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  1. #1

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    When I am playing my very best, I need a guitar that holds up. A guitar that Doesn't bottom out. It is always able to produce the sound I am looking for. No dead spots. It takes the perfect setup for me. When I play hard it must respond. When I play softly, it must accurately convey my feelings crisply and clearly, with me not having to change my playing. It must translate what is in my soul into audible music. A solid flat out music making machine. And of course, for me, It must be a guitar I cherish.

    Ive owned a lot of guitars in my life. And so far, the one that does all this for me, without question, is my:

    Gibson Johnny Smith.

    What is yours? And why?
    Joe D

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I have a Lester DeVoe flamenco negra that was made for me as a copy of Pace do Lucia's DeVoe negra, one of the greatest guitars on the planet. A rare combination of bright and warm, brash and sophisticated, and Lester's guitars are the most perfectly intonated I've ever played.

  4. #3

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    There are actually many,depending on the musical situation. But the Gibson Johnny Smith with out a doubt is one of the greatest!

  5. #4

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    I got to play my teacher's favorite guitar once, a few years ago. It was made by a very good friend of his named Sam Koontz, A guy who started out as a shoemaker from New Jersey and only made a couple hundred guitars. And tragically wound up killing himself.

    When he took it to Colorado to visit Johnny Smith, Mr. Smith played it and said, "that is the finest guitar I have ever played without exception "

    I'm just a schmo, Who can argue with these two ?
    Navdeep Singh.

  6. #5

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    I had bought a few things from Murch Music in Cambridge an hour outside of Toronto and took a friend to try out a Clarus. When the deal was done Glen Murch brought a guitar out and handed it to me and we jammed on Joy Spring unplugged. I know nothing about guitars but this one felt nice and sounded great. He packed it back in its case and I stupidly joked "if we buy the two amplifiers will you throw in the guitar?" He replied, "in all seriousness if you buy the guitar I'll throw in the two amps". How much say I. $35,000 US say he. I was glad it was back in the case and I didn't know that before playing it. You will think I'm an idiot and you may be right but it was one of those New York made guitars with an Italian name starting with 'D'.
    Glen showed me a manifest of who had owned this guitar and among the names were Joe Pass and George Benson. What astounds me is Glen didn't know me at all, we'd done a little business but he had no problem letting me try it. Needless to say we bought the amps and left.

    Murch Music is now a branch of the amazing Long & McQuade chain and if you are in the region be sure to stop in.

    Gallery
    Last edited by A. Kingstone; 07-22-2019 at 10:11 AM.

  7. #6

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    You should have included a video, Joe, demonstrating what you are talking about, even if you have shared it elsewhere on this forum.

    For me, it is a copy of a guitar by Manuel Ramirez, circa 1908, made by the wonderful English luthier, Simon Ambridge, and complete with gut strings which I pluck with the flesh of my fingers rather than the nails. There is something more poetic about gut and flesh, rather than nail and nylon. It's how guitars used to be made and played. This guitar is a treasure, full of nuance, and warm, mellow and clear in all registers. Intimate. I might not have my dream jazz guitar yet, but in the meantime I am very lucky to have this beautiful classical.

    Here's a composition by Andres Segovia, who hardly ever performed his own music. It's a fine piece.


  8. #7

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    I had to wait a while to get the best guitar I've ever played. Ten years have passed since then, but I still feel the same about my 18" Sonntag Augusta. (The only downside is the weight of its Calton case.)

  9. #8

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    The music store I used to go to all the time the original owner believed instruments are meant to be played whether they are vintage or new. So when I go he'd say oh #$%#$ you have to play this and hand me some great guitar like a 50's strat. The last time I was there before he retired I went in and he hand me a 40's D'Angelico New Yorker and led me to the tryout room to play. Just looking at it, the wood aged inside and outside finish darkened was so regal. Playing it was so comfortable and the sound full and sweet. I played it about a half an hour then went and gave it back to the owner, he said sure you don't want to play it more? I said no that was a once in a lifetime experience thanks.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  10. #9

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    July the 24th 2015, a Friday I recall, got home from work and unpacked what would be my Jazz guitar Epiphany!
    What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_1181-jpg
    It gives me everything I look for in an instrument, tone and playability in a gorgeous package
    Honeymoon is still ongoing and I can't see when it could stop; a keeper for life !
    ...every note has an origin and a destination...
    - Tal Farlow

  11. #10

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    1985 D'Aquisto New Yorker. 1978 Gibson Super 400 close second. Both played like butter and sounded even better.

