Saturday, April 26, 2014

Double Neck Guitars

The first multi-neck guitars were more than likely harp guitars. These instruments sometimes had an additional neck used to attach the bass strings, harp or sympathetic string and the tuning pegs.  
The earliest example of a true double neck guitar is from the year 1690. A guitar of that era, small by today’s standards, was built by luthier Alexandre Voboam of Paris. This unique guitar had a smaller sized guitar jutting out of the instruments lower portion. Both guitars/necks had five courses of gut strings; however the smaller guitar/neck was tuned to a higher pitch. This allowed the player to play in a low key or a high key and use similar fingerings.

Harp guitars and other multi-neck instruments were not produced on a large scale until the late 19th Century. These were instruments that allowed an individual player the ability to produce a much broader sound due to the addition of bass strings or sympathetic strings. 

The sympathetic strings were not strummed or plucked, but naturally made sound based on the vibrations of the fingered strings.  There were few mandolin/guitar combinations produced in this era that allowed the player to change instruments during a song or saved them from having to carry two different instruments. Plus a double neck guitar looks great on stage.

One impetus that may have caused the creation of double neck guitars was the rise of interest in the steel or Hawaiian guitar.  

During the late 18th Century, Spanish speaking Mexican cowboys arrived in Hawaii bringing with them their guitars. The arrival of the guitar in Hawaii could also be attributed to missionaries. 

Hawaiians took to the instrument andmade the guitar their own by tuning it differently and often to open chords.  

As the years progressed, we can turn to the early 20th Century when Hawaiian music became popular inthe United States

During this fad, guitar companies including Martin built instruments that were meant to be played on a persons lap. Instead of fingering chords and notes these guitars were played by use of a metal bar pressed against the strings.  It wasn’t too long before the lap steel became electrified.

Since a lap steel player was limited to keys within the open chord which the instrument was tuned, the obvious answer was to add another neck that was tuned to a different chord. By the 1920’s and 1930’s folks like Alvino Rey were playing multi neck electric steel guitars with popular orchestras. Rey had Gibson Guitars build a double neck steel guitar for him and not long after he was playing three and four necksteel guitars.

During the era of World War II, much of the guitar building business was halted as manufacturers turned their attention and fabrication to building weapons and vehicles for the United States armed forces.  

By the end of the war, Leo Fender had his own radio and television business in California.  He also repaired guitar amplifiers. 

It was not long before he realized a profit could be made by building amplifiers forthe electric steel guitar players from nearby Los Angeles and the surrounding area.  He teamed up with his friend, Clayton “Doc” Kauffmann who had worked for Rickenbacker Guitars. The two men began designing and building steel guitars, and electronic pickups.  

Traveling musicians stopped by and provided ideas of their needs. Fender went on to build two and three neck steel guitars, before turning attention to the electric Spanish guitar.

Meanwhile in another part of California, motorcycle enthusiast, Paul Bigsby, was casting his own parts for his bike. He began building his own version of the electric Spanish guitar. Though his instruments may have looked like solid body instruments, they were actually hollow to hold the wiring. Bigsby also built a vibrato unit that gave players an added dimension to their sound. His version of the guitar vibrato was built out of motorcycle parts including piston springs.

Guitarist Grady Martin asked Bigsby to build him a guitar that also had a mandolin-like neck. What resulted was an instrument which had a guitar neck, with three pickups and a Bigsby vibrato and a smaller neck with six individual strings tuned an octave higher. It wasn't a mandolin, as the strings were individual and not in courses, but itdid give Martin a unique sound

Apparently Grady Martin’s Bigsby Double Neck was not the first that Paul Bigsby built. He built at least six double neck instruments. In those days, production records were at best sketchy.

$266 K Bigsby

It is worth noting that recently a 1949 Bigsby guitar sold at auction for over a quarter of a million dollars.

One of Bigsby’s employee’s was Semie Moseley. This is the same Semie 
Moseley that went into business in a Bakersfield California garage, building his own brand and naming it Mosrite Guitars. 

