The Gibson Dove Guitar
The Gibson Dove Guitar
When it comes to vintage American guitars the big three will always come to mind. Now, everyone has heard of the big three American automobile companies, but we Americans have a big three for guitars as well, Martin, Gibson, and Fender. C.F. Martin & Company does not make a solid body electric guitar or even a hollow body electric guitar. Martin is exclusively an acoustic guitar company that also makes some acoustic electric guitars. Gibson, however, is unique in that they have timeless and world renowned guitars that are acoustic, solid body electric - and every single last configuration a guitar can be. Gibson is a universal guitar manufacturer. Fender as well makes some great acoustic guitars, and I happen to own one of them. The simple facts, however, are that the Fender Guitar Company is mostly known for electric guitars; and I doubt that that will change soon, and maybe never.
So by and large when talking about vintage American acoustic guitars people will forever most often be talking about the Gibson Guitar company, and C.F. Martin & Company. You shouldn't think that those are the only two vintage guitar companies from America that have made amazing vintage acoustic guitars - I only wish to inform you that those are "the big two."
Now, Martin almost invented the dreadnought design single handed - but you'd best believe that Gibson jumped right into the fray as a competitor will always do, and Gibson didn't just make some truly great dreadnoughts of their own - they also created the acoustic/electric guitar, and the super jumbo guitars that aren't about to go away either. While Gibson guitars were trying to differentiate themselves from Martin, and make instruments that were entirely theirs and that couldn't be mistaken for those of another, they made some truly beautiful instruments. This is the story of the Gibson Dove guitar.
The Gibson Dove Acoustic Dreadnought Guitar.
When the Gibson Guitar Company jumped into the dreadnought craze induced by C.F. Martin & Co.'s popular dreadnought design, Gibson's initial introduction was the mahogany bodied Hummingbird guitar. Basically, it seems that Gibson wanted to differentiate itself from Martin with the beauty of it's instruments, and one could easily take a visual gander at the respective instruments and conclude that Gibson Guitars had out done Martin in this way.
A bit later on, in the year 1962 Gibson made a second offering with the same intent - and this guitar was unique from Martin's dreadnoughts in many different ways - and on top of that, it's beauty was astounding. The Gibson Dove Dreadnought was launched in that year.
Now please be certain that you know that the Gibson Dove is a fourteen frets clear of the body dreadnought made from all solid woods and featuring a solid spruce sound board. That's just about where the similarities to a more mainstream dreadnought steel string guitar end. The back and sides of this flat top are maple - and that in and of itself differentiates this guitar from most any other dreadnought from a large American producer. One shouldn't think that Martin doesn't make maple dreadnoughts - they do, but Gibson is the company that has used maple in their steel string guitars much more often and with greater success than has Martin.
I very much like the sound of the maple Gibson Dove. It's hard to not like the looks of this guitar. It just looks fabulous, and it's so very distinct from any other guitar that there would hardly ever be a question as to what guitar that is that you are playing if you owned one of these. Such questions would only come from those outside of "the know" in acoustic guitar circles.
The Gibson Dove Dreadnought Guitar
The Gibson Dove Dreadnought — Innovations and Problems.
Now the double parallelogram mother of pearl inlay fret markers and the Gibson acoustic guitar necks have always been something that I, personally, like quite a bit. Gibson front line acoustics are seriously great instruments, and as they've evolved in competition with Martin - they no longer compete with Martin at all, they have their own thing going, and their own sound. Like Martin though, there came a point in time where the builders or someone in the offices made big mistakes, and there have been some big mistakes made with the Gibson Dove dreadnought guitar at more than one point in its history.
First and foremost, when the Dove was introduced in 1962 it came with what Gibson must have thought was a great innovation, the metal "tune -o- matic" saddle. There were many problems with the tune o matic saddle, first and foremost of those problems is that metal is a poor material for use in saddles - and so the sound of the guitar was less than what it should have been. Great guitars are built for sound - not beauty or durability - and besides that, nobody really understood how to use the tune o matic saddle anyway.
So let me clarify this really simply: metal saddles are terrible for acoustic guitars - but they work just fine for electrics.
Six years after the first production year of the Gibson Dove Gibson did something that is universally bad so far as guitar building goes — they made the guitar sturdier with heavier internal bracing so that they'd get less warranty repairs for their guitar. Heavier bracing equates to poorer and lesser sound and volume every single time it's done, and everyone knows this. That sort of thing is exactly what caused the surge in independent small luthier guitar building and the copying of classic vintage designs.
In 1985 Gibson Guitars came under new ownership that decided to rectify the structural concerns of the acoustic instruments — and restore them to their more favorable earlier designs and bracing patterns. To be absolutely clear here — great acoustic guitars are fragile — you can not build a sturdy acoustic guitar that will sound anything like a great guitar.
The Gibson Dove
What you get with a Gibson Dove is a more expensive and elaborate guitar than the Gibson Hummingbird with a slightly longer scale and maple back and sides - it's a louder instrument than is the mahogany body Gibson Hummingbird - but it's still a traditional dreadnought and it sounds fantastic, and especially if you've got one that has been fitted with a bone saddle rather than the metal tune-o-matic saddle, and one made from either 1962 - 1967, or post 1985.
Gibson, unlike Martin, places some artistic value on the bridges of their guitars by designing unique ones like they have for their Dove guitar, and who wouldn't find the mother of pearl inlay doves on either side of the bridge attractive?
As is common and expected with such a well known, sought after, and renowned instrument as the Gibson Dove Acoustic Guitar - there's several production model variations on the same spruce and maple dreadnought theme from the standard Dove, the Doves In Flight, to the Dove Performer.
I am told that the "Doves In Flight" guitar is a Gibson Custom Shop guitar - and not a mass produced instrument as would be the standard Dove guitar and the Dove Performer guitars.
All Gibson Dove guitars are spruce and maple with a solid maple neck as well, rosewood fingerboard, L.R. Baggs electronics for acoustic/electric play, Nickel plated Grover tuners, bone nut and saddle, mother of pearl inlay fret markers, and of course, a hard shell case.
I find it pretty annoying that I can't seem to find anywhere from Gibson what kind of wood the Dove's bridge is made from - but I'm going to assume that it's rosewood.
The Dove Performer model is a cutaway guitar without the actual mother of pearl Dove on it - go figure that one out. In any case - the scalloped bracing combined with a bone nut and saddle would surely make that the instrument with the most volume - the guitar that might compete with a Martin instrument in a flatpicker's hands. . Then there is also the Elvis Presley Dove guitar that also doesn't have the Dove on it - and is black satin like the Dove Performer - but without the cutaway.
I'm not finding a whole hell of a lot of the kind of specific specifications that I would like to present here for this article concerning the differences in specs for different models, and just what all models are standard production, and what are not. Gibson says that all of their guitars feature scalloped bracing - Wikipedia says differently. I'm thinking I'd have to stick my fingers inside to find out who's right. In any case - I think these guitars are absolutely beautiful and sound the same way. I'm pricing them on the net for just over three grand. Gibson acoustics have a different voicing than do Martin instruments and those that take after Martin - it's up to you to determine what sound is right for you. Gibson acoustic guitars always play like a dream come true, and some folks especially like and prefer the necks of Gibson instruments. There are also much lower priced Epiphone versions of these instruments. If you are interested in the beauty of Gibson's classic Dove guitar and the sound of a maple dreadnought - then check one out today!
This is what I do — hang out in guitar stores, and lust after the instruments - but nobody tends to film me while I'm doing it. I'm going to have to fix that.
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