Guitars Reviewed: Yamaha A4K Limited and A5R ARE

Confession: I suffer from G.A.S. (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome). I’m not in denial, but, I don’t see it as a problem. No one does except my wife (wives must always, in some way, be opposed to their husband’s interests). In fact, those to whom she expresses her misplaced concern see no problem with my G.A.S. (I love enablers!). In this posting is reviewed my latest acquisition: Yamaha’s A4K Limited, as well as its sibling, the A5R ARE. They are both dreadnoughts with built-in electronics, and are all solid wood, and very well made guitars.

The A4K Limited

The dreadnought A4K Limited is an all koa guitar — solid top, back, and sides. As you may know, koa is a hard wood, and comes principally from Hawaii. Koa, in my opinion, gives a bright , crisp, and clean tone which is quite pleasant. Other materials of this guitar are mahogany neck, and ebony fretboard and bridge. The binding appears to be mahogany, as is the case for the A5R ARE. The lower bout is a generous 16.25 inches (41.3cm), and the nut width is a typical 1 11/16 inches (43mm) of a dreadnought.



The A5R ARE sibling has a solid sitka spruce (torrefactioned, or ARE as Yamaha describes the process), and solid rosewood back and sides. It too, has a mahogany neck, with ebony fretboard and bridge. The body and neck dimensions are identical to the A4K Limited.

Both models have identical electronics which consist of volume, treble, bass, and blend (you can mix mic and under saddle piezo pickups to you taste). The controls are laid out on the upper bout on the bass side of the bodies. A plastic “dear dummy” applique surrounds the controls and labels them for the player. The packaging that comes with the guitars contains smaller decals which are to be applied for identification at each knob. Both models have an attractive pick guard (surprisingly rare these days on many dreadnoughts).

I met both A Series guitars at Tacoma’s Ted Brown Music in August, 2018. I have seen an A5R ARE elsewhere, and have played an A3R before at this store a few years ago. My experience with Yamaha’s A Series models have impressed me in the past. In a recent e-mailing from Premier Guitar there was a video introduction and demonstration of the A4K Limited. By this video, I learned that only 75 of these guitars were made. With this information in mind, I was surprised that Ted Brown had an A4K Limited in stock. It begged to be played! It’s clearly one of the easiest guitars to play I have encountered — everything is smooth and effortless with its fabulous neck and setup! A personal test for playability is my own acoustic version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. The movements from a descending from an Am chord were without any effort as I find on some other guitars. (The A5R ARE is equally a delight to play, and if blindfolded, I couldn’t distinguish between the two, except for tone, the A5R is clearly of rosewood back and sides.) Gary, a friend and sales associate, plugged the A4K into a Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge acoustic amplifier. With electronics I usually shrug my shoulders and utter a silent, “Whatever…”, but the guitar was a joy to hear as its sound came through this outstanding Fishman amp. (Perhaps I won’t dismiss electronics so easily from now on!).

I’ve never been interested in “limited runs:” The prices of such guitars are over-the-top in my opinion, and for my budget. Regarding koa, other manufactures, such as Taylor, have made limited runs of all koa, but at a heftier price tag. The A4K Limited has a price of $1499 in shops and when offered online. (The A5R ARE sells for $1399.) This price is very reasonable for an all koa guitar. The reason is clearly that they are Chinese made, but as is increasingly the case, very well made, and if North American made, it would sell for well over $2,000. (The A5R ARE is make in Japan.)

Neener, neener, neener!

Back to G.A.S. I kept truly, and honestly, hoping that someone would buy the koa dreadnought (G.A.S. can be suppressed — for awhile at least). Well, on October 5, 2018, I innocently happened to stroll into Ted Brown Music, and there in the acoustic room was the A4K. Hmmm…Well, needless to say, G.A.S. took over, and I took this beauty home with me. And I’m pleased I did. And by the way, my wife thinks it was a good call!  As of November 17, 2018, six A4K Limiteds can be found on So act quickly to get one, because I don’t want to be able to say, “I got one and you didn’t!”

Keep on playing!

Fr. Irenaeus


Guitar Review: Faith Mars Legacy Drop Shoulder Dreadnought

The name Faith Guitars is little known in the United States. I discovered the brand just a few years ago. I must admit the name Faith drew my initial interest. Now, I can have a lot of fun with the name since I am a priest in the Orthodox Church, but I’ll spare the world such plays on words. This is my third review of a Faith guitar. Here reviewed is the Mars Legacy.

