Friday, December 3, 2010

Which Luthier? Which Guitar??

If you're like me you enjoy pointing the browser at various websites describing classical guitars and guitarists playing them.  Which one has the best sound, who has something new and innovative?  The addition of YouTube has spawned all sorts of sampling experiences so luthiers and dealers have learned to tempt guitarists using that medium.  Alternatively there are many debates on the forums as to the "best" guitar based on commercial recordings.

My view possibly is like yours where I feel like the web videos almost always do a disservice to the luthier and player alike because of poor video and audio quality.  In contrast commercial recordings are also a poor way to evaluate a guitar sound because of the studio recording effects usually alter the instrument's natural tone.  I can defend the guitarist who makes a recording with studio editing because their principle objective is to present the music in the best way possible to the listener.  Accuracy of guitar sound isn't and shouldn't be a high priority.  In my experience when a guitar maker goes into the studio he is literally directing the electronic virtual sound of his instrument and the temptations to juice up the recording are hard to resist.

As a luthier, I like my fellow craftsmen and women, want to present the web viewer with information about my instruments.   The web is a great way to present a guitarmaker's craft allowing people around the world exposure to descriptive text and pictures.  The rate at which guitarmakers have learned from each other has resulted in quite an advancement in the craft.  Guitarists learn from the luthier's website and similarly have educated themselves to the pros and cons of various design approaches advocated by guitarmakers.

Isn't this a good thing?  Maybe, but it also leads to information overload and an escalating hyperbole amongst the participants.  It has become quite a contest of words and the reality of selecting a guitar properly can get pretty muddled amidst the opinions and claims that abound.  I know as a luthier the temptation is to believe my own descriptors and I have to be wary of this.  Every guitar I build is not going to make every guitarist happy nor necessarily be the best for all types of music.

That said I try to specialize in building a client's guitar to his or her needs.  This means that I need to do my job carefully when discussing tone descriptors and musical preferences.  It isn't easy!  As this is written I am entering into my tenth year of making double top guitars and I really do think this soundboard development greatly improves note production consistency with natural tone across the fingerboard.  However for some clients they are going to prefer the subtle tonal differences found in a traditional solid top guitar.  Moreover they may want a very traditional "Spanish" sound vs the piano-like sound of my Concert Grand guitar with it's very non-traditional construction and bracing.  I enjoy making traditional guitars and my website features several Homage guitars including a Santos style Flamenco and a Torres bench copy.

So just to circle back to the original thought of how to go about selecting the luthier-built guitar that will be a great musical partner for you?  Given the dizzying information overload out on the web I would organize your own thoughts and requirements while trying to shut out the opinions of all the "gearheads" out there.  I would visit with the luthiers that appeal to you to see if they can make the guitar you want or are they going to produce their "signature" guitar thereby requiring you to adapt to whatever that may be.  To be sure all luthiers are in business of doing a good job for their clients.  Just be sure that you know what you want and can describe it and that will go a long way toward finding your great guitar.  Good Luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment