since we are talking about wooden instruments manufactured/built for a predominately Jazz clientele. For example, If we were talking about luxury cars, say, Porsche or Ferrari, devotees could talk about suspension system, engine torque, HP vs total body weight, drag, etc. that affect the vehicle's performance in a real way. Even with Classical guitars, high-level players talk about volume, response, projection, nuance in the upper register, neck style, seasoning/development over time by various luthiers who build these instruments and that is why a certain artist chooses a particular guitar. For, example, when Segovia first played his Ramirez, it became the soup du jour for aspiring CG's across the world because of its big sound(664mm) and its clarity, depth and nuance possible for the instrument as illustrated by Segovia's playing. It became "THE" instrument for years to follow and, even today, its popularity is based on the Segovia sound. Yesterday, I was listening to some Kenny Burrell ballads and the first thing that came to my mind after the first piece was "This guy has a really fat sound on the guitar!" And, yes, it's technique but it's also due to one of the Gibsons he was playing at the time. The instrument has that potential that may not be the case on a D'Angelico or Benedetto. So, I believe there are real differences in instruments that can translate into words. I hope others respond with their personal experiences with these instruments.
    Marinero

    P.S. Here's an interesting video related to the discussion.

    Segovia's Historic 1969 Ramirez Still Plays Beautifully

    https://classicalguitarmagazine.com › Stories










  16. #15

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    One person's experiences cannot be extrapolated to the entire output of a brand. I own one Gibson, but I don't think it's representative of all Gibson guitars. I own one Benedetto, but it's certainly not at all like the others I owned, in any sense. I've never had the pleasure of owning a D'Angelico, nor a D'Aquisto, so I can't comment at all on those, neither the originals nor the reproductions. Both Gibson and Benedetto offering run the gamut from small and thin, small and deep, to big and deep and big and thin, solid carved and laminate, solid, semihollow and fully hollow, all sorts of sizes and shapes. They're all different in sound, and in every other way.

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    One person's experiences cannot be extrapolated to the entire output of a brand. I own one Gibson, but I don't think it's representative of all Gibson guitars. I own one Benedetto, but it's certainly not at all like the others I owned, in any sense. I've never had the pleasure of owning a D'Angelico, nor a D'Aquisto, so I can't comment at all on those, neither the originals nor the reproductions. Both Gibson and Benedetto offering run the gamut from small and thin, small and deep, to big and deep and big and thin, solid carved and laminate, solid, semihollow and fully hollow, all sorts of sizes and shapes. They're all different in sound, and in every other way.
    Hi, S,
    I'm not trying to beat the proverbial dead horse but, in response to your above statement, would it be fair to assume that there are no definable brand characteristics among Gibson, D'Angelico, and Benedetto archtops? Every one, irrespective of brand, is unique and should be judged individually? I'm trying to understand why Jazz guitars would be so different from Classical guitars or even saxophones in this respect. Your feedback is valuable since you own two of the three brands listed above.
    Marinero

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    Hi, S,
    I'm not trying to beat the proverbial dead horse but, in response to your above statement, would it be fair to assume that there are no definable brand characteristics among Gibson, D'Angelico, and Benedetto archtops? Every one, irrespective of brand, is unique and should be judged individually? I'm trying to understand why Jazz guitars would be so different from Classical guitars or even saxophones in this respect. Your feedback is valuable since you own two of the three brands listed above.
    Marinero

    Carved archtop guitars are very different than classical guitars and of course a Sax. A Sax has the same basic elements and construction does not vary much. A Classical Guitar has more variation than a Saxophone for sure but way less than an archtop guitar. Here are the reason and why as Jimmy D'aquisto said ,the Archtop Guitar is the most versatile and adaptable guitar. In no particular order by why archtops as so unique compared to Classicals and Flattops and way more than typical horn instruments.

    1. Top and back carved and graduate and all this is dependent on the builder. Each graduation and tap tuning if they do that is unique.
    2. Depth of the rims, size of the guitar, angle of the neck set and general mass of bridge and tailpiece
    3. Metal vs. Wood tailpieces......each are different
    4. Setting of the bridge and if it is a tunomatic vs ebony or rosewood saddle. This effects the sound
    5. The bracing of the top is most important and all sorts of different patterns and ideas. Much more options than flattops.
    6. The bridge, tailpiece, and the action can be change easily and compared to flattops and classical guitar way faster. Sometimes in minutes.

    In a word the archtop guitar allows the player much more changes and types of sounds without doing anything structurally to the guitar. Swap a few parts. Flattops can be changed but basically you build it and other than the strings that is what you have. Not a lot of opportunity to change the action without a lot of work and experience. In a a word the archtop guitar to me is the pinnacle of acoustic guitars at least for most things. Certainly classicals and flattops are fine and do what they are supposed to. However due to all this I personally believe that is why archtop guitars are so unique in determining sound and very personal in nature. I just love them and compared to any other kinds of guitars they still give me a thrill. Nothing cooler than going into a shop or show and playing a wide variety of archtops. I will never forget those Five Towns Guitar shows in the 1990's seeing and playing many D'angelico's, D'aquisto's, Monteleone's, Gibson's, Benedetto's and others. Then going to the late Mike Katz house afterwards any playing at least 10-15 different D'angelico guitars.......the real ones.

    You never realize where you were until you look back.

  19. #18

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    Deacon Mark excerpt:

    I will never forget those Five Towns Guitar shows in the 1990's seeing and playing many D'angelico's, D'aquisto's, Monteleone's, Gibson's, Benedetto's and others. Then going to the late Mike Katz house afterwards any playing at least 10-15 different D'angelico guitars.......the real ones.

