I am blaming Gordon for my new guitar - though in the nicest possible way.
After purchasing the Vintage VE2000GG 12 string back in February – still an excellent guitar – my thoughts drifted back to a conversation with Gordon after one of his gigs/concerts/shows (I am never sure what to call them these days due to the versatility) back in the mists of time. I can’t quite remember the details in full – don’t know where, don’t know when … oh no! Vera Lynn is intruding again.
Anyway, I asked about a particular piece that Gordon played and he informed me that it was played on a baritone guitar. After a few more questions about this type of guitar, by which time I am sure Gordon was well ready to move on to talk to someone sensible, my appetite for a baritone guitar was whetted and, one day, I decided I might try one – just to see if it was an instrument I could get used to and worth buying.
During my attempts trying to find a Paul Brett VE8000PB 12 string to compare against the GG model I ventured in to a couple of the shops (well most of them, actually) on Denmark Street in London and asked quite a few questions about baritone guitars. quickly establishing that the Martin and Gibson models (if you could find one) were well outside my financial range. However I did find and was able to try out two other guitars of this type:
• Alavarez ABT60E, and
• Taylor 320e Baritone
I spent a lot longer than I had intended playing around with both guitars, concluding that the Taylor was the better of the two, though over twice the price. I didn’t need any more convincing that this was an instrument I could enjoy playing but had deliberately left my debit/credit cards at home to avoid making an impulse purchase – a very good and sensible decision I believe.
I mulled over the differences between these two baritone guitars for several days then started looking at reviews and for the best deal available for each, with a clear preference for the Taylor. Sadly the prices were much the same at all the major suppliers, including the one I have purchased various bits and pieces from over the years and established to my view as reliable. A ‘phone call later and the decision was made and a Taylor 320e ordered for delivery next day. I have tried not to look too hard at the price paid as it was more than I had originally intended. Having bought the VE2000GG-12 at what I considered an excellent price for an excellent instrument I have to regard that as spoiling my expectations. I blame Gordon, of course, for allowing such a fine instrument to be sold at such a low price!
So, the Taylor 320e Baritone – am I disappointed? Not in the least. I am enjoying it at the expense of not playing other guitars as much as I should. However, this is an instrument that demands attention and, in some ways, even relearning how to play. I am not referring to simply the fact that the standard tuning is 5 frets down from a normal 6 string standard tuning – that is B–E–A-D-Fsharp-B instead of E-A-D-G-B-E – but the technique needs adapting to get the most out of the guitar. You can certainly simply strum it as you would a standard 6 string, though that doesn’t bring out the best in the instrument. I have found that adapting finger picking (or plectrum picking, if preferred) to accentuate the tonal quality of this much deeper instrument is best to extract a wonderful warm sound. I have to admit that there is a temptation to dwell on the bass strings and am putting in the effort to avoid that. I have a lot of relearning to do but can honestly say that this is a very enjoyable experience.
I see the instrument as being a supporting sound for other standard 6/12 stringers to give a fuller sound – unless of course you are as adept on the instrument as Gordon, which I am not and never will be even vaguely near his standard. I am looking forward to being able to play such accompaniment to others, having done a little bit of that so far, but would like to do much more of it in the future (not too long in the future as the years are not so much ticking as flying by).
Do I recommend this instrument? Well, yes and no! I believe that you should try out any of the baritone guitars that you can and see if this is an instrument for you. I don’t believe it is a type of guitar to acquire as a fad-of-the-day and you should think long and hard about which one to buy if you decide it is for you. I certainly would recommend the Taylor 320e Baritone, though didn’t find anything not to recommend the Alvarez ABT60E – it is just an issue of personal choice.
P.S. I am still compiling a history of ‘Guitars what I have owned’ and finding some fascinating stuff. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to set this out in a way that can be readily followed and won’t have that time until late September. If anyone else would like to start up that theme in the meantime I will be more than happy to join in when time permits.
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