Please note: due to changes in regulations and constant design developments, we sometimes need to change details such as binding and inlay materials.
I expect you have heard about this, Facebook gets everywhere. The award is very well deserved, and hopefully will give Gordon a real boost.
Gordon has helped so many other musicians, guitar makers and charities over the years, and of course he has been a mainstay of the UK acoustic guitar "scene" for over fifty years.
The award has been recommended by a wide variety of artists and colleagues, all immensely supportive of Gordon, who of course, was my very first professional customer. I know the date of the ceremony, there will be pictures! There will be champagne! Here anyway, I don't know what Gordon and Hilary will be drinking.
Three cheers for Gordon. He also has a new project underway, watch this space.
It's taken four years, but "the results are now ”in”.
The study has been published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and I have written my own view of the project for publication in "American Lutherie", hopefully later on this year.
It's another chapter in the argument/discussion over the contribution that the back and sides make to the overall sound of a guitar. ie - does Brazilian Rosewood etc make a "better" guitar than a cheaper more sustainable timber? Or even - how many people can actually tell the difference?
In brief, the study shows that most people can't really hear any difference, and the contribution from the back and sides is at best "marginal".
Here is the problem - That result is quite contrary to the comments I have heard from the people who took part in the tests, and to my own experience, plus many other makers and the hundreds of people that sit here, playing guitars made from different timbers.
But it is a scientific test, properly conducted, and I'm not going to argue with the results.
My thoughts are that we should design further tests with the benefit of this experience, and it has been discussed, but it's a massive task. After the tests were complete, I had all six guitars here in my office, with lots of people visiting to play them, and everybody had favourites and dislikes. Apart from the importance of tiny differences, I do wonder if it goes deeper than physical observations.
The study did not actively seek out "super listeners", as with Whisky tasting etc, and I have thought about how we might have done this differently. I have also thought a lot about the way that the guitars were made. Some of that is explained more in the report and my writing for American Lutherie. If there is any difference at all, no matter how tiny, this debate will not go away. It probably won't go away anyway, and that is part of why I make guitars.
There will be many who disagree fundamentally with the study's conclusions, and I have my own views, which is largely why I agreed to take part. I listen to guitars all day long and feel very confident in my own ability to discern, but not to explain. That is where I wanted to investigate, the difficulty in expressing "tone" in terms of words and explaining it to someone else. One of the observations in the study is the way that certain words tend to be grouped together when describing guitar tone, which in part I feel justifies my own conclusions.
The graphs, charts and comparisons in the paper are wonderful - seeing the frequency analysis of guitars made in this workshop, on paper, and the way one compares to another, is a revelation.
The paper is very technical, but well worth the effort if you can manage it.
We've been trying for ages to do this, and this year, the stars were aligned. We had a lovely time, apart from the fireworks which were underwhelming.
I've just noticed that the bottle on the left is empty, how did that happen? Did someone give me an empty bottle? Why? Who are you? There are some rather special Whisky's here, the two little medicine bottles are samples from Ledaig, not available in other botlings. One was so strong that it evaporated as soon as I took the top off. Long live customers. Sláinte!
Three stages in the conversion of some ancient billets of Indian Rosewood into useable pieces, with a lot of waste, more damage to my immune system and some consequent work time lost. I'm always very grateful for the support that Moira, Alex and Paul give me at such times. This was another example of someone telling about pieces of timber being discovered in random places, so they called in the "wood whisperer". Me! It hasn't worked out too well this time, too many cracks, it's almost impossible to predict what is inside a log. But I'm willing to take the risk, so if you know of anything?
The 2017 changes to CITES regulations on Rosewood were a shock, not in the overall intention but in the depth to which they apply, needing an export and import license even for a single Rosewood bridge pin, but still only one license for a whole ship full of raw timber. Rather odd and not very effective. Some makers welcomed the changes, I thought they were badly designed and silly at best. I'm probably not the only one, but I thought I had a good relationship with the "authorities" on this, and I wrote some very strong letters to UK and international bodies, including CITES in Geneva.
