I was looking for an acoustic guitar for a little covers duo act I’m embarking on with another Better Music colleague, so I spent the morning lurking in the acoustic room upstairs. Not only did I sit on the Taylor couch – the most comfortable couch in the world, but I grabbed guitars off the wall with abandon (ignoring the ‘please ask a staff member’ cards). I wasn’t necessarily looking for a guitar with a pickup as the new Schertler AG6 had arrived and had risen more eye brows than a Miley Cyrus video. I was just looking for the best acoustic guitar…that wouldn’t arouse the suspicion of my financier. I mean fiancée.
After trying tons of guitars, I arrived at a Martin 000-17SM. This is an incredible guitar and I loved playing it. However, my soon to be partner in crime pointed out that although it was an exceptional guitar, it wasn’t the most versatile and certainly not the most suitable guitar for a covers gig. I agreed with him (though it’s still on my shopping list). I was then handed a fantastic Taylor guitar that blew me away, but it was a little out of my price range. Finally, Simo (our acoustic specialist) handed me a Martin GPCPA4SB. Not the most romantically or even imaginatively named guitar in the world, I think you’d agree. My response was to play it until I was kindly informed by a colleague that the store had closed and that I should probably go home before I set off the burglar alarms.
So, here is a little info on the guitar that stole the show. The GPCPA4SB belongs to the new Martin Performing Artist series (if you couldn’t tell by its name) and has a Grand Performance body shape with a 14th fret cutaway. So, let’s assume that the stately title is broken down as Grand Performance Cutaway Performing Artist 4 (?) Sunburst. The top is solid sitka spruce and the back and sides are solid sapele. Scalloped ‘X’ bracing teams up with the sitka top to give a bright and vibrant sound that mellows out very nicely when fingerpicking.
The pièce de résistance is the pickup system. As I said, this was not a prerequisite as I was happy to install the Schertler pickup, but since there was one there already, why not give it a whirl? The Fishman F1 Analog is a great sounding pickup with some extremely useful features for gigging musicians. All that can be seen of the pickup system is a small circular screen and two similar sized rubber dials. According to the instructions, the first dial allow you to “blend in a “mid-scooped” tone with emphasized bass & treble and reduced midrange”, while the second dial that controls the volume. Upon learning that, when depressed, the volume control turns on the in-built tuner, I immediately wanted to know what pressing the tone control would do, if anything. What pressing the tone control does is the best thing about this series; it allows you to cycle through preset phase settings to “improve bass response at low volume and suppress feedback at high volume”. The manual tells you to leave it set in the position “most pleasing to your ear”. Well, not only does this alter the sound of the guitar fairly drastically, but every setting is pleasing to the ear – both of them in fact. I could see this coming in very handy considering that every venue we would play would present new challenges in terms of room acoustics.
So, please allow me to introduce my new guitar, the Martin GPCPA4SB – a great sounding guitar with a hi-tech (if understated) pickup system…