Gibson L5

 

 

Photo: Henk van Campen

The famous Gibson L5 needs no introduction. It is one of the flagships of Gibson, applicable to many styles of music. The two pickups are connected just like a Les Paul, with separate volume and tone controls. It has a Tune-O-Matic bridge, standing on an ebony base, and a tailpiece.

I think this is the first of Jan?s guitars that was made into a hybrid. After he heard one of my hybrids, he saw the possibilities, and I showed him a Schaller Tune-O-Matic with built in piezos. He asked me to build it on his L5, which I did. Under the scratchplate, I installed a Shadow SH-PM preamp. I connected both pickups to one tone control, and used the the open space for a balance control between piezo and magnetic sound.

Though the piezo sound was a bit harsh, in combination with the neck pickup the sound was quite good. Contrary to popular views, piezo bridges for electric guitars can sound really good, but the guitar must have a good acoustic sound, of course. And the L5 certainly has a good acoustic sound. So the bridge should be able to sound better.

After a while, the bridge started to drop down while playing. It turned out that the original studs were quite dodgy, so I changed them for the ones supplied with the Schaller. I glued metal wire inserts into the bridge, and screwed the 4mm stud in, so they were firmly attached. Then I stuck the bridge on, and reassembled the guitar.

The change was quite dramatic. The piezo can now be used by itself, it produces a clear, warm sound (with the possibility to add extra warmth by using the magnetic pickups). For Django Reinhart type of music, this guitar easily surpasses the traditional Macaferry sound. Every subtilety in chord fingering is heard, even while playing with several guitarists at the same time. It can be very aggressive, quite gentle, it can be clear as glass, or mellow. In short: it?s a masterpiece, capable of expressing a wide variety of emotions.

Marcus van Engelen