I'm not saying that my complaints made any difference, (perhaps they did?) but the whole issue is being re-examined in May. The new proposal is an exemption for finished musical instruments. We can only hope. I will still be allergic to the stuff even if it is legal.
Florencia Rastelli was mortified. As an expert barista, she had never spilled a single cup of coffee, she said. But last Monday, as she wiped the counter at Chiave di Bacco, the cafe where she works, she knocked over a glass and it shattered loudly on the floor.
This is Cremona, Italy, where Stradivari and many other Violin makers lived and worked, and it is still the centre of that world. It is a quiet town, the Museum is surrounded by tiny alleyways, in front of a sleepy Piazza. If you visit in the heat of the afternoon, there is not a sound, other than maybe a few snores. But if you want to make a reference recording of a Stradivari Violin, even the coffee shops in town must maintain absolute silence.
"So that future generations won’t miss out on hearing the instruments, three sound engineers are producing the "Stradivarius Sound Bank" - a database storing all the possible tones that four instruments selected from the Museo del Violino’s collection can produce."
We have visited Cremona, and been given a privileged tour of the museum, it really is a magical place, and so Quiet.
Isn't it astonishing what human beings will strive to achieve?
It had to happen. I can't be sweetness and light ALL the time. Moira took a phone call, it went something like "Oh, I'm glad it's you - not the p****d off Wizard."
I do wonder if anyone ever stops to think what has caused me being perhaps a "little abrupt” sometimes. I must get a tape recorder.
Anyway, "Mad old badger" is still my favourite.
Editor's Note: He really is very nice, I mean: very, very nice! And he's not paying me any more to say that.
Featuring 52 Artists on 2 CDs with a 128-page booklet; 43 tracks, 20 specially recorded, 16 specially written. Instrumentals and songs, many of which are not recorded elsewhere. Six string and Twelve string guitars. Nylon string and Jazz guitars. Tenor and Baritone guitars. Acoustic Bass and Resonator guitars. Mandolins, Mandolas, Bouzoukis and Ukulele.
This idea for this project has been bubbling away for many years. The original "Fylde Acoustic" Album was made in 1977, but is, sadly, no longer available. I have mentioned the possibility of an "update" many times, and when Chrys Titshall raised it with me in 2018, I realised what a great opportunity we had, with such a long list of artists and friends who might be willing to help.
Moira and I have often discussed finding a charity that we could devote some time to, but then life gets in the way and the time simply disappears. Here we had an almost ready-made opportunity to build an exciting project that might raise some decent sums of money for important causes.
We all know people who need help. Musicians often work by themselves, and sometimes have less of the support that others have. This was a "moment of clarity" for us, which made sense of the whole idea, it didn't need to be simply a marketing opportunity or a vanity project. We could raise money for charities that support musicians.
Trees are obviously very important to me, to guitar making and to music. The idea of helping to plant trees was the final piece of the jigsaw, the whole project seemed complete, at least in principle.
What had not occurred to us was that it would take nine months, and many sleepless nights.
We think It was worth the effort, we hope you do too.
I mentioned recently that we have quite a few customers amongst the actors and house band of the fabulous Tina Turner musical in London. Here is proof: filmed between shows on stage at the Aldwych theatre in London.
Left to right, we have: Tom Godwin, who plays Phil Spector, playing his own Octavius Bouzouki. More info on Tom Ryan O' Donnell, playing Tina's manager Roger Davies, playing his Custom Alchemist, which we featured in a previous newsletter. More info on Ryan
Marco Gerace, Guitarist in the band, here playing Dave's Touchstone Mandolin. More info on Marco Dave Holmes, Lead Guitarist in the band, here playing his Falstaff. Dave has two other Fyldes, and another on order.
I did ask them if they could do this recording again, but this time have the stage actually revolving. They said no. I'm going to pull rank and ask Tina.
Why am I featuring Petula Clark in a Fylde Guitars newsletter?
Because Ben Walker plays the accompaniment on his Fylde Alchemist guitar.
