Guitars, being made of wood and steel, don't last forever. Even with periodic maintenance (in this case, a basic set-up and neck readjustment every couple of years or so), things wear out and eventually have to be replaced. So when I took my guitar in last time to have it looked at by the professionals, they pointed out that the bridge was really showing some wear: the strings had gouged deep little canyons into the wood, indicating that eventually -- fairly soon -- I would need to have the entire bridge replaced. The downside, they told me, is that the cost of doing this work might equal the value of the guitar. They advised me to look for a "better" replacement guitar at some point.
I was bummed, but not surprised. I play a lot. Guitars wear out. These things happen. And, because I insist on playing the brand I do -- Alvarez -- I would not be into the guitar for thousands of dollars. Because Alvarez is committed to making good guitars at an affordable price. So, after considering my options, I decided to start looking for a replacement. And I found one a few weeks ago.
Alvarez has updated its line -- all guitar makers do, regularly -- and now offers just one acoustic Jumbo model in its Artist Series: the AJ80 and its electrified cousin, the AJ80CE.
Someone was selling an AJ80CE they'd bought several months ago. They liked the sound but discovered that their arms were too short to comfortably fit a jumbo-sized body. (Yours Truly, with a near-albatross wingspan, has no such issues. ALL of my guitars are jumbos.) We agreed on a price and it became mine.
It does need some work -- a basic set-up and neck adjustment, plus some new strings -- but sounds absolutely marvelous plugged and unplugged. And because it's an acoustic-electric model, it comes equipped with a pickup and EQ already installed by Alvarez and specifically suited to the guitar. So I won't have to pay extra to add a pickup myself.
A few folks I know play much more expensive guitars. The first time we play together they are often surprised when they see me pull an Alvarez from my case. "Why do you play such cheap guitars?" one of my Jewish music colleagues asked me last summer. "You're a better player than that, you should play a better instrument." I explained to her that, for the money, Alvarez makes a perfectly good workhorse of a guitar, with a very nice, balanced sound and a great feel. I especially love the shape of the neck, which fits my longer, larger hand nicely and comfortably for hours of playing. Like so many synagogue musicians, I don't have thousands to spend on a guitar. With Alvarez making such good instruments at a price I can afford, why knock my brains out?
I like the way Alvarez explains their philosophy here:
In short, I consider Alvarez to be a beautiful, reliable working man's guitar. I have played nothing but Alvarez guitars on the bimah and onstage since 1999. I don't intend to switch now.
What will I do with my old AJ60? I will keep it for now, but probably won't travel with it anymore. And if I run across a local luthier's apprentice that wants some practice, well, I might let him/her replace the bridge on this one. I've certainly gotten far more than my money's worth from it. At this point, the guitar's value to me is more sentimental than musical. I learned a lot on the journey while playing this instrument, so why not let someone else learn a little as well?
The only real dilemma I face now -- and it's a small one -- is that I can't easily store four Jumbo guitars in our little house, and so I need to sell at least one. So if you or someone you know is looking for a nice acoustic guitar, get in touch. I have a mid-90's Alvarez Jumbo acoustic (below) that I am selling, well, basically for a song. It would definitely be a step up for an intermediate or better player (with long enough arms, of course) and will include a hard shell case. (The guitar I am selling is pictured below, a Model 5072 with spruce top and mahogany sides and back. A small transducer pickup has been installed under the soundhole. It works and sounds fine plugged into a small acoustic amp. Circa 1994-5. Warm, rich sound that has only gotten better with age.)
Off to make some music. Shavua Tov -- have a good week!