Please note: due to changes in regulations and constant design developments, we sometimes need to change details such as binding and inlay materials.
If you think you have seen this before, you might be right, it's more or less the same guitar as Ben Walker's "Roll Over Leonardo" from two months ago. Actually, we started to make this one first, but I forgot that Ben needed a bevel on the soundboard edge, so rather than modify the work we had already done, we started another one for Ben and we've now managed to finish this one. It has figured Claro Walnut back and sides with Rosewood bindings bordered by red lines, the neck is laminated from three pieces of Walnut with a 45mm nut. A very fine Redwood soundboard. Plain Ebony fingerboard with no surface markings, side dots only just like Ben's, but we can easily install pearl dot markers if you need them, we could even install diamond markers and a pickup if you catch me in a very good mood and offer me much gold.
The guitar benefits hugely from my obsessive "acquisition" of wood. The body and neck are made from the same tree, that doesn't happen very often. It's actually my contribution to carbon capture: buy all the wood. And keep it.
As with Ben's, the construction style is unusual in several ways. Although it's a standard Leonardo body, this guitar has a short (629mm) scale length, and the neck joins at the 12th fret rather than the usual 14th. I've talked about the benefits of that many times: the bridge position is one of the most important factors in any guitar's tone and the neck is much stronger and better supported against the leverage of the strings. Plus- it's a very comfortable combination when playing sitting down, made even better in the Leonardo because of the slightly shallow body. It really is a very special guitar.
For sale at £6,950.00
And to remind you of how this style of guitar sounds, listen to this video that Ben recorded on his own guitar, twin brother to the one above.
You'll notice Ben's massive smile as he waits for the first note to fade away, he waits for a long time. His guitar is fitted with the rather super, but complicated Baggs Dual Source pickup system. Don't for one-minute think that explains all the wonderful tone- a lot of that is from Ben's style, but an even bigger part is the guitar!
I asked him to explain how he recorded it: "it's all DI'd in that video - no external mics at all. The pickup has both piezo and mic, and I'm doing some splitting of it all. The piezo goes to an octave pedal (since the mic tends to mess the octave pedal up) which in turn splits the signal into two outputs of piezo and octave. The piezo part then goes through a rather whizzy sustain pedal thing, and then all three signals (piezo, octave and mic) are mixed together. No idea how I'm going to pull it off live though".
Surely you have heard of Arlen? "Master of the Telecaster". "One of the most influential guitarists of all time" etc. etc.
Arlen was one of my first endorsees in the USA around 1979, when he described his Falstaff as “The best new acoustic I have played - by far”. Recently, he saw a video where Clive Carroll was talking about his own Fylde, ("he's so incredible ... I'm a new fan!") which prompted him to drop me a line. Arlen attended NYC Music and Art College at the same time as Eric Bibb, so we had a lot to talk about.
Arlen wanted a new Fylde guitar, but lots has changed in music and guitars in the intervening years. There are body shapes and styles that weren't thought of, timbers that had never been used and pickups that hadn't been invented.
The discussion was the usual back and forth, suggestions, questions, comparisons, essential features, I sent him video clips of lots of Fylde players, and the final decision was a guitar very much like John Smith's and Antonio Forcione's - a cutaway Alexander, with a short scale to keep the string tension low and facilitate bending. African Blackwood back and sides and a Bear Claw Italian Spruce sound board, all excellent choices. At one point we had a near disaster, a tiny resin pocket ambushed me, it jumped out of the Spruce and said. "Here I am, what are you going to do about me huh?" It happens, no matter how careful we are, but I knew the wood was wonderful, and it's not right to scrap so much of an excellent guitar just because of a tiny visual flaw, and it really was tiny. So, I sent a picture and got an instant reply. “If it doesn't bother you, it doesn't bother me”. You might not be able to see it in the photographs. It's a beauty spot.
I thought the guitar and the materials deserved some celebration, so I used Snakewood bindings, and my fun little "Twisty cutaway" Isn't it lovely?
I'm sitting here, trying to imagine Arlen playing this on his new acoustic.
One of the rarest, most expensive, hardest, stiffest, most difficult to work timbers in existence. Nevertheless, I'm always looking out for suitable pieces - it usually comes in "half logs" cut lengthways down the centre so it's possible to see the figure and any possible (frequent) internal problems. The foresters put deep chainsaw cuts in the surface in order to check that the particular tree has enough "figure" to be worth cutting down, unfortunately, that makes about half of the log pretty much useless, so one way or another, this wood has more than its fair share of issues. Fortunately, it's strikingly beautiful so it's usually worth the effort and expense. Did I mention that I wrecked a new chainsaw just cutting it to length?
This picture was taken by Phil Carter at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2018. Lots has changed since then of course. If you haven’t already done so, you should sign up to John's newsletter, where you will read little snippets like this: "The project that has anchored my creative life in the past couple of weeks has been the launch of a Patreon page. I wrestled with the idea for months, finally realising that it’s a platform designed to facilitate a deeper connection between artists and those who follow their work. I’m able to offer music and videos in a way that invites conversation, without vying for attention on social media." It's a very good idea, apart from anything else, you will be able to access a number of John's guitar instrumentals. "Meditations (Montreal)". Guess what? Even without the voice, you won't have any difficulty deciding who is playing. Dark and moody but hardly any murders.
