As Santa Cruz celebrates its fortieth anniversary, we’re sharing the talk that founder Richard Hoover gave at the first-ever Fretboad Summit. Richard tells us a bit about the SCGC operation, gives us his thoughts on how tonewoods affect what we hear, describes his specific builds for Tony Rice and much more.
The next Fretboard Summit takes place October 14-16, 2016 in San Diego, California. Once again, Hoover and many luthiers from around the country will be on-hand, fielding questions and explaining their craft. We’ll also have some of our favorite musicians, interactive exhibits, dozens of vintage guitars in a pop-up “guitar library” and much more.
Jim Olson is a legend in the world of acoustic guitar making. The Minnesota-based luthier is a cult favorite among guitar collectors around the world thanks to the instruments he's built for James Taylor (Taylor's Olson was once immortalized in cartoon form on a Simpson’s episode), Phil Keaggy and Leo Kottke. Due to their high demand, Olson’s new creations start at $15,000, a price that even he is a little embarrassed by. “I’m the Forrest Gump of guitarmaking,” Olson tells us. “I fell into here. I don’t think these things are any more special than anything else.”
During this candid talk, Olson tells us about the first guitar he built (with help from the classic Irving Sloane book), how Keagy ordered the first cedar guitar and how an early (and failed) distribution deal for his dreadnoughts in the late ‘70s resulted in his fanatical appreciation for tooling and build efficiency. “I’m sometimes more interested in making a new piece of tooling than a guitar,” he says. We also talk CNC machines, the creation of the Small Jumbo, tone woods, his fateful meeting with James Taylor and more.
Subscribe to all the Fretboard Journal podcasts via iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fretboard-journal-podcast/id394447340?mt=2
These days, Otto D’Ambrosio is best known for his exquisite archtop guitars. But his guitar journey began long ago, when he stumbled into Mandolin Brothers as a 13 year old. He ended up working at Mandolin Brothers for Stan Jay, then for luthier legends Flip Scipio and John Monteleone. He did some time at the repair department of Guild’s Westerly plant and, eventually set out on his own as a luthier and repairman.
On this week’s podcast, D’Ambrosio tell us about his background, describes the ongoing evolution of his archtop models and tells us about his ongoing collaboration with Eastman Guitars. After working for most of his life on the East Coast, Otto has now relocated to the West Coast to work out of Eastman’s California headquarters.
It’s an informative and fun chat with one of the fretted instrument world’s best craftsmen.
It's starting to look like a guitar!
Luthier T. Drew Heinonen is hard at work on the OM guitar project we'll be unveiling at the 2016 Fretboard Summit. On this week's podcast, Drew tells us about his assembly of the guitar's body, gives us his views on bracing and bridge plates and much more.
The Fretboard Summit OM will be unveiled at the next Fretboard Summit, taking place October 14-16, 2016 in San Diego. Go to www.fretboardsummit.com for details.
Author, record producer, historian and performer Bob Carlin joins the Fretboard Journal podcast to talk about his latest project, the gorgeous new book 'Banjo: An Illustrated History.' The book is an exceptional tome for any fretted instrument collector: Carlin walks us through the history of the instrument while showcasing some of the most gorgeous banjos ever created. It also offers profiles on notable players and builders (including Jason Romero, Doc's Banjos, Kevin Enoch, Deering and others).
Order the book here: http://amzn.to/29W7i0w
Tim Young is best known for his guitar playing with Wayne Horvitz in Zony Mash but he’s also done a ton of session and studio work with everyone from Todd Rundgren and Fiona Apple to John Legend.
On this week’s podcast, we talk to Young about his career as a session guitarist, including his stint playing on the case/lang/veirs record (he’s also immortalized as the subject of the song “Best Kept Secret” on the album) and his work as the guitarist in the house band for The Late Late Show with James Corden. Young tells us about his time at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, his struggle to connect with some classic jazz sounds and how he found his guitar voice thanks to the music of Bill Frisell and Ween.
Added bonus: We shot video of Young playing with Bill Frisell at the Fretboard Journal, coming soon to our website. Stay tuned…
Special thanks to D’Addario for sponsoring this episode.
