Have You Played a Lowden?

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What a bonus for Arizona. George Lowden came to visit our Grand Canyon. Of course, while he was here he stopped in to see Jeff Looker at Acoustic Vibes Music in Tempe. He shared his thoughts on guitar making, his early years and some of what makes his guitars unique. Here a short sample from his two-hour talk.


Acoustic Vibes thumbnail
What a pleasure it was to see him again. The first time I had the good fortune to meet George, was when we worked for Lowden Guitars during NAMM 2015 in Anaheim, CA. We produced a few “Daily Recap” videos that Lowden Guitars posted to their social media during the show. Below are the links. To experience the sound of so many Lowden models played by such great musicians was an incredible joy. Finding all the most desirable features in each instrument — unique voice, beautiful wood, attention to detail, commitment to quality, craftsmanship — made a lasting impression. This was also my first time attending NAMM and it is no exaggeration to say that I was blown away by the whole experience. Blown away.

NAMM day 1

 

On Day 1, we met George and some of his family. Then we recorded with some pretty fantastic artists, Thomas Leeb, Alex De Grassi and Stephen Inglis, at the Lowden booth.

 

NAMM day 2

 

Day 2: Next, some Lowden dealers had a little fun with the origins of the ‘Wee Lowden’ and we listened to the Global Guitar Greats, with Shawn Jones.

 

Finally on Day 3, we interviewed Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol fame …

NAMM day 3

I think Gary Lightbody might be onto something. Of all the guitars I’ve had the pleasure to try, Lowdens are to my ears, the very best … so far. My search continues …

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What about a 4-string?

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I bought a ukulele.

How did that happen? Since I’ve been away for a while, I’ll rewind a bit and start from the beginning …

One day the phone rang. It was a long time client calling me to schedule a job. He said the job was in Honolulu, Hawaii. Would I mind traveling? Would I mind?

When I travel, it’s my habit to seek out guitar shops along the way. Of course, when traveling to Hawaii, that translates to ‘look for ukuleles’ along the way. Aloha!

Practically on the sand of Waikiki Beach, I stumbled on Ukulele PUAPUA, a fine shop.

Ukelele Lesson sign

Did I mention that the sign out front says Free Ukulele Lessons every day?!

 

 

 

There was only one thing to do. This is what I found when I dropped in …

Ukelele PuaPua ext PLAY

I admit, I did not know that there are solid body electric ukes, or electric bass ukes, or resonator ukuleles …

Eleuke & Ami Ami solid body electric UkesAmi Ami Resonator & Kala electric bassU

or travel ukes, 8-string ukes, or that ukes had cutaways …

Kala, 8-string UkeUkes- cutaway, Matin & Kala

Risa Electric Travel Uke

until I wandered through this place.

Of course Fender and Martin are represented, along with many new-to-me brands.

They have a nice selection of vintage Hawaiian and rare historic instruments as well. Definitely worth a little vacation time to check them out.

Since I was there, Ukulele PUAPUA has relocated to the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel. This isn’t the only ukulele shop in Honolulu, but it has to be one of the best.

 

The uke I chose is a Kala, solid Acacia – kinda fun. Yes, guitars are my first and true love. But sometimes, well sometimes the ukulele is just the thing. Aloha!

 

they grow on trees?

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Searching for the perfect 6-string guitar is serious business. And a prodigious adventure. There are big box guitar stores and there are little mom and pop guitar stores, but Guitar Tree is unto itself. They are friendly and approachable. But what really made an impression is their gutsy business model and a little story about a trip to the Dallas Guitar Show. Enter Jason Badeau …

Guitar Tree play

Brave, eh?

Jason’s passion was sparked when an uncle found an old Stratocaster in the trash and rescued it. That piece of American music history from 1957 found its way into his heart (and yes, his permanent personal collection), and he was hooked for life.

