The Unique Sound of Ovation Guitars

I own an Ovation super shallow body that I purchased about 10 years ago. I purchased my Ovation, in black, for my participating in a New Standard Tuning guitar workshop. NST is used by Robert Fripp, Guitar Craft and affiliated students. The music played in this tuning ranges in style, but much of it is what I describe as “post classical” and highly mathematical with unique sound and movement patterns.

The Ovation is the preferred guitar of this course for a number of reasons. Its super shallow body makes the act of playing guitar easier on the body and one can restrict picking movements to the wrist as there is less need to reach around the guitar body. The Ovation guitar’s bowl-shaped back also fits against the body better (although this is less true for women and is a bit of a notorious subject with my fellow female guitar friends), again making it more comfortable to play with a minimum of movement.

The sound of the Ovation guitar is unique and something I often compare to a harpsichord. I have heard traditional classical compositions played on these guitars a number of times and I have always been awed by the authenticity the Ovation guitar sound lends to the piece. This sound may not be what the average guitar player is looking for however.

The electronics in the Ovation guitar are excellent and easy to use, running on a single small battery. Different Ovation guitar models include more features and equalizers in this regard – the most basic one just plugs into an amp and that’s it. This isn’t a feature I often use (although it is excellent for recording myself to get a sense of how I really sounds), but it valuable for many. It also allows one to work with more advanced tuner instruments to make sure your guitar is just right. As someone with a poor ear, this is an extremely valuable feature in a guitar for me.

The action on the Ovation guitar can be rather high, but the neck is easily adjustable and can be made comfortable for most players. I find that the neck is neither to wide nor too thick (although I also own a Ramirez guitar with is notorious for having an immense neck, so I might just be used to that by comparison) and that most hands can learn to play the Ovation guitar comfortably. I literally have child-sized hands but have minimal problems.

I would not recommend the Ovation guitar to someone just starting out (unless they are pursuing NST and Guitar Craft), but rather to someone with a little playing experience and a definite sense of the sound they like and how they like to interact with their instruments – this may sound odd, but I find the Ovation guitar has a distinct personality to work with. It is a very durable instrument and aesthetically pleasing. If you are curious about the Ovation guitar sound and don’t have one readily available to test drive, I would recommend taking a listen to any of a number of “League of Crafty Guitarists” albums or things from “The California Guitar Trio”. While CGT uses different guitars on their more recent albums, both groups will give you a clear sense of the Ovation guitar sound the possibilities it lends itself too.

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