The next set of blog posts will reflect a recent work I have composed. Each song from the project will be presented in turn. Because singing sends thoughts into the soul of another person, the choice of text is vital. I look for texts that reflect my notion of the sacred: the wonder of life, love of children, and our need for community. It is a privilege to take such notions into meaningful lyric expressions.
photo: Alan Bell
Rounding the Human Corners is a poetic cycle that reflects a trip Hogan took in 2002 with Brenda Peterson and the journey was chronicled in Sightings: The Gray Whales’ Mysterious Journey. The migration route started in Baja, California and ended in Alaska. Much of this journey was on boats and titles in this cycle include Sounding the Depths, Whale Rising and The Radiant -which refers to the Manta Ray. I have found that several of the texts fall naturally into sea shanty metres. Given the amount of time spent on boats during that journey, it is possible that the waves of the ocean may set such a metric sensibility into the imagination.
photo: Alan Bell
Restless was the second text that I worked on and is a breezy and light-hearted, musing about always walking toward something. It ends with the thought that even at the end of life one could leave their skin clothes lying empty and still travel on. It is a good choice for song number two in the cycle, the tempo is slightly quicker than for the opener, and creates an unsettled feel for the legato lines.
The singer on this recording is the marvelous Toronto Mezzo soprano Maria Soulis and Alan Bell is responsible for the recording.
The new Aged process from the Martin Custom Shop will provide enthusiasts the opportunity to have the sound of an older Martin as well as the look, warmth, and comfort.
The new "Aged" process "ages" a guitar to replicate the appearance of a vintage instrument that is actually new. To achieve this, Martin had to restore a lacquer formula used many years ago.
Martin’s new Aged series features a limited run of 50 1937 D-28 Authentics based on the visual hallmarks of a vintage Martin guitar, each one hand-aged with several new touches such as the thinner lacquer finish, Vintage Tone System (VTS), spruce Adirondack tops and unique Aged tuning machines.
You can place your order for the 1937 D-28 Authentic at your local authorized Martin dealer. To find a Martin dealer, click here.
I think I'm in love.
There is little to say here that the pictures cannot say for themselves.
This Sauvage OPM1 ( One Piece Master ) is everything that is right with modern guitars as far as I'm concerned. Slightly retro, slightly modern, and wholly original.
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Forest Products Laboratory, USDA Forest Service
When I dismantled the old workshop I made sure that I inspected every stick of wood that came out of the building to see if it could be used in making a guitar.
There wasn't much, most of the Douglas fir 2x4's were too knotty or had amazing amounts of runout to be used, all of that went into constructing the new tool shed. I did find a couple of 2x4's that were white fir, abies concolor, that showed some promise.
I cut out the parts that looked good and split them, the failure rate was pretty high, lots of run out. One piece that is suitable has the old sawmill stamp on it, I believe it is a West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau stamp. I went to their website, click here, and found that Mill 74 is no longer in operation. This piece of wood is definitely white fir! The old workshop was constructed about 1964, which means this stick of wood is two years younger than me!
This is from a new 2x4 that I used to frame my new workshop. As you can see it is stamped Doug Fir-Larch and was milled at Priest River, Idaho. Go to the Western Wood Products Association webpage to see a listing of all the mill currently in operation. I am not sure if this piece is Douglas fir, it's a little too light in weight and really doesn't have the pitchy Douglas fir smell to it, it could be Western Larch.
Check out the medullary rays in this piece of white fir! The Douglas fir/larch piece also has some glorious medullary rays.
Here is a guitar top made from redwood that I purchased from Redwood Bears and Burls in Gasquet (Gas-key), California. You can also find their products on eBay, just look for "renobird". The "fan" braces are from the old piece of white fir and these braces are surprisingly stiff and light. When I was single and living in Northeastern California, I cut and splits cords of white fir for firewood, even then I thought that it would make good brace wood for guitars.
Today was also baking day! I started baking bread again, I forgot how much I enjoy it!
Forget focusing on fame and fortune. Or being a famous guitarist. Screw goals.
I always get excited when I hear an idea that sounds strange at first but then makes me think in a new way. I often I evaluate a project based on the possible opportunities/expectations ie. thinking of learning how to write mobile apps so I can possibly earn some income or help some group like the disabled. Another one is debating whether to write an ebook to help people with a particular problem and earn some income.
A possibly better way to think when evaluating what to do with your time is to focus on the skills you will acquire. These skills may provide some benefit in the future, especially if they are combined with other skills. Scott Adams mentions that he combined some average drawing ability with humor and his knowledge of the office environment.
Since some of you are likely guitarists you could focus on the skills you will acquire – songwriting, arranging, learning scales (that can be applied to many styles), being able to focus for long periods of time while practicing, and so on. Every day you can focus on whether you are developing skills instead of whether you will be famous or even earn a living at the craft. This is systems thinking versus goals.
Say you want to start a blog to share your knowledge but you are wondering if anyone will care, if you will make any money eventually and so on. You might benefit from thinking about what skills you will acquire instead such as clear and concise writing, learning how to install or update a blog (and related website tasks), doing ‘Deep Work‘ (less distracted), writing longer more well researched posts, etc. That way it’s always a win even if no one ever reads your blog. You’ve still developed very useful skills that can be re-used in the next venture.
Focusing on the day to day systems and skills you will develop instead of the end result is another way of saying to be in the present moment. A lot of our ‘future based’ thinking leads to stress and impatience as we are unhappy that we are not at our goal. I’ve seen a lot of guitarists, dieters, and entrepreneurs be constantly frustrated and even give up because they weren’t seeing results (their future goals) fast enough.
