Friday, December 20, 2013

How a local Monterey cypress tree becomes a Hill Guitar!

Guitar making is very much a lifelong love affair with wood. The 4-6 different woods that go into an individual guitar each has a different purpose and characteristics, and they come from all over the world. There is no one country or continent that supplies all of the materials that go into a traditional classical guitar. Traveling to the source and seeing the trees being harvested and turned into guitar materials can be very exciting, and offers a lot of insight into the character of wood and how valuable and hard won it is as a resource. I've been to some of those sources, but by no means all. I've never seen a rosewood tree or an ebony tree, maybe I still can someday.

Here along the central coast of California there is one tree that is fairly common and useful for some types of guitar making, and that is the Monterey cypress. Though there are small native groves at Point Lobos and Pebble Beach near Monterey, most of the tree stands around the state have been planted for landscaping purposes. We see a lot of old trees on military land, in parks and cemeteries, and around farm lands, lining roads or fields, I guess to serve as wind breaks.

At Hill guitar we use cypress for flamenco guitars, and also as the inner material of the laminated sides on the Signature Model. I laminate the sides on the Signature for the added stability and for the added aroma. It's extra work and materials, but I think it does something good for the instrument. Some other guitar makers such as Daniel Friedrich, Robert Ruck, and Jose Ramirez laminate sides on some models. I don't know why they do it, I've never asked them. 

So when we started running low ocypress I had to go looking for it. Years ago I had quite a bit of experience finding logs and milling guitar wood, but I haven't had to do it in a long time. I always have my eye out for trees falling down or being cut, so I started looking more carefully. I found that Steve Jackel had cut up some big trees in Watsonville, so Simon and I went out and went through his whole stack of cypress to get the good stuff. We picked out maybe 300 board feet, hauled it back to the shop and started milling it into sides and backs right away. This will be enough to last a long time. It's kind of messy work, but it's fun and makes the shop smell nice and spicy. We don't have to get it all done at once, we can put in a few hours now and then when there's free time.

Monterey cypress is the one material we can get locally, but we still have to order everything else from other parts of the world. That's just the way it is. In the future we may make a line of guitars using more domestic or local woods, and this sort of pursuit becomes more important as the worldwide supplies of traditional materials become more scarce or controlled. Classical guitar has deep tradition running through it and consumers may not be quite ready to accept major changes in the look or the sound of the guitar from new materials. But searching for and cutting wood is interesting and satisfying, and cultivates such a more intimate connection with the materials, carrying on that lifelong love affair with wood. 

Kenny Hill
December 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Win a Hill Performance Series Guitar in the Omni Foundation 2013-14 Raffle!

The Omni Foundation

Kenny Hill, Johannes Möller, & Richard Patterson
at the 2011-2012 OmniConcerts
The Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts is entering its 33rd year of bringing the world’s finest acoustic guitarists to the San Francisco Bay Area. Although the series presents acoustic guitarists of all genres, such as flamenco, jazz and fingerstyle, the primary focus is on the classical guitar. The series is the longest running and most extensive guitar series in the United States and is considered to be one of the foremost guitar series in the world.

Omni presents not only the most celebrated virtuoso of our time but also the emerging artists and stars of tomorrow. The concerts take place in San Francisco’s most prestigious concert venues, both intimate and grand and great efforts are made to insure accessibility to the entire Bay Area community, particularly students.

The Omni Foundation, under the artistic direction of its founder, Richard Patterson, continues to provide a significant position for the classical guitar in the vibrant cultural scene of San Francisco. With the support of serious guitar enthusiasts and the City of San Francisco, Omni presents over 20 exceptional guitarists each season. We hope you will join us and experience the brilliance, beauty and potential of this exquisite instrument, the guitar.

Omni concerts program here: 2013-2014 Program

Purchase tickets here: Tickets

Win a Hill Performance Series Concert Guitar with Arched Case in the 2013-14 raffle!

Donation: $20

Drawing held at the Goryachev/Mouffe concert, April 25, 2014. 
Winners need not be present to be eligible.

The Performance Series is the newest line of fine guitars designed and built in the Hill California workshop. These guitars offer a great sounding high-quality modern concert instrument at a medium price - List $5500 w case.

Win this guitar in the raffle!
The Performance Series is handmade in the traditional Spanish style, with the integral body and neck joint, and incorporates a modern double top soundboard, with lattice or fan-bracing. Sound ports are standard, unless requested otherwise.

