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