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GUITAR REVIEW: Faith Blood Moon Neptune Acoustic/Electric (FNCEBMB)

Neptune Blood Moon

Trembesi. Interesting name. So, trembesi is not the site of a battle during the Napoleonic Wars. Neither is it a monument, or square, of historical interest in London. It is a tropical hardwood native to Java. It has been used for furniture for years, but recently has been used for guitar tone woods. Britain’s Faith Guitar company now uses trembesi in two of its guitar series: the Trembesi Series (possessing a spruce top), and the Blood Moon Series. The Blood Moon Series consists of three body styles: the Neptune (mini-jumbo), Saturn (square-shoulder dreadnought), and Venus (concert-style body). The Neptune and Venus bodies come with cut-aways and Fishman electronics. As the title indicates, this posting reviews the Neptune model.

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Guitar Review: RainSong JM1000N2

Any tradition must be living to be valid — otherwise tradition becomes dead “traditionalism.” That is, there must be “creative faithfulness” to the established, ongoing tradition. Hence, each new generation must both live within the established tradition, and express the tradition with a new, excited, winsome voice.


The Orthodox Church, which I serve as a priest, isn’t the only bearer of tradition — the acoustic guitar also stands within a sound and revered tradition. The acoustic guitar of 100 years ago is still recognizable today: there is a neck, body, sound hole, bridge, saddle, tuners, and strings. And the acoustic guitar of the twenty-first century has the very same features. The twenty-first century guitar, however, is constructed in its factory or workshop very differently than the one made 100 years ago. Here, the creative faithfulness, in fact, has produced superior acoustic guitars which stand solidly within this venerable tradition. Such creative faithfulness to the production of the acoustic guitar is alive and well, and taken to the next level, in the RainSong brand of guitar!

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“The Only Living Boy in New York” — Here I Am

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

“The Only Living Boy in New York” is my favorite song by Simon and Garfunkel. It was one of their final songs as a duo being recorded in late 1969. Its origin comes from Art Garfunkel’s departure from New York to Mexico to film “Catch 22” (“Tom, get your plane ride on time / I know your part’ll go fine / Fly down to Mexico…”).  It is a great acoustic guitar song, with wonderful melody and lush vocals. The song’s bridge in its final presentation is fantastic fun to play, but it’s the lyrics of the bridge that win my attention:

“Half of the time we’re gone / But we don’t know where / And we don’t know where.”

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“Wigglin’ O’ The Puppy” — A Fun Song

Albert as a puppy

My wife and I have five dogs: two males and three females. They are a small mixed breed — a blend of Bichon and Havanese. Though small, they have big hearts and personalities. They’re active. They have the run of our three acres, where they dig, run, and chase both squirrels, and an occasional rabbit (though both species always outrun them). We’re also “back yard” breeders with the dogs. The joy is not only to see the puppies when they are born, nurse, and grow, but to see the joy they bring to those who buy them. We continually receive photos of their now grown dogs as they have grown and enriched their lives.

Shortly after the births of our first litters, I composed the following poem, setting it to a tune that popped into my head (what I think is a traditional Irish / Scottish folk tune, or something like a sea chanty). It is entitled “The wigglin’ O’ The Puppy.” I hope it brings about a smile and a chuckle!

The Wigglin’ O’ The Puppy (Key of G)

……………G.                                                 C.
Oh, the wigglin’ o’ the puppy and the waggin o’ the tail,
G                                                   D                       D7
For their cute black noses an ocean I would sail,
G.                                                           C.
And for their sweet puppy kisses a mountain I would scale,
…………….G.                                                  D              D7        G
Oh, the wigglin’ o’ the puppy and the waggin’ o’ the tail!

………………G.                                  C
Oh, they love to play and they love to bark.
……………….G.                                                          D.             D7
And they love to chase squirrels when they go to the park.
………………G.                                               C
And they cock their heads when they hear this reel
…………G.                                                  D            D7        G
O’ the wigglin’ of the puppy and the waggin’ o’ the tail!

Oh, the wigglin’ o’ the puppy and the waggin’ o’ the tail!
In spite of all the cuteness there’s a dark side to my tale
And to overcome the terror I must be heart n’ hale!
Oh, the wigglin’ o’ the puppy and the waggin’ o’ the tail!

