Acoustic Guitars

This Dreadnought NEEDS to come to the U.S.!

I network with a lot of musical instrument sales and distributors in Asia, especially China, through LinkedIn. I have been keeping an eye on many of the guitars that they are marketing. There are a few of them that have piqued my curiosity, and I have stayed in contact with these reps to find out if they will be shipped to the US.

One rep from Deviser Guitars in China named Cherry and I have stayed in contact for over a year now. Recently, the company started making a solid-top dreadnought acoustic that, from the photos, appeared to be a quality product. The Sevillana 2208 “looked” like it could compete with other mid-line dreadnoughts, but a lot of stuff coming out of Asia is a gamble.

I worked with Cherry a bit, and last week, a 2208 was on my doorstep. HO-LEE-COW! This thing is amazing to say the least! Solid top and sides, bone nut and saddle, abalone binding, and a fantastic tone! This guitar would fit in with any bluegrass situation. I did a quick side-by-side test against my Martin D-28, and this 2208 stood up to it!

The only fault that I had was that there was no pickguard. As long as I have played in the bluegrass community, I have never seen a Martin without a pickguard. Cherry informed me that the standard for its company is to ship without a pickguard, but one can be installed at the factory. I do plan on installing one myself on this, preferably a tortoise-shell style.

I have stayed in contact with Cherry regarding getting these guitars to the US, providing her with contact information on wholesale distributors here as well as possible marketing options. From what she tells me, this guitar would retail in the US for about $1,149.00. In my experience with playing and pricing acoustic guitars, that is a good deal, as a sale price would probably bring it down to under $1,000.00. Martin doesn’t have a guitar near that price in its Standard series, and the 2208 has a way better tone than any Martin X series guitar. Blueridge guitars (made in China and distributed through Saga) has a number of comparable guitars in price, but not in tone!

Deviser markets mostly lower-cost guitars, ukeleles and accessories, but I have yet to see them in the US market. This Sevillana line (there are other models, mostly with unique slopes in the lower bouts of the body or strange cutaways) is geared toward more professional players. This 2208 would be a welcome addition in the bluegrass market, particularly with players who cannot afford a Martin or upper-tier Taylor. I cannot see why a US distributor has not looked into this yet. Perhaps Deviser should consider going the route of Glarry and handle its own distribution and sales in the US with strictly mail order.

I hope to have a video review of ths 2208 on YouTube before the end of summer, and plan to take this guitar to a few bluegrass festivals and let some other guitarists try it out. I do feel that there are buyers out there – they just need to be aware of it being available!

Chew on it and comment.

Acoustic Guitars Lutherie

String Slots for Better Tone

A while back I caught this YouTube video from Driftwood Guitars regarding a small saw-like tool from Stewart-McDonald that can provide your acoustic guitar with better tone.

The procedure involves cutting a slot in the string ball-end holes of the bridge so that there is more contact between the string and the guitar itself. Normally, the string comes out of the bridge hole and has the slightest contact across the saddle before traveling over the fretboard, nut, and to the tuning gear. This procedure allows the string to be in contact with the wood of the guitar as well as more contact with the saddle, providing more resonation of the guitar (the video shows how).

A few years back, I purchased a used Jasmine S35 acoustic guitar with case at a real cheap price (the cost was worth the case alone!). I noticed during playing it that, while the tone was not fantastic, it was quite loud, especially for a cheap acoustic that sold for about $150 new. After seeing the Driftwood video, I checked out the Jasmine’s bridge, and sure enough, there were slots in the string holes.

Now the tool from Stewart-McDonald costs about $25, and add to that shipping costs and having to wait for the package, I decided to make my own device. I took a hacksaw blade, cut off about an inch from the upper half of one side of the blade, then attached it to a smaller holder. Total cost was about $3.00.

With it, I dug into the bridge of a Yamaha F-325 that I was cleaning up. I figured that I would try this procedure out on a less expensive guitar than my Martin D-28. I learned a few things along the way:
– Hacksaw blades have finer teeth, meant to cut through metal. It takes a lot of time and effort to cut even a little slot, especially when two different woods and some glue are fighting you.
– I was working on this while quarantined at home during my battle with COVID. Do physical work, even light physical work, when you are healthy.
– It seems that while I could tell the difference in volume and tone, the normal (i.e., non-guitar geek) doesn’t care. I played a slotted Yamaha F-325 against a non-slotted Yamaha F-325 to a friend, and she didn’t hear any difference.

