High-end acoustics for the gigging musician
Part look to the future and part nod to the past, the Fender Paramount series is beautiful acoustic guitar series that should get gigging musicians very excited. Dawsons spoke to Mark, Fender Product Specialist, at NAMM 2016 about the inspiration behind the design and sound of this high quality range of guitars.
Could you please introduce the new Fender Paramount acoustic range?
Fender Paramount is a range of all solid acoustic guitars, designed primarily for the more advanced player – that is someone who wants to be onstage playing an acoustic, or who wants to do some quality recording work at the home or the studio.
The range itself consists of 9 different guitars, with a base of both standard and deluxe models. We wanted something that was simple, intuitive, sounded great and was unique to us.
What inspired the design of the Fender Paramount series?
The basic appointments for the guitar are trying to relay a thread of Fender DNA throughout, so that when you look at the guitar you immediately recognise the Fender elements throughout the construction and design.
Apart from the fact it’s designed by our talented acoustic luthiers in Scottsdale AZ, it’s got various appointments on it that relate back to historical elements of Fender acoustics.
For example, the pickguard design is from the 1960’s, and the checkerboard soundhole rosette and purfling are also from the Kingsmen guitars in the 60’s. We also have a 1970’s F-series headstock and bridge.
On the Deluxe model, we have these concert tone inlays on the fingerboard and the headstock (on the headstock on the standard model as well) and these are from the bluegrass models that we did in the 60’s.
The Fender logo at the top is form the late 40’s, which is really good, really traditional and sits really well on the guitar. Its retro and its very Fender. Those are the basic concepts in terms on the aesthetics.
Could you describe the differences between the standard and the deluxe models?
They’re all solid, but the Standard has an all solid mahogany back and sides with a spruce top, whereas the Deluxe has solid Indian rosewood back and sides. The Deluxe has the concert inlays on an ebony board, the standard has the 3mm dot inlays on a rosewood board. It also has a rosewood cap and bridge to match that, whereas the Deluxe has the black cap and ebony bridge to match the board.
The Standard comes in natural, and the Deluxe is sunburst or natural. And there are three body sizes, there are dreadnought, parlour and cutaway concert tone, with the concert the only one with a cutaway.
Are all Paramount models Electro-Acoustic?
They’re all electro-acoustic, and that’s one of the things we really wanted to get right.
So we worked in collaboration with Fishman on the pickup and preamp design. It’s very simple and intuitive, its got bass, treble and volume in the middle, but it looks very subtle. Its also got a useful built-in tuner – it’s all very simple and very elegant!
Why now for the Paramount Series?
Fender have become more and more popular as a manufacturer of sub 500 pound guitars and that puts us very firmly in the beginner or early enthusiast bracket, it’s not a serious players guitar. So we wanted something that allowed us to get on stages. When you buy an acoustic guitar, you might start to a CD-60 or 140, but once you get to the point when you want to move to play live or do some really nice recording, you want an acoustic guitar that fits the bill and we didn’t have that in the range, so this allows us to have a guitar in the range to allow our customer to take it the step further.
Are there any styles of music that you think it particularly suits?
Well you can do anything on it – a good acoustic guitar is a good acoustic guitar! The preamp itself is voiced to suit the body shape, so the dreadnought preamp is voiced to suit a dreadnought, with a big, boomy bass and crisp, sparkling highs. The concert has a smooth mellow voice and the parlour is a bit tighter with a nasal, honky sound.
So between the three body sizes and the way we’ve voiced the preamp system its not suitable for any particular music, its suitable for whenever an acoustic is required.
Can you talk about the tonewoods involved? Does a certain piece of wood make a difference to the sound?
It does make a huge difference. It’s important that you don’t just pick any tonewood, it’s got to be something that physically looks right – you can tell a good tonewood by the tightness of the grain and it also has to be aged properly.
Also if you get two bits of solid and put them on a guitar, the one that is aged will sound great and will last a long time. If you get one that hasn’t been aged properly it’s more liable to move or shift and it will just sound saggy and not sound as good.
Do you have specific criteria when choosing wood?
We always try and use tonewoods that have been aged in a climate-controlled environment, I think the average at the moment is about 10 years for these guitars. Like a fine whiskey! Its important because it makes a big difference to the stability and the longevity of the guitar. You want it to last for a long time and to enjoy it for a long time.
The other thing about a high quality guitar is that you have to look after it properly. The guitars come with a deluxe hardshell case, a humidifier and a little booklet telling you how to get the best out of your guitar, not just about the preamp system and how to set it up, but also how to look after and care for the guitar.
In terms of acoustic guitars, how do you see the industry as it is now and how do you see it progressing?
I think the acoustic market is still very strong, there is a huge wave of singer-songwriters out there, and we have no reason to believe this will change. The things that tend to change is the appeal in finishes, so the sunburst is very strong at the moment and also the smaller bodies parlour sizes are a very popular for us at the moment.
To view the full range of Fender Paramount Acoustic guitars, visit the Dawsons website.
About The Author
Gary Thomas is a guitarist and songwriter from Shropshire, England. A lifelong classical guitarist, Gary has also written, performed and recorded with several rock bands, and also as an acoustic solo artist. When he is not writing content for Dawsons, Gary dedicates time to recording his own material and learning pieces by some of his heroes, including Nick Drake and Elliott Smith.