May 12, 2009

Leo and Harmonics

The use of harmonics in guitar music is common, to be sure. The contrast of the bell-like tones, against the percussive and vibrating timbre of the strummed or plucked string, can offer variety in an arrangement (and a different sonic fingerprint).

Rarely are they used to convey an entire melody, as the challenge of working with natural and artificial harmonics (and executing them cleanly enough to transcend being gimmicky) shouldn't be underestimated.

Leave it to Leo Kottke to offer a lovely example of presenting a tasteful melody with harmonics. Leo playing "Little Martha"...

May 5, 2009

Joe Pass...on a Fender Jaguar???

The archtop guitar is the six (or seven) string machine of choice for jazz players. Jim Hall, Wes, Grant Green, Tal Farlow...see a picture or a clip of one of these guys, and you'll see a large, curvy, thick archtop guitar cradled lovingly in their arms.

Sure - there are also the guys that turned to the solid-bodied Telecaster. Ted Greene comes to mind, as does Bill Frisell and Toronto's Ed Bicker.

Fender's solid body Jaguar - and similarly shaped, but differently appointed Jazzmaster - found early favor with the surf rockers on the West Coast. Later, they became the guitar of choice for indie rock shoegazers and avant-garde musicians like Thurston Moore or Nels Cline.

Here's a clip of Joe Pass cutting it up on a Fender Jaguar. Listening to that tone, I can't help but remember the old adage - it's all in the hands.

April 16, 2009

Fred Kinbom

Fred Kinbom is a fantastic guitar player and songwriter, and no stranger to anyone frequenting one or more of the various online forums dedicated to slide guitar playing.

From his own bio:

Drawing on influences from his Scandinavian roots as well as music from various parts of the world - Eastern Europe, South and North America, Africa - his very personal brand of music and approach to the instrument, along with his strong sense of melody, has won him many fans across the globe.

People often comment that it's refreshing to hear lap steel music that is "not the usual slide stuff". "Soulful" and "unique" are other words uttered more than once by listeners.

An accurate description, for sure.

Here's a clip of a fantastic piece recently posted by Fred...enjoy!

April 13, 2009

Dean Magraw

The world is full of amazing guitarists.

There are flatpickers, and fingerstylists. Performers and composers.

Guitarists engaging in a variety of genres - country, jazz, folk, classical, rock and roll, avant garde, and world music. Players who shine a light on the traditions of the past, and others who look to the future for sounds yet unheard.

It's very rare that a single player can cover so many bases, and still excel at all of them.

Maybe that's the best way to describe Dean Magraw's talent - rare. From bebop flavored jazz sets at the Artist's Quarter, to rollicking takes on folk music from around the world with his eclectic ensemble Boiled in Lead - Magraw never disappoints. His solo acoustic work goes in many directions, sometimes with a pick in hand, and just as often without. At times, very traditional; and at others, wholly contemporary. He can push the sonic boundaries (and his audience's comfort zone) with his forays into the avant garde, embracing the chaos that makes space for the beauty of it all.

Magraw is a guitarist's guitarist - talented, skilled, adventurous, and never lacking the playful spirit behind his ever-present smile.

He sees the threaded connections between all music, threads that might seem disparate to most others.

In a world that asks us to define, categorize, and compartmentalize, Magraw (true to form) runs against the grain and simply asks us to listen.

And we should.

April 4, 2009

Tim Sparks - Sidewalk Blues

One of Minnesota's internationally acclaimed guitar legends - and all around great guy - Tim Sparks stopped by The Podium today to chat about guitars, visit, and generally let us know what he's been up to. His most recent CD - Sidewalk Blues - is now available.

This is a great collection of tunes that will sure to please any fan of guitar music.

As described on Tim's website:

"Sidewalk Blues is a collection of virtuoso Fingerstyle Guitar solos Ragtime and Jazz from New Orleans Sportin' Houses and Harlem Speakeasies mixed with Country Blues and Gospel Tunes that evoke a world of tobacco fields, fire-breathing itinerant preachers with moonshine on Saturday night and rapturous Gospel singing on Sunday morning."

And how!

Tim's new release is available from the link above, or at The Podium...

April 1, 2009

Roland and Clarence White

Bluegrass Legends.