The Fretboard Summit takes place October 14-16, 2016 in San Diego, California. We hope to see some of you there. It's our take on our dream guitar festival, with incredible concerts, panels and talks from some of the world's best musicians and luthiers and a lot of surprises.
On May 24, 2016, jazz guitarists Bill Frisell and Matt Munisteri performed a short Facebook Live set at the Fretboard Journal’s Seattle headquarters. After the cameras were turned off, we kept the microphones rolling while Bill and Matt had an insightful conversation that covers Johnny Smith, the ‘80s New York City jazz scene, guitars, Bill’s work with Vernon Reid, inspiration, attempting to take vacation time and much more.
Watch Bill and Matt’s Facebook Live session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQUq9v34dsA
or via the Fretboard Journal’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/fretboardjournal
Matt Munisteri will be appearing once again at the Fretboard Summit, held October 14-16, 2016 in San Diego, California. www.fretboardsummit.com
Once again, we check in with Minnesota-based luthier T. Drew Heinonen. As we've discussed on podcasts #100 and #101, Heinonen will be building the Fretboard Journal an OM-style guitar, which we’ll be unveiling at the 2016 Fretboard Summit. As you’ll hear in this podcast, we sent Drew a wide variety of domestic tone woods to choose from – from highly-figured koa to sleeper Black walnut. We also sourced some bracing material from Michael Gurian, a Lutz top from Pacific Rim Tonewoods and a Red spruce top from the Hampton Brothers.
During this conversation, we talk to Drew and get his reaction to the various tonewoods we mailed to him. We get his thoughts on thickness sanding, how much (if at all) a luthier can affect the tone of the raw materials he’s using and a lot more. Last but not least, we finally decide on the raw materials we’ll be using for the Fretboard Summit OM.
Special thanks to Stewart MacDonald for sponsoring this episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast. Backing music by Jon Rauhouse.
Burlington, Vermont's Creston Lea first appeared in the Fretboard Journal #21 when we ran a feature on him and fellow electric guitar builder Paul Languedoc. Over the years, we've continued to follow and be amazed by this created luthier.
Today's podcast was recorded live at the first Fretboard Summit in November 2015. This is Lea's presentation entitled "Flame Job!" where he talks about design, collaborating with artist Sarah Ryan on custom paint jobs, customer requests he's willing to take (and not take) and a lot more. He also fields some great questions from Fretboard Summit attendees. Huge thanks to our friends at prsguitars.com for sponsoring our Summit podcasts.
The next Fretboard Summit takes place October 14-16, 2016, this time in sunny San Diego. We hope to see some of you there.
Even though his guitars command top dollar and his wait list is several years long, luthier Jason Kostal isn’t done learning his craft. In fact, as we hear on today’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, Kostal just flew to Europe to attend an inlay master class with Grit Laskin. We talk to Kostal about the course, Laskin’s approach to teaching and whether he’ll use his newfound inlay skills on his own guitar creations.
Beyond describing his class with Laskin, Kostal also tells us a bit about his build philosophy, how his business is doing and the state of boutique guitarmaking in general.
Kostal is a tireless learner and easily one of the most fascinating builders around: Before becoming a full-time luthier, he graduated from West Point, served in the Army, earned an MBA from Emory and did his time working for a Fortune 500 company. Eventually, he found himself at Roberto-Venn in Phoenix, apprenticing for Ervin Somagyi (who will be featured in issue 36 of the Journal) and starting his own guitar company.
This episode is sponsored by D’Addario’s new Nickel Bronze Wound strings: nickelbronze.daddario.com
Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal magazine here:
On this week’s podcast we talk to Walter Carter of Carter Vintage Guitars about one of the store’s latest acquisitions, a May 1958 Gibson Les Paul that could safely be called the first ‘Burst. This prototype guitar came from the factory with a three-piece top and a “Special” finish, which just happened to be the same yellow to cherry red sunburst pattern that would be found on all those iconic 1959-1960 Les Pauls. Carter tells us about this unique instrument, how he found it (or it found him) and, yes, the price he’s asking.
Carter is an invaluable resource when it comes to all things fretted, so we also ask him about some of the recent sales trends he’s seen in vintage instruments, what guitar markets seem soft and more.