When I was doing IT contracts my skills with integration work, specifically using webMethods software, was in high demand. And the hourly rate reflected that (plus I always asked for a high rate). I specifically chose to learn skills rather than try to move up the ladder so to speak. I often made more money than the managers who were more generalist in nature (not to mention employees).
This change in thinking also changes the questions we ask ourselves. Instead of ‘Am I a famous guitarist?’, ‘Do I have a hit song?’, ‘Am I making lots of money?’, ‘Do I have abs?’, we can ask ourselves if we are doing the work each day – ‘Did I practice today?’, ‘Did I write today?’, ‘Did I improve a little today?’.
I hope this idea is interesting to you. What skills are you currently developing?
2017 marks the 100th Anniversary of Martin’s formal catalog introduction of ukuleles to the marketplace. Martin first prototyped ukuleles in 1906, Like Martin guitars, these had spruce tops and didn’t achieve the desired “plinky” tone. Following San Francisco's Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915, the popularity of the ukulele was on the rise and Martin gave it another try, this time shipping a batch of mahogany topped ukuleles that had the perfect tone. During 1916, Martin gradually developed Soprano Styles 1, 2, and 3 and by the time Martin's first ukulele catalog appeared in 1917, Frank Henry Martin boldly claimed that the Style 3 was “superior to original Hawaiian instruments in quality and volume of tone.” In the years that followed, Martin came to define and extend ukulele design by adding larger Concert, Tenor, Taropatch, Tiple, and Baritone configurations, many of which were offered with genuine Hawaiian koa tonewood.
"The Martin Ukulele Celebrates 100 Years" will be on display throughout 2017 in the Martin Guitar Museum. The exhibit traces the vibrant history and spirit of this exquisite little instrument, including a rare 1870 machete (a predecessor of the ukulele) made in Madeira and a 1910 Nunes ukulele made in Hawaii. Throughout the first three decades of the 20th Century, the popularity of the Hawaiian culture swept across America and with it there was an abundance of related Hawaiian cultural ephemera like the many hula statuettes and ukulele related souvenirs displayed, courtesy of the extensive collection of Tom and Nuni Walsh. Other significant instruments in the exhibit are Tin Tim's personal Martin ukulele, plus ukuleles owned by Vaudeville star Art Fowler and the legendary Roy Smeck.
Please join us in celebrating these joyous little cousins of the guitar!
Planning a visit to the Martin Guitar Factory? You can find information regarding visiting here. You can also learn more about our Buy From Factory Program where you can purchase a Martin guitar or ukulele during your visit here.
Martin Guitar has released three new ukuleles for 2017! You can explore the new arrivals here.
If you come across something that you think we would be interested in, please feel free to share it with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director: Museum, Archives, Special Projects
Look for highcountrylutherie on Instagram for daily updates on what I am working on in my shop, mostly guitars, though I may post about something else.
I would put a "link to button" for Instagram on this blog, but the directions I found this morning on Blogger Help didn't work, and the websites that were suggested for add-ons, well, their platforms were for everything else but Blogger. Sigh. I need to hire a web designer.
I have a Facebook page, too, Wilson Burnham Guitars, but that really isn't much different than Instagram or this blog.
You won't find me on Twitter, I can't limit myself to just 140 characters because in college I studied creative writing with Bill Kittredge, Sandra Alcosser, Paul Zarsyski, William Pitt Root and the late Patricia Goedicke.
Now, back to work!
Cold weather and snow delayed me in getting down the corrugate tin roofing on the new workshop. January 3rd proved to be a day of snow flurries and sunshine which at least allowed me to install the roofing. Then it snowed six inches.
The temperature fell to -5 degrees Fahrenheit and it kept snowing...
...until there was 22 inches of snow on the ground. And the temperature fell some more to register -14 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer.
Yesterday, the temps warmed up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind gusting up to 50 mph and we lost power for about two hours.
This morning we woke up to rain and warmer weather. I am very glad that I got the new workshop "dried in" before all this snow fell.
The high reached 40 degrees today with rain and snow flurries, there is a good six inches of slush underneath all the snow. No wind to speak of today, though some locales all the foothills had wind gusts up to 90mph, it was a very quiet day here.
The forecast doesn't call for sunny skies until Saturday, on that day we will drive nearly two hours out to Wiggins. Colorado to a butcher shop to pick up a quarter of beef that we bought from friends of ours who run Angus cattle near Sterling.
Maybe next week I can start putting up the siding on the new workshop.
I look forward to it.
Just when you thought it couldn't get better, we went ahead and introduced even more 2017 new Martin guitars, a 25th anniversary Backpacker, and more ukuleles!
- 00LX1AE - This Grand Concert, slope shoulder model is constructed with a Sitka spruce top and mahogany patterned high-pressure laminate back and sides, which offers a greater tolerance from fluctuating temperatures so you can take your guitar anywhere without worry. The high-performance tapered neck is constructed from a rust-colored birch laminate.
- DCRSG - The DCRSG is a cutaway Dreadnought built with a Sitka spruce top and mutenye back and sides. This guitar produces a beautiful even tone with good bass response and clear mids and trebles.
- GPCRSG - The GPCRSG is a cutaway Grand Performance model that is crafted with a Sitka spruce top and mutenye back and sides. This guitar produces a beautiful even tone with good bass response and clear mids and trebles.
- Backpacker 25th Anniversary -To celebrate this milestone, we are introducing the Backpacker 25th Anniversary, available only in 2017. Constructed from sapele top, back and sides, Richlite fingerboard and bridge, black Corian nut, black Tusq saddle, black enclosed gear tuning machines with black buttons and black bridge pins with white dots.
