Brian explores the virtues of an instrument equal to the skills of its master.
The Charvel Guthrie Govan Signature Model rocks a mind-bogglingly beautiful bird’s eye top.
This time on Guitars Notes I’ll be spotlighting the new Charvel Guthrie Govan—a collaboration entirely worthy of the British virtuoso. I’ve recently played a couple of these guitars and they are fantastic! Guitar players have a long history of working with builders to continue to evolve the electric guitar. Thanks to players like Les Paul, Eddie Van Halen, Johnny A and many more, the electric guitar continually gets refined in a logical, player-friendly way.
Johnny A at Musician’s Friend Private Reserve talks about his innovative and unique signature Gibson guitar.
In case the name Guthrie Govan doesn’t strike a chord, I think it’s fair to say he is the complete guitarist. He’s got the theory, technique, tone, feel and plays a dizzying range of styles at a very high level. It’s no surprise then that Govan’s signature guitar would be a well oiled, versatile and comfortable machine.
Guthrie has teamed up with Charvel to produce his guitar—an interesting choice. Charvel played a huge part in the California modded-Strat craze of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, providing parts and complete guitars to the biggest players of the day. With Charvel now part of the Fender family, Guthrie worked very closely with luthier Chip Ellis from Fender Custom Shop to develop his signature guitar. Ellis is the guy who built Eddie Van Halen’s latest relic’d Ivory Wolfgang. His reputation for building great guitars is growing by leaps and bounds.
Have you ever thought about how much clearance you have between the bottom of your car and the road? Have you ever tried to get the car as low as possible without bottoming out? Race car designers and drivers spend a lot of time thinking about these things as their techniques evolve.
Similarly, guitar designers are challenged by the technical virtuosity of their customers. The more we guitar players refine our technique, the more we demand of our tools. The carefully machined bridge saddles, fretwork and nut carved for the Guthrie signature guitar means it plays with very low action and no buzz. The neck profile and smooth finish combine for a sleek, low-friction feel.
The foundation of the Guthrie Govan Charvel is a solid body, 24-fret bolt on neck instrument similar to the San Dimas model. The body is basswood, which is both light and versatile tone-wise, and comes with your choice of a bird’s eye or flame maple top.
To better withstand humidity and increase resonance, the basswood body is baked in a “caramelizing” process. The neck is heavily flamed maple and is also baked. This treatment help helps stabilize unfinished necks that are subjected to climate changes. Should the neck move, a truss rod wheel is conveniently located between the last fret and the neck pickup. The overall lack of finish makes for a soft and easy playing experience—good for playing nightly shows and daily practice! The ergonomic contours of the body and sculpted neck heel with no neck plate add to the comfort factorr. Even the input jack is in a comfortable and logical place!
I had fun demoing the guitar’s incredible tonal dexterity—this one with the bird’s eye top.
From clean jazz licks to outrageous whammy moves, the Govan signature remained perfectly tuned.
Charvel Guthrie Govan Signature Model Flame Maple Top Electric Guitar
Its contoured body, soft finish and dark-roasted flamed maple neck with contoured neck heel make the Charvel Guthrie Govan a pleasure to play.
The guitar is loaded with two custom MFB humbuckers and a single coil middle pickup. The pickups are mounted directly to the body (no pickup rings). The big-sounding bridge pickup is nicely complemented with a well-balanced neck pickup that can get a very decent warm jazz sound (check the videos). Adding in the middle pickup in positions 2 and 4 on the the 5-way switch adds Strat sounds to the mix.
Perhaps the most unique feature on this guitar is the proprietary single locking tremolo bridge. This floating, recessed bridge locks the string in place at the bridge but doesn’t use a locking nut eliminating the need for fine tuners. The idea is to prevent string slippage at the bridge while letting a well carved nut and locking tuners do their job at the other end. This bridge reminds me of one of the first Floyd Rose bridges made famous by Brad Gillis. The Guthrie Govans that I played and had no tuning issues, and as you can see in the videos I tested the bar pretty extensively. A Tremol-No unit you access through a window in the tremolo cavity cover sets the bridge in stationary or down-only operation.
A single locking recessed and floating trem on the Guthrie Govan delivers rock-solid tuning stability, even with enthusiastic bar work.
There you have it. The Guthrie Govan Charvel—an innovative guitar developed by and for an innovative guitarist. I love classic guitars—Les Pauls, ES335s, Stratocasters and Telecasters are all timeless, iconic and great designs. But I also like modern and innovative guitars, and the Guthrie Govan has served notice that it is a major player in that particular space.
Until next time...keep playing!
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Brian Baggett is Video Presenter for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve Guitars. He curates the Private Reserve guitar collection on video, visits guitar factories and works closely with luthiers and signature artists to gain insight into the greatest guitars being built today. He is also a professional guitarist playing several nights a week in the legendary Kansas City jazz scene. A former jazz guitar professor, Brian continues to teach and has a book and DVD titled Keys To Unlocking the Fretboard. Find Brian on Facebook and twitter.