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Soloway Swan LN6

When Michael Jordan attached his image to the Hanes line of underthings, I doubt he ever said, “Those shorts gotta have a French cut.” Mike didn’t design those undies. But when a noted musician puts his or her Hancock on an instrument, it’s not your average product endorsement and it’s not just a way to sell more units. Signature musical instruments come about as a result of an artist collaborating with a manufacturer to satisfy his or her specific needs as a player. In some cases what’s produced is something of a novelty instrument built specifically for one person’s needs-the scalloped fretboard on shredder Yngwie Malmsteen’s signature Stratocaster comes to mind. When it works out best, a signature instrument fills a hole in the marketplace, like Epiphone’s Jack Casady signature bass-someone finally made an affordable hollowbody bass with great intonation.

In the case of the Swan, the signature is that of its maker, Jim Soloway. No, he’s not a name recording artist, and he didn’t collaborate with anyone but himself to build the guitar. So, while the ax isn’t actually a signature instrument, it does have signature-instrument quality. Soloway plays fingerstyle jazz, and picking with fingers can sometimes generate duller or muddy tone because so many notes are often plucked in such rapid succession-and part of the beauty of fingerpicked guitar lies in pedal tones left to ring while other notes sing melodies over top of them. Thus when Soloway aimed to create an electric guitar with clarity and sustain, he did so to complement his style of music.

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