- Style 3 Centennial Uke - This soprano uke is limited to 100 instruments and is crafted from genuine mahogany for the top, back and sides. The mahogany headplate is inlaid with a grained ivoroid kite design found in the earliest Martin ukuleles.
- Style 1 Centennial Uke -This soprano uke is limited to only 100 instruments and is crafted with a mahogany top, back and sides. This uke features a black Tusq nut and saddle, nickel peg tuning machines with black buttons, morado fingerboard and bridge and soft padded gig bag.
- 0X Uke Bamboo Natural - This unique soprano ukulele is crafted from a bamboo patterned high-pressure laminate (HPL) for the top, back and sides. Also available in green, blue or red bamboo pattern HPL.
|Guild Electric Guitars|
|1976 Guild S100 Carved|
Guild acoustic guitars seemed to enjoy better name recognition than the companies electric brands. But in my opinion, Guild electric guitars were every bit as good and in some cases superior to the products being put out by their competition.
|Al Dronge on the right|
Dronge immigrated with his family to the United States in 1916 and grew up in Manhattan, near the Music Row district, around West 48th street.
He was an accomplished banjo player and guitarist. He eventually opened a music store in that part of town back in the mid-1930’s and successfully ran it until 1948. He then amassed a fortune by importing accordions and distributing them in the early 1950’s when the accordion was a very popular musical instrument.
|Al Dronge - George Mann|
Another friend of both men, Gene Detgen, suggested the name “Guild”. In 1952 the company was founded with Mann as president and Dronge as vice-president and former Epiphone employees were hired. A year after forming the company Mann departed leaving Al Dronge in charge.
|Guild Guitar Factory Manhattan|
|Carl Kress & George Barnes|
|'58 Johnny Smith Award|
In fact Johnny Smith worked with the factory to develop a signature guitar which became the Artist Award. Another jazz giant, George Barnes, helped develop another signature guitar. Both of these models were in high demand among studio performers. A signature hollow-body guitar designed for Duane Eddy became a rockabilly classic.
|1962 Guild X-175|
It was during this era that Guild created some of their classic electric models such as the X-175 and the M-75 Aristocrat.
|1957 M-75 Aristocrat|
|'58 Guild Aristocrat|
The pickups on this guitar looked like P-90 soap bar models, but were made by the Franz company of Astoria New York and were of a lower output.
|'70 Guld M-75|
By 1970 the designation changed to the M-75 and hardward was downgraded from gold-plated to chrome plated. The body on this guitar was solid beginning around 1971.
|Guild S-200 “Thunderbird”, S-100 “Polara”, S-50 “Jet Star”|
It was during the 1960’s that Guild produced their finest electric guitars.
These included the Thunderbird series, the S-100 Polara, and the Starfire series.
|Jerry Garcia with Guild Starfire IV|
|Zal Yanovsky with Guild S-200|
Guitarist Zal Yanovsky of The Lovin’ Spoonful and Bluesman Muddy Waters used Guild Thunderbird S-200 guitars.
|'63 S-200 Thunderbird|
This guitar was equipped with twin humbucking pickups, each with separate volume controls and tone controls. It also had a faceplate on the lower side of the upper bout that housed 3 slider switches in a similar manner to the Fender Jaguar.
The 2 lower switches were on/off controls for each pickup. The upper switch was an on/off mode switch. Housed between the switching faceplate and the volume potentiometers was another mode switch. Switched upward it effected only the neck pickup and downward effected both pickups. When the mode switch was on it activated capacitors that produced a single coil type of tone, while maintaining the humbucking capability of the pickups giving the guitar a sparkling clean sound.
The strings attached to a tremolo unit that was made by the Hagstrom Guitar company. The guitars neck was bound and had mother-of-pearl block inlays. The headstock was made with a very unique carve on it's top and the Guild logo was inlaid above a "thunderbird" inlay.
|S-200 Built-in stand|
Due to the inward carve on the bottom of this guitar, some ingenious designer at Guild decided the finishing touch would be to add a metal bar to the back of the guitar that acted like a built-in guitar stand.
|S-100 and S-200|
The S-200 Thunderbird guitar was also produced with twin single coil pickups. The S-100 was another guitar in the series that had less switching features and a less fancy headstock but retained the built-in guitar stand.
In 1966, the Guild Musical Instruments Corporation, as it was now known, was bought out by electronics giant Avnet Inc. This was right at the end of the guitar boom, but corporations were still hoping to profit from the popularity of the guitar.
|Guild's Westerly, Rhode Island factory|
Sadly he was piloting a small aircraft and commuting to Westerly when his plane crashed in May of 1972. He was a popular and respected man and his employees, and the industry felt his loss.
|'79 Guild D-40C|
In 1972, under Guild's new president Leon Tell, noteworthy guitarist/designer Richard "Rick" Excellente conceptualized and initiated the first dreadnought guitar with a "cut-away" with the Guild D40-C. By the 1970’s and 80’s, the Folk Era, and the Guitar Boom were history.
|'84 X-79, '87 Detonator, '88 Liberator|
These guitars were the first Guild instruments to bear slim pointed headstocks.
|Guitars drying at Westerly plant|
But Fender had plans to move production to their facility in Corona, California.
