By Nowell & Annette Siegel (Living Tree Music)

NAMM 2020As usual most of our time was spent in the acoustic section of the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show at the Anaheim Convention Center. This is Hall E on the bottom level.

We were impressed with Troublesome Creek out of Kentucky. They make guitars, mandolins, using walnut, maple (domestic) and other nice woods. They had a mandolin built with help from a “Loar era” specialist for a mere $9,600.

  • Troublesome creek guitar
  • TR Creek Mandy
  • TR Creek mandy back

Making the rounds, to several instrument wood vendors, there were some very nice, very expensive: walnut sides and backs, Spalted maples, highly figured Birdseye Poplar.

Many companies now have observed the desire for, and responded to the high demand for vintage type instruments. Deering Banjo showed us some fine examples of the Vega line. They also have introduced a nice small-scale entry level 5 string banjo. Well made similar to the popular Good Time Banjo, this small scale is geared for small fingers and beginning children.

  • Deering Vega Vintage
  • Jr. Banjo
  • Vega Vintage Peghead

Two Old Hippies continue to make many brands: Breedlove, Weber, Bedell, Bohemian Gas Can, Journey, Kay and Republic Resonators.

Santa Cruz Guitars always has some fine instruments that are well balanced.

Collings expanded their vintage line called Waterloo, with that aged lacquer look and ‘30s feel.

  • Waterloo Guitar Mandy Maplle
  • Vintage Waterloo

We noted many similarities of many instruments, domestic and imported.

Most major and mid instrument companies are using extensive CNC (Computer Numerical Control) production techniques.

Finishes, perfect inlays, perfect construction. While superbly made, it seems that the “art" or handmade essence is missing.

We played many mandolins, banjos (Exception) and guitars. While brand new, most were tight sounding and lacked a warmth and depth.

Ready for a break, we had lunch with Bob Smakula, instrument repairman and clawhammer player from West Virginia along with Kevin Enoch, from Maryland, a fine Banjo maker and player. We discussed everything from building techniques to global warming. It was nice to hear how the other side of the country does things.

On the ground floor (Level 1) in Hall D:

Boutiqe Guitars

There was a nice section of custom guitar builders at the "Boutique Guitar Showcase."

There were very light all carbon electric guitars made in Portugal. We were impressed with a Canadian maker, Dion who used one of a kind building techniques, body shape and lighter bracing. He showed what was possible with engineering, creativity and solid building.

Kala Ukulele Elite (Petaluma) exhibited some uke’s made of sustainable, and locally sourced wood, with good looking and sounding results.

  • Kala Koa uke
  • Kala Uke
  • Kala Uke Mahogjpg
  • Kala Uke Rosewood

On the tech side:

Fishman have a really nice midi guitar. While the software is mostly 3rd party, once that is tackled there are some great sounds.

L.R. Baggs had Soundscape Acoustic DI - a new way to amplify your guitar. While we did not hear it, it is supposed to make any guitar sound great.

So much to see and experience at the 2020 NAMM show!

Annette is one half of Living Tree Music & The Seagulls with her husband Nowell. She also holds a “Day” job working for the Bob Hope Estate/Family for the last 18 years. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.