Jack Spira Guitars

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In an age where we have a surplus of mass guitar producers around the globe, only a small pool of guitar luthiers stick to the traditional art of handmaking guitars. Jack Spira is a handmaker, or in other words, a guitar luthier who works on a guitar singlehandedly; from selecting the choice of wood to the finishing department. He builds a handful of guitars in a year with a long queue of people eagerly waiting for their guitars to arrive from his workshop.

Based in Cockatoo Australia, Jack  builds many different kinds of acoustic instruments ranging from guitars, mandolins, bouzouki, and other wood instruments. His methods are time consuming and labour intensive due to the nature of handmaking but being immersed in every step of the process allows him  to tweak and shape the body to produce the sound   that the customer wants.. With many years of guitar building experience, Jack’s work is nothing less than outstanding.

Jack Spira guitars are built with distinction in mind. Instead of building a conventional “balanced-sounding guitar”,  Jack often  goes for something that has a heavier mid punch or deeper depth on the bass . As different woods have different characteristics, no two guitar sounds the same. Even if you put two guitars of similar size, shape, wood, and bracing; it is up to the hands of the master luthier to unlock the best potential of that particular guitar though his unique blend of tone woods selected, sculpturing and finish.

At Sixstrings we are privileged to have one of Jack’s guitar at our gallery. Featuring a OOO size, Solid Sitka Spruce top, Solid Indian Rosewood sides and back, Rosewood Bridge, Ebony Fretboard, Bone Saddle and Nut, Signature Abalone headstalk logo, a 3-piece neck with a neck voult, Mahogany binding with detailed layer of maple and mahogany purfling, Gotoh tuning machine heads, wood bridge pins and a unique rosette which emphasizes the level ofdetail in his workmanship combined with top grade material. This minimalist approach towards the fretboard with no in-lays naturally brings attention to the Spanish-like design Rosette.

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Jack Spira’s Rosette Design

The time spent for Jack to build a guitar is equivalent to the time it takes for a guitar manufacturing company to produce 80-120 high end guitars. What separates Jack from other luthiers is his ability to bring out the best in the wood that he works with, handling all the processes alone; he is able to study and understand the guitar characteristics every step of the way. He spends time tap tuning, fine tuning the bracing, scalloping down to the slightest millimetres to ensure balance and optimizing resonance. Reinforcing the sides with solid linings and strong wood binding increases the overall structural integrity of the instrument making pieces of wood resonate as one holistic structure producing clear, fat, loud acoustics that one would desire and find in boutique guitars.

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Solid side bindings

This combination of Sitka Spruce with Rosewood is generally regarded as the typical choice for consumers who enjoy bell like highs, accentuated overtones, fat mid-tones and deeper bass.  Couple that with an OOO size which emphasizes the mid-range clarity, we have in store a robust, big, balance sounding instrument which leans more towards the clear lower mid tones. With perfect intonation even on the higher frets, every material used to construct this guitar is carefully selected to contribute to the overall tonal quality and sustain.

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Jack Spira’s signature head stalk design

It was a privilege to meet Jack at the Malaysian International Guitar Festival (MIGFEST) earlier this year and to be entrusted to carry the only handmade guitar in Sixstrings done by the man himself. This guitar was made in Oct 2012 specifically for the MIGFEST audience and is now available at Sixstrings! The guitar is retailing at RM12,250 which includes a standard hard case.

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Hand selected Indian Rosewood 

The 3 Acoustic Guitars

SIXSTRINGS Blog

In the acoustic guitar world, there are typically 3 types of guitars: The laminated guitar, the solid top guitar and finally, the premium all solid body guitar.

Laminated Guitars

Laminated guitars are entry level guitars that usually aren’t very expensive. They usually range from RM100 to RM1,000.

A laminated guitar is made of pieces of wood that are glued together to form the top, sides and back of the guitar. Because of it’s layered nature, the wood does not vibrate as freely as a solid piece of wood might, and therefore is not as resonant as their solid top or full solid siblings.

