Over the past few months I have been seriously searching for a guitar to plug the glaring hole in my guitar collection, I needed a semi-hollow body guitar. Speaking with many guitar player friends, visiting local guitar shops and overall doing a lot of homework, I ran across my new love. A new Heritage H535.
Over the past few days I decided to exploit the unique resources around me. I live in the guitar mecca of the world, Kalamazoo Michigan. For those of you that don't know, Kalamazoo is the original home of Gibson guitar. After over a 100 years Gibson closed down its plant here in Kalamazoo in 1984 and moved everything to Tennessee. 1000 people lost their jobs or were transferred to the new plant. In 1985 Heritage Guitar was founded and located in the same building that Gibson deserted. 5 of the previous Gibson employees purchased/leased the building and equipment and machines left behind and continued an incredible legacy of building high quality guitars on Parsons street in Kalamazoo.
The point to all of this is about selecting the right guitar for you and how to accomplish this. I had decided many months ago that I was going to buy a Gibson ES335. A very nice semi-hollow body guitar. I asked many experienced guitarist about the 335 and received not a single negative comment other than the older 335 I could find the better off I would be. I must have played 25 different 335s. After talking with one old friend that used to work in the finish department at Heritage Guitar, he advised me to at least go to Heritage and see what was available in the semi-hollow body line.
I toured the Heritage plant the day before yesterday. All I can say is WOW!!! If those walls could talk. I spoke directly with Ren Wall who lead our tour through the plant. I played the H555 and the H535 as well as a 150.
After a troubled night of sleep I finally decided on a custom built H535 with a Bigsby tremolo, Seymour Duncan pickups and very nice ebony fingerboard. The lesson I learned was that when the time comes to buy your first, second or third very nice guitar, I highly recommend discussing your needs with seasoned veterans. They will advise you with a litany of ideas. Most will conflict with one another but in the end it is your decision. Play as many guitars as you can before deciding. If you can make a trip to a local luthier or a manufacturing plant by all means do so. The experience is not only educational but spiritually stimulating. Listen to guitars and make note of the set up. Pay particular attention to amps, effects and guitar hardware such as strings pickups, body style and size. Listen to that same guitar being played in as many styles of music as possible. Everyone's style and likes are different. Your choice should begin with what sounds good to you and then talk to those that have come before you. Most seasoned veterans will talk about their rig set up, if they have time, out of pride. Never bother them during or between sets. Wait until after the gig is over in hopes they aren't too tired or catch them early another day.
Read Read Read everything you can get your hands on about the type of guitar you are interested in. Acoustic, solid body electric, semi-hollow body, arch top, etc. before making a final decision.
Final piece of advice is to do as much homework as possible. If you are anything like me, your choice will be for a life time. I never sell guitars. They are a part of my life and represent the stories in my life. I plan to hand my guitars down to my children when I am gone after having played beautiful music on them for years. I hope you will do the same.