Pity it isn't a video. Ben? Petula?
Fossicking in Runswick Bay.
Moira and I do like to go "fossicking". This time it was at Runswick Bay. I found this lovely rock, such a pity it was too big to go in Moira's handbag. I have a vague knowledge of such things, but if someone could explain all the little features, I'd love to know more about it.
And then we got cut off by the incoming tide and had to rescue a stream of old ladies and small children. I have pictures to prove it.
Cod and Lobster.
No, not an Edward Lear poem, it's a lovely pub right on the edge of the harbour at Staithes. it was the favourite pub of a famous rock star some years ago, and if it wasn't so busy, it might be mine now. The menu is amazing, I hope I'm not offending my vegetarian readers.
This is the view across the harbour when you sit outside the pub, just a few yards from where Captain James Cook did his seamanship training. The bear is made of Wicker and is a left over from last years’ arts festival. I couldn't work out the significance of the Polar Bear until I read the story of Cook's final voyage, it's worth reading yourself.
RNLI at Staithes
We had a lot of fun at Staithes, and made friends with the lifeboat crew, so they invited us to a practice night. The tractor that launches the inshore lifeboat is massive, with four-wheel drive and articulated between the two axles. It is also submersible, although the engine has to be shut off first. One more thing - it's all made in the UK.
We also helped at the RNLI auction, by trying to push the prices up a bit. Moira kept nudging me, go on, go on.
There are risks attached to this behaviour. Anybody want to buy three awful paintings, and two handbags?
Or if you are in the USA, Bendyminum.
No, it’s not a guitar side for a heavy metal guitar, or even a light metal guitar. It's the early stages of a heated bending form. Younger makers use plywood, where is the challenge in that? This is 6mm sheet alloy, bent by hand, in a vice, with a little bit of big hammer. Massive fun. Alex and Paul tend to panic a bit when even I put ear defenders on.
I do like to work with metal when I get a chance. Well, I had a chance, and this is what happened. It might be a while before I get the next chance
David Buckingham sent me this.
David and his " Three Compadres” at the Opera House with the Royal Ballet production of Don Quijote.
David is the one with the hat.
Forbes Henderson on the far right of the screen (remember the band Incantation?) plus he played with The Three Tenors, David Bowie etc. etc.
Nigel Woodhouse on the far left of the screen (does a lot of ballets and operas, also an excellent mandolin player)
Dan Thom is second from the left of the screen, he's very busy in the West End, operas, ballets.
David's guitar is the one we made to take to Ullapool last year. but David "borrowed" it and I was lucky to get it back. He also used it on the "Strings that Nimble Leap" album.
When I saw this, it occurred to me that we have an excellent marketing opportunity. All we have to do is make a hat, with the cord extended under the guitar and clipped onto the soundhole edge.
Then the player could throw up his chin in a dramatic gesture and the guitar would follow suit. It would also keep your hat on in strong winds, just think of the possibilities.
Good evening Dragons. My name is Roger Bucknall and I am here tonight to ask you for one million pounds for in exchange for 5 percent of my company “Hatstrap Ltd.”
I actually typed that in an email recently, it might have been my dodgy typing again, but I'm blaming spellcheck.
I'd selected these from my latest acquisitions, mostly because of the range of colours, then i noticed that one was quite definitely a bit pale. Maybe it will go darker with age.
As I mentioned a few months ago, there had been hope that the CITES APP II listing for Rosewood might be lifted, or at least, eased at the CITES meeting in Sri Lanka in May.
Unfortunately, terrorist incidents in Sri Lanka forced the meeting to be cancelled, and it is now taking place in Geneva between the 17th and 28th August.
Guitar makers have mostly been concerned over the situation with Indian Rosewood, but India is well governed and the timber trade there is well controlled. There are other countries where other species of Rosewood are suffering from more than illegal logging. In some places, politics and possibly corruption are making a difficult situation worse.
Thirty thousand logs of Madagascan Rosewood en-route to China via Singapore were seized in 2014, and the man concerned was found guilty of smuggling a CITES listed species. But now that verdict has been overturned, and the timber must be returned to him! The argument now is " who pays for the costs of storing the wood over the past 5 years?