I do plan on doing this procedure on the other two Yamaha acoustics that I have, as well as one or two other acoustics that I own. Until I get really good at it, I will hold off on the Martin. This was a good lesson learned about improving the sound of an acoustic guitar, and I feel that it is worth the work. If you are still jittery about attempting it on your own, check with your local guitar repair person or a luthier.

Chew on it and comment.

Acoustic Guitars Bluegrass Music

Martin Guitars YouTube Channel / More on the Sister Servants

Everyone that knows me knows that I love Martin guitars. I have a 1981 D-28 that I call Hazel (after Hazel Dickens) that I traded for with a Fender American Telecaster. She sounds beautiful, and even though my arthritis has been making it a bit difficult to fret, I still rely on her to be my guitar wife.

My first Martin as a DXM model that had a laminated top and was a low-end model. Even so, I was able to sell it years later for the same price that I paid. Over the past few years the lower-end Martins become more valuable as they age just like the higher-priced models. I have five or six other acoustics, some are easier to play, but Hazel is my go-to acoustic when I am recording or playing live.

I have always been a fan of Martin guitars. Partly because many of my country and bluegrass heroes played Martins. They truly set the standard for acoustic guitars, especially dreadnoughts. I recently subscribed to the Martin Guitars YouTube channel. It contains videos of artists performing at the Martin Guitar museum in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, as well as demo videos of Martin guitars and ukuleles. There is also a “Jam on the Road” series, with the most recent upload being country artist Dierks Bentley doing an acoustic jam with some of his bandmates.

There are two newer videos showing the construction of the D-18 and D-28 models at the Nazareth factory. Watch them and tell me what you think that I find wrong about them.

It has nothing to do with what the video is showing. It is great that they can show all of what goes into making a solid, beautiful and legendary acoustic guitar in under five minutes. However, the music is what I find wrong. The background music is electric blues-rock, with distorted electric guitars and heavy drums. Why would someone put this kind of music on an acoustic guitar video? There are hundreds of hard-driving guitar-laden bluegrass recordings out there. A Billy Strings or Molly Tuttle instrumental would work. Or most perfectly, “The D-18 Song (Thank You, Mr. Martin)” by Norman Blake and Tony Rice.

But what do I know?

Changing the topic. Back in August 2020 I blogged about the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word, a sect of nuns currently residing at the Casa Maria Convent in Birmingham, Alabama ( The Sisters are very musically inclined, performing at various religious functions. Back in August I posted a video of them performing the bluegrass Gospel standard “I’ll Fly Away.” I just came across two more videos of Sister Mary Anthony jamming with fiddler David Morris and his mother. They are performing Bill Monroe’s “Jerusalem Ridge” and the old-time fiddle classic “Tom and Jerry.”

This is so wonderful to watch. Never doubt the power of God and music!

Chew on it and comment.

Acoustic Guitars Bluegrass Guitar

Yamaha Acoustic Guitars: The Poor Man’s Martin

First off, it was 20 years ago today that the US experienced one of its greatest tragedies. We lost thousands of citizens, the Twin Towers completely disappeared within a few hours, the Pentagon saw heavy damage, and a few dozen ordinary citizens became heroes losing their lives by fighting terrorists and crashing an airplane into a Pennsylvania field instead of the White House. I can remember it like it was yesterday, and it hurts a bit every time that I think about that day. For a few months afterward, we became a true united country. No democrats or republicans, just Americans working together. Let us never forget.

Last year in some earlier blogs, I was talking about the positive aspects of Glarry acoustic guitars and how they would make great beginner guitars, especially for the price. At the time, you could secure a new one directly from Glarry for about $50.00. The price seemed to go up a few dollars with each passing month, to the point now that the GT-502 Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic is selling for $90.00. While it is still a good guitar, at that price, you may be able to shop around and find a quality used guitar that is much more durable and sounds better.

The Glarry acoustics just don’t have that look about them that makes you want to show up at a jam session with one, even as a beginner. You want to have an acoustic guitar that looks like a true dreadnought. While a Martin D-28 and its sisters are the standard for folk and bluegrass guitarists, new models cost at least $500 for the X series (which do not have that great of a reputation as far as volume or tone), around $1,200 for the made-in-Mexico Road series and 15 series, $1,600 for the 16-17 series, and the Standard series starting at about $2,500 for a D-18 (if you can find one). Don’t even get started with the prices of Limited Edition, Modern Deluxe, and Authentic series models. Used models vary in price, but not by much, due to Martin having a great reputation that the guitars age really well and the company stands by their work.

There are also a number of boutique brands like Collings and Bourgeois that cost even more, and some competitive brands such as Taylor and Guild that float around the same prices as Martin, although they are not as popular tone-wise. Face it, as a bluegrass guitar, Martin is the first choice by many.

Generally, Martins have gone up in price over the past decade or so, even with the lower-end models. My first Martin was a DXM model (which they don’t make any more) that I purchased online with gig bag for $300. It was good, but did not have the true Martin tone. Fortunately, I was able to sell it a few years later for the same price so that I could purchase my current Martin, a used 1981 D-28, which I have had for about 10 years now.

But back to what I am writing this blog about. What about the person that has less than $200 but still wants a decent dreadnought guitar that plays well and has a decent tone? My recommendation is the Yamaha series of acoustic guitars. There is a reason that Yamaha has been around in the music industry for over 50 years. They put out quality products for affordable pricing. We are talking about instruments across the board. Plenty of drummers use Yamaha drums as their regular kit. The DX-7 is a standard with keyboardists. I have had a Yamaha electric bass in my arsenal once and sold it for what I paid for.

A great beginner acoustic guitar is the Yamaha F-325. This is the model sold in the US, while in Europe and Asia the same model is called the F-310, with the only difference being the pickguard (F-310 = black, F-325 = tortoise pattern). This is a standard dreadnought size, with an easy-playing neck and a great full tone. These can usually be purchased for about $170 new. Online dealers like Sweetwater sell a package called GigMaker which includes a F-325 with a gig bag, tuner, and other accessories under $200.

Out of the box, these are set up really well. Mind you, they will not be as good tone-wise or heft-wise as a Martin D-28. They are lighter than your average dreadnought and, due to a laminated top, there’s a little less bottom end to the tone. Also, these models have rosewood fretboards, compared to high-end acoustics that usually have ebony fretboards (which give a more deeper tone when fretted). However, as a quality beginner bluegrass rhythm guitar, the F-325 is well worth it. I know of a few Martin players that have a Yamaha as a backup guitar. Yamaha does produce many other models, but all are more than reasonably priced as new.

As the F-325/F-310 was made for beginners, there are a lot of them out there that were purchased for aspiring youngsters only to be put into a closet when the student lost interest. This can be rewarding to you as the buyer. My winter pastime of working on instruments led me to scout around Craigslist and eBay for some good buys. I have snagged three of these models (two F-325’s, one F-310) used for around $100 each. Only one requires some body work (whoever owned it actually put a few small holes into the backside, either by drill or BB gun), but the other two are pretty solid. I plan to work on getting the tone a bit better with each of them through some basic modifications, which I will cover of the next few months here.

In the meantime, if you can get one of these guitars for a good price, say, $120 or less used, I would recommend at least trying it out. I leave you with a comparison of a Yamaha F-310 versus a Martin D-35 video from YouTube. It is a bit long, but you get the idea. The Martin has a better deep tone, but there is a difference between $200 and $3,200.

Chew on it and comment.

Acoustic Guitars Bluegrass Music Musicians

Addendum: Coronavirus, Michigan Bluegrass, and Glarry Guitars

Some follow-up on previous blogs …

Coronavirus – the US death toll is over 2,000 as of this writing (March 29). It is going to double for sure, most likely way more than that. We have to remain vigilant and stay to ourselves as much as possible. It is sad that even when we need to turn to God, the churches are closed indefinitely.

Internet concerts are popping up like crocuses on the lawn. That can be bittersweet. Many of the potential viewers are in the same situation as the performers – no job and needing money. Add to that every musical artist is doing this, which means most will be pushed by the wayside. That’s showbiz. It was a positive thing to see that Congress passed a bill providing some financial relief to performers of the arts. However, one idea that artists must realize is that they chose this career, no one pointed a gun at them to do it. It is a freelance type of employment, and it moves the way the wind blows. Whether it is a school district budget, a city or municipal budget, or a pandemic, the arts and entertainment funds are usually the first to get cut during hard times. Please accept the fact that you may have to forego any reliance on playing guitar or singing, and this may be a situation for a long time. I also see these virtual concerts being more of a norm in the future, with live performance venues suffering once the virus threat has subsided.

