The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    So, I did end up buying the blonde '39 L-5 listed at Schoenberg Guitars, and having used it a couple gigs already, all I can say is "wow". It's an ideal swing rhythm guitar, and it has the punch I dig from Epiphones, but retaining the sweetness I prefer from Gibsons. It's visually striking (which is nice, presentationally), plus aesthetically it probably fits the era I actually play better than my '32 L-5.

    1939 Gibson L-5-p170712002_photo-02-jpg

    They took the pickguard off at the store, because it was gassing off, and starting to discolor the top. I'm going to put a replacement guard on there asap, because I depend on having a "finger rest".

    Here's a pic of the guitar chilling next to my '32 while I was still evaluating it:

    1939 Gibson L-5-photo-nov-11-9-50-16-am-jpg

    The only thing that really gave me any pause about the guitar was the fact that the frets were basically gone. It was basically a fretless wonder. So, it definitely needs to get a whole new set of frets, but if its that loud now, I'm guessing its going to get even better with a proper set of frets.

    And here's a little video I shot talking about the guitar, and A/Bing it with my 1932.

    Finally, the store still has the guitar listed, so you can check out all the pictures from the listing: Gibson L-5 Acoustic Archtop Guitar, Vintage 1939 |


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Fantastic guitar, erm guitars, great video Jonathan. Well done.


  4. #3

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    Not to mention, it was apparently Freddie Green’s !

    major congrats

    and lovely vid as always !!

  5. #4

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    Congrats - a beauty for sure!

  6. #5

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    What (a) beautiful instrument(s)! So nice to have such choices!

  7. #6

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    Exceptional choice for swing. Great guitar to join your '32.

  8. #7

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    Nice stuff Jonathan,But it's the 32' that warms my heart.You are a lucky man,enjoy.

  9. #8

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    Thanks, Jonathan. Glad those 2 L-5's are in good hands - -yours !

    Congrats and again thank you. Always appreciate your vid's.


  10. #9

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    Thanks for the exceptional video. My gratitude to you for entertainment & education on a favorite subject.

    Of course, congratulations on your new companion!

    Life is cluttered with necessary compromises but seeing these exceptional instruments
    matched with your musicianship is not among them. Harmony!

    Also, Eric Schoenberg is expert & a grand fellow.

  11. #10

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    I have played quite extensively a 16" L-5 from the late-20s, an X-braced '38 L-5, and a '39 L-5. My notes match yours pretty well.

    If I wanted the perfect guitar with which to accompany a singer, I would choose the 16". It is so sweet. Eddy Lang had it right when he accompanied Bing Crosby.

    If I wanted a perfect guitar with which to do a solo acoustic guitar gig, I would choose the X-braced L-5--no doubt about it. (A L-12 would do quite nicely, though.) This is such a sweet orchestral guitar. It's an entire symphony orchestra/grand piano, right on your lap.

    To accompany a swing band, however, I would certainly gravitate to the parallel-braced '39 L-5. It is Epiphone loud and Gibson sweet--not as sweet as a '38, but it isn't as mid-rangey as an Epi. (Note: an Epiphone will sit in the mix with a swing band, too--it just won't have the low-end heft of the big L-5.)

  12. #11

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    The $100 L-5. That's living right!

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    Those are awesome guitars, I had one just like yours back in the day. Paid $100 for it. Really.

    Attachment 48132
    ...Wow, and wow again ! Back in the day, my $100. bought me my first guitar - -a 335 style Greco, and even that was $125.

    1962, ??

  14. #13

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    Very excited for you, Jonathan. I recently made a purchase in the other direction, fulfilling the working man's version of your rig. I had a 37 L7 and I just got a 34 L7. I think we're feeling the same impressions from our instruments in the reverse order. Here's what I previously said about it on another thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by omphalopsychos

    1934 L-7 specs:
    16" wide, trapeze tailpiece, single bound top, back, rosewood fingerboard, varied pattern fingerboard inlays starting at 3rd fret, single bound peghead, fleur-de-lis peghead inlay, nickel plated parts, parallel bracing, sunburst finish.

    1937 L-7 specs:
    17" wide, X-braced top, ornate rectangle-enclosed fingerboard inlays, double-handled vase and curlicues peghead inlay, tailpiece with pointed ends and raised arrowheads.

