The Montreal Guitar Show 2010

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The Montreal Guitar Show 2010
feature: THe MonTreal GUiTar sHoW 2010
tHe Montreal
GUitar sHoW 2010
There are no factory clones here, just some of the warmest-sounding
and most beautiful instruments on the planet.
Zeb Heintz and one of the more eye-catching guitars
L
ike the jazz festival it dovetails into,
the Montreal Guitar Show doesn’t
do things by halves. It’s quite a sight:
three vast rooms of axes of every
conceivable size, shape, configuration and
combination of woods: flat-tops, arch-tops,
classicals, Gypsy jazz, hybrids and harps.
Even (dare we mention it) a room dedicated
to electric guitars, not to mention cases,
amps, magazines, straps and a stand of tripleA-grade exotic woods. Some designs are
so remarkable as to appear almost surreal.
Imagine an instrument with 21 strings, and
soundholes in places where most guitars don’t
even have places. This is wall-to-wall guitar
land, probably the single largest collection of
handcrafted guitars on the planet, with some
of the best and most experienced luthiers in
the business exhibiting wares at the cutting
edge of their craft.
Indeed, it is the luthiers who make this
show, and they’re only too delighted to
divulge their secrets. You can engage them
informally, or drop in on one of the many
lectures included in the $15 admission price.
Want to see what seven different luthiers can
do with identical pieces of cherry, red spruce,
and eastern hop hombeam tonewood? Or
learn why the acoustic guitars of the 20s and
30s, or the electric guitars of the 60s, are
Tim Farrell
...it is the luthiers who make this show, and they’re only too
delighted to divulge their secrets. You can engage them
informally, or drop in on one of the many lectures...
so special? Or learn how a master luthier –
George Lowden, say, or Ken Parker – balances
tradition with modern design? Then this is
the place to come – a gathering of individuals,
artisans who craft their unique instruments by
hand and deal directly with their customers.
Not that there aren’t opportunities here
– over two million dollars changed hands
last year – but for many exhibitors, that isn’t
why they come. As Linda Manzer, who has
built instruments for Carlos Santana and Pat
Metheny, says, ‘Many of us come because
we like to meet up and have a drink together
afterwards. We’re all friends but we work
alone. So when I sit with John Monteleone
or Tom Ribbecke we can talk about things
we’re obsessed with that other people would
have no interest in. Where else could I
discuss tap toning for an hour?’
But it isn’t just the master luthiers who
have a presence here. Only a month ago
Judith Laforest, after studying with Canadian
instrument makers Rémi Rouleau and Serge
Michaud, gave up her job to work full-time as a
luthier and sold her second guitar at the show.
But what you won’t see here is a single
corporate salesman. It’s an invite-only
gathering, and the corporations don’t get a
look-in. As luthier Ervin Somogyi, based in
Oakland, California puts it, ‘Factories make
guitars for a mass market, luthiers make
instruments for individuals. To compare
them is analogous to comparing a painting
with a refrigerator or toaster, or a custommade suit to one bought off the rack.’ George
Lowden puts it even more succinctly: ‘You
must buy the guitar that speaks to you; just
make sure you try one of ours before you take
the plunge.’
Sound advice, and where better to follow it
than the Montreal Guitar Show?
Noel Harvey
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26/07/2010 13:16