I think many guitar players can attest that finding the right guitar for your needs is a lifelong search, with many days spent on forums, buying, selling and trading. The past 20 years of my life was a long road, building up a stable of instruments that suit the sounds in my mind for performing and recording and inspire me further as a musician and songwriter. I think all guitars have songs in them, and some places I’ve lived have been more inspiring than others, and some instruments wind up being used for a certain thing, and have a limited role over time and wind up being sold or traded. Since 2002, when my third Simon and Patrick cedar guitar was beyond repair (meaning it would cost more to fix it than buy a new one), I was in the position of having some money saved and decided to take the plunge and order a Martin guitar, my first left handed Martin was a 000-16RGT. When I received the guitar, the top was in trouble, due to the wood being used being too new or “green”. The guitar was sent back to Martin and retopped, and when I received it back it was still a great guitar, but I was looking for something else. At that time I bought a Gibson J-45 (my first of many), and the GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) era kicked in. Over the next 20 years I bought, sold and traded something to the tune of 75 instruments, about 3/4 of them were guitars, with many stories pertaining to each instrument that could easily be called “A Book Of Frustration”. I’m a multi-instrumentalist who has written over 1600 songs in many different styles. It was always a quest to find the right instrument for a certain sound. I found most instruments to be good in many ways, but lacking in one or two departments in such a fashion that it led me to sell/trade and go on the forums to keep finding the “holy grail”.
As time has gone on, I listen back to my albums (I have 99 albums on Bandcamp.com) and even though over the years I’ve owned some incredible guitars, at this point in my life I just hear a great sounding guitar, and it just sounds like Dan Frechette music to me, no matter what guitar it is. I find the biggest differences in guitars are the body and neck shape, the string spacing at the bridge and nut width seem to affect my music the most, over factors such as wood type or brand or vintage. The vast majority of my guitars over the years have been either Gibson or Martin, because they can resell easily and have name recognition. Being a full time musician and left handed I had to survive my GAS affliction without losing everything on a gamble such as buying a boutique instrument from a builder only a few have heard of. I never took the gamble except one used Collings guitar along the way, and I sold that because the neck was too hard on my old wrist injury.
Enter Emerald Guitars, at some point in 2020, I started seeing ads for a carbon fiber guitar that everyone was raving about. One thing that interested me right away is they, like Martin Guitars, do not uncharge lefties, and have a few models available for us. I was instantly interested and checked out some videos on YouTube, and most of the musicians were great but did not play my style of music. It took many weeks of sleuthing before I heard one sample on an X20 and it was a musician playing closer to my style (a Norman Blake, Neil Young, bluegrass mashup) and I was sold. I found the whole process of taking the risk to be minimized by the fact I had seen some Emeralds selling used on Reverb for close to what they were new, and selling to new owners. There was a truly in-depth review that sold me further, where one gentleman demonstrated every last facet of the guitar, from the playability, tone, comparisons with other guitars, basically the kind of review I would do. Once Emerald began offering wood veneers and updated their website to the “builder”, it was very easy to dial into what would be my first custom ordered guitar.
In my quest for my music I’ve acquired some great vintage guitars over the years, a few Gibsons and a Martin and a Guild. They are all over 30 years old and are wonderful for recording, but not so much for playing around the house or songwriting. The reason is I have a short torso and my Martin is too small (also has less bass than I’d like for strumming), one Gibson is a jumbo body and uncomfortable (but has great sound), the other Gibson is small body like the Martin and ladder braced, so really good for straight up music and folk. The Guild is a huge beast and weighs around 6 pounds but is my favourite recording guitar, and has been used on around 20 albums since I got it in 2018.
The Emerald X-20 arrived at my doorstep with an intact clay mug and t-shirt about a month ago. I can honestly say it has changed my life. I had to leave for Canada to see my family in Winnipeg the next day from California. It was an amazing experience to travel with a guitar that I realized I would not have to declare at the border anything about it. (The rules have been stringent regarding rosewood in the recent years, and it’s been a great source of concern for me, even to the point I sold a perfectly amazing 1967 Gibson J-50 factory left handed guitar (if anyone knows where it is I will buy it back!) because I didn’t want to go over the border in my touring with the Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard and bridge.) I was driving and the Emerald was in my back seat with the sun shining on the case for hours and every time I’d pull over and play it she would still be in tune!