Oh, they love to play and they love to bark.
And they love to chase squirrels when they go to the park.
And they cock their heads when they hear this reel
O’ the wigglin’ of the puppy and the waggin’ o’ the tail!

Oh, the wigglin’ o’ the puppy and the waggin’ o’ the tail,
O’er the peein’ and poohin’ I someday will prevail,
But now in their wake of ruin, I can only wail
At the wigglin’ o’ the puppy and the waggin’ o’ the tail!

………………G.                                    C
Oh, they love to play and they love to bark.
……………….G.                                                           D             D7
And they love to chase squirrels when they go to the park.
………………G.                                               C               C7
And they cock their heads when they hear this reel
O’ the wigglin’ of the puppy…
……………………………………………………………D.           C        G
O’ the wigglin’ of the puppy and the waggin’ o’ the tail!

Albert grown up

Fr. Irenaeus

Guitar Review: Yamaha LL-TA (TransAcoustic)

I love acoustic guitars. There’s a T-shirt that sums it up for me. It reads, “Love one woman, many guitars.” I think I just fell in love today with a guitar I met at Tacoma’s, if not western Washington’s, best music store: Ted Brown Music. A sales associate named Steve introduced me to Yamaha’s new LL-TA dreadnought. OK, so it may only be infatuation, but let me tell you about this guitar.

img_0635Honestly, I haven’t cared for the vast majority of the Yamahas I’ve played. Several years ago I picked up a LL bodied 12-string, and immediately put it back — stiff and lifeless. However, I have truly appreciated their A Series dreadnoughts. This Yamaha dreadnought caught my eye. I pulled it off its wall mount and began playing the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.” I was impressed by the easy playability, and its very open, clear, and pleasant tone. Steve saw my attention and informed me of its truly unique and incredibly innovative electronic feature: in-built chorusing and reverb! Unplugged you are able to access reverb and chorusing! The TA stands for Trans Acoustic — it is self-amplified, or better, self-effected. Wow! Then, after Steve set up a bass amp (YES, a Fender Rumble 500 watt head and cab) this feature came alive like no other acoustic-electric I own, or have ever played! Wow, and wow! In this new universe, the Kinks’ “Village Green,” the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” and “Norwegian Wood” — songs I’ve played for years — sounded completely new to me. Wow, wow, and wow!

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Guitar Review: Faith Mars FRMG All Mahogany Dreadnought

img_0491I first learned of the existence of Faith guitars about two or three years ago. I was, naturally, intrigued by the name: I am a priest, and thus I am all for faith. If you go to their website you will find a wide array of acoustic guitars, all designed by owner and master luthier Patrick James Eggle. His guitars have a solid following in the U.K., and the brand has won the award of the U.K’s Best Acoustic Guitar for four consecutive years. Rather impressive. The brand is now available in the United States as a new British Invasion. And just like the lads from Liverpool, the reviewed guitar is FAB!

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California Dreamin’: Prayer and Chords

mp1“California Dreamin’” is one great pop song. It was written by John and Michelle Phillips while living in New York City in 1963. Their version of the song was released in December, 1965, and, well, the rest is history. “California Dreamin’” is, in my opinion, the signature song of the Mamas and the Papas. It remains an evergreen song, and is a boatload of fun to play on acoustic guitar.

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Fender Paramount PM-1 Standard Dreadnought All-Mahogany NE

2016-10-22-16-55-18After dropping off an old appliance at a recycling center, I thought I’d swing by Ted Brown Music in Tacoma — just a slight detour. I recently learned of an addition to Fender’s Paramount acoustic line up. It is an all mahogany dreadnought. Ted Brown Music carries the Paramount line in addition to a nice selection of Fender electrics. My friend Gary at Ted Brown saw me walk into the acoustic room of the store. I asked him if there were any new arrivals. “We have a number,” he said. Then he added, “we have a new Paramount — the mahogany one.” That’s exactly the guitar I wanted to see. Could this be providence? He brought out the unopened box (I have never seen a freshly opened guitar before — quite an opportunity). “Do you want to give it a try?” Well, YES!