To satisfy his collector’s habit, he started to sell and trade guitars. Fast forward to his adulthood and the buy/sell/trade mentality turned into Guitar Tree, home to an ever-changing instrument inventory for players, collectors or the just plain curious.

These guys are fanatics. Their business plan is to scour the landscape — the dark corners of antique stores, garage sales, Craig’s list, pawn shops, Aunt Myrtle’s attic — then rescue, refurbished as necessary, and resell.

The stories behind the ‘find’ are colorful and incredible: Jason told us about a recent find from a pawn shop “in a town with no one in it” … A lady had bought a Fender Strat and amp for her husband in 1963. Sadly, he died in 1964 and that shiny new guitar and amp went into a closet. For nearly 50 years. Untouched. Imagine! Sometimes when he strikes a deal on an instrument, the seller will throw in a box of ‘junk’ that’s been collecting dust in a dark corner. Guitar Tree loves these cast-off parts, accessories, nick knacks and ephemera (this material sells best online to grateful customers seeking that impossible to find item).

I first ran into the Guitar Tree gang at the 2013 Tempe Guitar Show. They had a Ditson that caught my eye …

Guitar Tree vintage 2

The Guitar Tree at the Tempe Guitar Show, 2013

The Empire 100 yr old Brazilian Rosewood

The Empire by Ditson 100 year old Brazilian rosewood

(Ditson was a music publisher and  guitar reseller back in the early 1900s. They commissioned the first dreadnought guitars from Martin. In the depression years Martin began selling dreads under the Martin label after the Ditson Company dissolved. Of course now, Martin dreadnought guitars are iconic and almost every makers copies that design … but I digress.)

Not everyone has the good fortune to turn their pastime into a career. Kudos to Guitar Tree for successfully and diligently cracking the nut. Speaking of diligence, it’s time to put a 6-string beaut on my knee and practice.

pimp my axe …

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Eastman & case_7116

Eastman ER O with Tolex case … great looking ‘burst

When I ordered the Eastman ER 0 from Bernunzio’s in Rochester, NY, the ‘new, old stock’ guitar arrived fit as a fiddle, so to speak, in a shiny black Tolex case. I clearly remember asking the FedEx delivery man to wait while I opened the box and inspected the guitar to ensure it was damage free. As if it was yesterday, I can still hear the sound of his voice as he said these three little words: “Wow! Nice guitar!” Sincerely, I couldn’t have said it any better. While it’s not the guitar, it is in my opinion quite fantastic. This instrument boasts a beautiful finish and a surprisingly proud, articulate woody voice. The neck is a little narrower than what I’m accustomed to and it has taken a little practice to keep my fingers from buzzing the adjoining strings while fretting a chord. And, just as I’d read in some forum reviews, the overall balance tips to the headstock.

Headstock with thin maple binding and heavy Gotoh tuners

headstock with thin maple binding and original Gotoh tuners

While I was delighted with the purchase, this guitar still needed a set-up. I took it to Billy, a local guitar tech that came highly recommended. He looked it up and down, measured here and there, strummed it, asked me to play it so he could hear what style I play. Then he delivered his professional diagnosis. Sadly, no two adjoining frets were the same height. Bummer I said. No worries, he said. All it needs is to have the frets dressed, a new set of strings and to have the action set low, low down, he said. This beauty would be playing like a pro axe in no time at all, he said. All I had to do was add my name to his waiting list, call him in two months and schedule an appointment. Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding I said. And nutty as it seems, that’s exactly what I did.

Headstock back_7141

these original Gotoh tuners were too heavy

Since I had a healthy wait in his queue ahead, I had plenty of time to research ways to improve the balance. Perhaps lighter weight tuners could be found to replace the Gotoh hardware. I mentioned the idea of Waverlys and Billy said “Waverly are the best tuners you can get.” In fact, every time the word ‘Waverly’ was mentioned he automatically made the same remark. I also talked to him about an internal pickup — that would give me the sound I wanted and the bonus of adding a bit more weight to counter balance the neck. An LR Baggs ‘Lyric’ was chosen. I could hardly wait to try the new pimped version. But wait I did.

