|I have arrived at my current state from two directions; as a listener/player
and as a craftsman.
I remember as an early teenager being surprised by the sound of
a classical guitar playing music that caught me completely off guard.
I actually stopped and listened transfixed (for a teenager, that's
something!) And I remember this moment 40 years later as clearly
as if it were yesterday. The music was the Recuerdos and the guitarist
was Segovia. To this day, it still remains my favorite music in
spite of the fact that it has been recorded by every man woman and
child with a guitar since. Years later with a young family I managed
to acquire my first guitar, a Goya and heading bravely into the
sixties, confronting the Kingston Trio and folk music head on. During
the 70's and 80's I was struck by a Bluegrass disease and didn't
recover until the late 80's when I rediscovered the classical guitar.
I now am in a recovery program with the Colorado Springs Guitar
Society where I am responsible for the concert program. I take lessons
from Dale Miller, a concert and recording artist and grapple with
theory and improving my sight reading skills. My eventual goal is?you
guessed it, to play a presentable version of the Recuerdos. I promise
that I will never record it. My biggest accomplishment as a player
was when I played at my daughter's wedding . She was just as terrified
as I was!
My playing skills will be always be quite modest, but I find that
it helps me to communicate better with my clients as well making
me more sensitive to set-up and developing the sound in my guitars.
I have also discovered while supporting the guitar playing community
that my ear and critical judgments are challenged and improved by
the dozens of different guitar types coming through my shop for
repair and set-up.
My father and his brothers, who believed that if you took a fancy
to a car, house or airplane, that you built it yourself by hand,
imprinted me early in my youth. For them, being raised in the Depression
and war years, this was an entirely natural behavior. As a result,
through much of my life, I have been designing and building one
thing or another and thus learned applied engineering in an immediate
and practical way. During the 80's these activities took me into
the world of Sailplanes and composite construction and I incorporated
some of these disciplines into my guitar designs. Due to a decided
lack of judgment, I have remodeled several homes culminating in
the ultimate sickness, the restoration of an 1895 Victorian house
here in Colorado Springs where we raised our family. For five years,
I spent all evening, weekends and vacations dedicated to acquiring
all manner of skills including plastering curved hallways and cabinet
Professionally, I was involved in Operations Management for a national
printing company and at various times in my career, I held also
held positions in engineering and research and development. Eventually,
I came to the conclusion that the corporate world was not contributing
to my long-term health. I needed to find activity that would be
satisfy me creatively and allow me to work at making things with
my hands - something that I could do the rest of my life and that
would contribute to culture in some way. While I have always held
an interest in art having exhibited and sold modest works in watercolor,
I didn't believe that I had any original ideas not already being
presented by others.
My youngest son, Corey, lives in Sacramento and he had always tinkered
around with guitar making starting with electrics and straying into
archtop guitars and lately classicals. So with my son as my mentor,
I began to develop ideas about becoming a Luthier. It was natural
for me to consider the classical guitar. I soon learned there was
a long tradition honoring the Spanish guitar as well as several
makers who were pioneering new ideas. It seemed also that unlike
other acoustic guitar worlds, the classical guitar and it's music
was healthy and growing at the grassroots level.
So I began to study instrument design and found several structural
ideas that I thought I could bring to the craft from other fields.
In addition, there were expert commentators in the classical guitar
world suggesting some acoustic shortcomings of the guitar, and I
wondered about solving them. After playing as many fine concert
guitars as I could, it seemed there were opportunities for expanding
the quality of sound and I began to build.
Structurally, there are certain unique problems to building the
classical guitar, but there are many resources, materials and tools
available, many I already had in my shop. I needed to produce a
number of guitars to develop the methods, to be sure, but it seemed
to be a matter of simply paying my dues at the workbench.
Acoustically, there exists a lot of scientific and anecdotal data
relative to guitar making most of which was non-conclusive and contradictory.
It turns out that the guitar has too many variables to be modeled
by science based predictive programs and that the best guitars are
made by Luthiers using intuitive, traditional methods. Of course,
I know the previous two sentences are simplifications but coming
out of several years of intensive research, I'll stick by my opinions.
In essence, the fine guitar is a product of the vision and experience
of Luthiers and players. Additionally, A great guitar must be made
of great materials, and so I began to acquire the highest quality
of seasoned woods.
My mission began to take shape. I thought that the level of craftsmanship
among luthiers was very high and that while I could achieve that
level, one couldn't excel enough to stand out. I decided that the
use of beautiful woods and shapes would be my path to competing
in the craft. Acoustically, I concluded that the guitar needed to
be louder for reasons of interpretation. The ability to play louder
or softer wasn't part of the guitarist's technique. Part of the
power recipe was sustain, enough to allow the artist to bring in
vibrato slowly and effectively and enough to make important notes厀ell,
important. I also observed that many guitarists played in very hostile
environments along their way to fame and fortune and a powerful
guitar would be quite the ally. The biggest problem was to make
a guitar louder without losing sonority.
The typical classical guitar seems to lose strength and clarity
of tone above the seventh fret on the treble side and I set about
to find design techniques that could improve treble sustain and
character. What I hear from players so far seems to suggest that
my guitars have a lot of power and there is a brilliance and clarity
that project very well in this register particularly in the Double
Top. There are many good luthiers who are advancing the state of
the classical guitar and it is invigorating to be playing a part
in such dynamic work.
I enjoy being a Luthier and I feel good about the development progress
in my work so far. While there is much work to be done and when
I sit down to play the classical guitar I realize that thanks to
Luthiery, I never will have a decent set of nails.