N(Final)GD - 1964 Gibson ES335 TDC w/bigsby

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Re: The Final Guitar...

Post by zhivago » Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:53 pm

Congrats Kev! The guitar looks totally heavenly! :-*

I'd love to own an old ES one day. 8)
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Re: The Final Guitar...

Post by sookwinder » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:35 am

Just reflecting on ES guitars of the 50s and 60s (that also include the Gibson Kalamazoo built Epiphone thinline ESs).
IMO it is interesting that the utilitarian (aka built to a budget and/or section of the market) style that Gibson did with these guitars was similar to the utilitarian notion that Leo had for his Telecaster and Stratocasters.

What I mean by this is that Gibson still had all their expensive carved topped ES models... just have a look at the ES-5, the ES-L5 and the Super 400CES archtop models … but they also wanted to get into the game after Fender captured sections of the market with the tele and strats.

So they developed a series of models using laminated tops, with far less bling, but at the same time took on board features and ideas that the musicians of the time were saying were good. (location of volume/tone controls being one of them). Introduced a pickup that would not have suited the jazz guitars (guitarists) of the time in the HBs, but again suited the up coming (rock/blues) player of the 50s.

So we now covert not the most expensive carved top archtop electric guitars that Gibson manufactured in the 50s and 60s, but we lust after the lower level models (let's face it a 355 is just a tarted up 335, with added bling and apart from a varitone no real additional features that make it sound any different to a 335). Why? Because almost everything about their design and function works. An added bonus is that in general the quality of the builds was also good and robust enough to still be desirable 50 years later.

And for me there is one additional feature that I like about the 50s and 60s Gibson and Epiphone ES guitars, that being that there is an old world feel about them in that unlike the strat and teles which were of a new age in the 50s from a manufacturing perspective, by virtue of the hollow/semi hollow design the ES guitars were still manufactured like they had or would have in the 30s. There is something magical about looking inside an old ES guitar and breathing in the smells and the ghosts of the past.
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Re: The Final Guitar...

Post by zhivago » Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:42 am

Great post, David!

I was blown away by my 345...in fact after 9 months or so of owning it I still wonder why I didn't buy one earlier!

The ES3x5 is just about perfect! :-*
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Re: The Final Guitar...

Post by Despot » Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:00 pm

sookwinder wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:35 am
So they developed a series of models using laminated tops, with far less bling, but at the same time took on board features and ideas that the musicians of the time were saying were good. (location of volume/tone controls being one of them). Introduced a pickup that would not have suited the jazz guitars (guitarists) of the time in the HBs, but again suited the up coming (rock/blues) player of the 50s.

So we now covert not the most expensive carved top archtop electric guitars that Gibson manufactured in the 50s and 60s, but we lust after the lower level models (let's face it a 355 is just a tarted up 335, with added bling and apart from a varitone no real additional features that make it sound any different to a 335). Why? Because almost everything about their design and function works. An added bonus is that in general the quality of the builds was also good and robust enough to still be desirable 50 years later.

And for me there is one additional feature that I like about the 50s and 60s Gibson and Epiphone ES guitars, that being that there is an old world feel about them in that unlike the strat and teles which were of a new age in the 50s from a manufacturing perspective, by virtue of the hollow/semi hollow design the ES guitars were still manufactured like they had or would have in the 30s. There is something magical about looking inside an old ES guitar and breathing in the smells and the ghosts of the past.
I was having a conversation with a guitar playing friend at the weekend about this topic - and also that Gibson, like Fender with the Telecaster, got it mostly right first time (let's leave to one side the '58 ES335 with a three ply top like a Gretsch that's prone to cracking at the jack, and the early ones with no binding and too shallow a neck angle). The ES335 has been in continuous production since 1958. Not a bad indication that the design was right pretty much from the start.

Lady Despot's first comment when she saw it was "it's like an old violin". It does have that old world feel to it - yet it still has a neck that you can play right up to the dusty end without any issues with access, and I've always considered these guitars to be the most versatile of Gibson's options*.

I've had a long weekend to play it now - and I'm still finding my way with this guitar. It is wonderful - but it's been taking it's time to sort of settle in. When I first played it I thought it was pretty damn good ... but it didn't blow me away that the '62 ES345 had (that guitar was so lively and resonant that when you played it unplugged it sounded almost like an acoustic guitar). Instead it's taken me a few days to really get used to it. It's not as acoustically loud as the other one - but it's just as resonant. When you put it through an amp it immediately shines though - both pickups are pretty well balanced (a major issue with the ES345 I had) and sound fantastic. I still can't figure out which one has been rewound (I think it's the bridge - but I'm finally going to ask to be sure) - both sound lovely. Yannis - it's a while since I played your SG ... but I'm pretty sure that the neck pickup in mine (though a Patent Number) sounds a lot like yours. This makes sense as being a late '63 or early '64 (pot codes place the guitar to around October '63, serial number is early '64) it'll have pickups that have the same construction ... just a different sticker on the bottom. Neither pickup is as out-there as the neck pickup in my old ES345 (which ... to be fair, was an incredible sounding pickup that still works as my yardstick for an old humbucker sound).

What I'm happiest about is that this guitar sounds quite different to the SG (which I'm still considering keeping). The SG is a little more spiky - the ES335 sounds full and sort of classic in a way. I'm not really a 'rock' guy ... but if you want to play early rock and roll on it the guitar seems very at home - same for any sort of '60s/'70s rock sounds. That's nice. Not necessarily my thing ... but it does put a smile on my face to blast some of that stuff out for the laugh. What I love about it is the responsiveness of the pickups (especially the neck) ... also the note seperation and overall definition of the pickups. None of what I hate about some humbuckers (dark/muddy lack of response). To be fair ... pitting the 335 against the reissue 345 - the 345 isn't a thousand miles off. I stand by what I've said before about MHS humbuckers ... they're the nicest pickups Gibson have made for a while - nice and bright, quite defined ... not hugely hot. Great.

The neck profile was one of the things that initially struck me as good - but perhaps not as chunky as I would have liked. But after the settling in period I've found that it's remarkably similar in feel to my old Jazzmaster. It's perhaps slim around the nut and first two frets ... but after that it starts to taper up to what's actually quite chunky by the 12th fret ... just like the Jazzmaster. What is better (and I've no clue why this works out this way) is that the 335 doesn't cramp my hand when playing barre chords the way that the Jazzmaster does. I think it's probably just the scale length - also I use .10s on the 335 at the minute, which I had intended to be solely as a transition up to .11s but which actually feel lovely on it. I normally like tension on a shorter scale ... but it works.









* Okay - I was also surprised by that vintage Firebird - that guitar covered an awful lot of the same ground that a Telecaster or Strat could cover.

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Re: The Final Guitar...

Post by Despot » Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:04 pm

zhivago wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:53 pm
Congrats Kev! The guitar looks totally heavenly! :-*

I'd love to own an old ES one day. 8)
Totally possible Yannis. ES345s (in particular) are hugely undervalued and tend to be quite cheap. There's a lovely '67 ES345 in sunburst that's doing the rounds here on local adverts boards that I've played before (someone I knew had it - but he's a guitar flipper so I knew it would go back out there). That guitar has a huge chunky neck, and though it has the narrow nut you honestly don't feel it. The other thing I suspect about that guitar is that it has pre-t top patent numbers (when they changed to enamel wire, but otherwise had yet to go to the full t-top construction). They sound very very close to earlier pickups ... and it's for sale for not much more than the price of a reissue. A guitar like that is massively under valued for what it is.

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Re: The Final Guitar...

Post by zhivago » Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:52 pm

Despot wrote:
Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:04 pm
zhivago wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:53 pm
Congrats Kev! The guitar looks totally heavenly! :-*

I'd love to own an old ES one day. 8)
Totally possible Yannis. ES345s (in particular) are hugely undervalued and tend to be quite cheap. There's a lovely '67 ES345 in sunburst that's doing the rounds here on local adverts boards that I've played before (someone I knew had it - but he's a guitar flipper so I knew it would go back out there). That guitar has a huge chunky neck, and though it has the narrow nut you honestly don't feel it. The other thing I suspect about that guitar is that it has pre-t top patent numbers (when they changed to enamel wire, but otherwise had yet to go to the full t-top construction). They sound very very close to earlier pickups ... and it's for sale for not much more than the price of a reissue. A guitar like that is massively under valued for what it is.

I am totally with you...these late 60s ones can be great bargains. 8)

I'm not sure I will be in a position to buy another vintage guitar anytime soon, but we will see how things go...I am still getting to know the SG Custom...it is a slow burner guitar for me as the distorted tone is similar to my Les Paul (although the Les Paul has more girth). There is quite a bit of overlap sonically in a way, being both solid body Gibsons, both mahogany/ebony etc...I expected them to maybe be a tad more different in a way. The fret access on the SG is great, I must say.