That said, laminated guitars are quite hardy and do not need a lot of care. They are less susceptible to humidity and moisture. All this, of course, is at the expense of sound & tone.

A simple way of telling if a guitar’s top is solid, is by looking at the wood grain line around the sound hole. The line should end right at the edge, and NOT run through the piece of wood. Like so:

Laminated Guitar Top | SIXSTRINGS

Solid Top Guitars

Next up in line in the ‘acoustic guitar scale of goodness’ is the solid top guitar. These would cost between RM1,000 to above RM2,000.

Solid top guitars are built with a solid piece of wood as its top, just as the name suggests. The back and sides of the guitar, however, are laminated.

The top of a guitar is generally considered to be the most important component of an acoustic guitar, and solid top guitars usually produce a better sound than laminated ones. They are also louder and have a richer tone.

You usually are able to tell if a top is solid by again, looking at its grain line. The lines should run through the piece of wood around the sound hole. Like so:

Solid Cedar guitar top | SIXSTRINGS

Lastly, we have got the Holy Grail of acoustic guitars.

Full Solid Acoustic Guitars

A full solid acoustic guitar’s body is made entirely out of solid pieces of wood in various configurations. This means that the guitar’s top, sides and back are all made of solid wood.

Some common variants are: Spruce or cedar tops with mahogany, rosewood or maple sides and backs. We will explore the tonal qualities of various guitar tone woods in a separate post.

Full solid guitars are usually considered middle to high end guitars and are typically priced at RM3,000 onwards. Some premium makes like McPherson or Olson can go up to RM20,000 and above.

The Toss Up

The question that usually follows is: Which is the best type of guitar?

Unfortunately, there are no straight answers. The best guitar should be the one that makes you want to pick it up and play all the time. As the amazing acoustic guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel, once put it: “It is the guitar that you don’t want to put down”.

Also, the construction of the guitar itself plays a huge role in the way it sounds. A well constructed laminated guitar by a master luthier will sound better than a shabbily put together full solid by a less experienced maker. (Fortunately, it is quite rare to find a badly made full solid guitar! Wood is not cheap!)

Bear in mind too, that acoustic guitars made out of solid wood require a lot of care, especially if you live in a humid country like Malaysia. Humidity causes wood to bloat, making the guitar sound muffled, and the neck of a guitar to warp.

A trustworthy advice would be to try a guitar before buying it. You should be able to tell the quality of one by picking it up, feeling the way it’s put together, the wood and finish, the sound, and of course, the way it vibrates in your hand as you play it!

Akihiro Tanaka & Jack Spira, MigFest 2013

Sixstrings had the privilege of being part of the recent 2013 MigFest, in Kuala Lumpur. It was the ultimate gathering of all things acoustic guitars related.

In the 3 days when the event was held, we had the pleasure of meeting renowned acoustic guitar finger stylists, fellow acoustic guitar enthusiasts and accomplished luthiers (And try some of their fine products!).

Here is Jack Spira, the Australian luthier, and famous Japanese fingerstylist, Akihiro Tanaka visiting our booth in MigFest on one of the evenings, with Akihiro-san giving an impromptu performance of Sukiyaki on a Jack Spira 000.

More info on Jack Spira Guitars

More info on Akihiro Tanaka

25.3.2013

Welcome to our website! In the weeks to come, we’ll be unveiling our plans for Sixstrings: the guitar boutique and uploading videos and reviews for your viewing pleasure.

This week, we are making our debut at the Malaysian International Guitar Festival 2013, exhibiting our house brand, Maestro Guitars. For more info on the MIG Fest, see their website here.

Also, get these limited edition Guitar Geek t-shirts for a promotional price at the MIG Fest this week. sixstrings-tshirtFINAL

So come on, drop by our booth at L10 if you’re in the vicinity.