As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 14 – New York-inspired (Dec. 2020)
When you think of NYC, you might picture a bustling home for innovation with all class and no-nonsense. It is no coincidence that you would also be describing D’Angelico Guitars, the legendary musical instrument company located in the heart of Manhattan. Since the company’s inception, D’Angelico has been a manifestation of the straightforward New York spirit. If you are new to the world of guitar or just looking to learn more about the brand, we’ve put together this little overview to help you.
A Brief Company History
D’Angelico was founded in 1932 by skilled luthier John D’Angelico, who valued craftsmanship over big-name branding. His humble shop in Little Italy consisted of only two other workers and produced about thirty-five guitars per year. During World War II, D’Angelico gained a reputation for producing high-quality instruments and became popular for both servicemen and civilians alike. Fast forward to 2011—forty-seven years after John D’Angelico’s passing—a guitar exhibit in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with a revival of archtop tone, launched a renewed interest in D’Angelico guitars. The D’Angelico team quickly began working under the radar to produce a quality line of reissues for an affordable price. Today, D’Angelico is a heavy hitter among many female artists, from Susan Tedeschi to Melissa Etheridge and more.
Guitars to Know
D’Angelico has up to three guitar tiers, ranging from affordable to professional: Premier, Excel, and Deluxe. As the player upgrades from one tier to the next, they will notice enhanced woods, pickups, and hardware. Below are the highlights of some of their most popular models (available in all three tiers) and the exemplary female players that wield them.
DC Model – Sleek and comfortable, it comes as no surprise that the DC model is a best seller. This semi-hollow workhorse is as stylish to the eye as it is to the ear. All versions of this model come equipped with two humbucking pickups, two tone knobs, two volume knobs, a three-way pickup selector switch, and classic block inlays on the fretboard. New tailpiece, feedback-fighting center blocks, and coil-tapping become available in the Excel and Deluxe series. A mini version is also available for players that need the same punchy tone in a smaller package. The DC model remains a favorite of Melanie Faye, an R&B player who launched her career through social media in 2017; “it has this responsiveness to it; if I pop something, the sustain just rings out. It’s beautiful.” The DC model is also played by Emily Elbert, who has performed with the likes of Esperanza Spalding and Jenny Lewis.
SS Model – Another highly sought-after semi-hollow model is the SS. This single-cutaway model has a warm, robust sound that is ideal for players looking for that full-bodied jazz sound. Players can also choose between a stopbar tailpiece or a signature Stairstep tailpiece for more sustain. All versions of this model come equipped with two humbucking pickups, two tone knobs, two volume knobs, a three-way pickup selector switch, and classic block inlays on the fretboard. Feedback-fighting center blocks and coil-tapping becomes available in the Excel and Deluxe series. The SS model can be heard in the hands of Nai Palm, the neo-soul jazz rocker from Australia and frontwoman of Hiatus Kaiyote. The SS model is also notably played by June Millington of Fanny, Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos, Emily King, Poppy, and Emily Browning.
Atlantic Model – Branching off into the world of solid-body electric guitars, the last stop on our D’Angelico tour is the Atlantic model. Like their other solid-body guitars, this guitar has a unique body shape that is completely original, yet appealing and recognizable. The slip C-shape neck profile gives players endless comfort. Players have versatile tones at their fingertips with coil taps. The Atlantic model is available in the Premier and Deluxe tiers, with upgraded Seymour Duncan pickups in the latter. This model is frequently played by rising R&B superstar H.E.R. and can also be found among songwriters such as Lindsey Lomis and Hannah Joy of Middle Kids.
Photos provided by D’Angelico Guitars (except where noted) with permission to use