L.R.Baggs Lyric

L.R.Baggs Lyric volume control fitted towards the neck due to top braces

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Waverly tuners with snakewood buttons

Two months and a couple more weeks felt like a long time. But when the work was done, the finished guitar played even better than I anticipated. The balance is more comfortable, the pickup helps modulate the mid-range – especially when delivered to my Blues, Jr. via a QuadraVerb (what, never heard of a QuadraVerb?? I’ll blog on this soon). Lovely to look at and lively to play. This is one terrific guitar.

Many times while waiting for the set-up, etc., I recalled the Yogi Berra quote, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” But now that I’ve seen first hand how this guitar was improved, I hardly ever wonder, “… was it worth the wait?”

Without a doubt. I’ll practice with this guitar tonight…

Talkin’ Tonewoods

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George Leach of The Phoenix Guitar Company,  works with partner Diana Huber on the binding  of a new archtop

Recently I read Guitar, An American Life by Tim Brookes – about his quest for a custom guitar to replace his damaged Fylde guitar. Guitar is a quiet, well researched story about a broad splash of guitar lore and the relationships between players and their instruments. Brookes’ book (say that three times fast) covers a storehouse of history, describes his collaboration with the builder and explores the guitar building process. As he waits for his new guitar to be built, he builds a chronicle of the guitar — from a peasant’s plaything to a serious instrument with a worldwide following, becoming THE American instrument. Of course, the raw materials — which wood species and adornments he selects for his guitar — become key decision points and fuel for the philosophical discussion throughout the book.

Early on in my reading, my curiosity about the Fylde guitar Brookes was replacing grew. Fyldes are very well respected — so much so that their high demand makes them practically impossible to acquire. Maybe that’s why I’d never heard of Fylde before. Check out Fylde for very interesting thoughts and strong opinions about guitars, as well as an interview with Roger Bucknall the owner, recorded for the NAMM archive.

Bucknall eschews the use of the term luthier (from the “French … one who makes lutes” … duh), as pretentious and unnecessary — a disingenuous attempt to sound superior. He prefers guitar maker as being more accurate and perhaps more honest. It’s no surprise that Bucknall has strong opinions about which woods make for good guitar building. He takes a pragmatic approach — what’s readily available, malleable, affordable and beautiful –while still being acoustically suitable. One look at his guitars and it’s plain to see he uses woods from around the world not typically associated with musical instrument production.

Back to the book … As Brookes weighs the pros and cons of various woods, his luthier explains that the species of wood used for the back and sides isn’t that important to the sound. (Well, that’s not exactly how the marketing folks in modern guitar factories explain it!) Ultimately, Brookes decides on Cherry wood for his dream guitar, which he had made by Rick Davis of Running Dog Guitars in Vermont.

All this got me thinking about tonewoods, and my desire to seek out some sort of rosewood guitar. I decided to talk to an expert. Enter George Leach, who has been building and teaching guitar making for over 25 years. He has instruments on display at the incomparable Musical Instrument Museum, and is about to publish a book on guitar making. I had a chance to talk to him and his partner at their shop — The Phoenix Guitar Company. He had just returned from exhibiting some of his work at the “by invitation onlyHealdsburg Guitar Festival.

George Leach generously shared his time and knowledge, telling me that the sound board, or top, has the most effect on tone. To simplify his explanation, when it comes to the side and back woods, he says other things have more — way more — influence on a guitar’s overall tone. Things like scale length, body size and even strings make more of a difference in the guitar’s tone. The back and side wood, while influencing the sound somewhat, are most important for their beauty.

