Gibson Hummingbird

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Gibson Hummingbird
Gibson Hummingbird 2008 - Vintage Sunburst.jpeg
Gibson Hummingbird Special Edition
Manufacturer Gibson
Period 1960 - present
Body type Square-shoulder dreadnought
Neck joint Dovetail
Body Sitka Spruce top
Mahogany back and sides
Neck Mahogany
Fretboard Rosewood
Bridge Rosewood
Pickup(s) L.R.Baggs Element Active
Colors available
Natural, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Vintage Sunburst

The Gibson Hummingbird is an acoustic guitar model/series produced by the Gibson Guitar Corporation.

Unlike the other flat-top Gibson acoustics, the Hummingbird was Gibson's first square-shoulder dreadnought, similar to the dreadnoughts produced by C.F. Martin & Company. Introduced in 1960, the Hummingbird was Gibson's second-most expensive acoustic guitar, behind the Gibson J-200, until the introduction of the Gibson Dove in 1962, (a blend between the Hummingbird and the J-200.) and has remained in production ever since. In 2000 the Gibson Hummingbird was winner of Acoustic Guitar's Player's Choice Award for the Dreadnought Category, and was described thus: "The Hummingbird has a very wide range of sound, from gutsy and loud, to sweet and soft. Superb for all styles of playing, whether just chording or playing intricate solos."


Vintage models[1][edit]

The first wave of Hummingbirds came with a solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back. The sides are mahogany, but not all of them are solid, many are laminated. They have adjustable rosewood or ceramic saddles, 3-ply maple bridge plates, single X-bracing, engraved hummingbird-butterfly-trumpet flower pickguards with 2 points on upper treble bout and 1 point level with bridge, as well as bound fretboards with double parallelogram inlays, crown peghead inlay on headstocks, golden green button tulip tuners, and cherryburst (a.k.a. cherry sunburst) finish.

A limited number of Hummingbirds produced in 1962 and 1963 have maple back and sides. Natural top with cherry back and sides finish was available in 1963. Also since then, the size of the pickguard has been slightly reduced.

Some Hummingbirds produced in 1965 had their sides around the neck and at the end pin painted black to hide where Gibson over-sanded the body, and sanded through the top layer of the mahogany laminated sides.

During 1965 the nut width decreased from 1 11/16 to 1 5/8 and in 1968 the bottom belly bridge became more squarish. At the same time the bracing went bulkier, which somewhat altered the voice of the guitar. A percentage of Hummingbirds with tobacco sunburst finish were produced and the pickguards were between one and two years attached with 5 screws. A double X-bracing has been used between 1971 and the mid-80's.

Since 1970, the saddles are no longer adjustable, and the necks are made of laminated three-piece mahogany. The fretboard inlays were changed to block ones, then restored to double parallelograms in 1984.

Modern Classic model[edit]

Hummingbird played by Lenny Kravitz exhibited at the Hard Rock Cafe.

The Hummingbird Modern Classic model is an electric-acoustic model. It has a AAA-grade solid Sitka spruce top, with mahogany back and sides, as well as a rosewood fretboard with double parallelogram inlays, a crown peghead inlay headstock, nickel Grover rotomatic tuners and a custom-made Hummingbird tortoise-shell pickguard. An L.R. Baggs Element Active pickup system is also installed. This model is available in different cherryburst variations from strong orange to almost yellow, heritage cherryburst and natural finishes. They are also seen in wine red and black.

True Vintage model[edit]

The True Vintage version features vintage appearance and sound. It has gold Gotoh green button tulip tuners and a vintage cherryburst finish, which make the guitar resemble its 1960s ancistors. Also it has the famous, often adored, pick guard wildlife motif engraved and hand painted, not embedded as the MC. The TV has no electronics from the factory.

Icon '60s model[edit]

The Icon '60s Hummingbird is a natural finished model with block inlays in the fretboard rather than the double parallelograms. It also has an adjustable tusq saddle and an original 1960s style Hummingbird pickguard; all of these make it look like a 1960s vintage model.

Artist model[edit]

The Hummingbird Artist model is quite different, it is a Guitar Center exclusive release, with a shape between a square-shoulder dreadnought (e.g. Hummingbird Modern Classic) and a round-shoulder dreadnought (e.g. J-45). It does not have a Hummingbird pickguard (it uses a modern sculpted pickguard instead). An L.R. Baggs Element Active pickup system is also installed. This model has a washed heritage cherry finish.

Pro model[edit]

The Hummingbird Pro model was released by Guitar Center and Musicians Friend but is available from other dealers, specially in Europe. It has the same shape as the Artist model. A cutaway model (Hummingbird Pro EC) is also available. The Hummingbird Pro comes with a L.R. Baggs Element Active pickup system, while the cutaway model has a Fishman Prefix Plus-T preamp system equipped. This model has a vintage sunburst finish. The Pro model shares most of the features that the standard Hummingbird and has bone nut and saddle.

