The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    Hi one and all.

    Here's a very rough video of 3 different Johnny Smiths. It was off the cuff and therefore the quality is poor; front facing iPhone camera and microphone.
    The strings aren't all the same so this isn't a fair comparison. The GBJSA has half wound 12's, the Heritage has 11 flats? And the GJSA has 11 round wounds? I have no idea how old the strings on the GJSA or the HJS are.
    I will do a proper comparison but I'm just so busy and struggling to find time to do anything other than focus on the business. It's been fun to have an excuse to pick up and play though.

    The little tune I play at the beginning is something I picked up from the Lenny Breau documentary. It really struck me as a beautiful piece of music and I had to learn it. I started a some months ago and even started learning the finger picking (tremolo) on my classical guitar. I actually got pretty good at it and was going to share the results but again, just got too busy. This version is just with a pick and in a kind of folk style, instead of Flamenco. I will learn to play that piece exactly as Lenny doest one day.
    I don't know what the piece is called or if it even has a name. I don't think Lenny ever recorded it officially. Just a beautiful moment caught on camera.

    My impression from playing the guitars and listening to them in person and on video is as follows.

    The Guilds are far more acoustic than the Heritage. Think of a Gibson LC V:S a L5 CES. I would say they are all great but the GBJSA stands out as being somewhat of a phenomenon. It's not better per say, it's just remarkable in ways I can't articulate yet.
    If I had to do a gig tonight I would take the Heritage. It has a very even sound, which isn't always easy to find in a carved guitar, although the trade off seems to be its acoustic power. The Heritage suits flat wounds very well, allowing you to hear that round, warm, almost amplified tone, without needing to plug it in.
    Adversely I find most solid carved Archtops, including the the Guilds and the Campellone, work best with half wounds. The bass is usually tighter the higher up the neck you go and the extra bite, seems to drive the top more. They need volume to some degree and that volume comes out in the acoustic sound.
    If I was recording an album of solo jazz guitar and I wanted a detailed, rich, acoustic sound; I would pick the GBJSA.
    The GJSA sits in between that and the Heritage. Don't get me wrong I would still happily use the Heritage if I dint have the others to choose from. If I put some half wounds on her, she might give the others a run for their money.

    Of course your ears may hear something different and I'd love to know what you think.
    Any question let me know.

    The Heritage is the easiest to play despite having a longer scale length than the GJSA. That being said the GJSA does need a proper set up and the frets looking at. I don't find the GBJSA too much of a handful. It would be nice if the neck was a bit flatter on the back but that's my only con really. The scale length is ok. If you play an acoustic guitar then you're more than used to it.


    Check out the sustain on the GJSA at 3:28.



    Tune 5:35

    Last edited by ArchtopHeaven; 06-21-2022 at 05:29 PM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Ok, are you ready for what I heard. I listen as well as I can and yes not having the same strings is a bit and issue. One thing that stands out is to me the Heritage JS was by far the best sounding and it had flatwounds and only an 11 on top. The Benedetto was second to me in sound and in certain things it was equal the Heritage. I must admit the sound of the AA was dull to me and lack a sense of roundness, the notes decay very quick and to me it was the least responsive. The Heritage I could tell was very responsive and Benedetto but just not as smooth.

    My personal guess is the Heritage with full roundwound 12-52's will carry the most volume and with a set of half-rounds will have a delicious sound. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    Ok, are you ready for what I heard. I listen as well as I can and yes not having the same strings is a bit and issue. One thing that stands out is to me the Heritage JS was by far the best sounding and it had flatwounds and only an 11 on top. The Benedetto was second to me in sound and in certain things it was equal the Heritage. I must admit the sound of the AA was dull to me and lack a sense of roundness, the notes decay very quick and to me it was the least responsive. The Heritage I could tell was very responsive and Benedetto but just not as smooth.

    My personal guess is the Heritage with full roundwound 12-52's will carry the most volume and with a set of half-rounds will have a delicious sound. That is my story and I am sticking to it.
    Thanks for chipping in. I don't disagree because there's no right or wrong answer, given that it's largely subjective. I don't like the look of the Heritage and I don't really like the feel of it but I do like the way it's effortless to play and sounds great. I would say I still prefer the sound of a good L5CES but the deeper body just gives that bigger sound. I think the GBJS has that deeper sound but there's not much point in me making outright claims, until I get some bigger strings on the Heritage.
    The Heritage JS is a great guitar. I can see why people hold them in high regard.
    Last edited by ArchtopHeaven; 06-21-2022 at 07:00 PM.

