In Search of the Perfect Acoutic Guitar…

Originally posted 2010-04-16 00:55:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

A little over two weeks ago, I got the urge.  On a chance visit to Guitar Center in Manchester, CT (while my wife shopped at the Christmas Tree Shop), I began getting that familiar, “I really wanna buy a guitar” feeling.  I started to think about my fellow “Traveling Acai Berries” member, Steve, who has a beautiful (and beautiful-sounding) Martin D16-RGT acoustic guitar.  I remember playing it and noticing how well it sounded.  Every fret was in tune.  I didn’t have to try so hard to make it sound great.  Plus, it had some nice volume without having to strum very hard.

So, I thought about the idea of actually purchasing a Martin guitar.  I mean, I was always a nay-sayer.  I remember countless conversations with my brother, saying, “Oh, Martins are overpriced- there’s no way they can sound THAT good to justify being over a thousand dollars!”

Then, I played Steve’s guitar.  It was magical.  I knew I had to have one someday.  Little did I know that day would be now!

So, the bug was in my mind.  I began doing some research and honed-in on a few models.  I decided right off the bat that I wanted an all solid wood guitar.  To me, there’s no other way.  I actually didn’t even want Steve’s same model because of its Micarta (synthetic) fretboard.  Not to say that it’s a bad thing- I mean, it’ll NEVER wear down- but, to me, I really wanted an instrument I could hand down for generations.

You see, Martin guitars have been around since 1833 and have been produced (the all-wood ones, at least) in Nazareth, PA for over 175 years.  That’s pretty incredible, especially considering that, after all this time, it’s STILL a family-run business!  When you buy a high-quality Martin, you keep it for life (it has a lifetime warranty, too) and it only gets better (and even more valuable) with age.

So, my search brought up a few potential models, including the DSR, the D-15 Mahogany, and the DSM.  These guitars are all “custom” because they were made for major guitar retailer Guitar Center.  So, they’re not the standard Martin models, but they do offer a significant savings.

Which brings me to my next point: Yes, I gave myself a budget on this, but I really didn’t want to limit myself budget-wise.  I mean, I set out to buy the best acoustic guitar I could possibly purchase- one that sounded great.  I wanted the best acoustic money could buy.  But, I ended up saving a lot of money only because “the best” to me didn’t include a ton of pearl inlays and fancy appointments.  I think it’s true that, with Martins, they stop sounding better at a certain point…and then just start looking better.  Sure, I could’ve gotten one with the perfect cut of wood on the top (no “bear claws”, as they say), but that doesn’t make the sound any better now, does it?

So, I went to a couple stores to try things out.  I played the highest of the high end Martins, including the famed HD-28 and the Eric Clapton signature edition, which actually contained his signature inside the guitar!  But, I didn’t love the sound.  They sounded too muted to me.  They certainly didn’t have the booming, yet sparklingly clear, tones that Steve’s model had.

So, I had to do more research.  I learned that I was looking for a guitar with a spruce top and rosewood back and sides for the tone I liked.  But, I wanted to get a mahogany neck, because I simply can’t resist that intoxicating mahogany smell.  I also decided that I wanted a guitar with an ebony fretboard, because it was the kind of fretboard they used on the highest-end Martins.

I ended up finding the Martin DSR, which had everything I wanted except for the fretboard.  I could’ve lived with that.  But, the guitar had a satin finish to it.  It looked okay (other than the tacky white binding) and was LOUD- a big plus.  I came to the conclusion that the glossy coat was what was holding the other guitars back from being as loud as they could be.  Then, I started thinking about the fact that I want this instrument to be the be-all end-all acoustic guitar.  Am I really going to hand-down a guitar that didn’t have full-body gloss and that had a lower-end fretboard?  I mean, the guitar was about $1000, but I still felt that I would be taking the low road.

So, I got pretty disheartened and kept searching.  I spoke to my brother Mike, who then told me to expand my horizons.  Martin isn’t the only high-end acoustic guitar company, you know.  So, I seriously considered Taylor (so many famous people play them) and Larivee (a Canadian company that Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies uses).  But, stores around here don’t sell Larivee and I’ve never heard or played one in person.  And, I tried a couple of Taylors that were around $1,000 and they didn’t trill me.  To me, they played like every other guitar I’ve tried.

