Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A New Look & The Post-NAMM Acoustic Boogaloo...

Here at Portland Music Co. on Broadway, we're happy to report that our fearless leader, Carrie, has made it back from the annual NAMM Show safe and sound.

Once she got back, we got to work on revamping our blog. We've given it a new look, complete with new features that will help us keep you up to date on what we've got going on here in our humble little corner of Portland.

In the coming weeks we'll be featuring some of the new products that you'll be seeing here at PMC @ Broadway. We've got new products coming from Collings, Taylor, Martin, Guild, Eastman, Lag and more. 

You're going to see even more instruments and better selections. We're going to bring you in-depth instrument reviews, "staff picks", interviews with manufacturer reps, and  more. We're also partnering up with our suppliers and manufacturers to bring even more in-store events to our customers. As Portland's only "acoustic only" store, we want to bring you those things which satisfy the acoustic player in us all.

Essentially, stay tuned, 'cause this is gonna' get good...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guild Orpheum Slope Shoulder Dreadnaughts...

About two weeks prior to the NAMM Show, our Guild rep, David Balmer, stopped in to pay us a visit. He stopped in to give us a sneak peak at some really special guitars that will be on their way to us in the hopefully not too distant future.

The guitars he brought with him were from the Guild Custom Shop in New Hartford, Connecticut and master luthier Ren Ferguson. Most people know Ren as being the very well respected architect of Gibson's acoustic resurrection in Bozeman, Montana. Ren has moved on, though, and is now fully engaged in projects at Guild.

His first offerings for Guild? The Orpheum Slope Shouldered Dreadnoughts.

David brought both versions of the guitar; a 14 fret and the other a 12 fret. The idea behind these, according to David, was to build the guitars that Guild would've built in, say, the 1930's, had Guild been around back then. Of course, what this approach allows is a complete disregard for convention. These were, for the most part, a blank slate. The Orpheum models are designed to evoke that bygone 1930s-era golden age of acoustic guitar design and construction.

The idea, essentially, was to "recreate" something that never actually existed, and I guess such an endeavor could be either wildly successful or woefully disappointing, depending on who was at the helm.

So, with Ren Ferguson at the helm, what's the verdict?  


The 14-fret is a very nice guitar. The one we got our mitts on featured solid Mahogany back and sides and a solid Adirondack Spruce top.  


The Ren Ferguson 14-fret prototype...

If you don't love a slope-shouldered Dreadnought, you have no soul...

As nice as that one was, David's visit was only going to get better. Next up was a slope shouldered 12-fret Dreadnought. I could probably carry on for days discussing all of the ridiculously great things about this guitar, but I'll just say that the general consensus amongst the PMC Broadway crew is that this guitar is simply stellar.

I love a 12-fret guitar. There's just something about the tone which reaches out and punches you square in the chest when you play it. I suspect Ren Ferguson knew this when he designed this guitar, because it's pretty clear that he wasn't going to be satisfied with a simple punch in the chest. Instead, he went for a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick  by making it a deep-body Dread.


The Ren Ferguson 12-Fret slope shouldered Dreadnought... knee deep in tonal nirvana...

There have been rare occasions in my life when I played a guitar, and all instantly seemed right with the world. The clouds parted and the sun shone. Angels sang as doves flew on high.

Okay, so that might be a bit dramatic; my apologies. But this guitar is epic. I've seen and played a lot of really nice acoustic guitars over the last ten years. After a while, you stop getting instantly impressed. For me, if a guitar wants to impress me, it's gotta' work at it. Well, that just wasn't the case with this guitar. I picked it up, strummed a G chord, and I was hooked; instantly and irrevocably hooked.

It's with a tip of the hat to the esteemed Mr. Ferguson when I say "Yes, please".

The new Guild logo for the Orpheum Slope Shoulder Dreadnoughts...

Engraved tuner buttons complete the "attention to detail" vibe of these guitars...

Jason, our Assistant Manager, can't seem to get enough of a good thing...

Some of the cooler specs? Well, how about hide glue construction? How about a bone nut and saddle? How about bone bridge pins? Attention to detail is evident throughout these guitars, which is what one would expect coming out of a combination of Guild Guitars and Ren Ferguson.