  5. #4

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    I loved them all. I really did. My favorite is Guild Benedetto JS.
    But what I love the most? You.
    You didn’t need to do this for us. That was a lot of effort. Archie great great job.
    The reason I the GBJS is for me is I am a light picker. And I play all over the neck. The GBJS is an extraordinary guitar.
    And by the way your playing is fantastic. Don’t sell yourself short.
    Outstanding job Archie.
    Joe D

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max405
    I loved them all. I really did. My favorite is Guild Benedetto JS.
    But what I love the most? You.
    You didn’t need to do this for us. That was a lot of effort. Archie great great job.
    The reason I the GBJS is for me is I am a light picker. And I play all over the neck. The GBJS is an extraordinary guitar.
    And by the way your playing is fantastic. Don’t sell yourself short.
    Outstanding job Archie.
    Joe D
    Thanks Joe. Worth it for your comment alone!

    I can't wait to show you guys the pics. I haven't taken them yet but will do over the next couple of days. I'm reverse engineering the guitars tomorrow and then we'll get down to some eye candy.

  7. #6

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    I agree with Deacon Mark that the Heritage sounds best, followed by the GB. But your saying that the H is the least acoustic sounding of the bunch in the room makes me think that it sounding better in the video is an artifact of how the recording was done.

  8. #7

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    Thanks for sharing. All three guitars sound great. The 2 Guilds sounded very close to me and were more acoustic sounding than the Heritage. After the first example, I had trouble distinguishing which Guild was being played because they look so similar. I think the Benedetto was a little louder/brighter. I found myself confirming that the Heritage was not plugged in because it almost sounded like it was. Based on this video, I would choose the Heritage, but of course a lot would depend on how much I liked how it played.

  9. #8

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    See Archie..
    Everybody hates the Guild Benedetto. Thats why you have to pack that shit up and ship to to New Jersey!
    Just kidding. I have always wanted one of those. Ever since I swung and missed on the one 2B had. I just like it. Once again, it would never sound like that in my hands because I am a sissy picker. AND, I'd never hear it acoustically anyway. But, I just love the look of it. The very polished nature. The bindings. Its a really beautiful guitar man. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you to play more. Because you got chops.
    JD
    PS, the more I listen to the Heritage, the more I remember what my HJS's use to sound like. They dont sound boutique'y. They are subdued and smooth, alot like Gibsons. I am sure your HJS would be an incredible electric guitar with the right pickup. I like it.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max405
    See Archie..
    Everybody hates the Guild Benedetto. Thats why you have to pack that shit up and ship to to New Jersey!
    Just kidding. I have always wanted one of those. Ever since I swung and missed on the one 2B had. I just like it. Once again, it would never sound like that in my hands because I am a sissy picker. AND, I'd never hear it acoustically anyway. But, I just love the look of it. The very polished nature. The bindings. Its a really beautiful guitar man. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you to play more. Because you got chops.
    JD
    PS, the more I listen to the Heritage, the more I remember what my HJS's use to sound like. They dont sound boutique'y. They are subdued and smooth, alot like Gibsons. I am sure your HJS would be an incredible electric guitar with the right pickup. I like it.
    Did I tell you that guitar was signed by your hero, Johnny Smith?

  11. #10

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    Clearly to my ears the best sounding of the 3 was the GBJSA. It’s tonality sung loud and clearly, while the guitar has a depth to it that none of the other 3 had. And it’s sustain could only be surpassed by a much more expensive custom archtop.

    The second was the Guild, which held a very respectable position in comparison to the GBJSA. But in the end it too couldn’t hold a candle to the GBJSA.

    The Heritage sounded thin. So much so that it should not have been in the competition.

    I will add, having owned each of these Archtop’s, the GBJSA is the finest archtop that you’ve never played, yet owned.

    All that in spite of that horrid finish. It wasn’t to my liking because I’d been so accustomed to regular lacquer finishes. What the heck was this? It almost felt like a certain tackiness to the touch. But in the end, by the time you applied Virtuoso Premium Polish it cleaned up so nicely you said, oh what the heck.

