A warm welcome to the guitar community

April 30, 2015

I recently had cause to contact Beverly Maher at The Guitar Salon and Richard Brune at his Evanston, Ill. shop. In both cases, my call was a tentative one, as they had no reason to help me with guitar related information that I needed. And yet these two fine folks showed me why they are so revered in the classical guitar world, in that they were generous in sharing their knowledge, ready to treat me as a colleague and not a competitor.  In evaluating a fairly rare guitar, such as a Humphrey MIllenium, in this case one that lacked Tom's signature and the year on the label, I had nothing to go on, but Beverly and Richard were super sleuths and happy to help solve the puzzle.

In starting Chartwell Guitar just over a year ago, I wondered how friendly the dealers would be among each other. Such classy, generous treatment as with Beverly and Richard has not been universal, but others like Paul Jabrayan in Montreal, Andre in Paris, and JohnPaul in Santa Monica have all been welcoming.  It is a wonderful business to be involved in and I now know the best way to succeed is to respect the product and all those who deal with it, especially the buyers who play the guitars. But without the experience of a Beverly and Richard, those who have known vintage guitar builders first hand, know the finishes and techniques these greats used, the link to folks who will need to know these things going forward would be lost.

The art of, and in, the pause...

March 19, 2015

When I started Chartwell Guitar a year ago, I had to face the fact I am merely an intermediate player. My decision to include videos on the site to help those browsing it meant I had issues with being a do-it-yourselfer. The first recordings I did hurt to listen to, as do the latest, though less so. My biggest self-taught lesson is to not rush into the next phrase, that the actual violation of metronomic timing was the very thing that made me love professional recordings. Rubato is the thought and subjectivity we inflict on the tyranny of the sheet music in front of us. Our bravery and finesse in just how far to take it can be rewarding, or it can call us back to the composer's original rhythmic intent. I found this short essay,  in "Simple Abundance," by Sarah Breathnach, which is an expansion of Artur Schnabel's aphorism: "'The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes--ah, that is where the art resides.'"

"(A Bach Chaconne) played by a novice musician and by a virtuoso will not sound the same. That's because one of the two guitarists has had a lifetime to practice the music as well as learn when to pause in order to color the notes with passion. So it is with the concerto of our lives. Individual notes must be learned and played and practiced before we learn harmony. And above all, we must learn how to pause....Harmony is the inner cadence of contentment we feel when the melody of life is in tune....On the Simple Abundance path we begin to learn how to pause. As we bring the principles of gratitude, simplicity, and order into our lives, harmony emerges....Today, just try slowing down. Approach the day as if it were an adagio--a melody played in an easy, graceful manner. Listen to (play) music that soothes and uplifts your spirit. And while you listen/play pause to consider how all the individual notes come together harmoniously to give expression to the entire score....So shall it be with your world. With harmony as your guide, trust that your everyday moments will soon begin to similarly resonate.... "  Amen!

New Sounds at Chartwell Guitar

January 21, 2015

Chartwell Guitar came into existence about this time last year, as I transitioned from being an impassioned collector to a dealer of concert classical guitars. But it wasn't until the site was under serious construction in January that recording sound videos was in the forefront of my activity. The good people at Jacksonville Guitar Center put the Apogee M/C in my hands, an easy way to record directly into my Mac computer. My take was it captured the essential sound quality of my instruments. I had a good room with high ceilings and hardwood floors and it has been a little workhorse.

But in this first year, evaluating other sites' sound offerings, I knew it wasn't just my modest playing abilities that was making the results less than they should have been.  Yes, the Apogee was a good mic for the money, but it wasn't in the class that gives a listener a sound experience that can inspire.

So it is a pleasure to re-record my guitars with a pair of new mics, which are the AEA R84 ribbon and a Shure condenser, paired through an Apogee Duet preamp. I hope you think the new videos work, which is to say giving you something close to the sound you'd be getting if that very guitar were in your hands, in that room.

The room. Yes, a key component of sound. Guitarists can likely remember stairwell sessions in the freshman dorm at college, when the sound was so full it made every other playing environment tame. There are the great YouTube videos of famous guitarists performing in vast cathedrals and the like, which I think we all take with a pleasurable grain of salt: were we sitting on a couch in a carpeted living room, this same guitar's output would be unrecognizable. So the balance in making recordings for my purposes is finding that great room, where natural reverb proliferates, but to not let it be untrue to the natural sound of that instrument.  So I think I have done that when I hear the playback. I have a large open area in my St. Simons Island home where the acoustics are wonderful and this is where all these recordings have occurred. Well worth the energy.