Around this same time, the early 1950’s, Joe Maphis was a popular Country and Western guitarist and was a regular performer on a television show produced out of Los Angeles called TownHall Party. Maphis’ style was playing blazing fast arpeggios on the guitar. 
Semie Moseley struck up a friendship with Joe Maphis and his wife Rose. Rose Maphis played rhythm guitar with her husband.  Moseley built several beautiful personalized double neck guitars for Maphis. He even took Rose’s Martin guitar and customized it with a handmade Mosrite neck and he added a fancy large pickguard to the dreadnoughts body.

The exposure Maphis brought to Mosrite guitars paid off big time. A similar double neck instrument was custom made for pint-sized Larry Collins who was Maphis’ protégé and could match Joe note for note. All of the early double neck guitars Semie Moseley made had a guitar neck and an octave guitar neck.

Moseley did create one triple neck guitar in 1954. This instrument included a guitar neck, an octave guitar neck and a mandolin neck. 
While on that subject, it is possible that Doc Kauffmann, who was Leo Fender’s long time business partner might have built a triple neck guitar under the brand Kremo Kustom. It is known that Kauffmann didbuild some guitars using that brand name.
Another builder was a South Carolina fellow named Pee Wee Melton. He built a triple neck guitar for himself, but later sold it to Johnny Meeks. Meeks claim to fame was as one of the guitarist who played for Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps. It was an attention-getter. Meeks eventually sold the guitar to Vincent. 

But here I am digressing from the topic of double neck guitars.

In the mid 1960’s when Semie Moseley’s Mosrite Guitar Company was doing a brisk business, the company did offer a production twelve/six string double neck guitar for sale to the public. This guitar featured a twelve string neck on the guitars top and a six string neck underneath. Both sported twin Mosrite single coil pickups with black covers. The twelve string utilized Mosrite’s version of tune-o-matic bridge and the strings were anchored onto a chromed bar held into the body by three wood screws. 

The six string neck featured Mosrite’s classic vibramute vibrato. The necks had micro-dot position markers on the rosewood fretboard. All Mosrites had a zero fret. These guitars were offered in various colors, with the most popular being sunburst.

Hallmark Guitars are stillin business. This company was started by Joe Hall. This story about Hall’s relationship with Semie Moseley is very interesting. He had asked Semie to build him a guitar. Somehow Hall wound up working at Mosrite and learned to build guitars using Semie’s methods.

Joe Hall left Moseley’s employment and building guitars under his own brand, that bore Mosrite traits. Hall’s most popular model was called the Swept Wing. 

I do not know how many double necks he built. This guitar was specially built for Deke Dickerson.

After Moseley and Bigsby’s creations, it was not too long before other guitar companies began to eyeball the prospect of making double neck guitars.

One of the first that I came across was Carvin Guitars of California. Lowell C. Kiesel’s company first offered double necked electric guitars in their 1959 catalog. Long before the internet this company based their sales on catalogs. They still do. I recall ordering a Carvin catalog around 1963. What I received was a very plain document with black and white pictures of the guitars, guitar kits and amplifiers that Carvin offered. 

I also received a typewritten page of price updates. During the early days of Carvin some of the guitars featured necks and bodies made by the Hofner Company of Germany.

Their first double neck offering was a guitar and bass. The necks were the same length, so the bass was short scale. The body was made of maple. The guitar had twin single coil pickups that were about the size of P-90’s, while the bass had just one pickup. 

Their other double neck was a guitar and an eight string mandolin combination that came with a similar set up. These guitars were very plain and had a natural finish. The small bodies on these guitars were unusual  

These styles were offered through 1967.

