G&L – What is new for 2017?

Back from our 2017 NAMM trip and G&L factory tour, we’d thought we’d let you in on what’s new in 2017 for G&L. Before we get rolling, there are no base price changes to the guitars or the major options. There may be a couple tweaks here and there, but nothing that has a significant effect on the price of a guitar.

Note: G&L’s website may not be entirely up to date. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Here’s a rundown of the more notable changes:

Basswood – Basswood is now an option on any guitar for a slight up charge. Basswood is sonically similar to Alder but lighter in weight. This is is response to the growing interest in lighter weight guitars (It’s all those Baby Boomers with back issues!) The grain on Basswood ain’t much, so if you opt for premium finish, it may be a little underwhelming.

Okoume – Also a new wood option with pricing similar to Swamp Ash. Okoume is similar tonally to Mahogany, but lighter in weight and not regulated or endangered in any sense. It has a reddish tint, so keep that in mind when going for premium finishes (Hint: Old School Tobacco or Clear Red). Okoume was used on the Savannah series of semi-hollow guitars, which we thought sounded great.

Empress Wood – Still available, but not a consistent enough supply to make it into the price book. I really like the clean forward tone of an Empress bass, but maybe a little bright on some guitar models. The shop foreman at G&L prefers the tone of a multi-piece Empress body used for solid finishes rather than the one or two-piece clear finish variety.

Carmelized Ebony – Think of this as “striped ebony” and G&L has a limited number of boards that are in guitar length only. There was a time when only purely black ebony would do. But dwindling resources and the impact of Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars) and his quest to preserve Ebony has made streaked Ebony acceptable. More power to him. Frankly it looks great, and I love the feel of a real ebony fretboard. It’s a great surface and not a huge up charge.

Rosewood – Rosewood is now becoming a highly regulated wood. This is a result of the increased demand in China for Rosewood furniture, and when 1.2 billion people want something…well that has an impact. There are literally a couple hundred varieties of Rosewood including Cocobolo. Expect to see more manufacturers looking for alternate fretboard woods that have good tonal properties and the right feel.

No Semi-Hollow Legacy, Comanche, S-500….for now – G&L is in the midst of re-tooling a number of guitars, and the low demand of these models has taken them off the list for now. IMHO – If you think a Legacy with less low end is a good idea, have at it. But I’ll stick with a solid body. If weight is a overriding concern, Basswood, Okoume, or Empress is a better route and a lot less money.

Rear Mounted Control Guitars (RMC) – Many of the “Deluxe” guitars have given way to a no-pickguard style guitar without the requirement to purchase a flame maple top. This is a big deal, and makes an ASAT Deluxe pickup configuration much more affordable. You can still get an ASAT Deluxe, but now it’s not the only way to get two humbuckers in an ASAT.

Block Inlays – Rumored to be in the works but not in the latest price book. If you like the look of the big block inlays introduced by Fender in the mid-60’s they are on the way.

A few years back I came up with the tagline for my website, “Guitars made by craftsman, not accountants.” That really sums up G&L: A bunch or really dedicated people who love guitars. Like a lot of small manufacturers in the music business, it’s a labor of love, and when you talk to the folks as G&L you definitely get that vibe.


New body wood options for your G&L Guitar

For years, the standard body wood offerings from G&L have been Alder and Swamp Ash. Mahogany is available too, but is generally reserved for the ASAT Deluxe and other maple topped guitars.

For a couple years G&L has been quietly offering pine as a non-price list option, and lately Empress Wood. Here is quick rundown on the two “other” woods currently in the G&L line up.

Pine – We’re personal fans of pine, most notably for its tone, and generally good weight properties. Pine has a slightly softer top end, and a touch of compression on the attack. So while as not punchy as some woods, it’s got a little “give” and responds nicely to pick attack. The low end is also very clean and clear. It’s good for basses as well as guitars. The heaviest pine guitar we’ve seen is 7.8 pounds, but they are more typically 6.8 – 7.4, with bass guitars being proportionally heavier. The grain pattern is nothing dramatic, and tends to be straight and clear.

Empress – Looks a lot like swamp ash, and is the welterweight champion of the current G&L lineup. This fast-growing and strong wood is native to Asia, and has historically been used for both musical instruments, and furniture. Empress guitars are typically right around 7 pounds, and our experience is that there is not a great degree of weight variation between guitars. Tonally Empress is on the brighter side with a very solid and punchy attack. The sound is a little less dimensional than swamp ash, with greater emphasis on the fundamental tone. If you like a forward tone with plenty of presence, Empress is a good choice. We really like it for bass guitars, and it has very solid low end response.

