Please note: due to changes in regulations and constant design developments, we sometimes need to change details such as binding and inlay materials.
2023 marks FIFTY YEARS since we made the first Fylde guitar. Hard to believe, isn't it? How many of you were even born then?
If anybody has photographs or stories involving the early Fylde workshop, any instrument made during those times, or of instruments I made before I started Fylde Guitars, I’d really love to see them. We have a cunning plan.
If you think you have seen this before, you might be right, it was first sold in July 2021 but has now been displaced from its home by another Fylde Guitar and is available once again. It's more or less the same guitar as Ben Walker's "Roll Over Leonardo" (see video below).
It has figured Claro Walnut back and sides with Rosewood bindings bordered by red lines, the neck is laminated from three pieces of Walnut with a 45mm nut. A very fine Redwood soundboard, Ebony fingerboard with no surface markings, side dots only, just like Ben's, but we can easily install pearl dot markers if you need them, we could even install diamond markers if you catch me in a very good mood. That's not likely, I must admit, but you could at least try.
The previous owner asked us to install a Fishman Rare Earth Blend Pickup, which we could remove if not required.
The guitar benefits hugely from my obsessive "acquisition" of wood, the body and neck are made from the same tree, which almost never happens. It's actually my contribution to carbon capture. Buy all the wood and keep it.
As with Ben's, the construction style is unusual in several ways. Although it's a standard Leonardo body, this guitar has a short (629mm) scale length, and the neck joins at the 12th fret rather than the usual 14th. I've talked about the benefits of that many times: the bridge position is one of the most important factors in any guitar's tone and the shorter neck is much stronger and better supported against the leverage of the strings. Plus - it's a very comfortable combination when playing sitting down, made even better in the Leonardo because of the slightly shallow body. This guitar has the truss rod adjustment inside the soundhole, an experiment I've been having fun with. The guitar isn't brand new but is in excellent condition and it really is very special.
For sale at £6,400 - SOLD
So here is "Almost That Guitar" Ben is one of our very best players, which certainly helps, but I'm going to claim some of the credit, because the guitar sounds good even when I play it. Ben's website.
Ben has a new Album, about to be released, it's an intriguing title which he hasn't explained to me yet. Ben?
It will be available in good record shops or pre-order it directly from Ben here ...
The first single is called 'Starlings', an instrumental piece, played on that same Leonardo, with a lovely video by Marry Waterson - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOSUed57d7I
Let's start off with a bit of seasonal music.
An ideal song for the New Year, "Snow falls, the year turns round again", written by John Tams for “Warhorse"
I'm not quite sure if it applies to “Rainfalls" though, it was very wet when I started to write this, but then we became almost snowed in.
Bob Fox is "The Warhorse Songman" and has made these songs his own, using his very early Falstaff. Not 1973, but nearly!
This was so sad, and very difficult to know what to say. Gordon's lovely wife Hilary is no longer with us. Gordon has asked me to feature Hilary's favourite tune in this newsletter. It is the same piece that Gordon chose for the Fylde Charity Album, which demonstrates how strong the connection has been between all of us.
This is not one of Will's own compositions, it's his own arrangement of a beautiful piece by the Japanese composer, Joe Hisaishi. It's a theme from one of Studio Ghibli's films - Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
Will thinks it shows the Ariel in a fine light. I think it's absolutely beautiful.
Use this link www.willmcnicol.co.uk/laputa to download the TAB free of charge. “
Tony Polecastro runs a huge online tuition service over in the States called Tony's Acoustic Challenge. He also has a very successful weekly Podcast / YouTube show called Acoustic Life.
The section in question starts at around 19:36. We've shown the music before, but the comments on the video are worth hearing.
The first thing I noticed was that Tony pronounced "Fylde" correctly, then went on to heap praise on Will's tone and general playing style, so he is obviously a very nice, very intelligent person.
Here we go again. Prices have to rise. I'm currently being paid for guitars that were ordered two years ago, and it's often a shock, but I worry that there is another shock coming. With inflation at 11% per annum, by the time I am delivering my latest orders, I might be 20% behind the curve, and as I've been told many times, I should be charging more anyway. It's a massive issue for me, as I don't want to be selling only to the richest people. Well, I do, but I don't, if that makes sense?
So I've applied a general 10% uplift to the guitars, then brought the "cheapest” below that line, and allowed the higher end to "blossom" a little. I’ve been gentler with the mandolin family because the delivery time is quicker. Overall, I think this represents an average rise of around 7%
That might not be enough. If predictions are accurate, I might have to come back to this again in a few months’ time, sorry, blame somebody else. Anybody will do, just not me.
We don't list this model on the price list, as I haven't yet decided if I want to make my life even more complicated.
The first of these was made for Megan Henwood, everybody knew she wanted a new guitar, but nobody knew what it should be. I thought a lot about her music and playing style and made an executive decision. It worked out well, Megan was very pleased and calls that guitar "Rosie".After that, I was asked for different versions of that guitar as special orders and I've seen some very favourable comments on various newsgroups.
All the timbers and specifications of this guitar are exactly the same as the standard Falstaff except the body size, which is 17 mm shorter, 26mm narrower, and 13mm shallower
It's a very successful and comfortable design, with the same broad tonal spectrum as its big brother, just maybe a little quieter.
This one was made in 2020, and has since lived in the USA, and in Germany, but is now back in the UK, belonging to a well-known international artist who I think has owned more custom instruments, from different makers, than anyone I have ever known.
It's in excellent condition, and it's for Sale at £3900 - SOLD
A little beauty. Made as a special order in 2014.
Curly Claro Walnut back and Sides. Sinker Redwood Soundboard.
