@JamesO - Guitars

Steve Freides

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Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
@JamesO, you mentioned making guitars - please say a bit more. I make most of my living in music, primarily giving private lessons, and guitar is my first instrument.

Thanks.

-S-
 

JamesO

More than 500 posts
Hi Steve

Sorry for taking a few days to respond---we went camping over the weekend and I just logged on. You just asked me about one of my favorite things in the world, and I have to intentionally limit myself. :)

When I was 15, I wanted to go to Berklee to study guitar. The local guitar shop hosted Taylor Guitar Clinics at least every other month and introduced me to fingerstyle guitar. I really wanted a "great" steel string (this has become a very relative term). Couldn't afford one. At some point during the summer that year between 9th and 10th grade, I went to Alta Vista and searched for guitar making. The rest is history, really. I started at least five before finally finishing one. I spend at least an hour a day talking about lutherie on forums, with mentors, or in real life. My friend apprenticed under a classical guitar maker in Germany and teaches a guitarmaking woodshop class for a local charter school. I was able to help him out last year. So much fun. These were 5-8th graders, and he had them doing things I never thought possible.

I focus on acoustic steel string guitars, but I've done a few amps, a few electric guitars, and a few drum kits, too.

What kind of music do you play? I played in the jazz band through college, but I went to a small private school that focused on choral baroque, so it wasn't anything great. I started taking lessons again in Jan as a mental get away, and finally got started in fingerstyle 15 years later. We started with a few simple celtic pieces to get my fingers moving again, and we're working on a few Christmas pieces now.

I wish I had better pictures of my work. I take quite a few during the process, but not many of them completed.

This is my second. A mahogany and lutz spruce OM-sized guitar.
IMG_2489.jpg

My most recent. This has a lutz spruce top and tiger myrtle back and sides. I'm very proud of this one, tonally. It has a very present low end and warm, focused trebles that are pretty even up the fretboard.
guitar.jpg

The project I'm working on now in a shared "makerspace" shop I belong to. My wife asked me to make this for her one day when I had a set of koa down to admire. The back and sides will be the koa I had down that day, with a redwood soundboard. It's an original design (previously all of my guitars used Jeff Traugott's "Model R" shape, which he traced for me one afternoon in his shop and gave me his blessing to use), and I'm being mentored through it by someone who's guitars I very much want to emulate.
DSC_0137.jpg
 

Steve Freides

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Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Very interesting, James. I've never been good with wood - I was a set carpenter in the opera department in college, and I was fine as long as I was given very specific instructions, but if they left me on my own, it was always a disaster.

What kind of music do you play?
I've been playing the guitar for more than 50 years. I grew up taking lessons from a jazz teacher, loved folk music, and played a little classical at my father's insistence. During college, which I began as a classical guitar major and finished as a voice major, I picked up electric bass and began to play piano.

Masters and Doctorate in Choral Conducting, taught theory and ear-training at the Mannes College of Music in NYC for about 10 years, now teach privately for most of my living. I started as a church organist a few months ago, and I've been a synagogue High Holy Day choir director for 35+ years. I currently teach all styles of guitar - literally, everything - and upright bass (I still take lessons), electric bass, piano, trumpet, and French Horn. I can get by on 4- and 5-string banjoe, mandolin, etc. I have perfect pitch. For the coffee hour at church, I either bring a classical guitar - for me, it's practicing, but they enjoy listening to it while they're having pasty and a cup o' joe - or a fake book and I play standards at the piano.

My current guitar collection includes an Adalid classical (hand made in Spain), a one-of-a-kind parlor steel string acoustic that came out of a luthery workshop in Australia and sounds unbelievable, a Guild F212 from 1967, and various others but those are the highlights.

I'm metro NYC - if you're anywhere nearby, I'd love to see some of what you've built or are working on.