The last job the good folks in Westerly did for Guild was to put together archtop and acoustic guitar “kits” that were to be shipped to California where they would be finished and assembled. Although Corona does have a wonderful plant, production of Guild guitars was not to be continued there. Later on there were rumors that FMIC may move production back to Westerly, but nothing ever happened.
|The Tacoma Guitar Factory|
Sadly Tacoma Guitars, which were unique and excellent instruments, were never built again. Guild guitars were built in Tacoma for only a few years.
|Kaman Music Corp, New Hartford|
By then FMIC was also outsourcing production. To be fair, as far back as when Guild was in Westerly, Rhode Island, the company had outsourced some of its products, but not under the Guild brand name.
|1979 Madeira Guitar Ad|
In the early 1970’s Guild was importing Madeira acoustic and electric guitars from Japan. Later on these were made in Korea. The pickguard shapes and headstock shapes on these instruments are different than USA made Guild guitars.
|DeArmond Rhythm Chief pickup|
In the late 1990’s Fender made some reissues of Guild electric guitars that were manufactured in Korea and in Indonesia and marketed under the brandname DeArmond. These guitars and basses were variations on the Gulld Starfire, the X-155, the T400, the M-75 Bluesbird, and the pilot series bass. The headstock bore the DeArmond logo and some included a modified version of Guild’s Chesterfield inlay. Some even had the word Guild etched into the truss rod cover.
|DeArmond Starfire IV|
The best models came from Korea, while the less fancy guitars and bass examples were made in Indonesia. The DeArmond brand was first offered in Europe and then in the United States and was discontinued in the early 2000’s.
|New Hartford F-412|
|Guild F-30 GSR|
These models featured unique takes on classic Guild Traditional Series models.
|2012 Starfire VI|
In the summer of 2014 Fender sold off the Guild brand to Cordoba guitars. Most Ovation production had already been moved to Asia and the Kaman Corporation was entirely out of the music manufacturing business.
|Oxnard, CA Guild plant|
|Guild GAD series|
In 2015 the GAD (Guild Acoustic Design Series) was replaced by the Westerly Collection, which included the models such as the T-50 Slim, the Starfire IV, and the Chris Hillman Bass.
Later that year the first M-20 and D-20 guitars were built in the Oxnard factory and in the spring of 2016 shipped to the Chicago Music Exchange.
|A Few New Guild Electric Guitar Models|
This reminded me of something that I think is sorely lacking in most music these days: humor. We certainly live in serious times, OK, I get that, but don’t we all need a laugh now and then? One of the best qualities I find in performers, whether in music or the other arts is self-deprecating humor. Take someone like the actor George Clooney. Sure, he’s made plenty of serious movies but don’t you get the feeling he truly loves those somewhat dim and goofy roles in the Coen brother’s movies like the wonderful “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” and more recently, “Hail, Caesar!”? Clooney could easily bank on his talent and looks in serious roles but the bottom line is that, because of his perceived view of himself, you always just KNOW that he is absolutely loving his work, regardless of the role.
In music it seems to me that the humor gene has skipped the latest generation of singer/songwriters and acoustic music based musicians. Sure there are a few notable exceptions like Dan Tyminski of Union Station (see them in concert to confirm this!) and some modern country tunes have humorous elements.
What I’m talking about is as much about the overall performance as the tunes themselves. Some of the older singer songwriters who cut their musical teeth in small venues where they had to demonstrate some personality along with their music chops understand this. Tom Rush is one example. No one would accuse Tom of being a great guitarist or much beyond an adequate singer but he is positively hilarious in his between tunes banter. John Prine, who wrote one of the funniest songs I know, “Please Don’t Bury Me”, and Lyle Lovett both demonstrate wry humor all the time when they perform. Even James Taylor, who is generally perceived as being the grand daddy of “serious” acoustic singer-songwriterdom has taken in recent years to showing lots of self-deprecating humor, including a hilarious send-up of “Fire & Rain” on a late night TV show. Jimmy Buffet, God bless him, has always incorporated humor into his writing and shows but hey, when most of your fan base shows up in parrot or shark fin hats you’d best keep things light weight, or lit up, as the case may be.
Not all of the oldsters embrace humor of course. It’s hard for me to imagine Dylan ever changing the lyrics of “Like A Rolling Stone” to something like “Like My Rolling Bones” (which might be a good idea judging by his recent tours and albums).
I guess what I’d really like to see is a trend toward doing shows as a more involving experience for both the performer and the audience. This is tough for many musicians even with the most supportive audiences. Some are just plain shy and uncomfortable with the idea of talking and feel no obligation to reveal anything more of themselves than what can be gleaned from their songs. The danger in this, which many young singer songwriters don’t understand is that they are setting themselves up for a fall. They are asking their audience to pay rapt attention to the music and “get it.” Some may, some will, some will not. Do they care? Maybe not. But they should. Otherwise, why be out there at all?
So here’s a radical and somewhat corny thought, youngsters. Learn a couple…… jokes! Yes, you could fall flat on your face and as a sports figure said recently, “Hater’s gonna hate.” But you will gain some credibility with those who want to know YOU, along with your music. And showing a sense of humor is always the best way to gain friends and influence people.
So in the interests of starting you on your journey to hilarity, I offer this pretty bad joke. Do with it what you will.
A guy walks into a bar with a set of jumper cables around his neck and sits down.
The bartender says, “OK, you can stay, just don’t start anything!”
Peace & good music,
I’m going to relate some of my own experiences, good and bad, and some things that have worked for me. I will be taking at least two trips in the next few months with guitars and it’s likely I will try carry-on with one and checking a guitar on the other.
There has been much written about the recent federal law that requires airlines to allow musicians to carry their instruments on board. Where it still gets iffy is the somewhat vague language of the law that states “…as space is available.” So it really comes down to the discretion of the gate keepers. Sometimes if you are checking baggage and the counter agent sees a guitar they will tell you that you must check it. Rather than get into a debate about the new law, just say you are going to “gate check” your guitar (whether you intend to carry it on or not).