    My .02

  12. #11

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    Thanks AH! And good playing)
    The GJSA reminded me of the late 80’s Artist Award I had. Pretty guitar, with a strong acoustic sound but too acoustic, almost tiring for me if that makes any sense.
    The GBJSA was a surprise to me, balanced sound and smooth, I liked it a lot, and I’m not a fan of acoustic archtop sounds. (I’m a peasant, I know.)
    But the Heritage spoke more to me as the jazz sound I personally like, and would I think be inspired by.
    Curious if there’s a big difference in weight between the Gs and the H?
    jk

  13. #12

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    I find this whole thread interesting in how we find the sounds to each one's ear. Lots of different takes and I find it fun. In the end which one is the best? The one that inspires you to pick up the guitar and play a melody.

  14. #13

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    Amen Deacon! If it makes you want to play it’s the right one.
    Would it not be cool to run a controlled set of listening tests with archtops? We attended a Smithsonian event at a winery a while ago. It was put on by a couple of PhDs working on the effects of different DNA on sense of taste/smell. Very interesting and proved with wine and food in a controlled manner that what I tasted was not at all what ms jk did.
    We have tons of hearsay (and arguments))) on archtop sound here, but establishing a reference standard would be interesting.
    With the same strings, of course. TI would love us

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop
    Did I tell you that guitar was signed by your hero, Johnny Smith?
    Oh yes. I wanted that guitar.
    And the Heritage JS has signed labels signed by Johnny too. That still means something to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop
    Clearly to my ears the best sounding of the 3 was the GBJSA. It’s tonality sung loud and clearly, while the guitar has a depth to it that none of the other 3 had. And it’s sustain could only be surpassed by a much more expensive custom archtop.
    The second was the Guild, which held a very respectable position in comparison to the GBJSA. But in the end it too couldn’t hold a candle to the GBJSA.
    The Heritage sounded thin. So much so that it should not have been in the competition.
    I will add, having owned each of these Archtop’s, the GBJSA is the finest archtop that you’ve never played, yet owned.
    All that in spite of that horrid finish. It wasn’t to my liking because I’d been so accustomed to regular lacquer finishes. What the heck was this? It almost felt like a certain tackiness to the touch. But in the end, by the time you applied Virtuoso Premium Polish it cleaned up so nicely you said, oh what the heck.
    My .02
    I have a feeling you saved me from myself on that one 2b. As I remember it, I was on the fence about the scale length (which to me now, is no longer even remotely an issue). You pm’d and said you have until such and such a time to pull the trigger. So I talked to (ok, maybe begged) my wife and she gave me the ok to buy. When I reached back out to you, well within the time limit, you said (with class, as usual), I’m sorry Joe, you are too late. I got a feeling, you weren’t comfortable selling to me for the reasons you pointed out. 2b, I appreciate you for that and many other reasons.
    But you have to say.. man that was a beautiful guitar.
    And like all others during my life, it would been long gone after I got it.
    JD

  16. #15

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    The GBJSA has half wound 12's, the Heritage has 11 flats? And the GJSA has 11 round wounds? I have no idea how old the strings on the GJSA or the HJS are.


    I have limited experience in this analysis. Here's my take. I found the Benedetto Guild JS to be beautifully built but with heavy lacquer. The stock pickup was okay. It played well and sounded fine amplified. Acoustically it seemed muted. I took the finish off of one and had a thinner amount of lacquer applied. It became louder and brighter, which was no surprise.

    Heritages usually have less lacquer than the GBJSA, often less lacquer than the GJS. I'm not sure there really is much difference as a rule between those two models acoustically. I've owned seven HJS. The tops seems slightly thinner than the GJS. That may be an illusion to me though. The HJS is built as an acoustic guitar fundamentally. This is also true for the ghost built Gretsch Eldorados and D'Angelicos.

    I don't recall any muting of the notes going up the neck on any of them. My ears may not be as sophisticated as others, I admit.

    The strings do make a big difference. Even I can hear that.

  17. #16

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    My Heritage JS has a Bartolini Pickup and it is wonderful. I think maybe one of the best pickups I have heard. I might have to consider one of these if I ever need one really. The top on mine seems a bit thinner than most I see at least commercial Gibson's and Guilds. I have much experience with handmade archtops and they are generally much thinner so I am used to this. However just looking at the thickness around the F-holes is not the entire picture. A properly made/carved spruce top has a carving pattern that is thinner in the middle area than where the f holes are. On each side of where the bridge sits about 1 inch toward the rim is where they are the thinnest. Then depending on the marker and carving pattern all is up for grabs. Also the finish on mine is consistent and appears thinner than Gibson's. Nitro finishes can vary in thickness just depending on the conditions it was sprayed under. A few coats here and there, are no big deal for sound as far as making it worse. Thick poly finishes for sure, and I suppose thick nitro would not be as resonant. Nobody who has any finishing skills is trying to put down a thick coat of Nitro that would not make sense. Remember finishing is a complete art in itself. The masters like Mark Campellone simple are masters at all aspects.