By 1968, the Carvin double neck had more of a guitar shaped body with necks probably imported from Hofner. By 1971, the guitar neck was similar, but the bass neck had a more refined headstock. In 1972, Carvin changed the shape of the twelve/six model.   
It was in 1976 that the Carvin double neck guitar had a body that looked more like a small Les Paul. The necks were bound and topped with an ebony fretboard. The large rectangular position markers were made of mother-of-toilet seat. The humbucking pickups came with a chrome cover. The 1978 catalog shows a similar body with open humbucking pickups. 

These instruments looked more like the guitars that we now associate with the Carvin Company. 

By 1979 the double neck was no longer offered. By 1980, the double neck was back with a new improved shape.  

In 1990-91 Carvin offered a twelve/six model. Both had pointy headstocks and tuner on one side. By 199, Carvin discontinued their line of double neck guitars as a standard option.
Jimmy Bryant was a well known guitarist in the 1950’s.  Much like Maphis, Bryant’s style was fast, but more in the jazz and swing realm. Early on Bryant was one of the first Fender endorsers playing a Fender Broadcaster. But he was looking for a new sound and came upon a guitar builder from Springfield Missouri that was building guitars under the name Stratosphere Guitar Company.  

They built a Six and Twelve String double neck for Bryant. He used this guitar throughout his career. The Stratosphereguitar was rather unusual looking. It sported the maple twelve string neck on top and the maple six string neck underneath. Oddly, the headstocks for both necks were slotted. The body was offset and small. There were two single coil pickups for each neck. The neck pickups were parallel and the bridge pickups were slightly slanted. 

Both necks had steel offset bridges and stop plates to attach the strings. A switch was near the stop plates that allowed the player to switch the necks on or off. There were two sets of controls, volume and tone for each neck as well as selector switches. There is also a slider switch on the lower side of the instrument.  

Bryant tuned the six string neck in a normal manner; however, he tuned the twelve string neck to major and minor thirds.

1958 was a risky year for Gibson guitars. This was the year they introduced their ‘Future guitars’ lineup which included the Flying Vee, the Explorer and the elusive Futurama. But Gibson spotted the double neck trend and jumped into the market with two different double neck guitars.

The first was called the Double Twelve. This was later designated the EDS-1275 (Electric Double Spanish.) 

The Double Twelve was a beautiful instrument. The body on these instruments was different than the SG shape we associate with the EDS-1275. The Double Twelve came with two humbucking pickups per neck. 

A switch near the bridge plate provided the option of switching the electronics to either neck. The electronics were two volume and two tone controls and a pickup selector switch that controlled the pickups on either neck. The twelve string neck was on top with the six string neck on the bottom. In my opinion this was possibly the finest looking of all the twelve string double necks. The double cutaway body was thicker than the SG and it was bound in white trim.

The company also offered the Double Mandolin. This later was named the EMS-1275 (Electric Mandolin Spanish). This was similar to the double necks that Moseley and Bigsby had made in that it came with a guitar neck and an octave guitar neck. The guitar neck sported twin humbuckers, while the mandolin neck only had a single humbucker. Once again, the body shape was much different than the SG shape. 

The controls for each neck were mounted on the lower bout under each neck. Both featured a single volume and tone control per neck. The switches were mounted near the string stop plate. The one for the guitar side controlled the neck and bridge pickups, while the switch mounted near the octave guitar neck controlled which neck was active. This instruments body was also bound in white trim.

1965 EDS 1275
It was in 1962-63 both of these double neck instruments were reinvented using the SG shape. Gibson also added EBS-1250 to the line up. This was a combination of a six string guitar and a four string bass guitar. The bass guitar came with a built-in fuzztone. This line up was offered through 1967, with the double bass being offered through 1968.
The EDS-1275 was revived in 1974 and offered through 1998. The Nashville factory continued to build the EDS-1275 through 2003. The Gibson Custom Shop began building the EDS-1275 in 2006. 

The Epiphone version has been available for many years under the model G-1275. I believe the initial models sold under the Epiphone brand had bolt-on necks. The current production model comes with set necks.

1963 Danelectro

Nate Daniels had been building amps since 1948. His amplifiers were mainly sold through catalog companies such as Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Wards. 

