Hands-On Product Review:
Gibson Songwriter Series

Balancing art and craft
By Daniel Vincennes

Gibson Songwriter SeriesDiscipline is one of the many qualities of a successful songwriter. The discipline it takes to sit down on a regular basis and work on writing songs is formidable. John Mellencamp once said learning to write songs is like getting in condition to run laps around the block: the first time you try it you’re completely out of breath, but the more laps you run, the easier it gets. Having the right tools at hand also helps with songwriting. It’s important to have a guitar I can depend on and not fuss over. I want it to be on-call—ready to be picked up at a moment’s flash of inspiration. The Gibson Songwriter Deluxe is just such a guitar. The Songwriter Deluxe Series of guitars are square-shouldered dreadnoughts that are at the top end of the mid-priced acoustic-electrics. They are fine-quality instruments that are handmade at Gibson’s Custom Shop in Bozeman, Montana. Skilled, experienced craftsmen take meticulous care at every step: selecting, cutting, and shaping the wood; gluing the bracing; installing the rosette; applying the binding; joining the neck; applying the coats of lacquer; sanding; buffing; and finally, setting up the guitar. A Songwriter Deluxe guitar is beautiful, but not too glitzy. It is a guitar for serious musicians who want to be creatively fueled by a guitar that feels right, plays well, and sounds great without having to pay the top-drawer price.

A key to its distinctive high-quality sound is the incorporation of Gibson’s advanced bracing pattern first created by Gibson in the 1930s. This particular bracing pattern opens up more of the top to vibrate adding warmth of tone and a wider dynamic range. This is the reason legendary artists for decades have coveted the Gibson dreadnoughts of the 1930s era, like the Advanced Jumbo and the famous Roy Smeck Models.

Gibson Songwriter Series

High-end Appointments

Current Songwriter Deluxe series models include the Songwriter Deluxe and the Songwriter Deluxe Cutaway. Both have appointments that you would expect to find on high-end guitars including an abalone rosette, six-ply body binding, sculpted tortoise pickguard, ebony neck and bridge, and gold Grover tuners.

For live performance using an amplifier, depending on the model the onboard pickup systems are quiet and efficient. The Songwriter Delux Standard uses the Fishman Ellipse Aura pickup system.  The Ellipse Aura combines Fishman's most sophisticated onboard preamp design with the power of Aura Acoustic Imaging Technology for exceptional accuracy and true to life sound. The Ellipse Aura features Pickup/Image Blend, Volume and switchable Natural I and Natural II low frequency tone shaping. A Phase Switch and automatic Anti-Feedback device aids in controlling feedback. The pickup's ergonomic soundhole-mounted design puts slider controls at the player's fingertips to maintain a natural playing position.  This ability to hone-in and hog-tie nettlesome frequencies is handy because many rooms produce a distinct resonant frequency—or room mode—that can cause feedback when you play at that same frequency. Once you’ve conquered feedback you can play as loudly as you need to.

Balancing act

Using the Songwriter Deluxe Cutaway Ovangkol in a recent performance with another guitar player, bassist, and keyboard player made for one of those dream gigs where everything goes perfectly. The Songwriter’s intonation was spot-on for the entire neck with the action close enough to make it easy to play without frets buzzing. The Grover tuners adjusted smoothly. They held tuning solidly, even after the most aggressive strumming and picking as well as when using those tricky alternate tunings, some of which require very different intervals than standard tuning. The balanced sound of the Songwriter Deluxe gave equal emphasis to highs, mids, and lows producing full, rich, and musical open chords. Tunes that called for some fairly brisk strumming with a flatpick on the 7th or 10th frets sounded bold and percussive. Complex chords with 7ths, 9ths, and altered tones were distinct and clear-voiced without any muddy overtones. The round profile mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard was easy on the hands for hours of comfortable playing. For fingerpicking tunes, the Songwriter Deluxe easily held its own in the mix with a slight adjustment of preamp volume, filling the medium-sized room with plenty of crisp definition and subtle dynamics. The Songwriter Deluxe’s balanced tone, fluid neck, and onboard electronics freed me to enjoy my performance right along with the audience.

Features & Specs:

Common features to all
Gibson Songwriter Series guitars
  • Handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana
  • Solid Sitka spruce top
  • Mahogany neck
  • Rounded neck profile
  • Neck joint angle: 3
  • Neck joint location: 14th fret
  • Scale length: 25-1/2"
  • Nut width: 1.725"
  • 20 frets
  • Peg head angle: 17
  • Hardshell case
Songwriter Deluxe Standard
  • Rosewood back and sides
  • Gold Grover Rotomatic tuners
  • Fishman Aura Ellipse electronics (sound hole mounted)
  • Compound-radiused ebony fingerboard with rolled edges and deluxe standard inlays
  • Hand-scalloped radiused red spruce top bracing, boned with hide glue
  • 1930s Gibson X-bracing pattern
  • Ebony comfort-carved bridge
  • Flamed maple binding on the body, fingerboard, and headstock
  • Dovetail neck-to-body construction
  • Lacquer finish
  • Lightweight gold Grover tuners for optimum weight balance