For 105th episode, we talk to two of the many guitarmakers who built instruments for Prince over his career. Roger Sadowsky tells the entertaining story of how he built Prince's "Ejacucasters" and Andy Beech of D'Haitre Guitars describes the dozens of guitars he built for the late music star and some of the abuse they went through after years of rigorous touring. If you have your own Prince guitar story, we'd love to hear about it. Drop us a line!
This episode is sponsored by D'Addario.
Today we talk to Grant Gordy and Joe Walsh, two rising stars in the world of bluegrass and Americana music. Both artists are members of Darrol Anger's Mr.Sun, but during the recording of this podcast, they were touring as a guitar/mandolin duo. Gordy talks to us about the vintage Martin guitar he just purchased from Chicago Music Exchange and Walsh talks to us about how he chose his new Nugget mandolin from luthier Mike Kemnitzer.
Subscribe to the podcast if you haven't yet via iTunes. We also invite you to check out the new fretboardjournal.com.
For years, Eric Daw has been the in-house repairman at Seattle’s acclaimed Emerald City Guitars. On today’s episode, we talk to Eric about his work at the store, his love for vintage guitars and a lot more. Eric also talks about his own Pin-Up Custom Guitars creations and his latest project, the Fret Files podcast.
Ronin electric guitars are instantly recognizable thanks to their unmistakable Foilbucker and Stratofoil pickups. Dig a little bit deeper and you'll also discover that these guitars have another unique characteristic – they’re all made out of reclaimed old growth redwood. On today’s podcast, we talk with John Reed of Ronin about their creations, why they’re using redwood for their guitar bodies and how those distinctive pickups came to be. We also hear from guitarist Dan Phelps on what it’s like to play these guitars in a variety of settings. Ronins may be best known as the guitar of choice for audio experimenter David Torn but, as you'll hear, they can be used in a wide variety of settings. All told, it's a fun chat about woods, guitarmaking, the magic behind goldfoil pickups and more.
Luthier T. Drew Heinonen will soon be building us a custom OM style guitar. On this episode, we talk to Drew about the time he spent at Jim Olson's shop, his philosophy when it comes to CNC machines, thoughts on tone woods and more. We also hear from TJ Thompson on what, in his estimation, makes for a great OM-style guitar.
This is the second episode of our OM guitar build. We'll be checking in with Drew over the next several months to hear how about the build process and more.
This episode is sponsored by Stewart-MacDonald.
We celebrate our 100th podcast episode by ordering a custom acoustic guitar! On this episode, we talk to luthier T. Drew Heinonen, who got his start working for Bourgeois Guitars and acclaimed guitarmaker James Olson. Heinonen is now building guitars under his own name and will be making an OM style guitar for us over the next several months.
We’ll be checking in with Heinonen every couple of weeks on our podcast to discuss the guitar build, make decisions about its appointments and hear about all the steps and hair-pulling that a luthier goes through during an instrument build. We’ll also be posting photos of the process on fretboardjournal.com and on our Facebook page.
A huge thanks to all of our listeners and podcast subscribers for tuning in to our show.
Before he devoted himself to making electric guitars, luthier Scott Walker spent years setting dovetail neck joints at the Santa Cruz Guitar Company. With Walker’s most recent creation, the Katana, he gets to combine the two chapters of his life in a unique way. The Katana is a unique, stripped-down electric by Walker’s standards and it has a memorable party trick – it has a Japanese-style joint that bonds the neck to the body without glue, bolts or screws. The instrument itself is purposeful and simple: one-piece body and one-piece neck, no tone or volume controls.
On this week’s podcast, we talk to Walker about the guitar, the challenges he had making it and the prospect of this kind of joint working in an acoustic instrument. Walker is always on the vanguard of guitar construction techniques (you may remember our feature on him in the Fretboard Journal #27) and this instrument is no exception.
Read more about the Katana on Scott’s website.
Vintage guitar enthusiasts are quick to point out the differences between various makers, tone woods and construction techniques. But can you identify with just your ears what you’re actually hearing? That was the premise behind Matt Munisteri’s Blindfold Guitar Challenge at the 2015 Fretboard Summit. We assembled a variety of vintage instruments for Munisteri to play behind a thin curtain while the audience had to guess what they were actually hearing.
