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  1. #1

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    Hi guys,
    I am thinking about buying my first archtop because I fall in love with Peter Bernstein’s sound.
    There is something I really like about the balance and the acoustic voice of his guitar but I don’t know what to look for.
    I always play my 15’ Semihollow guitar that I really love but I’d like to play something different sometimes.
    Do you have some advice about where to find something similar?
    I am in Europe and my budget is around 4000€.
    Thank you!

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  3. #2

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    For that amount you might find a used Collings Eastside, a Gibson L-4 / L-7 (with added pickup), look along those lines. Also possible (with a little luck and patience) is a used Elferink, Stefan Sonntag, .... Bernstein's tone is indeed nicely balanced, also because he has a very controlled right hand touch and the guitar is set up accordingly. Where in Europe are you ? Good Luck !

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by gitman
    For that amount you might find a used Collings Eastside, a Gibson L-4 / L-7 (with added pickup), look along those lines. Also possible (with a little luck and patience) is a used Elferink, Stefan Sonntag, .... Bernstein's tone is indeed nicely balanced, also because he has a very controlled right hand touch and the guitar is set up accordingly. Where in Europe are you ? Good Luck !
    Thank you!
    I was looking at Elferink guitars and maybe for something really good I could add something to the budget.
    Do you think there is something in the construction features of Peter's guitar that I have to look for?
    I'm in Italy.
    Thank you!

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave93
    Thank you!
    I was looking at Elferink guitars and maybe for something really good I could add something to the budget.
    Do you think there is something in the construction features of Peter's guitar that I have to look for?
    I'm in Italy.
    Thank you!
    Bernstein's guitar is a little unusual -- it's an acoustic archtop with a full-sized floating humbucker (I believe it's a Gibson pup). Usually, a full-sized pickup won't fit in the space at the end of the fingerboard and most floating pickups are either mini-humbuckers, something as wide as full-size but flatter, or something along the lines of a DeArmond RC-style pickup. Think of someone like Ron Affif or Martin Taylor -- that's the almost stereotypical floating mini-humbucker sound. But the neck on Bernstein's guitar is built a little further above the soundboard than is typical, so a PAF style pickup fits. It was made by a Luthier named John Zeidler, who passed away quite young, so there aren't many of his guitars around, and they're very expensive. But if there's one construction detail to look for I'd say it's room for a full-sized Gibson-style humbucker.

    Anyway, one of the effects of this is that Bernstein's electric sound is a little closer to the sound of a set-in pickup than one usually hears in a floating pickup. So I would suggest considering carved top guitars with set-in pickups (such as the L4 suggested above) to get closer to that sound. The other thing is Bernstein's amp of choice is a Fender Vibrolux Reverb, turned up to the point that it's distorting a little (he uses other Fender amps on the road, but that's what he records with and performs with in NY). His amp is giving him a little bit of extra sustain and midrange sweetness because of that, So, to really nail that sort of tone, you need either a tube amp, or something that does a good job of emulating one (e.g., one of the new Quilters, some of the modelers). One of the more hi-fi sounding "jazz" amps is not exactly the right sound because they're cleaner than and have different "tone stacks" from BF and SF Fenders.

    In the end, though, I think there's more than one way to skin this cat, and I'm going to contradict what I said above and say that the real secret is to have the sound in your head that you're looking for. Then develop an understanding of how tone controls and gain work on amps, get a feel for different styles of pickups and guitars, and just keep trying stuff until you figure out how to get what you like. Sounding like Bernstein (or Wes, or Pass, or whomever) is something of an exercise in futility since their sounds come more from how and what they play than their equipment. Basically, if you have a neck pickup and an amp, all the rest is commentary, and it's up to you to get the sound in our head out of your equipment.]]

    John

    John

  6. #5

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    It is a Gibson pickup

  7. #6

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    I don't think there is one special feature in Peter's instrument that would make such a big difference - as far as I know he plays a Zeidler guitar , a "normal" 17" wide acoustic archtop with a full-size humbucker pickup mounted at the end of the fingerboard. If you listen carefully to players like Anthony Wilson, Larry Koonse, Pat Kelley or you italian colleague Gaetano Valli they all get a more or less similar tone even though they often use plywood-topped instruments. Flatwound strings will yield a smoother tone without finger-noise, a nickel/roundwound string will give you more brilliance and sustain. The D'Addario haldrounds are a useable compromise.

  8. #7

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    I like the analogy of fruit and winemaking. You can't make good wine with bad fruit, but you can make bad wine from great fruit! There are a lot of great archtops, but knowing how to make the sound is a sine qua non. Cheers!

  9. #8

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    This here in GB is an unbeatable deal :
    1989 HERITAGE Eagle (entspricht einer Gibson l5-c) Electric Tele Guitar | eBay

    I doubt that you'll find a better offer for a solid wood archtop in that quality-bracket !

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    It is a Gibson pickup
    do we know if PB's pickup is off a Gibson Howard Roberts
    or if it's a normal HB ?

