Welcome to summer, 2011. This has been my busiest year ever, with four of my guitars in various stages of completion and four students. My schedule is full until Spring of 2012! How did this happen? Anyone want to become an apprentice?
I am putting the finishing touches on two new guitars. One is an Indian Rosewood Florentine cutaway. The other is a highly figured Koa 12 fret 000 with rosewood bindings. Both these guitars will be shown at the League of NH Craftsmen’s annual fair at Lake Sunapee this August. The koa guitar will be in the Living with Crafts display, for sale (though part of me hopes it won’t be sold – it would be very hard to find koa as beautiful. This piece was a gift from a student who travels regularly to Hawaii). From time to time I will be providing background music in the Living with Crafts exhibit, playing the new Indian Rosewood guitar (which is not for sale – its for me). And on Aug 6, 8, 11, and 14 I will be conducing guitar-making demonstrations in Tent U on the fairgrounds. If you make it to the fair, please stop by and say hello. You can find information here.
One of my students recently finished his small jumbo cutaway, but not for himself. It was a surprise college graduation gift for his son. We had to keep it a secret for the year it took to build, but the big presentation took place last month. The guitar is walnut, with an Adirondack soundboard, and maple trim. David reclaimed the maple from his own father’s stock pile and we quarter sawed it so that the figure really stood out.
Most guitars have the maker’s name or logo on the headstock. But David has inlaid his son’s initials in mother of pearl. To compliment the soft browns in the walnut and maple, David chose gold tuning machines and frets.
The body shape for this guitar was given to us by New Hampshire furniture master and luthier Terry Moore, We did reduce the body depth slightly to increase attack speed and responsiveness. Terry plays loud, larger than life gigs, whereas David’s son prefers a more cerebral playing and performance style.
The third photo shows the soundboard, Venetian cutaway, herringbone rosette, and through saddle. David also equipped the guitar with a passive piezo pickup, which Exeter, NH master luthier Pat DiBurro installed for us.
The surprise presentation was emotionally very moving.
This spring, five of us gathered from California, Wisconsin, and New England to spend a weekend in Deerfield, NH to attend Grammy-Award winner Ed Gerhard’s master-class format finger picking guitar workshop. If you are serious about guitar, you really should consider taking a class with Ed. You come prepared with a piece, Ed listens to you, and then takes you from wherever you are to the next level. Ed does just a very few weekend and one-day workshops so you have to plan ahead. Look for details here. I worked on an arrangement of Hard Time Killing Floor Blues. Another student is developing a personal Celtic-inspired style of great intensity with a hard edge. One young man, extremely gifted, from the midwest, is about to enter a finger style college degree program. And my California friend from a previous workshop focused almost exclusively on tone. During the student concert, he treated us to a Scott Joplin rag.
Concerning tone, here is a valuable tip from Ed. Polish the sharp edges of you fingernails until they are glass-smooth. You can also polish the part of your fingertips that strike the strings with noticeable results, in terms of good tone. Drugstores sell 4-step emery boards that work well for this. Try it and listen to the result.
© 2011, John Whiteside