Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 58

COLUMN The (Way) Back Beat
In the late '30s, Gibson and Epiphone
remained locked in a race to dominate the
high-end market. Martin's flat-tops were
the standard, but its archtops were nonstarters, and Vega, Gretsch, and others
were rarely serious competition. A few
individuals - notably John D'Angelico,
in New York - built superlative instruments but not on a scale to threaten
larger companies. From 1936 through '42,
Gibson and Epiphone each offered lines of
carved-top guitars ranging from the $400
18" Super 400 and Emperor along with the
17" L-5 and Deluxe, all the way down down
to the $30 143/4" L-30 and Olympic. After
a burst of creativity in the early '30s culminated in the Advanced archtop models
of '35, Gibson's carved-top line remained
relatively static as the company worked
on electrified instruments and fancier
flat-tops. Nonetheless, it continued to
make tweaks, often seemingly in an
effort to better compete with Epiphone.
One notable example of this concern was
scale length. Gibson had used a 243/4"
on its archtop line since before Loar's
L-5, while from '31, Epiphone 251/2",
generally increasing string tension
enhancing punch and volume. A couple
of years after bringing out the
Advanced line, Gibson
quietly lengthened
scale on all of its professional guitars to
match their New
York rival.
This Epi-centric
trend was evident
in another major (if
hidden) change. By
mid '39, the bracing on
all Gibson archtops
was back to the
two long, parallel soundbars
Loar designed for
t h e L -5
in 1923,
but which
had been
superseded in
'35 with a
modified X
pattern on
the Advanced
models. Gibson's rationale for
the novel X bracing

has been lost to time,
but the feeling is
those guitars have
a sweeter tone but
lack the cutting
power prized in the
big-band era. Only
D'A ngelico persisted with X-bracing
carved top guitars in the
'40s, as Gibson reverted to the
design that inspired all others.
The f lagship Super 400
saw other alterations, as
well, perhaps in response to
suggestions from pros who
tried early models. Since its
introduction in October of
'35, the Super 400 had been
built on a narrow-waisted 18"
body that dated to Orville.
In '37, the 121/4" upper bout
was enlarged to 135/8", giving
the guitar a rounder, morebulbous look. This was likely
intended to increase the size of
the resonating chamber, thus
enhancing volume. But not all
A 1937 L-5 and '39 L-7.

VINTAGE GUITAR

58

October 2017

players liked it. The wider waist felt less
comfortable to some and can make the
guitar awkward for smaller individuals.
Interestingly, Epiphone never followed
suit; the Emperor retained its narrow
upper bout. The Super 400's sound holes
were expanded, as well - first widened
then lengthened, likely to increase volume and projection. By 1940, the Super
400 still listed at $400 (case included) but was
somewhat different structurally. The L-5 was
given the same scale and bracing alterations
- also gaining bound f holes - but its shape
remained unchanged.
In 1939, the elaborate engraved tailpieces
for the Super 400 and L-5 were redesigned
from a hinged unit to a heavier solid metal.
This ostensible upgrade was equipped with a
questionable engineering feat - the Vari-Tone
Control. Consisting of a rounded block of metal
mounted to a thin metal strip underneath and
toward the back of the tailpiece, a small hole
encloses an allen screw. By tensioning the screw,
pressure on the block causes the tailpiece to be
very slightly raised or lowered, which theoretically affects string break angle to the bridge.
Since the adjustor was in a stiff spot of the
tailpiece, the range of movement was limited,
and any ambitious adjustment would drive
the metal block down into
the softer wood of the
top, sometimes causing
stress cracks. Hence
the device's waggish
modern nickname
"top buster adjustor."
Gibson, though,
was optimistic. "Extra sharpness and
cutting power to a deep,
rich solid tone," the
catalog promised.
For tunately
for the guitars,
most players
ignored it.
Around
t he time
t he tuners were
c h a nge d
f r o m
small,
open-back
Grover Statites to Kluson Sea lfast
units with metal
or attractive amber


http://www.vintageguitar.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 3
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 4
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 5
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 6
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 7
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 8
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 9
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - Contents
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 11
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 12
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 13
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 14
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 15
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 16
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 17
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 18
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 19
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 20
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 21
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 22
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 23
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 24
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 25
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 26
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 27
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 28
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 29
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 30
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 31
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 32
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 33
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 34
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 35
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 36
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 37
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 38
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 39
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 40
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 41
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 42
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 43
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 44
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 45
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 46
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 47
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 48
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 49
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 50
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 51
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 52
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 53
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 54
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 55
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 56
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 57
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 58
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 59
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 60
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 61
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 62
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 63
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 64
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 65
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 66
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 67
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 68
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 69
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 70
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 71
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 72
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 73
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 74
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 75
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 76
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 77
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 78
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 79
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 80
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 81
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 82
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 83
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 84
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 85
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 86
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 87
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 88
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 89
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 90
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 91
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 92
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 93
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 94
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 95
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 96
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 97
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 98
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 99
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 100
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 101
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 102
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 103
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 104
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 105
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 106
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 107
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 108
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 109
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 110
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 111
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 112
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 113
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 114
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 115
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 116
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 117
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 118
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 119
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 120
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 121
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 122
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 123
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 124
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 125
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 126
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 127
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 128
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 129
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 130
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 131
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 132
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 133
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 134
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 135
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 136
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 137
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 138
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 139
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 140
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 141
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 142
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 143
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 144
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 145
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 146
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - IBC
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - BC
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201903_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201902_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201901_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201812_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201811_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201810_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201809_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201808_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201807_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201805_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201804_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201803_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201802_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201801_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/2018priceguide_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201712_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201711_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201710_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201709_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201708_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201707_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201706_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201705_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201704_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201703_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201702_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201701_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201612_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201611_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201609_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201607_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vintageguitar/201606_v2
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com