I'm writing this blog because a few of you have asked me for an update on a recent pursuit of mine. So here I am.
For a little while now I've been considering exploring the world of classical guitars. I love finger style guitar playing and love the sound of classical, baroque and renaissance music. After posting Blackbird, a internet friend who is a professional musician suggested that I purchase a classical guitar. He felt that the wider neck and thus wider spaced strings and the nylon string themselves are advantageous to fingerstyle guitarists.
I explored this idea with you good folk via a couple of threads and even asked Neil a related question during a TG live session. After this and a fair amount of on-line reading, I decided that I would try and get myself a cheap (but sound) classical just to check it out for myself. I figured you generally don't really know if you like something until you give it a go (there are exceptions to this of course).
So why didn't I just go to my local music shop and buy myself an entry-level guitar - say a Yamaha C40 for about $200. Part of the reason for this is I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a classical guitar and then find out that the wide neck and the sound just didn't suit me. I also wanted something that would be nice enough that it would allow me to experience the classical sound rather than sounding too cheap. Also after chatting to you folks and doing a lot of reading I've learned that guitars mature and the woods used in their construction are a large part of the riddle to the quality of their sound. So I guess I was hoping to score a guitar that would be a good compromise between sound quality, instrument quality, playability and cost.
So for quite a while I scoured eBay for a guitar that fit the bill. As some of you know, I found a 1972 Yamaha G60A classical that I was very interested in and bid on. However, I hadn't actually examined the guitar and so I was too timid while bidding and missed out. I was really disappointed as it happens. After that I watched numerous auctions and bid on another that I also missed out on too, but was not disappointed. I even considered bidding on one in the UK, but the transport costs would have been exorbitant. Why? Because it was a G50A that used the tone wood Katsura for the body (back and sides), which I understand has a sweet sound and is now rare and only found in expensive guitars (usually not released outside of Japan).
Then one Saturday I was talking to a friend of mine about my hunt. He told me that his mum learned to play the guitar for a little while in the 70s when he was a kid and had an old entry-level Yamaha that had been passed around the family and had been sitting dead and unloved in his brother's wardrobe for ages. He said that he was sure his mum would give it to me as she hadn't played it for 30 years, no one had played it for a long time and that she would be happy that someone was using it. So after much 'really?', 'are you serious?', 'your nephews might want to play it one day', 'no I couldn't','OK if you're serious than I'd like to pay your mum a fair price' (etc.).... I went woo hoo! and 'I'd really love to look at it'.
Well he asked his brother to send some photos and low and behold it was a 1969 (to 1972) G50A. Spooky! So I told him that I had been considering buying that very model and that I was very interested. So after visiting his mum at Christmas he brought the guitar back with him (on a plane) and delivered it into my excited hands. Wow what a couple of sweeties - my friend and his mum (Maree). Both generous souls to be sure.
Well, it was structurally sound, but a bit of a mess. It even had bits f paint all over it - ahhh. So I spent the best part of a morning, taking off the old broken strings, cleaning it, oiling it, polishing it, restringing it and tuning, tuning, tuning, tuning, tuning (still doing that by the way - but it's almost settled). And then finally got to play it.....oohhh weird.....but it sounded good!
Specifications - string length - 658mm; width at the nut - 51 mm; top - spruce; back and sides - katsura, fret board and bridge - bubinga; neck - nato; headstock - ?? a light-coloured metal and plastic.
It seems to be in fairly good condition. With the exception that it has scratches all over it (including dents from where someone was strumming with a pick), the headstock is really stiff and has felt like it would break at times and the action is way too high - a little over 5mm at the 12 fret (which is at the junction of the body and the neck). I understand that it should be between 3 and 4 mm. Unfortunately, the saddle only sits a little over 2mm above the bridge. So I'm considering getting a new saddle and sanding it down to the point where it is just high enough to engage the strings. I'm also going to look for some beads too, as I understand they ensure the maximum angle between saddle and strings (for the saddle height). I suppose I could take it to a luthier, but I think to do more that lowering the saddle (besides maybe filing the nut a little), would involve lowering the height of the bridge itself, which if possible would be expensive (I might as well invest in another guitar). Anyway I enjoyed putting on a new saddle when I did it to my steel string so this is just another adventure.
So how is the playing going.... I'm really enjoying it! It felt really weird at first and the wider neck has made some stretches more difficult, but the benefit is that they are easier when I go back to my steel string. Changing between the 2 is a little weird. My brain and fingers need to adjust to the different string spacings and I'm needing to rely on my eyes more. But, I figure it's good for my brain and versatility. And the sound - I'm really liking it - to the point where my steel string sounds harsh when I first pick it up now. So far so good.. the journey continues. And yes I'm preparing something and intend show it off soon.
I'll be sending the video to my friends mum once I've loaded it as a little thank you too. By the way, I've christened it Maree in her honour.
I wasn't sure how to load images so I'll put them on my profile page.
Wow - I didn't mean for this to be so long - I guess I've already enjoyed the journey. Thanks for staying with me for this long and for all the advice you guys have given me that got me here.
P.S. - I forgot to acknowledge what a lucky woman I am. Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky me.. The goddess must be smiling on me.
And here is how she sounds: