Having played guitar since I was a teenager, I gathered a small personal collection of instruments over the years. One was bought in India, complete with bag and capo, for just a few pounds, to keep me amused over the weekend during a business trip. The last buy, about 30 years on from the first, was a trade-in of one electro-acoustic guitar for another.
The trade-in was just a deal. One guitar left my collection, and another joined. Some instruments, though, seem to have a stronger personal connection – the Indian guitar was one of probably 100 guitars in the shop, all looking the same – but they didn’t sound the same! I spent quite a while in there, and I played just about every instrument on the racks before making my choice.
A few years later, I tried making my own acoustic guitar. At the outset I decided that, if I made an instrument that sounded any good, I would make some more; to experiment with design and materials, and to share the experience and the products with others. I bought a few books, sorted through my tools and set about building a bench. I watched a lot of Youtube videos on how to sharpen chisels. Oh and there was reading, reading and more reading!
After four and a half months, I put the top and bottom strings on my first guitar. Hearing its voice for the first time was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. It sounded so sweet that I had no hesitation in using it for a public performance within a week.
Over the next few months, I made instruments using the same material (sitka spruce) for the tops, but using mahogany, cocobolo and maple for the backs and sides. Each had its own unique voice, look, and feel. Next I tried walnut, and different sizes of instrument using rosewood and cocobolo again.
I put my early instruments in the hands of friends I could trust – three men whom I respect for their great guitar skill, and each with their own playing styles and musical preferences ranging across classical, folk, jazz and rock. In each case, they enjoyed the instruments and made great music of striking power and tone. Their feedback (and, thankfully, praise!) inspired me to go further. These experiences also enabled me to practise finessing the early instruments in terms of action and playability, to suit the player, and giving me invaluable practical experience of “set-up”.
Now when I choose an instrument to play, it is almost always one I have made myself. Every time I play, I am exploring the new, the unique experience of an instrument built by me, built largely by hand. Something produced from base materials that I have selected with my own senses, to my own preferences. A finished work of which I have initiated and prosecuted every element – the size and shape of the body, the profile of the neck, the height of the strings, the camber of the fingerboard. The final set-up honed to the player’s preference.
If you would like an instrument bespoke to you – or simply different from the “mass-produced”, then please do make contact. You might like to buy an instrument already made, or take your own journey by placing a deposit and commissioning your own custom build. A journey that starts with choosing materials and specifying design, continues with my production, and ends with your ownership of your unique, bespoke acoustic guitar. Although, of course, that’s really just the beginning; the beginning of the next stage of your own personal music-making enjoyment and experience.
If you have read this far, you will have a sense of the Aldington Guitars ethos – a passion for creating hand-crafted instruments with which the player is intimately connected. Instruments which are born of conscious choices of materials and design, with the aim of enabling the player to express themselves in their own style, and are thus a joy to play and own.