 • Sound board: Damann style double top comprised
 of Western red cedar, Nomex and Englemann
 spruce, Lattice bracing 
• Sound ports
 • Back & sides: Indian rosewood 
• Fingerboard: ebony
 • String length: 650mm 
• 20th fret extention
 • Tuners: Gotoh 
• Finish: French polish
 • Lightweight double-acting truss rod 
• Fingerboard at the nut: 51mm
 • Overall length: 39 1/2” 
• Body length: 19 1/2”
 • Upper bout: 11” 
• Lower bout: 14 1/4”
 • Body depth: 3 3/4 - 4” 
• Arched case included

This guitar will be showcased at each concert where you can enter your name into the raffle for only $20! You can also buy raffle tickets online here: Buy Raffle Tickets

Read about all of the Omni concert raffle prizes here: 2013-14 Omni Foundation Raffle

All proceeds go to The Omni Foundation. 


Monday, October 21, 2013

The Night Flame

"The video is of my composition "The Night Flame" that is based on raga Kirwani. The film is from a performance at BlueFrog, Bombay on the 15th of September this year."
                -Johannes Möller

Kenny comments, "I don't know what I could add that wouldn't take away from it! Great song, great performance, great player."

Watch The Night Flame by Johannes Möller.
Performed by Johannes Möller, guitar and Arif Khan, tabla
Guitar: Kenneth Hill Strings: D'addario


Thursday, October 17, 2013

And so I named her Angel

Hill Guitar recently received a wonderful letter from Martha Stuart and her new Hill Torres that she named Angel. Read her letter to find out why!

Martha and Angel
"Dear Mr. Hill,

Just wanted to thank you so very much for creating such a beautiful guitar. I am just getting back to playing classical guitar after many years. While searching online for a guitar, I came upon Savage classical guitar. I Found the Hill Torres F5 3412 and fell in love with it. I have owned some fantastic guitars in the past, but, when I saw the Torres, I knew it had to be mine. It arrived the next day. I opened the case and there was the most gorgeous guitar I have ever seen. A work of art! The quilted maple back and sides, for some reason, reminded me of angel wings and the voice of the instrument is incredible. And so I named her ANGEL. 

Thanks so much, and I will tell Angel you said Hello.

I will take good care of her. 

Martha Stuart"

We gave Martha a call this week to see how Angel was doing and Martha told us that Angel still is "the finest guitar she has ever played" and she was very thankful to have her.

Kenny and the gang at Hill Guitar Company are delighted to hear that their guitars are in happy hands!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Guitar Award Winner Diane Konyk!

Diane on stage
As you may have previously read on our blog, Clare Callahan, Professor of Classical Guitar at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, recently put on the 30th annual Classical Guitar Workshop. 

Hill Guitar Company donated a New World Estudio guitar to be awarded to a guitarist at the Saturday night workshops. Clare thanked us and said "Your guitar will be the cherry on top!"

The lucky winner of the guitar was Diane Konyk who shared a few words with us about her new guitar.
Diane Konyk photographed by Theresa Franke
"Thank you for the New World 650c! I was looking for a classical guitar that sounds great, looks beautiful, and also has a thinner neck, better action than my current guitar, and this model fits my needs. The 650c has a full bass sound that carries, and I find the upper notes ring nicely. My wrist also thanks you because with my smaller hands, I needed a different guitar and this fits me very well. I am having fun playing it and will add it to my performances!"   
                                                                                        -Diane Konyk
We are so happy to hear that Diane's new guitar seems to be a perfect fit! 

Congratulations Diane!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

La Guitarra, here we come!

Hill Guitar is off to the 2013 
La Guitarra California Festival!

When: September 6th-8th
Where: Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo, CA

This 3-day Festival is a “Celebration of Guitar” featuring 15 artists in 9 concerts, 5 Masterclasses, and a free lecture. The Vendor Fair will have 40 Luthiers exhibiting their hand made instruments, and attendees can place their bid on a new guitar in the silent auction.

Don't miss Friday's opening night concerts: Martha Masters, followed by The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet!

The Masterclasses will have added interest for guitar students of all ages and levels. They are conducted by a group of distinguished teachers: Scott Tennant, Andrew York, Berta Rojas, Adam del Monte, and Bill Kanengiser.
World renowned artists from England, Russia, Spain, Paraguay, France, Brazil, Israel, Belgium, and the United States will be at this year's festival.

We hope to see you there!

For more La Guitarra information click here: La Guitarra Website

Monday, August 5, 2013

New World Guitar Company to be among luthiers from around the world in Healdsburg

Healdsburg Guitar Festival is this weekend!

Join us this weekend of August 9th through 11th at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa, California.
Meet the Hill Guitar luthiers and admire, order or purchase a custom made guitar.

Take a Players Workshop to improve your playing and composing skills.