Once I arrived in Winnipeg there were a lot of outdoor venues I played over the month. I outfitted the guitar with a K and K Pure Mini my friend installed. It is amazingly balanced and sweet acoustically, sounds just like the guitar. If there’s feedback issues (happened rarely except at one show where my friend was very loud on his Telecaster and I had to turn it up in the monitors) I can fill the soundhole with a few t-shirts and it does the trick. The best situation for me was the night I played it at a campfire for 6 hours and did not touch the tuners the whole time. All my outdoor shows, some being in full sun and some being in the cold and the wind, were all in tune! I’m very intense about tuning and I find the luxury of having a guitar perfectly in tune with itself and still having mojo and great tone is about the best thing I could hope for. I’ve had some “perfect” guitars before, but they did not have the tone or they did not have the mojo. I play a lot of different styles, and when I picked up my Emerald the first time I would have shipped it back to them immediately for a refund if it did not test out well with old blues picking, bluegrass, country, reggae, 60’s tunes, rock n’roll, rockabilly. It’s really an incredible acoustic guitar.
I felt like some Hawaiian lap slide player must have felt in 1938 when playing one of the first electric instruments, with so many people curious and coming around to ask me about this strange new guitar I had with the soundhole in a different spot. Many were blown away by the guitar, including a luthier I know, who has built around 60 guitars. I’ve gone through many string brands just to try out different strings and they all sound good on the guitar, some last longer than others or feel better than others. I’m still a few sets away from making my decision on what string I will stick with, likely a coated string, because I don’t like changing strings much these days. Being a full time musician it’s best to find something good and invest in that and stick with it.
Emerald Guitars have been nothing but fantastic to work with and my guitar has been very inspiring for me. I have already written many songs with her and when people ask me what I’m naming the guitar I just say “Emerald”. In the cards for me, because my 30 year old Jasmine 12 string is basically falling apart as the years go on, is a regular green carbon 12 string, which I think will be called “Emerald”, and I’ll have to find a better name for my current X20, Amber/Pao Ferro. The veneer was chosen by Alistair, so maybe I’ll name her after him!
Every guitar player out there should at least try these guitars. Here are some of the biggest pluses I’ve noticed since I have been playing my Emerald. I feel as if I’ve retired from the hassles of being a guitar player.
1) Very little need for tuning. That’s HUGE. The guitar is in perfect tune with itself on every string on every fret. I often hate tuning a guitar to drop D and then have to go tune all the other strings. This neck on this guitar minimizes that. It’s very rare that I have to adjust any of the other strings. Also, when putting on a new set of strings you tune it up and it STAYS THERE. Very rarely am I dealing with tuning the “new strings” settling in. I realize now, after 30 years, it must have been something else that was settling in.
2) A guitar that can keep up with ME. I’m tired of getting into a song and losing myself in the passion, and the guitar goes out of tune, or the way it is set up can’t handle the music I’m trying to put through it. This guitar has outperformed every acoustic I’ve ever owned. If it sounds bad, it’s my fault.
3) Truss Rod. The truss rod on this guitar is awesome and instantly responsive. Recently I was a little tired in the hands and I did a 1/8 tighten of the truss rod, and the guitar was instantly easier to play. It really doesn’t take much. I haven’t had to spend much time tweaking it.
4) Perfect set up. These folks have this thing dialed in at 6/64 low E and 4/64 high E. The nut slots are great, there’s no buzzing, no behind the capo buzz, no fretting out. The frets are STAINLESS STEEL, so I can capo as hard as I want, or fret as hard as I want. The frets on my Martin are finished and it would be $300 or more dollars for a fret job. I’m tired of endless maintenance.
5) Maintenance. No need for neck resets, refrets, regluing braces, crack repairs, finish issues, etc. Having your guitar gone for weeks or months to be set up or maintained. Worrying about the weather in Bonny Doon, California, where some days it’s 10% humidity and then it’s 60% and then it’s hot, then it’s damp and cool. It’s all over the place here. I have chewed my fingernails to the quick, running around filling planet waves humidity gadgets, putting my instruments away in storage for days, weeks, months, just so I don’t have to see another crack forming, and have to call the luthier. In the past 5 years I’ve been through 3 neck resets, 3 refrets, 5 crack repairs, lots of saddles and nuts. It gets old and this guitar promises to be the same all the time. I LOVE THAT.
