Parlor guitars, and the family of 6-string instruments from which they evolved, are some of the oldest, most venerable flattops in history. These guitars date back as far as, well, when folks still used the word parlor, and in the last few decades, they’ve moved in and out of vogue, but the expressive and practical qualities of good parlor models are beyond question. They’re small enough to be perfect travel companions, they’re inconspicuous enough to stow in a corner or hang on the wall at the ready for an impromptu house (parlor?) jam, and they generate tones that can be tough to coax from any other type of 6-string.
Made in Canada, Simon & Patrick (along with its sister brands in the Godin family) have, in part, made guitars with unique voices, shapes, and feel their stock-in-trade. So a parlor seems a natural for the company. Even so, the entirely solid spruce-and-mahogany Woodland Pro is a fantastic and intriguing guitar by any measure.
Like almost every Simon & Patrick we cross paths with, the build quality is very clean. On the Woodland Pro parlor, the exterior detail work and finish are well executed and thoughtful. The rosewood rosette lends a modern and distinctly Simon & Patrick touch, the white binding lends an uptown-and-classy, dressed-up look, and the three-color sunburst has a unique honey hue. The guitar is darn near flawless on the inside too, the exception being a groove in the kerfing that’s cut a bit too wide.
As it turns out, the Woodland Pro Parlor is a master of illusion. The low end it generates, at times, seems to defy physics. And in spite of the diminutive dimensions, it generates not just freakishly big bass, but a bottom end full of overtones, body, and dimension. Likewise, the sustain is sometimes mind-blowing—way more in line with a piano than parlor guitar. The Woodland Pro Parlor is a potential recording star.
Overachieving lows aside, the guitar sounds very even, concise, and colorful without being bossy—qualities that can make an acoustic rhythm track or fingerpicked melody sit perfectly in a mix. There’s plenty of definition for funky syncopated rhythms and hammer-ons, but delicate picking generates a spectrum of harpsichord- and dulcimer-like tones that can work in harmony with a dreadnought rhythm part or a bass track.
Playing pentatonic blues leads is a treat. Individual notes have a cool, snarling clarity, and the guitar as a whole has very elastic feel and playability that invites bends. Here again, that logic-defying sustain comes into play. And you can linger with a single note quivering with finger vibrato for a bar—or two—without going AWOL in a song.
A lot of players probably won’t give a parlor a second glance, because of its Lilliputian dimensions. But pickers who take even a minute to explore the many possibilities of the Woodland Pro Parlor are likely to be amply rewarded for their open-mindedness and curiosity. At almost 750 bucks, the Woodland Pro Parlor isn’t a cheap second guitar. But what’s most impressive abut it is the way that it can stand in for just about any flattop, save for a dreadnought or jumbo—especially in the studio. It may be small, but in the Woodland Pro Parlor, many players might just find all the guitar they ever need.
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