A mid-priced take on a slotted-headstock, 12-fret dreadnought with big bass and a lot of class.
Solid build. Big bass response. Great finish. Easy-to-play neck.
Fourteen-fret dread fans may miss some sustain and high-end resonance.
Alvarez Masterworks MDR70ESB
Mid-priced acoustic guitars are a tricky proposition. The maker has the unenviable task of building a guitar that's affordable but upmarket enough in sound and playability to justify spending what's still a considerable chunk of change. That design directive generally means compromise at every turn. So, when I received the Alvarez Masterworks MDR70ESB, I thought a lot about what concessions Alvarez might have made. But sitting there in the case, everything about this guitar's looks belie its $999 street price. From its 12-fret neck, cool vintage sunburst, all-solid spruce and rosewood construction, slotted headstock, and hip 12th-fret inlay, the Alvarez sets up big expectations.
Big Guitar, Big Looks
The MDR70ESB is a formidable guitar with a big dreadnought body—15 7/8" across its lower bout and 5 7/8" deep—that feels sturdy but comfortable. The MDR70ESB features a solid AAA North American Sitka spruce top and solid rosewood back and sides. Alvarez's signature bridge looks like a wide, upside down "W," which I dig—it's distinctive without being too clever. A two-ring abalone and ABS rosette dress up the top, and, along with the high-gloss poly top, they give the guitar just enough visual pop. Just inside the soundhole are controls for an LR Baggs Element active system.
The MDR70ESB's mahogany neck features an Indian Laurel fretboard devoid of ornamentation except the 12th fret inlay, where the neck meets the body, which is a sharp touch. I can't help but get excited by the look of a slotted headstock. And paired with Alvarez's inlaid logo and open gear tuners, this one is exceptionally attractive and classy.
All About That Bass
Plucking the Alvarez, the guitar's resounding bass is immediately noticeable but not overbearing. It has a dry, balanced sound that offers plenty of note separation. Fingerpicking and arpeggiated picking are a pleasure, and any kind of percussive playing feels alive with so much plucky attack on tap. At times, that dryness is less of an asset, and some midrange and high frequencies can sound muted relative to the robust bass—a not-uncommon byproduct of 12-fret design. At times, this means the MDR70ESB sounds a little more akin to a small-bodied guitar with a lot of bass response. Fingerpicking players may love this tone profile (as well as the fingerstyle-friendly 1 3/4" nut width). Fans of big, D-28-style stumming tones may find it less attractive. Either way, the Alvarez's tone makeup is a very cool alternative to classic 14-fret dreadnought tones.
I can't help but get excited by the look of a slotted headstock. And paired with Alvarez's inlaid logo and open gear tuners, this one is exceptionally attractive and classy."
Moving around the neck, notes ring evenly and the action is smooth and pliable. Open position playing is comfortable and that even response makes for easy transitions up the neck, where a slinky feel makes for easy bending. There's plenty of room to navigate the entire fretboard with precision. While doing so, I found the satin-finished neck to feel a little anonymous, but that's a matter of preference and it certainly felt comfortable if not distinctive.
The MDR70ESB is a classy but understated instrument that represents a genuine alternative to classic, 14-fret dreadnought tone profiles. It shines in unexpected ways. And rather than providing lush pianistic arpeggios and rich, sustaining chords associated with 14-fret dreads, it's a dry, percussive guitar that delivers a lot of bass response and provides even, precise, and strong fundamental tones. It's also an easy-to-play instrument that is comfortable to hold. And thanks to discreetly situated onboard electronics, it's ready to gig—making the $999 street price feel a lot more like a value than a mid-price compromise.
JW's first fresh music in four years features him on all the instruments for one version, while another features a gentler Appalachia approach.
Jack White is back with his first new solo music in nearly four years. The incendiary" Taking Me Back " (Third Man Records) is available digitally worldwide now. The single, produced by White at Third Man Studios in Nashville, features the 12x GRAMMY®Award-winning artist on all vocals and instruments.
Additionally, the hard rocking"Taking Me Back" arrives paired with a genuinely gentler version aptly titled "Taking MeBack (Gently)." Both versions are joined by new visuals, premiering today at White's official YouTube channel.
Jack White – Taking Me Back (Call of Duty: Vanguard Lyric Video)Lyric video for Jack White’s new single “Taking Me Back”. Listen to “Taking Me Back”: https://ffm.to/takingmebackFollow Jack White:Facebook: https://JackWhit...
"Taking Me Back" can also be heard in the just-unveiled video game trailer for Activision's upcoming Call of Duty®: Vanguard, along with footage from the game in the newly premiered lyric video for the song. Developed by Sledgehammer Games, Call of Duty®: Vanguard delivers World War II like never before as players will rise on every front when the game launches worldwide on November 5. The title is the newest release from the blockbuster Call of Duty® franchise that's sold over 400 million copies around the world.
