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Showing posts with the label archtop

1992 Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor

While I’m on the subject of archtops, let me introduce you to the Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor. Archtop guitars usually fetch a pretty hefty price. I was glad to see Epiphone fill a market niche back in the Nineties with some affordable models that were very high quality instruments. The Joe Pass is an ornate guitar compared to the Godin previously reviewed—lots of inlay, multi-ply binding, gold hardware, and Joe Pass’ signature embossed in the pick guard. It’s not a guitar for a player who thinks “enough is enough and too much is vulgar.” It’s over the top on decoration.  The guitar has a laminated spruce top with laminated maple back and sides, which have some flame to them. The guitar came in a few classic finishes: natural, antique sunburst, cherry sunburst, black, and red. This is a small-body archtop with a 16” lower bout. Unlike acoustic archtops which are designed to be played in a jazz orchestra, the smaller body is not a downside. In fact, it’s more comfortable to hold and play.

Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin Archtop

Archtops are an acquired taste. Many acoustic players try them out an think, "Yuck!" because there is a seeming lack of resonance, sustain, and low end. Young electric players try them and crank them up where they get nothing but feedback. These players are unfamiliar with the music and role the archtop guitar was designed to play, namely that of a tuned percussion instrument in a swing band.  The archtop guitar was designed to project a very narrow range of frequencies, but project them well in a precise way. If you listen to old swing recordings from the Forties, you'll hear the archtop player playing chunky quarter notes in time with the high hat. It's almost like the high hat and the guitar blend to create the rhythm for dancing. In those days, jazz was dance music. It wasn't until the invention of the 33 1/3rd RPM long-play disc that jazz became something un-danceable. Archtops have a pronounced midrange spike that doesn't necessarily sound nice on its ow