I have seen many, many people in the last few years board planes with guitars with no issues at all. On a recent flight I even saw a guy carry on TWO electrics – they appeared to be well-traveled by the beat up condition of the cases – but they were both solid bodies so they were relatively thin even in their cases; perhaps that’s why he got away with it. Also, he was smart (experienced!) enough to know that paying for early boarding ensured he would get overhead space.
The take-away here is two-fold. First, don’t draw attention to yourself. Leave the big jumbo guitar in a big hard shell case home; buy a travel guitar and use a padded gig bag (more on this below). At the very least your big dreadnought will draw glares from stressed out fellow passengers as you are waiting to board. At worst, you will be denied permission to board with it (due to those vague and arbitrary space limitations, in the opinion of the gate attendants) and be forced at the last possible minute to gate check. This could easily result in your guitar being left behind for the next flight. That might not happen of course, but sitting on a plane for a few hours wondering if your guitar is riding along does not make for a comfortable flight!
I’ve flown with a parlor-size guitar in a gig bag – no problem with carry on – and tried one the collapsing TravelAire guitars a few years ago, but even collapsed in its padded bag it was too large for the overhead bin on a smaller connecting flight. A nice flight attendant allowed me to put it under my feet on the short flight but she was breaking the rules to do this. Plus it sounded pretty bad, so away that one went.
Last year I bought a Hiscox hard case for my expensive Taylor (GA size) and took the big chance of checking the guitar through from Boston to Key West. I had confidence in that case, which was designed for rough handling by baggage handlers. I was more worried about it not getting into the cargo hold on my planes but thankfully there were no problems. Hiscox cases are very pricey but I viewed it as a lifetime investment. I will be using it again on my longer trip to Florida Keys in April. But some trepidation will remain I’m sure!
Another thing I am going to try this year is using one of the TrackR devices to hopefully keep track of just where my guitar is at all times. I’m not sure if they work while INSIDE a case, more research needed on that, but if something bad happens in terms of loss or (God forbid, theft) I will have some way to track where it is. I may have to figure out a way to attach it to the outside of the case. I will post the results of this after that trip.
Yeah, this is all well and good, Gene, you may be saying. But I can’t afford another guitar just for travel. Fair enough, I get that. If you absolutely can’t bear to be away from playing for the duration of your journey, some guitar stores will rent you an instrument. Of course you have to take what you can get, which may or may not be decent. And if you’re staying somewhere for a couple weeks the cost of the rental may bump into the cost of a decent parlor size acoustic, such as the lower end models from Alvarez, Yamaha, Washburn and others. You can find those on line from the big retailers in the $200 - $300 range, but then of course you will have to buy a good padded gig bag, which may drive the price up another $60 or more. Plus, in my admittedly limited experience with low-end small guitars, the sound and/or playability may be mediocre at best.
So here’s my recommendation. Right now I strongly believe the two best options in “travel” guitars are the Taylor GS Mini and the Martin Dreadnought Jr. Both are smaller than their larger cousins with the same body shape. I’ve owned a couple of both models and both were astoundingly good sounding and easy playing instruments. The Taylor comes in a couple wood options and is sold with a very high quality padded gig bag. Both the GS Mini and the Dreadnought Jr are available with or without a built-in pick-up. I like to have electronics available, if only because I may end up sitting in with a band somewhere and will need to plug in. Your call on that option, which drives up the price of both models about 15% or so compared to the acoustic versions.
But for my money, the Martin is the hands down winner. It is constructed of solid top, back and sides, which makes for better sound than the Taylor, which has laminate sides and back (but a solid top). I also prefer the 1 ¾” nut width on the Martin vs. 1 11/16” on the Taylor. The bag that comes with the Martin is not as good quality as the Taylor bag but it will suffice in most circumstances. I will be bringing mine along for a trip to the Keys in the near future – and will carry it on board. I hope (!!).
The Martin retails for a bit more than the Taylor but the superior sound justifies that, for me anyway. Plus, judging by the classified ads on various guitar forums the Dreadnought Jr is seeming to maintain more of its resale value than the GS Mini. This may or may not be a factor in your buying choice.
You can certainly find more expensive options in travel guitars. More and more people are becoming enamored with the latest generation of carbon fiber travel guitars but in all cases they are much more expensive than the two I mentioned above. The relative merits of carbon fiber guitars are a whole separate discussion that I won’t go into now.
In my next post I’ll comment on shipping a guitar to your destination. This is a viable alternative for many people but that too requires some planning.
So if you are planning a trip and want to be able to play while you’re at your destination I urge you to do your homework on everything this entails. Is it worth it? Well, I can tell you that one of my fondest memories will always be sitting under a palm tree with an adult beverage close at hand, while gazing out over Little Torch Key as the sun was setting, playing Jobim bossa nova tunes. So yes, it is worth it.
Peace & good music,
This week Martin Guitar announced even more 2017 models! These new models include:
- Dwight Yoakam DD28 Signature Edition - The Dwight Yoakam DD28 is inspired from a 1972 D-28, the guitar Dwight has played his whole career. Crafted from Sitka spruce top and East Indian rosewood back and sides, this model honors the classic booming sound of the Dreadnought. An ebony fingerboard is the backdrop for the inlaid mother-of-pearl and recon stone playing cards. The other truly unique feature of this instrument is the bull’s horn shaped pickguard.
- D-28 John Prine - This beautiful model is limited to only 70 instruments. The D-28 John Prine is crafted with an Engelmann spruce top and gorgeous Madagascar rosewood back and sides. The Madagascar rosewood headplate is inlaid with pearl angel wings, a nod to Prine’s masterpiece and most commonly covered song “Angel from Montgomery”. The top bears an antique toner finish for a warm, aged appearance.