It was not until 1956 that he introduced the Danelectro line of guitars. 

Danelectro entered the double neck market with its 1959 advertisement of Stan and Dan; two clean-cut young men of the day both decked out with white shirts, Hagar slacks and DanelectroShorthorn double neck guitars. The top neck was a six string guitar and the bottom neck was a bass guitar. 

While the guitar was a normal 24.75” scale with 21 frets, the bass had a short scale of 29.5” with only 15 frets. The Danelectro double neck was also available as a six string guitar and six string baritone guitar. 

As usual, both necks had two Dano lipstick pickups. 

The Masonite Danelectros lasted until 1966 when Daniels sold the company.  In 1998 the company was resurrected under new ownership. This company made guitars through 2001.  They offered two versions of the double neck. One was a six/twelve string model and the other was a six string guitar and a six string baritone guitar. Both were nice instruments with a great price. 

Danelectro guitars looked cheap, but sounded great and were used on countless recordings.

In 1961 Gretsch Guitars was looking for new ideas and came up with the Gretsch Bikini Guitar. This was one very odd concept. It was sold as a guitar or a bass guitar or as a double neck bass and guitar. The neck/pickup/bridge unit was mounted so it could slide out of the body. The body had a hinged back and could be folded down the middle. The player could fold back the body of the separate instruments and combine them into a double neck. This was one of those gems that looked good in theory, but was not at all practical.

This is a Gretsch Anniversary double neck. Gretsch currently offers a guitar/baritone guitar doubleneck.

After the British Invasion a flood of Japanese and Korean made guitars arrived in the United States. As you may have guessed some of these were double neck guitars. Greco/Kawai was a Korean manufacturer. This is a 1968 Bass/Guitar double neck.
This is a 1970 Aria copy of a Gibson double neck.

I have noted that some early Carvin guitars were made of Hofner parts. Note the similarity between this Hofner double neck from the very early 1970’s and Carvin’s double neck of the same era.
Another German guitar manufacturer named Hoyer built this 1970’s model.

Rickenbacker built and offered several models of double neck guitars including a bass/six string using their 4001 template and a twelve/six string using their 360 design.
The B.C. Rich, Ibanez and Kramer guitar companies have all built special order guitars for artists, such as Eddie Van Halen, Michael Angleo Batio, and Dave Mustaine. 

Often these guitars have two six string necks and are played by using the tapping method.
There were and are a few companies that make acoustic double neck guitars. For years Ovation guitars offered a twelve/six model. This is now made offshore under their Celebrity brand.

1979 Yairi DY 87

Around 1979 Yairi guitars offered the model DY 87. This was a wonderful guitar. It sounds great and very easy on the fingers. 

In the late 1990's, the Washburn Guitar Company offered a twelve / six string guitar designated the model EA220 six/twelve string guitar in
their Festival Series.

I have recently profiled Blueberry Guitars. They make some fine instruments with intricate inlay and wood carving designs. All their guitars are handmade. 

They offer several double neck models which include a six / twelve string guitar, a double neck with two six string necks and fan frets, as well as a six string / 4 string acoustic bass guitar. Blueberry does not sell it’s instruments in stores. Business is done only online.

Here is a Martin Double Neck Guitar made by their custom shop.

The clip below will give a better understanding of Jimmy Bryants odd 12 string tuning on his Stratosphere double neck. On the 12 string neck each string has two pitches that mimic the sound of two guitars. A guitarist today could use a harmonizer for the same effect. In 1956 that technology did not exist.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Parlor Guitars

Martin 0-16MY
I once owned a Martin 0-16NY (New Yorker). It was this sweet little guitar that piqued my interest in Parlor guitars.

In older times, the main gathering room in the home was the parlor, which was a sitting room where one could read, spend time with others, play cards or play music.  Since the surroundings were usually small, the instruments did not have to be loud. 

