Saturday, 16 June 2012

Guitar Review - Vintage VE2000GG Gordon Giltrap Signature 12 string



Folks will remember my purchase a few weeks back of the Vintage Gordon Giltrap VE2000GG 12 string to replace my old Yamaha which sadly has seen better days...

My requirement was for a nice playable 12 string electro-acoustic.  Most of my stuff is as you know acoustic rock orientated in the David Gray, John Mayer genre.  I'd had my eye on a Gordon Giltrap for a couple of years now anyway since a) I'm a big Giltrap fan b) I'd heard said Mr Giltrap use the 6 string version live a couple of times and was impressed c) it seems incredible value for money.

Now then my life was made a touch my complicated by the appearance of the Paul Brett signature 12string.  This is a slight oddity in that this is a parlour sized guitar which to be honest wasn't my initial desire but has received rave reviews and also has been designed as a 12string from the ground up - unlike the Gordon Giltrap which is an adaptation of a 6 string design.  Not unusual to be fair most 12 strings are 6 string designs which have been adapted to 12 strings.  A couple of visits to Ivor Mairants showroom in London were needed.  On the first I played both the GG and the PB.  The PB hugely impressed me, the sound from it's little body was not what I expected, lush and full - some reviews suggest that being a 12fret neck join the positioning of the bridge therefore nearer the end block than you'd normally expect helps with this.  Whatever; trust me on pure acoustic terms it was a great sound.  The neck was very nice to play as well but the GG was about the same in those terms.  On the second visit though I plugged both in.  Now the PB again has a reasonable sound but I found the GG just that bit better on the electro side, now for live use clearly this is the top thing for me.  Finally the 14 fret neck join facilitating easier fingering up near the dusty end was a little bit of a swinger towards the GG and finally the body size when I sat with it just felt more "right" than the PB.  So I parted with my around £400 for the guitar and a very good quality hard case that is comes with and felt chuffed to bits.

So I should have.  I've been playing it at home and acoustically it has a sweet sound, very full but with clear definition across the range.  The GG is an unusual shape a bit like a Martin 000 with a more pronounced pinch to the waist.  This is directly from a design of Rob Armstrongs that was Gordon Giltrap's main 6 string instrument for many years, often referred to as the "figure of 8" guitar given the body outline. The neck is not a slim electric copy at all but then not massive or unwieldy at all either for a 12 string.  I find it easier to play than my old Yamaha ever was, even before the issues with it's action. The construction is a mahogany neck, with a stacked heel built of several pieces being one of the few indications this isn't a top of the pile instrument.  The top is solid Red Ceder and the back and sides again mahogany but laminated.  Now before people start poo-pooing the humble laminate as a cheap mans guitar the original handcrafted figure of 8 that Mr Giltrap has used on stage and on record for many a year also had laminate sides and back, Rob Armstrong firmly believing they add strength and consistency to the construction with little degradation on sound performance.  The choice of ceder is interesting to me - I've always thought this to be the top of choice on classical nylon strung guitars but not on a steel string, where I've always looked to spruce to bring out the tone best.  I have to say though with both the 6 string I played a couple of years back and this one my views have changed, on doubt it is different to spruce but it isn't inferior at all.  They also make an all mahogany 6 string version but I've not tried that to tell you the difference but it is interesting to go with that choice not spruce, given the bright full nature of this guitar with a decent clarity across the range I think maybe a spruce top would in fact be a little too trebly and harsh perhaps.

In the time I've had it I have done one recording with it using the electro output into my Boss BR600 and was very pleased with that result.  The preamp and pickup is very impressive spec for the price.  A Fishman Presys Blend unit features not just an undersaddle pickup but an internal microphone as well.  You have a three band EQ on board, a tuner, a noch button for feedback elimination, a phase control (?) and a mic blend control to mix in the mic.  I basically have found having the mic about 25% in the mix about best to my ears, this brings in some fullness and brightness to the sound but the level of body noise not too great - turn it right up and every bump against you or touch of hands on the body gets very amplified.  In recording you may be able to use more to good effect if you are very careful with the handling.

I used it live last night for a 4 song set as part of the regular Nags Head songwriter stage nights.  A couple of tunes recorded on 12 string originally were given a live 12 string run out and a couple of others that suit it... I debuted a new song "Stolen Morning" that'll be on the forthcoming album and whilst written on a 6 string and recorded with a 6 string recently after last night it'll be a 12 string live version from now on I think as it suited it in the "one man and his guitar" setting.   Two were in open position and two featured capo settings on 3rd and 4th and the guitar takes to that easily too.  As ever with a 12string my open tuning is half a step down at Eflat.  I was really impressed with the sound of the guitar last night live.  No tweaking really needed, EQ set basically flat across all three controls and the mic as I say about 25% and it sounded great with no hint of feedback issues.  I have to say my Yamaha CPX500 is a little put to shame by the GG on this showing, I have to tweak the treble down on that live, do suffer with feedback at times and frankly it doesn't have the fullness the GG displayed at all.  I'm really hankering after one of the 6 string derivatives now!  Once I hopefully get my tax situation sorted out and can determine my true state of wealth or indebtedness to the Inland Revenue I think I'll be badgering Mrs F to allow me to get myself an early 50th birthday present!

So overall really impressed.  I can't say much more than mention that two regulars at the songwriters stage including the guy who runs it and acts as MC and sound man for the night both commented during and after my set what a gorgeous sound it was and that the sound really suited my "style".  One thing I will say I only ever play 12 string with a plectrum (0.73 Dunlop Tortex - the yellow ones) as I've never felt I've mastered fingerstyle on them.  I doubt this guitar would suffer any poor performance for a fingerpicker but I thought I'd best qualify that my style is plectrum, fair amount of strumming, some arpeggio using a plectrum and chords using maj, min, maj7, sus2 and 4, 6s common as well etc.  So good for a strummer using embellished chords I suppose I'm saying.

Here is a version of Solo Sunday off my first album Within re-recorded on this guitar DI'ed straight into my Boss BR600 with one of the acoustic guitar patches used to give it some brightness.

9 comments:

  1. ack - can't make this play on my laptop travel computer! can't wait to hear it! sounds lovely...

    at my best as a guitarist a few years ago, i could do a fair bit of fingerpicking on my ovation 12-string. not easy, or particularly clean, but it usually served to at least surprise folks listening that i would even attempt it. can make some interesting sounds... reminds me that i should practice and get my chops back...

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  2. Loved the solo. I really enjoyed your review and kinda impressed myself that I understood most of it. It's probably a credit to you as well, but as someone who just fell in love with playing guitar in January, I'm sometimes overwhelmed with the learning curve. I'm always thirsty for more knowledge, though, so it was great to read a detailed review that was both technical and straightforward.

    I just bought a concert sized acoustic by Guild, which was not was I thought I'd been looking for because I thougt the sound would be puny or too high pitched. The salesman put a few of the smaller guitars on my lap, and was i ever glad to have been wrong. The one I bought has a warm, full sound and it suits my tiny size better than my dreadnought.

    Keep it up! Although I must add, 12 strings intimidate the crap out of me.

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    1. I've been playing near 40 years and the love affair never ends! I just wish after all those years I could play better!

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  3. Holy Crap! When I think about it, I've been playing that long too. Where did the time go? My 12 year old plays better solos than I do, so I know what you mean, but you're terrific! Really enjoyed the track. Is your album out? Would love to hear more. This is up my alley. Congrats on the new 6 string baby!

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    1. New album hopefully due in a month or two - it'll be available hopefully as a CD release or MP3 download as well... Stay tuned or like my facebook page - following link on the right :-)

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  4. I would like to comment, but I've absolutely no experience on which to base it, and I don't want to sound like a complete bl**dy idiot.

    Keep strumming or plectrumming.

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  5. How has the neck stood up? Any problems with a 12er built using a modified 6 string body? That was my main concern when I faced the same dilemma as you. I ended up choosing the Paul Brett 12.

    How far do you downtune. Gordon recommended at least one whole tone (which is pretty well the norm for most 12 strings). I usually downtune by that or a tone and a half.

    Good demo - especially when you started the main strum patterns.

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    1. The neck is fine. The guitar is as good today as it was when I bought it - better actually as although the top is cedar and therefore less likely to "mature" as much as say spruce it has "loosened up" I'd say.

      Normally I detune only half a step. The Paul Brett is a fine guitar and I was close. If you look at further stuff on here you'll see I ended up getting the deluxe version of the 6 string which really is a fine sounding guitar

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    2. I should say I also have moved my technique on with this guitar. I recorded a song "On Christmas Day" that was written and recorded on this which is my first ever fingerpicking on a 12 string and I'm sure this guitar has enabled me to get to that place

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