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Review of the Gibson Dove Guitar

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

Learn about Gibson's famous Dove guitar, pictured here in a music museum.

Learn about Gibson's famous Dove guitar, pictured here in a music museum.

The History of Gibson and the 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 also 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 (maybe never).

Vintage American Acoustic Guitars From Gibson and Martin

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.

Gibson Distinguishes Itself From Martin With Unique, Beautiful Guitars

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 Guitar

The Gibson Dove Acoustic Guitar

About 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.

Gibson Dove vs. Mainstream Dreadnought Steel String Guitars

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.

Features and Specs

The Gibson Dove guitar features:

  • Body type: Jumbo
  • Cutaway: Non-cutaway
  • Top wood: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Back & sides: Maple
  • Bracing pattern: Traditional scalloped X
  • Body finish: Nitrocellulose
  • Body Lacquer: Ebony
  • Orientation: Right handed
  • Neck shape: Round Nut
  • Neck Width: 1.725 in. (43.8 mm)
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Neck wood: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5 in.
  • Number of frets: 20
  • Neck finish: Nitrocellulose
  • Neck Lacquer: Ebony

Here is a quote from the manufacturer: "Since its introduction in 1962, the Dove has gained a reputation as the guitar for players looking for a bold, unique look with great rhythm capabilities and tonal qualities. Designed for backing vocals, the Dove has a warm, smooth sound that compliments the voice. The long scale, combined with maple back and sides, yields a loud, crisp sound."

The Gibson Dove "Artist" Model — Note The Change In Pickguard Design and Fret Marker Inlay.  Also Note The Changed Bridge Design.

The Gibson Dove "Artist" Model — Note The Change In Pickguard Design and Fret Marker Inlay. Also Note The Changed Bridge Design.

Innovations and Problems With the Dove Dreadnought

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.

Metal "Tune-o-Matic" Saddle

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.

Heavier Internal Bracing

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.

Gibson Dove Artist Model

Gibson Dove Artist Model

Different Models of 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.

Gibson Doves in Flight Guitar

Gibson Doves in Flight Guitar

Doves in Flight

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.

The Dover "Performer" Guitar With Scalloped Bracing For Increased Volume.

The Dover "Performer" Guitar With Scalloped Bracing For Increased Volume.

Dove Performer

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.

The Elvis Presley Dove guitar.

The Elvis Presley Dove guitar.

Elvis Presley Dove

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.

Consistency Between Models

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.

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.

These Guitars Are Beautiful and Play Like a Dream Come True

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!

Questions & Answers

Question: With all things being equal (standard tuning; same gauge strings, etc.), is the Gibson Dove guitar more difficult to play than the Hummingbird?

Answer: No. I can't think of a single reason why that would be so. You say "all things being equal," and I'm considering that to mean the set-up is the same. I simply can not think of a reason why one would be more difficult to play than the other, but I can think of reasons why a person could consider the sound of one more pleasing than the other.

© 2011 Wesman Todd Shaw


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 08, 2014:

Claude, I would try here -

claude on August 08, 2014:

l woud like letf hand pickguard for gibson dove

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 03, 2011:

Hey Thanks Sue Swan! Yeah - I dunno how much the "Doves In Flight" one costs - but those doves, etc - ain't just coloring on the plastic pick guard - they are all expensively cut pieces of inlay - so that stuff is expensive!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 03, 2011:

Hey alancaster149 !! Thanks for the great comment!

Yeah - I've never been a fan of tearing up something that was perfectly good for ...spectacle. Luckily, - folks typically didn't do that with acoustic guitars - some of that wood is hard to come by....and I can't imagine busting up an acoustic guitar for any reason - regardless of how cheap it may be.

Tom, WTF are you talking about? What fact did I flub up??

