Posted by Adam Levy
From Acoustic Guitar
Oregon-based Bedell Guitars recently introduced its new Blackbird series, with dreadnought, orchestra, and parlor models available. All three are built entirely from trees ethically harvested in the Unites States and are vegan-friendly—utilizing no animal products (no bone nut and saddle, no hide glue, no seashell inlays). If you’re passionate about the fate of our forests and the well-being of all creatures, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more conscientiously crafted line of instruments.
You don’t need to know the Blackbirds’ righteous backstory, of course, to appreciate their robust tones, excellent craftsmanship, and sleek “black burst” finish, but it is rare to find an instrument that can give you a warm, fuzzy feeling before you even pick it up and play it.
Marriage of Substance and Style
The petite 12-fret parlor model, with its lap-friendly dimensions, will appeal to fingerstylists, troubadours, and old-timey blues players. The moderate string spacing (nut width is 1 11/16 inches) accommodates chording and single-note playing with equal ease. The parlor’s neck profile is comfortably curved—not unlike those found on Gibson acoustics from the mid- to late-’60s.
The tonality of the Blackbird is balanced, with burnished upper frequencies, salty-sweet mids, and a focused bottom end. Open-position chords sound harmonically rich and complex, with clear string-to-string definition.
This quality is even more pronounced when jazzier voicings are played up the neck. The smallish frets are expertly finished.
Some modern-minded players may find the parlor’s 12-fret neck limiting, but on the upside, there’s not a bum note to be found anywhere on the walnut fretboard.
The smoky look of the Blackbird parlor is nicely matched to its voice. Bedell’s unique “black burst” finish showcases the tonewoods (Sitka spruce top, big-leaf maple back and sides) in ways you’ve never seen. Imagine taking a photograph of your favorite sunburst acoustic, then processing the pic with a sepia-tone filter. That’s what the Blackbird looks like in real life.
Among the noteworthy nitty-gritty here: brass dot inlays and position markers (instead of abalone), an all-wood rosette, and open-gear Waverly tuners.
And This Bird Can Sing
While the parlor-size Blackbird is louder, acoustically, than you might expect from such a diminutive guitar, most performance situations require amplification.
No sweat—the Blackbird comes factory equipped with an excellent K&K Pure Mini pickup system. The Pure Mini offers no built-in controls for volume or tone, but its dynamic, mic-like signal is easy to shape via your favorite outboard preamp and/or at the mixing console.
Another quality that helps make the parlor a stage-friendly guitar is that it balances evenly in the hands.
Whether you’re a sit-down or stand-up player, you’ll have no trouble cradling the parlor in playing position. It’s also lightweight, which can make a real difference to your neck and shoulders on longer gigs.
Parlor guitars, generally, are designed with a particular musical attitude in mind. Most such models aren’t likely to suit every player or every idiom.
That said, the Bedell Blackbird Vegan parlor guitar is remarkably versatile. On top of that, it’s handsome to behold and eco-friendly.
Perhaps black is the new green.
Adam Levy is an itinerant guitarist based in Los Angeles, where he is the chair of the guitar dept. at Los Angeles College of Music. His guitar work has appeared on recordings by Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman, Amos Lee, and Ani DiFranco, among others. You can read more of Levy’s writing and hear his music at adamlevy.com.
12-fret parlor size
Salvaged Sitka spruce top; Western big-leaf maple back and sides
Nitrocellulose finish gloss top, semi-gloss back and sides) over a translucent black burst
K&K Pure Mini pickup system
Eastern hard-rock maple
Walnut fretboard and peghead overlay
TUSQ nut and saddle
25-inch scale length
1 11/16-inch nut width
Nickel Waverly open-gear tuners
D’Addario EXP16 coated phosphor-bronze strings (.012–.053)
Bedell deluxe hard-shell case
Limited lifetime warranty
See more here.
View the entire Blackbird Vegan series