The Lakewood Guitar Tone
One of Europe’s hidden musical gems Lakewood guitars have plenty to offer any player looking for a quality home grown acoustic guitar. Regularly compared against the usual American suspects they actually have more in common with other quality European guitar makers such as Lowden and Brook. In contrast to the classic American models we have all come to love they offer an alternative style, feel and sound. Of course this alters depending on the choice of body size and specifications such as which tone woods are selected. Many guitar ranges can be found to have a basic signature style of sound and this is certainly true of Lakewood. These guitars are lively and responsive. They have a great blend of fundamental note with a balanced harmonic content and body designs that are more percussive than many others. Many players who enjoy and admire Lowden guitars will also find Lakewood to be equally as attractive. They are great if you play a snappy percussive fingerstyle, and depending on specifications can provide you a wonderful choice for a harmonically rich but even and clear finger picker. Of course it is impossible to describe accurately just what the entire range of options can do for you so in broad strokes all we are trying to do is to lean towards a generalisation of the basic tonal properties of the brand. To sum them up they are extremely musical and more alive in your hands than a typical American built instrument. They have a clear and direct fundamental note that will really suit some styles of playing and music especially well and they have a lovely full and articulate harmonic cloak of tone around every note. In some way you can say they are both more direct sounding and have more warmth all at the same time. This may sounds like a contradiction but it is a good way to describe them. They are a lot of fun and wonderful sounding and can encourage your playing down different musical routes you didn’t know existed. You could take the view that we have to some degree tuned our ears into what we are used to. And what we are mainly used to hearing is a classic American style of steel strung acoustic guitar. The European sound has lots to offer and is delightful to play. It can be found to be more inspiring and an excellent contrast for any player who already has a Martin, Gibson or Taylor at home. If you compare the price you have to pay for a quality European top on many of the high end American brands you will quickly arrive at the conclusion that not only do these guys make great guitars but that they also offer exceptional value. You can custom order one to your own specifications for as little as somewhere around the £ 1400. These are remarkable musical instruments and should be taken more seriously as they compete with the big boys head to head and in many player opinion offer a far better all round guitar and tone.
History of Lakewood
Lakewood guitars are owned and run by Martin Seeliger from a workshop in Germany. Martin started Lakewood in 1986 so the company is now moving towards its 30th anniversary. The workshop really is a centre for craftsman to ply their trade. The fairly small team of skilled luthiers that Martin has built up around him have a passion and flair for producing wonderfully turned out and individual acoustic instruments. It has been a slow steady story of growth rather than a rapid expansion. Such is the way when you are working with wood as things have a naturel pace about them and you can not move too quickly for fear of making mistakes. Both from a business point of view and from the point of view of developing the range and the reputation of the guitars Martin has taken a steady pragmatic approach which has benefited the company hugely. The thing is Lakewood are still something of a sleeping giant. The quality and style of the guitars are still mainly unknown and under appreciated by most of the worlds guitar playing public. It is surely just a matter of time before Lakewood takes its rightful place at the top table of the worlds best acoustic guitar builders. One of the reasons that they have remained relatively hidden from the publics eye is that home grown demand for Lakewood guitars in Gemany is so strong that Mr Seeliger not had to work very hard to sell them. Now thankfully for the rest of the world he can craft enough to go around so one would expect a rapid acknowledgment of Lakewoods true status as the guitar become more available in other markets.
As with most guitar builders Lakewood offer a selection of basic body sizes. Once you then add the further variables of choice of wood and other specifications you can focus in on the exact right model and specification for your individual playing style and preferences. To make understanding these options easier we thought we would outline the key differences and relative merits on the body size options available. All of these body sizes can come with the same selection of extras such as a variety of cutaway options and with a factory fitted pickup. So all we are describing and talking about here is the merits of one simple straight forward Lakewood body shape compared to the alternative Lakewood body shapes. Its the ideal place to start when comparing and choosing from this great range of guitars.
The most compact Lakewood size the A body design has a 12 fret to body join. Lakewood describe this guitar as a Auditorium model and we feel it is certainly a very comfortable body size. The impact of having a 12 fret to body design rather than a standard 14 fret to body is that the bridge is pulled in to a different position in relation to the body and sits in a sweet spot. Taking full advantage of this sweet spot placement The Lakewood A guitars are wonderfully articulate and balanced and make superb finger picking guitars. If you opt for a cutaway you still have great access up the fret board with the added advantage that the 12 fret design bridge to the build so many players do prefer the Lakewood A models to be cutaway versions. With a Spruce top on board this guitar can also open up and flat pick and strum surprisingly well. It is not exclusively a finger picker as it really has a lovely all round tone and projection and although it does not have the depth or thump or a dreadnought size it still has a clear and even sound for strumming.