  12. #11

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    A Dana Bourgeois flat-top.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max405 View Post
    ... I've owned a lot of guitars in my life. And so far, the one that does all this for me, without question, is my: Gibson Johnny Smith.

    What is yours? And why?
    Joe D
    You've made me stop and realize that I don't think I've encountered "the" guitar, yet. Wow, still something to look forward to, I suppose.

  14. #13

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    My own 1937 D'angelico New Yorker for sure it sounds and plays wonderful.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  15. #14

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    Joe,
    What a question! I'm in a quandary with it.
    When I play my beloved L5 there is nothing
    that approaches it, by the same token the
    same applies when I use the Tal, L4ces, or
    another Gibson Archtop. The Expression
    Spoilt for choice is applicable, I am very
    fortunate to own these instruments. If
    I was foolish enough to try a GJS or a
    D'A , I would want to move heaven and
    earth to acquire one. To choose just
    one is very difficult for Gibson Fanboys.
    When I hear Archtop Fred's L5C with
    a CC pickup , I gas for one . ( Avarice
    is an undesirable trait)

  16. #15

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    Joe,

    I know exactly what you are talking about. It's not a guitar that is beautiful, expensive, rare, collectible, or matching one's personality or fantasies. Of course it may be any or all of those things, too, as a bonus.

    It's a guitar that clearly channels one's musical voice, never failing to carry out the moves or expressions or techniques one foists upon it. That is an extremely tall order, and is not easy to find.

    The guitar in my avatar is a 1928 L-5, shipped in 1931 according to FON research. It has a perfect, soft D neck profile, very low action, and extremely even notes from top to bottom with no dead spots anywhere. It has dings and a couple of repaired cracks but is nonetheless a stellar example of its class. It's my answer to your question.

    This nearly 90 year old L-5 is out of my league, so it offers me lots of room to express myself. If something sounds bad, I'm at fault, never that guitar.
    Permanent favorites: 2016 Gibson L-5 WesMo, 1999 Gibson L-5CESN, 1928 Gibson L-5
    Play more, buy less

  17. #16

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    In the early 60's I played on my teachers white Falcon


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  18. #17

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    Whichever of my three vintage D'Angelicos is in my hand at the moment is the best ever.

    I cannot choose only one. What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_0332-jpg
    _____________________________________________
    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass

  19. #18

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    Just for tonight, however, it's a Tele Squier Vintage Modified Thinline - and a wah pedal!
    Last edited by destinytot; 07-22-2017 at 01:57 PM.

  20. #19

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    Yes, a very hard question to answer.

    I have four guitars which i love more than the others. They are two LeGrands and a Johnny Smith, but whenever it comes to a really challenging important gig my 2003 L5CES is (still) the one i trust most to lead me safely through all storms which unexpectedly might occur onstage.
    _________
    JazzNote

  21. #20

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    What a hard question to answer, because in part the answer is dependent on the use the instrument is being put to. The best guitar I have ever played for jazz is different than the best guitar I played for blues, rock, etc. But hey, it's a jazz guitar forum so let's stick with jazz.

    Many years ago- close to 30?- I played by teacher's blond Gibson Johnny Smith. What a guitar! It formed my notion of what a jazz guitar is and I chased that for years, but a GJS has remained beyond affordability. For the last 11 years I have had an archtop made by forum member Matt Cushman and it's every it as good as the GJS that I remember. Feels great, has a wonderful neck, sounds great acoustically and electrically (I installed a Pete Biltoft neck-mounted CC). It's Benedetto-ish more than Gibson-ish.

    Every time I see it or pick it up to play, I just think "aaahhhh." Every gig I play with it results in people coming up to talk to me about it. But boy does it feed back, so for many gigs I play something else (always a bit regretfully). Whenever I get GAS, I just play that guitar for a couple of minutes and realize there's nothing that's going to make me sound better. Maybe a real D'Angelico New Yorker...
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  22. #21

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    My '65 Stratocaster was the best of that type that I have played.

    A '28 Gibson L-5 is the best acoustic archtop.

    My Unity 100th Anniversary 17" archtop with Shadow AZ48 Zoller floating pickup is the best acoustic-electric guitar I have played.

    The best flattop is a blue-line '72 LoPrinzi LR-15.

    The best classical is a late-50s/early-60s Jose Ramirez (III) guitar owned by the father of a friend. Simply fabulous.

    Of those, I only own/owned two.

