Holiday Gear Guide: Live From Santa’s Pub

It’s always Christmas at Santa’s Pub, a Nashville dive that serves cheap beer, karaoke and yuletide cheer twelve months a year. American Songwriter – along with singer-songwriter Amanda Shires and Coco Hames of The Ettes – dropped in on Santa to see what he’s been cooking up. We found an embarrassment of riches for both the naughty and the nice.


(Photos by Mackenzie Moore and Will Vastine)

1. Yamaha AC3M
(MSRP $800)

Yamaha is a brand name most associated pianos, drums and four-wheelers. But don’t forget that their inventory consists of finely crafted guitars as well. This is one of the few companies whose products are consistently crafted with precision and quality. One of those models, the AC3M, is a concert size guitar made of solid wood that doesn’t cost solid gold. It features a Sitka spruce top, Ebony finger board and bridge, mahogany back and sides (for a nice bright even tone), and a hard-shell case to keep all that wood in one piece.

The AC3M is equipped with the SRT electronic system, which allows you to choose from three different high end mic types and two different mic positions, all of which provide the best natural ambient acoustic sounds that a Piezo pickup can provide. There is also a built-in tuner that runs off of two AA batteries, a nice bonus. – MATT SELLARS

2. Lanikai Tenor Ukulele
(MSRP $200)

The ukulele has been a fixture in pop and indie rock for decades, from George Harrison and Tiny Tim to Eddie Vedder and Beirut. The backpack-sized Hawaiian string instrument is a great songwriting tool, known to inspire simplicity and le mot juste. Lanikai’s LU22TS tenor ukulele is made of Nato, a hard and inexpensive mahogany-like wood from Asia. The slotted headstock is a nice twist, and the overall tone is sunny though lacking the warmth and depth of higher-end wood. – DAVIS INMAN

3. Fender Pawn Shop Greta Amp
(MSRP $260)

The Greta, from Fender’s new “Pawnshop” series, is a 2-watt, tube driven guitar amp beautifully disguised as a ’50s era tabletop radio. Housed in the vintage red and gold chassis are one 12AX7 input tube and one 12AT7 output tube that pushes a 4-inch speaker. On the front, an illuminated VU meter with clean and overload indicators joins gold volume and tone controls. The ¼ inch guitar input is on the rear of the amp, along with a host of other options that make the Greta more than just a novelty piece.

A 1/8th inch auxiliary input jack allows you to connect external sources, like an iPod, and play it through the Greta, and its vintage-sounding tube amplification.  This input can be run simultaneously with the ¼ inch input, so you can play along with your favorite music through the Greta. Two ¼ inch outputs round out the back of the amp.  One, a speaker output, allows for use of the Greta as a small amp head, for use with an external speaker cabinet.  The other, a line output, allows for use of the Greta as a tube preamplifier, or tube overdrive unit.

The combination of the Greta with other amplifiers really opens up some interesting tonal possibilities, and using the Greta for tube overdrive in your pedal chain makes it a multi-functional workhorse.

Playing straight through the Greta is as you might expect.  At lower volumes, clean, jazzy tones are easily dialed in, and at louder levels, the 4-inch speaker overdrives, but not to the point of being muddy. The distortion offered by the Greta is one that many DAW’s offer as a plug in. It’s quite nice to get that sound automatically, on the front end. In one unit, you’ve got a guitar amp, pre-amp, or amp head. Not bad for something no bigger than a toaster. – STEVE MARTIN


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