    Mark, the annual Five Towns show was really the renaissance period of Archtop guitars. For many , like Mark Campellone, it launched their careers.

    For those fortunate enough to attend, you witnessed a unique venue, of purely acoustic guitars with no loud amps, and a festive atmosphere with outside live performances in the courtyard - and indoor evening concerts on stage. It was always held in May and the weather was fantastic. We had lots of great performers attend those shows.

    Having Jim D’Aquisto and John Monteleone, along with Scott Chinery, and his Blue collection, (and Bat mobile ) was real special.

    Plus , you had great hotels and fine restaurants within a short drive away for those visiting from out of state.


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  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by QAman
    Deacon Mark excerpt:

    I will never forget those Five Towns Guitar shows in the 1990's seeing and playing many D'angelico's, D'aquisto's, Monteleone's, Gibson's, Benedetto's and others. Then going to the late Mike Katz house afterwards any playing at least 10-15 different D'angelico guitars.......the real ones.

    Mark, the annual Five Towns show was really the renaissance period of Archtop guitars. For many , like Mark Campellone, it launched their careers.

    For those fortunate enough to attend, you witnessed a unique venue, of purely acoustic guitars with no loud amps, and a festive atmosphere with outside live performances in the courtyard - and indoor evening concerts on stage. It was always held in May and the weather was fantastic. We had lots of great performers attend those shows.

    Having Jim D’Aquisto and John Monteleone, along with Scott Chinery, and his Blue collection, (and Bat mobile ) was real special.

    Plus , you had great hotels and fine restaurants within a short drive away for those visiting from out of state.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    QAman.
    I wonder if we met or bumped into one another? I was at Bill Hollenbeck's booth the whole time. What a memory I would pay some dear money to have another show like those. I remember to that I got up early in the morning per my usual routine and went out for a 10 mile run around the area on Long Island it was beautiful area. I came back to the hotel and then went through the breakfast buffet and put away some serious calories with show getting ready to start. I needed the fuel.

    Yes those were the days. The change has been that I was running way faster than I could ever imagine today. However I can say without reservation my guitar chops and playing are better now than then. You win some and you lose some. Mike Katz had a D'aquisto New Yorker that was blond and it would turn your ears to jelly. I think Hollenbeck was near John Monteleone's booth and Bill really wanted to see his shop but was not able to. Bill always said that if he could not play one of his own guitars he wanted a Monteleone.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    QAman.
    I wonder if we met or bumped into one another? I was at Bill Hollenbeck's booth the whole time. What a memory I would pay some dear money to have another show like those. I remember to that I got up early in the morning per my usual routine and went out for a 10 mile run around the area on Long Island it was beautiful area. I came back to the hotel and then went through the breakfast buffet and put away some serious calories with show getting ready to start. I needed the fuel.

    Yes those were the days. The change has been that I was running way faster than I could ever imagine today. However I can say without reservation my guitar chops and playing are better now than then. You win some and you lose some. Mike Katz had a D'aquisto New Yorker that was blond and it would turn your ears to jelly. I think Hollenbeck was near John Monteleone's booth and Bill really wanted to see his shop but was not able to. Bill always said that if he could not play one of his own guitars he wanted a Monteleone.
    Mark, we very likely crossed paths. I was part of the D’Aquisto strings booth with Jimmy and Ted.
    I also roamed around with Ted constantly and we always ordered something.

    I was also running back then , only 6 miles / day - until I injured my Achilles tendon. I then switched over to recumbent bikes - and still use it daily.


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  22. #21

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    Ah yes, the Five Town shows.
    The first time I went I was sitting on a curb in front and a limo pulled up next to me. Out walked Steve Howe, almost stepping on me

  23. #22

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    I remember the 5 Towns shows had rockers like Rick Derringer Ian McDonald Steve Howe and others as the top acts there, so I boycotted them for many years until the last one.
    Other than Howard Alden, none of the players did much for me. HA's playing was impeccable, to say the least.
    I bought a Parker P-44 new there for about $450 that I've used on many shows because of its versatility.
    The piezo pickup was just what I needed to play acoustic guitar parts, because I wasn't gonna lug a steel string or nylon string to a job, when I could play the whole gamut-acoustic,rock and even a decent clean traditional sound on one guitar.
    It was at the end of the show, and all the vendors were complaining that they hadn't sold one guitar during the entire show.
    The guy I bought the P-44 told them he just sold one, and they were in awe of the guy.

  24. #23

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    That's interesting sgcim, I never heard of any of the rockers performing, there were always jazz players like Alden, Bruno, etc. when I was going. Maybe I was going at a different time.

  25. #24

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    Here's a variant of the OPs question. Do you think that over time the player alters his technique on a given guitar, consciously or not, to get the sound he likes? Much has been said about a guitar "opening up", but how about the changes in attack, site of picking, vibrato, pickup adjustment, string choice, etc. that gives a sense of comfort and tone?

    Robben Ford famously said he gives as guitar six months playing before deciding whether it's a keeper. These are solid bodies. What happens in those six months? I doubt the guitar changes as much as the man.

    If player adjustments and developed comfort are a big deal, and I think they are, it should give pause to the quick rejection many have to an instrument they've played for a day or two. I think back on my own experience. I never thought about whether a neck was too fat or skinny in my early days. The same was true about the scale length. My only focus was playing it.

  26. #25

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    I'm not much of a sample, but I try for about the same sound on every guitar. I just can't help it. I like what I like, and I try for that. I don't always get it, but I still try, and sometimes find new ways of getting closer. I would be at least mildly surprised to learn that I'm alone in this.