Low­den Gl-10 Wa

Tay­lor has tried it, Collings is very suc­cess­ful at it and now Low­den is hav­ing a go at cross­ing over to the elec­tric side of gui­tar de­sign. We take a look…

Guitarist - - Contents - Words Dave Bur­rluck Pho­tog­ra­phy Olly Cur­tis

Ge­orge Low­den ac­tu­ally made his first elec­tric back in 1969 but not as a pro­fes­sional gui­tar maker: that came nearly a decade later. “That’s right, the first one I made as a pro­fes­sional would have been about 41 years ago,” Ge­orge con­sid­ers. “It’s some­thing I never thought I’d do again; it wasn’t on my mind. It was ac­tu­ally [Low­den user] Ed Sheeran who gave me a bit of a nudge. It’s the way these things of­ten work. Pro­fes­sional play­ers, fa­mous or not, the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween them and my­self is re­ally im­por­tant. Some­times ideas that would sit on the shelf get taken down and dusted off and that’s what hap­pened here re­ally.

“It took me a year and a half, there was a lot to think about, but then I went away to Por­tu­gal for a week to de­sign this gui­tar – I do that, I’ll kind of go for walks and things and get my head clearer when­ever I’m de­sign­ing some­thing. It came out a lot bet­ter than I thought it would. I know I’m bi­ased,” he laughs, “but I wasn’t re­ally ex­pect­ing it. I didn’t know what to ex­pect.”

It’s to Low­den’s credit that the re­sult­ing GL-10 is far from yet an­other ’Burst im­i­ta­tor. Yes, it’s a sin­gle-cut­away and has twin hum­buck­ers, an in­set tune-o-mat­ic­style bridge and a three-way tog­gle switch but that’s where any re­sem­blance ends.

It’s de­signed around a 630mm (24.8 inch) scale, stan­dard on Low­den’s S-style, and placed be­tween in­dus­try stan­dards, Gib­son and PRS.

The neck style and head­stock is typ­i­cal Low­den – a five-piece lam­i­nate con­struc­tion con­sist­ing of three pieces of ma­hogany, the cen­tre piece quar­ter-sawn with quite a flamed back, sep­a­rated by two rose­wood strips ap­prox­i­mately 2mm thick. It’s topped with a Gib­son ra­dius ebony fin­ger­board with edges bound with an in­ner light coloured wood and ebony outer strip. Dot mark­ers are op­tional – again like their acoustic in­stru­ments, the ’board is left bare with only small pearl side-mark­ers for po­si­tion ref­er­ence al­though, oddly, there’s only one dot at the 12th fret. The frets fall into the small camp, beau­ti­fully in­stalled, as you’d ex­pect, ap­prox­i­mately 2.1mm wide and just un­der 1mm in height.

The body – 348mm wide x 450mm long – ap­pears to ref­er­ence Low­den’s Jazz model. “Yes, ex­actly,” Ge­orge con­firms. “When I went to Por­tu­gal my idea was to de­sign a com­pletely new shape. But as I thought about it I re­alised there is a shape that we al­ready do that I re­ally like and that’s the S Model, or the Jazz Model. So, I used that shape but made it a lit­tle bit smaller.” It’s a solid sand­wich con­struc­tion with a ma­hogany back ap­prox­i­mately 24mm thick and wal­nut top (one of three of­fered), with thin rose­wood ve­neer in be­tween, cre­at­ing an over­all depth of 42mm that ta­pers to ap­prox­i­mately 29mm at the thinnest edge by the strap but­ton.

The over­all weight is good for the style, which isn’t sur­pris­ing bear­ing in mind the thin­ner-than-Les Paul con­struc­tion, and al­though the back is flat there’s a sub­tle ribcage cham­fer and a more size­able cham­fer where the body flows into the neck heel. The neck joins in clas­sic style at the 16th fret, the flat cut­away – al­most at right an­gles to the neck – again has some light cham­fer­ing and al­to­gether this cre­ates ex­tremely easy ac­cess to the top frets with­out the clas­sic heel bulk of a Les Paul.

