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classical guitar

July 2019

July 2019

It’s always a joy to string up a new guitar. What is it going to sound like? The anticipation of those first few notes starts to build while your fretting it and cutting the nut and saddle. I was just on some short trips to Montana and California and this guitar was waiting for me and thus in the back of my mind the whole time I was supposed to be on vacation. I’m excited to get it shipped out to the customer for their feedback and response.

This Spartan guitar is by many standards a plain guitar. It has a matte finish on the back and sides with nothing really fancy going on but I like that unassuming quality. It hides the fact that this guitar is everything a concert guitar should be in terms of sound and playability. This guitar has a unique looking Western Red Cedar top and East Indian Rosewood back and sides with a simple ebony binding and Honduran Rosewood accents. The customer opted for some Gilbert tuning machines, an elevated fingerboard and a sound port. This guitar is also the smaller of the two templates I use with a 640 mm scale and a 50 mm nut width.

Teaching Time

Teaching Time

Teaching is something that I haven’t done much of lately. I used to help teach a continuing education class where students ended up with a finished tenor ukulele. It was fun but more about rudimentary and basic woodworking experience for the students. Just recently, I was contacted by another luthier, who is primarily an arch top guitar builder, wanting to get started building classicals. His range of experience building arch tops is so far from the world of classical guitar that he felt he wanted some help. He wanted to consult with me and brace a guitar top in my signature style. I was a bit apprehensive at first but eventually agreed after a few emails back and forth. He flew in and we ended up having a really great time.

Bracing a top is fun, but more important to getting a handle on building classical guitars was the time we spent tuning two finished guitar bodies and a third partially assembled one as well as evaluating some of the raw materials. Showing him how I tuned the finished guitars was informative for him but talking through the process with him really helped to crystallize it for me as well. I’m usually just “doing it” by myself. It’s another thing to talk about it an explain the “why”.

Like I said, bracing a top is fun but its just one element. The interaction of the resonances of the top, back and internal air resonance are critical to voicing the guitar in a way that produces a guitar with volume, an even response across the range and is pleasing and musical. I usually just tap the guitar to get the specific frequencies but it was fun to throw some tea leaves on the plates and break out a speaker and tone generator to more dramatically demonstrate the modes of resonance. We also got to do the measurements on a guitar with the back off to demonstrate how much the interactions change once you close the box.

We did some basic analysis of the raw materials as well, which isn’t so critical to the makers of heavily built amplified instruments but immensely important on acoustic flat top instruments and especially classicals with the lower string tensions. Calculating the density and doing a simple deflection test is usually enough for me. It mostly confirms what your hands and ears are telling you. I do these tests because I start to doubt my gut and memory and the testing just makes me feel like I can trust my ears again.

Anyway, I was honored to think that someone would see me as any kind of expert and seek out my advice. I am always just making and stopping to talk about it was a different kind of experience. I think I will remain open to the possibility of doing some teaching in the future.

PS: I didn’t take any pictures during this consult so here are a few random construction photos of some guitars I’m working on right now.

Going Back to Cali

Going Back to Cali

I’m excited to to head to the Orange County Guitar Festival this coming weekend. It’s sure to be a fun weekend of concerts, lectures and competition. I am also relieved that I have some guitars to show. I just strung up these two pictured a couple days ago and I’m doing the final setups now. If anyone in the area would like to check out my work I’ll be there at Chapman University this coming Saturday and Sunday. I’m looking forward to seeing some sunshine. Here are links to the event below.

https://www.facebook.com/orangecountyguitar/...festival...competition.../172855896053...

https://events.chapman.edu/59976

Both of these instruments are East Indian rosewood / Swiss spruce 650mm scale guitars -all french polish of shellac. One has an elevated fingerboard with nickel silver fretwire and silver gotoh machines with the faux horn buttons, a silver 7th fret dot and 20th fret. The other has a beautiful bearclaw figured top with EVO Gold wire, matte gold gotoh machines with a brass 7th fret dot. Very similar construction otherwise.

I think I’m going to make the headstock design in a matte oiled finish on these two the standard default. I’ve already been using the shape without the extra bevels on my stripped down “spartan” model. It just seems to make sense aesthetically with the details of the bridge design I’ve been using.



Been a While

Been a While

Shop photos, construction and pictures of finished guitars