If the production guitars are anything even remotely similar to the prototypes we had the privilege to examine, they're going to jump onto the top of the heap in terms of both playability and tone.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Better, Not Bigger...

If you're a fan of acoustic guitars, like us, you know how hard it is not to get excited during the weeks surrounding the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. Guitar manufacturers, both large and small, roll out new specs on older models and, sometimes, brand new guitars altogether.

Such is the case with Taylor Guitars. We were a little bummed when Taylor announced they wouldn't be producing their Jumbo guitars in 2012. There's just something about the throaty response of a Jumbo to get your pulse racing. But when Carrie and Steve attended Taylor University late last year, they got a glimpse into things to come. You see, they were able to get their hands on some prototypes; prototypes which are now known as the Grand Orchestra models.

They're designated as an "X18" body style (X14 being Grand Auditorium, X16 being Grand Symphony, etc), and they're the manifestation of an idea that Taylor luthier Andy Powers has had bouncing around his head for a while. The Grand Orchestra guitars, size-wise, seem to fit between the Grand Symphony and what was the Jumbo of years past, but they definitely lean towards the former.. We were impressed with the prototypes, and couldn't wait to see what the production models would be like.

Well, we've found out. They got to our store this past Monday, and they are stunning

There are three initial offerings: a 518e, a 618e and a 918e. The "First Edition", as Taylor is referring to them, will be limited to only 100 of each model. Each guitar comes with a commemorative "First Edition" plate on the case (class move there, Taylor). And, despite being limited to 100 of each model, they're not priced any differently than other models in their respective series.

The bracing pattern for the Grand Orchestra is all new, designed by Powers to help achieve uniformity throughout the tonal spectrum. It's sort of a hybrid between scalloped bracing and what some builders refer to as parabolic bracing. Essentially, the design (without getting into the brain-swelling technical aspects of it) allows the lower bout of the guitar to move like the cone of a speaker.

The 518e has Mahogany back and sides with a Sitka Spruce top. As you might expect from Mahogany, the guitar is tonally flat, in that no one frequency range is accentuated. The bass is rich and luxurious, The mids sit where they need to, nestled between the rich lows and the shimmering higher frequencies. It's like every other Mahogany/Spruce guitar you've ever played, only, well, better. Louder. Fuller. Powers describes it as "strong and powerful, and really warm, friendly and appealing.

Sounds like a good combination to us:

The new Taylor 518e Grand Orchestra..

The elegantly inlaid peghead of the 518e...

The 618e was probably the most surprising guitar of the three. We've come to know Maple guitars as being a bit brighter sounding than their Rosewood and Mahogany counterparts. The 618e, though, sounds incredibly balanced for a Maple guitar, and the bass just reaches out and wraps its arms around you.

While we expected a higher-end shimmer from the 618e, what we didn't expect were the solid, piano-like lows. This guitar just sings, and it just begs to be played:

The Taylor 618e Grand Orchestra...

Taylor never disappoints with its selection of curly Maple...

The peghead inlay on the 618e. Pure class...

The 918e is the pièce de résistance of the Grand Orchestras. It's everything you would hope to get from a Rosewood and Spruce guitar, and so much more. The lows from this guitar are downright cavernous. You can feel them rumble in your chest as you strum, yet the highs aren't nearly lost. What's most notable is the presence of the midrange, which can often get lost in a Rosewood/Spruce guitar, especially a larger bodied one.

The 918e sports typical 900 Series appointments, which is to say that it's a feast for the eyes, with Taylor's "Cindy" inlay along the ebony fretboard, an abalone trimmed top, red purfling and a bound soundhole:

The 918e Grand Orchestra...

The 918e is most definitely not at a loss for abalone. It also boasts a nice fretboard extension...

900 Series inlay on the peghead of the 918e...

The Marketing folks at Taylor really know how to take something and it a little "extra special", and the Grand Orchestra "First Editions" are no exception. When you buy your Grand Orchestra guitar from Portland Music Co. (and, really, why would you go anywhere else?), you'll get a "FIRST EDITION" case. These cases are limited to the first 100 guitars produced in each series, as are the special "INAUGURAL COLLECTION" labels:

The "FIRST EDITION" case for the Grand Orchestra...