Jack White – Taking Me Back (Gently) [Visualizer]Visualizer for Jack White’s new song “Taking Me Back (Gently)”Listen to “Taking Me Back” & “Taking Me Back (Gently)”: https://ffm.to/takingmebackDirected by ...
Jack White is a 12-time GRAMMY® Award-winner and 36-time nominee. All three of his acclaimed solo albums – 2012's RIAA gold certified solo debut, BLUNDERBUSS, 2014's LAZARETTO, and 2018's BOARDING HOUSE REACH – debuted at #1 on the SoundScan/Billboard 200 along with a variety of other charts. Among his myriad international honors, White's long run of career GRAMMY® awards and nominations saw BLUNDERBUSS earning five nods over two years, including "Album of the Year," "Best Rock Album," "Best Rock Song" (for "Freedom At 21"), "Best Rock Performance,"and "Best Music Video" (the latter two honoring the single, "I'm Shakin"). LAZARETTO proved equally popular with GRAMMY® voters, scoring a nomination as "Best Alternative Music Album," while its title track received the 2015 GRAMMY® Award for "Best Rock Performance" as well an additional nod as "Best Rock Song." Praised by NME as "wild, mysterious and unlike anything else around…a full, lush sounding thing packed with personality and life," BOARDING HOUSE REACH proved among White's most unique works, topping a variety of charts in the US and Canada while drawing applause around the world. "The spirit of freaky free-play is thrilling and refreshing, a worthy end unto itself," wrote Rolling Stone. "Like nearly all of White's work, it manages to feel fresh, original, and still deeply rooted in history." In 2020, White released The White Stripes Greatest Hits (Third Man Records/Legacy) and, more recently, unveiledjackwhiteartanddesign.com , as well as opened the doors to Third Man Records London– the third Third Man Records location and first internationally.
Enter here for your chance to WIN a Lunastone Deep Metal! Giveaway Ends October 19, 2021.
Stompbox builder Aisha Loe on how a recent encounter with an old bandmate answered the age-old question once again.
I had a conversation with a dear friend and former bandmate recently, about how much using effects has inspired our musical directions and overall journeys as players. We smiled wide as we reminisced about what an epiphany it was for us, as new guitarists, to plug into a stompbox for the first time. For many, it's the initial experience of jamming with yourself. Fresh, exciting sounds are coming out. Inevitably, noodling ensues, which can often lead to bursts of creativity.
Something as simple as a 3-knob delay pedal can open up so many ideas. I'll never forget the first time I tried an Ibanez AD-9 Analog Delay. I instantly had a beat to play along to! It was like playing to a metronome of my own expression. I learned about syncopation using this effect, while playing in and out of the beat and stumbling upon grooves. I found that, even when I wasn't using delay, it had affected the way I played from then on. It also taught me when not to play. And little riffs would just pour out of me in those early moments, plugged into this box of possibilities. I was playing things I didn't think I knew how to play at that early stage in my life as a musician.
Playing through that delay was the first time that I felt I could come up with my own ideas and, eventually, my own songs. It was invigorating and helped to start me on my own creative path. I quickly realized that I needed to get some more pedals. I bought a Boss OD-1 overdrive, a Dunlop wah, and an MXR Phase 90, which led to more creation, inspiration, and learning opportunities.
I think of effects as part of the instrument itself now and can't imagine making music without them.
I came of age in the late '80s/early '90s, at a time when a lot of guitarists had MIDI multiple-effects rigs. They were popular, and companies like DigiTech and Roland were coming out with state-of-the-art units. Me and my bandmates were totally in love with using effects. We saved up for our first unit, a DigiTech GSP-5. Then we bought a Roland GP-16, eventually graduating to the more expensive Lexicon stuff. We went far down that rabbit hole for several years. It was so much fun! Programming sounds was time-consuming, annoying, and not-so-user-friendly, but the ability to manipulate effects in such a deep way was profound. Many song ideas were born out the sounds coming from those units.
We came to realize that we had perhaps gone off the deep end, and that these pre-programmed effects were beginning to limit us from improvisation and jamming on new ideas as a band. So, we stripped it back down again—back to those original, single-effect pedals that had inspired us in the first place. We found ourselves coming up with new variations on old ideas that had never previously fully materialized. What I love about effects is they can help you come full circle like that, over and over again.
Tash Sultana experiments with her pedalboard setup.