6) Price. People say these guitars are expensive. They are! So is maintenance and stress.
7) Tone. I’m a big, big critic of tone. Guitars have been sold because something was missing, or even some that were too loud or too much bass, etc. I’ve looked back at all the guitars I’ve owned, and while it does not have the “Gibson” sound, it does remind me the most of my SJ-200 Gibson I owned for a year or so in 2011/2012. It has a bold, clear, sweet tone with as much sustain as you can get out of a guitar. It has enough bass, middle and trebles where I don’t feel anything is too much or too little. I find if I want a different sound from the guitar it’s up to me to use a different picking technique or play closer to the bridge for more punch, etc. It’s really up to me to make this sound how I want it to. It’s really, really great to have a guitar that is as responsive as this. I play slide blues on the guitar and it stands there with the best guitars I’ve owned for this purpose. I had a National NRP Duolian, and yes, that guitar was a one trick pony. It’s nice having the Emerald X20, because I can go delta blues and open D slide blues and it sounds GREAT and not cheesy (amen) and then tune up and play an old Country Gentleman bluegrass song. I will stand proud with this guitar at Bluegrass Jams and at Blues Jams.
8) Durability. The guitar is made to be played. I have played over 200 hours on this guitar so far and there’s some minor pick scratches I’ve been told can be buffed out with car polish. There was one point the guitar slid on the concrete floor and I spent a few minutes removing the flakes of concrete that were stuck to the guitar, to a pristine finish. The guitar can handle anything. I stood pretty close to the campfire when I got cold one night and nothing happened. This thing is for music, and it’s a tool, and I can finally just do this music thing with it, and shed all the hangups and concerns and worries surrounding being a guitar owner. That’s like being retired or something, and I still have a good 30-40 years of a career ahead of me hopefully.
9) Value. The guitar is not going to tumble into obscurity. Guitars like this are not a flash in the pan. This is a great time to buy an Emerald. The value will hold or maybe even go up. It’s exciting to follow the future of Emerald Guitars. I’m grateful to have made friends with these people, and that adds to the value for me immensely.
10) Comfort. This is a big one. Between a shoulder issue I have as well as an old broken wrist injury, I’ve been forced to sell some incredible guitars, namely a 1968 factory left handed D-18 that had a big V neck and big body. I had searched for around 15 years for a 60’s D-18 and finally found one, only to curse myself because I just could not play it for more than 15 minutes without the pain kicking in. It was a really emotional day when I sold that guitar to a guy down in Los Angeles. I realized around then (3 years ago) that comfort is really important in the day to day music making life. Everything matters, the neck, the neck angle, the strings, the pick, the chair you sit in. I have been in a state of elation now for the past month, because there is NOTHING about this Emerald guitar that causes me any pain. I have forgotten the pain that I was in daily with my other guitars, even something as simple as the edge of the guitar digging into my chest, arm or leg. This guitar is already at an angle, so I don’t have to hoist it up to my ear to hear what I’m playing or see what I’m doing, the soundhole is right there in my ear. There are no sharp edges. I’ve never felt more comfortable with any guitar. People say it feels like a 000 but is like a dreadnought for sound. I agree, except I’ve never seen many 000 guitars with bevels and rounded edges like this guitar. The full scale length is fine by me and I love the long sustain it produces. Basically, my styles of guitar playing work well on the X20, and after all I’ve been through with the seemingly endless guitar karma, I’m beyond grateful.
Thank you Emerald Guitars for building me this beast. I can’t get over it every single day. A mind-blowing instrument. So glad I bought this and can’t wait to order my Emerald X-20-12 (as soon as I sell some of my other acoustics – stay tuned for some comparison videos before that happens!). Get yourself an Emerald folks, the only thing you’ll be surprised at getting used to is how long it stays in tune.
You can check out Dan’s amazing collection of albums and music at https://officialramblingdanfrechette.bandcamp.com/music
For more stories like Dan’s check out the Community section in our website. www.emeraldguitars.com/community