After many years of playing guitar, I'm due to make myself a present of a new guitar, wanting a quality instrument and looking for an articulate sound for fingerpicking. Having played an Avalon recently obtained by a friend and lusted (!) over the guitars on the website, today I paid a visit to Avalon in Newtownards, with every intention of buying one of the guitars they have in stock, a highly anticipated treat.
I was accompanied by my wife who, despite her self-professed difficulty in telling the difference between the sound of a tin whistle and a drum, is wonderfully supportive, recognises the important place that music plays in my life and has bought me my two favourite guitars to mark special times for both of us.
I had spoken to Jim on the phone in advance and was delighted to meet him in person. I played a number of guitars (actually, practically all of them) and I was totally surprised to find myself gravitating towards the sound of spruce/mahogany guitars, when I had thought that I wanted a cedar/redwood - rosewood guitar. I was helped and assisted by Jim with no time pressure, lots of chat, playing different models and discussing the tonal differences, going back to ones already played etc etc.
I was also treated to seeing a custom guitar, exquisitely built - pure eye-candy.........
On forums such as these which are, by definition, devoted to a particular make of guitar by enthsiasts of that make, it is common to read glowing descriptions and compliments paid to the makers involved. As a regular reader of guitar (and other) forums, I tend to regard these accolades with benign scepticism.
However, there are simply no words to explain adequately the impact that a couple of hours this afternoon has made to me as a guitarist - I would have previously flattered myself that I knew a fair bit about guitars and had a clear idea of what I wanted in a guitar. I was gently led by Jim to understand differently, and to re-evaluate my own views and gain a deeper understanding of the instrument.
The outcome ? I decided not to buy on the day, and honestly found that pretty hard to take - I had looked forward to having a gorgeous new guitar in my hands and as guitar enthusiasts most readers of this will understand what that means.
Instead, I have returned home without a guitar, but with something much more valuable - I now have a clearer idea of what I want and will spend the next few days reflecting on this and will be discussing it again with Jim to have them make it for me.
Make no mistake, any complimentary remarks you see written in these forums about Jim are, based on my experience, likely to be undertstatements. I don't have the words to communicate adequately how refreshing it was to meet someone in the guitar business so friendly and open, obviously passionate and expert about guitars and guitar making, generous and helpful with his time.
To finish off, a special mention for the guitar-makers who work at Avalon. I've seen at first hand the absolute beauty of their workmanship, and I think I managed to identify some part of the special sound of these guitars. It's not related to the charateristics of the wood, or the bracing or the finishing. Only pride can put that little bit of magic in a guitar, and that pride is justly deserved - these are gorgeously made and gorgeous looking guitars.
Thanks again Jim, look forward to talking to you soon.