Hip to be square or bound for round, it’s all about the shoulders.
The dreadnought is one of the most instantly recognized guitar shapes of all time, primarily because it’s so distinctively different than any other type of guitar. The dreadnought was first introduced as a Hawaiian guitar over a century ago, and by the time inexpensive imported instruments began flooding the U.S. market in the late ’60s, they were everywhere and used for every kind of music played on steel strings. Regardless of where they came from or what they cost, however, virtually all models shared the same square-shouldered shape as those made by C.F. Martin. That’s just what a dreadnought was.
Over the last 20 years, another version has begun crowding the stage. These versions often lack a “D” in the model code, but the deep sides with a shallow waist sure look dreadnought-y, even if the more-rounded upper bouts are distinctly different. Once reserved for the pricier end of the acoustic-guitar market, this round-shouldered version now appears in virtually all guitar catalogs and websites, alongside the square-shouldered versions that old-timers think of as the “original dreadnought.” What gives?
Guitar fans may not realize this second dreadnought shape—now commonly called a “slope-shouldered” dreadnought—has actually been around for as long as the Martin shape most are familiar with. First made exclusively for the Ditson music stores (and only in mahogany), Martin’s original 12-fret dreadnoughts were redesigned in 1934 with the upper bout squared off to allow a neck with 14 frets clear of the body. By this time, Martin was also making a more expensive version in rosewood, but the company was slow to include either the D-18 or D-28 in its catalog. Gibson’s experiment with a similar deep-bodied Hawaiian model—the HG-24—began in 1929 and ended in 1933 with only a handful made. But Gibson immediately tried again with a more conventional version in 1934, and here’s where the Nazareth versus Kalamazoo rivalry gets interesting.
Gibson and Martin seemed to have an unwritten pact to not use key terms originated by the other. Martin never used the word “sunburst” for its shaded-top finish option until the ’70s, instead calling its version “shaded” or “dark top.” Gibson simply called its new deep-bodied guitars “Jumbo,” a term already used for their other bigflattop shapes as well. Odd as it may seem, the words “sunburst” and “dreadnought” wouldn’t appear together in the same guitar catalog until at least 25 years later.
Gibson clearly had its eye on Martin’s dreadnoughts and during the Great Depression offered mahogany Jumbo models at lower prices than the cost of a D-18. Primarily an archtop maker, Gibson had never relied on rosewood, but made an exception for its higher-priced flattops and soon introduced a rosewood slope-shoulder dreadnought to compete with Martin’s D-28. Introduced in 1936, Gibson’s Advanced Jumbo is now considered a high point in the company’s flattop guitar line, in terms of both sound and its distinctive style. Along with its sunburst top, this deluxe model had a distinctive art-deco, diamonds-and-arrowheads inlay design that wasn’t used on other Gibson models. Discontinued in 1940, the Advanced Jumbo’s mythical status was further enhanced by its short lifespan, making it one of the most sought after—and, later, most valuable—vintage Gibson flattops. In fact, “AJ” became a code term that almost every guitar fanatic recognized, and these rare Gibsons ranked with pre-war herringbone D-28s and were even harder to find.
Gibson abandoned the use of rosewood for its acoustic guitar bodies after WWII, and throughout the late 1940s and ’50s, the two guitar companies stayed in their respective corners. Martin relied on its mahogany D-18 and rosewood D-28 models, while Gibson used mahogany and maple for its flattops, yet stuck with mahogany for all its round-shouldered dreadnought models.
Dreadnought lovers got more options in the 1960s when Guild became a strong competitor in the acoustic-guitar market. In 1963, Guild abandoned its long allegiance to curvy, conventional guitar shapes and introduced the mahogany Bluegrass D-40 and the rosewood Bluegrass Special D-50. These new Guilds utilized the square-shouldered Martin shape. Around the same time, Gibson introduced its Dove and Hummingbird models, which were also shaped like a Martin dreadnought. Even more telling was that Gibson changed its popular Southern Jumbo (SJ) to the square-shouldered shape as well, which meant throughout the remaining years of the ’60s, their only round-shouldered dreadnoughts were the sunburst-top J-45 and its blonde-faced twin, the J-50. (Gibson-made Epiphone models like the Texan are the exception.) The final blow came as the ’60s ended, when Gibson switched those models to the square-shouldered shape as well. And throughout the 1970s and most of the ’80s, Gibson’s original round-shouldered Jumbo outline was essentially forgotten in the new-guitars market, despite steadily increasing demand for vintage examples.
It should also be noted that Martin offered its original dreadnought shape (S models) in the late ’60s and ’70s, but these wide-neck, 12-fret models had little effect on contemporary guitars. The same goes for the few round-shouldered dreadnoughts that were offered by independent luthiers in the ’70s and ’80s.
Stay tuned for my next column. We’ll discuss the remarkable comeback of the slope-shouldered dreadnought.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.