- CS-CFMartinOutlaw-17- A limited edition Dreadnought that breaks the rules, this model is crafted with traditional, Authentic Series features such as hide glue construction combined with modern features, such as a modified low oval neck with a high performance taper and modern belly bridge and drop-in saddle.
- 000-30 Authentic 1919 - Remaining true to its origins, the 000-30 Authentic 1919 is meticulously crafted with hide glue construction, dovetail neck joint, solid Adirondack spruce top with Vintage Tone System, solid Madagascar rosewood back and sides with a Vintage Gloss finish, a grained ivoroid bound, black ebony fingerboard inlaid with abalone 1919 snowflakes and a black ebony bridge.
- CEO 8.2 - This beautiful FSC® Certified Grand Jumbo 14-fret acoustic guitar is crafted with a European spruce top with Vintage Tone System and a Bourbon Sunset Burst finish, paired with genuine mahogany back and sides. Other features include a Martin archtop headstock shape, grained ivoroid binding and heelcap, bone nut and saddle, liquid metal bridgepins on an ebony bridge and an ebony fingerboard with a gorgeous mother-of-pearl skeleton diamond pattern inlay.
- CEO 8.2E - A beautiful FSC® Certified Grand Jumbo 14-fret acoustic-electric guitar that is crafted with a European spruce top with Vintage Tone System and a Bourbon Sunset Burst finish, paired with genuine mahogany back and sides. Other features include an archtop headstock shape, grained ivoroid binding and heelcap, bone nut and saddle, liquid metal bridgepins on an ebony bridge and an ebony fingerboard with a gorgeous mother-of-pearl skeleton diamond pattern inlay. This model is equipped with new Fishman® Blackstack™ electronics, a soundhole mounted, magnetic, battery-free, passive pick-up that is specifically designed to work with acoustic guitar strings.
Bertrand Russell, in The Scientific Outlook, 1931
When I first started making guitars, Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology, by Cumpiano and Natelson, was my best guide. One problem I ran into with this book is that the authors recommend using a machinist's ruler graduated in tenths of an inch to use in making a guitar. At the time, I had a hard time finding an affordable machinist's ruler that was longer than 24 inches, I ended up buying a double sided ruler, both imperial and metric, from Bridge City Tools. As I did more research into classical guitar construction I discovered most of the books available worked with the metric system and used it to take measurements of historic guitars. I never really gave much thought to either system, both accomplish the same task, namely measurement.
Recently, I re-read an article on the restoration of an 1863 Antonio de Torres guitar by the luthier R.E. Brune. (Click here to read the article). In the article, after describing the guitar, Mr. Brune states "Aside from the lack of fan struts, there are several other notable features. The first is its adherence to English measurements based on the inch."
Wow, a Spanish carpenter using the English Imperial system of measurement! Torres worked as a guitar maker from about 1845 to his death in 1892.
Of course, Mr. Brune doesn't address why Antonio de Torres used the English system.
My first question was, why didn't Torres use the Spanish unit of measurement, that of the vara, pulgado and pie? These units of measurement are descendants of the Roman foot, very ancient, well used and loved by the Spanish. Yes, I know that the length of the vara was different in each Spanish town and province, but why would a man who apprenticed as a carpenter in his hometown take up a unit of measurement used by the English?
The second question I asked was, maybe Torres did use the vara to layout his guitar plans and nobody used a vara to measure his guitars.
I made a ruler based upon the Spanish vara to test this theory very unscientifically.
As I understand it, the vara was/is equivalent to our "yard". Juan Villasana Haggard, who wrote Handbook For Translators of Spanish Historical Documents, states that the official historical vara was 32.91 inches; a codo equals one half a vara, 16.5 inches; a pulgada, consisting of 12 lineas, equals 0.914 inches; a linea equals 1/432 of a vara, or 0.0769 inches; a dedo equals 1/48 of a vara, 0.6949 inches; there is more, but I think you get the idea. Another source states "(t)he standard vara was the vara of Castile, (about 0.8359 meter, subdivided into 3 pies or 4 palmos)". A palmos is 8.23 inches, a pie is 10.97 inches.
I ripped and planed down a piece of maple, I sharpened the points on my old Lodi brand dividers, set to them to that space between 29/32 and 59/64 and went on a wild ride for 26 pulgadas.
When I placed the new ruler next to my trusty old Bridge City ruler, imperial side, I saw no marks really lined up, no pattern emerged.
One half of the 25.625 inch scale length is 12.812 inches, and as you can see, the new ruler really doesn't line up with 12 and 13/16 inches.
I flipped the Bridge City ruler over to the metric side and again, no alignment or pattern either. Half of 65cm is 32.5cm.
Yes, I probably should have spent more time dividing the pulgadas into 6ths, 7ths, 8ths, 10ths, 12ths, 16ths, etc., but I need to buy better dividers and I am not sure I need to explore this side street further at this time.
Third question: was there a connection between the violin and guitar makers of Seville, Spain and those of England?
Last night, while surfing the Internet for "English unit of measurement and Spanish guitars", I stumbled onto a thread that was up on a well known classical guitar forum. I won't mention the forum's name, I find forums a waste of time, mostly because of the dilettantism you find in forums, but, I will say I think I actually found the start of answer to my first and third questions.
A well known guitar maker mentioned that he had done some research on Spanish carpenters and guitar makers and learned that most of these men tried to purchase English made tools and rulers. Why English tools? They were the best tools available. The only problem with this maker's thread post is he does not cite his reference for this claim.
