Jacek Sliwa is considered by many to be one of the best guitar makers in Poland. His guitars exhibit a level of refined design and outstanding craftsmanship. And yet, he found that after years of building fine instruments, the goal of acheiving the special tone he could hear in his head remained elusive. That is when he decided to travel to America to take the Dogwood Guitars voicing and tuning class.
Of course there is a risk when embarking on such an expensive journey, and Jacek (pronounced Yots’-ek) told me that he hoped that his investment would pay off. During the first morning in the shop I handed him one of my guitars, the “Mazzaroth” edition of my Eminence model. Somewhat misty-eyed, Jacek told me when he heard the tone of my guitar that he knew he had made the right decision to make the trip. He told me that he has played guitars from some of the world’s best boutique builders and that mine was well within the top five. Jacek also commented that he usually begins an assessment of the guitar by describing what he doesn’t like about it. In this case he found that the guitar did not have a single detracting element- quite a compliment.
During the class we talked about how to really listen to guitar tone, and we compared a handful of guitars in the shop for repair, as well as my own Dogwood model. We went deep into how guitars generate tone, the major contributors to great tone, debunked some common myths and misunderstandings, and learned how to measure wood for specific material properties such as modulus. This information allows the builder to determine final thickness based on deflection, different for each top.
We spent a day voicing and tuning a Dogwood guitar currently in construction, and learned about placing the three main fundamental resonances to avoid wolf notes and dead spots. Other tips and techniques for building more responsive instruments were also demonstrated. Finally, we closed the box and observed how these resonances change, and how to fine tune everything so that the completed guitar works together as designed.
“I can say about myself that I am a lucky one. The course with Greg has filled up many gaps in my knowledge of building guitars. I received what I was counting on, and even more. Greg deals with issues based on specific knowledge and not on generally accepted beliefs. He is a great teacher and together with his wife Grace a very hospitable family.” -Jacek Sliwa