Q & A -- NEW GUITARS
Q: Can I buy a guitar from you through the mail?
A: This one is a real quandary. The simple answer is yesI would love to sell you a guitar any way I can. Moreover, builders all over the country do it all the time. Having said this, I must say that it makes me nervous. Guitars are a very personal thing, and I always suggest that a buyer at least play some other instruments by that builderso that they have a good idea what to expect. After that, the best solution I have is to offer the following guaranty: when the guitar is done, if you dont like it you dont have to buy it. If there was custom work, I will keep the deposit for that work until I sell the instrument to someone else. This seems a fair compromiseand in over 485 guitars, I have only had to honor this guarantee two times so it seems a safe solution for both me and the customer.
Q: What about custom options?
A: Like most small builders, I really appreciate the opportunity to incorporate custom features in a guitar which will "personalize" it for the buyer. Some of these are purely cosmetic--inlays, wood binding, sunburst finishes, different woods (including hand selected woods), pickguards (or lack thereof), and the like. Others are more functional--cutaways, custom fingerboard width, custom neck shape, pickups, voicing the instrument to a customer's requirements, different woods (this is both a cosmetic and a functional issue), different fret styles, and many others. Guitarists who are seeking a truly fine instrument generally have a clear idea of what they want in a guitar--often they come to a shop like mine because they can't get exactly what they want from a "factory" guitar. For the builder the reward is seeing a customer play the guitar for the first time and see the pleasure they feel at playing a guitar which is truly "theirs". I have put a list of such options on another page of this site.
Q: Aren't custom features expensive?
A: Generally most custom features aren't too expensive. This is particularly true of the "functional" modifications like neck width and shape, which do not cost anything extra. Generally, cosmetic options like inlay work are more expensive. The best thing to do is call and ask.
Q: I have heard a lot of talk about scalloped braces. Is this a good thing and do you do this?
A: Yes I do. Some of the mystique about scalloped braces is historical and some has good basis in fact. The historical part comes from the fact that Martin Guitars up until the mid-40's had scalloped braces and since these are some of the most sought-after guitars in the world (rightfully so in most cases), many customers want this feature in their guitars. Martin now does this in some of their newer guitars. There is a reason for all of this. In making a guitar top the builder is constantly trying to balance the strength necessary to resist the tension of the string with light weight (necessary to not impede the sound of the instrument). In simple theory a scalloped brace (you can see a photo of my braces on the handcrafted guitars page of this web site) is similar to the arch of the cable on a suspension bridge--stronger where needed but also allowing a reduction in weight. I started doing this early in my career and have gotten to like the sound and am now familiar with how to shape the braces for the sound I want. However, it should be noted that there are many guitars--both old and new--which do not have scalloped bracing and sound just great. As with all things relating to guitars, the interplay of many elements is so complex that you cannot point to any one feature and say that this one is "necessary" to a great guitar.
Q: Can you describe the sound of your guitars?
A: This is very difficult, and is the reason I always try to have a potential customer try one of my guitars before they buy one (but of course, I don't insist). I don't feel that words are very accurate in describing the fine points of the tonal "signature" of a guitar. On top of that, there are so many variables within the guitars made by one maker -- wood, size and shape, the type and gauge of strings, to name just a few.
What I do know is that most builders develop a "signature" sound, so that Martin's, Taylor's, Olson's or Hoffman's all will have a unique sound that is relatively consistent from one guitar to another. In attempting to describe the sound of my guitars, I think of the following: I strive to achieve a very clear well-articulated sound--where the notes all over the fingerboard are clear and relatively even, where the notes within a chord can be heard as well as the chord, and the notes will have a crisp bell like sound. I also very much like a balanced sound -- where neither the bass or treble registers are overly strong. Of course the larger guitars -- like the dreadnought --will have a deeper more predominant bass, but I still hope to keep the treble in balance.
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2219 East Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN. 55404