So two woods, with two very different personalities. With many guitar players — especially those of a certain age — looking for lightweight and comfortable guitars, both Empress and Pine offer alternatives to traditional woods, and with their own unique tonal spin.

Should your next G&L guitar be Pine?

Sometime in 2012, G&L obtained some nice figured pine and started offering guitars – mostly ASAT’s I recall – in pine. This was over and above their Pine Launch Edition of their new ASAT Alnico product. Always liking to have the latest and greatest G&L models at UpFront Guitars, we ordered a few of these for the shop.

To be charitable, the pine guitars were very slow sellers, and hung around for quite while. Anybody who bought one seemed to be very happy with their choice, but it took months and months to find customers willing to take the plunge on a pine bodied guitar.

Around Christmas time, I had a dialog with a buyer interesting in one of the remaining two Pine ASAT Classic (MFD) guitars in stock. Lacking sound clips – yes, another thing on the to-do list – he asked me to evaluate both guitars and give my honest opinion.

One was Tobacco Sunburst with a glossy maple neck, and the other a Butterscotch Blonde with tinted satin maple neck. Through this process, I became enamored with the sound of both guitars, and was on the verge of trying to figure out how keep the Butterscotch guitar. But honesty is the best policy and the Butterscotch guitar found a happy home in Nashville.  Right in time for Christmas no less.

But pine guitars continue to languish on the shelves, and we’ve got two Alnico S Launch Editions to prove it. But why?

Pine is not as dense as most other tone woods, and most pine guitars are going to be lighter in weight. If you want an ASAT that is less than eight pounds, pine is one of the most reliable ways to achieve that goal. As I’ve continuously proclaimed, weight is not synonymous with tone, but most would agree that all other things being equal, lighter is not a bad thing.

The grain of pine is not particularly exotic or bold. Like most alder, it’s straight-grained wood, and unless it’s full of knots there is not a whole lot going on. But its straight uniform grain has a pleasing, crisp symmetry. Besides, a knotty pine guitar would look more like a Middle School Woodshop project than a fine instrument. Applied to pine, the G&L transparent finishes take on a very liquid appearance, and the lack of a bold grain pattern gives them a smooth creamy look, as if the finish never quite dried. Finishes that look particularly good on pine include Butterscotch, Honey and traditional Sunburst.

Tonally, pine gives the player a lot of control. Pine has a degree of natural compression that allows the player to manipulate the attack. There is a little sag and swell – almost like a tube rectifier – that allows the tone to develop rather than just blast out of the speaker. If you want tone that is immediate and in-your-face, pine is probably not the answer. Pine probably won’t please a shredder, but much like a vintage tweed amp, it has a slightly softer, looser feel.

Pair this up with the G&L MFD pickups, and there is nice synergy between the wide- ranging, sensitive nature of these pickups and the soothing effects of pine. MFD pickups have plenty of attack and output, and the pine body allows an extra measure of control. Overdriven tones take on a slightly creamier nature, with a nice “push” after the initial attack, and a complex lingering decay.

So in many ways pine has a bad rap. Probably because it is just “pine,” a domestic wood more associated with Early American furniture and rustic wall art than fine instruments. Pine comes in many grades, and there is clear-grained high quality pine, and there are 2×4’s; and pine should not be dismissed as some sort of cheap substitute for something else. And the fact that we don’t have to clear-cut a rainforest to obtain it is a bonus. Attractive in a way that is clean and elegant, and with a tone that rewards mining deeper more complex timbres, pine is fully deserving of a place on the mantle of fine tone woods (how’s that for hyperbole?)

Sales be damned, we’ve doubled down and ordered four more pine ASAT’s, three in Butterscotch. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.

For more information on the G&L Pine guitars:  www.upfrontguitars.com


What should your G&L guitar weigh?

Of all the questions I get asked from prospective G&L buyers, “what does the guitar weigh?” is one of the most frequent. Besides reminding me that I should just weigh every guitar as soon as it arrives, guitar weight and its purported benefits is a hotly debated topic.

How much a guitar weighs has obvious implications such as playing comfort, but it has also been ascribed with many other qualities such as tone, resonance, and sustain. There are various theories and schools of thought: Some feel that lighter guitars are more resonant, other believe that heavy guitars have better low end, and so forth. My own experience — and this will seem like a cop-out to some — is that all guitars are “different” and that the tonal qualities of any guitar is the sum of its parts. Personally, having a lighter weight guitar is nice from the viewpoint of playing a 3-hour gig, but a guitar that weighs 8.5 pounds is not onerous either. After all, bass players survive often playing instruments that weigh upwards of 9-10 pounds. And let’s not forgot the Les Paul players out there, and very few of those guitars weigh under 8.5 pounds.