From its beginnings, the guitar has usually been rather small instrument. It was not until the latter part of the 19th century that gut string guitars became larger. And it wasn't until the early part of the 20th century that guitars gained steel strings and morphed into fairly large instruments. Martin guitars started building Dreadnought guitars in 1931.

A few years later, 1934, Gibson began offering the Super 400.

In the late 1990’s I saw a trend in which guitarists, and collectors, started to seriously gain interest in those smaller instruments known as parlor guitars.  Not long after manufacturers also caught on to this trend and again began offering parlor guitars for sale.

So what exactly is a parlor guitar?  The sizing procedures that the Martin Guitar company uses may be a good way to answer this question.

Martin 2-17
Martin has made style 5, 3 ½, 3, 2 ½, 2, 1, C (classical) and F (archtop) before they made the style O. By 19th century standards, a size "0" Martin was a big guitar. This style Martin is 13 1/2 inches across the lower bout compared to a Dreadnought which is 15 5/8th".

It goes without saying other dimensions on a parlor guitar are much narrower than one would find on a larger instrument.

Harwood Guitar
Most parlor guitars have the neck join the body at the 12th fret. There are some exceptions, such as the Seagull Grand. I believe there is something different in the sound of a “12 fret” guitar. Perhaps it has something to do with the body being extended. It does not make the guitar sound louder, but in my opinion it sounds sweeter.

Many people, including myself, look on sites such as eBay under vintage guitars to find older parlor guitar. But please be aware that some of these older instruments were constructed much differently than today’s guitars. Many times they were ladder-braced; instead of the X bracing that Martin developed and is found on most modern parlor guitars.

Martin 0-42
Also please understand that many 19th and early 20th century guitars were not made for steel strings. They may have pin bridges, instead of classical guitar bridges, but because of bracing and neck construction they may not stand up to the tension of steel guitar strings.

For instance, my Martin 0-16NY was braced for only silk and steel strings. When I purchased it I was not told about the required strings. And when I put light gauge acoustic strings on it, the neck pulled dramatically. Silk and steel strings are not as bright as regular steel strings, they are sort of flimsy and in my opinion they are great for finger picking, but not strumming.

Older parlor guitars may require some repairs, such as a neck reset, fret work, a new bridge with saddle and nut or crack repairs. The neck/body joint may have to be reset. 

Additionally be aware some vintage parlor guitars may have a triangular shaped neck. This was a pre-truss rod way to prevent warping.

Stella guitar from 1960's
There was no CNC technology back in those days. Everything was done by hand. Some of the guitars listed on auction web pages or from dealers may include budget brands such as Stella or other brands that were made by the Chicago Musical Instrument Company.

These guitars are made of birch for not just the top, but the back and sides as well. These may be parlor guitars, but they were never built to be quality instruments.

By contrast there are plenty of well made small body guitars available and some start as little as $200 USD. Because they are made using computerized machine technology, the build will be better, the set up will be better and they will play in tune.

Recording King is a company that makes parlor guitars in several different sizes and versions.  The least expensive is the Recording King Dirty Thirty.  This guitar puts me in mind of an old Stella guitar. However the top of the Dirty Thirty is made of solid spruce. The sides are made of ‘white wood’ and the neck is made of nato. The description says “Satin Finish”, but like the Stella it just appears to have a coat of spray paint.

This guitar even has a bone nut and saddle. Recording King makes three models, but only one model would qualify as a parlor guitars. This is the size "0". I have played one and honestly it sounds pretty good and it plays pretty good.  It sells for $199 USD, although I have seen them cheaper on eBay. I wish I had such a nicely set up instrument when I started learning to play the guitar.

Godin Guitars was founded and is run by Robert Godin. His company manufacturers and distributes six different brands of guitars. All are manufactured in North America.

One of the brands is called Arts and Lutherie. The parlor sized model under this brand is known as the Arts and Lutherie Ami guitar. The Ami is a 12 fret guitar that is very easy on the fingers. The guitars top is made of solid cedar while the back and sides are 3 ply laminated cherry.