There is hardly a flat picking guitarist today that hasn't been affected by the propulsive style of Clarence White. His venerable 1935 Martin D-28 with the enlarged soundhole - now owned and played by Tony Rice (a legend in his own right) - has inspired custom guitars from almost every maker, including the Clarence White signature model from Martin.

His playing - with the Kentucky Colonels (featuring Roland on the mandolin), as a session player, and with the Byrds - set the benchmark for contemporary bluegrass guitar playing, a style that Rice, Russ Barenberg, David Grier, and others continue to develop and expand.

Recently, Roland published a fantastic book titled "The Essential Clarence White Bluegrass Guitar Leads". With over 100 pages, plenty of photos, and 2 compact discs, this is a must have for bluegrass fans, or anyone interested in the rich contributions made by White to the history of American guitar music.

We've had a few copies at The Podium that went fast, and a few more have just arrived.

Here's a great clip of young Roland and Clarence White appearing on the Andy Griffith Show:

March 27, 2009

The Podium's 50th Anniversary

We wanted to do something special for our 50th anniversary.

It was 1959...

The Podium had just opened its doors when a young and scruffy looking musician came in looking for guitar strings. In those days, The Podium sold pipes, tobacco, and classical sheet music - but he wanted guitar strings...specifically, Martin guitar strings. Well, we had to become a Martin dealer to get them - and we would have to order a few Martin guitars to get started - but since the folk boom was just starting, selling guitars seemed like a good idea. Subsequently, he wound up spending a lot of time hanging around and playing Martins, and Martin guitars really took off for us.

The young musician often played across the street at The Ten O'clock Scholar coffee house, and was generally so broke that we wound up giving him strings. Back then he was still sporadically attending classes at the University of Minnesota, registered as Robert Zimmerman. Of course, he's known to most folks today as Bob Dylan.

In 1974, when Dylan was in town to record his "Blood on The Tracks" album, we lent him a vintage Martin OO and The Podium staff was tapped to be his backup band during the recording of that album.

Since Martins were the first instruments we carried when we started the store, because of the nice history we have had with Martin guitars, and because we think they are making some of the best guitars they ever have, we thought we would work with the wonderful folks at the Martin custom shop to build something really special.

So behold - The Podium 50th Anniversary Martin.

It is similar to a Martin OO18V, but with an Engelman spruce top, Waverly tuners, special vintage bracing, and a heaping portion of juju. The result is a spectacular fingerstyle guitar with a rich, resonant bass, great volume and sustain, and ringing complex overtones throughout its dynamic range.

Here's an audio clip of this fantastic instrument in action.

Speaking of audio clips...

There are two questions that all of us in the shop seem to get asked, at least on a weekly basis.

1. Who plays the clips on your website?
2. What is the song, and can I get a transcription of it?

Well the answer to question one is...

Kevin Lee

Kevin is the store manager at The Podium, and records all of the tracks for the website. He also takes all of the beautiful pictures of the guitars - on top of, you know, running the place. Recording is done with a Zoom H2 recorder, in stereo. Editing is done using the incredibly useful shareware application, Audacity. The sound samples you hear are adjusted for length, but are unprocessed - no eq, reverb, etc. The are then encoded from 16/44.1 wav files to mp3s for the website.

And the answer to question two...

The song is River Road Drive, and was written by Kevin as well. In his words: "The piece was inspired by the beautiful section of Highway 35 between the Wisconsin towns of Prescott and Nelson. Majestic bluffs, wonderful back roads and the Mississippi River are the main elements of this magical area."

While a transcription of the piece - always a work in progress, as Kevin puts it - is not currently available, he took the time to give The Podium 50th Anniversary Martin a workout in front of the video camera.

Here's a slightly slowed down version of the instrumental - River Road Drive - courtesy of Kevin Lee. (Apologies for the slight phasing in the audio...YouTube's codec can do some unfriendly things to audio in the uploading process. For a more representative example of the guitar's sound, see the link above.)

Enjoy! And thanks Kevin!

October 2, 2008

KBEM Pledge Drive - WIN A MARTIN D-18!

Win a Martin D-18 Guitar!

KBEM 88.5 begins their fall pledge drive on Friday, October 3rd.

In support of the great programming and educational mission of KBEM, The Podium has donated a brand new 2008 Martin D-18 that will be awarded to the winner of the drawing on Saturday, October 18th.