And if you think that 30,000 logs is a lot - how about two million?
And if you think that 30,000 logs is a lot - how about two million?
This story is just astonishing. In brief, there is a huge amount of stockpiled Rosewood in Madagascar, some of which could possibly be designated as "legal", but there is no real way of differentiating between different stocks, and some of it is deliberately mixed up. Officials have been battling between two extreme options - destroy it all or let it all go for sale. There can't be a good outcome from this.
I'm tempted to get back on one of my hobby horses here. Millions of Rosewood logs, hundreds of tons of Ivory.
Put it this way - if we fed all the information into an " impartial" computer and asked it for a solution, I do not think it would say "This material is very rare, it is endangered, and we have to save it for future generations, therefore we must destroy it.” There- I’ve said it.
And, by pure chance, I received a newsletter from one of my suppliers as I was typing that last paragraph. He has been asked to help value the stockpiles and help formulate a policy.
"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
Any of you who enjoy cricket might have seen this. It's Dave Holmes, lead guitarist with the Tina Turner Show, and with many West End musicals. He's the guy who helps us get tickets for all the best shows in London and is a massive Fylde fan. He has four (so far).
He had the job of playing a cricket bat shaped electric guitar for the World Cup final at Lords. Every time a wicket fell or a 6 was hit, he was blasting out heavy metal riffs.
Moira and I listened to all of that match while sitting in the car at Whitby, and I started having some very strange ideas
I started to make this when England won the world cup and after I saw Dave Holmes playing an electric "bat" in the finals. I thought "The Ashes start soon; wouldn't it be a good idea if---". Then of course, we all know what happened. (well, some of us do). There were a few points where I almost set fire to it and put the ashes in a little jar.
I'm calling it a Batar. Or should it be a Guitbat?
I know how to treat my friends and staff. Take them deep below the Earth’s surface, drive miles out under the ocean and drink water. Better than a bonus.
Boulby Mine is in North Yorkshire, originally a Potash mine, it now concentrates on mining Polyhalite. Just in case you've forgotten, that’s basically, a fertiliser.
Boulby is the only Polyhalite mine in the world, and the deepest mine in Europe. I won the chance to go down the mine at a charity auction a few months ago.
Breathing apparatus was individually tested for all of us, then we were kitted up and taken the seven-minute trip down the pit shaft to the lower levels. It's hot down there, and we had to carry individual ice and water supplies, a "Self-Rescuer" device, air masks, plus the more obvious safety gear. I've never worn "Spats" before.
In the event of a shaft collapse or a fire, the cones on the lifeline would help us to the "safe refuge" where we could wait for rescue in a sealed fireproof room, one mile below the earth, with its own air supply and ice making machinery. The idea is that we could survive there for 36 hours before rescue. Without Flapjack?
We were then driven down seemingly endless slopes, deeper and deeper, and several kilometres out under the North Sea, with a specialist laboratory at the bottom, Neutrinos and all that sort of stuff. The UK space agency is there, even NASA is there. Watch the video below.
We were very privileged to be allowed to visit the mine, not many people get the chance. It's not easy, some of the film crew in a previous visit had to go back up because they couldn't deal with the depth and temperature, but we loved it. I had been promised that we could visit the laboratory, but everything took longer than expected and it didn't work out. A big disappointment, so we all want to go back.
There were showers provided when we got back "up". but there were three shower cubicles, and four of us. Interesting.
We had been anticipating that NASA would notice our massive intellects and superb fitness, just the right people for a trip to Mars, we thought, but we haven't heard anything yet. Just as well really, as I won't let Alex and Paul have ten years holiday pay, and Keith wants to cycle there.
Moira says I can go. She says I should. She says she'll wait for me.
If this story is true, or even partially true, I am exceedingly impressed. I thought I was doing well by planting 700 trees at home.
