Stay in Tune vol# 100
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
Wow! What a special event. This is my 100th article that has been published by the North Coast Voice magazine since April 16th 2009. I don't know how they have put up with me for sooooo long, but I 'm proud to be a contributing writer for such a fine publication and I have to give a special Thank You! to all of the readers that have read ( and continue reading) all of the good things that the Voice has to offer.
This article is special to me because I have just returned from a trip (vacation) to Ireland, possibly the prettiest place on the planet, and had one of the most inspiring experiences from a visit to Ireland's premier guitar builder , Mr George Lowden. I was lucky enough to arrange a visit up to Northern Ireland, County Down in a small town of Downpatrick to spend a short afternoon with George, the owner of Lowden Guitars. I had been planning this trip for months prior to it actually happening so I had a lot of time to ponder or imagine what the shop would be like. All I can say was that it was way better than I had ever imagined.
To start out with if you have never had the opportunity to play a Lowden guitar, www.george lowden.com. you should make it one of your top priorities. He has several or more models of acoustic guitars, all which are exceptionally beautiful, but more importantly is the sound that he has been able to capture through his 40 odd years of acoustic experimentation. His guitars have a very precise clarity. What I mean is that the bass is not too basey and the highs aren't too high, and everything is very well balanced throughout the musical spectrum. The guitars also seem to “explode” (I mean this in a good way) with a strong volume and an immediate response when played . The tones seem to jump off of the strings as soon as they are touched.
Lowden Guitars have come up with a unique bracing pattern that contributes greatly to their “patented” sound. By utilizing bracing patterns that are interacted with the neck block of the guitar, and other innovative bracing techniques the sound seems to transfer through the neck and is in turn transferred back down through the body in a such a way that I believe is truly one of the better improvements that has been made to the standard “X bracing” pattern, used in many modern day instruments, for many, many years. It certainly can be heard in his guitars.
I also have to mention the attention to detail in every aspect of the construction of his instruments. During the tour that George honored me with we would stop at certain stations and he would show me in detail his method of construction and discuss with his employees ways to improve every aspect of the building process. He has a very dedicated working staff of 10 to 15 luthiers that all seem to work for the common goal of producing the best sounding (and best looking) guitars that Ireland and possibly the world has to offer. He was also very generous in discussing and showing me his many jigs and methods of construction that he has developed in his years of being a luthier. This to me was the best part. It was very inspiring for me to see different ideas and “jigs”. It is always great to find a new and better way to do something. Many of the things and jigs that I have produced in my shop are born out of necessity. Many of these methods work fine for my production levels that I work with, but it is very inspiring to see and learn other ways and the many ingenious things that other master luthiers have come up with to meet their production demands or to see the level of craftsmanship that they have developed through their years of luthierie. I believe that seeing the small, but very efficient Lowden Guitar Shop and meeting George Lowden and his dedicated staff will most certainly help me in improving my future endeavors as a guitar builder.
As I was visiting the Lowden shop they were right in the middle of expanding the operation a little by adding new machinery and “revamping” some of the construction stations to improve their production levels to meet the high demand for their instruments. I want to Thank George Lowden for taking the time from his busy work schedule to show me his operation and walk me through a very inspiring tour, for sharing his incredible knowledge of guitar construction, and for opening up his shop to me . I also want to wish George and his staff all of the best in their future endeavors on the expansion of of a very well run company. I will use the knowledge gained from this experience for years to come!
Of course, even though the Lowden tour may have been the “icing on the cake” for me, there was also the rest of the amazing trip to Ireland and all of it's beauty, all the fun that was had with all my wife's very cool relatives, the hospitality that was given, the “pints” that were shared, and the memories that will last for ever. (or at least as long as it takes to get back over there to create some new ones).
I can't say or thank all of my “new found cousins” enough for the times we shared. We were able to shoot off on our own a couple of days to see some of Ireland's beauty. The “Cliffs of Moher” , The Aran Islands, Bunratty Castle, The Burren, to name a few places. The cousins arranged a awesome two day vacation down to Kilarney and rented a thatched roof cottage and visited National parks and the gardens of the McCrosse house and other stone castles. Another trip we took down to the southern tip of Ireland to a town called Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) That was the last place that the Titanic departed from in 1912. We also toured an old British Naval fort that was built back in the 1860's to protect one of the worlds most beautiful shipping ports. There is so much history that surrounds the Emerald Isle that it is difficult to absorb it all in just one trip. I will be posting pictures of the trip and more info and links to Lowden Guitars on my website .www.liamguitars.com. Please check it out when you have time and meanwhile, please “stay in tune”
Patrick from Liam Guitars / Wood-n-Strings