The hard­ware and elec­tron­ics are equally con­sid­ered with a real low pro­file feel: the tune-o-matic is re­cessed into the top of the body, the strings flow back some 65mm be­fore they dis­ap­pear into the body (the holes are brass lined) and are an­chored into an in­set brass sus­tain plate on the back.

There’s a neat in­stal­la­tion of the hum­buck­ers, which ap­pear to be placed di­rectly into the top though there are small ears around the ad­just­ment screws. “When you un­screw those small plates you get

Picked, strummed or fin­ger­style, it re­ally sounds top dol­lar as an acoustic or elec­tric, lov­ing ped­als too

ac­cess to the pickup height ad­just­ment – the screws you see aren’t ac­tu­ally the height ad­just­ment screws. I didn’t feel like us­ing plas­tic pickup sur­rounds on this gui­tar – I wanted it to be as clean and nat­u­ral as pos­si­ble,” Ge­orge ex­plains. The tog­gle switch is shoul­der-placed, then we have in­di­vid­ual pickup vol­umes and a lower mas­ter tone, the out­put jack, and a screwed-in Tele bar­rel-style just fits on that thin lower side. The con­trol cav­ity cover ap­pears to be wal­nut and al­most looks like a piece of mar­quetry in the way it’s re­cessed into the ma­hogany back. The only prob­lem is that it’s such a tight fit we couldn’t re­move it to view the in­ter­nal electrics.

While oil fin­ishes are com­mon enough on elec­tric gui­tar necks, it’s rare to see the whole in­stru­ment fin­ished like this. “The idea of putting, let’s say, a quar­ter of a mil­lime­tre of plas­tic on top of beau­ti­ful wood is not ideal from my point of view,” coun­ters Ge­orge. “I also like to just be able to feel the wood as well as see it. We do it [put a fin­ish] on the acous­tics but that’s mostly for pro­tec­tion be­cause the soft­wood of the sound­board is very eas­ily dam­aged. But on an elec­tric I just thought, why not? It’s a com­pletely nat­u­ral oil fin­ish – there are no chem­i­cals in there, that’s an­other rea­son for do­ing it.”

It feels rather dif­fer­ent to your Strat or Les Paul, with the small, acoustic feel of the frets help­ing to cre­ate its unique style

Feel and sounds

Okay, so the GL-10 is a sin­gle-cut but it cer­tainly doesn’t feel like a Les Paul. The body’s thin­ness, en­hanced by the curved top and rel­a­tive thin edges, along with the low pro­file height of the hard­ware and pick­ups cre­ates a stealth-like feel that dis­ap­pears played seated or on a strap. Un­usual, yes, but sur­pris­ingly prac­ti­cal, not least with its good weight and con­ven­tional strapped-on feel.

The unique feel con­tin­ues with the neck with a spa­cious feel­ing flat-ish C pro­file – 21.7mm at the 1st fret, 22.9mm at the 12th – that re­ally does feel more like one of Low­den’s fab­u­lous acoustic builds. Again though, it does feel rather dif­fer­ent to your Strat or Les Paul. The set-up is low, the frets cer­tainly feel like a vintage small acoustic gauge, which makes big bends less easy than on a ’board with big­ger, taller wire but, again, it all be­gins to cre­ate – or cer­tainly add to – the unique feel and style of the gui­tar.

There’s a beau­ti­ful acoustic re­sponse that’s vi­brant with a long smooth sus­tain tail, which just hangs af­ter the note or chord. There’s not the au­di­ble depth of a good Les Paul or the bloom that you’ll hear on an ex­cep­tional one. “If you play an elec­tric gui­tar acous­ti­cally you can get a pretty good idea of how it’s go­ing to sound when you plug it in,” of­fers Ge­orge. “The bal­ance of the in­stru­ment, the bal­ance of the mass that you have from the neck to the body, all makes a dif­fer­ence to the way the elec­tric gui­tar sounds at the end of the day.”