The more I learn, the more I’m beginning to rethink my all rosewood guitar idea. Not really. I still want to a rosewood guitar … but, I might be open to walnut… or cocobolo… It certainly deserves more thought. Meanwhile, the value of guitar practice does not require more thought. It requires more action. So off I go.

these acoustics are real … lookers

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Players advise that to find your guitar — the one that feels and sounds right to you, fits and plays well — you should try a variety of instruments. Good advice. Currently, in the quest for my next guitar, I’m interested in trying Collings, Santa Cruz, perhaps Bourgeois or Lowden as well. You know, the premium brands advertised & reviewed in magazines like Acoustic Guitar or Guitar Player. The tony, tone-full guitars pros play. It’s always fun to come across one or two Collings in one shop, and then maybe a triplet of Santa Cruz models in another shop. But it would be a hands-down blast to play all these instruments in one place! For a true scientific side-by-side study, of course.

Enter Acoustic Vibes Music in Tempe, AZ.

ACOUSTIC VIBES on YouTube

A nice comparison between Collings, Bourgeois, Santa Cruz and Guild

First, let me back up and say that my ideal guitar shopping environment allows customers to touch the guitars, offers some privacy, has a somewhat quiet environment so you can hear subtle tonal shades, stocks a healthy selection of brands, styles and price points, and is, of course, staffed by an interested, knowledgeable, no-pressure purveyor. It’s especially nice when the store has something new to me or exotic or maybe rare. Loud shops, filled with kids banging electric guitars and drums, that have the good guitars locked away or hanging out of reach? Uh, no thanks. (OK, I do go into those shops, because I love guitars. But I complain loudly the whole time. No matter — I can’t be heard.)

Last week I stopped into Acoustic Vibes Music, one of the best acoustic guitar stores you could imagine. I spent an hour or so chatting with the owner, Jeff Looker. He showed me three OMs — a Collings, Santa Cruz, Bourgeois, oh yah, and a Guild dreadnought (I’m not shopping for a dread, but Jeff’s a bluegrass player and he’s partial to Guild). They all sounded double fantastic, each with its own distinct voice. I had a chance to hold each one, feel its weight and balance, and admire the finish, inlays and hardware. Jeff talked about what differentiates these brands.

Now, what differentiates Acoustic Vibes is the depth and breadth of their stock. Two or three models from each manufacturer? No, not by a long shot — it was more like ten or fifteen or thirty plus in some cases. Really. Phenomenal.

Santa Cruz Guitars

they can boast the largest selection of Santa Cruz stock in the country

They have an extensive selection of banjos, ukes and mandos.

Mandolins

in addition to these Collings mandolins, their other brands include Phoenix, Weber, Eastman, and The Loar

Banjos

some of the many banjos in the shop

 

Of course they carry terrific Martins, Taylors and archtops as well.  Electrics? Well, it’s not called Electric Vibes.

If you’re looking for a place where you can compare guitars of this caliber, side-by-side in person, Acoustic Vibes could be your destination. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Until then, I’ll go practice… I’m working on “I’ll See You in My Dreams“.

MIM: the 8th wonder of the world

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Sometimes, people don’t even know what tremendous things they have right in their own backyard. For instance, my wife grew up in Arizona, but never saw the Grand Canyon ’till she was 30. One of the famous seven natural wonders of the world, right in her own backyard! Well, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is arguably the eighth wonder of the world — a true gem, a cultural oasis, worthy of the most emphatic bragging. The MIM is home to an impressive display of global history, geography, arts and culture; a true delight for musicians and music lovers. And even though the MIM opened 2 years ago in my own backyard, I just recently paid admission and took a tour.

First, let me say that the MIM is the largest museum of its kind in the world, inspired by a once royal museum in Brussels. The musical instrument collection is housed in a very large — very expensive — modern building designed and built expressly for the museum. In addition to the displays, there is a 300-seat concert hall, conservation lab, cafe and of course, gift shop.

World's Oldest Guitar

A Portuguese Guitar from around 1590, with 5 pairs of strings. Considered the oldest full-sized guitar in existence.