To enter, call in your pledge on Saturday October 4th or 11th, and you will automatically be entered to win.

Or you can pledge online at

You don't need to pledge to enter. Simply mail a postcard to:

Attn: Martin Guitar Drawing
1555 James Avenue North, Minneapolis MN 55411

All entries must be received by midnight, October 14th.

In addition to jazz programming and MN-DOT traffic, KBEM also hosts Roots Music Saturdays with such programming as Bluegrass Saturday Mornings, Bluegrass Review, Mountain Stage, String Theory, Tent Show Radio, and Celtic Nation.

Show your support for KBEM, Minneapolis Public Schools, and roots music! Pledge!

About KBEM

Recognized as the Twin Cities’ public radio voice for jazz and education, KBEM is a program of the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Approximately 150 students annually participate in KBEM’s hands-on educational program, which focuses on all aspects of broadcasting and production. Students who develop their skills and select broadcasting experience can gain significant on-air time. The station is on-air 24/7 with 35 hours of student programming each week, with live professional announcers and pre-recorded, syndicated programming filling out the rest of the schedule. KBEM is the only station in the Twin Cities market which offers a jazz format and officially provides MN-DOT traffic reports.

While the station is owned and governed by MPS, the KBEM Advisory Board serves in an advisory capacity to the Minneapolis Board of Education and to the KBEM staff.

KBEM was initially established at Minneapolis Vocational High School in the 1960s. The station was moved to North High School in 1983 as a part of the District’s desegregation initiative and it continues to reside there today. The vast majority of KBEM students attend North High School.

September 3, 2008

Bill Kirchen, Telecaster Man

Kirchen blows the roof off with this extended ending to the hit song "Hot Rod Lincoln" that he originally recorded with Commander Cody.


September 2, 2008

Phil Heywood...

Phil Heywood - guitar slinger extraordinaire and dear friend of The Podium - has just released his newest album You Got To Move.

This selection of fourteen instrumentals includes some of Heywood's own compositions, as well as a collection of great pieces by the Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt (with nod to Fahey), Leo Kottke, Willie Brown, Taj Mahal, Joseph Spence, and others.

Recorded at Dakota Dave Hull's Arabica studio, and produced by Heywood and Hull, this album is a solid, at times somber, stripped back kind of record that really lets the sheer musicality of Heywood's playing shine through.

If you are a fan of fingerstyle guitar, American roots music, or just want to be enveloped in beautiful sounds, you need to add this to your collection.

Phil Heywood will be celebrating the release of You Got To Move on September 20th at Hamline University's Sundin Music Hall. Sponsored by the Minnesota Guitar Society, general admission is $22, while admission for MGS members is $17.

May 1, 2008

Marc Ribot on the 'jo...and Guitar!

Avant-garde (yet rootsy) guitarist Marc Ribot does double duty on guitar and banjo with Robert Plant and Allison Krauss covering the Led Zeppeling classic "Black Dog". A surprising arrangement, to be sure!

April 18, 2008

Hello...hello. Is this thing on?

Sorry about the hiatus, faithful readers.

The long winter, a busy schedule, and a need to recharge the proverbial batteries have all added up to a quiet month here on the Podium blog.

Coming up in the next weeks...

Discussing the Podium's parabolic bracing experiment, video clips from the last Podium picnic, artist profiles, some more interviews with builders, and always - guitars.

Keep you eyes posted, your browser refreshed, and your RSS feed active.

We're back!

March 5, 2008

Interview with luthier Bill Tippin

Tippin Guitars

These exquisitely crafted instruments are the work of luthier Bill Tippin. Born in Florida, Tippin relocated to the competitive sailing hotbed of Marblehead, MA to work on maintaining and restoring sailing yachts. Through decades of woodworking experience, gained both on the yachts and in building and restoring furniture, he honed his craft and developed a positively deft attention to detail. Today Bill builds some of the finest guitars in the world, crafting his own modern designs with a thorough understanding of guitars of the past.

Bill was kind enough to take time out his busy guitar building and restoration schedule to answer a few questions for this interview.

You came to guitar building after years of experience in boat building and furniture making. How did your experience in these endeavors inform your luthiery?

