Matt McPherson – The Guitar Expert Who Also Knows a Thing or Two About Recurve Bows

There are two loves in acoustic luthier Matt McPherson’s life, the first is guitars and the second is archery. This love comes from a fascination with wood that dates back to his childhood, and has led to some very forward thinking designs in both categories.

From the makings of a guitar, he has learned how to incorporate light woods into his recurve bow and arrow making, while bow tension turned into innovative designs in flattop acoustics. This includes a cantilevered neck and offset sound holes that help facilitate a lengthened soundboard. Then there is his famous overpass-underpass bracing, which improve sustain by minimizing vibration absorption points. All of that hard work and creating has led to the formation of a small shop in Sparta Wisconsin where no more than 200 boutique grade acoustics are fabricated every year.

The Lay of the Guitar Land

When you step inside of McPherson’s shop, you can’t help but be taken in by the masterful craftsmanship of every guitar on display. It takes two luthiers countless hours to oversee the construction of an acoustics body from start to finish. There is a custom machined solid aluminum side bender in the shop that helps with maintaining the consistency of each guitar. Then there are the carbon-fiber neck inserts that don’t bow to the weather, and eliminate the need for a truss rod.

Further behind the scenes takes you to the multi-step process that leads to the final setup for each of the acoustics made here. The tuning systems saddles and nuts are hand carved before filling and dressing the frets. There is true guitar beauty here in the Spokane shop, with custom guitars lining the walls. One is inlaid with an amazing image from Picasso, while you find others with nautical themes and special events in American history.

It takes a special understanding of the physics of wood to create such a unique collection of acoustic guitars. This understanding extends to the recurve bow and arrows for beginners, which also rely on wood strength and flexibility to achieve their goal. The two passions complement each other perfect, and McPherson admits to using recurve bow physics to improve upon his guitar designs.

Almost too pretty to play, an original guitar from McPherson’s shop is a rare treat to find for sale. These exquisitely constructed instruments are almost instant collector items, with guitar lovers from around the world vying to own one. While you may never get to play one of these rare beauties on stage, you should not pass up the chance at a shop tour if you ever find yourself in Spokane Washington.

Tips on Cleaning and Protecting Fingerboards and Bridges

The outside of an acoustic guitar is relatively well protected, so long as the finish is intact. Plus, so long as there is a sound hole cover humidifier for a dry environment, the interior raw surfaces should be stabilized. But none of this does nothing to help protect the fingerboard or the bridge, as they must stay unfinished in order to give off the best sound.

Even though ebony is very slow to dry and absorb humidity, it has been known to crack under extremely dry conditions. The only way to prevent this is with basic and regular care. Applying a light coat of a natural essential oil has shown to be effective in maintaining the fingerboard and bridge, but you must be careful not to use any product that contains wax, silicone, solvents or synthetics. Routinely oiling these raw wood components will help to stabilize the outside of the guitar against the changes in the environment. This will keep the instrument always playing as it should, while preventing oxidation of the frets.

Guitars are precision made, and precision care needs to be taken at all times. While you can use olive oil, walnut oil or even peanut oil, some experts have found that the natural elements inside of essential lemon oil has the most positive effect on the neck of the guitar. With essential oils, you are guaranteed that it is an all natural product without any synthetics – and can double as an aromatherapy scented oil to put in your misting diffuser like one of these.

guitarTo apply, simply rub a small amount onto the neck with your fingertips, and then allow it to sit for a few minutes to be absorbed. This can be done every time you change the strings, as it is not necessary to tend to the fingerboard and bridge more than a few times a year. After a few minutes wipe the excess away using a soft cloth or paper towel before you put your strings back on.

Even with a natural essential oil, you should be wary of over cleaning any part of a guitar. Normal cracks will appear over time as the instrument ages, but this is a natural part of a woods process. The idea of using lemon oil is to try and maximize its life by reintroducing moisture into the wood as it is slowly drying out. If you overdo this, you could end up saturating it, causing the neck to warp.

Essential oils serve a ton of purposes, not just guitar care. Many have health benefits that you should also consider. While out shopping for your lemon oil, pick up an essential oil diffuser necklace and some lavender scented pads, and you’ll find that your guitar music suddenly has a relaxed easy flow to it.

 

The 5 Best Guitar Beards of All Time

Guitars and greats beards go hand in hand. From heavy metal artists to the blues bass man, you are going to find some fabulous examples of facial hair glory.

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys

Dan not only sounds like he was transported to now from the seventies, his beard perfectly fits the part. With his long locks and full crop of chin growth, you would swear he just rolled out of the VW bus. It may look scraggly after a few sets on stage, but that’s nothing a little beard balm won’t fix right away.

Kerry King of Slayer

The epitome of the rocker guitarist, Kerry King has it all. The vicious tats, the killer attitude and a beard that looks like a weapon of mass destruction. King’s beard started off as a small goatee, but has quickly turned into one of the most epic examples of facial art in guitar world history.

Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead

When it comes to looks that kill, Lemmy Kilmister and his mutton chops don’t disappoint. Seriously you don’t want to run into this guy with his Philips Norelco beard trimmer, because obviously there are some serious skills here. It’s not easy to pull off the side burns and muttons with no beard, but Kilmister does it marvelously.

lemmy_kilmister_from_motorhead_by_pat_purcell-d65y97v

Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society

Zakk Wylde can play his guitar with his beard, that’s how wild it is. It has grown so long that he has taken to wearing it in braids that go all the way to his chest. Combine this with the long beastly hair and metal guitarist attitude and you have one of the manliest beards that ever hit the stage.

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top

If we had made this list 20 years ago, Billy Gibbons would still have been at the top. Not only has his beard survived decades of guitar playing mastery, it has also survived cancer. The treatments took away the hairs on top of Gibbons’ head, but miraculously left his iconic beard in place. Well played guitar Gods, well played.

It’s not easy to gain notoriety for your guitar skills, but you can certainly stand out with the right beard style. Grab your inspiration (and a good beard trimmer) from those who have rocked before you, and get to work on looking the part. If you need some beard trimming tips, just check online at review sites, and you’ll find plenty of guys willing to share their beard stories with you.

Tips For New Guitar Players

"Steve Hunter Guitar Player" by Nylongirl - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Steve Hunter Guitar Player” by NylongirlOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Getting started learning how to play the guitar can be difficult. There is a lot to know, and your hands need to be physically ready for it. At some point during your learning you are probably going to become frustrated, and this leads a lot of people to giving up on the guitar entirely. To try and keep this from happening, I have put together a small list of tips aimed at helping new guitar players. Hopefully by using the tips below you can stick with the guitar for a little bit longer, and turn it into a lifelong skill.

1. Hand Exercises – One of the hardest parts about learning the guitar is that your hands are simply not ready. Most likely they are not used to using the muscles needed to play the chords, and the calluses have not built up on your fingers. Doing this is going to take time, but it will come eventually. The best way is to simply keep playing the guitar. When you are not playing the guitar, there are hand exercised that you can do in order to improve those muscles. The longer you stick at it, and the more consistent you are with it, the sooner your hands will be ready to play comfortably for a long period of time.

2. Get Help – No matter how you are learning to play the guitar, chances are you are not utilizing every resource possible. For example, if you are taking private lessons, you could also be watching instructional videos in between lessons to learn even more. This way you are always learning something new, and you have something to guide you when your instructor is not there. There are many free resources online, or you can purchase some books/DVDs that can assist you.

3. Set A Schedule – Just like with anything else, learning to play the guitar will become easier when you make practice a habit. Set aside some time each day to practice, then make sure that you stick with it. Do it at the same time every day, and before long it will become second nature to you. Even if you just do it for a a little bit each day, your fingers will get stronger, and as you get better at playing, you’ll want to practice even more.

4. Be Patient – Lastly, remember to be patient. You are not going to master the guitar over night. This is something that can take a long time to learn, and even longer to master. But if you stick with it, and you are patient, the waiting won’t be that hard. Remember to have fun while you are playing, and to not let it frustrate you. Even some of the best musicians in the world had a hard time learning to play the guitar when they first started out.

There you have it – 4 quick tips that will help you to stick with the guitar when you are first starting out. I hope they help, and that you are able to learn the guitar like so many others before you. Good luck!

How To Learn To Play The Guitar

"Music Lessons Guitars Tulane" by Tulane Public Relations - Flickr: Music Lessons. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Music Lessons Guitars Tulane” by Tulane Public RelationsFlickr: Music Lessons. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

At some point or another, many of us want to learn how to play the guitar. Whether it be because we want to play in a band, or because we want to simply be able to perform some of our favorite songs, the reason doesn’t matter. However, while the guitar isn’t too difficult to play, it can take a while to get started. This early frustration can lead a lot of people to giving up, and never learning how to play. A lot of this stems from not choosing the correct way to learn. Below are some of the best ways to learn how to play the guitar. Take a look at the list and see which one of them you think would be best for you. Then get yourself a guitar, and get started!

1. Personal Lessons – This is the way that most people choose to learn how to play that guitar. You need to find someone in your area that teaches guitar lessons, and then go to them to learn how to play. They will teach you all of the basics, and depending on how good they are, possibly more. The price for personal guitar lessons varies, so you will have to decide if they are worth the money. It is also a good idea to read reviews of other people who have gone to that person for lessons to see if they were satisfied. Personal guitar lessons are one of the best ways to go, because they force you to practice and gives you someone that can guide you towards the correct way to play.

2. Online Lessons – With the rise of the internet, it is now easier than ever to learn how to play the guitar. There are many videos online that you can watch, or programs that you can sign up for. Some of the programs cost money, but will provide you with hundreds of hours worth of videos on how to play. You can also find free videos online, but these are typically a little less structured. The downside of online lessons is that there is no accountability. With personal lessons, you have an instructor who will know when you didn’t practice. However when you do it online, it is all up to the person playing. You have to have a big desire to learn in order for you to stick with the program. If you have that though, then you may find online lessons to be more cost-efficient, convenient, and beneficial to you.

3. On Your Own – Lastly, you can try to learn on your own. Many famous musicians did not take lessons – they simply picked up a guitar and learned how to play. This may require you have a natural talent, but you won’t know you have it unless you try. If you decide to go on your own, you can also use some of the online resources mentioned above when you get stuck. That way you can sort of come up with your own program or collection of resources, then figure it out on your own.