My goal is to create an instrument with the tonal beauty and complexity to viscerally draw and hold the listener’s attention to the player’s interpretation of the music at hand. At its best a guitar can possess a broad palette of timbres producible in a fairly wide dynamic range. The notes should have clear separation in a chord, so that changes in the inner voices in a progression are distinct. The basses should have a strong fundamental component, and the trebles enough natural reverberation for a sustaining, singing quality. Yet all these abstract qualifications are just so much hot air if the guitar’s sonority doesn’t suck you in and make you want to keep listening or playing.
I favor light construction, fairly shallow bodies, and thin finishes. My steel string guitars are loud and clear, with basses as strong as much larger instruments while retaining a broad selection of tonal colors and a wide dynamic range. I think it’s important to recognize that mature steel string guitarists play as subtlety as a classical colorist, but only on instruments capable of the sophisticated response to technique found on the best handmade classical guitars.
My classical guitars are more articulate and singing rather than big and punchy. The basses have a strong fundamental with good definition, the trebles more clear and crystalline than fat and round. Changes in dynamics, angle of attack, and hand position produce distinctly different sounds. I think classical guitar design in particular falls prey to the quest for greater volume at the expense of the most beautiful qualities of the instrument. Over 99% of concerts are played for less than 2000 people, and in such a setting a clear, well spoken guitar properly played will reach just as many people at the back of the hall as a coarser “cannon” that blusters so impressively in its immediate vicinity.
I have very definite ideas on what characteristics make a beautiful sounding, versatile guitar and am quite consistent in my approach from instrument to instrument. While I don’t believe my guitars are necessarily the best for everyone, I don’t alter my sonic design to “suit the individual player’s needs”. This chameleon approach rarely produces superior instruments. Historically the best guitars have been made by makers with a clear personal vision backed by the craftsmanship and commitment to insure consistency.
I do, however, think that the dimensions ensuring playing ease vary from player to player and, within reasonable parameters, can alter string scale and spacing and neck width and shape to meet individual requirements.
Both my steel string and classical guitars are made with European spruce or Western red cedar tops and backs and sides of either East Indian, Honduras, or Brazilian rosewood.