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Guitar Review: Cordoba Acero D10-ce

img_0467-1Quality and value: these are two traits that any consumer wants coupled together when considering a purchase. Sometimes this combo is elusive, but in today’s guitar market these two qualities are the norm in this “golden age” of modern lutherie.  In fact, you have to be most unlucky to buy a “lemon” of a guitar. So, I come to this review of the Cordoba Acero D10-ce, a guitar that fully embodies both quality and value in an all sold wood import package.

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Guitar Review: Fender Paramount Series Deluxe PM-1 Dreadnought

This is the “Golden Age” of guitar making. Acquaintances in the guitar stores I frequent enthusiastically agree with my non-professional assessment. Guitars, both acoustic and electric, have never before been so well made. America has been a leader in the innovations that produce such wonderful instruments. Manufacturers such as Taylor, Breedlove, Martin, Collings, and so many others, have changed the guitar world. However, their innovations aren’t held within the geographical boundaries of the United States — the quality of asian made guitars matches those of America and Canada. I have reviewed two Eastman guitars, two Bedell Performance Series guitars, and one Cordoba Acero Series guitar previously in this blog. All of these guitars are manufactured in China — a put-off for some guitarists — but a blessing for guitarists who want a quality instrument at a more affordable price. In this posting I review Fender’s PM-1 Deluxe Dreadnought, a guitar that is part of its new Paramount line of acoustics.

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“So Far Away” Lyrics

“So Far Away” is a song I wrote.  I was inspired by the departure of an army officer who, as demanded by his country and commission, left his wife and two young children for a year to serve overseas.  I imagined also the sacrifice not only of this fine man, but all others who have sacrificed for their countries.  But, additionally, I thought of the sacrifice of wives, parents, and children of those left home, and often left to grieve without end.  Read the rest of this entry »

Guitar Reviews: Bedell THCE-28-G and Bedell TB-28-12

In two previous guitar reviews I have stated that the guitar buyer does not, I repeat does NOT, need to spend thousands of dollars to get a well made, great sounding, and highly playable guitar.  Hint:  I am not reviewing a Martin, Gibson, Collings, or a Taylor guitar to name just a few.  Read the rest of this entry »

Death Cab For Cutie — A Perspective

death-cab-for-cutieIn all honesty, I am a bit hesitant to compose this posting.  Although a fan of the group, I don’t want to gush with unbridled enthusiasm, nor pose as a bona fide professional music critic.  This posting is an Eastern Orthodox priest’s perspective of a contemporary musical group – mostly focusing on lyrical content of their songs.  There be will only a brief bio, and no musings about matters best left to gossip columnists.

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Eastman Guitars — A Review Of Two Models

If you have not heard of Eastman guitars (, you need to be informed!  The company makes a variety of stringed instruments:  mandolins, archtop acoustics, flat top acoustics, and electric guitars.  They are a very well made import, and their acoustic flat top models are always well reviewed, e.g. their dreadnought models E20D, E10D, E20SS, and E10SS.  Here, in this posting, I offer my own reviews of my own two models:  the AJ816, and the AC530-12. Read the rest of this entry »

A Real Musician

There are only two kinds of people:  those who are and those who “wanna be”.  Each one of us is a combination of an “is” and a “wanna-be”.  I am many things, but I admire a truly good musician.  I am, so my wife and my instructor tell me, a solid intermediate guitarist.  They both encourage me when they note progress and advancement in my “chops.”  But, I will never be a guitarist of the caliber of a Lindsey Buckingham, or The Edge to name just two Guitar Heroes.  I will never come close.  So, in terms of this category of people, i.e. musicians, I’m just a “wanna-be.”  But I know someone who is truly a musician, my guitar instructor, and a family friend.  Let me introduce you to Ann Herring. Read the rest of this entry »

Guitar Review: Cordoba Acero D11-CE

Cordoba-Acero-1If you’re a guitarist and hear the name Cordoba you should think “classical guitar.” That has been their bread and butter. About a year ago, while perusing through my latest issue of Acoustic Guitar (August, 2014), I read about Cordoba’s new Acero (meaning “steel”, thus steel string) line of acoustic guitars. I was impressed by the review and filed it away. A year later I remembered the review of the Acero D10 dreadnought. I searched Reverb for an Acero, and found an Acero D11-ce. It, too, is a dreadnought with solid spruce top and solid acacia back and sides (note photo of guitar). Read the rest of this entry »