Amped, and swap­ping be­tween the GL-10, a PRS McCarty and a Knaggs Ke­nai, the Low­den emerges in this well-proven com­pany with its own voice. It pos­sesses less low end than ei­ther of our ref­er­ences but cov­ers a wide range of voices, not least if you use the vol­umes which, pulled back, re­veal a beau­ti­ful chim­ing clar­ity that’s got a lit­tle Fen­der about it or, in mixed po­si­tion, some Gretsch. In this sound set­ting it would be a su­perb tool to aug­ment other acoustic in­stru­ments. Like­wise, it proves more than good for cleaner soul or pop styles, mix­ing nice funk with ring­ing jan­gle. With the

vol­umes full up it loses a lit­tle of that clar­ity and there’s a touch more grunt that cer­tainly works hard for crunchier rhythms and full but clear sound­ing leads. It re­minds us of the guitars Rick Turner built for Lind­sey Buck­ing­ham in that it’s not meant to repli­cate a clas­sic bench­mark voice yet re­mains hugely en­gag­ing and for the creative mu­si­cian can cover a sur­pris­ing amount of ground.

It’s a hugely mu­si­cal piece that could ex­cel for those of us swap­ping acoustic and elec­tric in a set, picked, strummed or fin­ger­style – it re­ally sounds top dol­lar and loves ped­als too. In many ways it’s a blank can­vas and the com­bi­na­tion of both the pick­ups and their beau­ti­fully bal­anced and grad­u­ated con­trols could be just the sort of piece for the singer-song­writer or side­man to em­brace. There’s some­thing, too, about that smooth, slightly com­pressed sus­tain that would ap­peal to the slide play­ers among us.


There’s plenty to like here for the mu­si­cian that not only ap­pre­ci­ates the craft of the luthier but has the imag­i­na­tion to colour and shape sounds. It’s far from a showy piece that seems to per­fectly suit those goals: a real gui­tar player’s gui­tar that ef­fort­lessly glides through vir­tu­ally ev­ery style you can muster. Slightly big­ger, taller frets, per­haps as an op­tion, could eas­ily broaden its ap­peal yet, as is, the smaller wire here re­ally some­how fits the vibe.

Time­less, ver­sa­tile, mu­si­cal and beau­ti­fully made in a very clas­sic hand­made style it’s a wel­come re­minder that not ev­ery mod­ern elec­tric gui­tar has to be a clone of a past de­sign.


2 A lot thin­ner than most Les Paul-like sin­gle cuts the GL-10 uses a ma­hogany back and wal­nut top (with Tas­ma­nian black­wood and koa op­tions) with a rose­wood ve­neer in be­tween Lol­lar’s well-re­spected take on the clas­sic PAF, the Im­pe­ri­als’ sound was cho­sen for the gui­tar in hon­our of the orig­i­nal Fleet­wood Mac. Ge­orge Low­den saw them play in Belfast in 1969. “I was just in­cred­i­bly im­pressed by the sound of Pe­ter Green’s Les Paul and also Danny Kir­wan’s. It was that kind of sound that I was af­ter for the GL-10”

4 The fin­ger­board is ebony with a 305mm (12”) ra­dius and small acoustic-like frets. Dot mark­ers are op­tional

5 Ev­ery­thing about the GL-10 fits Low­den style, like the very iden­ti­fi­able head­stock. Tuners here are by Go­toh; the nut is finely cut bone

7 Again the neck is typ­i­cal Low­den with its five-piece lam­i­nate con­struc­tion, feel­ing a lot more like one of the brand’s acous­tics

The full oil fin­ish isn’t some­thing we’re used to see­ing on electrics and cer­tainly helps the GL-10 stand out 6

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