Maybe in the future I could see myself trading the SG for a PAF ES345...god knows...I find that sometimes a guitar just "clicks" right away for me (see '61 Jazzmaster, '56 Custom, '43 000-28, '15 ES345), whereas others give me lots of exhilaration initially but then that fades (Ric 660, Gretsch White Penguin and a few others I've played but not owned).

I was even looking at your old ES345 that is still on sale the other day...I would have to swap the SG for it though with possibly a little money on top I guess...I can't swing another £10k+ guitar for probably a long time...longer than I'd care to admit...mind you I had a pretty incredible run for the past 6 years or so with a few of these! First World Problems!! :D


I guess what it boils down to is that I've had the Memphis ES345 now for 8 months and it has blown me away...I just never thought of myself as an ES player, although I always liked the look of them...and how then it usually goes for me, I try and hunt down an old one (did the same with the LP Custom when I had a R4 Custom Historic from '03). :fp: :D

I dunno...we shall see how I get on, I guess!! Can you imagine me ending up with your old ES?? How hilarious would that be!?? :freako:

Right, back you your guitar now! Apologies for the thread hijack!! :D
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Re: The Final Guitar...

Post by Despot » Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:33 am

That 345 is a glorious guitar Yannis. It really is.

The neck profile is a little more slim than your SG ... but not much. It's as loud as an acoustic unplugged and it's solid as a rock. Frets were also done just before I got it and it plays beautifully. The only issue with it (in my view) is that the neck pickup is so much louder than the bridge pickup. The bridge is actually quite quiet by comparision. If the pickups had matched I wouldn't have sold it. The neck pickup is like your SG ... just with more ... more. The bridge is a lot lower output.

If I'd have kept it I would have taken it out and replaced it with something that would have matched the neck pickup. I'd naturally have kept the PAF (as it is, after all, the original guitar pickup) and been sure that photos were taken of it throughout the process in case you ever wanted to sell it (so it could be proven to be original to the guitar). I think something loud like a Bareknuckle Mule might have matched well with that neck pickup - or else put something like a later '60s Patent number in there.

In the end I realised that it wasn't the one for me. I still miss it - and it's a better guitar in some ways than the '64 ... but the '64 is better suited to what I do. I always wanted a '59 mono ES355 with a bigsby - instead I got a '64 ES335 with a bigsby that has a neck profile that's probably the same as a '59 ES355! I'm very very happy with it - and I've finally scratched that last itch.

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Re: The Final Guitar...

Post by zhivago » Tue Jun 04, 2019 2:24 am

Despot wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:33 am
That 345 is a glorious guitar Yannis. It really is.

The neck profile is a little more slim than your SG ... but not much. It's as loud as an acoustic unplugged and it's solid as a rock. Frets were also done just before I got it and it plays beautifully. The only issue with it (in my view) is that the neck pickup is so much louder than the bridge pickup. The bridge is actually quite quiet by comparision. If the pickups had matched I wouldn't have sold it. The neck pickup is like your SG ... just with more ... more. The bridge is a lot lower output.

If I'd have kept it I would have taken it out and replaced it with something that would have matched the neck pickup. I'd naturally have kept the PAF (as it is, after all, the original guitar pickup) and been sure that photos were taken of it throughout the process in case you ever wanted to sell it (so it could be proven to be original to the guitar). I think something loud like a Bareknuckle Mule might have matched well with that neck pickup - or else put something like a later '60s Patent number in there.

In the end I realised that it wasn't the one for me. I still miss it - and it's a better guitar in some ways than the '64 ... but the '64 is better suited to what I do. I always wanted a '59 mono ES355 with a bigsby - instead I got a '64 ES335 with a bigsby that has a neck profile that's probably the same as a '59 ES355! I'm very very happy with it - and I've finally scratched that last itch.

Thanks for the extra info, Kev! I'll have a think! :)
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Re: N(Final)GD - 1964 Gibson ES335 TDC w/bigsby

Post by Despot » Thu Jun 06, 2019 12:08 am

Folks ... I'll post up some better photos as soon as I get a chance. We're away this weekend, so it'll most likely be after we get back.

I spent another few hours last night playing this through the Princeton; at the weekend I was using a Vibrolux reissue at my parent's place, which was probably too loud to be able to assess how it'll work in it's 'normal' future usage. I'm really taken with this guitar - in particular how versatile it is. The bridge pickup is bright ... super bright, but without any thin or spiky character. It almost sounds like a Telecaster pickup with a little more girth to it.

