I build the guitars I want to play. In my experience, the finest instruments with the purist tones are clean, natural, and simple by design. I appreciate a guitar that celebrates the natural beauty of the wood, and does not include a glut of distracting ornamentation. After all, the basis of the instrument itself is the wood. My aim is always to build quality guitars for people who truly appreciate them.
To me, a handmade instrument represents a delicate balance of three criteria:
The C.F. Martin design for x-bracing has carried through for 175 years. Many people have tried to improve it, and many people have failed. My bracing designs generally follow the Martin style – the standard by which all steel string guitars are measured. There are companies that would challenge this idea, but when you’re making one guitar at a time, this bracing design far surpasses any alternative.
I select wood based on its natural beauty and tonal qualities, and I don’t want distracting ornamentation that overpowers the natural brilliance of the wood. In my eyes, the character and uniqueness of each piece of wood adds more to an instrument than all the mother of pearl in the ocean. Every possible detail on a NoName guitar is made of wood including the binding, purfling, and rosettes. In most cases, I believe the material of the back and sides should also be used for the detail work. In my own mind, this brings an aesthetic consistency to the instrument.
If an instrument plays easily with full, articulate tones, it seems to draw out the best part of our musical abilities. On the other hand, if you’re fighting with the mechanics of a hard-to-play instrument while trying to express yourself musically, it just adds frustration to what artistically, can already be a challenging process. At some point the mechanics of a guitar need to disappear in order to cultivate the music within us.
For all the time spent with a guitar in the building process focusing on details, I still worry about making a mistake and accidentally turning the whole thing into kindling. An amazing transformation occurs once I put strings on a brand new guitar; it suddenly takes on a life of its own, and everything associated with the building process just disappears. I joke about this transformation being what I call the “Geppetto Effect.” In the story of Pinocchio, when Geppetto takes the strings off the toys he’s made, they come to life. The opposite is true for me – my toys come to life when I put the strings on, and I think that’s the ultimate goal.