The neck is made of silver leaf maple. The nut and bridge saddle are made of a synthetic material called Tusq® that emulates bone. The Ami guitar comes with a variety of painted satin finishes. It is also available with a spruce top.

Godin also makes Seagull guitars including several versions of the Seagull Grand.  The Excursion Grand features bare wood. The Excursion features a laminated cherry top, three ply laminated back and sides and silver leaf maple necks.

To make this guitar unique, the rosette surrounding the sound-hole is burned into the wood.

The headstock on all Seagull guitars is tapered. Mr. Godin designed this feature that he calls the "Straight Pull Head Stock." This eliminates much string bending at the nut to the tuning pegs.

The upscale version is called the Entourage. It is the same guitar, but with a solid cedar top that is bound with white trim. The back and sides are once again three ply laminated wild cherry wood. This comes with a red sunburst finish. The guitar can also be equipped with built in Fishman electronics. 

The next model in the Seagull Grand line up is the Coastline Grand. The wood and features are the same. It is hand polished with a satin finish and natural cedar top. The three ply laminated cherry back and sides feature a dark stained finish. Both top and bottom of the guitar are bound with white trim, as is the instruments head stock. It too can be ordered with Fishman electronics.

All Seagull Grand guitars feature a 14 fret neck even though the body is exactly the same dimensions as the Arts and Lutherie Ami.

This is accomplished by moving the bridge forward.  All the guitars in the Seagull Grand series have a 13 inch lower bout, as does the Arts and Lutherie Ami Grand. The body on Seagull Grands seem to come with a better finish. (FYI, regardless of the manufacturer, a guitar with a painted top may use paint to cover up flaws.)  Depending upon the model the Seagull Grand comes with either a satin smooth finished natural body or a three colour gold to red sunburst finish.

Last but not least in the Godin market of parlor guitar lines is their Simon and Patrick Woodland Pro guitar.

This guitar has the same body shape as the Ami and Seagull, 13” across the bout, and comes in a three colour dark brown sunburst or a high gloss natural finish.

The headstock is flat and resembles a Martin shaped headstock.  Like the Ami, the Simon & Patrick’s neck joins the body and the 12th fret.

Godin guitars are manufactured in five different factories in Quebec and New Hampshire. Necks and bodies are all made in Quebec in the small town of La Patrie

Alvarez AP66B
Alvarez Guitars offers some very nice parlor guitars in the mid $400 USD range. Their AP66B features a solid mahogany top with laminated mahogany back and sides. The workmanship is exquisite. The body is bound on the top, the mahogany neck is bound and it features a slotted head stock.

Alvarez AP70
Their AP70 model is available with a natural or sunburst finish. The top is A+ solid Sitka spruce. The back and sides are laminated rosewood and the neck is mahogany. Both models are available with electronics.

The manufacturer of Alvarez is Yairi Guitars. Yairi offers versions upscale versions of both models. These are upscale instruments made totally of solid woods and features. Unfortunately I cannot locate prices or companies that sell these specific Yairi guitars.

Vintage Recording King
Recording King was the brand name that the Montgomery Wards Company put on its line of acoustic guitars in the early part of the 20th century..Montgomery Wards was a department store, but the company was far better known for their catalog. As a kid, I recall receiving that hefty book in the mail and looking for guitars and other musical instruments. 

The store went out of business ages ago, but a company from Hayward California now owns Recording King brand name. They design guitars in the United States and have them built by outsourcing to Asian and Pacific Rim nations.

Recording King offers different grades of guitars, all based on what you are willing to pay. This company offers parlor guitars that are based on Martin 12 fret 0 through 000 models. The price tag is from $450 to $1100 USD and is dependent upon the materials used, such as solid rosewood or mahogany back and sides or laminated back and sides. The tops or soundboard are solid spruce, but some models have a higher grade of wood than others.

I have already mentioned the size O Dirty Thirties model. The other models that I would consider parlor guitars are all size O and include the RP-06.

