The Musician series: Troubadour


I have played primarily slope shoulder dreadnoughts most of my life. They just seem to have a magic to them and it didn’t matter whether it was my 12-fret Martin style slope or my Gibson shaped 14-fret models, they all had it. When I designed the Gibson inspired slope dreads for SCGC, they made a big hit and no matter what we did with them they were popular and sounded great!

The problem was, especially the Gibson style which was close to ¾” bigger on the lower bout is that it can be very uncomfortable. That huge lower bout, shorter too than the Martin style slope, is really uncomfortable especially for us, who aren’t spring chickens anymore. I heard the complaint over and over and I found it to be true for myself as well.

When I introduced the Minstrel, they sold like hotcakes but I kept hearing from folks that were traditional dreadnought players saying, will you build me a slope dread?” I would say, “sure, how about a J-35 inspired model?” I’d worked on a number of these and they usually just knocked my socks off. Then they would mention, “I just wish they weren’t so big!”

So I got to thinking about how important the shape was compared with the size. The little LG just seems more balanced for instance, than the L-00 even though they are similar sized guitars. Balance is one of the things I really treasure in a guitar so I always want to be building balanced guitars as much as possible. I think having a larger upper bout, if it is voiced properly, affords more treble conducive area to vibrate, while if the edges are properly scooped also gives additional bass area. This maintains a balance even when gaining more size and presence compared with a dreadnought.

My friend and collaborator Doug Jones, Little Brother of Little Brother Blues to many, was also making a bunch of noise about a bigger guitar than the Minstrel, which he already had and loved, that would be bigger but still favoring the thin side for the immediacy of response, organized overtone series, and great projection that result from the thinner body.

I decided that since quite a number of folks had, in the last few years, started to make decent replicas of the J-35, I would build a guitar that was considerably bigger than the L-00 and LG and smaller, especially in the lower bout where it was so uncomfortable, go with the slope shoulder look, and even increase the size of the upper bout while making the lower bout smaller. The waist stayed about the same which, because of the bigger upper bout makes for beautiful gentle curves and elegance of form. The overall area of the top is still pretty close to that of a 14 fret Martin dread but with a smaller lower bout which makes it more comfortable while retaining a dreadnought’s presence and power.

I built the first one in a beautiful flamed mahogany back and sides with a gorgeous Adirondack Red Spruce top. I did a really beautiful and elegant sunburst that is slightly more evocative of a Martin sunburst (when they get it right) in that the rich amber burst extends elegantly into the upper bout. This guitar is very balanced. It has a strong but focused bass and clear ringing treble response. This is largely due to the bracing design which I developed to provide tonal balance and focus, especially in the bass registers. The standard Troubadour has a thin body which makes it comfortable to hold. It produces a midrange that is full and rich but throughout the entire range it has a beautiful clarity and organization in the overtones that really stand out. The Troubadour design offers the player incredible projection, and it is, over all, quite a remarkable guitar.

Andy Falco, of the Infamous Stringdusters, is an amazing flatpicker, and one of the really good guys in the biz. Andy and I have come to know one another and he was at my booth at the Paradise Valley Music Festival a couple weeks ago. He played the Troubadour for quite a while and just thought it sounded great. After playing it for quite a spell he said, “this is really interesting, this guitar sounds a lot like the way our sound guy eq’s my Collings. I used to fight him over it because though it sounded good, what I was hearing in my earbuds, wasn’t what I thought my guitar sounded like.” The sound guy kept telling him, “Andy, I’m not mixing for you to hear what you want on stage, I’m mixing for the BAND!” Finally Andy got someone to play his guitar and he went out to hear what the sound guy was hearing. When it was mixed the way Andy thought it sounded in his ears without amplification, you couldn’t hear Andy’s leads as well and there was a clarity that was gone in the mix. When the guy mixed it the way he wanted to, there was a nice even mix, Andy’s guitar stood out better, and it just sounded right for the band.

At that point Andy became a believer and he was hearing an element of that mix in the Troubadour. The thing is though, if you voice the guitar in the first place to have a strong powerful focused bass, rather than a huge woofy drone-like bass, you don’t have to dial all that bass out on the mix board which means that you get to retain more warmth and a nice organized and supportive overtone series which you tend to lose if you have to remove it electronically. You still get the clarity and punch that a band needs for the mix without losing that nice clean overtone support that comes with the Troubadour in spades.

The Troubadour is available as the Troubadour-M or Troubadour-V neck and bridge spacing. I also offer the options of a deep version for those who want a bigger bass more reminiscent of the big slope dreadnoughts, and I will even do it in a 12 fret model similar to the Gibson Roy Smeck models or a 13 fret model.

See the Options page for pricing, availability, and options.  See the Ordering page for the ordering process and other information.