Another highlight from the 2016 Fretboard Summit: Rick Turner, Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna) and Dan Schwarz have a candid talk about the evolution of instrument amplification and tone from the 1960s to today. Casady talks about his desire for higher fidelity bass sounds, even as rock concert sound systems got bigger and bigger, and the electronic experimentation that ensued. Schwarz talks about the fateful day in 1973 when he walked into the Alembic guitar factory. Meanwhile, Rick Turner discusses the back-and-forth collaborations that happen between luthiers and their clients. It's a deep (two hours long) talk that covers a lot of ground...
This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is sponsored by Dying Breed Music.
Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal print magazine here.
Banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny joins us on this week's Fretboard Journal Podcast to talk about his new (and excellent) solo album 'Universal Favorite', some of the instruments in his growing collection (including his 1930 Gibson Granada, his 1941 Gibson TB-7, his 1953 Martin D-28 and his 1953 Fender Telecaster) and a lot more.
Get Noam's tour dates and order 'Universal Favorite' here:
This episode is sponsored by Dying Breed Music:
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If you love a good story, you’ll want to tune into this week’s podcast with luthier Wyatt Wilkie. Though he comes from a musical family, Wilkie is a completely self-taught instrument maker. He built his very first instrument, a mandocello, while working in New Mexico as a gravedigger. He then moved to a small town in Wales where he honed his craft and eventually found himself in Georgia apprenticing for archtop guitar icon Bob Benedetto. Wilkie is now nestled in the Comox Valley on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, where he divides his time today between mandolins and archtop guitars. Nearly all of his work is exquisite and custom… and no two guitars are alike.
This week’s episode is sponsored by Dying Breed Music: https://www.gbase.com/stores/dying-breed-music
On today’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to Jason and Pharis Romero of J. Romero Banjo Co. From the tiny town of Horsefly, British Columbia, the Romeros craft some of the most coveted new fretted instruments being made. They currently have a five year waitlist and, as they describe it, even getting on the waitlist is a bit of a challenge. The duo are also exceptional musicians and won the 2016 Juno Award for Best Traditional Album of the Year.
In June 2016, a fire swept through the Romeros entire shop, destroying many of their new instruments as well as some of the prized vintage possessions. During our conversation, we talk to them about the fire, the help they received from the music community and how their rebuild process is going. We also chat about some of their latest banjo creations and innovations.
https://www.fretboardjournal.com/video/fretboard-films-trip-romero-banjos/ (our film on the Romeros original shop)
Subscribe to the Journal here: https://shop.fretboardjournal.com/collections/all/products/fretboard-journal-subscription-no-auto-renew (use the coupon code PODCAST and save an additional $5 off your order)
On this week’s podcast, we talk to luthier Maegen Wells. After years of working alongside famed archtop guitar and bass builder Tom Ribbecke, Maegen is now building her own guitar and mandolin creations out of her Forestville, California workshop.
Wells has devoted nearly her entire adult life to learning the craft of lutherie and woodworking. Straight out of high school, she enrolled in Bryan Galloup’s Galloup School of Guitar Building and Professional Guitar Repair. She then went on to work at the Reverend Guitars warehouse and served as an apprentice to both Andrew White and Ribbecke.
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The Fretboard Journal’s latest issue, #38, is now mailing worldwide. Subscribe via fretboardjournal.com and we’ll start you off with this edition.
This episode is brought to you via sponsor TR Crandall. Check out their amazing inventory of vintage archtops, electrics and flattop acoustic guitars. And tell them the Fretboard Journal sent you: http://trcrandall.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLYZL2xae8A (StewMac video featuring Maegen Wells creating a tortoloid pickguard for a Gibson archtop)
On today's podcast, we talk to William Seeders Mosheim, the owner of Seeders Instruments. Seeders is an open-back banjo builder who has found success combining old world designs with new world craftsmanship. The Vermont-based luthier honed his woodworking craft at his father's furniture business but now has a multi-year wait list for his banjos. His custom creations can incorporate any number of tone ring styles, wood options and levels of ornamentation.
This episode is sponsored once again by TR Crandall. If you're visiting their store or website, don't forget to tell them that the Fretboard Journal sent you.
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This week, we talk to recording engineer Larry Crane of Portland’s Jackpot! Recording Studio about the new and expanded 20th anniversary reissue of Elliott Smith’s Either/Or, his friendship with Smith and what those original recording sessions were like. Larry tells us about Smith’s in-studio work habits, the gear they used, the work that went into remastering these songs and a lot more. We also discuss the economics of running a recording studio and Tape Op, the magazine that Crane co-founded with John Baccigaluppi.
