Stay in Tune
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
Here comes Spring! It’s about time. It seems like the winter was never going to end.
The past few weeks have been flying by so fast that it is hard for me to keep up with all that has happened . First I have been making a lot of head way with my website thanks to my new webmaster, Mr Chad Ely ( www.chadely.com ). I also have to give thanks to my original web designer Mr. James Delpriore (www.universalwebdesigns.net ). He also did a terrific job in getting the whole thing started. I have been very fortunate to have these guys working with me on my site. One of the new things that I have on the website, www.wood-n-strings.net is the community page that is listed in the pull down menu under the Misc. tab . I would like to invite all musicians, like minded luthiers, craftsmen, good old fashion music lovers and Voice magazine readers to join up and start an interactive dialog about what’s happening with your lives and music. It will be a great way to meet some new interesting people around town without having to go out of your living room (or wherever your computer is). I will be posting current blogs and loading up new pictures of repairs that you are always reading about in the Voice. I will also have all of the old articles all the way back from the beginning.
Speaking of repairs and guitars I would like to tell you the story of “Gladys”. Between 2006 & 2007 while touring the United States as a national media director for Congressman Dennis Kucinich on his 2008 Presidential campaign, and playing almost every guitar on every music store shelf for the best sounding and playing guitar in the world, Chad Ely finally came across her. It is a beautiful custom 24 fret P.R.S. that projects tones naturally that very few instruments can do (I also think that this quality has something to do with the player, but more on that later).He decided to name the guitar “Gladys” after Gladys Knight because the guitar seemed to match the power that emanates from her voice. You can tell when someone picks a name for their instrument that the connection that they feel is truly a bonding experience. The relationship that he has with this guitar is very interesting. He has a very intuitive affection for this guitar and I actually think that the guitar has one for him also. It has it’s own soul, which some people know as “Mo Jo”!
I was honored to have been the one chosen to inlay the Gladys name into the 12th fret a couple of years ago. Since then I have been meticulously setting her action and maintaining the playability of this guitar for Chad.. He has very specific requirements for his playing style. He can bend notes and pull out harmonic tones out of strings far beyond what most players can imagine. Very reminiscent of blues great Mr. BB King. The thing I have noticed about the guitar that is different from your average “good” guitar is that when I’m working with it, all of the adjustments that I make, I can “feel” how accurately it responds to my touch. It almost feels like I can tell it what I want it to do and it responds. What guy doesn’t like that? Believe me, that doesn’t happen with very many guitars. (I think I might be getting a little attached to her also. Don’t tell Chad!)
It can be hard to understand the relationship that players have with their instruments ,but I feel lucky to be able to see and understand it myself. After years of working with wood, strings, glue , the finish and everything else that makes up a guitar, I have found that on very rare occasions this marriage of parts and pieces come together and seem to be reborn with a “soul” or energy that wants to tell a story of it’s past or maybe it’s future. If you have ever seen the movie the “Red Violin” you might know what I’m talking about. Every now and then instruments and players connect in a way that is undeniably magical. Sometimes the right player has to find the right guitar, or maybe the guitar has to find the right player. Whatever the case, I believe that Chad Ely has found his mate.
Knowing that this phenomenon exists, I find myself constantly trying to figure out what it takes to build the perfect instrument. What woods sound better with each other? What thickness or type of finish brings out the tones of the wood that can make a person cry when heard? These questions and many others is why I have chosen the craft of lutherie. I Hope that in my pursuit of these questions that I will be able to uncover the “holy grail” of musical perfection .When I do, you can rest assure that I will be glad to share it with all of you !!
Patrick from Wood-n-Strings