The Lakewood M models are the most popular of all sizes as they can do everything well. With a 650mm scale length and a 14 fret to body design they really can perform brilliantly with any style of playing from out and out aggressive strumming to gentle and precise finger style. As they tend to have as standard a 46mm nut size they do most often get enjoyed by players who use a finger style rather than a pick, but its not fair to describe them as a particularly good finger picker as they really are equally good at flat picking. Compared to a dreadnought they have a little more focus and a more polite balanced low end. Very popular as pure acoustic options and electro version they are ultimately the best all rounder in the Lakewood stable and can do everything well as they offer a perfect balance. Lakewood describe this model as a Grand concert and it can best be describes as a more compact dreadnought with a little more in the way of curves. Our No1 all round choice and recommendation if you are considering a good all round performer this size has plenty of everything going for it.
The worlds best known and loved body shape is the Dreadnought. The Lakewood D models are classic Dreadnoughts that use body size brilliantly to produce plenty of full tone and power. They have a rich and full sound that will appeal to players who enjoy a full body performance. Unlike many other Dreadnoughts a Lakewood Dreadnought can also make a good finger picker depending on the choice of tone woods. They are also wonderfully percussive and responsive and really feel alive in your hands. Generally we find is that out and out finger style players will prefer the responsiveness of the M and A options over the D size but if you are looking for a great stage guitar then maybe a Dreadnought is the way to go. We have found the natural series D version to be extremely popular with singer songwriters and they work brilliantly for solo and duo acts. Some playesr can find a D a little too big especially when playing sitting down for long periods so if you like a more modest body size take a look at the M. But for sheer fun with plenty of tone and power the D is hard to beat especially when played with a bit of energy.
J and Baritone Body
The J size is a powerful jumbo size similar in many way to the Lowden O size. If you are looking for the Lakewood sound and then a little more this is the way to go. Wonderfully percussive this the larger body size can produce a wall of rich and complex tone with a blend of punch and projection. If you lightly tap the side of one of the J guitars you will here the woods and body size combining to produce an inherently musical reverberation. The J size is also available as a rather splendid Baritone option with a 680 scale length rather than the standard 650 scale. Perfect for de tuning and offering a lovely full balanced all round open sound.
Wood choice and other specifications
The choice of specifications on a Lakewood is almost endless. As these guys custom build each and every guitar you do not pay a premium to custom order any instruments. You simply pay for what you order so a little like choosing from a menu of options you can select the very best specifications for you to suit your individual playing style. The on line tool on the Lakewood site will help you through this process, however if you would like some help and advice on what will best suits you please do email or call us. We have plenty of experience helping players select the right specifications. Once you have worked out what body size to go for you need to look at the neck and tone wood specifications next. As standard an A and M size guitar will come with a 46mm nut size which will typically suit a finger style player more than an out and out flat picker. However this is not always the case and the choice is very personal. The D and the J version will as standard have a 44mm nut size and this tend to favour those of us who like to work with a pick or strum. But no hard and fast rule exists and we are all individual so you are free to custom order and select whatever nut size best suits you. We have custom ordered plenty of M body size guitars with a 44mm nut so this is a very popular custom order specification change to consider.
The standard Lakewood factory models have a set choice of tone woods, but if you custom order one you can chose from a massive range of classic and exotic woods. Check the Lakewood site out for the latest options as the list is incredibly extensive. We would like to briefly go over the most popular options for the back and sides and the top and discuss the basic properties they offer the player. If we start with the tops the two classic choices for not just Lakewood but the guitar building world at large would be Spruce in a range of varieties and Cedar. Spruce is the No1 choice for many players as it is strong, attractive and has a great all round tone. Sitka spruce can be describe as being a little more strident and European Spruce can be described as being easier to excite and to have a little more detail and harmonic content. Many guitar builders will charge significantly more if you select European spruce, but this is not the case with Lakewood. Regarded as a superior choice by many it is the standard choice for most of the classic Lakewood models. If you are wanting a guitar for more powerful strumming work you may wish to select Adirondack or Sitka but otherwise European Spruce works wonderfully on any Lakewood instrument. Cedar is a lot darker and is a softer top tone wood. It does not generally produce the same level of volume and is not usually consider as a first choice for those of us strumming or using a pick. However it is a superb choice if you want clear and balanced articulate warmth, and works particularly well when combined with a mahogany back and sides. Check out the Classic M14 range of guitars as they combine Cedar and Mahogany and sound wonderful. The most popular back and sides would have to be Rosewood, Mahogany and Ovagkol among many others such as Cocobola and Koa. Rosewood and Spruce is such a classic combination as the Roswood compliments Spruce brilliantly. Rosewood tends to have a warmer and slightly richer tone to it but individual note to note separation is not generally as clear as with mahogany. Mahogany by comparison tend to be clear and warm as opposed to rich and warm. This is why Mahogany works so well with Cedar and why Rosewood works so well with Spruce. Ovangkol is the standard choice on many of the 18 series guitar and it does work particular well on a Lakewood build. The 18 series tend to have a full tone that is focused with plenty of character and a slightly fuller more noticeable mid range.
With such a wide selection of woods to chose from for the top and back and sides we would really encourage you to either call or email us for further advice. Different body sizes and woods will suit different playing styles and it is important to factor all of this in when selecting the right guitar and specifications for you. We look forward to hearing any questions.