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September 2019: in this issue:

Martin Simpson
Five guitars to test (and sell)
Taylor Guitar Experiment
Bireli Lagrene
Tristan Seume
Tristan Seume's guitar for sale
Magician for sale
Quilted Maple Alexander
Blues names
The world on fire

Latest News on Indian Rosewood.
Adam Palma meets Chopin.
Will McNicol and Luke Selby. The Rising - Heather Walrond Company
Troy Donockley with Nightwish and his snooker table bouzouki
Cricket bat guitar.
David Holmes and the Bat.
Ullapool
The "Ullapool" guitar
Next day Camel.
Anastasia Tyurina

Martin Simpson
  • Martin SImpson's Guitar
 
 
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A beautiful guitar, stunning even, with a story attached to it.

We made the first version of this from Mahogany nearly a year ago, and Martin has been playing it a lot, it's on his latest album " Rooted". We both wanted to know how it would sound when made from Rosewood.

This Rosewood is rather special, it's ancient Brazilian that Mike Waterson "found" some years ago, sold to me, and I had it sawn and licensed. We used it to make a guitar for Anne Waterson, then one for Richard Hawley, then John Smith, and now, Martin. It's almost "family". I must try and get a group photograph; I'll need a title though. I think "The Family Tree" is taken.

The design is based around the bridge position, right in the middle of the most flexible part of the soundboard. This almost inevitably results in a neck joint at the 12th fret, which adds symmetry to the design and makes the guitar balance very nicely. Because of the short neck, Martin wanted a cutaway on this guitar, and we both think the slotted head is very appropriate.

Martin's guitar tone is known for "clarity", he doesn't want an added layer of bass on every note, so the body is quite shallow, which raises its resonant frequency and keeps everything "light", rather than "dark". We more or less took turns in suggesting design features, and agreed completely each time, sort of egging each other on and both becoming more excited at every stage.

Like the earlier version, the neck is laminated mahogany from a reclaimed snooker table leg, reinforced with carbon fibre, with no neck bolts, or adjustable truss rod. In fact, no metal components in the neck at all. I'm not making any major claims for that, it's just something I wanted to try, the idea of having no internal metal was compelling, but whatever the logic, it works. It wasn't easy to get the neck "set" right, and I told Martin I wasn't keen on trying it again, but I've changed my mind, it's worth the trouble.

Waverly tuners with Snakewood buttons. Highlander ip2 pickup with McIntyre Feather in the second channel. We have prepared it for a DeArmond pickup in case Martin discovers another one soon.

Small Abalone diamond inlays, Snakewood bindings with red borders, the soundboard is Master Grade Swiss Pine, with a fair bit of Bearclaw grain. I think Switzerland does still have bears, or they did until they shot the last one in 2013. Brexit, pursued by a bear. Oh dear, sorry Mr Shakespeare.

It's a lovely thing, Martin is exceptionally pleased, he is in the middle of a 50-date tour, using both Fyldes and his Stefan Sobell guitars. He says the first one "spits" the notes out. He hasn't told me what this one does yet. What is better than "spit"?

Below is a clip of him playing the first version at Cropredy. I'll post a video of the second version as soon as something of good quality appears.

Martin's site

Five guitars to test (and sell)

By the time you read this, these guitars will be finished, but there hasn't been time for proper photographs yet, I was worried that Mike's camera lens might have cracked because they are so exotic and beautiful. He has to be extra careful when he photographs Moira.

This is not officially connected to the earlier "University" guitar experiment, it's an attempt to reassure myself over certain questions that were raised, and I will be trying to gain extra informed opinions when I show them at Ullapool, and to selected people over the next few weeks and months.

There are a number of new features in the guitars as well, testing the water for the years ahead. I will explain everything in my next newsletter.

They will be for sale one day.

Taylor Guitar Experiment

Looks like perhaps we started something. I’ve heard news of a collaboration between Taylor guitars and Pacific Rim Tonewoods, who are major suppliers of Spruce Soundboards. I have some of their wood in my own store.

I don’t think the full text is available yet, but it looks interesting. I understand it to be testing different properties of Sitka Spruce soundboards, while keeping every other factor identical.

Here is the Abstract:

Influence of tonewood parameters on the perceived sound quality of a steel-string acoustic guitar


Sebastian MERCHEL1; David OLSON2; M. Ercan ALTINSOY3
(1) TU Dresden, Germany, sebastian.merchel@tu-dresden.de
(2) Pacific Rim Tonewoods, USA, d.olson@pacificrimtonewoods.com
(3) TU Dresden, Germany, ercan.altinsoy@tu-dresden.de

Wood is one of the preferred materials for building stringed music instruments. Because wood is a naturally grown resource, there is large variability regarding material properties, even within species. Therefore, luthiers select their tonewoods very carefully. In this project, listening tests were performed to investigate whether the objective testing of physical parameters of the tonewood can help to make an appreciable and reproducible impact on the sonic quality of the resulting instrument. Nine steel string guitars of the same model were produced by the Taylor Guitar Company, with strict control of all production parameters. The guitars varied only in two parameters: the density and the modulus of elasticity of the soundboard and bracewood, both made of Sitka spruce. The variability was representative of the range of the spruce wood currently produced by Pacific Rim Tonewoods, a supplier of tonewood to the acoustic guitar market. A short music sequence was used for pairwise preference evaluation in a double-blind listening test. The results suggest that, for this particular model (the Taylor 814ce Grand Auditorium), low density and stiffness of the guitar top have a positive impact on the overall preference of the instruments. More generally, the results underscore the importance of integrating the design with physical characteristics of the component wood.