  18. #17

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    Deacon Mark,
    I was hoping someone with a deeper knowledge than myself commented on top thickness. I agree with you 120,000%. The thickness at the F-holes is definitely NOT indicative of the top thickness overall. Case in point..
    I once tried out a fancy Archtop and looked at the F-Holes to gauge the top thickness. I was shocked by the deep, depth of the binding around the f-holes. The thickest I ever saw.. So I played the guitar and immediately noticed there was really no bottom at all. In fact it was kind of thin and plinky sounding. So I reached into the f-hole with my finger and low and behold, the binding extended at least a 1/16th of an inch PAST the underside of the top! I thought that was a peculiar design. I even asked the dealer if he thought the binding was applied as an alteration. He said no, that guitar came with those bindings from the factory.
    You are on the money, as usual.
    JD

  19. #18

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    Gorgeous guitars all around; I could happily suffer with any of them

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max405
    Deacon Mark,
    I was hoping someone with a deeper knowledge than myself commented on top thickness. I agree with you 120,000%. The thickness at the F-holes is definitely NOT indicative of the top thickness overall. Case in point..
    I once tried out a fancy Archtop and looked at the F-Holes to gauge the top thickness. I was shocked by the deep, depth of the binding around the f-holes. The thickest I ever saw.. So I played the guitar and immediately noticed there was really no bottom at all. In fact it was kind of thin and plinky sounding. So I reached into the f-hole with my finger and low and behold, the binding extended at least a 1/16th of an inch PAST the underside of the top! I thought that was a peculiar design. I even asked the dealer if he thought the binding was applied as an alteration. He said no, that guitar came with those bindings from the factory.
    You are on the money, as usual.
    JD
    Well binding comes in certain widths and if you only have too wide and dont like scraping…

    some people focus on what can be seen and heard and some are perfectionists in every detail. I admire perfectionists unless I am paying for their time

  21. #20

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    Since the advent of cheap fiberoptic scopes, it is possible to look at the bracing and the top carving better. It won't give measurements of the thickness though.


    2bornot2bop had a pic that showed the finish depth on a GBJSA because of a chip missing. It is very deep. Pete Moreno, who removed the finish from mine, said he's never seen such a thick finish.

  22. #21

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    Calipers

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    Calipers

    Damn I wish I could remember the name but there's a gauge called Haulnacker Gauge? Which allows you to measure the thickness of a wood plate that you cannot access from both sides.
    I have a digital version of the same thing. Mine uses a ball bearing that you run along the underside of a top, sides or bottom plate and the handheld device, has a magnet which registers to the ball magnet using a hall effect sensor type set up.

    The older gauge is a spring in a tube that releases a catch based on the same idea with a magnetised ball own the underside of the wood. Luthiers use them to gauge how think they're carving when tuning an attached top. I use them for reverse engineering arched plates and sides.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchtopHeaven
    Damn I wish I could remember the name but there's a gauge called Haulnacker Gauge? Which allows you to measure the thickness of a wood plate that you cannot access from both sides.
    I have a digital version of the same thing. Mine uses a ball bearing that you run along the underside of a top, sides or bottom plate and the handheld device, has a magnet which registers to the ball magnet using a hall effect sensor type set up.

    The older gauge is a spring in a tube that releases a catch based on the same idea with a magnetised ball own the underside of the wood. Luthiers use them to gauge how think they're carving when tuning an attached top. I use them for reverse engineering arched plates and sides.
    Hacklinger

  25. #24

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    Yeah the different stings probably make a difference, but I like the Benedetto the most. Loud and full.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Grass
    Since the advent of cheap fiberoptic scopes, it is possible to look at the bracing and the top carving better. It won't give measurements of the thickness though.


    2bornot2bop had a pic that showed the finish depth on a GBJSA because of a chip missing. It is very deep. Pete Moreno, who removed the finish from mine, said he's never seen such a thick finish.
    That’s been over 6 years ago. Good memory. And that’s why JD didn’t buy it, because it wasn’t perfect. It found a home in Australia though.