The top of the RP-06 guitar is made of solid Sitka spruce, while the back and sides are laminated mahogany. The neck is mahogany topped with a slotted headstock. It is a very plain guitar, much like the ones from the 1900’s era.


The next model is the RP-10. This guitar is a step up from the previous one. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides.  The neck is mahogany. Instead of a slotted head stock, this guitar has a solid head stock. The fret board is made rosewood and features 5 dot position markers.

RP 1-326
The RPI-326 is a professional grade guitar that is decked out with a solid Adirondack spruce top and solid African mahogany back and sides. The V shaped neck is mahogany and the headstock is slotted. A decal on the back of the headstock proclaims it is a Recording King. The ebony fretboard has dot markers. The guitars upper body is bound in herringbone trim.

The companion guitar, the RPI-327 features similar accouterments, except the back and sides are solid East Indian rosewood.

RP 1-626
The RP1-626 is the top of the parlor guitar line. The top is solid AAA Engelmann spruce, the back and sides are solid African mahogany. The neck is one piece mahogany topped with a solid head stock. The fret markers are diamond and square patterns. The body is bound with 5 ply alternating black/white trim. Expect to pay $1100 to $1400 for this guitar.

There are no dealers in my area so I have never played a Recording King guitar. They seem to have great reviews and appear to be not just beautiful instruments, but also well constructed.

If you are interested in buying a Recording King guitar, check out eBay or Amazon.

Saga Music Brands
Saga Musical Instruments started out as a company that sold guitar kits. And though they still sell kits, the Saga company has blossomed and offer many lines of different imported guitars which are mostly manufactured in Asia and the Pacific Rim. One of their best brands is Blueridge.  The are guitars that carefully pay tribute to old Martin and Gibson instruments. I have played a half dozen Blueridge guitars and can honestly say the more expensive ones sound awesome.

And by more expensive I mean in the $700 and above range. And thought the company offers at least 79 different models under the Blueridge label. I am going to concentrate on the line of their three size "0" parlor guitars.

The BR-341 has a manufacturer suggested retail price of $1100 USD. The top is select solid Sitka spruce. The back and sides are solid mahogany. The neck is solid mahogany with a traditional slotted head stock. The top is bound with B/W/B binding and the finish is high gloss.

The BR-361 features a solid Sitka spruce top with solid Indian rosewood back and sides. The mahogany neck has the diamond Martin-style volute at the break in the neck and head stock, which is slotted. This is a beautiful guitar and retails at $1500 USD.

The BR-371 features more workmanship than the other guitars. It has a select Solid spruce top with handcarved parabolic shaped and scalloped top bracing in the authentic pre-war forward X position. The back and sides are solid Indian rosewood. This guitar also has the diamond volute on the back of its mahogany neck. The fingerboard is ebony. The body is bound in abalone in the Martin 45 style as is the top and soundhole. The neck is bound. This is one fine guitar. Its manufacturers suggest price is $1700 USD.

Washburn was the brand name given to stringed instruments made in Chicago by Lyon and Healy. The firms main emphasis was on pianos and harps. In fact Lyon and Healy still manufactures fine quality harps. The Washburn name is an old one going back to 1883.

Washburn Guitars 1896
These days the Washburn brand has been revived by U.S. Music Corporation which operates out of Buffalo Grove, a Chicago suburb and distributes and imports many well known brands of music related products. 

Washburn Guitars features a line of acoustic and electric guitars, basses, banjos, ukuleles and amplifiers. Many of its instruments are imported from Asia, but made according to the company’s specifications.

Washburn offers a line of seven parlor guitars. The guitars are fancy with intricate carving on the bridge and inlays on the neck and headstock. Even the low end models feature fancy body binding.  As nice as they look, the lowest priced models are made of laminated wood.

The Washburn R319SWKK is made with a solid spruce top and solid trembesi back and sides. It has lots of bells and whistles. Street price is around $550-599 USD.