Having the woodworking experience to fabricate jigs or fixtures and applying them to specific needs was a huge insight to building guitars. As in boat building, with exception of the strings and scales, there are no straight lines in guitar making.

What motivated you to begin building guitars?

I wanted a new guitar. In 1979, I bought a kit because I couldn’t afford the guitar I wanted, and the second was from scratch, and so on.

In an era of exceptional guitars, with a number of remarkable small builders, where do you see your guitars fitting in?

I’ve been building for many years, and my beginnings were from a traditional approach. The roots of my past will never totally leave as an influence in my building. Over the years, I have evolved to more modern techniques, and original designs. The result of this has led me to my own models, called the Staccato, the Crescendo, and the Bravado that have been well received by players of all styles.

Many of our customers have become guitar connoisseurs – they know about tone woods, have opinions about design, and an eye for fit and finish. Tell us a little bit about your take on tone woods, and where things are headed as some of the “classic” favorites are rapidly depleting.

Tone Wood – the most important part of building a great guitar. There are many types of good wood to build with; my favorites are Brazilian of course, the Mahoganies, and African Blackwood for the backs and sides.

Spruce, for a top wood, ranging from Red Spruce, German / Italian, to the American Sitka are all very good but need to be coupled with the appropriate back wood to produce the desired tone.

Being a wood junky I have been collecting for a long time. As far as the future, I heard someone say that we have come to the end of the golden era of guitar making. I think we are at the doorstep of a new beginning of the golden era. Granted, it is going to be more challenging, but the world of creativity is limitless.

You have a nice photo tour of your shop on your website. Give us a little overview about your working methods, your shop, and what goes into making a Tippin guitar. Do you manage all aspects of building your guitars, or do you have anyone working with you?

I have tried to do everything, but I don’t like bookkeeping or the IRS so I hire someone else to do that, but anything associated with the building, inlays, finishing – I’m the guy. I have a full repair service and work comes from all over the country, so there is a lot more going on than you would think. I have two full-time, very talented apprentices that do repair work as well as construction.

Guitar building is one of the few surviving crafts that are still carried out extensively by hand. Do you employ any modern methods in your work, either in using computer aided design, or CNC machines? Most luthiers that I have spoken with also have a passion for tools and tool building. Are there any particular tools that you find yourself relying heavily on, or that you have built?

Technology has advanced to the point where it has given us the means to bypass some of the “ roughing out” as I call it, but most of the tools in any good luthier’s shop are the ones they have made for themselves. Back when I started, there were very few tools that weren’t made by the builder.

Taking advantage of technology is important, it helps you make a living in today’s economy. However there are many steps in making a great guitar that has to be hands-on, as well as your mind and all of your senses. I do not have a CNC but I work with someone who does for certain applications. Each tool is equally important whether it be used once or many time during the process.

For a person interested in pursuing luthiery, do you have any advice? Was there any formal training in your background, or has your path been more experiential and self-guided?

Don’t even begin – be a doctor – would be the first thing that comes to mind…HA…but I’m still doing it. To excel at this profession, luthiery has to be a passion and that passion has to be a part of you naturally. Getting rich is difficult, but it’s a challenging field that is ever changing and never boring. My influence is from many and my education has been self-taught and I continue to learn every day.

In your mind, what defines or best represents a Tippin guitar? (Thinking in terms of tone, playability, aesthetics…)

I think the dialogue between the builder and the customer helps to personalize the tone, playability and aesthetics of each individual guitar. The description of the basic tone values for each model can be found on my web site

Roughly how many guitars do you build each year, and how much time (generally) goes into building a guitar?

I build around 15 + per year. Depending on the complexity of inlays, details, and cure time for different finishes, construction can run between three and four months for completion once it is started, providing there is only one guitar being worked on.

As you continue to build instruments, what motivates you? Have you built any guitars yet that stand out as your very best, or has that guitar yet to arrive?

Seeing the progress unfold from the beginning to the end is the first reward, but most of all is seeing and knowing that the customer is very pleased. As far as my very best, I think that my present day guitars are the best of my work, what luthier wouldn’t say that?

Maybe when I’m looking down on my work from the pearly gates I might say –THAT ONE – is the best guitar I ever made, but in my life, I will continue to make a better one.