And then, in my search through literally hundreds of pages of online forums and articles, I came across one post that mentioned the Martin MMV.  It’s a model, originally made in 2005 (thus “MMV”) for Guitar Center.  It featured EVERYTHING I wanted in the guitar: glossy, Sitka spruce top, East Indian Rosewood back and sides, and the elusive ebony wood fretboard!  It had that same white binding, but I felt a lot better when I realize that the famed HD-28 had the same binding and looked very nice when glossy.  I was so excited, but realized that I would have to buy this sight-unseen.

So, I did as much research on the guitar as I could.  I literally read every webpage I could find about it.  I wanted to buy it on eBay, but really wanted that Martin Lifetime (yes, LIFETIME) warranty, so I decided to buy it new.  I finally found a 15% off coupon from a reputable site, which was good because this model (at Guitar Center, at least) was a full $500 more than the other models I was looking at.

Let me just say how much I love and appreciate my supportive wife, Becky, for understanding that I need such comfort items as these after working all day and night for the past year and a half!

Back to the story: I even got the guy to throw in six sets of Martin strings!

The guitar came in on Tuesday and I couldn’t be happier with it.  It’s LOUD and sounds amazing.  It also smells wonderful.  It came with a hard shell case, too.  I realize that even higher-end Martins use “choice woods” and other classy appointments, but I truly believe that this model sounded better in my ears.  It’s not the flashiest guitar, but I think it’s the highest quality and best sounding Martin before you just start paying for visual upgrades.  I will be proud of this guitar for the rest of my life and will be proud to hand it down someday.  But, they may have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. :-)

I hope this guitar will further excite me to play music and inspire me to continue writing new songs.  I look forward to playing it all the time now and feel like I finally have an acoustic guitar that brings me to the next level.  I’m glad to be a Martin owner, too.  I join some pretty good company there.

So, again, this may not be the perfect overall guitar, but to me, it certainly is.  The sound, the look, the prestige- they all fit me like a glove.  I hope it will be the last acoustic guitar I’ll ever need to buy.  Of course, that just leaves me more room for my growing electric guitar collection!

Stay tuned- next week I bust-out the Martin MMV for my first Laptop Session acoustic cover song music video!  See you then.

“If You Wanna” (Paul McCartney Cover)

Originally posted 2009-11-24 22:24:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome, one and all, to the new and improved Laptop Sessions Cover Songs Music Blog!  If you’re a regular viewer, make sure to check out the homepage of LaptopSessions.com and see our new features and new redesign.  It may not seem that different at first, but I think you’ll agree that it’s much easier to navigate, especially if you were a first-time viewer.  And, for a limited time, you can get a free mp3 download of my album, “What About Today?” by subscribing to the music blog!  That’s right- just enter your name and email address and we’ll send you new acoustic cover song music videos every week- cancel at any time, but keep the free mp3 download as our gift to you.  Sounds like an infomercial, doesn’t it? :-)

Tonight’s video will also be the last one in HD (there may be a couple of instances where I can’t get the HD camera, though).  Today, after a scare, I got our new HD video camcorder!  It’s a Canon HV10 and man, what a good deal we got on it.  I found it on eBay in Canada and paid literally a third of the price for it.  It’s basically brand-new and came with a whole bunch of accessories and extra tapes.  But, don’t go thinking I went out and bought a camera just for this- I got it to finally play back our wedding videos (which were shot in HD) and edit them onto Blu-Ray.  I can’t wait to see how it came out!  Not too many people these days gettin’ married in HD.

I’m also posting this relatively early tonight in hopes that my music partner Steve will be able to see it before he goes to bed.

Tonight’s video is a slightly obscure one from Paul McCartney from his 1997 album, Flaming Pie.  What a great album.  Steve and I played for about a half hour extra last Thursday, just going through every song on that album.  I’ve written about my love for Flaming Pie in the past (click on the Paul McCartney category in the upper left on the sidebar to see my other posts), but this is actually good timing because I haven’t recorded a McCartney song for months.  Plus, I have Steve with me, playing his usual great guitar and singing the bridge with me.

“If You Wanna” is just a good driving song- when Paul McCartney got together with Steve Miller for a writing session, he promised himself he wouldn’t write an Americana driving song….so much for that idea.  But, it was really fun recording this one- Steve and I always get so pumped after a good take.  And this one was ONE TAKE!  We had never even practiced it before!  We just went over the structure once and hit record.  Such is life when you’re running on a tight schedule.  I keep hoping for the days when we can have a lot of time to just jam and record a bunch of tunes.