After working on a couple hundred G&L guitars, I’ve got a pretty good feel as to what they are going to typically weigh. So depending on the particular model of guitar, here is a rundown of what you can expect for guitar weights.

ASAT – The ASAT (Telecaster) body style is pretty good chunk of wood, and you can expect an Alder ASAT to weigh around 7.8 to 8.4 pounds. In terms of weight Alder is quite consistent, and these guitars do not vary that much. Guitars with premium transparent finishes are usually Swamp Ash, and this can run anywhere from 7.6 to 9.0 pounds. There is quite a bit more variability in Swamp Ash, and most guitars are in the 8 – 8.4 range, with fewer of them coming in under 8 pounds. There are examples of very light Swamp Ash guitars out there, but it’s difficult to source consistently lightweight material, and a medium-volume builder like G&L does not have the luxury of being that selective. While G&L does not advertise it, you can opt to get a transparent premium finish on Alder. The grain is not as striking, but they can look very nice in their own way, and will generally weigh less.

One way to trim a little heft from your ASAT is to get the optional top and rear body contours (like the Legacy/Strat contours). These contours can increase playing comfort plus shave a few tenths off the guitar weight. The consistently lightest ASAT’s are of course the semi-hollow models. These ASAT Classic and Special semi-hollows are always swamp ash — so there is a little more variability — but they never exceed 8 pounds, and are usually in the 7 – 7.5 range. A customer recently ordered a semi hollow ASAT Special, and was quite unhappy when it turned out to weigh 8 pounds (it’s the heaviest semi-hollow I’ve come across). Chalk this up to two factors: The variability of swamp ash, and that he ordered the vibrato bridge option, also a first for me on an ASAT. Steel weighs more than wood, and weight gain of the bridge is not compensated for by the extra routing of the body.

The Mahogany Body/Maple Top ASAT Deluxe models generally tip the scales at about the same weight as an alder model. The ASAT Deluxe semi-hollow is one of their lightest ASAT models, and ranges from 6.8 to 7.5 pounds.

The limited edition chambered Savannah series are real feathers. Made from Okoume with a Korina top, they rarely exceed 7 pounds. The solid body Korina series from 2012 were quite hefty, but that sure did not hurt how they sounded.

OLS Body Option – In 2015 G&L started offering the “Original Leo Spec” body thickness as a no-cost option for the ASAT. This body is about 1/8″ thinner and can shave off about 1/3 of a pound. It’s kind of a no-brainer in terms of comfort and weight.

Legacy/S-500/Comanche – Being slightly thinner and more contoured than the ASAT, an Alder Legacy with a vibrato bridge is consistently in the 7.6 to 8.0 pound range. As with the ASAT, Swamp Ash guitars will weigh a little more, sometimes in the low 8’s. Hardtail guitars are usually a tad lighter, and we have a hardtail Legacy Special in swamp ash that tips the scales at 7.2 pounds. As we’ve said, you can get lucky with swamp ash and get a really light guitar, but there is no way to predict it. We’ve never had a semi-hollow Legacy in the shop, but you can likely expect those guitars to come in around 7 pounds. There are other Legacy permutations such as the Legacy Deluxe and Invaders, both which have mahogany bodies and maple tops. Generally speaking, these guitars tend to weigh around eight pounds, but we have not handled enough of them to have a feel for the typical weight range.

SC-2 – Those who like the ASAT but are really concerned about weight will find the SC-2 easy on the back. Although it has the same pickups as the ASAT Special, the thinner body and slightly narrower waist is just naturally lighter, and the heaviest SC-2 the we’ve seen was a 7.8 pound swamp ash guitar. We’ve also seen them as light as 6.6 pounds. The new Fallout guitar is the same body as the SC-2.

Wrap Up

Light weight is often a desirable quality, but tends to get overemphasized in the buying process. It’s generally not a highly accurate indicator of tone, although like a lot of things with guitars, the intangible “feel” of an instrument is in the hands of the beholder. How much weight matters is related to how you plan to use the guitar. If you play clubs every weekend, a lighter instrument is a considerable advantage. If you play mostly at home or do studio work, an extra pound should be lower on the list of concerns. There are a lot of great instruments out there that deserved to be played. Don’t let a few ounces stand between you and a great musical experience.

For guitar offerings from Upfront Guitars:  www.upfrontguitars.com

G&L Guitar Sound Clips

We are just getting started with this blog page, but it will include sound clips of the some of the many guitars that we currently have in stock or have carried at UpFrontGuitars. We’re on a steep learning curve recording-wise, so probably the clips will get better as we go!

