By Greg Olwell // From the April 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar
When introduced in 1929, the Gibson L-10—with its ebony finish, nickel hardware, and relatively simple ornamentation—was a lower-cost alternative to the flagship L-5. But for years the Gibson L-10 has been something of a secret weapon for archtop enthusiasts who need the steak, but not all of the sizzle, of the glitzy L-5.
The L-10 was the Kalamazoo, Michigan, company’s second f-hole archtop guitar, and at $175 was $100 less than the flashy L-5. The savings came from the less expensive decorative details and a mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, but many players love L-10s because they were built with the same high attention to detail as the L-5s.
Like Gibson’s L-5, L-7, and L-12 archtops, the L-10 received the Advanced designation in 1935, meaning that its body was widened from 16 to 17 inches and X-braced. At this time, the L-10 was also given a new look, with a sunburst finish, a checkerboard pattern inlay around the top, and double-triangle inlays on the fingerboard.
The relatively fancy L-10 seen here was made in early 1932 and is currently used by San Francisco guitarist Eddie Scher. Its fretboard is decorated with ornate rectangular picture-frame inlays—a motif borrowed from Gibson’s highly ornamented banjos—and its headstock sports a double-handled vase inlay. Some of the early L-10s have maple necks, but this one is the standard mahogany, with a pronounced V-shape that makes it extremely comfortable to play. The guitar’s voice is bone-dry and punchy—robust enough to be heard unamplified, both for comping and soloing, in busy restaurants and clubs.
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This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.