  11. #10
    Thank you all!
    I have a Fender Tonemaster deluxe reverb that I really love and I know that the sound is in our head and fingers but with a Semihollow is a little bit difficult to achieve an acoustic sound, don’t you think?
    Also we can hear a big difference between Peter’s sound on his L5 and on his Zeidler.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave93
    Thank you all!
    I have a Fender Tonemaster deluxe reverb that I really love and I know that the sound is in our head and fingers but with a Semihollow is a little bit difficult to achieve an acoustic sound, don’t you think?
    Also we can hear a big difference between Peter’s sound on his L5 and on his Zeidler.
    You can dial in extra brilliance and cut some mids so your semi will come a bit closer but since it's a shallow and stiff soundbox you won't get the depth and resonance like with a full hollowbody.
    There is certainly an audible difference between PB's L5 and the Zeidler - one has a thick spruce top with 2 heavy pickups built in and the other is a lightly built acoustic guitar with nothing mounted directly to the top.
    However, listen to Tuck Andress (of Tuck and Patti) and you'll hear him coaxing a VERY bright and acoustic-sounding tone out of his L5 ! He uses an active pickup (plus an onboard preamp) and always goes directly into the board/mixing console, no guitar amp.... go and experiment !

  13. #12

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    Nico Moffa is in Italy and you should check him out. Moffa guitars have floating humbuckers like Peter Bernstein's.

    Moffa Guitars |

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwocky
    Nico Moffa is in Italy and you should check him out. Moffa guitars have floating humbuckers like Peter Bernstein's.

    Moffa Guitars |
    I like Moffa guitars but the are way out of my budget.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by gitman
    I don't think there is one special feature in Peter's instrument that would make such a big difference - as far as I know he plays a Zeidler guitar , a "normal" 17" wide acoustic archtop with a full-size humbucker pickup mounted at the end of the fingerboard. If you listen carefully to players like Anthony Wilson, Larry Koonse, Pat Kelley or you italian colleague Gaetano Valli they all get a more or less similar tone even though they often use plywood-topped instruments. Flatwound strings will yield a smoother tone without finger-noise, a nickel/roundwound string will give you more brilliance and sustain. The D'Addario haldrounds are a useable compromise.
    I’d suggest a Benedetto Bravo or similar?

  16. #15

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    If that’s a bit pricey, Eastman is probably best bet...

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by skykomishone
    I like the analogy of fruit and winemaking. You can't make good wine with bad fruit, but you can make bad wine from great fruit! There are a lot of great archtops, but knowing how to make the sound is a sine qua non. Cheers!
    And you can make great distillates from bad wine.

  18. #17

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    I know, but it's not wine, It's brandy, with endless varieties and qualities. I prefer to look at the progression of wine to brandy as reincarnation.

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by gitman
    This here in GB is an unbeatable deal :
    1989 HERITAGE Eagle (entspricht einer Gibson l5-c) Electric Tele Guitar | eBay

    I doubt that you'll find a better offer for a solid wood archtop in that quality-bracket !
    I like this guitar, do you think it could sound similar to what I am searching for?
    I am a little worried about the crack repaired, what do you think?

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave93
    I like this guitar, do you think it could sound similar to what I am searching for?
    I am a little worried about the crack repaired, what do you think?
    With the right set of strings, maybe a different pickup and PRACTICE this guitar will almost certainly deliver the type of
    tone you are chasing !
    Let the seller send you some close-up photos of the repairs so you can see if the repair is really as perfect as he claims.
    As per the stability and sound of the guitar : since it is a SOLID top I think a couple of small cracks are not problematic and these do not have any
    negative effect on the tone. Uncountable vintage guitars (archtop and flattop) have cracked tops and backs, sometimes with whole pieces replaced and they
    still sound and perform just fine.
    You should also ask about the pickup : he writes that it is a Kent Armstrong pickup with a tone control on the pickguard-
    however what I see looks like the original (Schaller ?) floating pickup with a VOLUME pot in the pickguard.
    Despite these (minor) issues I still think it would be worth your while to check this out. Be careful, prudent and sensible and
    you could end up with a fine instrument that will give you excellent service and make your music making a whole lot
    more fun ! Good luck !

  21. #20

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    Your best bet is probably a heritage, Eastman, or even a Gibson. Make sure it’s got a Gibson PAF. I also notice that guitars with no bridge pickup sound more acoustic and more akin to Peter.

    A second and equally important factor are your strings. Peter uses John Pearce strings exclusively. I’ve used them, they sound great but don’t last long (good thing they’re cheap). Important note - he uses 14s! This is a large part of his sound.

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by MHoranzy
    Your best bet is probably a heritage, Eastman, or even a Gibson. Make sure it’s got a Gibson PAF. I also notice that guitars with no bridge pickup sound more acoustic and more akin to Peter.

    A second and equally important factor are your strings. Peter uses John Pearce strings exclusively. I’ve used them, they sound great but don’t last long (good thing they’re cheap). Important note - he uses 14s! This is a large part of his sound.
    Thank you!
    This is the information I need! Do you think it's possible in some way to put a Gibson PAF on a floating pickup archtop?

  23. #22

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    You still won’t sound like Peter obv

  24. #23

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    But there’s a certain bell like clarity in expensive archtops, particularly in the top end that I do think is down to the gear.

  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    You still won’t sound like Peter obv
    Of course, I want to sound like myself but I like that kind of sound (I don't like the more modern Jazz guitar players sound) and I need something similar, like an Archtop.

  26. #25

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    I don't know about Italy import duties and all. Peter Bernstein's Zeidler is a high bar. If you are willing to settle for something close enough, a Kent Armstrong floating 12-pole PAF on a laminated archtop may do the trick.

    Give Steve Holst or Victor Baker or Ned Whittemore a shout. You can google search them. They may be able to give you what you want at your €4000 budget. Keep your eyes open for a used Moffa, too. They do come up now and then.

    Franz Elferink, Daniel Slaman and Stephan Sonntag are worth calling up, too.