Boucher Studio Indian Goose 000-12FTB Review

AG 240 December 2012 Cover

by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

Way up north, along the St. Lawrence River in Québec, Canada, Boucher Guitars builds a full line of traditional-style acoustics in a shop run by Robin Boucher. Though the current company has been in operation for just seven years, it carries on a legacy started in 1968, when Robin’s uncle, Normand Boucher, founded Norman Guitars (now a division of Godin Guitars). One hallmark of Boucher instruments is their Adirondack spruce tops and bracing, all sourced in the forest surrounding the shop. Prewar Martins and Gibsons were, of course, built with Adirondack spruce until dwindling supplies necessitated a switch to other species, so the use of Adirondack is particularly fitting on Boucher’s vintage-inspired instruments. For this review, we received an Indian Goose 000-12FTB from Boucher’s Studio series.

Attractive Adirondack

The Indian Goose 000-12FTB, a recent addition to the company’s line, follows the classic 12-fret 000 design, which includes a slotted headstock. While the 12-fret style restricts access to the high reaches of the fingerboard, it has a slightly longer body than a 14-fret 000, which many makers and players believe warms up the tone and improves bass response. The difference in the body with the 12-fret design is apparent at a glance—the 000 has a long, elegant shape that harks back to guitars of a century ago and nearly begs you to play an old parlor or ragtime tune.

The Indian Goose 000-12FTB is built with Indian rosewood back and sides, with deep and uniformly dark coloring, along with its Adirondack spruce soundboard. Though Adirondack spruce tends to be more variable in grain and appearance than other spruces commonly used on today’s guitars, the top of the review guitar looks not unlike Sitka, with subtle variations in the spacing of the grain and a light, even color (a sunburst finish, too, is an available option). No doubt Boucher’s access to local Adirondack spruce is a big advantage in finding high-quality cuts. The rosette, top purfling, and back strip are herringbone, and a simple pattern of abalone dots extends up the fingerboard. Gold-plated, open-back Grover tuners with vintage-style knobs are a perfect match for the slotted headstock. All of these appointments add up to an understated, elegant appearance inspired by the prewar Martin 000-28, and the craftsmanship on our review guitar, inside and out, is impeccable. This guitar was clearly built with great care and attention to structural and cosmetic detail.

Fingerstyle Clarity

When I first began to play the Boucher, I was immediately struck by the guitar’s volume. The open strings of a G chord, plucked with my fingers, rang out, nicely balanced by the bass and treble strings. As I fingerpicked a hymn-like progression, melody notes projected beautifully, a quick indication that this 000 would shine on fingerstyle tunes. And this proved to be the case as I tried out a few favorites— ragtime/blues picking like "Hesitation Blues" and a dropped-D arrangement of "Ashokan Farewell." In all these songs, the individual voices were strikingly clear, and I found it easy to accentuate, say, an upper-string melody note or bass line—the Boucher was very responsive to my picking-hand touch. The guitar’s factory setup, with a lightgauge set of Elixir Nanoweb strings, was just right for low, buzz-free action, and the V neck profile felt immediately comfortable.

While vintage 12-fret 000 guitars typically have wide necks measuring about 178 inches at the nut, the Boucher has a narrower, more modern neck, with a nut width of 134 inches. This made it easy for me to adjust to the feel of the fingerboard, particularly when playing in lower positions (either fingerstyle or with a pick). When I moved up the neck, though, the string spacing became noticeably wider than I’m accustomed to from other guitars; it took some time for me to get used to the fretting-hand spread required, for instance, to hold a six-string barre chord at the seventh fret. In the upper positions, the neck had the additional maneuvering space often preferred by fingerstyle players and definitely encouraged me to forgo the pick.

Big, Clear Sound

When I did use a pick and strum openposition chords, again the tone was satisfyingly full. As I played more aggressively, the guitar simply got louder while retaining a clean and clear tone—thanks perhaps to the Adirondack spruce, which is said to have the highest volume ceiling among the species of spruce used on guitars. As I tried out a little flatpicking (a version of the Irish standard "Banish Misfortune") and some quick-change jazz comping, I found myself slowed down a bit by the more fingerstyle-friendly neck. Over time I’m sure I could adjust, and in terms of tone and dynamic range the Boucher obviously has plenty to offer a pick player.

There’s a coziness about the 12-fret 000 that makes for a nice change from bigger-bodied, 14-fret guitars. The body is easy to reach over and your arm doesn’t have to stretch as far to fret open-position chords. The Boucher passed the couch test with flying colors—it felt great to play reclining on the couch in the position not approved by guitar teachers anywhere.

Back to the Future

In this era of intense interest in vintage instruments, 12-fret 000 guitars have come back into wider circulation from guitar makers of all sizes, and my time with the Boucher makes their appeal clear from a player’s point of view. The Indian Goose 000-12FTB could make a traditionally oriented folk/blues/country fingerpicker very happy, and a classical player looking to expand to steel-string would likely feel very much at home with it as well. This guitar would be a good fit, too, for a singer-songwriter who primarily fingerpicks and strums in the lower positions. Any player who doesn’t need regular access to the high frets would be well advised to check out the tonal and ergonomic advantages of a 12-fret 000 like the Boucher.

SPECS: 12-fret 000 body. Solid Adirondack spruce top. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Tusq nut and bone saddle. Adirondack spruce scalloped X-bracing. 25.5-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 3/8-inch string spacing at the saddle. High-gloss finish. Gold-plated Grover tuners. Elixir Nanoweb lightgauge strings. Left-handed version available at no extra cost. Made in Canada.

PRICE: $3,899 list/$3,699 street.

MAKER: Boucher Guitars: (418) 259-2083;boucherguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar December 2012

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