Like Land rovers ‘it all started in Africa’. The evenings in the bush were quite long and I am not much of a ‘reader’ – this was in 1967. So, I bought this old beat-up guitar and a book (I now have no recollection of where I acquired these) and started practicing. I think, when I shared a camp sites with others, it nearly drove them mad. Eighteen months later however I felt I reached a reasonable basic competence although no doubt my technique had a lot to be desired.
I learnt from others when I returned to London (Keith in particular) and I purchased my first decent guitar by Ryoji Matsuoka; I still have it although it looks a bit used.
I then played quite a lot in my youth, that is up until my mid-thirties, but then family life and a career took over and the guitar was put to one side. I did however play quite a bit, but only briefly, when we lived in Bahrain and took lessons from semi-professional Bahraini guitarist but my enthusiasm waned and I think he was disappointed with my lack of competence/dedication.
When we returned to UK again family life and the career took over and when I retired in 2000 we bought South Low and manual/building work and guitar playing don’t mix. However, in 2016 I decided I had had enough of ‘heavy’ work – we would pay for anything that still needed to be done on the House.
So, I joined the South Lakeland Guitar Club got some lessons from Derek and started again. It has taken a couple of years (now mid 2018) to get back to where I was before and I still can’t play some of the pieces that I was reasonably comfortable with half a century ago. But - we progress!
Keith didn’t think much of my Ryoji Matsuoka. I’m not sure why, it seemed alright to me. However, it was getting old and a bit worn.
On our regular trips to Spain I had toyed with the idea of buying a Spanish guitar, as much as a memento of our travels, and in 2016 we visited Salamanca where I had discovered there was a small guitar workshop http://www.guitarrasmarce.es/index.php. I bought a Flamenco 1 guitar that was the top of their ‘production’ range. We also had a guided tour around the small factory that I found of particular interest and, when I was doing Spanish classes in Kendal, I gave a short talk on our visit. Click below for my ‘Charla’.
The Flamenco 1 is quite a nice guitar. However, it is a flamenco style and has a somewhat narrow neck. Also, I think it was a ‘factory second’ as the fretboard is not quite flat and they are a few other minor irritations; however, it does have an easier action than the Ryoji Matsuoka. But I was not satisfied and Keith recommended that I should have a look out for a Yamaha. A decent one came up on eBay in March 2018, a Yamaha CG-170SA, and I won the auction; I am well pleased with it.
I like fixing thing. Some of my friends/relatives might say it is an obsession (South Low, the Series 2B, clocks and now guitars!).
I thought at one time I would like to make a guitar from scratch. I bought an excellent book on how to do this and very soon realised that it might not be such a good idea. Life (that is, what’s left!) is too short and a whole lot of new tools would need to be made or purchased. So next best, I would buy up cheap ‘broken’ guitars on eBay and fix them; I have not paid more than £15 which is often exceded by the carriage costs. Only four (so far!) but I have got a lot of satisfaction and understanding on how guitars are put together and also how different they can sound.
BM (Barnes & Mullins) Sevilla
My first purchase was a BM (Barnes & Mullins) Sevilla. B&M import and distribute Admira guitars with the same name. The Sevilla is still marketed although now has a solid cedar top. The one I have is laminated but otherwise looks very similar.
It was in a seriously bad way when I received it. The bridge was almost detached from the soundboard, the soundboard and the back were also parting company with the sides of the guitar. There were also a few minor knocks and scrapes and the tuning pegs needed replacing.
It took a few weeks and quite a bit of experimentation but it is now playable and actually sounds quite good. However my attempts a lacquering were disappointing and the finish is not so good.
Half size guitar
"Guitar junior half size classical (spares or repair) new but neck broken - buy in now, £4.99". That is how it was described. I re-glued the neck and it is now living with Jasmine and Leo. It is not easy for an adult to play but the sound, for what it is, is not bad. It might justs encourage one of them to take up the guitar when thay are a bit older.
My second acquisition was a Delgada DCG-35 Classical Guitar marketed by Hobgoblin Music. It has a solid cedar top, rosewood fingerboard, wood binding and, what particularly attracted me, a piebald ash body. It was generally in good condition BUT the fretboard/neck had bowed backwards (away from the strings) and the previous owner, I guess trying to make it playable, had raised the bridge saddle, and broken the bridge.
Using “Titebond” I glued the bridge parts together, rather than attempting to replace it. I then tensioned the neck, using strings and weights, to try and encourage it back to the shape it should be. After several months (yes, months!) the fretboard was eventually flat although still with quite a low action. Keeping it strung and in tune it has pusuaded it to keep its shape. It now plays quite nicely although the tone is not as pleasing as the Yamaha or the Flamenco.
However, that is not why I bought it. It was apparent from the eBay photos that the fretboard was fairly worn and I wanted a guitar to practice planing down the fretboard and re-fretting before I attempted the same on the Ryioji Matsuoka. So, for £12.99 it seemed worth it and I will end up with a cheap plywood, but playable, guitar. Bags of character? - well perhaps not.
We meet at South Low every couple of weeks or so.
For the first hour we practice an ensemble piece that’s we are working on with the intention of performing it, sometime, at the South Lakeland Guitar Club. Our first performance was in August 2018. Have a listen…
After tea and Jean’s flapjack we might play various solo pieces are working on or further short ensemble pieces. However, much of the time is listening to Derek playing pieces that for the most part are way out of my reach.
I have included this section as much as a personal reference of what I am working on, or even achieved, with links to web resources.