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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Singapore Guitar Show Dec 2011

It was backed … two days at Suntec City, a display of various brands of handcrafted guitars, both local and overseas, to the local guitar community; it is the Singapore Guitar Show 2011 (

Day One of the Singapore Guitar Show

Tien Chor who volunteered to help

Playing guitar can be seen as a life long learning journey because nobody can claim full mastery. In this journey, we learn abundantly from any available knowledge sources that bombard us. We picked up both facts and myths as we learn more about guitars. With the internet, we can learn almost anything we can conceive of. While the information is easily accessible, the downside is the authenticity of it. Regardless if it is conscious effort or not, we learned from these many sources. Internally, we exercise personal evaluation on the information obtained or granted, and draw conclusions. By this process, we grow in wisdom and discernment. Did we? I had numerous interactions with the people at the show. Interestingly, it has prompted these thoughts; in any given learning settings, the absence of truth is quickly filled with assumptions. The assumptions solidified over time and when left unverified, they turned into pseudo facts … reversing these pseudo fact has proven to be difficult.

This observation was most interesting to me in the show. I think everyone has experienced it before. However, only some grew out of it. What might interest you at guitar shows?

In this posting, I try to do away with introducing every guitar maker, as it may be repetitive to do so. Instead lets’ discuss the interesting perspectives gathered from the people who turned up for this show. Anyway, I helped Terence Tan in organizing the show this year whereas I was an exhibitor in 2010.

These are the perspectives I have gathered ...

Heavy guitars, what about them? It was a common myth surrounding heavyweight guitars. It appeared that lightweight guitars were assumed to be good sounding guitars. While some guitar makers have consciously tried to reduce the weight of guitars, it wasn’t directly linked to tonal properties. Without a doubt, lightweight guitars were easier to handle. However to conclude that heavyweight guitars were less superior than the light ones were clear evidence of one’s failure to understand the principles of guitar construction. Invariably, to think that lightweight guitars will automatically produce good tone is all but truth. The great number of such claims I heard from the show participants didn’t surprise me.

Anyone who handles a Caldersmith guitar ( will immediately feel the weight of the guitar. It was comparable to the weight of a regular electric guitar. If one stuck to the myth, such guitars will be disqualified before they have any chances of showcasing their potential. The weighty feel of Caldersmith guitars were indeed unusual because most classical guitars are lightly built. For centuries, many luthiers learned from one generation to the next. I suspect the notion of building lightweight classical guitars was linked to the perceived social value of classical music. Caldersmith Guitars produces such lovely tone that resembles birds’ singing. The classical guitars were not only well made; their loudness was surely amazing. The saddle was sloped which unliked the regular classical guitars where the saddles were flat straight. A Caldersmith feels nothing like a classical guitar until you pluck the first note. When that note travels to one’s ear, the thick, mellow yet defined tone will immediately eliminate all doubts.

Caldersmith Guitars

The lovely ladies behind Caldersmith Guitars and I

Jeffrey Yong’s guitars ( are heavily built because his design principles of the soundbox were base on loudspeakers’ cabinet design. Well designed and built speakers were usually heavy in weight except for the new age designs type, e.g. Bose’s jewel cube speakers. Suffice to say that hi-fi enthusiasts will go for heavy speakers when given the options. In 2006, Jeffrey built a Monkeypod wood guitar and participated in a blind-listening guitar contest at the Guild of American Luthiers Convention 2006. It was heavy and unlike the conventionally built acoustic guitars. His entry has beaten all other guitars to emerge as the winning guitar. Since then, Jeff’s guitars have established their identity. By this measure, weight of the guitar was certainly not a determinant factor to quality as assumed by many.

