Sunday, November 4, 2012

Travis Bean Guitars

The original Travis Bean guitar is no longer made and therefore a collectors item on the simplest of terms. Travis Bean was a luthier and machinist from California. His guitars were a compliment of beautiful exotic wood and aluminium necks. The fret boards where usually rosewood and bonded to the aluminium. The guitar that I tested was the TB1000 and frankly it was on the heavy side but the sustain was greater than any guitar I have played since. The pickups were stock and sensitive. The guitar sustain was incomparable and it's forte! This was the same guitar that Stanley Jordan, Keith Richards and Jerry Garcia used this instrument as did countless others. With high performance sustain it was easy to see why Stanley Jordon would like this instrument as it suited his style of playing well. The body shape of the TB1000 reminded me of a certain ES-335 but smaller. The neck shape was similar to the Les Paul Custom 1968 model. The pickup covers and pick guard are close to indestructible. The guitar is bomb proof but if you did ever bend the neck, you'd probably need a new neck (would need to be customer made) or you'd have to take your guitar to the nearest auto body shop (sic). The Travis Bean guitars I know of were only manufactured for about 5 years but their place is secured in history as a bold attempt to change the classic materials used during the manufacture of guitars.

The down side: since aluminum conducts heat well, at first touch the neck feels cold because it absorbs heat from your skin and gives you a chilling sensation. However, if the ambient temperature is much lower than the natural human body temperature, the neck will chill to ambient, be uncomfortable to play, and never warm to the touch. In the later years, they resolved to paint or coat the neck to eliminate the temperature issue. But the paint sort of also ruins the whole appeal and this was the Travis Bean conundrum. The guitar weight is the second problem regarding the ergonomics of this wonderful but temperamental guitar. The guitar is up there around 8 to 9 lbs. depending on the wood used. If you don't regard the aforementioned challenges as deal breakers, this might just be a perfect instrument for you.

If you find one within your price range - Buy it. These are not cheap guitars, never were and it is doubtful the price will drop on the open market. If you live in the Arctic and play outdoors - you might want to pass it by. However, the sustain is phenomenal and the pickups are a shredders dream. If you see a Travis Bean - At least try it and you will understand why some love this guitar are others pass it by.

Travis Bean sadly passed away in 2011.

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