Of course, you’ll see me playing our colleague Noreen’s beautiful Gibson 1967 12-string acoustic, which never sounded better.  I’m hoping she’ll let me borrow it next week so I can record a song from a sorely underrated band.  That song will usher in the “holiday” (there’s a clue) season nicely.  Speaking of the upcoming holiday, I’m incredibly excited!!  I can’t wait to finally play some video games, eat, and go shopping for someone else for a change!  We’re hoping to do the midnight madness at our local chain of outlet stores.  Don’t worry, I don’t plan on trampling anyone for a TV at Wal-Mart or anything.  We’re just looking forward to a really cool opportunity to ring in my favorite time of year: Christmastime!  You know, we’ve recorded many Christmas songs already- you should check out some of those acoustic videos by choosing the “Christmas Songs” category up top.

I hope you enjoy tonight’s collaborative effort and I’ll be back next Tuesday with an all-new video in HD for the first time!  See you then.



Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar – Jim Fusco’s Guitar Collection

Originally posted 2013-10-29 05:23:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

On this edition of “Jim Fusco’s Guitar Collection”, I bring you one of my newer guitars in the Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar.  I got this as an amazing birthday gift- one I picked out, but had never actually seen in person.  So, it was a surprise on a couple of counts!

IMG_2778

I decided on the Epiphone for a couple of reasons.  First, I found the Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro 50s tribute guitar online for a massive $2,000.  The price has come down a bit since then, but man, I fell in love with that guitar.  And why did I fall in love with it?  Well, because of my brother Mike, of course!  He’s always searching for new and exciting things that he will eventually convince me to buy. :-)  And when he got his incredible Gibson Les Paul Supreme electric guitar (which I hope he’ll write a blog post about someday, too), I knew I had to have one.

But, I also knew I didn’t want to drop that kind of money on just one guitar.  When your “wish list” of guitars is as long as mine was (is?), sometimes you have to make some compromises.  So, I looked around and found this- the Epiphone Les Paul Standard.  It’s the cheapest model they make, but that didn’t matter to me- it was in Pelham Blue, the same color as the Gibson Traditional Pro!  It’s this kind of metallic blue color that was an old car color.  Match that with some cream-colored binding and you’ve got a winning combination.  Plus, it was “only” $399!

So, what makes the Epiphone different from the Gibson?  They’re both owned by the same company.  Well, the Gibson is made in the US.  So, that doubles the price alone.  Does that mean it’s made better?  Personally, I think not, especially after inspecting every square millimeter of my Epi- the thing is made incredibly well.  The Gibson did have a few better features- it has a Plex setup, which is a computerized way of making sure every fret is perfectly in tune.  Ain’t gonna get that on a $399 guitar.

The Gibson also has better pickups- I think they were Burstbucker Pros or something like that.  The Gibson has a full maple cap while the Epiphone only has a maple veneer top.  But honestly, if the guitar is painted an opaque color like my Epiphone is, why pay extra for a higher grade of wood?  Some may say that the tone is altered.  That may be true, but just because a certain tone is slightly “different” doesn’t automatically make it slightly “better”!

So, when I finally got the Epiphone, I knew that I wanted to do some upgrades, both sonically and cosmetically.  It looked great to begin with, but I didn’t like the amber volume knobs.  So, I replaced them with cream colored ones to match the binding.  I then added a great nameplate that my brother got me- see the photo below!

Epiphone Les Paul Standard Pelham Blue with Sheptone PAF Pickups

And finally, I did the biggest upgrade of all- I did a ton of research and bought Sheptone PAF clone pickups that are made to exacting “Patent Applied For” Gibson pickups that were used on the original Les Paul model guitars of the late 1950s.  The output is so much higher on these pickups and the sound is airy and bright.  It’s a whole different league from the stock pickups.  I’m sure those weren’t bad, but I wanted to make this “Jim Fusco Custom” Epiphone as good as a Gibson.  I honestly think these Sheptone pickups are better than the stock pickups on the Gibson LP Traditional Pro!

Oh, and I swapped-out all of the wiring (the wiring harness), volume, and tone pots (potentiometers).  I did all the wiring myself and had a ton of fun doing it.  Now everything in this guitar is in tip-top shape and sounds amazing.  I’m so happy I chose this one, as it was a fun project.  I now have something truly unique.  You’ll be hearing me play my Epiphone Les Paul on many future songs- this is my first LP guitar, so it should offer some vastly different tones than I’ve ever had before!