Jeff and Rod

Jeff's collection

Steve and Jeff, both are happy men

Good materials make good guitars. Learning this notion was very common during the junior phase of playing and learning guitars. There were abundance literatures written about suitable woods for guitar building in the internet. However the commonly featured woods come from temperate regions and certain endangered species. As scarcity sets in, also due to excessive commercialization, it drives the prices of such materials upwards. As a result, the market prices of guitars made from certain rare or restricted woods increased tremendously. It is 101 consumer psychology; an exorbitantly priced guitar can’t be a bad one. There was another subjective factor that influenced the way we perceived the quality of a given guitar regardless of price, built and tonal properties, i.e. our personal preference. While this may cast doubt in every guitar’s worth but the assumption of good materials equal good guitars were overwhelmingly pervasive among guitar lovers. Therefore it was almost an instant agreement among guitar lovers to related good sounding guitars to good materials used. The presence of many guitars in the show have helped to debunk this myth.

Unshakable Perceptions; an ostrich that has its head buried thinks it is safe. Nothing can be further than the truth. The influence of literature was strong enough to convince many luthiers that instruments building woods were limited to a few species. Some have totally ruled out any woods not found in the commercial suppliers’ catalogues. Won’t we hear similar guitar tones regardless who builds the instrument as a result of such fixations? Some guitar makers will never use certain type of woods because they simple don’t believe in them … or such luthiers don’t believe in himself or herself? Guitar construction principles include selection of wood but it was not the prime principles of consideration. Instead attaining the mastery of the art and science in controlling the stiffness of the sounbox have greater significance than the frantic pursuit for the rarest wood on this planet. Before Jeff won the blind-listening guitar contest, nobody has heard of Monkeypod wood and much less to use it for guitar making. In fact many luthiers have explicitly undermined Jeff’s practices in using tropical woods. It table has turned after 2006.

Pushing the Boundaries. Classical guitars making was always guided by traditions. Any deviations from the advocated ways were strongly discouraged. However creativity is alive and it wants to change things. I met Rod Capper ( in this show. A great guy and he builds classical guitar. Immediately I noticed the elevated fingerboard in his guitar design. He shapes a piece of wood into a wedge and glued it between the neck and the fingerboard thus elevating the fingerboard (see picture). It improves playability by leap and bounce, noticeable sustain was achieved as well. However this feature was all but traditional … but his passion for building better guitars has overwhelmed the shackles of tradition.

Rod Capper and I

The elevated fingerboard design

A Rod Capper Classical Guitar

A Rod Capper Classical Guitar

In my best effort to illustrate the guitar show through this posting, I may miss certain exhibitors. Please accept my sincere apology in advance. Maestro Guitars has again showed their presence in the show. The guitars they have showcased were quality stuffs. The look, feel and tone of Maestro Guitars have surely progressed tremendously over the years. Worthy Guitars from Australia participated in the show for the first time. The man behind Worthy Guitars is David. A great guy to exchange ideas with and his guitars were very well built with great details and refinement. Another Australia guitar maker Scott Wise was also here for the first time. He has Ukeleles on display as well. Three handcrafted guitars brands came from Indonesia. They are Secco, Suwig and Prim’s Guitars. It was indeed the show’s honor to have their participation. Parekh Exports brought for the show a selection of instrument building woods. Not forgetting the local retailers that have faithfully supported the show, they are Tomas Music, MusicArk and Awe-In-One guitar picks. The show wouldn't been possible if not for the passionate support from Altas's team ( who has provided the wonder BOSE sound system for the performance segments. Thanks to Bobby, Wee How and Sean, they are wonderful to collaborate with.

This show has allowed me to meet new friends who are liked minded. I must say it was very rewarding for me personally. During the show, I have shared an invention of mine regarding dehumidifying of guitars. The responses were very encouraging. I received not only their attention, they freely gave their thoughts, suggestions and ideas in helping to augment the invention. I now look forward to the next show and also the progress of my invention.

Here’re more pictures

MusicArk ... Lance is setting up

David, the man behing Worthy Guitars

Suwig Guitar, Indonesia

Secco Guitar, Indonesia

Prim's Guitars, Indonesia

Maestro Guitars ... surely from Singapore

Tomas Music

An overseas performer

David and I
Thanks for reading!

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