Enjoy great guitarists playing Demonstration Concerts for the builders who make their music possible. Don't miss our own Kenny Hill in this line-up! He will be performing on Friday from 1:50 to 2:10

In 1995, the Healdsburg Guitar Festival provided a venue for guitar enthusiasts to tryout guitars in the presence of the builder, and also hosted workshops taught by professional performers, who, in turn, demonstrated the musical qualities of the show's custom guitars in a concert setting. The sense of festive community that was established by this interconnected circle continues to this day, and the party we call The Healdsburg Guitar Festival has served a major role in validating the art of modern lutherie ever since.
The festival has helped promote high standards for quality guitars as well as create a stable market for them. “If there is a heaven, it looks just like the Healdsburg Guitar Festival,” wrote guitar buyer Henry Lowenstein in the 2005 edition of Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars. And he continued, “The nation's best luthiers get together to talk, play, and show the best of what they have to offer to the public. Every year they have the grand masters as well as fresh faces at the show. This is not only a great chance to meet the luthiers themselves and learn some really serious academic guitar-building theory, but also to make use of the numerous "quiet rooms," which allow you to actually play and compare these extraordinary instruments.”
Click here for festival information.
We hope to see you there!

Monday, July 1, 2013

New World Guitar to be Awarded at 30th Anniversary!

 We recieved a very nice letter from Clare Callahan, Professor Classical Guitar, from the College Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati thanking us profusely for our gift of a New World Estudio Guitar to their 30th Anniversary of the Classical Guitar Workshop.
Clare says the guitar arrived safely earlier in the week, and they're all so enamored with the instrument.
Initially Jon Marshall got in touch with us about getting ideas for awarding a guitar at the workshops Saturday concert – "and you just solved the whole problem by sending us one!" says Clare.
        She stated "We don't have a competition, so that wouldn't be the mechanism, we have guitarists age 10 through retirement…who convene for a week in July and attend classes in Technique, Ensemble, Masterclasses, and Special Topics. Every night we show another facet of the guitar in recitals – with other guitars, with other instruments, as a solo instrument, playing in the Saturday Guitar Orchestra and then a concert devoted to only participants doing solos, duos, trios, quartets, etc. on Sunday afternoon.   

        It's a slow process, getting classical guitar into the American musical bloodstream, because this is a Pop country.  But we deserve a place at the table… the instrument is beautiful and the repertoire terrific!  Most guitarists don't even know the extent and breadth of their own repertoire!   We celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Classical Guitar Department here in April and ten days  from now we'll celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Classical Guitar Workshop.  Your guitar will be the cherry on top!  
        Over the years, we've had several Kenny Hill guitars in the department.  Jordan Dodson, one of the first two students to be admitted to the new Curtis Institute of Music Guitar program two years ago plays one.  Andy Wygant, who is leaving in September for Brussels to study with Antigoni plays one.  Patrick Smith who is headed out to study with David Tanenbaum at San Francisco Conservatory plays one.  Others have come through the department…. And Rod Stucky in the Prep Dept has students on your instruments.  We are always pleased with Kenny Hill guitars and are delighted to have this one to award on Saturday, July 13th!  We'll put the names of all the participants in a hat and draw a name….many, many thanks for your continued high standard of Instrument making and for this generous gift!"
Thank you Clare, it's our pleasure to support such programs. We look forward to hearing who the fortunate recipient is.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

NAMM 2013 Kenny's Perspective

Rich Sayage Savage Classical Guitar

We've returned from NAMM 2013 safe and more or less sane, a week of packing and carrying guitars, travel, selling, socializing with customers, vendors, friends, partners and family. Overall the mood of the show was intense, upbeat, with most people well involved in their businesses and lives, with not a whole lot of the lament and woe that we've heard in the previous couple of years. Our own guitars get great reviews and are moving well, and our company is enjoying a good reputation and fine friendships around the world. It's a real privilege in this business to know and connect with many different characters from around the entire globe, a vivid example of how beautifully woven modern international relations and commerce truly are. The world could learn a lot about international relations from hanging around at NAMM, and in fact, we do. 

Simon & Quillan Hill
Colt Valenti
For me the most important development within this years NAMM was the efforts of my sons Simon and Quillan. This year I threw much of the responsibility for the mounting the show into their laps. They had to pack the instruments and display booth, drive it down, unload and set it up, and at the end undo the process. What they also did beautifully was occupy the booth assist with sales and hosting for all four days of the show. They met people, old customers and new, vendors old and new, and attracted some very fine young musicians, spontaneously playing beautiful music in our booth. These kids are youth magnets, reaching new people I would never meet no matter how many shows I attend. Simon and Quillan are smart, energetic, funny, personable, good looking and young! They seemed to slip into the role of the face and the work of the company quite naturally, and I am very, very proud of them. I hope they enjoyed being there as much as everyone else enjoyed them. I am also very grateful for the presence and efforts of Jessica Stark, who keeps everything going smoothly, makes friends easily, and reminds us to mind our manners. She's great. 
We're all back at work now, making guitars, making music, and getting them all out to the world. Thank you to everyone for your support and interest. I am grateful to be in such a rewarding field, surrounded by so many good people and projects. It feels like we are just getting started. 

Kenny Hill Feb 1, 2013