Bluegrass music is based in tradition, yet every guitarist brings their own touch 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 the design to the tone to the overall feel, Yamaha Custom FG guitars bring out the best in these players, who have been making their mark in bluegrass music. Within mere moments, they have noticed the attention to detail and craftsmanship of Yamaha’s Senior Acoustic Guitar Builder Andrew Enns and his team.
Fred Kosak of Stillhouse Junkies plays a custom Yamaha FG made to complement his musical approach in a variety of settings. Hailing from Durango, Colorado, the band won an IBMA Momentum Award for Band of the Year in 2021, and they have continued to build their fan base through touring, especially in Colorado and Utah.
“I’ve long believed in the power of the connection between instrument and player,” Kosak says, “and that’s why I’ve worked with custom builders over the years to imagine and build instruments that suit my individual attack, style, and taste and with which I feel an immediate bond. My custom Yamaha FG is no exception: from the first strum I knew that Andrew Enns had created something special. He captured a sonic signature and vibe that I could take on stage with me in any situation knowing it would respond exactly the way I wanted it to. Yamaha has taken a ground-up approach to design and rolling out this new line of acoustics that I think is very player-centric and unique for a larger manufacturer, and the results are easy to see in every instrument they’ve produced.”
West Virginia musician Jake Eddy, a 2022 IBMA Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year nominee, has played music professionally since he was a teenager. In addition to touring in bluegrass songwriter/fiddler Becky Buller’s band, he’s recorded an album of fiddle tunes on guitar. He played his new Yamaha custom FG prototype at the Fretboard Summit.
“The new guitars being built by Andrew Enns at Yamaha are great!” Eddy says. “My old D-18 will always be a part of my life, but this guitar has really squeezed its way into my musical world. It feels and sounds how a mahogany guitar should. Lightweight, and fast!”
Theo MacMillan had his heart set on acoustic music from an early age, playing in churches and local talent shows as a kid. He surrounded himself with bluegrass as a college student in Kentucky before moving to Nashville after graduation. The versatile musician (who also plays fiddle) presents his original music through performing as a solo singer-songwriter as well as singing with his younger sister in the Theo & Brenna Band. He says he’s been pleased with his Yamaha Custom FG for a variety of reasons.
“Since I got the FG from Yamaha, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how great it sounds plugged in. This is a new experience for me (playing live with the pickup) and it has significantly affected my live performances. I’m a big fan of the tone that the FG is capable of even when it’s plugged in. Andrew and I talked about giving it extra low and high end (more of a scooped eq) — the result was a guitar very capable of acoustic lead and bass-y rhythm. I’m finding it to be my guitar of choice if I’m playing duo shows or solo for a songwriter round, although it definitely holds its own for pure bluegrass rhythm playing. In addition to the sound, the guitar is absolutely gorgeous. I get comments on its aesthetic all the time.”
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Jordan Tice is a member of progressive bluegrass band Hawktail and also performs with Yola. His fifth album as a solo artist, Motivational Speakeasy, puts his voice and his guitar front and center. Based in Nashville, Tice is eagerly awaiting his Yamaha custom FG to be completed and delivered.
“I really enjoyed playing that new Yamaha FS model with mahogany back and sides for my Fretboard Summit show in Chicago,” Tice says. “It had the features I love from old Yamahas combined with high quality materials and modern boutique craftsmanship. It had quite a nice range but remained balanced and focused and I was also impressed with the depth of the tone — a good amount of low end without feeling muddy, tubby or unclear. It plays very nicely too — love the feel of the neck and it had a very 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 that guitar all the time both live and at home if I had it.”
As a singer-songwriter, Isaac Horn from The Arcadian Wild believes that a guitar’s rosewood back and sides can “hug the voice and create this really wide, open area that you can sing into.” Upon first seeing the prototype of his own Yamaha custom FG, Horn noticed a design on the fret overlays that he had never seen before. He also admired the beauty and elegance of the rosette, the purfling, and even the pickguard. The Adirondack top of the guitar was also shaved down to allow for the quiet playing that Horn sometimes prefers.
“It was really reassuring because I knew that Andrew and the team were making choices that were really creative and intentional,” he says in a video interview about the guitar. “My expectations have been exceeded for sure.”
Editor’s Note: Read our Q&A with Senior Acoustic Guitar Builder Andrew Enns and see how Yamaha Guitars have guided numerous well-known musicians to their signature sound.