  23. #22

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    I never owned a D'Angelico guitar, it was out of my price range. I had a friend Ira Newborn which I played ( we were in bands in high school, a great guitar.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  24. #23

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    Maybe a photo will be in order.Made for Robert Lessey name on 17th fret 3rd NY listed.What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_0384-jpgWhat is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_0381-jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-snapshot-1-7-22-2017-2-42-pm-png 
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  25. #24

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    I'm going to give three, all focusing on archtops. All of these guitars are ones I find incredibly easy and inspiring to play.

    The best acoustic archtop is my 2003 Hutch Gibson LeGrand. It has a BJB on it, but it only sounds so-so when plugged in. Played acoustically, it's a totally different story. I've never heard notes bloom the way they do with this guitar. Chords sound impossibly lush for just six strings on one guitar. I got it about nine months ago and my jaw still drops when I play it.

    My '93 Tal Farlow is my absolute best gigging guitar. It's much more feedback resistant than the other two listed here and sits in a mix with other instruments just right and cuts through everything when it's time to solo.

    Lastly, my favorite all around guitar was my '68 GJS. It's still my second all around favorite, but that all changed when I got Al Valenti's 1940 L5. There was a time when I thought I would always want a cutaway, but I don't feel like it's necessary anymore. Much of that has to do with improving as a player, but it's driven by a guitar like this one. It delivers incredible acoustic tone, as was originally intended, but the DeArmond 1100 on it makes it a superb electric guitar also. I haven't had it that long, so it may be a honeymoon phase. I guess time will tell, but for now it's been the one I can't put down.

    If there was any doubt, I suppose I've fully outed myself as a Gibson fanboy now.

    Last edited by ThatRhythmMan; 07-22-2017 at 04:14 PM.

  26. #25

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    The best guitar I've ever played is my Roger Giffin Standard, a solid body that is pure perfection.
    I know, it's not an archtop, but this baby tics all of the boxes in materials, build quality, feel and tone.

    Standard Solid body 6-string


  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark View Post
    Maybe a photo will be in order.Made for Robert Lessey name on 17th fret 3rd NY listed.What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_0384-jpgWhat is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_0381-jpg
    Wow!

  28. #27

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    Such a hard question to answer because I don't think you really know until you have lived and played a guitar for a while.

    I have had the privilege to play for a few minutes some amazing guitars. One Collings parlor sized flat top really sticks in my mind. But I've only come to really know the few guitars I've actually owned.

    I am fortunate that I think my daily player is the best guitar I've ever played. It is an original prototype for my archtops with carbon fiber soundboards. It has a number of funky issues and was the testbed for three necks, two tailpieces and two bridges. The existing combination happened by default, but having a dozen other guitars to play I more or less don't play anything else. That said, it's not a magic Swiss Army knife. It is an acoustic guitar. When I need an electric I'm in love with a new Tele copy with a single Biltoff CC in the neck.

    As much as I love my guitar I still have GAS. And I still think the next one will be even more magical. The only difference is that the "next one" is the next build not buy.


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  29. #28

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    I have 2 that are equally good, and both are better than any other electric I've played:

    1952 Les Paul
    1964 ES 335

    When I have one of these on a gig, the guitar disappears and I just play.

  30. #29

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    so difficult... and so many factors that contribute...physical, mental and spiritual...

    i will just quote the great american (nj) physician/ poet

    William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963

    so much depends
    upon

    a red wheel
    barrow

    glazed with rain
    water

    beside the white
    chickens.


    cheers

  31. #30

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    It's probably impossible to say what's been "the best". There have just been way too many over the decades, but when push came to shove this is the one I've actually kept.

    Last edited by Jim Soloway; 07-22-2017 at 05:15 PM.
    My CD "Bare Handed" is available as a download at Bandcamp.com
    http://jimsoloway.bandcamp.com/album/bare-handed

  32. #31

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    My Peter Hopkins Contessa 16" with floater which was built around 2006. I'm the 2nd owner and have had it for around nine months now. I've probably put 500 hours on it but it still sounds amazing - even unplugged - without a string change, and I use regular D'Addario rounds on this one. It is simply sublime. One of these days I will get around to doing a NGD.

  33. #32

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    The best.. difficult to say. I played a friends Khono classical and it was a big thrill, exceptional guitar! My Elferink tonemaster is pretty impressive. Also my strat (a 1999 or 2000 model i think) makes me feel very fortunate to have found it, it was broken and right-handed but it was the best strat i ever played so i bought it.

