Farida’s par­lour

De­spite the mod­est price tags, these lit­tle fel­las sport a rare touch of class.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - Co­or­di­nated by SUJESH PAVITHRAN afile@thes­tar.com.my By SUJESH PAVITHRAN

IT’S all in the name. Imag­ine if The Bea­tles had re­mained The Quar­ry­men. Doesn’t quite have that ring to it, does it? Still, some will fly in the face of con­ven­tional wis­dom, like this Tai­wanese gui­tar man­u­fac­turer, which makes its in­stru­ments in China.

Among the China-made mu­si­cal in­stru­ments en­gulf­ing the globe these days, those from Farida, among a hand­ful, stand out for their sheer qual­ity. Al­though this means there is a pre­mium to pay, Farida gui­tars have al­ready won ac­co­lades in Europe and the United States for their tone and qual­ity.

Some weeks ago, we re­viewed an en­trylevel dread­nought acous­tic gui­tar from Farida (and I re­call an acous­tic bass some years ago). Now, for some­thing dif­fer­ent, here are two par­lour-sized gui­tars, one en­try-level, the other, mid-range; re­spec­tively, the M-2 and H-16E.

From the same cloth

Par­lour gui­tars haven’t been as pop­u­lar as dread­noughts and jum­bos in re­cent times, but they ap­pear to be mak­ing a bit of a come­back. They’re not to be con­fused with mini-dread­noughts; the body shape is dif­fer­ent, so is the scale, usu­ally.

While the big­ger acous­tic gui­tars have gen­er­ous amounts of bass and a big­ger, splashy sound, par­lour gui­tars are more bal­anced across the fre­quen­cies, thanks to the small body. Their shape and some­time slightly shorter scale length make them eas­ier to lug around and play. It’s no won­der par­lour gui­tars have of­ten been the choice of fin­ger­pick­ing blues­men.

The M-2 and H-16E are cut from the same cloth, right down to the clas­si­cal-type head­stock, but the re­sults are sub­tly dif­fer­ent. The award-win­ning M-2 is es­sen­tially a mod­ern take on the par­lour gui­tar. It has a solid red cedar top, with ma­hogany back, sides and neck, and a rose­wood fin­ger­board and bridge.

The tuners are nickel, while plas­tic is used for the nut and sad­dle, with the bind­ing in black. The nat­u­ral, satin fin­ish is the kind I like.

The scale length is 628mm, com­pared with the tra­di­tional 650mm and this, along with the C-pro­file neck, fa­cil­i­tate easy nav­i­ga­tion.

The H-16E, with its V-pro­file neck, has a more vin­tage slant – its size, bind­ing and con­fig­u­ra­tion of the neck set into the body are slightly dif­fer­ent. The top is solid En­gel­mann spruce, the back, sides and fin­ger­board are rose­wood and the neck is ma­hogany The gold ma­chine heads and gloss fin­ish set it apart vis­ually from the cheaper unit.

The rosette around the sound­holes of both in­stru­ments are dif­fer­ent; ad­di­tion­ally, the H16E comes with a Fish­man Isys pickup/ preamp sys­tem, which is very ba­sic but use­ful for stage.

Both gui­tars, strung with 10-gauge D’Ad­dar­ios, are well put to­gether, with lit­tle signs of short cuts. You might feel the rare bit of un­even­ness on the M-2’s matte fin­ish, and the fret­boards on both are less im­pec­ca­ble than the body work. Still, if you have had an aver­sion to made-in-China acous­tic gui­tars - and cer­tainly, there are a few bud­get ones out there that make me cringe – then these Farida gui­tars will ef­fect a com­plete re­ver­sal of your opin­ion, even be­fore you play them!

Vin­tage vibes

Of course, no point in a gui­tar look­ing great if it doesn’t sound or play to ex­pec­ta­tions, right? One of the rea­sons I’ve sel­dom been com­fort­able with larg­er­bod­ied acous­tics is the un­der­arm space they take up; if you’re one of those with chronic shoul­der joint is­sues, these are a pain.

How­ever, the more diminu­tive size of the M-2 and H-16E made them ex­tremely com­fort­able to play sit­ting, while the shorter scale length only en­hanced this feel­ing.

I started some fin­ger-pick­ing ex­er­cises on the M-2, and for one moment, felt like one of those le­gendary blues­men of yore. Yes, that’s the vibe the M-2 gives off, de­spite its mod­ern neck, which I also felt to be com­fort­able.

Tone-wise, the lack of a glossy ve­neer meant the M-2 had a loud and re­spon­sive sound, as ea­ger to re­spond to hard rhythm work as it was enun­ci­at­ing sub­tler, fin­ger­style play­ing. There’s an or­ganic and warm tex­ture to the tone, but this, with­out any lack in at­tack or dy­nam­ics. The flat­ter fre­quency bal­ance, I found to be a pleas­ant change. There’s a bit of un­ruli­ness about the top end dur­ing more ag­gres­sive play­ing, but this never de­tracts from the lively and en­thu­si­as­tic tonal ap­proach of the M-2.

The H-16E was more re­fined in its ap­proach – while it was equally re­spon­sive at lower lev­els, it re­tained its com­po­sure even when I at­tacked the strings with a pick to ex­e­cute (or at­tempt to) some fancy rhythm work. Im­por­tantly, at ei­ther end of the vol­ume scale, it ex­hib­ited more con­trol than the less costly unit.

The V-neck took a bit of get­ting used to, but once I’d worked out a suit­able ap­proach, it didn’t feel as “fat” as it did ini­tially. Af­ter some weeks of switch­ing be­tween both gui­tars, the palm hardly no­ticed the dif­fer­ence as I sub­con­sciously ad­justed.

If the H-16E has a down­side, it’s the elec­tron­ics – un­der­stand­able, for the price. The Fish­man sys­tem is no over-achiever, and the steely sound of piezo pick­ups can of­ten jar on the nerves. There’s not much flex­i­bil­ity in the set­tings of the preamp – I sup­posed they of­fered the op­tion (there is a unit with­out the elec­tron­ics as well) just for the con­ve­nience of those want­ing to use it on stage.

Mak­ing the switch

The Farida M-2 and H-16E might not be ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, but once you get one of these in your hands, putting it down is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult. Me, I ended up switch­ing over from my ny­lon-string!

If you’re look­ing for small­bod­ied acous­tic gui­tars on a bud­get (a le­gendary brand would cost three to four times more), check out the M-2 and H-16E. My favourite is the M-2, but the H-16E is surely as tempt­ing. Ei­ther way, both are fine in­stru­ments in­deed, and cap­i­tal value.

Acous­tic shine: The Farida H-16E par­lour gui­tar boasts a more re­fined tone.

Pas­sion play: The Farida M-2, a de­light for the acous­tic blues­man.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.