Given that this is for a blog, what role has technology (the Internet, your website, etc.) played in the success of your business?

The Web is the best thing that has happened to me as a luthier. It’s a lot of work to put up a good web site but it’s worth it.

On your website, you mention that you perform repair and restoration services. How does that fit into your overall work? Do you find inspiration in working on guitars from other builders that lead to the overall development of craft in your own work?

We have been able to see a wide variety of boutique makers guitars as well as some of the oldest and rarest guitars in the country for repair, from set ups to major restorations. It is a great experience to learn how others perform their art. With that experience it heightens my awareness in building my own.

When building a custom guitar for a particular player, what considerations do you make?

I have made guitars for the bluegrass picker to the soft fingerstylist. When I make a guitar for a player, I give them my utmost attention and consideration to their style within the realm of a Tippin guitar, which is a fairly wide spectrum.

What can we expect from Tippin guitars in the near or not so near future?

Well, I’m still here and my mind is still creating. I don’t work for GE, and I can’t fall back on their retirement plan, so maybe my best guitar is yet to come.

Thank you for your time Bill!

March 3, 2008

100 Posts!

After several months - and a couple of lulls - this marks the 100th post to The Podium blog. Many thanks to everyone for taking the time to peek into our corner of the Internet.

Taking into consideration the input of several readers, you can expect to see more interviews, content that addresses the challenges of recording and amplifying acoustic instruments, and exploring the role of the guitar in different genres of music from around the the weeks and months to come.

On a wholly unrelated note...

The wonderful collaboration between Allison Krauss and Robert Plant continues to grow on me more and more. As a longtime Led Zeppelin fan, it is a treat to see Plant continue to passionately engage in the creative process. (It never hurts to hear Krauss' angelic voice either...)

R.I.P Jeff Healey

Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey died yesterday after a long struggle with cancer.

Known for his bluesy-rock sound and unorthodox playing style, Healey also had a passion for early jazz as seen in this clip below:

Trumpet and guitar...amazing.

February 21, 2008

R.I.P. The Original Snakeboy

The Original Snakeboy, blues guitarist extraordinaire, has left this world for the next.

Founding member of the Asylum Street Spankers, The Original Snakeboy (aka Bill Thompson) was an exceptional performer who brought his New Orleans' roots to Portland, via Austin, Texas, and numerous wanderings in between.

His passing came as a surprise to many as news quickly made its way around the globe via the various online communities of blues fans and aficionados.

Sadly, like too many before him, The Original Snakeboy's passing was at his own hands, and friends who knew him are positively devastated.

Fellow Asylum Street Spanker Guy Forsyth offers his remembrance on his blog.

Perhaps the best memories can be found in the music he shared with everyone who would listen:

February 20, 2008

Marty Reynolds

Sometimes it is easy to take for granted the talents of those around you.

Fortunately, that is never the case here at The Podium when it comes to our dedicated and ever amazing repair guru Martin Reynolds.

Truth be told, if you've done something wrong when it comes to guitars, prepare to be gently scolded - and humidify that doggone guitar for goodness sake!

Marty's work reflects the care and precision of a true craftsman, backed by a lifetime of experience and a passion for doing things properly. Marty keeps us all on our toes, and the queue that builds every Saturday morning in front of the shop, when Marty offers weekly walk-in service, is just another testament to the trust that people have in Marty to care for their beloved six-stringed friends.

Marty is no guitar snob. While he loves finely crafted guitars as much as any of us, he has a special fondness in his heart for the proletariat guitars of yesteryear, resurrecting solid wood guitars from the Chicago builders like Harmony, and imported plywood wonders from the infamous "lawsuit era" builders like Ventura. These forgotten gems become truly great player's instruments once they leave Marty's bench, ready for another twenty years of music making for folks whose wells of creativity are deeper than their wallets.

For the college student on a budget, Marty has been known to raid his bins and canisters of random parts to keep their instruments working just a little bit longer, without having to skip any meals that week to afford the repair.

Marty once afforded me the compliment that he appreciated not having to listen in on my conversations with customers, as he trusted that whatever was coming out of my mouth was reliable information.

I'd like to return the favor by acknowledging that at The Podium, we are more than just a little lucky to have Marty's shop here in the store. His experience and knowledge are called on every day by the staff, and Marty always graciously offers his pearls of wisdom, even when he is up to his ears in delicate work.

