Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season full of family, friends, food, and relaxation. Last year I wrote a “year in review,” and, as this is a blog that is intended to document my journey through my career as a guitarist, I thought that I would do something similar this year as a way to summarize my experiences.
2017 was quite simply an amazing year for me. A few highlights are completing 5 guitars, performing concerts in Ontario and Nova Scotia, starting a new voice-guitar duo with Terri-Lynn Mitchell, and travelling to England with my family and Craig.
The first build of 2017 went to one of my guitar students. This was a rosewood and German spruce classical guitar inspired by the Spanish luthiers Simplicio and Garcia. Generally this was a very successful guitar. I did my first handmade mosaic rosette on this guitar. I was not entirely happy with the finish on this guitar as it lacked depth and warmth, but generally the construction turned out well and the guitar sounded quite nice.
After completing this guitar, I embarked on an impossible plan to build 4 guitars at the same time in a limited time period and a small workshop. I learned a lot from trying to do this – mostly that I should not do this again, but I did enjoy parts of this process. Completing a few soundboards or backs or necks at the same time, for instance, is definitely more time efficient than working on them individually. In the end, I dropped one of the guitars from the plan, but I did manage to complete three. Two were copies of a small-bodied Torres guitar, and the third was a really interesting acoustic steel-string guitar.
I used a new (to me) finish on these three guitars, and while I am still getting the hang of it, I do generally prefer the results from this water-based varnish than from any of the previous finishes that I have used.
After taking a few months to work on a couple of repairs and focus on other parts of my life, I returned to building in October with another full sized classical guitar. I took quite a different design approach with this guitar, aiming for simple inlay choices and clean lines. I think that this choice paid off, and this is definitely one of my better guitars both in look and in sound. I still have a couple of things to work on, but I got much closer to being satisfied with my workmanship with this guitar.
In 2018, I am going to make an effort to continue to improve with each guitar that I build. I am hoping to build 4-6 guitars this year, although a few of these may be guitars that I have already started. I am going to allow myself more time after the guitar construction to finish the guitar and to finesse the action and details of playability. This is something that I have rushed too many times and the regret that I feel every time is just not worth it. This is biggest mistake that I really need to finally learn from!
I have a classical guitar to build in the first couple months of 2018, so I will be starting that project imminently. After that, I will be completing the spalted maple classical guitar (No. 017) and the barely started ovangkol classical guitar (No. 019). I also hope to return to the zebra wood steel string guitar that I was building a few years ago (No. 005) and the experimental Spanish circa 1790 6 course guitar (No. 006). I feel like these incomplete projects in my catalogue really need to be finished to give me some peace of mind!
2017 had Craig and I playing a few concerts in Ottawa at various churches and events as well as travelling to Nova Scotia for a run of concerts in the spring and to Southern Ontario in the early fall. Terri-Lynn and I also performed our first concert this year as a start to our voice-guitar duo. From a full-time concert artist’s perspective, this is hardly a busy touring schedule, but for me, this was the fullest year of concerts that I have experienced.
To be completely honest, I was mostly disappointed with my performances. I did not practise enough, and therefore I was often barely holding on in performances and was always hoping that I would make it through concerts with my dignity intact. This is no way to proceed as a professional musician. Hopefully this brutal honesty with myself will help me in my quest to practise better and more regularly in 2018.
This is not to say that I felt like a failure after every performance, and this is certainly not an underhanded way of seeking praise. I definitely did feel that I grew as a performer this year. I am much more comfortable on stage (just imagine how much more comfortable I would be if I were properly prepared!), and I think that this has allowed me to express the music more clearly, despite some technical rough patches.
I also did my first two professional recordings this year! (If you have not heard them, I have uploaded both to my website on this page.) I learned a lot from this experience, and I will definitely be doing a few more in 2018.
So many other wonderful things happened in 2017. I slowly got back into reading, I planted too many plants in my garden, I worked with many incredible students in my teaching studio, I built a few cutting boards and shelves, I repaired a mandolin and a couple of guitars…
I did, however, take on too many things. In 2018, I am going to work towards being more calculated in my decision making so that I do not end up feeling quite so stressed and overwhelmed with projects of my own creation. I need to learn to relax my expectations of quantity while focusing on increasing my expectations of quality. Finding balance between the three aspects of my career (building, playing, and teaching), and the many aspects of my personal life is a constant battle.
Towards the end of 2017, I started to implement some basic routines into my life, and I found that this brought me a great amount of happiness and a much needed sense of grounding. These routines included a simple set of daily tasks to keep my home clean and tidy, as well as designating certain days or times to recurring tasks. For instance, Friday is my day off from work (I am a firm believer in having a regular day off as a self-employed person), and every Friday I run errands. This means that I don’t have to worry about errands any other day of the week. Another recurring task is dealing with email, social media, and miscellaneous business things. I have tried a few times to designate a particular hour (or less) each day to deal with all of these office management tasks, and although I am not very good at sticking with this routine for very long, I know that when I do maintain this routine, I feel less worried about keeping up with everything that is going on.
2018 will be a year of establishing these routines and knowing my limits for projects that I want to take on.
Thank you so much for sticking with my blog! I wish you all of the best in this new year and hope that you are staying warm in this incredibly cold weather (unless you are somewhere warm, in which case I am extremely jealous!).