Each thoughtful display is extremely accessible.  Honestly, you can almost touch the instruments! Each exhibit is augmented with HD video of performances — often of the actual instruments on exhibit. Wireless headphones activate automatically when visitors approach the exhibits.

rickenbacher 'Vibrola'

Bakelight and metal Rickenbacher

The extensive collection includes everything from the world’s oldest guitar, to a Rickenbacher vibrola, to a walking stick made into a fiddle. Of course, I’m partial to the guitars, but there were wind, percussion and keyboard instruments too. Even an air guitar. Seriously, an air guitar.

walkingstick fiddle

walking stick fiddle (the musician was always ready to fiddle around!)

Since the MIM opened, I’ve seen announcements about celebrity visits, like Donovan, or the press release about the Elvis estate bringing the King’s Martin D 28 to the MIM for restoration (the Elvis estate was so impressed by the facility that they “donated” the guitar to the collection after it was restored). I saw that guitar and many others as we spent 5 absorbing hours strolling through he exhibits.

Roy Orbison

Here’s a simple video —  Two Minutes in the MIM  — to share just a taste from my visit.

Link to MIM video

Martin Guitars are well represented at the MIM

Martin 2-34 style Guitar

A very rare Martin parlor made with Brazilian rosewood, ebony, an ivory pyramid style bridge, “rope” design top inlay and ivory binding around the body and fretboard.   Very cool to see a Martin with Abalone rosette and the original “coffin” case. For more information about this late 19th century 2-34 model checkout vintagemartin.com

Most every country in the world is represented. One instrument seemed more interesting than the next … a National Map, George Benson’s Breezin’ Gibson, a plethora of plucked lutes from around the world.

Mexico_6414

family of Mexican Guitars

Fascinating fretted instruments from around the world, both contemporary and vintage:

5 string plucked lute

A 5-string Mariachi band guitar from 2012

Russian 7 string

A Russian 7 string , the preferred configuration for professionals in Russia until the 1960s, according to the plaque

Russian 7 string Rosette

The beautiful snowflake rosette from this vintage 1900’s 7 string.

Harp Lute

Fishing string, animal hide and gourd harp-lute from West Africa.

One very simple exhibit was especially poignant. It really surprised me: John Lennon’s Imagine piano. This upright Steinway stands as silent as Lennon’s breath. The accompanying video reruns a day he sat playing and singing the song with Yoko at his side, listening with satisfied dignity.

I think the MIM is the kind of place where something new could be discovered with each return visit. So I think I’ll go again. After all, it’s  in my own backyard.

Until then, I think I’ll go practice with my guitar.

i want it, i want it, i want it — you caaaaan’t have it …

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I have a craving. A burning desire, a yearning. It can defy logic and reason. I know I’m not alone. I’ve got it. It’s almost a physical ache. Call 911.

The name for this condition, which frequently affects collectors, players and enthusiasts, regardless of age, musical ability or financial status is Guitar Acquisition Syndrome, or G.A.S. — as in “I saw a guitar that gave me G.A.S”… 

Eastman El Rey - 0, hand carved, oval hole archtop

photo from Sound Pure

The other day I was Googling around and ran across a way cool, new Eastman El Rey 0 at Bernunzio Uptown Music shop in Rochester, NY. My first thought: wow. My second thought: odd. Odd because Eastman stopped making this model in 2010.  I Googled some more and saw another at Sound Pure

Eastman_ER0_El_Rey_Oval_hole_Archtop-2

photo from Sound Pure

It has all the G.A.S. producing qualities. At 14 1/2″ it’s a small, modern looking acoustic archtop with an oval sound hole, designed by luthier Otto D’Ambrosio. The top is hand-carved spruce and the arched back is hand-carved mahogany. It has maple binding and a gorgeous sunburst finish. Curiously, the neck joins the body at the 16th fret. I’ve been intrigued by this model since the first time I saw one. It just looked cool — sort of old-fashioned like an old Orville Gibson body but with an updated — very modern — shape. Every so often one will turn up on E-Bay, usually with a ding or a scratch. I even asked a local Eastman dealer to see if he could unearth one for me a few months back. I imagined him calling sterile climate controlled warehouses and dark underground storage vaults. Or at least calling a guy who knows a guy.