What I didn't do at the weekend was mess around with the volume/tone pots (I ran it on 10 - and spent too long messing with pedals). Just like the old ES345, these old pots work through the whole range of travel, not just between 9-10. Even with the tone backed off to 0 the neck pickup remains clear - not woofy or muddy. Darker for sure ... but each note is clearly defined. I'd forgotten how nice that sounds. I've actually found that the neck pickup sounds really good with the tone backed off to about 6 - it's not dark, just a little more mellow with the brightness rolled back. Sounds great when you're playing any sort of mellower stuff through the Princeton. Same with the bridge pickup - rolling the tone back slightly, and the volume gives you your 'normal' sound, and you can then roll up the volume and tone if you want to go back into cut-through mode.

This thing really is a jack of all trades. I think I might actually prefer it to my Jazzmaster (which has been my no.1 now for about five years - and which has long been my yardstick against which all others are measured).

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Re: N(Final)GD - 1964 Gibson ES335 TDC w/bigsby

Post by Despot » Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:08 am

Image
Image

Some slightly better photos...

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Re: N(Final)GD - 1964 Gibson ES335 TDC w/bigsby

Post by zhivago » Fri Jun 14, 2019 7:20 am

It looks stunning, Kev!!! :-* :-* :-*
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Re: N(Final)GD - 1964 Gibson ES335 TDC w/bigsby

Post by nanamour » Fri Jun 14, 2019 7:57 am

Glad you've found thee ES, but I have to say I'll miss your NGD musings, especially of the Gibson type--the finer details of old Gibsons are still a bit 'here be dragons' to me and I always find myself learning a lot :)

Really spectacular guitar; happy to read that it sounds as good as it looks (which is really saying something!)

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Re: N(Final)GD - 1964 Gibson ES335 TDC w/bigsby

Post by Despot » Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:28 pm

Thanks folks.

I'm really happy with it. It wasn't the instant connection that I sometimes get with guitars ... but rather a first impression that was pretty good ... a little bit of time for the guitar to settle in to using heavier strings and finally a realisation that this is a guitar that can pretty much do anything that I'll ever need (from an electric guitar). At first I was a bit underwhelmed by the neck ... it was slimmer than I'd been expecting from the measurements. But after a very short while it felt very familiar to me ... and as a matter of fact is actually more comfortable than other ES models I've had with thicker necks. I sometimes get cramping in my hand when playing barre chords on guitars with too skinny necks - even sometimes on my Jazzmaster (which I've always used as the high water mark for guitar necks). Not at all on this - which is probably a combination of using .10s rather than .11s for a change (and the shorter scale).

It might need a bit of work on the frets - whoever was playing this seems to have had a fairly light touch (a guitar with the finish worn down on the back yet with original frets with binding nibs?) - the only place where there's a slight buzz is around the second fret - it only seems to cause issues when playing an open A chord (there's a little buzz). It's not as pronounced through an amp - so for the moment I'll leave it alone, but I might see whether getting that fret replaced and crowned/levelled to match the rest is an option.

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Re: N(Final)GD - 1964 Gibson ES335 TDC w/bigsby

Post by i love sharin foo » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:54 pm

Despot wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:28 pm
the only place where there's a slight buzz is around the second fret - it only seems to cause issues when playing an open A chord (there's a little buzz). It's not as pronounced through an amp - so for the moment I'll leave it alone, but I might see whether getting that fret replaced and crowned/levelled to match the rest is an option.
Stew Mac makes a tool that is specifically designed to level one fret in relation to it's neighbors. It does a fantastic job. After leveling, you just need to recrown and polish and you are all ready to go! For a small investment, you could be set up to perform some minor fretwork forever. If it is really slight, you may not even have to recrown. Some polishing may be enough, (especially if the frets are similar to my old '65 ES330... low and wide). My Guild X170 Manhattan had a couple of high frets around the neck to body joint. Rather than do a complete level, I just addressed those ones specifically and it plays much, much better. It was nice not to have to ship it out and wait (and pay to ship it, plus the cost of the job itself). Something to consider.
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Re: N(Final)GD - 1964 Gibson ES335 TDC w/bigsby

Post by Despot » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:06 am

Thanks for that - that might be the way to go and less hassle than a partial refret.

I've also noticed that three of the inlays are starting to lift a little bit (they're shrinking - which isn't unusual - my old ES345 had the same issue that needed a few of the inlays replaced). They're not at the point that I need to do anything yet ... but they're on the way out.

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