This maker also states that he has examined guitars made by the great Jose Ramirez III in the 1960's that layout perfectly to the English inch. That statement correlates with a statement made by the late Eugene Clark, a wonderful guitar maker, who said that nearly all of the guitars made by the great Spanish makers that he had repaired, laid out to the English inch.
What a thought, Spanish guitar makers used the English inch into the 1970's! And Spain officially adopted the metric system over one hundred years earlier!
Here are some photos of a plan of a 1963 Hernandez y Aguado classical guitar from Roy Courtnall's collection purchased from LMI. All measurements on the plan are metric, but notice that the drawing lines up well with the English inch.
Overall length of box, 19 1/4 inches.
With of lower bout, 14 3/4 inches.
Where to from here?
I will look at the bibliography in Tools: Working Wood in 18th Century America, by Gaynor and Hagedorn, and The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton, by TATHS for paths to research British tool and ruler exports to Spain. At some point, I hope I can find books on the history of woodworking and carpentry in Spain. I also need to email that guitar maker about his references for Spanish carpenters and their English tools. If anyone has any suggestions for research possibilities, please let me know!
Happy 2017 everyone!
To kick off the new year I’ll be releasing a new Duane Allman course where you will learn a solo in the style of Stormy Monday and some other Duane Allman goodies. Live at the Fillmore East has always been one of my favorite albums and teaching a solo in this style is a great way to start off 2017 I believe.
Tentative Lesson Index
Tone for Solo
Tone for Rhythm
Duane Allman Mannerisms
Stormy Monday Style Rhythm Guitar
Stormy Monday Style Solo
This course will be available for download and in the All Access Pass approximately Jan 12th.
Win a FREE Copy Plus One Month of All Access
To qualify, post a comment below stating your Favorite Duane Allman Solo. Three winners will be randomly selected on the day of release.
|King of the Surf Guitar|
I am of an age where I can recall Surf Guitar being played on the radio. I am not certain how players learn songs anymore, but I grew up listening to The Ventures, The Surfaris and Dick Dale. I learned to play guitar by listening to those songs over and over until I could duplicate them.
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones|
|Misilou 45 RPM|
|The Fender Discussion Page|
In the late 1990’s, when I first got on the internet I used to visit The Fender Forum aka The Fender Discussion Page. Early on this site was not just a discussion page for fans of Fender guitars, but also received visits and comments from Fender employees, including Bill Schultz, the CEO at the time.
|Fender Facts Newsletter|
Fender had a newsletter back then and one issue featured an interview with Dick Dale. We thought it humorous that Dick Dale spoke in the third person throughout the interview and we poked fun of that.
|Dick Dale with his cats|
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones|
Indeed there are a number of Fender innovations that although Dale did not create, he was the impetus and drive behind them. For instance, most amplifiers in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were putting out 12 to 15 watts. There were a handful, including the Fender Bassman that pumped out 40 watts RMS.
|With the Del-Tones|
When Dick Dale first started playing music, he says he was in a 17 piece band, with horns and a drummer. He was playing Big Band Music and the guitar could not be heard.
|Town Hall Party cast in the 1950's|
Later he attempted to be a Country singer for a while and even got a gig on a popular west coast TV show called Town Hall Party where he played with a number of famous Country Music stars.
Then Rock and Roll came along and the band became a combo, but the still the guitar was pretty much a background rhythm instrument.
When guitar based Surf Music hit the scene around 1962 he needed to do something. Leo Fender was a generous man and provided amplifiers and guitars to California musicians as a form of not just advertising but to see what worked well and what needed improvement.
|Leo Fender in the 1950's|
Here was a guy playing his guitar upside-down and backwards, meaning the 6th string was on the top and the 1st string was on the bottom. So Leo Fender made a left-handed Stratocaster for him.
|Late 1950's Fender Pro - 18 to 25 watts|
|Dale's Original Showman Prototype|
|Vintage 15" JBL Lansing D130F|
|15" JBL Lansing D130F speakers|
|Early 1960's Fender Dual Showman|
The speakers were housed in a separate cabinet than the amplifier. This cabinet had what Fender called a "tone ring" that encircled the edge of the speaker and let more of the natural bass sounds come through.
The output transformer that Mr. Fender created emphasized the lows, mids and high sounds, something that had not been accomplished until then. The 100 watt amp and the cabinet were dubbed The Showman Amp.
The next step that Dale suggested was to place two of these speakers in a cabinet. The Showman Amp was born. When twin 8 ohm 15” JBL Lansing speakers were added to the cabinet to run in series it came to be known as The Dual Showman. Leo Fender had to upgrade the transformer to accommodate the 4 ohm load.
The version that Dick Dale uses is the one with cream coloured Tolex. Later the amp was rated at 100 watts and peaked at 180 watts. When the black Tolex models came out they were once again rated at 85 watts.
Dick Dale never set the amplifier on top of the speaker cabinet, since his intense style of playing guitar causes too much vibration in the speakers which can affect the tubes in the amplifier.
|Fender Reverb Unit & Controls|
By 1961, only a handful of amplifier manufacturers had installed reverberation units in combo amps, most notably Ampeg, with their Reverb Rocket. Though none of these amplifiers had been rated at 100 watts up until now.