Stay tuned for more Guitar Reviews from the Jim Fusco Guitar Collection coming your way on the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog!

Finish-up Those Christmas Lists: A Musician’s Guitar Collection, Wish List, and Recommendations

Originally posted 2009-12-16 03:25:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Christmas is almost here and that means your list is probably complete and you’re just waiting for the big day- and hoping that you’ll get that special guitar you’ve always wanted!  Well, if you haven’t made your Christmas list yet, or if you’re looking for an idea for the guitar player in your life, then look no further.  I am here to take you on a journey through my guitar collection and my wish-list, which will hopefully give you some ideas.  Below each guitar will be a description and reasons why I have it and what makes it different from the others.  I’ll even give you tips on what to buy for each type of guitar player!  So, let’s get started…

My Guitar Collection:

Ibanez Artcore AM73T Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar

am73t

Without a doubt, this will always be my favorite piece of hardware.  It’s just perfect- the styling is classic, there’s great symmetry, and it has that wonderful Bigsby tremolo.  If you’re a classic rock’n’roll fan, this is definitely the guitar for you.  I channel Chuck Berry when playing this axe and the semi-hollow body style is perfect for a much fuller sound than you’d get from a solid-body.  So, I purchased this guitar for three reasons: a) it was literally a tenth of the price of a Gibson that looked exactly the same, b) it’s simply beautiful, and c) it has that great old-fashioned guitar sound.

I will note that I ended up changing the pickups on this to make it a “hotter” (louder) sound.  I put in some serious Gibson pickups and now this thing really rocks!

Ibanez ARX320 Solid-Body Electric Guitar

ar

The Ibanez above may be my overall favorite guitar, but this one is my favorite electric to play.  It’s much lighter than the Artcore guitar above (which induces a large amount of back pain) and is beautiful, as well.  The guitar doesn’t have a ton of features- no whammy bar, no tremolo or anything like that.  But, when I need to rock and it needs to be loud and “cutting”, I pick this guitar up.  It’s a really good multi-purpose guitar.

The guitar is even prettier in person than in the photo- trust me on this one.  There’s good sound and this guitar is a good one for any type of rock music, as it can play both clean and with a lot of distortion.  I asked for this guitar because it looked great, was very inexpensive at the time (it has since gone up for some reason over $100 to $449!), and gives that straight-ahead electric guitar sound without sounding as retro as my Artcore.

Dean Boca 12-String Electric Guitar

boca

Ah, the newest weapon in my arsenal- this guitar is a great value.  Try looking for a 12-string electric guitar online for less than $1,000.  It’s just about impossible, other than the Dean Boca.  I really wanted a new guitar (I had three in mind) because Musician’s Friend had a 20% off sale going.  So, I chose this guitar over the other two because I would get a different sound.  That 12-string sound, used on songs by the Byrds, the Beatles, and many, many others, is so distinctive.  I know I’ll be using this in almost every song I record in the future.  I hope to make it a signature sound of mine, especially because 12-string electrics really aren’t used much in today’s popular “rock” music anymore.

This guitar is definitely for the throwback musician or a guitarist that has tried everything and needs a new sound.  And I would highly recommend this one in particular, as it plays great, sounds great, and looks fantastic.  At around $300, you can’t go wrong, and it’s a guitar I’ll have for life.

Fender Jazz Bass Special Edition

fender-bass

How I got this one?  Well, let’s just say I got it from a desperate person that just wanted to get rid of it.  And, boy am I glad he did!  Let me begin by saying that I had an electric bass already (a really good one, too), but when someone offers you a new Fender Jazz Bass Special Edition for $125, you DON’T say no.  You hand over the money and grab that guitar as quickly as possible.

And that’s what I did!  This thing weighs a ton, but the sound is great- it even smells great due to the quality woods they used.  They style, which is just a natural wood finish, is really beautiful.  Unless I break down and buy either a Hofner bass or a Rickenbacker bass in the future, I really don’t see myself needing anything more than this Fender Jazz Bass.  This one’s good for all types of musicians from rock to blues to whatever!

