Bluegrass music is based on tradition, but each guitarist brings their own twist to the genre. Among a new generation of acoustic musicians, Yamaha Custom FG guitars have become a welcome addition on stage and in the studio. From design to tone to overall feel, Yamaha Custom FG guitars bring out the best in these players, who have made their mark in bluegrass music. Within moments, they noticed the attention to detail and craftsmanship of Yamaha’s lead acoustic guitar builder Andrew Enns and his team.
Fred Kosak of Stillhouse Junkies plays a custom Yamaha FG designed to complement his musical approach in a variety of settings. Hailing from Durango, Colorado, the group won an IBMA Momentum Award for Group of the Year in 2021, and they have continued to grow their fan base through touring, particularly in Colorado and Utah.
“I’ve long believed in the power of the connection between instrument and player,” says Kosak, “and that’s why I’ve worked with custom builders over the years to imagine and build instruments that suit my attack, my style and my tastes. and with whom I feel an immediate connection. My custom Yamaha FG is no exception: from the first scratch, I knew that Andrew Enns had created something special. He captured a signature sound and vibe that I could take on stage with me in any situation knowing it would respond exactly the way I wanted.Yamaha took a holistic approach to designing and deploying this new line of acoustics that, I think is very player-centric and unique for a major manufacturer, and the results are easy to see in every instrument they’ve produced.
West Virginia musician Jacques Eddy, nominated for the IBMA Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year 2022, has been playing music professionally since he was a teenager. In addition to touring in bluegrass singer-songwriter/violinist Becky Buller’s band, he has recorded an album of fiddle guitar pieces. He played his new Yamaha custom FG prototype at the Fretboard Summit.
“The new guitars built by Andrew Enns at Yamaha are awesome!” said Eddie. “My old D-18 will always be a part of my life, but this guitar has really made its way into my musical world. It feels and sounds like a mahogany guitar should. Light and fast!”
Theo MacMillan had his heart set on acoustic music from an early age, performing at churches and local talent shows as a child. He surrounded himself with bluegrass as a student in Kentucky before moving to Nashville after graduation. The versatile musician (who also plays the violin) showcases his original music performing as a solo singer-songwriter as well as singing with his younger sister in the Theo & Brenna Band. He says he’s happy with his Yamaha Custom FG for a variety of reasons.
“For the past few years I’ve been playing an acoustic-only Martin (which I love) and taking it to the mic for gigs. Since receiving the FG from Yamaha, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how plugged in it sounds. It’s a new experience for me (playing live with the mic) and it affected my live performance drastically. I’m a big fan of the tone the FG is capable of even when plugged in, and the dynamic range is greater than my Martin. Andrew and I talked about giving it some extra bass and treble (plus a scooped EQ) – the result was a guitar that was very capable of acoustic rhythm and bass. I find it to be my guitar of choice whether I’m playing duo shows or soloing for a songwriter tour, although it definitely stands out from the Martin for pure bluegrass rhythm playing. Besides the sound, the guitar is absolutely beautiful. I get comments about her aesthetics all the time. If you would like to have a custom guitar built, Andrew is very knowledgeable and will work with you to find a guitar that is right for you.
Tice of Jordan is a member of the progressive bluegrass band Hawktail and also plays with Yola. His fifth album as a solo artist, Motivational Speakeasy, puts his voice and his guitar in the foreground. Nashville-based Tice is eagerly waiting for his custom Yamaha FG to be completed and delivered.
“I really enjoyed playing this new Yamaha FS model with mahogany back and sides for my Fretboard Summit show in Chicago,” says Tice. “It had the features I love from older Yamahas combined with high quality materials and modern craftsmanship. It had quite a nice range but remained balanced and focused and I was also impressed with the depth of tone – a good amount of bass without feeling muddy, chunky or unclear. It plays great too – I love the feel of the neck and there was really nice string tension. A lot of great music has been made on Yamaha guitars over the years and hearing them take these styles to the next level is really cool. I would play this guitar all the time live and at home if I had it.
As a singer-songwriter, Isaac Horn of The Arcadian Wild believes that a guitar’s rosewood back and sides can “hugge the voice and create this very wide, open area that you can sing in.” Seeing the prototype of his own custom Yamaha FG for the first time, Horn noticed a design on the fret overlays he had never seen before. He also admired the beauty and elegance of the rosette, bindings and even the pickguard. The Adirondack top of the guitar has also been shaved off to allow for the quiet playing that Horn sometimes prefers.
“It was really reassuring because I knew Andrew and the team were making some really creative and intentional choices,” he said in a guitar video interview. “My expectations were exceeded for sure.”
Editor’s Note: Read our Q&A with senior acoustic guitar builder Andrew Enns and learn how Yamaha guitars have guided many renowned musicians to their signature sound.