Thank you Marty, for everything!

Martin Reynolds - great luthier, exceptional man (just ask any of the bored-to-tears children who Marty has cheered up with a coloring book while mom or dad needed to try just one more guitar! )

Here's a great feature on Marty in the local university paper, The Minnesota Daily.

And a short video by Travis Heying about Marty - brought to my attention by longtime friend of The Podium (and cracking good guitar player) Bill Hammond.

February 19, 2008

Birth of the Dreadnought

John "Woody" Woodland is a guitarist, producer, luthier, guitar tech to the stars, and all around vintage guitar aficionado.

Anyone here in the Twin Cities guitar community knows Woody as the in-house repairman at Willie's American Guitars, a fine shop specializing in vintage American guitars, and tube amplifiers of the vintage and boutique variety.

I've had a number of conversations with Woody over the years, and he has always displayed a special fondness for (and expert knowledge of) all things Martin - particularly the older and more esoteric guitars.

Back in December, he worked with Dick Boak, Martin's manager of artist relations, to help set up a unique event at Lehigh University's Zoeliner Arts Center. Pat Donahue was in town with Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, and played a number of vintage guitars built and owned by Martin Guitar during the two shows.

Getting to the point...

Woodland, along with Peter Kohman and Richard Johnston, is behind the new book Birth of the Dreadnought, an exhaustive history that explores the origins of Martin's most famous contribution to American luthiery.

From Woodland's book blog:

The book is a never-before seen, in-depth look into the archives of the C.F. Martin Guitar Company, the most complete and detailed archives of any American musical instrument maker. The book’s authors, John Woodland, Peter Kohman and Richard Johnston, have done extensive research combing through the attics of the old Martin factory, researching thousands of pages of stored correspondence, most of it unseen since it was originally filed. The book also includes a large collection of unpublished photographs, elegantly illustrating the guitar’s journey. The enveloping music scenes throughout the country during the Dreadnought’s development are also well documented. Many different archival and personal sources have been consulted, and the story told includes voluminous details that have not previously been researched or compiled, let alone published. The result is a comprehensive and compelling new understanding of the instrument made famous by the C.F. Martin Company, as well as an entertaining look into the lives of the people responsible for its design.

To read more about the project, and to see some excellent photo's and scans of primary source material, visit:

February 18, 2008

Benefit for Jeff Krumm

Jeff Krumm is the founder and owner of Savage Audio, a great guitar amp company, and one of the best places to have your vintage tube amp serviced or restored.

From the Savage website:

Please join us at the Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis on March 22nd and be part of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Krumm."

It's a benefit show for Jeff Krumm, founder and owner of Savage Audio, the maker of Savage Amps. Jeff is battling cancer, and we are going to help him. He rocks and he makes others rock, so do what you can.

This show will feature a slew of fine Minneapolis bands including The Honeydogs, Quietdrive, The Hopefuls, This World Fair, Tim Mahoney, Conver Watts, Cryptic and other special guests, with Jason Nagel hosting.

Please check out our MySpace page for the latest information at


Everyone at The Podium wishes Jeff the best in his fight!

February 7, 2008

John King

The ukulele is most often identified with the music of Hawaii, and to some extent, with popular American music of the 1930's and '40's. Mass produced ukes flooded the market in the post-war U.S., with the Chicago makers (Harmony, Silvertone, Airline, etc.), Martin, Gibson, and Favilla responding to the ukulele craze.

Rarely is the ukulele seen in the context of western classical music, despite its origin as an adapted version of the Portuguese Cavaquinho.

Here is a clip of guitarist and ukulele enthusiast John King, and his arrangement of Bach for the little four-stringed wonder:

February 6, 2008


Developed in conjunction with guitarist Mike Dowling, National Resophonic has introduced the Hotplate.

Previously, the pickup options for the single cone resophonic guitar were limited to a number of piezo-based solutions from a variety of manufacturers, including K&K and Highlander, or thin, surface mount magnetic pickups like those offered by Lace. Some people have sought out some of the classic Dearmond pickups, but those are few in number, and fewer yet are thin enough to fit between the top of the guitar and still allow adequate string clearance.

