When Martin Taylor has an association with a particular arch top jazz guitar, then it will certainly help with sales and any promotional activity – The Yamaha AEX1500 hollow body guitar has been tagged the ‘Martin Taylor Signature Model’ – Originally developed as a prototype instrument, in conjunction with Martyn Booth, who has worked with Yamaha on various other projects in the past – The serial number helps to establish a 1999 date of birth, yet it is hard to believe this AEX1500 is now over 21 years old, as the overall condition is very clean – It doesn’t quite earn that ‘as new/mint condition’ tag, but any hint of a graze or blemish is very subtle – In fact the only obvious signs of any previous use is a hint of wear to the gold plating, which is par for the course, along with a few pick marks on the scratch plate – Otherwise be prepared to hunt long and hard to find any blemish – No issues with the frets – So overall a clean guitar with no negative issues – Complete with the deluxe Yamaha case and the appropriate tag – Re-strung with a set of D’addario EXL115W 11-49 strings, with a round 3rd/G and set-up with a sensible fluid action – Just for the record the guitar only weighs 6lbs and 6oz
Basic details of the AEX1500 archtop hollowbody include :- bound laminate maple/sycamore body, 3″ depth and just under 16″ width, maple neck with bound dark ebony fingerboard, 13.75″ fingerboard radius, floating ebony bridge with bone saddle, gold plated hardware, bound headstock facia – Johnny Smith style floating pick-up + APX style active piezo acoustic pick-up system – more on this below – An amber burst finish plus figured maple top/back add a nice hint of class to the overall visual package
Tonal package :- Let’s keep it simple first and talk about the traditional neck pick-up – A floating pick-up based on the format known as the ‘Johnny Smith pick-up’ and found on the likes of the Ibanez George Benson model – Controlled in the traditional way, via a master volume and tone control – Keep the tone pot towards 10 for a crisp tone, or wind it down a touch, as required, for a more mellow/dark voice – Nothing clever and basically the tone you’d expect any arch top guitar to deliver – The trickery and flexibility lies in the active piezo package, with an under saddle pick-up + active EQ package, that is similar to that found on the best selling APX electro acoustic models – The 3 way toggle switch, near the neck pick-up, simply allows you to select humbucker only, piezo only, or both – On the rim of the body you’ll find the appropriate controls for the piezo package – With a bass + treble cut/boost slider option and a parametric style cut/boost for the mid range – Both pick-ups still run down a regular guitar lead into your amp – Not sure what Martin Taylor currently utilises for his amp, but I know in the past he has often favoured an electro acoustic style amp, with a wider band width of tone range – But no issue to run it thru’ a regular guitar amp as required – The acoustic piezo voice delivers some very useful tones that suit the crisp percussive chord work for those Django/Gypsy Jazz styles and of course for those single note fluid licks – Now place the 3 way toggle switch in the middle position, to select both pick-ups on together – Then on the control panel, on the rim, you’ll find a blend control, that allows you to determine how much of the piezo you mix in with the neck humbucker – From just a touch, to a more potent combination – Subtle variations of this blend pot produce effective results – Look and listen to the playing style of Martin Taylor and you’ll realise this blend pot works so well when playing walking bass lines, with comp chords that supplement the melody – As I mentioned earlier, you can keep it simple by just choosing to use the neck humbucker, but add the piezo as required, for greater versatility
Feel/playability :- The slim-ish neck has a C profile, with a flatter feel to the rear/deepest part of the neck – Bottom line is that it is very comfortable and allows for a slick playing performance – Personally I find so many ‘old school’ arch top guitars have a stiff playability that takes no prisoners – As such you have to really work at your technique to play the instrument – The AEX1500 is far more forgiving and in many ways it feels like you are playing many ‘modern’ solid body guitars – As such flash licks and those walking bass lines, supporting comp chords and a melody line don’t feel such a fight – Overall a very user friendly playing experience – I’ve re-strung the guitar with a set of D’addario EXL115W strings – 11-49 gauge with a wound 3rd – Always a matter of taste on such a guitar as some players will favour a set of flat wounds, some a more slinky gauge or a more beefy set – I recall Martin Taylor use to favour a 1/2 wound set of strings – Set up with a sensible fluid action – Not shred metal low, but easy enough to play for those who favour a nice light touch
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