This week's episode is sponsored by TR Crandall in New York.
Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal podcast via iTunes and leave us a review, please.
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.
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.
A North American-built, handmade acoustic guitar for around $1,000? As unlikely as that sounds, Ed Bond of Halcyon Guitars is making it a reality. Bond, a former employee of Larrivee and a maker of high-end Tinker Guitars, has set out to make lutherie-made guitars affordable. His Halcyon line offers a variety of body styles, scale lengths and nut widths (and limitless customization) with a satin finish and other stripped down adornments. On this week’s podcast, the Vancouver-based builder talks about the influence of David C. Hurd’s Left Brain Lutherie book and discusses some of his favorite woods to work with. Bond is pleased with how his no-frills Halcyon creations play and sound. “It makes every guitar come out sounding really, really good,” he says.
Follow Halcyon Guitars via their Facebook page.
As a member of the legendary Romero family, Pepe Romero, Jr. grew up in a self-described classical guitar “gypsy camp.” Instead of following in the footsteps of his father and relatives, however, Pepe decided at an early age to become an instrument maker. On this week’s podcast, he talks to the Fretboard Journal about his nylon-string guitar creations, as well as his latest passion: ukuleles.
He also describes the nylon-string guitar he built for Jack Johnson (which was used extensively on Johnson’s From Here to Now to Here); his work for the Climate Reality Project; the reverse fan-bracing that he utilizes and more. “It’s a new angle on my family tradition,” Romero says of his career in lutherie, “but it’s perfect for me.”
Learn more about Pepe Romero, Jr. handmade ukuleles and guitars via his website here. Pepe has started a production line of ukuleles called Romero Creations. To learn more about the Climate Reality Project and the beetle-kill guitar that Romero made for Jack Johnson, watch this video.
Martin Guitars is celebrating its 180th year in business. The venerable, family-owned company is also the subject of two new books and a forthcoming 2014 exhibit at the Met. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Martin CEO Chris Martin (C.F. Martin IV) about Martin’s place in guitar history and much more. We discuss the groundbreaking Hal Leonard book Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre-Civil War Innovations of C.F. Martin and his Contemporaries and how Martin’s earliest creations were truly a melting pot of different guitar construction styles and techniques. Chris also discusses Martin’s important role in the world of ukuleles (a new book on Martin ukuleles is now available), what he’s excited about guitar-wise and much more.
Greg Leisz is prolific, to say the least. For decades, the Southern California-based multi-instrumentalist has been a go-to guitarist and pedal steel player for musicians such as Eric Clapton, Buddy Miller, John Mayer, Bill Frisell, k.d. lang, Robert Plant and others. Leisz recently contributed a track to the wonderful Big E: A Salute to Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons. On this week’s podcast, we talk to him about the tune he performed on the tribute record (“Wild Mountain Thyme”), the impact Emmons’ playing had on his own music education, his gear of choice and more.
In early 2014, Leisz will be the subject of a lengthy Fretboard Journal magazine feature, penned by producer and singer-songwriter Joe Henry. As always, subscribe if you’d like to get that issue delivered to your home. We have a lot more pedal steel and steel guitar coverage in the works, too.
For our 65th podcast, we talk to banjo musician and educator Bill Evans and old-time fiddler Fletcher Bright. The duo recently released an album entitled Fine Times at Fletcher’s House.
Despite their varied backgrounds – Evans is a Bay area bluegrass powerhouse while Bright is an old-time fiddler from Tennessee – the duo sound like they’ve been performing together for years. Each of the 16 traditional tunes on the album were recorded in three or four takes with no editing – just two guys making great music. Evans plays a 1930 Gibson Granada that formerly belonged to Sonny Osborne, while Bright uses a contemporary fiddle built by Jonathan Cooper of Portland, Maine.
Evans is no stranger to the FJ. You may remember his great 14-minute crash course on the evolution of the banjo that we filmed here. And, though it’s hard to believe based on his playing, Bright is 82 years old this year. He’s been a member of the same band – the Dismembered Tennesseans – since 1945 (when he was in high school). He’s also a successful real estate developer.
At the end of our interview, the duo perform two songs from the record: “Yellow Barber” and “Polly Put the Kettle On.”
Folk music icon Richie Havens passed away on April 22, 2013. On this week's podcast, we listen in to an interview we conducted with Havens in 2010 at the Guild Guitars factory in New Hartford, Connecticut. This informal conversation covered Havens' earliest days as a folk musician, his love for Doo-wop, his appreciation for Guilds and a lot more.
During our visit, Havens performed a few tunes for the Guild employees. Below, is some shaky footage we took of the musician performing "Here Comes the Sun."