According to press reports, on 29th July this year, government employees in Ethiopia were given the day off work to help with planting 200 million trees. The official announcement claims it was 350 million, but several sources dispute those figures, and i do wonder where they found all those seedlings. Nevertheless, even a fraction of that number would be astonishing, and for a country that we might imagine doesn't have the best government and organisation, well, what better government is there than this?
Elliott Morris sent me this ages ago, but I haven’t had space to use it. I still don't, but here it is anyway.
I am "Skinny Legs McGee", just about right, I think. Boris Johnson is "Buddy Washington". Just saying.
But some good news. As anticipated, the recent "CITES " meeting concluded that the 2017 regulations were a little over zealous, and musical instruments with less than 10 kg of Rosewood can be bought, sold, and transported around the world without restriction when the new rules come into effect in late November. The stricter rules on Brazilian Rosewood are not changed.
Although the regulations have been difficult to deal with, they have meant that some, less endangered, woods have become more acceptable, which has to be a good thing. Any export orders that we are holding at the moment will not have the delays and extra costs we had anticipated.
One of my occasional book reviews
I'm in the middle of reading "Origins" by Lewis Dartnell. It's a history of the way the changing geology of the planet shapes our lives, even today.
I'm at the part where it talks about the Silk Road, and the Caravans across the deserts. My mind wandered :- If camels were the only means of sending goods to other places- was there ever a "Next day Camel" service? or "Camel before 12?” More likely "Camel sometime next year", no use at all for delivering Devon Clotted Cream or Manx Kippers.
Apparently, Caravans could be a thousand animals or more, which would be several miles of Camel, nose to tail, so I couldn't help but imagine - what happened if the front one stopped suddenly?
Don’t blame me, you signed up for this nonsense.
I've been showing pictures of five guitars during construction for some time now, it has been a slow project, having to fit it in between "proper" orders. I should have individual photographs soon.
It's an extension of "The Guitar Experiment", from 2014. The conclusions from that were a little controversial, and although I don't argue with the overall results, it does leave something unanswered from my point of view.
A big part of my job is to talk to customers about choice of timber, and it simply isn't possible for me to say, "it doesn't make any difference ". I am sure, and so are most people I know, makers and players, that the wood choice for the back and sides is an important part of the guitar's tone. My view is that it is a small part, but that small part is very important. When we get to this level of instrument, it's the small parts that make the difference, just like in wine tasting and Hi Fi.
Many years ago, I noticed the confusion when trying to explain tone in terms of words, so that two people cannot agree unless they have the same understanding of the words used. If I were to say, “this one has ‘clarity’”, I've no way of pointing to the "clarity" and saying "there, that's what I mean". That's where the biggest problem occurs. If we can't agree on what words mean, we can't make a proper analysis using those words. There were some parts of the experiment's conclusions that reinforced these thoughts, so I'm trying to explore that a little more.
The original experiment took so long to complete and publish, that the test guitars are long gone and I can't re-examine them, but I did learn some lessons from those tests.
My objective this time is to reassure myself, and Alex and Paul, that we are speaking truthfully when we talk about tone and to gain some better way of discussing it with customers.
Part of that will be to get experienced opinion, particularly from players who have very fine ears, in the same way that whisky or chocolate tasters have a very discerning palate.
Here is a test. If I asked you to play and listen to a number of guitars, then write down a description of the sound of one of them, then pass that description to another person, would they be able to find that guitar from your description alone?
Would that work? I could call it the Bucknall test. Typically, complicated.
At Ullapool, I began to gather player's thoughts. Clive Carroll, Hugh Burns, John Smith, Will McNicol, Jule Malischke, Richard Smith, and many others, all spent a lot of time, playing and listening, telling me what they heard. I had three players write down some quite extended analyses. I hope to get other players and even makers to play and listen, and we shall see if there are any conclusions.
It isn't intended to be a thoroughly scientific test, I don’t have the time, but you would be welcome to visit and play them while I still have them all.