As luck would have it just as I finished writing, John posted this video.
See what I mean about dark and moody? Click on the image to see the video.
Two days that won't leave Will's memory for a long time. He was sitting at home when he wanted to be with his wife and son.
Will's piece is a track from his latest album "Miniatures" - available from Will's website.
If I were a composer, I'd probably write similar reminders of my own stressful times, with titles like "ow, that hurt”, “don't bleed on the wood" or "now where did I put my pencil"
I can't quite remember, but this might possibly be one of a kind. I certainly made no more than two, somewhere around 1977. The back was hand carved from a solid block of Indian Rosewood, the top from Spruce. I wouldn't attempt it now.
Apart from the neck being cracked and repaired it's survived very well. It’s basically a scaled-up version of the Lucetta mandolin. I wish I had made the top section a little less wide, and I wish there were better tuners available to me. If wishes were fishes …
I don't know who it was made for, but more recently it has been living with Robbie Cwik, who for a time was back stage for some of the early Jethro Tull tours.
"I was the boffin and chief balloon inflator. It was a bizarre tour. I didn't have time to take pictures as we had numerous animated antics to perform on stage during the show, it was great fun. Here is a picture of the tour badge. I still have my tour jacket".
About six years ago, I very nearly, but not quite, made a bouzouki for Damien. It's a long story and a little embarrassing. Fortunately, he’s a very forgiving chap and "had another go" at me. This time it worked, we actually got it made as promised. It's a short scale Arch Top bouzouki, with a Spruce top, and the body and the neck are made from Claro Walnut. I think it looks amazing, and Damien agrees “I absolutely love the bouzouki. Thank you so much for such a special instrument, now...do I need a Fylde tenor guitar?" Err yes, of course you do.
Damien asked for the bouzouki to be made "swappable" from right to left handed so that another member of the band can play it as well. We made the extra bridge and nut and installed position markers on both sides of the neck. I do hope I'm in the audience when both players need it.
Damien's main instrument is tenor banjo, I can't wait to see him play the bouzouki.
Many years ago, one of Andy's main instruments was a Fylde Octavius Bouzouki, in fact, he had two. At the time, it was the only bouzouki style we made and in recent years we have more or less stopped making it, the Arch Top instruments have taken over. But- Andy was hankering to revisit such things and, in for a penny etc, decided to upgrade to the Signature version. He hasn't seen it yet, don't tell him.
Gifts dried up a little last year, and I had no one to drink them with anyway, but "you've got to admit, it's getting better"
I'm hoping to show some new videos from Ken before long, so I thought perhaps I'd whet your appetite with this from ten years ago, played on his Fylde Oberon rather than his own signature Fylde guitar. As with most of Ken's titles, there will be a logical but very deep explanation for the title, but I don’t know what it is.
Yet another excellent tune from Gareth, he is totally dedicated to teaching via his website: 50,000 people learning every week, that's astonishing.
John never tells me when he has posted a new tune, sometimes I have to tell him - "John, did you know you've posted a new tune?"
It's always good to see him play.
John explains everything in the video notes. John's website
I love to hear someone concentrating on tone. It's all in there somewhere, just a question of bringing it out.
"Here’s a quick one-minute raw video of me playing my Falstaff just so you can hear the guitar without any effects at all. Every note is evenly balanced and the long sustaining notes and harmonics are so pure. (You can probably tell why I asked for a cutaway:)"
Findlay Napier rehearses on the roof of Skypark in Glasgow with the SSE Hydro as a back drop, getting ready to record the first Skypark Music Sessions with the band Mc Doubt. The sessions will stream on August 13th. 20th and 27th
Picture by Kris Kesiak
I've lost count of the number of electro plating companies I have used over the years, it's a nasty process using strong acids and other horrible chemicals and I'm sure it does no good for the environment or the staff, none of the companies have survived long. It is often a bottleneck for us as well, we have to wait for tailpieces to come back from the platers before we can finish the instrument, I had a brilliant idea. Stop using plated tailpieces.
So, from now on, that is exactly what we will be doing. No Gold or Chrome, just polished bronze - with no chemical plating. That's two "green" things in this newsletter.
The picture has prompted me to start making a new style of bouzouki tailpiece. It must be ten years since I changed something, mustn't stand still.
This is nice, a Touchstone mandolin, and an Alchemist guitar bouzouki. Click on the image to go to the video.
Two "Thuja". trees in our garden being brought down to a sensible height. Every tree is a wonder of nature, but some of them are greedy and steal all the light from others.
These two trees had a surprise - they are actually one. It's a massive catapult.
I've been wondering if I could find a huge piece of elastic and a parachute, there is a pub just the other side of that hill and everything seems to point in the right direction. I'd have to walk back though, so it's not the best Idea I've ever had. Also, there is a better pub in the other direction.
The aboriculturist is Jake English. Jake's website.
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