Laminated Mahogany neck with Ebony fingerboard. Rosewood binding with marquetry borders
I think it looks lovely, and I know it sounds gorgeous, rich and warm. Although it's been played a lot, it is in good condition. We've refretted it and could possibly remove the scratchplate if the new owner doesn't like it.
A new version of this would cost around £3,200, without case and pickup, or £3,500 with both.
This is supplied with a hard case and a Headway pickup, for sale at £2,600 - SOLD
This video was a massive "Find", Andy once told me that he was searching for videos from this era and I don't think there could be a better one than this.
Andy is playing his "first" Octavius Bouzouki in 1985. That instrument somehow got lost, and some business colleagues bought him a new one. The fixed pin bridge style of construction gives the bouzouk a soft, guitar like tone.
I think Andy has this strung "Unison", which was rather unusual for the Octavius model.
More Fylde sounds from the widest range of music I could find!
Are there times when a top of the range acoustic guitar is just too good to use for the job in hand?
David Mead from Guitarist Magazine relates a story of teaching a student who said she couldn't get the right sound from her guitar and was only happy when she put light gauge electric strings on her acoustic, resulting in loss of bass and middle, so a thinner, more trebly sound. David thought it was wrong, but the lady was happy.
This is how David explains it:
"I related this tale to my colleague Neville Marten in the Guitarist office. Both of us are lucky enough to own prestige acoustic guitars. I have a Fylde Falstaff Custom with an Engelmann spruce top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides, and Nev has a Martin D-28 Authentic 1937 with an Adirondack spruce top and Madagascan rosewood back and sides. Both are cannons, acoustically speaking, with amazing projection, complex overtones and a dynamic range that go from a whisper to a roar without sacrificing any tonal integrity whatsoever. Some acoustics will ‘thin out’ when played softly or distort if played hard, but not these two. Like the master crafted instruments they both undoubtedly are, they handle just about everything you throw at them with consummate ease.
When my Fylde first came into my possession in 2009 it was like nothing I’d ever played before. The fact that it was so good was a little scary, and it was a while before I felt totally at home with it. In fact, Dominic Miller’s comments in this issue (see page 116) about a good guitar sometimes being like a wild animal that you have to learn to tame sums up the situation perfectly. Everything I played sounded so huge I had to learn how to rein it in: the amazing sustain meant I had to learn to selectively damp notes, the increased dynamics meant that I had to know when to hold back. The learning curve was pretty steep.
But here’s the thing. I wouldn’t take my Fylde out on a blues gig – neither would Nev take his D-28 out on a similar mission – because, just as my student Melanie had found, they’re simply not raucous, earthy and, dare I say, crude enough. While both models cover most things we need, there are some areas of music for which they’re just completely inappropriate.
For a while this bothered me. I found myself thinking that my Falstaff Custom is a first-class instrument, it should be able to handle any gig, but then I had to conclude that, paradoxically, sometimes a good guitar is just too good. After all you don’t always need a Bosendorfer Grand, sometimes all you need is a simple upright piano."
Spot on David. Everybody needs at least one guitar for every day of the week.
Even though we, as the makers, are the first people to hear a new guitar, I've come to realise that we don't hear it properly until it's in the hands of a very serious player, and even then, only after they have learnt how to get the best out of it.
Some players get a better sound than others. We just make the tools.
This is an "outtake" from the photo session for the Christmas newsletter. It might not be 100% clear, as “The Camera" didn't focus on the right area, nothing to do with the cameraman of course, he was perfectly in focus. Admittedly, later on that day, he might have been a little bit blurred.
We didn't realise that we had recently been mixing guitar lacquer on that bench. When I say "we”, I suppose I mean that same cameraman, whoever that might have been. It's certainly a new way for Alex to wax his legs.
Anyway, socks are cheap.
The Mahogany Trail. Donald Macintosh
African timbers have been a bigger part of guitar making over recent years, with some beautiful woods starting to become mainstream. This book was written by a man who spent 25 years surveying trees in the last great days of the regulated timber trade, before the chainsaw massacres of recent times.
Two more African hardwoods are being added to appendix II of the CITES restrictions. Padauk and African Mahogany. Both timbers had been regarded as relatively unthreatened until recently, and supply was not a problem. They are not the most important "tonewoods" that the music trade uses, but it is a sign of things to come.
Padauk (various spellings) Pterocarpus soyauxi has very similar physical characteristics to Indian Rosewood- surface hardness, density, stiffness etc. and in acoustic testing it has a very similar "response curve” and was becoming rather popular in acoustic instruments.
It has its downsides though. When fresh it has an attractive Golden Orange colour, but this usually darkens after a short time to a less attractive purple-brown. The dust it produces sticks to everything. In my "Snooker Cue" days, I had several complete logs cut at local mills. Each mill in turn refused to do the work a second time, as all the workers insisted on going home early to wash off the layers of sticky orange fibres, and every surface and machine in the Mill had that rather alien colour for weeks afterwards.
African Mahogany. Khaya ivorensis. It's a nice enough timber for furniture, but compared to Brazilian Mahogany it is very fibrous, and rather pale in colour. It isn't as dense, hard or stiff as the American varieties. I have used it for backs and sides as an experiment, and for necks on Nylon string guitars, but I've not been happy with it for steel strings. Overall, I'm not a fan of this tree, but it would have been better than nothing!
It must not be confused with Sapele, which is a very different timber, despite what some marketing departments will tell you.
Both these timbers have been easily available, which took some of the pressure off “More important" timbers, so this is a blow, but it's "only" the appendix II of CITES, so that licences will be required for import and export of raw timber but there will not, at the moment, be any restriction on the sale or movement of guitars made from them.
'The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he's always doing both.' - James A. Michener (1907-1997)
Yep. I agree
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