Photo by Alexis Kaplan
Fast forward a bunch of years, and many pedals, later. I make my music as a solo artist. At this moment, I'm re-impressed with using lots of effects to help me conjure up what's in my head. Many of the ideas for the pedals I build are coming out of my musical imagination. They are sounds I want to hear that I know will invoke new ideas for me, and hopefully others as well. How many times have I been experimenting with a bunch of pedals and come up with that one sound that a whole song was born out of? Countless times. In fact, almost every time.
For me, each effect I familiarize myself with takes me deeper into my instrument(s). I think of effects as part of the instrument itself now and can't imagine making music without them. I'm sure many of you can relate. Many of the artists who inspire me lately use the pedalboard as their instrument. Playing pedals has become its own art form, filled with imagination.
Whenever I get a bad case of writer's block, I reach for that old Ibanez AD-9 Analog Delay. Just that one. You know what? It gets me back on the horse, every time. Even if it gives me that one little cool sound, my creative juices are flowing again. And I'll bet you have a pedal that does the same for you!
You could be one of THREE winners in this PG Perks exclusive giveaway! Ends October 25.
It's taken 14 years to come around to this realization, but do I regret the journey? Nah.
I'm trying to remember exactly how it all started—and why. Some details are hazy, as the accumulation of reasons has collided and compounded into each other over the course of approximately 14 years.
I think it started at least partially due to ol' SRV. Not because I was an aspiring bluesman angling for Texas-sized tone via telephone wires. I dig/dug Stevie, don't get me wrong. But maybe I was also breaking strings more than I would've liked. Like I said, when the beginnings of a routine go back that far, it's tough to keep track of all the whys. After a while, your wagon's traveling a deeply rutted road that's difficult to diverge from—if the thought even occurs to you as you enjoy the scenery and tend to other matters at hand on your musical journey. And, of course, early on there are no ruts. It's a fresh, exciting new path to traverse for the first time in your own reality.
All this time, my standard-tuned guitars have had .011 sets. My D-standards, .013s. Then I moved to a new city and state with a smaller scene and wasted too much time trying to find like-minded, well-adjusted players. After a few false starts, I said, "fuck it" and committed to a drums-and-guitar duo format. I figured baritone guitars would be the most effective way to fill out the frequency spectrum, and before long I was primarily playing .014 sets. For eight, maybe nine years now. Add that to nearly 30 years of workdays pounding a QWERTY keyboard, and it's no wonder the inevitable is now reality. Tendonitis and early carpal tunnel syndrome have made playing much more difficult and painful than is healthy or acceptable.
Despite the "crow" I'm now eating, I'm not saying there aren't true sonic and physical differences. It wasn't all in my head. Again, it goes to the compounding rationale. About five years ago I started augmenting my rig's low end by incorporating a bass amp alongside my guitar combos. But before I'd hit upon that idea—when I was trying to fill out the spectrum with just the baritones and guitar amps—the extra low-mid frequencies inherent in heavier strings did make a difference. Along the way, I also got hooked on heavy steel picks (an addiction I heartily stand by and recommend). I liked that you can bash on heavier strings without nearly as much worry about frequency warble as the strings vibrate back to center, not to mention little to no string breakage. Again … the tangled path.
Mortality sucks. It came down to: Do you want to play without pain, or do you want to stay in your stupid wagon tracks?
Alas, mortality sucks. It came down to: Do you want to play without pain, or do you want to stay in your stupid wagon tracks? I'm stubborn, but not that stubborn. My baris are now strung with .012s. Believe it or not, that makes a big difference despite being heavy in the grand string-gauge scheme. But I've also brought standard-scale guitars into the duo format. My Teles, Jazzmasters, and Gretsch aren't just outfitted with .010 sets now—they're also tuned down a full step.
A couple of months ago, when I first dipped a tepid toe into the lower-gauge waters, I figured it would be a tonal sacrifice, albeit a very necessary one. It hasn't been. With a bass amp still in the rig, the whole need for heavy strings' lower mids is completely moot. Apparently I had to shred my tendons to discover this rather than just sit back, think through my gear journey, and untangle its myriad winds and turns like a big boy. The bass frequencies are still there but the signal is clearer, less muddled. Even better, I feel like a man unfettered. Bends and runs are a breeze, stamina is much improved, and aches and pains have been greatly reduced. I've had to learn to adjust finger pressure and attack for proper intonation, but that's a small price to pay.
Plenty of you are looking at me in your mind's eye, thinking, "Everything you've said here is a big duh, dumbass." But I don't regret this journey. And not out of stubbornness, either. The rutted path I've followed these 14 years has led me through myriad gorgeous musical landscapes and lessons too varied and subtle, even subconscious, to separate from my guitar psyche. What's more, it's reinforced a lesson most of us have to learn over and over again in all aspects of our lives. Pausing to nakedly, unswervingly evaluate ourselves, where we've been, and where we're going is a must for progress.