A good read is an article by Bobby Owsinski in Forbes Magazine:

Michigan Bluegrass – While I complained about how little attention is paid to the history of bluegrass music that happened in Michigan, I must say that part of the blame lays on the media in Michigan, particularly in Detroit. On March 22, Eric Weissberg passed away in a nursing home located in suburban Detroit. He was a multi-instrumentalist who performed and recorded with Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and The Talking Heads. His most famous work was playing the banjo part on the hit recording of “Dueling Banjos,” which was on the soundtrack to the movie Deliverance. The New York Times had an obituary; Rolling Stone had an obituary; neither the Detroit News nor the Detroit Free Press had an obituary. Sad. I was motivated enough to write to the Detroit News story desk and complain. I doubt that it will go anywhere. RIP Eric, your work is appreciated.

Glarry Guitars – Well, these guitars are becoming quite popular, and my Glarry blog is the most read of all of them. Checking out the Glarry website (, in the Acoustic Guitars section, all of the guitars are sold out except one, which I predict will be out very soon as well. Now granted, these are made in China, and with restrictions on imports due to the virus, this may take some time to recover getting them back into the Glarry US warehouses. However, it does go to show that these guitars must be worth the money. One can read the numerous reviews and posts on the website and see that almost all respondents are satisfied with the guitars. Once I got my GT502 set up, I compared it to my Jasmine by Takamine S341 and the Glarry outshined! It won’t replace my Martin D-28, but I may try to get it into the hands of someone who will do wonders with it. I truly hope that this surge in purchasing quality but budget-priced musical instruments helps get people, especially kids, picking them up and putting down the Playstations.

I should have something different to talk about next week. Until then, chew on it and comment.

Acoustic Guitars

Glarry GT502: Good First Acoustic

I have talked briefly before about making musical instruments affordable so that anyone can learn to play music (see Bluegrass Bass: Part 1). Fortunately, there are some instruments that are affordable to beginners, although the quality and playability can come into question, which in turn can be a motivating factor on continuing to play music, especially with a youngster.

A few months back I learned about a company in China called Glarry ( It produces a number of different acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, ukelele, melodica, and percussion models at extremely affordable prices. Now, if I had seen a new acoustic guitar anywhere at a department store or eBay for under $50 two years ago, I could assure you that it would have been absolutely unplayable, with garbage tuning gears, no fret balance, and action way too high to finger any chords.

However, a check on YouTube shows a number of video reviews for Glarry guitars, and almost all of them have overall positive feedback for the instruments. I had written about Glarry on LinkedIn a few months back, stating that it could possibly be making the Model T of acoustic guitars. The reviewers range from Joe Six-Packs to professional guitarists and repair persons. There were a few things that most of them agreed upon about the guitars when pulled out of the box and set up for first-time playing, which is what I wanted to find out as well.

I decided to purchase the Glarry GT502 Dreadnought Cutaway Spruce Acoustic Guitar. At $45.99, it is the lowest-priced dreadnought in their line. The package comes with a gig bag, hex wrench for adjusting the neck, and pickguard (which is not attached, allowing the buyer to choose to put it on). Shipping is free, although you can pay a few bucks more for faster shipping and insurance. You can only pay by credit card or PayPal, since all of the transactions are done with the China office. This can be a turnoff, since there are so many sham Chinese companies popping up on the internet. However, this company has a good reputation, and does have warehouses in the US.

The guitar arrived in three days, and my experience was like most of the YouTube reviewers. The shipping box is just one layer of cardboard. The area near the headstock was crushed, so I feared the headstock was damaged (fortunately, it was not). The guitar itself was wrapped only in thin packing material, not even bubble wrap. Fortunately, FedEx was somewhat careful, and it all came undamaged.

