If one had to choose the best time to dream and wish for the perfect guitar then Christmas must be that time.
Can you imagine waking up Christmas morning?
Still dark outside, the air crisp and clean and not a soul has stirred.
There in front of the Christmas tree is a familiar shaped wrapped parcel.
Your mind races, excitement levels rise and feelings of Christmas remembered from when you were a child well up inside.
Oh well, back to the real World.
Dreaming of the Perfect Guitar.
Sorry but there is no such thing as the perfect guitar.
It does not matter how many guitar studios you visit or how many luthiers you research, the instrument does not exist.
But don’t be dismayed, the fact that there is no such instrument is exactly why we love the guitar.
Like real life she (yes I do like to call my guitars she) has faults, her imperfections are beautiful to some, accepted by others and hated by a few.
In our search, we should recognise that we are looking for a lifetime partner; a guitar that will blend with our own personal musical character and enable us to be at one with our music.
In searching for our perfect guitar, we scour the internet for help and advice; pearls of wisdom which will assist us in making the final decision.
Quite often, I come across discussions on the “Air Resonance” of a particular guitar.
This is where one sings into the sound hole of the guitar and at a frequency sympathetic to the instrument, she will sing back to you.
Try it; don’t be shy, it’s all good fun and even better at parties.
If you do not have perfect pitch, most of us do not; use a digital tuner to allow you to see the musical pitch at which your guitar sings back to you.
Now if my guitar registers G or F or F# etc does this mean she is a fantastic singing instrument?
I can feel an EBay posting coming up, £10,000 or maybe £15,000.
No sorry all it means is the love of your life has a body resonance of G, F or F# etc.
I tested many of our student range guitars and yes, they also have a body resonance, many the same as World famous concert guitars but does that mean I can sell the Alhambra 4P for £10,000? no I don’t think so.
Other internet postings talk of grain widths.
Look at your guitars soundboard and you will see grain lines running the length of the board, now some feel that a certain number of grain lines spread across a specific diameter of soundboard is an indicator of how responsive the guitar will be.
Yet I have played guitars with very close grain and then again guitars with very open grain and both would have happily graced the concert platform.
So where does this lead us?
We now begin to understand that a guitar is the sum of many different parts be it “Air Resonance”, “Grain Width”, “ Wood Choice”, “Internal design” etc and it is up to the Luthier to bring together all of these parts to build for each of us the Perfect Guitar.
There are no tricks, no shortcuts, just a lifetime of study, building, trialling different designs, until the luthier starts to get the feel for the wood.
Yes, just like a guitarist, studying and training for thousands of hours, thousands of days until that magical time arrives when they feel at one with the music so the luthier feels at one with the guitar.
In our search for the “Perfect Guitar” we have to add another element into the mix; ourselves.
Yes, the way we play any particular guitar effects the way that instrument sings, also we have our own lifetime of emotions, which we endeavour to add into our music.
The journey for our “Perfect Guitar” starts with our very first instrument.
My first guitar was Steel strung.
I knew nothing about music or the guitar, thinking nylon string guitars were for children and steel string guitars were for adults.
So wanting to grow up I purchased a steel string guitar.
For a few months I attempted to teach myself to play and quickly realised finding a good teacher would be a much better proposition, so that is what I did.
Arriving for the first lesson I fell in love with the sounds my teacher made on her guitar, only to be told I had the wrong type of guitar and a nylon string would be the preferred instrument.
Back to the music shop I exchanged guitars and purchased a Japanese nylon string instrument.
If I were to play my first Classical Guitar now I would be very disappointed in her musical abilities but then, at that time in my musical career, I loved her.
A year later and I noticed my classical guitar was not as responsive as the instrument being played by my teacher.
She had a beautiful concert guitar.
Being young and not well off for money I set my sights on a trip to London where I played some lovely guitars.
Money was still a problem and so my new hobby became window cleaning.
Yes, through the heat of summer and the cold of winter I cleaned windows in my spare time until 18 months passed and I had enough money for another trip to London.
Vincente Comacho’s Cedar Top guitar became the love of my life for the next 20 years.
When I first played her there was something there I had not heard in any other guitar; it was love at first sound.
I handed over the money rushed home and started my new musical life.
The first 3 years were rather different as I had never experienced a concert guitar before.
With perseverance I learned to play her and found out how to bring out her best qualities.
On various guitar courses I was able to experience other instruments by famous makers but I remained faithful to my true love.
Twenty years passed and my musical ear started to search for sounds my Comacho was unable to deliver.
As a musician I was growing and changing.
I now play an English guitar by Kevin Aram, which, guess what, I love.
She delivers feeling and emotion in a different way from my Comacho.
If asked would I say that my Aram is a better instrument than my Comacho?
My answer would be that at this stage in my musical life my Aram delivers everything I could wish for.
You will notice the re-occurring theme here – the one where I fall in love with each of my guitars.
It does not matter whether others agree with my choice of guitar or wether they love her as I do; after all do I care whether other people are in love with my wife?
Hmmm let me think about that one?
I believe there is a secret to finding the perfect guitar.
The secret is to be open to her natural qualities maybe her looks attract you or the way she feels or is it the way the hair on the back of you neck stands up when she sings to you.
Any and all of these things matter and will help us in our search.
The one thing we mustn’t do is to pay too much attention to the preferences of others and then to avoid falling in love for fear of making the wrong decision.