Custom KOA model[edit]

The Hummingbird Custom KOA model is a custom model, with back and sides constructed from highly figured koa wood. It has gold Grover mother of pearl keystone tuners, custom in-flight hummingbirds peghead logo and hummingbird floral tortoise-shell pickguard, all expressed in genuine abalone and mother of pearl. It also has ebony fretboard with rolled edges and Orpheum-style abalone inlays. This model has an antique natural finish.

Sheryl Crow model[2][edit]

The Hummingbird Sheryl Crow is a signature model designed for the American singer Sheryl Crow, who is also a notable Gibson user. It has a natural finish and a special pickguard, nickel Gotoh white oval button tuners and other features almost all the same as those of the Modern Classic model.

Southern Jumbo/Country Western (square-shoulder dreadnought)[edit]

The Southern Jumbo saw light of day as early as in 1942 and then came like a J-45 style round-shoulder, but blinged dreadnought. Two decades later Gibson changed the design to a square-shoulder. This mahogany-back-and-side guitar has mostly the same specifications as the Hummingbird and therefore is categorized as a Hummingbird variation. They typically maintained their sunburst finish (black edges going to orange/yellow around the sound hole) opposed to the yellow/orange/red cherryburst Birds.

In 1962 the also round shouldered natural topped Country Western followed the Southern Jumbo into the modern square shape and was now called the "SJN Country Western" - the predecessor of the contemporary Sheryl Crow CW. According to the Gibson official website the Sheryl Crow model is a recreation of the singer's personal first-square-year Country Western.[3] Both the square-shouldered Southern Jumbo and Country Western must be seen as alternatives to the classic Hummingbird. Apart from the finish, they had different tuners - white ovals vs tulips - and the motif-less pick guard was thinner, which some claim can influence sound.

The Southern Jumbo was discontinued in 1977, while a round-shoulder version was reintroduced in 1991, and is still available today.

Other special models[edit]

The Gibson custom shop also produces several special or limited models, such as the Silverburst special edition which has a silverburst finish, the Hummingbird Quilted model with quilted mahogany back and sides. Most of them are based on the Modern Classic model. In 2008 Gibson also released a very few Hummingbird Modern Classics with a Vintage Sunburst finish, the same finish seen on a J-45 Standard. The Gibson label found on the inside of this Hummingbird says "Hummingbird, Fuller's Vintage Edition". All the other specifications, such as materials and tuning keys, are the same as the specifications of the standard model.

In 2010, Gibson introduced the Limited Edition 50th Anniversary 1960 Hummingbird series, including the Standard (Heritage Dark Cherry Sunburst), the Rosewood (Heritage Dark Cherry Sunburst) and the KOA (Gold Honey Burst) models.

Epiphone versions[edit]

A more affordable version of the Hummingbird is also made by the Epiphone branch of Gibson. The original Epiphone Dove was available in natural, cherryburst and black. It was also made with more affordable woods but featured the same design fretboard inlays, bridge and similar pickguard, but without genuine mother of pearl. It also featured Grover tuners, rather than the unbranded tuners featured on cheaper Epiphone models.[4] The Epiphone Hummingbird was made in China.

Epiphone reintroduced their version of Gibson's Hummingbird in 2012. Called the Hummingbird Pro, it features a solid spruce top (instead of a laminate top), a mahogany body & neck, a Shadow ePerformer pickup system, and a heritage cherryburst finish. The Hummingbird Pros are made in Indonesia.

Notable Hummingbird players[edit]

In 1964, Keith Richards and Brian Jones brought the Gibson Hummingbird guitar to the UK. It was used to write songs like: "Play With Fire", "Good Times Bad Times", "As Tears Go By", "The Last Time", "Satisfaction", "Street Fighting Man", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Sympathy for the Devil" (as seen in the Jean-Luc Godard movie - One Plus One), "No Expectations", "Angie", "Wild Horses", "Brown Sugar".[5] In the video of "It's Only Rock & Roll", we can see Mick Taylor used this guitar too. In 1968, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones both used a Gibson Hummingbird for the initial recordings of the melody for the song Street Fighting Man.[6] Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, John McLaughlin, Gillian Welch, and Michelle Branch are among other notable Hummingbird players.


  1. ^ Vintage Guitars Info - Hummingbird
  2. ^ According to the Gibson official website, the Sheryl Crow model is a variation of the Hummingbird model.
  3. ^ Gibson official website
  4. ^ "Epiphone Hummingbird". 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Keith Richards: 'I Had a Sound in My Head That Was Bugging Me'". Wall Street Journal. 

External links[edit]