Though he was not a musician, he often sent me information about guitars, and corresponded with my wife. He will be missed by all that loved him.
|1979 Ovation Balladeer|
I recently visited a web based discussion page, where on innocent guy asked the question, “Does anyone manufacture a guitar strap that will allow my Ovation guitar to stay flat against me when I’m standing up?”
I could not believe the responses, which went from “Get a real guitar” to “Why would you want to play that #$%^&!” There were other comments.
|Lute Oud and Neapolitan Mandolin|
Most of those that commented apparently preferred a wooden back. They blatantly disregarded the rest of the guitar; i.e. solid wood AAA Sitka spruce top, 5-piece laminated neck, unique specially designed sound holes, and the best piezo pickup system of the day.
|Al Di Meola demonstrating |
his Ovation Guitar
About 10 years ago I got to see Al Di Meola present a demonstration of his personal Ovation model. The guy loved it. Di Meola said that he owned a lot of guitars, including some very collectible Martins. But for concert work, he preferred the feel of the Ovation neck, and really liked the string-through bridge for his style of playing.
He could mute the strings with his palm, and stated he could not do this in the same manner with a pin-style bridge. I will say that Al Di Meola was schooled at Julliard, and studied classical guitar there, which is another instrument that has no bridge pins.
|Bill Kaman with Ovation #006|
This instrument was different than the production models. There was no fancy rosette around the sound hole, and the top of the headstock was flat, like on a Martin guitar, and the bowl on the back was smooth, and shiny.
Kaman owned a Martin Dreadnought guitar that was in serious need of repair. Martin did not use adjustable truss rods until 1985. They started using a T-shaped steel reinforcement on the Dreadnought models in the 1930’s. Subsequently, Kaman’s Martin had a warped neck, and had developed some crack in the body. He took it to a repair shop.
|Charles Kaman - Kaman Aerospace Co.|
|1970's Ovation Lyrachord back|
|1967 Ovation Balladeer|
The first model was named The Balladeer, for a local folk group that were given some of the first instruments. After the group got a standing ovation, the guitar’s name was settled on; Ovation.
|1967 Ovation Balladeer|
|Ovation 5 piece |
Maple and Mahogany neck
The first guitar was designed by luthier Gerry Gardner in 1966. To prevent neck warping, the guitar came with an adjustable truss rod that was contained in an aluminum channel, and as an added measure, a 5 piece laminated neck to give it additional strength. The bound neck was topped with an ebony fretboard, that had fancy mother-of-pearl inlays. The second guitar that was produced; The Josh White model, had dot mother-of-pearl inlays.
|1973 patent for |
Ovation piezo bridge pickup
By 1973 Ovation was using it’s own 6 piece piezo pickup that sat in a saddle slot in the bridge. This was designed by Kaman Company engineer James Rickard in 1971, and patented in 1973. This pickup is still being used in the majority of Ovation acoustic electric guitars today.
The benefit of this design was that the player got a clear electric signal from the vibrations of each string. Despite a slight “quack”, there was virtually little or no feedback at high volumes.
Compared to the Barcus Berry transducers of the day, that were taped onto the guitars bridge, this pickup was a huge improvement for players. Subsequently many 1970’s bands saw the Ovation guitar as their go-to working stage instrument.
|Ovation Model 1624 |
Country Artist volume control
|Glen Campbell on his TV Show |
with his Ovation Guitar
|Current Glen Campbell Model|
At one point Campbell suggested that they reduce the size of the Lyrachord bowl, to reduce back strain. The shallow bowl Ovation was invented from this idea.
|Ovation Model 1867|
The Super Shallow model 1867 Legend was Robert Fripp's preferred acoustic-electric guitar. During the 1970’s, This model became popular with electric guitar players.
|Ovation Adamas Sound Board|
|1983 Adamas ad|
Instead of the traditional large round sound hole, this model had 22 small soundholes on the upper bouts of the guitar. This is said to produce greater volume, and allowed the bracing to be altered to aid in the top vibration.
|Updated Cutaway |
This guitar was named Adamas, from the Greek word that meant “inflexible, firm, long-lasting and unconquerable or invincible”.
|1992 Adamas 1581-8|
By reducing the bracing, Ovation was also able to reduce the guitars weight. These guitar had a small hatch on their backside, to facilitate the battery.
|1970 Ovation Applause|
In the early 1970's Ovation came out with a budget guitar, that was originally produced in the USA, under the brand name Applause. The unique thing about this guitar was that the neck and headstock were made of a metal frame filled with polymer blend material.
|1978 Ovation Matrix|
Eventually Ovation decided to offshore their entry-level models, under the names of Applause. This was not the USA model, but the brand was giving to guitars which mainly featured a laminated top.,
|1970's Ovation Celebrity CC11|
Kaman changed the name of their musical instrument division too KMCMusicorp, which was a subsidiary of Kaman Aircraft.
Unfortunately in 2008 KMCMusicorp was sold to the Fender Musical Instrument Company, who was on an acquisition spree. At this time most production moved offshore, however some of the high-end models were still being manufactured at the Connecticut plant until 2014 when Fender closed the facility.
|Ovation Custom Legend |
made by DWS
A year later Drum Workshop, the company that builds DW Drums purchased the Ovation name and the factory, and reinstated manufacturing. Currently Drum Workshop has reopened and restaffed the New Hartford, Connecticut plant where the high end guitars are made.
The Applause Series, and some other Ovation models are outsourced to Korea and China.
|Elite TX 8 String|
Also outsourced are the Elite, and Celebrity series guitars. the Collector series, and some Signature series models. There are ten Custom series guitars that are built at the New Hartford plant.
|Melissa Etheridge with her Ovation|
|Adrian Legg with his Adamas|
In his younger years Adrian Legg played a six string Adamas model, also French guitarist Marcel Dadi, played his Adamas model. The list goes on.
I need to make an important distinction. There are beautifully crafted guitars that can be played at home or in small settings. Luthiers have spent years developing these lovely instruments.
|1988 Takamine |
But there are stage guitars that are adaptable to large settings, usually due to their built-in electronics. These include Takamine, Maton, Ovation, and some Taylor models.
These instruments may not sound as sweet as a Martin D-45, when played acoustically, without amplification, but sound great on stage. It is this fact that first drew performers to chose Ovation guitars.
|Ovation Model 1713|
On the other hand, I've seen some low end Martin guitars, that I thought were downright shameful. And they retailed for starting in the six to seven hundred dollar price range..
Ovation has invested a lot of engineering skills in turning out some fine guitars. I appreciate that.
|Vintage Ovation 1713 - $499|
One last thought is that vintage Ovation Guitars, do not increase in value, the way some other brand name guitars do. I suppose that is due to the desirability factor. So there may be some great bargains on Ovation acoustic-electric models.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)
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