Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Review: Farida J-16ENS Guitar

No one likes to admit that they’re average.

In pub conversations, on clubbing nights out, on dates, holidays, during meals in posh restaurants, when with family or friends, work colleagues or mortal enemies we avoid, flee and deny the existence of “average”. Rather be exceptional – bad or good – than languish in the middle, devoid of awe inspiring brilliance or gut wrenching incompetence.

It’s a painful thing to admit. But admit it I must. I am an average guitarist. I won’t be the person casually picking up a guitar in a music shop serenading the customer (and aggravating staff) with technical brilliance nor will I ever light up the gig circuit with a heartfelt ballad or rousing hit.

I am the bedroom musician, rarely heard, never feted and seldom acclaimed.

I took a familiar route into playing the acoustic guitar, I wanted to impress a girl at college with my folksy indie charm (of which I had none), so i purchased an ancient Samick electro-acoustic and began strumming. I progressed fast, Oasis was easy, Status Quo came and went, and before long I was getting down with Dylan and playing the melancholic ballads of Damian Rice.

However that’s where it all ended.

I could never get beyond Damian Rice, I hit a brick wall of finger speed (no jokes please, it’s too easy), my technique never improved, my ability to remember obscure chords faltered and girl’s found my clearly average ability as a guitarist/singer distressing rather than endearing or sexy (although in retrospect I think growing a beard and singing depressing Damian Rice songs may have aided this).

But I, like so many like me, didn’t die or fade away, I merely retreated to my room, clutching my old guitar, battered, stained with the tears of my broken ambition and shattered dreams and played for my own pleasure and noone elses.

And there I remained until, some 6 years later, my trusty Samick guitar, with its ever changing tuning, life threatening electronics and splintering neck finally gave up the ghost. I decided to invest in a guitar for life, a new friend to see me through the dark winter nights, a trusty companion, like Batman and Robin, or, Laurel and Hardy, or, well, another double act.

I narrowed it down to two candidates – the Farida J-16 ENS and the Epiphone EJ200CE Super Jumbo. Both guitars were a similar price with hardcase, both looked very attractive, (although it must be said the Farida is more a natural beauty than the slightly more tarty Epiphone), and both were conveniently next to each other in my local guitar shop.

The Epiphone is a cool looking guitar, when you hold it you feel like a rock god, a rock god who’s doing a paired back acoustic set but wants to retain some of the glamour of his rock style look. Indeed if guitars were merely for posing with, for standing in a crotch-led stance overlooking a crowd of music fans, then it would be a winner hands down. However, for the bedroom guitarist looks aren’t everything, sound matters.

The Epiphone was harder to play, the varnished maple neck, felt uncomfortable for me and noticeable, slowing playing and chord changes. It had a muddier rock edge, the treble and higher notes were less audible and while the bass was muscular and taut and the guitar was responsive to strumming power ballads (and Oasis, yes, I played Oasis, sorry), when finger picking I felt it was sneering at me, demanding I manned up and played something harder, louder and rockier. But it’s ever so sexy, that’s the problem, it’s the kind of guitar that would dress in leather and drink vodka neat.

And so reluctantly I tried the Farida.

It’s not the most exciting looking guitar in the world, it has a plain, understated beauty, no bling just a natural look, a look of quality, intelligence and sophistication rather than sleaze and predatory instinct. The sound is crisp and balanced, the high notes ring clear, the bass is precise and warm both plugged in and acoustic (the fishman electronics are terrific too…). The mahogany neck is unvarnished (or less varnished), beautiful to play, comfortable and almost homely.

When I picked it up it felt like we’d met before, perhaps on a hot summer’s day, was it Paris, or perhaps Venice? If you had to take a guitar home to meet your mum this would be the one. But the best bit? The best bit is that when I play it, when I play it at home, on my own, absorbed in my thoughts, I don’t feel average anymore, I feel like there’s further to go in my guitar playing.

Try both guitars out, if you’re looking for something for gigging and looking exceptionally cool with power that might roar and rip your head off the Epiphone may be for you. However for the bedroom guitarist, the gentle strummer, the lullaby connoisseur, the Farida may just be for you.

Farida J-16ENS Guitar (comes with case): 8.5 out of 10
Epiphone EJ200CE Super Jumbo (no case): 7.5 out of 10 

Check them out on Dawsons website: Farida J-15 ENS | Epiphone EJ200CE