    Generally all the name guitars i 've played made it very clear why the name was built in the first place, whether it was an expensive factory model, or a luthier's instrument. But cheaper instruments surprise you sometimes, mostly solid bodies, that are kind of like a lottery partly..




  34. #33

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    Beautiful, Rob!

  35. #34

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    I have had some good ones that I regret selling: A Campellone 16" Standard, a Fender Strat American Vintage 50th Anniversary that was really special (still kicking myself on that one), a nice Taylor Grand Concert w/ maple sides & back. But, the best I have ever played is my Hutchins era L5CES. I love that guitar, and it's one that I will never part with. It has the perfect neck and plays incredibly well. The amplified tone is everything that an electric archtop should be: smoky, soulful and rich. A friend of mine has a Tal Farlow that comes in as a close second to my L5 with the same perfect neck and a different, but equally amazing tone. I couldn't ever get him to part with it, though I have tried.

    I still pine for that Strat sometimes. It, too, was perfect for what it was.

  36. #35

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    When I lived in Eugene 20 years ago Bob November used to show me what was new and cool in his shop when I stopped by. One day it was a circa 1960 L5CT (the Gobel model). I was fractured, but it was way out of my price range; 25k even then.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    You should have included a video, Joe, demonstrating what you are talking about, even if you have shared it elsewhere on this forum.

    For me, it is a copy of a guitar by Manuel Ramirez, circa 1908, made by the wonderful English luthier, Simon Ambridge, and complete with gut strings which I pluck with the flesh of my fingers rather than the nails. There is something more poetic about gut and flesh, rather than nail and nylon. It's how guitars used to be made and played. This guitar is a treasure, full of nuance, and warm, mellow and clear in all registers. Intimate. I might not have my dream jazz guitar yet, but in the meantime I am very lucky to have this beautiful classical.

    Here's a composition by Andres Segovia, who hardly ever performed his own music. It's a fine piece.

    Rob, you play the guitar like you are playing a piano. I can see why that guitar is your favorite. I immediately was able to hear the depth of sound, unlike any classical I've ever played. Outstanding Rob. As always, outstanding.

    Quote Originally Posted by vinlander View Post
    July the 24th 2015, a Friday I recall, got home from work and unpacked what would be my Jazz guitar Epiphany!
    What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_1181-jpg
    It gives me everything I look for in an instrument, tone and playability in a gorgeous package
    Honeymoon is still ongoing and I can't see when it could stop; a keeper for life !
    vinny and I were talking on Friday and we were talking about ultimate guitars. If my Tal (BooBoo) was Viceroy and was missing the bridge pickup, it might have been my choice for #1. So I totally understand Vinlander.

    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark View Post
    Maybe a photo will be in order.Made for Robert Lessey name on 17th fret 3rd NY listed.What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_0384-jpgWhat is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_0381-jpg
    ok. That might be the most beautiful and desirable guitar ever. It looks like it was born a month ago. Unreal. Amazingly beautiful.
    You really have a special one there.
    Joe D

  38. #37

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    So one lesson of this thread is that jazz guitarists don't follow directions. "There can be only one..." A good try, Joe, but probably hopeless in getting us to comply.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  39. #38

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    My 1951 Gibson Super 300 acoustic archtop hands down. Confident clear and articulate tone horizontally and vertically across the fret board . There are a couple of areas in particular where the purity of tone really does sound like a hammer struck bell which I love.

    What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-willgibsonsuper300-1-jpg

    Will

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara View Post
    So one lesson of this thread is that jazz guitarists don't follow directions. "There can be only one..." A good try, Joe, but probably hopeless in getting us to comply.
    i hear ya bro. we are just lovers at heart. We love em all.

  41. #40

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    When I was young, I hitchiked across the country. There were gov't sponsored youth hostels along the way that provided basic meals, showers and a place to roll out your sleeping bag.

    At the youth hostel in Montreal, a fellow - a singer/guitarist in town to perform IIRC - let me play his guitar - a small Martin, old even then. Lovely sound, lovely to play. Still in my mind 40+ years later.
    Last edited by Bach5G; 07-22-2017 at 08:22 PM.

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara View Post
    So one lesson of this thread is that jazz guitarists don't follow directions. "There can be only one..." A good try, Joe, but probably hopeless in getting us to comply.
    And here I was feeling good about limiting my choices to three. I could only manage that by excluding everything but archtop guitars.

