In this post, we meet Tim Sway of New Perspectives Music, who’s been making guitars from old closet doors and spreading the message that things that are good for the planet can be cool and can be done without compromising quality or tone.
The news is full of heatwaves and forest fires and the grinding war in Ukraine. Here I reflect on living through the Cold War and risk of nuclear annihilation and then confronting the reality of 8 billion people on Earth and what that means for the planet. Despite all the problems, hope for the future remains, and it’s important to hang on to and celebrate that. And we need a living planet to be able to continue to make guitars.
Guitar tone and what contributes to it is a much discussed topic. While the acoustic aspects of tone can be measured, it’s often forgotten that there is a large subjective element in how individuals perceive tone. Here we explore the world of human perception, starting with a college football anecdote and then considering the beauty of wildflowers, before focusing on how sound travels from a guitar through our ears and into our brain.
Bamboo is a widespread, fast growing plant. As well as being what giant pandas eat, it is used in many ways, including as a sustainable replacement for wood as structural material. Yamaha launched a guitar made from bamboo in 2000 which received a mixed reception at the time. Other guitar makers are following suit, and bamboo offers an interesting and different option as a material to make guitars with.
The Martin 00L Earth guitar, with its striking painting of our planet, was inspired by Greta Thunberg and protests seeking meaningful action on climate change. But its roots like back in the 1960s with the first views of Earth from space. Its message is too important to ignore.
Mango and cherry trees provide sustainable wood options in very different ways. They’ve both featured on guitars made by C.F.Martin & Co. whose factory we visit here.
Apples are a staple fruit for many people, and it turns out that apple trees produce a great guitar wood too. Here I look at the history of apple cultivation and the decline of the traditional apple orchard – and, of course, an applewood guitar.
A chance visit to a historical guitar collection in an Italian art gallery provided interesting insights into the variety of types of wood used in early European guitars – not much tropical wood and a lot of local species.
Following visits to museums in Oxford and Cremona to see historic guitars and violins, I discuss the world of rare instruments and explore issues around their value, whether they should be played or not, and how their authenticity is established – and how this all relates to modern instrument building.
Metal-bodied resonator guitars first appeared in the 1920s and were played by many blues musicians. Here I celebrate these amazing vintage guitars and their modern counterparts, while also taking a look at the mining industry that produces the metals that go into them.