Once unwrapped, I went about checking to see if all parts were there and working. I tried to approach it like someone with no guitar experience, but that was not to be. I started going over the structure with a fine tooth comb, and saw that, for the most part, the guitar was worth the cost. The neck was straight, so no need to adjust (even though that hex key is provided and the adjustment is easily accessible). The tuning gears, while not the best, are durable enough. The frets themselves are good quality, but the end cuts are rough, especially down past the 12th fret. This can be irritating when moving your hand over the fretboard. The action was much higher than what it should be, but that was due to the saddle being leveled bad. Also, the saddle divots for the strings to guide over were next to nothing, which meant the strings were moving all over while trying to tune and strumming hard.

Once I tuned it, I noticed that, while it was playable, there was a lot of work needed to get this guitar into a quality playable situation. The strings on the guitar were extremely cheap, and one of them was so dead-sounding that I thought there was a problem with either the saddle or headstock nut. The saddle being at a bad level meant that it was hard to finger down fretted notes past the 7th fret. The guitar is a lot lighter than a Martin or other stalwart dreadnoughts. While the top of the body is made of spruce, the sides and back are made from basswood, which is a cheaper, less durable wood available in Asia. Once unwrapped, the heavy aroma of glue comes out, so you know how much of it was used to put the guitar together. The tone is good but not comparable to a well-aged Martin. However, for a guitar at less than $50, it is a true bargain.

There are some things that you can do to get this Glarry acoustic to sound better and be a solid beginner guitar as well as a reliable back-up for someone with a higher-quality primary guitar. Two things to do immediately:

  • Change the strings. The strings that are already on the guitar are probably from some bulk pile at the factory in China, and are really low quality. You will notice a big difference. Check with your local music store or a guitar-playing friend. If you are a beginner, start off with an extra-light gauge set of acoustic strings (not electric or electric-acoustic). A set with the high E string at about .011 will be good on beginner fingers. Once your finger tips start to callous and you want a stronger tone, you can move up to heavier gauge strings. This shouldn’t break the bank, as a decent set can be had for around $8.00.
  • Get a better gig bag or case. The bag that comes with the guitar is extremely cheap with no padding. It has the same durability as a windbreaker jacket. While it will keep the dust off of the guitar indoors, it is not good for traveling. Again, check with a local guitar store or check online sources like eBay or Sweetwater. You should be able to pick up a gig bag for $15 and up that has padding as well as carrying straps. Make sure that you are getting one for a dreadnought full-size acoustic guitar. Glarry does sell quality hard-shell cases, but they cost more than the guitar itself, so it is up to you if you want to invest that much to carry a beginner guitar.

Other recommended work on this model to get it sounding good may need to be done by someone who does guitar repair work if you are not skilled enough. They are not difficult jobs, but unless you have at least a little woodworking experience, you may want to ask around. These jobs may cost about as much as you paid for the guitar, but the result will be a great player.

  • Shave down the saddle. Again, almost all of the review videos, as well as my guitar, had a very high saddle (the white bar that the strings rest on by the soundhole, if you didn’t already know). A good 1/16 to 1/8 inch needs to be taken off, but this is one of those cases where one would file off just a bit from the bottom evenly, then replace it into the bridge and re-evaluate the string height on the fretboard. If doing this on your own, a good reference book that I mentioned in a previous blog is Guitar Setup & Maintenance by Chad Johnson (Hal Leonard Publishing ISBN 978-1-4584-1824-1). NOTE: The saddle (as well as the nut and bridge pins) is made of plastic, which is cheap and does not do much for the guitar tone. Be careful shaving it, as it is easy to remove too much.
  • Smooth out the fret ends along the side of the fretboard. If you have the confidence to do it on your own, take a sanding block with fine sandpaper and evenly glide it along the length of the fretboard edge, slightly angling the top of the block toward the center of the fretboard. This should smooth out some of the snag ends of the frets sticking out beyond the white binding. Again, take it to a repairperson if you prefer and have the extra money.

There are a few other quirks, like the markers on the fretboard and side binding are off in places. For a guitar under 50 bucks, you cannot expect much. However, this Glarry acoustic does fit the bill for any beginner who wants to get started with bluegrass or other folk-type guitar music and doesn’t want to sink in a lot of money just in case the mind changes shortly thereafter.

I may talk about this guitar more later, particularly comparisons to other acoustic guitars and how you can upgrade it. In the meantime, chew on it and comment.