Hey Tom, can you answer alancaster149 's question concerning the Who song that he mentioned?

justom from 41042 on November 02, 2011:

Man Todd I feel like I'm on a Republican hub with some of these comments. If you're going to talk about the history of R&R please do some research first. Please?

alancaster149 on November 02, 2011:

I had a 'Who' album some time ago, I can't remember which, that had one song penned and sung solo with an acoustic guitar called 'Playing my Gibson'. Any idea which model that was? I know he had an electric Gibson Les Paul he played standing right in front of the amp. Whether it was one he smashed up on stage I don't know, but it would have been a crying shame wrecking a guitar. Mind you, he couldn't get out of smashing them up on stage for a while after that. You know the story about Hendrix appearing on the same bill as The Who? They tossed a coin to see who went on first, Hendrix won, did his act where he played with his teeth, smashed the guitar into the amp and set fire to the guitar on the stage. When he came off he passed Pete, Roger, 'The Ox' and Keith waiting in the 'wings' and said to them 'Follow that!' How? Needless to say they had a smashing time trying.

Sueswan on November 02, 2011:

Hi Wes

A very entertaining and informative hub as always.

The Gibson Doves in Flight is beautiful.

Voted up and awesome.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 01, 2011:


I've heard those stories about Bob - but not the one about him getting boo'd off stage for being late!

Oh I love all that great old music you mentioned - I'm just far more knowledgeable about acoustics than electrics.

I've got so many books and magazines about all manner of guitar and guitar related things that writing about such things will never be a problem; but my personal experiences are mostly acoustic folk.

In Bluegrass music - there is a HUGE influence from Celtic music and styles. I really like Jigs, Reels, and Hornpipes to play myself.

Gosh, old Bob - he's turned into an eccentric.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on November 01, 2011:

I know precious little about guitars except I like a good, solid 'sound'. The first player I was aware of was Duane Eddy - a fellow Texan, is that right? - and then 'dived in at the deep end' with Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix back in the late sixties and early seventies. A bit before your time, I think. These days I'm fairly 'catholic', listening to almost everything from 'Eagles', 'Bachmann Turner O/D', 'Doobie Brothers', 'Lynyrd Skynyrd' and 'Santana' your side of the pond to 'Stones', 'The Who', 'Dire Straits' and 'The Animals' AMONGST MANY OTHERS on this side. I'm a sucker for a good riff. Are you strictly an acoustic guitar fan or do you dabble in electronics? I remember the furore Bob Dylan caused when he changed from acoustic. He was booed off stage at the Isle of Wight as well, but that was for a late appearance, not because of his change of style

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 31, 2011:

Thank you Chris!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can think of .....several more hundred models to review - hopefully at some point it will turn into some dollars.

Obviously these aren't going to be the most searched for things on the internet - but what I do hope is that when someone searches for information on specific guitars - that they find me on the front page.

Honestly, when I run out of ideas for more ambitious essays - I just fall back on guitar hubs :-D

Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on October 31, 2011:

You certainly know your guitars Wesman, and every time you write abot them, your love for them shines through.

Thanks for sharing.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 31, 2011:

Flora - they are VERY pretty. The problem is that the true value of a guitar is it's sound, not it's looks.

You could think of it in the same way as valuing the looks of super models - if what comes out of it ain't beautiful, then the looks are just window dressing.

Gibson guitars have their own sound - some people prefer them, lots of folks just don't.

It really depends on what kind of music you want to make with them, and how you actually play the thing - as to whether or not one of these would be "right" for you.

So much subjectivity involved in guitars and music - is why I "try" to stick to facts in these kinds of articles.

FloraBreenRobison on October 31, 2011:

I don't believe I have ever seen a Gibson Dove guitar in person.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 31, 2011:

I know what you mean - but there ain't nobody going to hand me the ten grand I'd have to have for my Santa Cruz!

I dunno what that thing is worth - answer: anything is worth what someone will pay for it!

My holy grail guitar is scratched up and has a hairline crack in the top side - but boy when I've took it to festivals folks stop in their tracks! I've also had some minor repairs done to it - and the wife of the guy - a guy who makes his own custom guitars - she wouldn't even stop talking about the thing.

