My trip to Portland to see Sam's new Tsiorba guitar was delayed a couple days due to having to work on a server all night before the day we had planned to go. However, it happened that I also hadn't slept the night before we eventually went, so nothing was gained by the delay.
We arrived about lunch time. I had planned to first go to lunch with Peter while my wife went shopping and then to return to his shop to play the guitar. However, who can resist picking-up an unusually beautiful, one-of-a-kind, new guitar to hear how it sounds?
Of course, I had seen the pictures, but even so, wasn't quite prepared for the visual impact. I take many photos of stunning scenery along the Oregon Coast, but somehow it just doesn't seem possible to capture how some beautiful things actually look in real-life with a camera. You know how some people who don't know how to play a musical instrument put nice pianos, harps or other instruments in their homes as decoration. Well, that guitar is worth what it probably cost just as decorative furniture. I was truly impressed. I know you also would have been.
So, it looks nice. What does it sound like? That question reminds me of coming back from the tropics and telling friends about some exotic tropical fruit they had never heard of. They would ask what it tasted like. How can you describe the flavor of any fruit, even a very familiar one like an orange, to someone who has never tasted one? I have the same problem trying to explain what Sam's guitar sounds like. You might tell someone wanting to know about an orange – it tastes good, just try it, you'll like it. That wouldn't do much to explain what it actually tastes like, but probably about as much as trying to explain with many more words.
Sam's guitar sounds good. Try it. You'll like it. It doesn't sound like a typical flamenco blanca or negra, or a typical classical guitar. Although, its sound has strong similarities to all those types of guitars. After lunch one of Peter's prior customers came by with a classical guitar Peter had made several years ago. I played a little flamenco on both Sam's guitar and on the classical guitar. The classical player also played classical music on both guitars. Sam's guitar sounded great to me playing either flamenco or classical. Like most classical guitars, I thought the classical guitar's bass and midrange sustain times were too long for flamenco, causing rapidly-picked tones to run together in a "muddy blur." The classical guitar action also was much higher than I am used to, which made that guitar more difficult for me to play. The classical-player didn't notice that difference, because he is used to high action. He was able to play either guitar equally well. His guitar sounded characteristically like a typical classical guitar, but even so, I thought the classical music he played actually sounded better on Sam's "flamenco" guitar. Classical players might disagree, because no doubt my judgment is biased toward preferring a typically-flamenco sound.
One problem with judging guitar sound qualities is that guitars sound different to players than to people out in front. Peter seemed surprised when he heard me play Sam's guitar, because of that. It both sounds different and is louder out in front than it seems to a player. The sound radiation pattern also was interesting. Peter walked far away on each side and found the sound remained loud way off to the sides, even though it doesn't seem particularly loud to a player, who seems to be within a cone of lower sound intensity. In comparison, the sound from some guitars is rather directionally-beamed straight forward.
At first I thought high-pitched sounds were a little weak, but Peter said they seemed about right out in front. As I continued to play and listen more I realized what he said also was true of what I was hearing as the player. I was hearing stronger midrange sound levels than I am used to, not weaker highs. Midrange tones are not overpoweringly strong, and even more importantly, don't have the excessively-long ring-times typically associated with frequency response peaks, although midrange sustain-times are longer than with a typical blanca. Midrange tones sound very nice. The entire music scale sounds very nice, just different. Not wildly different, just different -- maybe like the difference between an ordinary orange and a Moro Orange which is sometimes described as a tasting like an orange with raspberry overtones.
I am sure Sam will love the guitar.