In honor of this guitars long and less-than-pristene past, I opted to photograph it right as it came from the box in all its dusty, dirty, and finish-marred glory. Let’s see how it fares given my normal desire for bright and shiny instruments.
These 1974 Guilds have two Guild HB1 pickups that I’ll cover later in this article, a master volume which is great, even if it is in a bit of an odd position, a phase switch, and a neck that’s too damn small for my big hands. And yet, I can’t put the freakin’ thing down because it just sounds so good!
As soon as I strap this guitar on I feel like the guy in the ad to the right. I’ve owned a lot of Guilds, but there’s something special about the M-75. It’s light, it’s resonant, it’s just the right size, it sounds amazing, and I feel like a rock star when I play it. Sure, I feel like a long-haired high-school rock star from 1979, but dammit, I was a long-haired high-school rock star in 1979! This guitar just reinforces the memories.
I’ve long opined that the reason Guild electric guitars aren’t more famous or desirable is because Jimmy Page didn’t play one. That may be true, and it may also be a saving grace since they don’t sell for crazy “Jimmy Page played one” prices. Hell, if they did then I wouldn’t be able to write all these articles about them.
See that series of terrible melted spots on the finish? Those are the result of someone laying one of those fabulous (cheap) vinyl coiled cords that we all used in the 1970s on top of the guitar and then probably closing it all up in the case. The vinyl on in the cheap cord reacted with the lacquer and melted it down to the wood. If you zoom into the pic you can even see the pattern from the ribbed cable in the finish.
Keep vinyl away from your lacquered guitars, kids. That includes anything that even looks like bubble wrap.
Fretboard and Neck
Take a quick look at the pic of the neck to the right. The fretboard is bound, but the binding is pretty thin compared to just about every other bound guitar I’ve played. The fret markers are also fairly small, though they work as intended.
The frets are a bit small at 3/64″ tall by 5/64″ wide which is typical of this era of Guild electric guitars. The neck attaches to the body at the 18th fret and the fretboard radius measures at 16″ which seems about the norm for Guild electrics of this era. It really is a beautifully done fretboard and neck, especially if you like smaller examples.
There are no obvious shortcomings of the design of the guitar, though some might complain about the upper strap button being too close to the neck which makes some straps rub up against the neck thus causing wear. There is a noticable lack of such wear on this guitar making me wonder if the guy who put it in the case with the coiley cord was so despondent that he just closed up the case and left it alone. For years.
The pick guard is an odd affair that is screwed right into the top in multiple spots making it a bit ugly to remove. Thankfully, it doesn’t get in my way when playing so I just left it as-is. Thankfully, Guild hadn’t included logos on pick guards in this series of guitars, at least in this year’s model, so I don’t have any other reason to remove the guard.
If you told me that this guitar was chambered I would believe you, but without the proper name plate (see the Electronics section below) I don’t know if the model number suffix -CS (solid body with chrome) is included. The guitar weighs in at 8 pounds on the nose and the pics of the electronics later on doesn’t show any chambers so I’m going with solid.
These are low-wind pickups measuring around 7k Ω and 7.3k Ω and have all the chime, articulation, and character that Guild HB-1s are known for. They are very PAF-like with a bit of extra chime where it counts.
This guitar has the typical 4-knob control scheme, but also includes a master volume near those controls. I love master volume controls on guitars and wish that more models had them, but I’m not a huge fan of the smaller knobs that Guild used on their master volumes. Given the location they chose on these guitars, though, a smaller knob actually sort of makes sense.
As an odd bit of mystery, this guitar came with a control plate cover that doesn’t belong to the guitar. The serial number for the guitar is written on a sticker on the control plate cover and it doesn’t match the one on the headstock. Not only that, but the model number has a -BLK suffix indicating a black finish which this guitar quite obviously does not have.
The electronics cavity is completely lined with copper as are all the Guild electric guitars I’ve seen from the ’70s. The wiring is clean and while it certainly could be neater, that’s really just my inner soldering nerd lashing out.
The guitar has a master volume and a phase switch which makes the wiring a bit more complicated than a typical two humbucker guitar, so the extra wiring can excuse the little bit of mess. Besides, it still looks better than the wiring I’ve seen in most of the guitars from the past 20 years, imports and domestics alike.
The bridge is a Mueller type bridge popular on Guild electric guitars in the 1970s. I personally love these bridges, though they can be problematic if you break one of the tiny parts as the parts can be very difficult to find. I had a Guild S300A-D for thirty years with the same bridge that I played every damn day and I never broke or lost any parts.
For each recording, I cycle through all of the possible pickup combinations, those being (in order): neck pickup, both pickups (in phase), both pickups (out of phase), bridge pickup. Trust me when I that if you get tired of hearing the same riffs over and over, that can’t possibly compare with how much I hate hearing them after playing them 140 times and testing and editing the sound files for hours. Yikes.
I really did not find any of the tones to be unwelcome. On my Guild S300A-D that I had for decades, I never used the phase switch because I thought it sounded terrible, but that guitar had Dimarzio pickups in it which I think may have been the problem. On the M-75 with its HB-1 pickups, I think the out-of-phase sound is quite usable depending on the amp in use.
In my opinion, it’s damn-near impossible to make a bad tone come out of this guitar. I’m sure I could hand it to a random kid in Guitar Center who could prove me wrong, but that’s a topic for another time.
One of the things I like about the Mueller bridge is the fact that it’s simple to adjust string spacing, though the neck is so thin that pulling the strings even further together reduces playability for me, so I just alter my technique in order to adjust to the smaller fretboard. In fact, this is one of the few guitars that makes me forget about the small fretboard. It’s just that good.
This guitar is very thin, and that makes an absolute joy to play. I have a lot of electrics, and this one, though not as thin as a Gibson SG or Guild S-100, is pretty close. Imagine a Les Paul but thinner and that’s what you get with this guitar. It’s very comfortable to play both sitting and standing and I swear that while standing I don’t even notice it’s there. You know, except for the fact that I’m holding it with both hands.
I scored this guitar for half of what they usually go for, all due to the terrible finish blemish on the top. This guitar is a robust, great-sounding instrument, and if you like thinner necks, you’ll fall in love with a Guild M-75 instantly. The problem is that they usually sell for big money, so you might have to settle for a beater if you don’t want to spend your precious shekels in Les Paul quantities.
Honestly, and this is complete opinion on my part, this guitar sounds better than even the Gibson Les Paul Historics I’ve owned (two R9s and one R8). If only it had a beefier neck, then I would say that it crushes them utterly, but the truth is that I enjoy the fat necks on the Les Paul Historics. I just don’t enjoy them enough to pay the ridiculous sums of money that they command.
Bottom line: If you see a Guild M75 and you can afford it, buy it, especially if you like smaller necks. Hell, if it’s anything like this one, but it anyway and learn to adapt. It’s that good.