This set features some great playing by Munisteri (who could make any guitar sound fantastic) and some thought-provoking commentary on the merits of various collectible instruments. At various points, Munisteri is also joined by Bill Frisell, Eric Schoenberg and Michael John Simmons.
Though ran out of time before Munisteri could play through all of the guitars we collected backstage, we’re happy to announce we’ll be throwing the next Fretboard Summit October 14-16, 2016 at San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo Inn. With any luck, we’ll make the blindfold guitar challenge an annual tradition and have a whole new batch of vintage guitars for Munisteri to try out in California. Go to www.fretboardsummit.com for details and ticket information.
Luthier TJ Thompson returns to our podcast to tell us a bit about his new website, proluthiertools.com. On the site, TJ is selling some of the exacting tools and guitar parts he’s developed over the last few decades repairing vintage Martin guitars, including bar fret stock, belly and pyramid bridges and more.
TJ also tells us about a few of the projects that have crossed his workbench recently, his use of technology in fixing old guitars and more. Whether or not you have an old Martin guitar or need these tools, it’s fascinating to hear about their development from one of the world’s finest luthiers.
Some choice sound bites from TJ heard in this conversation:
“The only thing I abhor more than self-promotion is advertising.”
“[The California neck reset] is the only repair that I can’t really reverse.”
“I thought I could just solve this problem up front before people glue the wrong bridges on with the wrong footprint.”
“A lot of people think that you’re supposed to use a quarter sawn piece of wood for a bridge blank. Although it looks nice in that cut, they almost always split through the pin holes and eventually the saddle slot splits, too.”
“It looked like Breaking Bad over here. I had my Walter White outfit on: The goggles, the gloves, the smock, the whole thing...”
For more information, go to proluthiertools.com.
Special thanks to our friends at D’Addario for sponsoring this episode.
For our 96th podcast, we talk to Josh Rosenthal of Tompkins Square records. In its first decade, Tompkins Square has released dozens of essential albums for guitar lovers, including the Imaginational Anthem series, records by E.C. Ball, Max Ochs, Roscoe Holcomb and others.
On this podcast, we chat with Rosenthal about how this label started, his love for acoustic guitar music and why he decided to celebrate the label's tenth anniversary with a custom guitar commission from builder Trevor Healy. It's a fun chat with one of the true visionaries of the modern music industry.
Bridge plates, neck resets, refinishes… these are the issues that cause sleepless nights for many vintage guitar enthusiasts. On November 7, 2015 at the first Fretboard Summit, Mass Street Music’s Jim Baggett addressed some of these issues and many more during a panel discussion with Mark Stutman (Folkway Music), Jay Hostetler (Stewart-MacDonald), Richard Johnston (Gryphon Stringed Instruments) and Eric Schoenberg.
During this 45 minute talk, the group discusses how guitar restoration has evolved over the years, some of the misinformation that can be found on guitar forums and how to best discuss repair work with your local luthier. Whether you have a priceless collection of pre-war Martins or just a ‘60s guitar that needs a little TLC, this is enlightening and unfiltered discussion with some of the true experts of the acoustic guitar world.
There is only one musician in the world who can sing the praises of bluegrass legend Don Stover, describe the merits of vintage Sunn amps and tell you that he’s working on a suite of 12-tone music for tuba and banjo all in one 20 minute conversation. That man is banjo legend and experimenter Danny Barnes.
For our 93rd podcast, we talk to Seattle musician Eli West, who is just about to wrap up a Kickstarter campaign to fund his first solo record. West is a prolific musician, perhaps best known for his work in Cahalen Morrison & Eli West. His forthcoming solo album features a host of guest performers, including Bill Frisell and Dori Freeman.
We talk shop with West about the album, his background and also the acoustic and electric gear he’s been using both on the road and in the studio.
Support Eli West’s Kickstarter here:
The first-ever Fretboard Summit was filled with magical music performances and informative lectures but one clear highlight was this session featuring Joe Henry and David Crosby discussing the art of record production. This candid, hour-long conversation started with Henry asking Crosby about If I Could Only Remember My Name One, but it quickly stretched far beyond that topic and hit upon inspiration, timelessness and the pitfalls that an artist can make inside the studio. They also fielded questions from some of the Summit attendees in attendance.