The Hotplate features a single coil Telecaster sized pickup from Jason Lollar. Lollar's pickups are quickly becoming some of the most sought after replacements for classic electric guitars, basses, and steel guitars. Currently, Collings is installing his pickups in their boutique electric guitars, and as any Collings fan can tell you - they simply use the best materials available.

The Hotplate is a drop-in replacement for all of the single cone, biscuit bridge National guitars, and the slightly oblong mounting holes should allow installation in a variety of imported resos currently available on the market. The Hotplate cover is available in either brushed (shown) or bright plated surfaces; and features a tone control, volume control, and a standard 1/4" output jack. This design means that one needn't drill a hole in their guitar for the output - a serious consideration for steel and brass bodied guitars.

The demand for these is great, so prepare for a bit of a wait while NRP ramps up production - (The Podium is currently on the waiting list and will have a couple of these as soon as National can get them out the door.)

January 31, 2008

Paul Geremia

Paul Geremia has been carrying the torch of American roots music for over forty years. An exceptional player, singer, and interpreter of traditional music, Geremia is nothing short of a national treasure.

From his bio:

Geremia's background isn't typical for a bluesman. He is a third generation Italian-American who, as he laughingly puts it, "was born in the Providence River Delta". Growing up in a family that moved across the country and back numerous times weaned his appetite for music, history and travel, which served him well later on.

During the sixties, Paul noticed that the music he had enjoyed playing on harmonica (his first instrument) was now referred to as "Folk Music" and was enjoying popularity. During his short time in agriculture college, he was mostly occupied with learning guitar and hitch-hiking to where the music was. He soon left college and hit the road permanently. He found paying gigs in coffee houses and "basket houses" in cities and at college campuses and made occasional forays South and West in search of the music he loved and what gigs he could find.

Looking at his calendar, readers in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts should get out and see Paul in the weeks to come.

January 30, 2008

Le Trio Joubran

On Saturday, February 23rd, Le Trio Joubran will be performing at 8:00 pm at Hamline University's Sundin Hall.

Brothers Samir, Wissam, and Adnan all perform on the oud. Samir also lends his vocal talents to the group, and Wissam studied under his father and at the Antonio Stradivarius Institute of Cremona as an instrument builder.

Here is a clip of the trio from Janaury 2007 at Webster Hall in NYC:

January 29, 2008

Changing Guitar Strings

One of the things that seems challenging to new guitarists is the process of changing the strings on his or her instrument. While not particularly difficult, the first few times can be a bit challenging. How much string to wind onto the tuning machine? Which direction to wind? How tight should the string be wound? How do you get those darn pegs out?

In the shop, we teach people how to change the strings on a guitar all the time.

Since not everyone can visit us at The Podium - and given the sub zero weather we are currently experiencing in Minnesota, our hope is that living in a warmer climate is the reason you can't visit us in person - guitar repair guru Martin Reynolds has graciously given his time to demonstrate this fundamental and important skill.

Thanks Marty!

January 23, 2008

National Resophonic at NAMM

In addition to the new Reso-Acoustic 400 Sound System - an acoustic amplifier voiced for the resonator guitar - NRP brought out two new offerings in their guitar line-up:

The Don

This is a single cone, German Silver reso inspired by the classic National of the same name. Featuring a V-neck profile, 14 fret neck, Double-cut Diamond pattern engraving, engraved handstrap, MOP position inlays, a pearloid headstock overlay, arched back, and Waverly tuners, this is the first German Silver guitar produced by NRP. The guitar will be a limited production of 100 instruments, with a tri-cone model to follow.

Also new from the folks at NRP is the Resolectric Junior:

January 17, 2008

Carolina Chocolate Drops

On Sunday, January 20th, this acclaimed African-American stringband will be hosting a workshop at the new MacPhail Center for Music from 2:00-3:00 pm, and performing in concert at the Cedar Cultural Center at 7:30 pm.

From the bands bio:

"The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a group of young African-American stringband musicians that have come to together to play the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music in Carolinas’ piedmont. Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson both hail from the green hills of the North Carolina Piedmont while Dom Flemons is native to sunny Arizona.

Although we have diverse musical backgrounds, we draw our musical heritage from the foothills of the North and South Carolina. We have been under the tutelage of Joe Thompson, said to be the last black traditional string band player, of Mebane, NC and we strive to carry on the long standing traditional music of the black and white communities.