The Washburn R320SWRK features a solid spruce top and solid rosewood back and sides. What sets this instrument apart is the ‘tree of life’ inlay on its bound neck. Amazon offers this guitar at $599.

Washburn also offers some models that are not quite as fancy.

The WP11SNS has a solid cedar top. The back and sides are laminated mahogany and the bound neck is also mahogany. The headstock is slotted. The rosette is abalone. The nut and saddle are bone.

Model WP21SNS has similar features, except the back and sides are laminated rosewood.

Model WP26SNS is similar to the previous model, but has fancy inlays on the neck.


The top of the Washburn parlor guitar line is the WP5234S. It has all the features of the WP21SNS and WP26SNS. However the solid cedar top is embellished with fancy gold leaf designs.

The Eastman Company was started by a Qian Ni, who came to the US to study music and subsequently began a musical instrument import business.

The Eastman Company offers two parlor sized guitars.

The E10P features a solid Adirondack spruce top with black binding and solid mahogany back and sides.

The E20P is similar, but has herringbone binding and solid rosewood back and sides.  The suggested price is $1395 USD and $1500 USD. Like the Recording King and Blueridge guitars, Eastman guitars are made in China.

Larrivee Guitars is a Canadian company that makes marvelous instruments.  Currently they offer the P-09 Rosewood parlor guitar.

This guitar is all solid wood with a Canadian Sitka spruce top, rosewood back and sides. The neck is made of one piece mahogany with an ebony fretboard. The headstock is solid with chrome tuners. Unlike prior models this comes with a beveled pickguard. It also includes an archtop case. It is a beautiful instrument. The street price is around $1600 USD.

Tanglewood Guitars, a United Kingdom company, is known for quality and fair price. Most of their instruments are designed in the U.K., but manufactured in Asia. Tanglewood offers the Java series of affordable guitars and among them is the Tanglewood TWJP. This guitar comes with a solid cedar top. The laminated back and sides are made of a wood called Amara*. As a plus the Amara wood on the back is spalted and it is beautiful. The binding is made of mahogany.

The neck with a slotted headstock is Nato. The fretboard material on this guitar is sonokeling. The manufacturers suggested retail price is £329.95 UK. The sister version called the TWJP E comes with a Fishman Sonotone transducer and sells for £399.95 UK.

The Epiphone EL OO is out of production but may be available through some dealers. Though the lower bout is 15.5” and bigger than what I would consider a parlor guitar, it is a small instrument and a copy of a 1930 Gibson L 0.

The Epi version comes with a solid Sitka spruce top, with laminated rosewood back and sides. Like most Epiphone acoustic guitars, this was manufactured in Asia.

Sigma Guitars* offers the OOM-15S, based on a Martin OO-15S. This 12 fret guitar comes with a solid mahogany top, but the back and sides are laminated mahogany. The neck is also mahogany topped with a slotted headstock. The fretboard is made of Indian rosewood.

It has a Martin-style pyramid bridge. The list price is $540.00 USD, which is much less expensive than the Martin version. Sigma guitars are not yet distributed in the U.S. and hard to find. My suggestion is eBay.
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* FYI, Amara  a species of tree found in the rainforests and savannahs of South and Central America and the in the Caribbean. The tree is an evergreen, however it produces a new set of leaves once a year. Nato is also known as Eastern Mahogany. It is an Asian hardwood with similar qualities of mahogany.  Sonokeling is a medium to heavy weight hardwood that has characteristic streaks of ash gray, black, dark purple or light brown.

 * You may recall that in the 1970’s C.F. Martin created an inexpensive line of Japanese manufactured guitars under the Sigma brand name.  The brand rights were purchased in 2011 by AMI Musical Instruments GmbH, which is a German company. Ed Golden is a retired Martin employee and has acquired the rights to sell Sigma Guitars in the USA using the brand name Kindred Guitars.  The company is launching this year.


Macyn Taylor