"Well done is better than well said" - Benjamin Franklin
When I read about descriptions of guitar sound coming from various guitar makers, players and the media, I have to remind myself that they are talking about a guitar and not wine ... and I confess resorting to creative descriptors myself when I become enthusiastic about a good guitar. . (see my blog on this topic) The sonority of a guitar is complex and interesting, and the words used to describe these sounds can be confusing, especially when luthiers like myself turn to salesmanship.
As you visit this site how can you know if these instruments can fulfill your sound and playing needs especially when every luthier and player claims excellence for their instrument? To be frank, there are many excellent makers out there, not to mention a lot of good guitars on the used market. But if you'll give me a chance I think I can give you reasons to seriously consider a Reynolds Guitar.
So what is "my" sound? What I often hear back from my clients is a description of power; clarity and balance from string to string and an appreciation of playing ease. From my perspective, my recent work features a focused bass that projects its voice well for contrapuntal effect, a midrange with good separation and trebles that are immediately brilliant, especially in Spruce guitars. I find that these instruments will play in over time to a big mellow sound.
The guitar we are all looking for inspires us to play more often and to play better. It opens new horizons of interpretation and makes you want to create music. Perhaps this is best realized during the moment when you are on the way to open your guitar case knowing that momentarily you will be creating beautiful sound. An instrument that possesses that character is worth having in this day and time. I do my best to build that guitar.
There is the notion expressed by the well-known maker, John Mello that exceptional guitars seldom come when the maker is trying to alter his natural sound to some acoustic profile agreed upon with a client. I agree, and in such cases, I like to select the woods types that would likely yield the clients vision of an ideal tonal palette and then make "my" guitar within those parameters.
Further, there are instruments best suited for certain types of music and playing styles. The obvious example is the Flamenco guitar, yet even within the classical genre there are guitars better suited for the "Spanish" repertoire than the Baroque.
Often over looked is the use intended for the instrument. If you are a concert performer, you may want a powerful guitar with excellent projection and special action needs. If, like me, you play mostly for your own pleasure or for one or two others, then a "warm, intimate" guitar usually associated with Cedar topped instruments may be your preference. Some guitars are better in the recording studio as well.
Each of us come equipped with a set of unique, individually developed databases in our mind that form the basis of quality judgments. According to acoustic researchers, incoming new sounds are compared against that database and judgments are quickly made about "warm", "brilliant" and other descriptors. That is as it should be and it is what makes human interaction with the guitar so fascinating. On more than one occasion I have discovered that a client's descriptors are very different than mine and I have learned to be thorough in these discussions, especially during the ordering process.
My tone objectives are these:
I want my guitars to be powerful. Generally, I believe certain of my instruments to be in the range of any available in terms of loudness especially with my Double Top option. Power is the building block of dynamic range ... the contrast of loud and soft is not normally associated with the guitar yet it is so needed for its repertoire. Additionally, many of us play out in guitar society meetings or other venues where the environment is hostile to the guitar. An instrument that has more power can be a real ally in these situations.
As a player, I enjoy a guitar that can help me produce a variety of tone color. I want my guitar to have a natural, rich tone and in the last analysis, this sonority is the hallmark of a great guitar ... and yes, power and quality tone can exist in the same instrument, regardless of what some makers may claim.
I have designed for a very strong fundamental bass, one that can project a focused sound. I value this because my second major objective is to produce brilliant trebles. Not bright .... brilliant. This means high treble notes with character and sustain balanced with that focused bass side. In a young guitar this clarity can be counted on to broaden it's tonal palette as the guitar plays in.
Sustain gives a player the ability to sound a note and slowly bring in vibrato instead of having to "get on" the note right away before it decays. The bass balances out the trebles and the natural effect on the mid-range is therefore beneficial. The result is voice clarity (quality) and balance. My recent work seems to be consistently meeting my objectives and the Double Top guitar is giving me more tools to achieve continuing progress.
All of that said there is an important characteristic of your new guitar ... it is going to change as it plays in. Most luthiers feel it is important to start the guitar off in life with a slightly "tight" or "young" sound for as the guitar ages we don't want the sound to go "tubby" or muddy sounding. Said technically a guitar made too open when new can develop a reduction of the fundamental projection of it's tone when older. So if your guitar arrives with a tone that is brighter(some say "nasally" than what you want, rest assured that it will change, often quickly within the first year and likely throughout it's lifetime. This is one of the reasons why collectors and dealers wax rhapsodic over the sound of the old masters as though the "young masters" have lost the secrets of their predecessors . This of course isn't true but it is difficult to build in 80 years of playing age in your new guitar!
That's my practical talk about guitar sound.
"This is a bitchin', kick-ass guitar!" - Pierre Granger, Professional Gig Player trying a Reynolds guitar for the first time.