A few words about the guitars. One particular guitar last year had started me on a new path which I think will develop a lot in the coming years. A 12 fret, long scale, cutaway model, nearly an Alchemist, which I made using Will McNicol's music (and Will himself) as the "model". Big sound, very comfortable to hold and play. That is what we have here, in five variations. New features include carbon reinforced necks, and truss rod adjustment from the soundhole, the idea being to reduce any variability in neck settings between guitars and to test out new ways forward in design.
The guitars do vary in decorations, inlays and tuners because I wanted to represent a variety of tastes and price bands. None of that should affect the tone.
One comment from a good friend, an excellent guitarist, which demonstrates some of the difficulty in talking about tone
“I don't like that one as much as the other one I didn't like”
I'm still trying to work that one out, but don't get it wrong, - he “liked” them all!
And a final note, even though I must keep them here for quite a while longer, and I haven't advertised them at all, I have already "sold" three of them.
Sent to me by a Bavarian Scholar, who has tested the guitars, given me a written analysis of their tone, and sent samples from his own collection of Single Malts to match each one. My sort of customer, but I'm not sure which one is which. I do like the thought of “GlenWalnut” though, or maybe “LochRosewood”
At the "after show" Ullapool party, Tristan, John and myself were playing the world famous game "Beatles songs with a baking theme". I think Tris started it, and I had the winner for a while with ‘Yeasterday", but then came "Lucy in the sky with Raisins", and we finished with "Norwegian Wood fired Pizza".
Moira and I continued playing on the "Long and Winding Roll" home, and back at the ranch, Paul and Alex took up the theme. Paul had “Bakewell's Silver Hammer", and Alex came up with "Gotta gateau into my life" and then "Chard and Peppers, Home-made, Hearth-Cooked Flan,” at which point the adjudicating committee disqualified him for taking it too seriously and being a foodie.
So - let's put up a challenge. Send in your entries, and the winner will be entitled to buy me a drink. The runner up will be entitled to buy all of us a drink.
One Month Later
After much deliberation, the adjudicating committee has decided that the winner is:
Eight Cakes a Week.
Simple, to the point, and very relevant to us here at the workshop, although “eight flapjacks a week” would have been a bit better. “Eight pork pies a week” would have been better still.
You know who you are, you can claim your prizes soon.
That was a nice surprise wasn't it? Written and recorded on a 1979 Fylde Oberon by Brian Daly. He wrote to me at the time to say thank you and commented “whoever shaped the neck knew exactly what a guitar player needs”
Just look at the number of "views"!
Brian passed away a little while ago, and the guitar has a new owner. It might become available if anyone is interested. Just imagine playing it to your children or grandchildren?
Alex and Paul at work seem more impressed by this bit of Fylde history than by all "big names" we have supplied.
Will “Fingers” McNicol, protected by his bodyguard, walks the streets of Glasgow in broad daylight, looking for any busker playing out of tune and giving them lessons whether they want them or not. Do you notice that they have scared everyone else off the streets? I'd step aside, wouldn't you?
I received a phone call out of the blue from Elio Pace few days ago. Elio was touring “The Billy Joel Songbook” throughout Europe and the UK and had David Brown guesting. David bought a Falstaff guitar in 1979 and was the guitar player for most of Billy Joel's recordings.
They were discussing "the best guitar I ever had” and decided to google "Fylde Guitars" to find out where the Falstaff came from. They were only a few miles away and phoned me, a sort of three-way call between Elio, David and myself, great fun "catching up" on old times. I had David's Fylde Promo pic from 1979 on the wall, so I showed it to him over the phone. Unfortunately, it wasn't a video call, but it was funny at the time. Anyway, we were busy that evening or we would have been at the show. They have promised to visit next time.
If you are interested, the three players in the above photo are: David Spinoza (left) Mike Richmond (centre). David Brown (right) .
I've followed this lady's career since she was a student. Just in case you don't know, Evelyn is profoundly deaf. You may have seen it before, but it's worth watching and listening to any number of times. I wonder what she would have to say about guitar tone and different woods.
Evelyn has a book out, “Listen World” it's on my Christmas list.
© 2020 Fylde Guitars. All Rights Reserved