Soloway Fledgling #1 - Review

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by plord, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. plord

    plord Member

    Nov 2, 2007
    Charlotte, VT
    Right at the beginning of this year, I was fortunate to have Jim Soloway's Fledgling #1 in house for a demo while it was winding it's way across the country en route to NAMM. Here's what I thought.

    This guitar was a first for me in several ways. First time I've played a 27" scale length guitar, obviously, but also my first exposure to P-90s and also to Korina as a tonewood. Pardon me if anything below is obvious to aficionados of those particular guitar features.

    First impression opening the case: that's one sweet looking guitar. Very clean lines, great finish, nice color. The pictures on the Soloway site ( for anyone who hasn't seen them) help tell the tale, but in person the grain on the body is very prominent, and the piece of cocobolo on the neck is simply stunning.

    Second impression: WOW it's light as a feather (no pun intended)!! I've been playing a '78 Ibanez MC-400 for the last decade, and I swear this is half the weight of that guitar. The contouring is very well shaped, and the guitar is super comfortable to play.

    About the scale length: you know, I'm a short guy, short arms, small hands. I did wonder if first position chords were going to be an issue. Not. At. All. I barely noticed, which surprised me. The Fledgling came to me with a lower action and lighter strings than I am used to, which took a little getting used to (I didn't want to mess with the setup right before NAMM, so I left the strings alone). #1 has the "thicker" American Standard neck profile, which felt very good in the hand. The Fledgling is so light, so ergonomic, so balanced, the scale length is a non-issue from a hands and arms perspective.

    Sonically is a different story! The differences have been well defined in previous discussion, so I'll just confirm that even my inexperienced, non-golden ears could hear the improved string separation in both clean *and* overdriven chords. I had no trouble with bends (or, no more trouble than usual). The "both" pickup position had buckets of texture and snap compared to other 2 pickup guitars I've played; I suspect the scale length contributes to that, although it might have been a purely P-90 thing?

    When you switch to single note work, other build and design elements jump to the foreground. Put simply, the chambering on the fledgling blows my mind. I can feel the whole guitar body vibrating at several points around the neck, which was a new trick to me. I'm sure the Korina helps here. I found myself playing longer lines that crossed the resonant notes, and slowing down or stopping for bends because of the response. Later I pulled out an E-bow and had way, way, way too much fun with vocal/violin tones through a tiny old National amp.

    But the guitar had still more surprises: it REALLY wants to rock out. I generally play cleaner tones but gee, somehow the volume knob kept creeping up towards the top, I can't explain it. With the P-90s up near the top of their range, through that same National (single ended, single 6v6) amp, the sound was improbably huge and satisfying. It was Live at Leeds in my basement, minus all the talent. I did get some nice jazz tones out of the neck pickup with the volume rolled down about halfway, but really, the guitar much preferred "Summertime Blues"!

    I'll close by echoing others: Jim's demo program is a fantastic thing, and if you have any interest in his guitars you owe it to yourself to get on the list for a test drive. I got to spend 4 days with a beautiful guitar with no strings attached except the lingering knowledge that I'm going to have to figure out a way to own one sometime down the road :)

  2. Thor

    Thor Member

    Apr 8, 2005
    S.F. Bay Area
    Very nice and thoughtful review. Glad you had such a positive experience - seems to be the norm for those who have enjoyed playing one of Jim's instruments.

    I'm with you on the "trying to figure out how to get one".


  3. Jason_86_951

    Jason_86_951 Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2005
    Selah, WA
    Those test drives are dangerous!

    The demo guitar never left AND Jim's building me another....doh!

    Wonderful instruments!
  4. billyguitar

    billyguitar Member

    Aug 30, 2005
    Kansas City
    What other guitars would the thicker neck carve compare to?
  5. abergdahl

    abergdahl Member

    Sep 1, 2002
    Stockholm; Sweden
    My third Soloway is Fledgling #2, the navy blue one, the forth Soloway, a Solocaster is ordered.:eek:
    Soloways are addictive :drool. The Fledging is amazing, a true rock'n'roll guitar capable of amizing clean tones as well. :BEER
  6. Dan Desy

    Dan Desy Member

    Jun 24, 2002
    Twin Cities, MN
    I love my Swans, as if anyone didn't already know ;)

    But I'm jealous. I would love to take a Fledgling for a spin.
  7. mbrown3

    mbrown3 Member

    Dec 16, 2006
    Well, it's still thinner than any of my other guitars, but I've never had another guitar with a thinner (thinner than .830/.980, my 'standard' favorite) that I've been able to keep.

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