Stagger onward rejoicing

Tag: guitar (page 1 of 1)

master to master

That’s the very early electric guitar associated with the great Charlie Christian, who died, tragically, at age 25.  

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One of Christian’s Gibsons has survived, and here it is being played by the (also great) Julian Lage:

artisans on video

Just as there are an infinite number of reasons to seek God in prayer, so there are an infinite number of reasons to check out YouTube. But for me YouTube is primarily a place of contemplation. I love the YouTube channels that help me relax – even, in the best possible circumstance, reach a Zen-like stage of contemplative peace. For the last year or so I have primarily been fascinated by videos of train journeys – the ones from Britain’s National Rail are especially compelling. I watch the Scottish Highlands pass by; my heart rate slows; my blood pressure lowers. It’s great.

But lately I have discovered another Zen domain of YouTube: the world of guitar repair and restoration. Apparently I’m not the only one: many guitar-repair videos specify that they have no narration: you just watch some master craftsman at work, and all you hear is the sound of a fine-grained file or a brush sweeping a lovely oil finish over the body of a guitar. You watch something like the Andy Bass and Guitar channel and it’s like looking at a de la Tour, only with shellac and scrapers.

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You can also find stories of intrigue. For instance, take a look at this one, in which another master craftsman is charged with the task of repairing and restoring a Gibson Les Paul guitar from 1958 — but without making any of the repairs look new. It’s especially cool when you see the guy distressing a part of the guitar he has just repaired to give it a look consistent with the beaten-up, well-used character of everything else on the instrument.

There are several subgenres of restoration: Many videos feature expensive guitars — there are more Martins than anything else — but more down my alley is the work of Gabriele Réti, who likes to restore guitars found in the trash.

And then: the multi-part restoration of a 1902 guitar by Carlos at Anjuda Guitars, a luthier shop in Madrid. A story still in process. There have been four acts so far, interesting but not dramatic at first — and then at the beginning of the third part tragedy suddenly threatens: a humidifier has kicked into overdrive and instead of preserving the old dried wood of this ancient instrument makes it fall apart. But … irreparably? The tension! The suspense! Carlos’s future as a luthier is at stake. It’s only as the third installment goes along that you discover that Carlos may actually be equal to this great task, a feeling that grows in strength with the fourth installment.

There’s a great moment in the third video when Carlos decides that he has to repair one of the guitar’s internal braces, but decides to use mahogany rather than the original cedar, because he wants to provide clear evidence, for future owners, that a later repair has happened. He wants to create layers of history in this guitar! Carlos is an artist with a conscience.

But will he be able to complete his task? Alas, we don’t yet know. We live in tense wonderment. Every day I go back to check to see whether there is a new installment.

So it turns out that there are two sides to guitar-restoration YouTube: the contemplative side, comprised of the sorts of videos you go to when you are in need of relaxation; but then you can also find suspense, a tightrope walk. Both sides are great.