Rouge Lap Steel Guitar

rouge

This one’s just for fun- my parents are always looking for new instruments for me to try and they thought this would be a good idea.  And I love it!  I’ve always loved that lap steel/pedal steel sound.  There have been some great solos done in rock music on these lap steel guitars.  And I’ve already come up with a couple of solos for some new songs I’ve been working on.  This particular one is a quality instrument, as well.

This is a great guitar for “classic rock” (70’s) fans and country-rock players.  But, I’m going to attempt to use it in some creative ways in my music, so I hope you’ll stay-tuned!

Ibanez AEG10 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

acoustic-electric

I asked for this acoustic-electric because we were playing more live shows and I needed something that was easier than using a microphone or an acoustic pickup.  This isn’t the greatest guitar in the world, but it does have a nice Fishman pickup…that blew out on me and I had to have repaired.  Alone, I wouldn’t play this as a normal acoustic, but when plugged-in, it definitely gets the job done, especially for the price.

Ibanez AW100 Acoustic Guitar

acoustic

This is my first real guitar.  I wanted an acoustic that was around $300 and I asked the guy at Guitar Center which one to get.  And then my love for Ibanez began.  This guitar is great- I will admit that the frets are now worn-down, but other than that, it’s a great solid-top acoustic that sounds bright and stays in tune well.

Laurel Mandolin

I was given this guitar as another “see if he likes it” gift- and this one was a real home-run!  I love playing the mandolin and this is a quality instrument, as well.  If you know someone that plays in an acoustic band, really recommend one of these- it adds a great folky dimension to the sound and can be great for soloing, too.

Arrow ST-369 Classical Acoustic Guitar

classical

If you’ve ever seen my acoustic cover song music videos on the Laptop Sessions music blog or on YouTube, then you’ve seen this guitar.  Coming in at about 45 Euro and making the trip across the Atlantic home with me is this nylon string acoustic guitar.  It’s small, so it’s very portable.  It’s not very loud, but in a nice room, the tone is really great.  It’s SO easy to play- I honestly play this guitar more than any others because I can just sit down and feel like I’m a pro.  It’s fun to solo on this, as well- I really think everyone should have a guitar like this!

Wish-List of Guitars (Relatives, please take note!)

PRS Soapbar Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar

prs

I’ve always loved the look and quality of PRS guitars, but most are very, very expensive.  This one combines good looks with a kind of Rickenbacker styling, plus it’s semi-hollow, which gives that great warm sound I like.  Problem is that it’s not going to be much of a different sound.  I’m just hoping it plays really nicely…

Gretsch Double-Jet Solid-Body Electric Guitar with Tremolo

gretsch

Okay, so I really want a Gretsch.  I really would like a Duo Jet (which George Harrison is holding on the cover of “Cloud Nine”), but this guitar is so classic-looking…and costs about $2,000 less…  Has the Bigsby tremolo, but this one is solid-body, which should provide a different sound.

Cordoba CK-25 Ukulele

cordoba

While in Hawaii for our honeymoon, I really wanted a real Koa wood ukulele that was made in Hawaii.  Starting at $700, I figured it was out of my price range for an instrument I’d use so rarely.  And even though I had the opportunity to purchase this Cordoba all Koa wood uke for only $170, I passed on it because of how little I’d use it and the fact that it wasn’t made in Hawaii.  Maybe when we go back for our 25th or something… :-)

Fender Player’s Deluxe Stratocaster Solid-Body Electric Guitar

strat

My brother Mike has this guitar and I LOVE it.  It plays so well- I need to have it.  He has the natural blonde maple fretboard that’s so much easier to play than rosewood, so it’s great for soloing.  Plus, I can’t believe I don’t have a Fender electric.  I want the blue model with the blonde maple fretboard, but I’d change-out that ugly-looking pickguard.  This is a must-have for me someday.

Finally, I’ll say that I would love to get a Martin like my Laptop Sessions partner (and fellow Traveling Acai Berry) Steve.  His guitar is BEAUTIFUL and plays like a dream.  I understand now why Martin guitars are so expensive.  Also, if you’ve seen some of my recent acoustic cover song music videos, you’ve seen my colleague Noreen’s amazing Gibson 12-string acoustic guitar from 1967.  Just put that on my “yeah right- not in your lifetime” wishlist!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip through my guitar inventory and my wish-list.  I hope this gives you some great Christmas, birthday, or any other holiday ideas!  And, of course, I would love to hear about your guitars and why you got them- hey, maybe one of your guitars will make it to my wish-list, too!