-S-
 

JamesO

More than 500 posts
That sounds like a wonderful life filled with music. I was so musically involved through high school and college, and I took too long of a break from it. Not completely, but not playing or practicing with any regularity. Finding my teacher (we Skype - he's in the UK) and becoming a beginner again has been one of best decisions of my year. I still get frustrated when things aren't coming, but my wife grew up musically as well and calls me out and/or helps when I'm frustrated and feel like giving up for the night or whatever, and simply playing again has brought so much to my life this year.

I think this link should work. It's a Facebook video I posted with the tiger myrtle guitar (an Australian wood, btw) and one of those celtic pieces: Solway Theme. I've been stumbling through Be Thou My Vision for the past two months, and when I'm stumbling a bit less, I'll post a clip of that, too ;)

If that video works, this is one I posted about two months ago, breaking small pieces of shell into place for a rosette, and this is another I just posted the other weekend to show some of the french polishing process. Just short things. I'm taking a lot of video of this current guitar so that I can put build video together when it's done.

I'd love to hear more about the guitar from Australia. Two luthiers there, Trevor Gore and Gerard Gilet, put a two-volume text a few years ago that's become the text to get and learn from.
 
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jca17

More than 300 posts
Awesome, Steve! Jazz and folk guitar are my biggest influences, cool to see someone else with the same somewhat peculiar background. I haven't kept up the brass instruments since high school. I kind of want to try to grease the groove on the embouchure muscles with long tones and lip slurs and see what I can get back. I just pulled the trumpet out for the first time in years a month ago and could hardly play an E in the top space of the staff :/
 

JamesO

More than 500 posts
Haha, I love it.

I mentioned that I went to a small private university. One of my favorite moments in time there were the two months the precious music director spent with me trying to teach me trumpet on the side. In the south I think the saying would be, "Bless his heart..." It was probably like listening to a 10 year old on their second day of violin.
 

jca17

More than 300 posts
And that may be a testament to greasing the groove. That was after 4 days of playing for three minutes every hour in the evenings. That was barely a Bb the first time I pulled it out at the start of that week ;)
 

JamesO

More than 500 posts
Hi guys. I didn't realize the videos I shared were private. I opened them up to public.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor

Adalid guitar (handmade, Spain, purchased on a trade-in plus some cash about six months ago).

An arrangement of mine that I've never written down, of a song I (and many others) have sung as beginning classical voice students.

-S-
 
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cedar

Double-Digit Post Count
I just found this thread, and find it very interesting as my father also builds guitars (and mandolins, among other stringed instruments).

My biggest regret growing up is that I never learned to play the guitar while I lived at home. It's such a beautiful instrument.
 

Matts

More than 300 posts
Cedar, +1 on what Steve said. I'll bet your Dad would be flattered and happy if you asked him if he had an instrument around you could learn on. Play for happiness and have fun with it.
 

cedar

Double-Digit Post Count
My father's business is called Evergreen Mountain Instruments. I did a quick Google search and came up with a few more images and links than what he has on his website (Evergreen Mountain Instruments).

He's semi-retired now, but is still building a guitar or two per year on custom order. He truly loves his craft is blessed to have made a living from it.
 

cedar

Double-Digit Post Count
Doesn't look like he builds classical guitars; is that correct?
I wasn't sure so I inquired. He said that he has built a few classical guitars, and also some nylon string guitars that wouldn't be considered classical, but "folk". I know that a lot of very custom work has come out of his shop...
 

Steve Freides

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Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Ah. The classical guitar is where my heart lies. I adore my Adalid that I got at the end of last summer.

-S-
 

JamesO

More than 500 posts
How very cool, @cedar. Oregon has a very strong tradition in luthiery! And it's never too late to learn to play :). I'm sure it would be a pretty special experience to have your dad make one for you (or even to make it with him).

I've been working away on my current project, but it's slow during the semester. I try to do something small every week. I've been shaping the back braces for the past two weeks, which most people will get done in an afternoon. Last week I started to inlay the (paua heart) rosette into the top, too. I'm taking a lot of video footage during this one to put something together at the end, which makes it even slower. Setting up the shots, etc.
 
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