1. #1

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    Here’s a long read on my new addition: FV680CE, the Frank Vignola signature model! This was built in Oct 2018 and was a rarely-played demo guitar at Blues Angel Music. It looks and feels like a brand new instrument. I’ve only had about two hours of total play time, and I can already tell it successfully fulfills some of my goals for ergonomics and versatility:

    • smaller body size at 15 inches wide
    • shorter scale than traditional Gypsy Jazz guitars, with body connecting at 14th fret (hard to come by)
    • comfortable feeling neck profile (I don’t know the exact specs but will measure neck depth) - 1.75 in nut width

    Eastman FV680CE Frank Vignola signature model!-eastman-fv-small-1-jpg Eastman FV680CE Frank Vignola signature model!-eastman-vignola-small-2-jpg
    Overall, I think I play better on this guitar than my other acoustics. Challenging things seem easier to play. It’s a great physical fit. I wanted a versatile acoustic/electric that leaned toward Gypsy Jazz, and this guitar really does a lot of things well. It’s really responsive to change in picks, attack, and picking position. Old style acoustic blues is really satisfying to play, as is fingerstyle folk. The solo Django tunes come off well, sort of Gypsy Jazz/Classical hybrid stuff. The bass strings need to bring out more low end to be a real strummer, and while I don’t really ask that of this guitar I think different strings would help. I’d like to use this guitar to help expand my Gypsy Jazz and jazz standards range and technique.

    One positive surprise is really high fret access. I didn’t notice till recently but check out the placement of the cutaway--it's at about the 18th fret. I can comfortably reach much higher than on the Gitane Gypsy Jazz guitar. And notes still ring out beautifully up there. It’s musically usable and available space.
    Another great surprise is how versatile the Vignola is plugged in. There aren't many demos or videos that show this. I tested with a Yamaha THR10, and this guitar sounded great through a variety of amp models. Yes, for acoustic representation & mellow jazz tones but also blues overdriven tones. That Lollar Johnny Smith pickup can go from bridge-like bright and cutting all the way to traditional neck tones. I’m not sure about feedback with a larger amp and at higher volume, but my sense is that it can cover a ton of ground as an electric. I had a lot of fun playing the Stones’ “Midnight Rambler” and Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” plus some Chuck Berry tunes. Bluesy rock hollow-body stuff sounds great and feels great with the Vignola.

    Areas for improvement:
    One is that the tone wheel/pot has a very narrow sweep. Its bassy and muffled, a narrow sweet spot for mellow tones, and then just bright for most of the rest of the sweep. This does work kind of in combination with the volume setting, but overall I wish it had a wider gradual tone range. I guess one advantage to this is being able to quickly adjust tone, which requires more dexterity with the pickguard wheel placement on this model compared to a knob on the guitar top.
    Another is the fret end bevel. It’s slightly on the border of being too much angle for me. I'm not falling off, but they could have left more usable fret-end real estate. But the trade off is that the frets are super smooth.
    This guitar came with D’Addario NYXL 12-52 nickel strings (with a wound g), and they feel way more flexible than their gauge suggests. Strings in the same gauge that feel and respond tighter would be better for me.

    I’m going to try a few different types of strings on the Vignola also in the hopes of bringing out a bit more low end. It might be that the ones he reportedly uses, LaBella 12-52 nickel, are the best overall choice for acoustic and electric. However, I’m curious to optimize the acoustic tone since that’s primarily how I’ll be playing for now. I recently put Pyramid 12-52 silver-plated copper strings on my Eastman AC312 (pictured), and love the feel. They’re just like traditional Gypsy Jazz strings only in a standard gauge. I’m also curious to try Martin Retro (monel) strings, which I have enjoyed on my Gretsch Jim Dandy.

    So that's about it for now. I'll try to update this as I get to know this instrument better. In the mean time, it's a pleasure to play and seems like a great fit for me.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Congrats! May she inspire your playing for many years to come.

    My friend, Michael Horowitz (owner of Djangobooks.com) has a Benedetto Frank Vignola, which is one of Michael's few keeper guitars. Frank is an amazing player and does the Gypsy jazz thing in his own way (with a true American accent). I believe your guitar is a copy of sorts of the Thorell Vignola. Keep us informed as to your impressions.

    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass

  4. #3

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    Good for you! I have one of these and I use it constantly. Great guitar indeed! I have Thomastik 12 flat wounds on it right now and I just love them. I had various round wounds on it in the past. No matter what I string it up with it sounds great. My go to guitar for traveling as well. I use it for GJ, swing, bebop, whatever. It's kind of a Swiss army knife guitar. All around an amazing instrument.
    Doug Martin

    "Live life and play music like it's your last day on earth. One day you'll be right" - Russel Malone

  5. #4

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    Congrats. Looks beautiful. Have endless hours of fun!

  6. #5

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    @Stringswinger, thanks for the warm welcome! Yes, it's my understanding that this Eastman model was done with Frank Vignola and Ryan Thorell (based on his design), and Eastman's Bob Bakert.

    @Gitpicker , I really appreciate you sharing those observations! You're sounding and playing great on a YouTube vid I found:
    Believe me, I watched just about every vid of this guitar I could before my purchase. If you have other video or audio of your playing the Vignola, I'd be interested!

    And by the way, thank you so much for your recent contribution to Eastman's lineup of Gypsy Jazz acoustics. I had a chance to play a DM-1 in my local store, Sunrise Guitars, and was extremely impressed!

    @Rob MacKillop, thanks for the encouraging words. This guitar is so much fun to play, and I feel this is one of the most beautiful guitar designs I've ever seen--to me, a true work of art.

    Quick update:
    Neck depth is .84" at the 1st fret and 1.0" at the 12th fret, with nut width measuring 1.76".

    Strings are now Martin Retro (monel) custom light gauge, .011 .014 .023 .031 .041 .052, and this definitely sounds more pleasing to me acoustically--less metallic, fuller, louder bass strings. Previously, with the 12-52 nickel strings, my wife commented that the only way to describe it was that "it sounds like an electric guitar." And with the monel strings, she noticed "that does sound better." The lighter e and b gauges relative to the low E sounds more balanced, to me. And these monel strings feel tighter under the fingers--the wound strings feel stiffer and more appropriate for acoustic picking.

    I still think I'll eventually give the Pyramid silver-plated copper wound strings a try to see if it warms things up even more. I really like how those and the traditional gauge Gypsy Jazz strings feel under my fingers.

  7. #6

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    IMO Frank Vignola is one of the best guitarists in the world. Congrats on owning his signature axe. I enjoy Frank & Vinny as much as I enjoyed Herb & Joe. Do enjoy.

  8. #7

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    There is a used version of the original Thorell version at Archtop. Com at the moment.