The "Inaugural Collection" label, reserved for the first 100 of each series...

Included in the case is the guitar registration, for which Taylor has graciously included a self-addressed stamped envelope. When the lucky owner mails that registration paperwork in to Taylor, Taylor will, in turn, send that owner a commemorative "FIRST EDITION" guitar strap, as well as a specially designed photo book with photos of the process of the design and construction of the Grand Orchestra guitars.

Taylor Guitars has always been a company of innovation, development and, well, just shakin' things up a little from time to time. The Grand Orchestra guitars certainly fit that mold, as they fly in the face of convention while, at the same time, offering us the sound and flavor of the great acoustic guitars we've come to expect from Taylor Guitars.

So come on by Portland Music Co. on Broadway and play these fantastic new instruments. You'll be glad you did.

Thanks to Angie Stamos-Guerra, of Taylor Guitars, for her help with some details...

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's That Time Of Year Again...

Here at Portland Music Co. on Broadway, we love this time of year. 

This is the time of year when we look around the store and take in the gravity of what happened at the end of the year. We look at the empty hooks on our walls, and we look at the dwindling stock in our storerooms. Our customers came in droves, and they went shopping. Our customers, and the customers of countless music retailers, saw fit to bring their business our way for the holidays once again; to support the brick and mortar stores that are dedicated to serving their customers with selection, knowledge and experience. 

So, when we consider what our customers have done, and continue to do, for us, we want to return the favor. We want to continue to offer our customers the latest, greatest and highest value products available. 

Now, we don't just open up some catalog or open up a browser to find the best products to put in our store. No, we do far more than that, and we do it every year.

Ever see the movie "Animal House"?


Every January, Portland Music Co. heads to the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. NAMM is where manufacturers go to showcase their products, and where retailers (like us) go to see what we can make available for our customers. This year, as in years past, our Manager, Carrie, will be making the trip down to Anaheim to help determine what you'll be seeing filling the hooks in our store.

So keep an eye out here or, better yet, check out our Facebook page for Carrie's updates from the show floor. There's a lot happening in Anaheim this year, and we don't want to waste any time telling you about it!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Some New Year's Fun...

So, you've survived the holidays. Gone are the days of holiday angst and worrying about whether or not Santa had you on the "Naughty List".  Thankfully, you don't have to sweat that until next year, so now it's time for a little New Year's fun.

So, what is it that comes along every New Year's? Well, New Year's resolutions, of course. Maybe you want to lose weight and get in shape. Maybe you want to learn a foreign language or master the art of extreme macrame. Well, those are all well and good, but whether or not you can order dinner in Cantonese doesn't really concern us.

We want to know your musical New Year's resolutions, and we're layin' out the goods to find out what they are. Maybe you want to play an open mic somewhere. Maybe you want to write a song. Maybe you want to finally record your CD. Whatever it is, we want you to share it with us. Submit your resolution to us by midnight (PST) on January 11, 2013. We'll review all of the submissions and, from those, the PMC Broadway staff will select the best of the bunch.

Now, I can already hear you asking: "What wonderful prize will I win when the PMC Broadway staff selects my entry??"

Well, you'll be getting a Martin Strings stadium blanket; the very one that our Manager, Carrie, is holding up in this picture:

So here's the deal:

  • First, we need a minimum of 12 people to play along; any less and it just ain't no fun.
  • Prize must be picked up IN PERSON at PMC on Broadway; it's just gotta' be that way.
  • Resolutions can be posted as a comment here on our blog, or on our Facebook page
  • You must "LIKE" our Facebook page to be eligible.
  • Submissions must be made by midnight, January 11, 2013.
  • Submissions will be judged based on originality, humor, brevity and charm.
  • The decision of the PMC Broadway staff is final.
  • Winner will be announced on our Facebook page no later than 6:30pm (PST) January 15, 2013.
  • Winner agrees to have be photographed with the prize, and grants PMC Broadway permission to use that photo on our Facebook page, blog and website.

So, let's hear 'em!