Gibson Hummingbird Special Edition
|Period||1960 - present|
|Body type||Square-shoulder dreadnought|
|Body||Sitka Spruce top
Mahogany back and sides
|Pickup(s)||L.R.Baggs Element Active|
|Natural, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Vintage Sunburst|
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 the 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."
- 1 Models
- 1.1 Historical Models
- 1.2 Mass Production Models
- 1.3 Small-Batch, Limited, and Custom Shop Models
- 1.4 Special Models
- 1.5 Model Variants
- 2 Epiphone versions
- 3 Notable Hummingbird players
- 4 References
- 5 External links
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, three-ply maple bridge plates, single X-bracing, engraved hummingbird-butterfly trumpet-flower pickguards with two points on the upper treble bout and one point level with the bridge, as well as bound fretboards with double parallelogram inlays, a crown peghead inlay on the headstock, golden green button tulip tuners, and a cherryburst (a.k.a. cherry sunburst) finish.
A limited number of Hummingbirds produced in 1962 and 1963 have maple backs and sides. A 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 endpin painted black to hide where Gibson had 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 square. At the same time the bracing became bulkier, which somewhat altered the sound of the guitar. A percentage of Hummingbirds with tobacco sunburst finish were produced and the pickguards were attached with five screws for between one and two years. 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.
Mass Production Models
The name of standard models varies during the years, which could be simply Hummingbird with no suffix, Hummingbird Modern Classic or Hummingbird Standard. They often have AA or AAA-grade solid Sitka spruce tops, with mahogany back and sides. A Hummingbird of this category features a rosewood fretboard with double parallelogram inlays, a crown peghead inlay headstock, nickel Grover rotomatic tuners and a custom-made Hummingbird tortoiseshell 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.
Hummingbird Vintage, or formally Hummingbird True Vintage, features a vintage appearance and sound, from its "thermally cured" spruce top. It also has gold Gotoh green button tulip tuners and a vintage cherryburst finish, which make the guitar resemble its 1960s ancestors. Also it has the famous, often adored, pickguard wildlife motif engraved and hand-painted, not embedded as the standard. The vintage model has no electronics from the factory.
Small-Batch, Limited, and Custom Shop Models
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.
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, a custom in-flight hummingbirds peghead logo and a hummingbird floral tortoiseshell pickguard, all expressed in genuine abalone and mother-of-pearl. It also has an ebony fretboard with rolled edges and Orpheum-style abalone inlays. This model has an antique natural finish.
Introduced as the monthly limited edition of December 2016, featuring select Adirondack red spruce top with mahogany back and sides.
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.
In 2016, Gibson produced a limited number of "Hummingbird Dark" guitars which are slightly thinner than a standard Hummingbird, use a black translucent finish, a red-filled pickguard, and carry the signature of country artist Eric Church.
Hummingbird Silver Burst
In 2007, Gibson produced a small batch of silver burst Hummingbird.
Hummingbird, Fuller's Vintage Edition
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.
The Hummingbird Artist model is quite different. It is an 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.
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 an 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 of the standard Hummingbird and has a bone nut and saddle.
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)
The Southern Jumbo saw its beginnings as early as 1942 and then came like a J-45 style round-shoulder, but fancy 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 soundhole) as 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. 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 pickguard 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.
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. 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 and neck, a Shadow ePerformer pickup system, and a heritage cherryburst finish. The Hummingbird Pros are made in Indonesia.
Notable Hummingbird players
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". In the video of "It's Only Rock & Roll", we can see that 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. Eric Church, Thom Yorke, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, John McLaughlin, William Orbit, Shuggie Otis, Gillian Welch, Joseph Deluxe, Brian May, BØRNS, and Michelle Branch are among other notable Hummingbird players.
- Vintage Guitars Info - Hummingbird
- "Hummingbird Red Spruce".
- "Eric Church Hummingbird Dark".
- According to the Gibson official website, the Sheryl Crow model is a variation of the Hummingbird model.
- Gibson official website
- "Epiphone Hummingbird". Epiphone.com.
- "Keith Richards: 'I Had a Sound in My Head That Was Bugging Me'". Wall Street Journal.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gibson Hummingbird.|
- Hummingbird (Modern Classic model) on Gibson official website