Thing is - a common thug would think a $50 spot for it at a pawn shop was a deal from looking at it!


Yeah - you can get anything production in left handed now - and big places like Guitar Center would nearly always have whatever someone wanted - or they could get it shipped to them in a matter of days.

Left handed people just seem to have creativity in spades, you know?

I'm willing to bet that TONS of musicians that play right handed instruments are really left handed - they just adapted. I think if you had never played something before - it might not matter too much - but then again I'm not sure.

I'm NOT creative so far as music is concerned - I can learn to play things, and play them well - but I can't really be creative - I can just learn something the way that it is, and do that.

My brother is ...."either handed" he could always swing a bat and hit well righty or lefty - and he can be a lot more creative than me with guitars - he just don't know the technique as well as I do.

If what he knows and what I know was combined - we'd actually have a good musician in our family!

justom from 41042 on October 31, 2011:

I like the sound of a Tele too in fact when I bought Justin that '68 Strat they had a red tele that I wanted to buy too but $ stopped that. The cool thing is Justin is a lefty and so were both of those guitars. At that time left handed guitars were harder to find. I've had a few nice guitars myself through the years (the advantage of knowing hard drug users)but I sold them too and have always wished I didn't. J's still got the Strat and my friend Don tells me it's worth 4-5 grand but J's not like me in that way, he'd be hard pressed to sell it. When he collects he collects. I saw him show 3 baseball cards to a guy who owned a card shop and the guy laid down $800 on the counter and Justin just looked at him and said "I don't want to sell 'em I just wanted to show them to you. I couldn't do that man!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 31, 2011:

I think you showed me a vid one time a while back of Adrian playing some new super tech electric guitar - that shit was WAY out there!

Yeah - Tom Petty! I should have thought about him.

I'm going to write about Telecasters at some point - as they are my favorite electric guitar.

Mom found a picture the other day of my old Strat and Martial amp - I just had a Jap or Korean Squire Strat - not a "good un'" - yet another guitar that I wish I'd kept.

Some day I'll wise up and stop selling - and just collect!

justom from 41042 on October 31, 2011:

Tom Petty, John Lennon are the ones that pop into my tiny brain first. They make 6 string guitars too. The one John used had a short neck and I owned one years ago. I'll send you something Belew. I even have a couple of photos of his wall of guitars at his house and one of me and my buddy John talking to him. I'll post those on FB!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 31, 2011:

The Rickenbacker twelve string? Roger McGuinn style?

Who else played one?

I'm going to get into writing about electrics at some point - but I wouldn't be so knowledgeable about the electronics on them as someone else would be.

Give me your fave Adrian Belew vid link!

justom from 41042 on October 31, 2011:

Good hub Todd, Adrian Belew was a drummer before he learned to play guitar (he picked it up while sick with mono)and the first one he owned was a Hummingbird. Makes sense since he has perfect pitch. I know you love acoustic but I want to see a hub on one of my favorite electrics, Rickenbacker! Nice work, as always.

Suzie from Carson City on October 31, 2011:

I will be happy to do all of the above. His name is Mike. His wife Jaimee, is a friend of mine. They always send greeting cards with a "guitar theme." When they take pictures of their son, he's ALWAYS got a guitar in his hands!! even if the guitar is bigger than him. lol

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 31, 2011:

Hey, if you do - ask him how he'd improve them, or what kind of thing he'd like to see were he doing this.

Better yet - ask him what his favorite acoustic guitars are, and why!

Get back to me on all of that, of course!

I wish I worked in a guitar store - but then again I'd have to be able to get there.

Suzie from Carson City on October 31, 2011:

Wes....I have decided today, that I am printing up every one of your hubs on "guitars," (and you have a few) to bring to my girlfriend's husband. He owns a Guitar Store up here in WNY....near Buffalo. I know he will love your work!!