    They are very different instruments physically. The '34 is smaller of course, but it also has a wider nut, flatter fretboard, and a much heftier v-neck profile. Having played this neck, I wish all my guitars had the same neck. There's something unique about these dimensions and allows the player to feel the fullness of the neck, but with tons of room on the fretboard. It's very different from the thick fender profile, which, even with its heft in the profile, gives me a cramped sensation due to the narrow nut and curved board. This is one of the most comfortable and maneuverable necks I've ever played. The only neck I can think to compare it to is that of 1930s ES 150 CC that I had the pleasure of playing once.

    Soundwise, I think people know what to expect. The 37 has more bass and is louder. The spectrum of the 37 is more concentrated in the mid range and the sound is much "brassier". When strummed harder the 37 just gets louder and louder. I don't think I've actually experienced the upper limit of the 37's volume due to the finitude of my mortal strength. At the same time, the 37 takes some force to get it to sing. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but the 37 doesn't want to give it up so easily for delicate playing. You can get a delicate sound out of it, but it requires a deliberate and disciplined technique.

    The 34 on the other hand feels more "compressed", if I may use that term. It doesn't scream in the same way as the 37, but it responds willingly to a soft touch. Its sustain outlasts that of the 37 by seconds. It's tonal spectrum is more evenly distributed. Its seems more "woody" as compared to the 37s "brassiness", but it has a bit more shimmer going on on the top end as well. The 34 shines for chord melody and solo guitar. Lately I've been working on some Brazilian tunes by Dilermando Reis and Baden Powell which sound unbelievable through this instrument. I have been playing them using hybrid picking because the 34 is, believe it or not, an archtop that can be fingerpicked. I think the natural compression of the instrument and evenness of response helps to balance the tonal qualities of finger vs plectrum.

  15. #14

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    That is a real stunner. I was looking around a month or so ago for a 2nd L5 from 1939, to keep my baby company. Yours is an incredible example, and having looked at their other items for sale it appears they have some nice gear and not too crazy prices... Your playing is superb.

    Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it and good health many, many years.


  16. #15

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    Also, as I'm sure you realize, you're not finished until you get a 40's non-cut acoustic L5 to compare.

  17. #16

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    Congrats on the new L-5. May she inspire your playing for years to come.

  18. #17

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    Sweet. Nice playing too!


  19. #18

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    I just love the rounder tone of the '32. It's just a fantastic guitar. I really look forward to hearing the '39 after it's refretted. It sounds great now in your very capable hands, but I'm sure it will ring out better and we will get to see what it can really do with new frets.

  20. #19

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    Congratulations on the New Old Guitar Day. That is one fabulous example of an iconic instrument. I enjoyed your side by side with the two, and the review of the differences and the thought and effort you put into the decision to make the purchase. It's gorgeous and sounds gorgeous too! Something like one of them is on my bucket list. New frets are going to blast the sound into another universe. Enjoy that beauty. It would be nice to attend one of your performances someday and do a little swinging. Thanks for the post.


  21. #20

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    Solid musical performance and playing technique that really highlighted the differences between both guitars.

    Both guitars are excellent sounding, although the projection and clarity, together with the note separation in chordwork the '39 has makes it my favourite.

    Thank you very much for the video. It was both very informative and entertaining at the same time. Kudos!

    Yours very truly,

  22. #21

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    Great video. I am actually surprised at how much louder the 39 is. I owned the same (as I mentioned and showed in an earlier post), and a mid-20's. While the decades fog my memory, I remember the 20's version to be louder.

  23. #22

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    Monster chops and sweet sounding Gibby’s for sure. Congrats on the new great L5 !

  24. #23

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    "Timbre is more important than volume..." [insert standing ovation image] Absolutely spot-on! You've got a couple of National Treasures there, as well you know. Congratulations, and play them in good health!

  25. #24

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    Thanks for the comprehensive side by side. Congratulations on you newest acquisition which sounds great and looks beautiful. The finish is spectacular.

    Tony D.

  26. #25

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    Congrats on the new L5. It's stunning. And thanks for the great explanation and demonstration of the differences between the guitars' construction and the demonstration of their difference in tone. I particularly love your Cheek to Cheek arrangement. You should do a chord melody video playing that song if you haven't done one already.

    Is there any chance that you could upload a copy of your video in HD? I'd really like to watch it in full screen mode and 480p just doesn't do justice to your guitars and your playing.