ASAT Classic Custom Semi Hollow, Maple Neck – Recorded through Dr Z Remedy Head into pine 1×12 cabinet with G12H30 speaker, Shure SM57 microphone. JHS Charlie Brown Pedal used for overdrive tones. Recorded February 14th, 2012

ASAT Clas Cust SH



Which Wood to select for your G&L Guitar?

As one of the few mainstream manufacturers of electric guitars that works to a custom-order format, a G&L custom order customer has several decisions to make. One of these is which wood to use for the body.

The general rule for G&L guitars is that Alder is used for Standard Colors (solid colors, 2 and 3 color Sunburst, Tobacco and Cherry Burst) and Swamp Ash for Premium Finishes (translucent finishes and most bursts). But, Swamp Ash is also available as an option for the Standard Colors too. For a less dramatic effect, you can get Alder with a premium finish. How much does the wood matter, and is one wood better for certain types of guitars?

Alder – Alder is a traditional tone wood for solid body guitars, and has been used for decades by Fender and others. Alder is dense, has a nice grain, and is reasonably light. If you are concerned about weight, Alder is consistently lighter than Swamp Ash. Tone is often associated with weight with the generalization that lighter is better. There are many factors that affect guitar tone, and unless weight is the primary consideration, don’t obsess about it too much.

Tonally, Alder is punchy, tight, with a solid midrange and a bright high end. Alder works very well with Legacy guitars, and it’s characteristics gives the lower output Legacy pickups some good punch. It’s a great combination, and the best choice for those looking for the classic Fullerton sound. For pickups with a lot of output and midrange — such as the Z-Coils used on the Comanche and Z-3 — Alder can be a little too zippy, giving the Z-Coils a very fast attack and somewhat harder midrange.

Swamp Ash – Swamp Ash has a striking, deep grained appearance and looks great with translucent and clear finishes. A nice translucent finish on Swamp Ash can be just as interesting as flamed maple, and less expensive. Swamp Ash has some fine tonal properties too, with a lighter midrange and a sweeter top end than Alder. Consequently, Swamp Ash works well with pickups that have a lot of midrange and top end. It’s a great match for the large MFD’s used on the ASAT Special, Z-Coils, and S-500 pickups. Swamp Ash  is a more delicate sounding wood, and in my opinion works very well with the Z-Coils.

Legacy guitars can sound good with Swamp Ash — and look awesome —  although the sound is somewhat lighter in body than with Alder. The high end is rounder and smoother, but the reduced midrange can have a thinning effect on the bridge pickup. If you like to install hotter bridge pickups in your Legacy guitars, Swamp Ash works very well.

The ASAT Classic pickups seem to work well with either wood, which is a testament to the flexibility and musicality of these pickups. So if less weight is a consideration, go with Alder. Occasionally a Swamp Ash ASAT will hit 9 pounds, which can get fatiguing during a three hour gig. Another fix is to go Semi-Hollow, which takes a little low end out of the guitar, but makes them up to a pound lighter and is sonically very balanced.

Conclusions – This is obviously a very subjective topic, but after ordering and playing dozens of G&L’s certain patterns do emerge. So if forced to grossly generalize, my recommendations on the most common G&L models would be:

  • Legacy – Alder is first choice. Swamp Ash works with a hotter bridge pickup (Semi-Hollow really sucks the bottom out, not my pick)
  • Legacy HB – Alder or Swamp Ash. Alder for a dense tighter sound and Swamp Ash for a more open airy tone.
  • ASAT Classic – Alder, Swamp Ash or Semi Hollow. Alder for more punch, Swamp for sweeter top end, Semi-Hollow for overall balance.
  • ASAT Classic Alnico – Classic low output pickups work best with Alder which provided fuller midrange and snappy low end.
  • ASAT Special – Swamp Ash, Alder or Semi Hollow.
  • ASAT Bluesboy – Adler to maximize twang, Swamp Ash for a cleaner, leaner humbucker sound
  • ASAT Bluesboy 90 – The P-90 is very flexible and Alder works as well as Swamp Ash
  • Comanche or Z-3 – Swamp Ash on the Comanche is my pick if using the DF vibrato. With the Saddle Lock bridge, Alder or Swamp Ash both work.
  • S-500 – Swamp Ash is my favorite. Alder is a little harder and darker with the S-500
  • SC-2 – Alder is punchy, Swamp Ash is a bit more lush. Vibrato option really makes the guitar lively.
  • Legacy HB2 – OK, not a common guitar at all, but like the HB Alder gives it a tighter more dense tone, and the Swamp Ash will open up the humbuckers a little