From the March 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY ADAM PERLMUTTER
When Breedlove introduced its first original body style, the Concert, more than 25 years ago, it delivered a medium-sized instrument that was ideally sized and voiced for a wide range of guitarists and playing styles. The Oregon-based company has recently branched out with new designs at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size. Last year saw the introduction of the Concerto, Breedlove’s interpretation of the classic large-bodied flattop, designed to be more comfortable to hold and play than the typical model.
Breedlove’s response to the resurgence of smaller-bodied guitars is this guitar, the Concertina, which is new for 2018. This 12-fretter’s body silhouette is similar to that of its larger counterparts, but its interior air volume is quite a bit smaller—measuring 750 cubic inches, compared to 915 on the Concert and 1075 on the Concerto. I took a Sitka spruce-and-myrtle version of the Concertina for a spin and found its generous amount of sound and effortless playability impressive.
Fine-Sounding and Great-Playing
Myrtle grows in coastal regions from Central California to Southern Oregon but, aside from Breedlove, few guitar makers have used this sustainable alternative to tropical hardwoods like rosewood and mahogany. Breedlove believes that myrtle (Umbellularia californica) has the best tonal attributes of rosewood and mahogany—as well as the clarity of maple—and that it pairs well with Sitka spruce. Judging from my time playing the Concertina, it’s hard to argue with the guitar’s clear and sustaining voice, very good note separation, and overall responsiveness.
It feels natural to play old-school blues on a small-bodied instrument like the Concertina. During the time I spent with the guitar, I was also preparing the notation for an upcoming Acoustic Guitar blues instruction book by Steve James. This method covers a broad range of approaches in standard and open tunings, and the Concertina sounded terrific in these contexts. When I played an example in E, the alternating bass line had an impressive thump, while the treble-string melody, falling on both open strings and fretted notes, had excellent crispness—an attribute also apparent when I played James’ arrangement of “Spanish Fandango” in open-G tuning.
The Concertina also takes well to pick-style playing. It puts out a surprising amount of sound for a small guitar, whether strummed heartily or picked delicately, and also has generous amounts of sustain and resonance. And speaking of smallness, the Concertina, with a body depth of four inches at the tail block, compared to 4-1/8 inches on a typical OM or 4-7/8 inches on a dreadnought, is lightweight and very comfortable to hold.
The Concertina plays as good as it sounds. Out of the box, the setup is perfect; the action is moderately low and there isn’t any fret-buzzing. With a 1.75-inch nut, a medium scale length of 25 inches, and a modern C-shape neck with a satin finish, it’s easy and pleasurable to play. Not surprisingly for a Breedlove, it’s very well built, inside and out. Things are spic-and-span with regard to the bracing and kerfing, the soundboard’s finish has a faultless gloss, and the fretwork is unimpeachably clean.
I’d be remiss not to mention the Concertina’s looks. It’s a handsome guitar, nicely splitting the difference between traditional and modern aesthetics. The instrument’s black binding contrasts nicely with the blondeness of the myrtle body and rock maple neck, and the old-school herringbone purfling and rosette balance contemporary details like right-justified position markers on the fretboard and Breedlove’s asymmetrical wave headstock.
Plug in and Play
Like many Breedlove guitars, the Concertina is outfitted with LR Baggs EAS VTC electronics—an active system with an undersaddle pickup and small, soundhole-mounted controls. The pickup, a super-thin film sensor, was designed to capture the soundboard movement and to reflect all of the guitar’s nuances. When I plugged the guitar into a Fender Acoustasonic amp, I found that these electronics do deliver on this goal. The sound was natural, detailed, and dynamic, without the boxy effect or unpleasant quack of some acoustic pickups, making the instrument a great tool for the gigging singer-songwriter.
The Bottom Line
With the Concertina, Breedlove has introduced an awesome guitar style that will appeal not just to fans of small-bodied instruments, but a wide spectrum of players. Its sweet, balanced voice, top-notch build, and understated appearance make it a wonderful companion. It’ll be interesting, to say the least, to see how Breedlove will build on this new platform.
Breedlove Oregon Concertina E Sitka Myrtle
BODY 12-fret Concertina size; solid Sitka spruce top with Sitka spruce X-bracing; solid myrtle back and sides; ebony bridge with 2-1/4″ string spacing; natural gloss finish (top); semigloss finish (back and sides)
NECK Eastern rock maple neck; ebony fretboard; 25″ scale length; 1.75″ nut; nickel Breedlove tuners; semigloss finish
ELECTRONICS LR Baggs Element Active System VTC undersaddle pickup
OTHER D’Addario EXP16 strings (.012–.053); deluxe hardshell case
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MADE IN USA
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.