Dick Dale state he took apart his Hammond organ and discovered the reverb unit had 9 springs, which the signal traveled through. He took this to Leo, who made a chassis with a small amplifier that contained a 6K6 power tube, a 7025 and a 12AX7, which are both preamp tubes. Dale plugged a mic into this and loved the sound.
|Inside the Reverb Unit|
Getting back to the Dick Dale guitar. Even early photos show that Dale stripped that guitar down to the bare essentials. He took out all the parts that he did not need on that guitar.
|Dick Dale with his original Fender Stratocaster|
|Dick Dale Stratocaster|
One would think that a Surf player would utilize the vibrato, but not Dick Dale. Though his guitar still has 5 springs on the back side holding the vibrato block (5 springs were standard on original Stratocasters) there is a wooden block wedged between the block and the guitars routed area to keep the block from moving.
Dick Dale’s Fender Stratocaster is a mid 1950’s model, which is odd as it has a rosewood slab fretboard. The body is finished in sparkle gold paint
|Dick Dale's Stratocaster|
|Late 1960's Fender Rhodes electric piano|
Around 1959 Leo Fender was interesting in adding a piano to his company’s inventory. He struck a deal with Harold Rhodes, who was a musician and inventor.
Rhodes had come up with a piano-type instrument that employed tuned metal bars called tines being struck by a hammer instead the usual piano action of a hammer striking of strings. The sound was then amplified. This instrument eventually came to be known as the Fender Rhodes piano.
By now Leo Fender considered Dick Dale to be not just a guitarist, but the ultimate test machine. If he could give Dale a piece of equipment and let him use it in concerts, then Fender could see if it was worthy. Apparently, the Fender Rhodes Piano passed the test and though it never became a substitute for an acoustic piano, it became a studio and concert mainstay.
|Fender Contempo Organ|
A company called Pratt Read, was manufacturing parts for the Fender Rhodes piano and was asked by Fender if they could put together a combo organ.
|Dick Dale's Prototype Contempo organ|
The Fender Contempo was one of the sturdier of the portable organs of that era. This was another product that Fender gave to Dick Dale to test for road-worthiness.
|Dick Dale Acoustic|
|Jimmy Dale Acoustic|
Since Dick's son, Jimmy, often travels with him and is a part of his act playing guitar and drums, Fender also built a Jimmy Dale Kingman SCE model. This guitar is a full sized with an all mahogany body. The set-in maple Stratocaster-style neck without the reverse headstock. Both guitars are no longer offered.
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones from Beach Party|
|Dick Dale in the movie Muscle Beach|
This is the guitar that he is still using today.
|Dick Dale in recent years|
|Dick Dale at 78 - same equipment|
Like I said before, I really admire Dick Dale. Dick is a viable part of the history of the electric guitar and all the equipment that changed the face of rock music and he deserves recognition.
Click on the links beneath the pictures to see the source and click on the links in the text for more information.
Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1952
I like to split guitar bracing material from billets of spruce or Douglas fir, usually I use a 2 inch wide registered mortice chisel for the task, but the chisel doesn't work as well as a froe.
During this past summer and fall I bugged a friend of mine to weld a piece of steel pipe to an old file I have to make a small froe for the shop.
Either he was too busy or I was, the froe never got made.
Then, lo and behold, there on the Tools For Woodworking website were three different sized froes made by Ray Iles! I emailed the web address to my wife and told her which froe to order for me, I was so very excited!
On Christmas morning I unwrapped a wonderful present, a six inch Ray Iles froe.
It's a nice froe, very much the length I need...
and today I cut up a length of a hickory pick axe handle, chucked it into the lathe and made a new handle for the froe.
Why should I do that when the Iles froe comes with a very nice beech handle?
It is my tool and I want a different shaped handle and the handle will do quite well for now.
Froes are tools that are very near and dear to my heart. When I was a kid, I helped my parents rive shingles to replace the worn ones on my grandparents' house in the Sierra Nevada of northern California. Shingle making had been a cottage industry for many folks that lived in the great forests of Northern California from the 1850's until the end of World War II. My great uncle, Frank, told me that my grandfather, Rufus, could rive one thousand shakes a day, if he didn't have to stack them. During the Great Depression, my grandfather often sold the shakes for a penny a piece.
In the above photos are two froes and a shingle bolt marking gauge made by my grandfather.
The froe on the right is a "checking" froe; you would mark the top of the bolt with the checking froe to see how many shakes you could rive from the bolt.
The riving froe, on the left, is what you use to do the actual splitting and riving. Notice how the end of the riving froe is upturned on the very end, I was told this little bend made it easier to get the froe out of the bolt. If I had made my own froe this fall, it would have looked just like this one, only smaller.
Notice that the handle on the riving froe has a curve to it, this curve help saves the knuckles of the hand that is hold the froe from getting hit by your froe mallet. California Live oak limbs were harvested for froe handles, they were placed into forms while green to set the curve and were sold once dry. Some where I read that live oak handle sold for as much as 10 cents an inch in 1900.
If you want to see how I make a traditional froe mallet, traditional to northeastern California, click here.
This historic photo comes from the CSU Chico Digital Collections, click here to see the original photo. These men were working near the Clipper Mills area of Butte County, California. Both men are using froes with French eyes, the gentleman to the left is riving out bolts, the gent on the right is splitting shakes and take a look at the brake he is using. When I was a kid, a similar, but not as fancy, brake that was used by my grandfather was out behind the wood shed.
The stacks behind the men are shake bolts, usually six inches wide by thirty six inches long. One implement I don't see in this photo is the baler, a device to squeeze the shakes down so you could wrap them with wire. If I remember correctly, it was 100 shakes to a bundle.
Here's a photo of me, from about five years ago, using my grandfather's froe splitting a cheek for a lathe poppet.
As for the Ray Iles froe, it is well made and I look forward to using it, a nice tool to honor a bit of my heritage. All I need to do now is to figure out some sort of board brake to use at the workbench when I split out guitar braces.