Hands-On Review:Gibson Montana Hummingbird Artist Acoustic-Electric

Click here for all products by Gibson.

Save big bucks on the “no-bird” ’Bird

By Dan Day
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer


The Gibson Hummingbird guitar is one of those outstanding instruments  that makes a striking and lasting first impression. My first encounter  was with the one belonging to my high school chum Roy. I remember being  fascinated by the pickguard that showed a hummingbird feeding on a  trumpet vine. Our senior year he played it at just about every school  assembly or production requiring guitar accompaniment. The other day I  called Roy to ask him about his Hummingbird and he reminded me it was  stolen from his room at college. He immediately reeled off the serial  number burned into his memory—109095. Recalling his ’bird, he told me,  “That was my pride and joy; I dearly wish I still had it. It was a  gorgeous guitar, but my Hummingbird’s looks were secondary to sound  quality—I just loved its deep, rich tone.”


The Gibson Hummingbird Artist


Musicians who lust after great Hummingbird playability and sound but  are feeling a little squeezed by the economy should consider the Hummingbird Artist, created by Gibson Montana for Musician’s Friend. Cosmetically, there are only two differences between the Hummingbird Artist and the Hummingbird Modern Classic.  The Artist has a washed heritage cherry finish instead of sunburst. To  produce a sunburst finish, additional layers of nitrocellulose lacquer  must be applied and then sanded, adding more time and cost to the  production process. The Artist model has a modern sculpted pickguard  without the painted hummingbird motif. Eliminating this labor-intensive  decoration results in cost savings, making this a more affordable  variation on a classic with no impact on its sound.


Impressionistic beauty


To be sure, in the looks department, the Artist makes its own lasting  impression with its sublime washed heritage cherry finish that, to me,  suggests dusk on a warm, lonely prairie. Like the Modern Classic, it  also is adorned with six-ply top binding; four-ply back body binding;  single-ply neck binding; and mother-of-pearl inlays, crown headstock,  and bridge dot inlays.


The Hummingbird Artist is handcrafted by Gibson artisans in Bozeman, Montana, with a solid  premium Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides. Most of the  Hummingbird’s volume is produced by the top. The mahogany back and sides  emphasize the upper mids and trebles to produce a wide-open, airy  sound. The mahogany neck is secured to the body with a hand-set dovetail  neck joint to ensure maximum string vibration is transferred to the  spruce top.


A key component to the Hummingbird Artist sound is its upper bout, which is slightly narrower than standard  Hummingbird models. It provides a crisper, slightly brighter response.  The hand-scalloped bracing pattern used on the Artist is the same as  that on the Gibson Advanced Jumbo. It has a wider X pattern, like that  used in the guitars of the late ’30s. This wider X creates more top  movement to enhance the guitar’s projection. The bracing also moves the  crossing point of the X pattern closer to the soundhole for a more  powerful sound, which is why old-timers used to call the Advanced Jumbo  the “Bone Crusher.” Now that power has been harnessed in the Hummingbird Artist.


The play’s the thing


Given that dreadnoughts are great for strumming and designed for vocal accompaniment, I put my Hummingbird Artist sample through a vigorous workout on Pete Townshend’s solo version of  “Drowned” that called for the speedy quadruple-timed chording that Pete  is famous for. The Artist had nice low action for easy open chords at  the fifth-fret capo and produced crisp barre chords at the 10th fret.  The tone was rich and vibrant with well-balanced mids and chimey highs  that blended well with my throaty tenor.


The 1.725" nut width gave me all the fretboard real estate I needed  to produce a snappy finger-picking rendition of “Buck Dancer’s Choice”  that I learned from Acoustic Guitar magazine. The round neck  profile fit comfortably in my left hand as I tried out flatpicker whiz  Tony Rice’s arrangement of “Shady Grove.”  The notes joyously poured out  from the soundhole like children being let out of school for summer  vacation.


To convey the Hummingbird’s voice in a live setting, the Artist uses  an L.R. Baggs Element undersaddle transducer with a preamp and volume  control that are cleverly mounted in the soundhole to preserve the Hummingbird Artist’s beautiful mahogany exterior.


Whether you’re strumming a folksy singalong on the front porch or sitting in with the hot pickers at the local pub, the Hummingbird Artist produces sweet, full-bodied tones that will make any string-slinger go for an extra chorus.


Features & Specs

  • Handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana
  • Square shoulder dreadnought
  • Premium solid Sitka spruce top
  • Solid mahogany back and sides
  • Hand-scalloped bracing
  • 6-ply top, 4-ply back body binding
  • Single-ply neck binding
  • Mahogany neck
  • 24-3/4" scale length
  • Round neck profile
  • Hand-set dovetail neck joint
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Mother-of-pearl parallelogram inlays
  • 1.725" nut width
  • Mother-of-pearl crown on headstock
  • Traditional Gibson rosewood bridge
  • Mother-of-pearl dot bridge inlays
  • Gold Gotoh keystone tuners with traditional white keys
  • Modern sculpted pickguard
  • L.R. Baggs Element undersaddle transducer
  • L.R. Baggs preamp with soundhole-mounted volume control
  • Washed Heritage cherry finish
  • Premium hardshell case