November 12, 2018
Someone asked about why I don’t post photos of current builds, comments, updates, etc. on the lutherie discussion forums. Well, there are several reasons. Mostly, I just don’t have the time.
I think that the Acoustic Guitar Forum is mostly a good thing; it gives individuals a chance to show off their latest work and get comments and information and support. I particularly am impressed by the postings such as one that I saw by JESSUPE (Jessupe Goldastini). What a painstakingly original and unique piece of work he’s accomplished! I have myselfposted my thoughts on various internet sites in the past. I did quite a bit of this some years ago on the ANZLF (Autralia/ New Zealand Luthier’s Forum), as well as on this one, and on a third one the name of which I’ve forgotten. These were mostly good experiences. But spending time on internet forums at this point in my life is not really for me; they can really soak one’s time up. And, frankly, not everyone behaves well.
Aside from all that, I have put everything I know and think about how guitars function, into my two books. My information is all there. Really: I’ve kept very little back except the specific thicknesses of my guitar woods. This is largely because there is no specific target thickness: each guitar top is a bit different in thickness. This is itself because I’m going for a specific stiffnessevery time, not a thickness. Each piece of wood is a little bit different, and it’s meaningless to give one number that would include tops for Jumbo guitars, and OM guitars, and OO guitars, and everything in between . . . that would furthermore include no information at all about bracing, string gauge, scale length, voicing procedures, doming, selective thinning within the same top, and the specifics of wood selection. PLUS: there are by now fully two dozen HOW-TO books that will give one or another specific number for top thickness. So the best I could do is to give an average thickness.
GOOD VS. BAD TEACHING
I produced a DVD a few years ago of a lecture that I gave in which I listed and explained the factors that are responsible for a guitar’s sound: voicing work, bracing, materials stiffness, and vibrating modes of guitar tops. I laid out everything that I’ve discovered and use that I consider important. I even brought some guitar bodies that had been voiced to different degrees of completion, and tapped on their tops to illustrate the progression of tap tones in my voicing work. Such tap tones audibly reveal how a guitar top “opens up”, and I find them indispensable as guides.
At the end, when the audience was asking questions, someone asked if they could see the final shapes of my bracing (that was producing those tones that had reflected my voicing efforts). I responded that he’d have to take my voicing class to see that level of the work. That may have been a mistake, and I got some blowback from it as the word spread that I was stingy and secretive with my work. I regret having sounded so flip and glib. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to have said the following — or something like it:
“I’ve described every principle and consideration that I find important in dealing with guitar sound: wood stiffness in guitars, optimal bracing, top vibrational motions, torque and string pull, an evenness of the vibrating gradient, the Cube Rule of stiffness, guitars as projectors and as diffusers, and top doming. [NOTE: this stuff is all in my books.] I’ve told you what I think, and why I think it, and I used visual aids and diagrams. I’ve talked about how I came to discover these important things, and even what mistakes I made along the way. And, mainly, these are precisely the factors that I work with as I make guitars the sounds of which everyone likes. Now, if I just show you the shapes and profiles of my bracing . . . youwillimmediatelyforgeteverythingIsaidandgohomeand copywhatyou’veseenmedo. And that, in my opinion, is really bad teaching”.
I said above that it may have been a mistake for me to refuse to show my final configuration of voiced bracing to the audience member who asked to see it. That’s half of it. The other half is: Are you kidding me?; you expect me to show you what it’s taken me four decades to figure out, just for the asking — and then criticize me when I say no? Pal, I just told you ALL the things that I think about in order to do the work that I do. I owe you that because I promised to speak about these things. But I draw the line there; that SPECIFIC stuff is entirely proprietary. I do not owe you to show you the specific fruits of forty-plus years of my learning curve just because you’ve bought a $10 ticket to a presentation I’m making.
I wish to be a cheering section for the honing of one’s own thinking skills. Also, I know something important that a lot of younger people don’t: things acquired without effort or equitable exchange — sort of like sex on demand — have no significance. You can stop reading now, by the way; I will post further postings on this matter but they are merely additional commentary.