But even though his extensive resources couldn’t shine a light on one of these unique beauties, it turns out there are still a few NOS ER0s out there for some lucky jazz players. And just like the magic bus  — I. Want. One.

Now, on the Otto D’Ambrosio blog posted 1-25-2013, there is a picture of Eastman’s newest El Rey, the ER4 … announced at the 2013 winter NAMM show. It has a single humbucker pickup and at 16″ it’s a little larger than the prior ER 0, 1, 2 & 3 models. The 2013 Eastman catalog doesn’t picture the face of this guitar – only the back.  I guess the design was not ready to announce when the catalog went to print …

photo from Otto D’Ambrosio

By now, anyone interested in affordable archtops knows the Eastman Music Company story … a Chinese violin manufacturer turned guitar factory — crafting well made, modestly priced, solid wood, hand-carved archtops to rave reviews. Their flat-top guitars are usually described as the best, great-sounding value you can find and their mandolins are famously regarded as well. Eastman guitars usually come with a really sharp-looking, colorful fiberglass case (cases can be purchased separately, too). By the way, Eastman still makes and sells violins and other woodwind and brass band instruments too.

Eastman_AR805CE_Sunburst_Archtop_Guitar-top3

photo from Sound Pure

About a year ago I bought an Eastman AR805 CE on E-Bay for a really good price and I’ve been a fan ever since. I think I’ll go practice with it now and see if that doesn’t give me some G.A.S. relief.

goin’ to the show

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Well, last weekend I went to the 4th annual Tempe Guitar Show in, you guessed it, Tempe, Arizona. It was a small show held in the Antique Electronic Supply Company parking lot. (wish I’d known about this company when I was searching for cloth-covered wire for my rebuilt Blues Jr. — instead I ended up ordering a few feet online from a motorcycle shop …)

There was an interesting collection of local, regional and national vendors. I was surprised how many companies were from out-of-town — a Bigsby rep from Minnesota,  Republic Guitars from Texas, Flagg Audio from San Francisco and more. Gretsch Guitars sponsored the Twang-O-Rama Concert Stage that featured Stray Cat’s bassist Lee Rocker. Bigsby was offering free installation of their guitar vibratos on-the-spot. There was a pleasant cacophony of guitar, amp and microphone demos.

microphones

             Blue Microphones showed a nice variety – studio, USB and an iPhone stereo mics. Flagg Audio showed a lo-fi telephone mic            

As expected, there were lots of guitars on display … some I’d never seen before like the red Fiberglass National MAP guitar below…

metal & fiberglass

Copper and stainless steel hollow body guitars and fiddle. Fiberglass National from 1962, tweed covered tele with leather pickguard

There were luthiers and a luthier school, recording studios plus a bunch of amp builders.

the guitar tree

The Guitar Tree brought a boat-load of vintage acoustics including a  (Do not Touch!) 100-year-old – Empire – Brazilian rosewood parlor guitar made by The Ditson Company

Republic _redo

The Republic rep couldn’t resist rockin’ a resonator with a blues song

steel seet in a case

            Steel Seat showed a groovy bench in a case … the ‘transformer chair’ with a power strip              

Gretsch displayGretsch! In all the springtime colors. Thank you Gretsch for sponsoring the stage!

and finally, Stray Cat Lee Rocker was there signing autographs … darn, I missed his show!

Lee Rocker

A “pin-up girl” waiting for an autograph

It was an enjoyable show with a good variety of products to browse … well worth the cost of admission … FREE! A nice excuse to get out and bask in the southwestern spring weather.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s show …  I’d love to see this event continue to grow.