  43. #42

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    Interesting all the Gibson J Smiths and LeGrands (the JS replacement) on this list. I will add a "me too":

    About 16 yrs ago I visited Mandolin Bros in Staten Island. They had 2 LeGrands on the wall. One was a great guitar, but the other was phenomenal.

    Pretty pricey so I could not take it home, but I always think about that LeGrand.

  44. #43

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    Late 30's blond L5. Played two, one with a cutaway. As I recall it, they were both so resonant it sounded like reverb, unamplified.

  45. #44

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    A very tough question, indeed. The Best Archtop would be my Unitys, all four. Same response with my American Eagle. Just the most comfortable necks, amazing to see and hear. Reverb galore.
    Flat top would be my K Yairi OY80 Leo, the one Customs wanted to keep. Has the easy neck of a Unity and is glorious in every way. Never had a flat top with such perfection. Strum or single notes all remarkably responsive to pick attack.

    What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_9680-jpgWhat is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_1645-jpg

  46. #45

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    Great guitars and great stories, wow!

    I haven't played so many jazz guitars that I could say I have met 'the best' yet, but 'the best so far' is my contemporary jazz guitar Gibson ES175 VOS 1PU 1959 Reissue. (After changing tuners, tailpiece, bridge and pickup.)

    But there is two solidbodies that made me think to sell everything else and concentrating in only one guitar. First one was the custom made Versoul Raya 6 of my bandmate. Played it just a minute in rehearsal but that resonance and responsivenes it gave were unique. And the pickups, oh my, so sweet and dynamic!

    Then my another pal gave me one of the first ever made Ruokangas Unicorns for a week to play. Sweet and dynamic guitar, perfection of what Les Pauls could have been. The spanish cedar and the handworked luthierity in it were so musical that it could play anything. Amazing.

    I played it for a week so it is the best guitar.

    Then I came back to my normal Lesters (R6 & R8). It is always good to have spare and with a Versoul and Ruokangas those spares would make a fortune.

    (See how sensible gray everyday thinking after going thru spiritual experiences!)
    Last edited by Herbie; 07-23-2017 at 12:24 AM.

  47. #46

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    Played a vintage Guild Johnny Smith Award at a shop in Westerly RI a few years back...outstanding.
    Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 07-23-2017 at 01:14 AM.

  48. #47

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    These three depending on situation...

    1990 S400 CESN great for solo work
    1940 Stromberg G1 with 70,s Fender SL Pickup fantastic acoustic tone and projection
    1966 Johnny Smith great for the big band swing and trad.

    At home I must admit that its the Stromberg that gets all the love.

    What is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_1220-jpgWhat is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_1218-jpgWhat is the best guitar you've ever played? There could only be one..-img_1221-jpg

  49. #48

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    best or best for me? hard to say. i mod the hell out of my guitars. they are quite specifically tailored for me. so even if they aren't the most expensive or prestigious things in the world, nothing works better for me. conversely, you could hand me some vintage piece or some new custom whatever and it may be the greatest thing in the world, but not for me. most of my guitars are of similar quality from similar brands and plants.

    so for me, probably the elitist sheraton or the yairi masterworks 12 fret slope i have. that yairi may be the most luxurious thing i own. best ever? hard to say. if i suspect something will be that mind blowing, i'll purposely avoid it. i don't need that in my life right now. but if i got my hands on some higher end hofners or usa gretsches, i don't know...

  50. #49

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    It's not about prestige. It's about whether you've found an uncompromising instrument from a playability and musical expression perspective. Many people do find that exquisite guitars fit that bill. They aren't valuable just because they are pretty! But conversely, neither do beauty or cost guarantee a special playing experience. A humble Partscaster can achieve that just as easily if it speaks to you.
    Permanent favorites: 2016 Gibson L-5 WesMo, 1999 Gibson L-5CESN, 1928 Gibson L-5
    Play more, buy less

  51. #50

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    Yeah, there could only be one... (yeah right)
    This morning, I polished up on some small excerpts of arrangements that for some reason have erased themselves from my brain. I pulled out the 165 and after I was done relearning the parts I forgot in I Can't Get Started, I started learning Joe Pass's version of Billy Strayhorns Lush Life ( yeah why the hell do I do this to myself), and it hit me... I kinda love the 165 too. Everything is right there. It doesn't "hold up" quite as well as the GJS but it's darn close.
    So its:
    1. GJS
    2. Es165 ( until later, when I play BooBoo..)
    Last edited by Max405; 07-23-2017 at 11:23 AM.