Bireli Lagrene

A bit dark, but some great shots of the Fylde logo- thanks Bireli!

It's very long, I think it’s the longest "Fylde" video ever, with huge variations in style. A quite extraordinary demonstration of guitar playing, including the longest sequence of harmonic playing I think I've seen. There is one section at 1. 37. 33 that might make you question the logic of using high ratio tuners.

Brilliant for any guitar fan.

Tristan Seume

It's about time Tristan recorded something. Here he is playing his Custom Goodfellow

Tristan Seume's guitar for sale
  • Tristan Seume's Guitar For Sale
 
 
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Tristan has a new guitar on order, it's based around a Goodfellow, like the guitar above, but with some significant variations. It will be finished today, but pictures will have to wait.

So his "old" Custom Alexander, made in 2010, is for sale. 44.7 mm. neck, 629 mm scale length. Siricote sides, and three piece Siricote back, with an Indian Rosewood centre section. One piece mahogany neck, Western Red Cedar top. Headway FEQ pickup. There are a few small dents on the soundboard, but I'd say it's in very good condition.

It would cost about £5,000 to make now.

For sale £3,500 ono, including a new case!

Magician for sale

Quite a long story to this guitar, we made it for Richard Lindsay, who runs the Ullapool Guitar festival, and it was paid for by the artists and friends of the festival. After a few years, Richard part exchanged it for a custom Blackwood Alexander, and I sold this on to another player who had the stature to cope with it. (It's a BIG guitar). Then the new owner ordered a custom version with a wider neck, so it's available again now.

SOLD

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Quilted Maple Alexander

A custom order for a regular client. I don’t need to say much do I?

  • Quilted Maple Guitar
 
 
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Blues names

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.

Strings that Nimble Leap

I can't stop publicising this until it's solved mental illness, helped every musician in the UK, and planted lots and lots of trees..

It is still available to buy, direct from our website. Click here ...

If anybody struggles with paying by PayPal (it’s easy!), then we can talk to you about other methods of payment. Just email me. Anything any of you can do to help publicise the album would be very welcome. Facebook etc, anything you can do please. it’s a very worthwhile project, and if I do say it myself, rather splendid.

The world on fire

Link to the BBC article

Frightening. I've said many times that it isn't the "proper" use of wood, certainly not its use in guitar making, that is the worst threat to the rainforest. The worst threats are disease and fire, and far too little attention is paid to "other" areas of the world that are just as important as the Amazon.

Latest News on Indian Rosewood.

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.

Adam Palma meets Chopin

Adam is featured in just about every guitar publication at the moment, publicising his latest project.

Link to video

All the clips were filmed at The Manor House in Kłóbka, PL where the only "official" Chopin's fiancé lived and died. I am told that there were many "unofficial" fiancés.

There will be 12 video clips in all, so I'll be looking forward to those.

Adam's site

Will McNicol and Luke Selby - The Rising - Heather Walrond Company

Will told me about this video some months ago, and it's just appeared.

Amazing surroundings, excellent video, great dancing, and of course "the boys" pulling it all together.

I can't help but think of speech bubbles from the clergy “can you smell something burning" etc, very bad of me I know, sorry. At least I didn't say "Do you know your cassock's on fire".

Will's site
Luke's site

Troy Donockley with Nightwish and his snooker table bouzouki

You should wind the volume up and wear earplugs when you play this. It's not the same at less than 1,000 watts and without the Pyrotechnics.

Troy at Nightwish website

Cricket bat guitar






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?

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David Holmes and the Bat

So here it is, just to prove that it works. The sound is mostly from the Fishman Problend pickup.

"Jerusalem" has been sung at the start of every England cricket match since 2004, so Dave decided this was appropriate and he is trying to think of more cricket related tunes for the future. Bat music.

There is also an insect, called the Jerusalem Cricket, how strange.

Dave's website

Ullapool Guitar Festival

Less than two weeks to go now.

Link to website.

Quite a few guitars specially made for the Ullapool Guitar Festival this year

More information soon.

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  • Claro Walnut Alexander
 
 
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  • African Blackwood Alexander
 
 
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The "Ullapool" guitar
  • Ullapool Guitar
 
 
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Once again, a guitar to be sold to raise money for the Festival.

I delightful little thing. The back and sides are made from "Torrified" flame Maple, the top is especially dark Sinker Redwood for a good contrast.

Mahogany Neck laminated with an Ebony centre section. Ebony bindings, the soundboard purflings are our usual "coloured marquetry", but this time using Pear as the biggest part of the mosaic, rather than the usual Sycamore, so a more muted, gentle appearance this time.

Ebony fingerboard, 44.4mm neck

SOLD

Next day Camel

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.

Anastasia Tyurina

Seven years old!

If this doesn't make you grin from ear to ear, there is something very wrong with you. You must watch it right until the end.

This is gorgeous, look at those left thumb stretches and moves, the lovely relationship with the conductor (the photographic negative conductor?), and at 1 min 12 seconds, check the way she plays harmonics with her right thumb.

The righthand style baffles me a bit, it seems to be a bit of everything. I'll have to find out how that works. Can someone explain?

I just can't stop smiling when I watch this. It should be available on prescription.