While I’m waiting, I’ll go practice … I wonder if I can get some twang on my Eastman archtop…

a dream come true …

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A recent business trip took me to the east coast. As is my practice, I did a quick search for local guitar shops. When Dream Guitars came up I was knocked out by the selection and inventory on hand. Completely. Knocked. Out. These are world-class, one-of-kind instruments. Their website is robust: beautiful photos and great sounding audio samples of each guitar. And while most are out of my price range, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see so many beautifully hand-crafted works of art in one place.

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I made an appointment to visit Paul Heumiller, owner of Dream Guitars, in Weaverville, NC, on a Friday afternoon.

Paul’s shop sits on a hill near the end of a long winding rural lane, just outside of Ashville, North Carolina. There was snow on the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. As my wife and I pulled into the driveway the excitement (well, my excitement) was palpable. Paul greeted us at the door and ushered us into his shop. Passing through a small room with classical and archtop guitars, we stepped into a room  full of the high-end, one-of-a-kind, handmade instruments. The handmade guitars from world-class luthiers — displayed by size — that I’d admired on their website. And there we stood among them …

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Paul was warm and friendly. He spent a few minutes giving us an overview of his inventory. Obviously, he knew each guitar well. He began the process by asking about the type music I played and what kind of sound I liked. Relying on his vast knowledge and experience, he assists customers by focusing the search to narrow the choices. Next he thoughtfully, but without hesitation, selected 3 guitars and arranged them on stands in semi-circle in front of me. I sat down and he handed me a guitar to sample. Suddenly I couldn’t remember any of the songs or riffs I know, so I feebly plucked at the strings. Unfazed, he made the distinctions between each of the guitars and answered my questions. He told me to play as long as I wanted and let me know that after I sampled these guitars, he had a few more that he thought I might like to try. Then he excused himself to give me some privacy.

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What a fantastic experience! Dream Guitars is by far the most overwhelming guitar shop I’ve ever seen — including online stores. Once I discovered it, I knew it would be an amazing place and I was not disappointed. It was truly a thrill to hold these extraordinary guitars – several he showed me were absolutely museum worthy. The inlays, craftsmanship, design, rarity of woods – truly masterpieces. And the sounds — strong, eloquent voices!

So what kind of guitar does Paul play? Of course he already has an amazing Somagyi guitar, with the neck custom carved  to fit his hand …  really, what else could a musician want? He has some of the finest imaginable instruments by the best luthiers in the world available to play every evening … With great pride Paul told me about the guitar made for him by luthier and musician Jordan McConnell in this video interview.Interview.Still007

Paul played a bit for us so we could hear the beautiful sound. It was a simple song played well. A gentle little fingerstyle tune, played with sincerity and concentration, without self-conscious thought.

At the end of the interview he handed is guitar to me and said “Here, you try it.” Wow!

We said our goodbyes and as we drove away, I was lost in thought. Did this visit help me in my search for my dream guitar? Yes and no. After hearing Paul describe his own quest for the guitar features that advance the sound and style of music he plays, I think I’m on the right track in the approach to my search. My own desires include: a rosewood body for the rich sound and harmonics, a wider ebony fretboard for ease of playing fingerstyle, a smaller body to comfortably fit my reach …  The other thing that Paul helped me to realize is that a custom, luthier made instrument is a viable possibility for me. Custom guitar, especially pre-owned models, start around my target price and I must say that the Dave Taylor OM mahogany guitar that Paul showed me sounded great and was the prettiest mahogany wood I’ve seen.

However, instead of narrowing my search, the field of options may have just expanded dramatically!

Undoubtedly, this was an outstanding experience. I keep thinking of the melody Paul played on his McConnell guitar. The notes just ring out of that guitar – so smooth and long. Even though it was all of 20 seconds, it was such a memorable part of the visit. Ah.

Thank you Paul for your hospitality at Dream Guitars!

Time for me to practice.