For 75 years the iconic Gibson J-45 guitar has created the classic sound of singer songwriters, rock, country and folk singers for about $2,600
The Gibson J-45 guitar has been their best selling and most popular acoustic guitar for 75 years.
No other acoustic guitar, except perhaps the Martin D-28, defines what a guitar should sound like.
The Gibson J-45 guitar has a warm, balanced tone and the ability to blend strummed chords and break through the mix when picked.
The Gibson J-45 and Martin D-28 are the most copied styles and sounds in acoustic guitars.
Bob Dylan and other Gibson J-45 guitar players
Bob Dylan played a Gibson J-45 guitar during the early 1960’s and reverted to playing them in the early 1990’s.
John Lennon, Donovan, and Woody Guthrie in the SJ version all played the Gibson J-45. Blues musicians “Mississippi John Hurt, Gabriel Brown, Elizabeth Cotten, Blind Gary Davis, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Skip James” played a Gibson J-45. (Gibson)
Also in the long list of Gibson J-45 players are Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Aimee Mann, Jackson Browne, James Blunt and The Boss Bruce Springsteen. Notable players of the J-45
Bruce Springsteen playing 1951 Gibson J-45 “Ghost of Tom Joad”
The Gibson J-45 Guitar Unique Sound
Gibson made the J-45 with a unique sound that pleases people. The mahogany back and sides give it a warm round sound. Recording artists appreciate how the J-45 fits into the song mix without conflicting with the singer.
Thanks to Tony Polecastro of Music Villa who does a quick review of the Gibson J-45 guitar on YouTube. He calls it the “must play, must own, must check out” guitar. I agree.
“The Gibson J-45 is … great for the singer songwriter. It’s a great accompanying instrument. It’s great as a lead instrument. It’s a great overall band instrument. That’s why it’s one of Gibson’s most iconic and useful guitars.”
The Martin D-28, with rosewood back and sides, has more defined high notes. Both sounds have their place. The Martin D-28 is great for hot-shot bluegrass pickers who want to cut to the front of the band.
The Martin D-18 has mahogany back and sides but it can’t compete with the Gibson J-45.
Variations of the Gibson J-45 Guitar
The modern Gibson J-45 is called the Gibson Acoustic J-45 Standard. The Gibson J-45 Standard has all the great characteristics of the legendary J-45 at the lowest price.
One of the subtle variants is the Gibson J-45 Standard Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst.
There are more refined and yes more expensive versions like the Gibson J-45 True Vintage. The True Vintage has an Adirondack spruce top.
Tony Polecaster also reviews the True Vintage against the J-45 Standard.
While some people like to add refinements to the Gibson J-45 Standard, you can’t go wrong with the Standard J-45.
Try out one of the upscale variants. None of them appealed to me. I’ll admit we often prefer one guitar over another based on what guitars our musical heroes play.
The only guitar that has the same tone and fits into the song like a glove is the Gibson Acoustic Southern Jumbo, which is essentially the same guitar with different binding and a few other items like parallelograms on the fret board. The SJ is not a regular production guitar and costs about $700 above the J-45.
I’ve owned Gibson Woody Guthrie SJ and it had a very slight edge over the J-45. The guitar is now out of production and hard to find.
You can find reasonable imitations as low as $400 and expensive versions for $10,000.
The street price for a new Gibson J-45 is about $2,600.
Good used J-45’s start at $1,700 and go beyond $5,000 for vintage guitars.
Gibson J-45 Guitar build
The round-shouldered dreadnought Gibson J-45 guitar has a spruce top and mahogany sides and back, giving it a distinctive warm and full sound with plenty of high notes.
The deep sunburst finish looks great. In 1942 it hid the variability in war-time wood available for guitars.
Since 1942 the sunburst finish has become a classic. Even my 1979 Martin D-35 tries to copy the J-45 sunburst look, one of the few times Martin made sunburst top.
The Gibson J-45 sounds great strummed or picked. If you haven’t played one, you must spend time with the guitar. If you own two acoustic guitars either the first or the second should be a Gibson J-45.
My first J-45 was an 1969 model purchased on time payments from Steve’s Music Story in Montreal for about $200. That guitar today will sell for between $3,000 and $5,000.
Some vintage guitar fans will swear by a 60’s Gibson but I think you are getting one of the best Gibson J-45s ever made in a brand new guitar.
The standard Gibson J-45 comes with an Sitka spruce top. Sitka spruce tops will become more rare as the resource is at risk of over harvesting.
Adirondack spruce, available on the Gibson J-45 True Vintage Vintage Sunburst Acoustic , is both a great sounding and environmentally friendly choice of tone woods.
Gibson J-45 Guitar Bozeman quality control
There was a recent quality control criticism of the Gibson J-45 guitar. The factory at Bozeman Montana was making sub-standard guitars. Online posts complained of a wide variation in tone and quality of the J-45.
American Songwriter said recently “Gibson’s Bozeman plant currently produces guitars that would have shined at any time during the company’s long, illustrious history.”
I agree, I have not played a bad or even fair new Gibson recently. Sometimes a guitar will sound dead in the music store. That is generally caused by dead strings or an overly dry guitar in the wintertime.
Where to buy a Gibson J-45 Guitar
Personally, I order guitars over the internet. The price is generally better. Stores like Amazon.com have hassle free return policies.
Most retail guitar stores just order over the internet from Gibson or a wholesaler, take them out of the box and sell them to you. There’s no magic to retailing guitars.
However, there is nothing like trying out a guitar for hours to get the feel of it. You can only do that in a music store.
If you think you like the guitar you see and the store offers returns for refund, take it home put new strings on it and start playing.
There are good things being said about the Planet Waves Humidipak System Replacement Packets, 3-pack other than the fact it costs about $18 per guitar per winter to humidify.
The search for older Gibson guitars always baffles me, when the brand new ones are better built and sound awesome.
I would like to still have my old 1969 guitar but would be happier with a brand new Gibson J-45 Standard . Gibson makes them better today than ever.
Gibson lifetime warranty
The Gibson guitars sold in the US by Amazon.com and their other dealers carry a full life time warranty.
Amazon.com add their own customer satisfaction guarantee which matches exceeds any in the music business. “You may return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon.com within 30 days of delivery for a full refund.” Amazon.com would rather have a long-term satisfied customer and will bend that rule if you have a good reason.
Most online music stores like Music123, MusiciansFriend and Chicago Music Exchange also have good return policies. Always check.
I got caught once when L.A.Music shipped me a defective Gibson. I took a big argument to get a return and replacement. It wasn’t pleasant.
As for the lifetime warranty, good luck with that. Guitars are made of metal and wood. They are subject to physical damage. The most common damage to a guitar is from under or over humidification. That’s not covered in a warranty. Neither is breaking the neck or crack the top when you drop it.