Guitar Shows are back!, with a brief review of the Bright “Bear Cub”

IMG_0124Whether you have called it (or still call it) a pandemic, or a plandemic (as would the more skeptical among us), cultural, social, sporting, and community events were cancelled by state authorities.  Washington was among those states locked down in varying phases.  Finally, this state is — at least for the time being — opening up to a return to community gatherings.  My oldest son, Trevor, and I (pictured to the right) decided to support local and regional luthiers and music stores by attending the 2021 Tacoma Guitar and Drum Fest.

I have attended this festival in the past.  It was much larger with more vendors and musicians.  But, such trade shows are loud.  So, you want to try out an acoustic guitar?  Good luck with that — electric guitars take the day with both interest and volume.

However, I made a few discoveries.  Among them was meeting Will Bright who is a luthier from Bellingham, Washington.  He is the owner of Bright Guitars (www.brightguitars.com).  He makes both electric and acoustic guitars, along with an intriguing short scale guitar, the Bear Cub.  I quote from his site:

The Bear Cub is an arch top mini travel guitar with a 17 inch scale length. It was designed to be small, playable, and sound great.  When I designed the Bear Cub I decided to use a technology that is tried and true with smaller instruments; arched plates. I hand carve the spruce top and maple back just as I would a mandolin or a violin. This, combined with the oval sound hole, gives the guitar warmth, clarity and projection from a very small body. A travel guitar doesn’t have to sound like a tin can or look like a hockey stick, and the Bear Cub proves it.

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With its short scale, the Bear Cub sounds “mandolinish” when first heard by the player.  But, it is, as you see, a six stringed instrument and is tuned as a guitar.  With its shorter scale, it would take me a while to adjust to the initial “cramped” feeling (as when you capo up beyond the seventh fret on a guitar), but the tone is bright and pleasing.  Will Bright offers two versions of the Bear Cub — the basic, and the more ornate version (as pictured).  Production time for the “basic cub” is two weeks; much longer for the more elaborate version.

In comparison, I recently tried a Chinese made Gold Tone F6 Mando Guitar at Tacoma’s Ted Brown Music.  It is a similar take:  a six stringed small scale guitar that plays like a guitar, but the guitar player doesn’t have to learn the forms required by the mandolin family’s tunings.

The American made Bear Cub is a better build, and as I recall, the neck seemed a bit wider. Further, it simply looks like a small archtop guitar, and did not seem to have the “choppy” tone of the more mandolin structured Gold Tone F6.  Well done Mr. Bright!

Keep on playing,

Fr. Irenaeus



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