Joe’s musical heritage runs as deeply and fluidly as the many rivers and streams that traverse our landscape. We are proud to carry on the tradition of black musicians like Odell and Nate Thompson, Dink Roberts, John Snipes, Libba Cotten, Emp White, and countless others who have passed beyond memory and recognition."

Come and check out these extraordinary performers!

January 16, 2008

Lily Afshar

This week, Iranian-born classical guitarist and head of the University of Memphis guitar program Lily Afshar will be performing on Friday, January 18th at 8:00 pm at Hamline University's Sundin Hall.

On Thursday, Afshar will be presenting a workshop at the University of St. Thomas featuring an ancient Persian instrument - the Setar.

For more information, visit the Minnesota Guitar Society website.

January 15, 2008

Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto

In the futuristic landscape of 2008, with hovering cars running on water instead of petroleum, cathode ray terminals in every home that permit users to shop at virtual stores and send telegrams electronically, and telephone-like devices that operate without wires we present...

The Robot Guitar

Gone are the days of having to rely on one's hearing to adjust the tuning of an instrument. Simply press a button and the guitar, enhanced with state-of-the-art electronics, will tune the instrument for you.

Given Gibson's lackluster success with their USB guitar, I can't help but think of this as a "look at us - we are on the cutting edge" sort of marketing angle.

Nevertheless, I present:

The Robot Guitar

January 10, 2008

Joe Pass

The other day I was talking to David Roos - jazz guitarist extraordinaire and a veritable walking encyclopedia of all things guitar at The Podium.

He was telling some great Joe Pass stories, and I remarked that as amazing a player as Joe was, I never really could get into his recorded work. Dave understood, and remarked that in a live context, the excitement that Joe had for the guitar and guitar music was so palpable and present - in short, wonderful.

He's right of course, and thankfully I had an open mind and enough sense to trust David.

For your enjoyment and amazement:

January 9, 2008


While The Podium's mission is to provide our customers with some of the greatest acoustic guitars in the world, you could say that we've been electrified for some time.

A number of offerings from Taylor, Martin, Seagull, and Larrivee come stock with pickup systems, ready to plug into an amplifier or direct box.

Other guitars are often fitted with pickup systems by our in house guru Marty at the customer's request. We offer a wide range of solutions from Fishman, Highlander, L.R. Baggs, K&K, Schertler, Sunrise, and others.

But I'm talking ELECTRIC here.

Recently, Taylor has entered the game with a few solid bodied electric models. Following the success of the electro-acoustic hybrid T5 series, Taylor has developed a series of solid bodied guitars featuring their new Style 1 and Style 2 humbucking pickups, single cut-away, patented T-Lock neck joint, and innovative use of tone chambers.

Check out these Taylors here, here, and here.

Extending his love for carved tops, as evidenced in his mandolins and archtop acoustics, Bill Collings has also entered the electric fray.

The SoCo Deluxe features a carved top, premium lacquer finish, incredible neck, and wonderful pickups from Jason Lollar. Featuring a more traditional aesthetic than the Taylors, these guitars are ideal for the same tone connoisseurs that have made Collings one of the most sought after boutique builders.

Another voice, another guitar.

Both of these builders have presented players with an option that serves a different function, but remains consistent with the quality that fans have come to expect.

January 8, 2008

Choosing a Harmonica

The combination of guitar and harmonica has a well established history. From folkies to rockers, blues players to jug band stompers, the harp offers a sound that far surpasses its diminutive size.

It's no wonder that a number of musicians want to try out the harmonica for themselves. It's small, affordable, and as long as a prospective player's expectations aren't virtuosic, the harmonica's diatonic nature makes it hard to play a bad note.

The question we most often field in regard to harmonicas - "Which key should I buy?"

This is a question that can be difficult to answer for a number of reasons. While it is true that the harmonica is only capable of playing a full major scale in the key that it is sold in, there are work-arounds.

First off, the harmonica can be used to play in other keys, albeit with some missing notes, in the various positions. Bending and over-blowing can help to fill in some of the missing notes as well.

Secondly, a player may be interested in playing a melodic "straight harp" style, or a bluesy "cross harp" style full of bends and overblows. (Yes, you can bend notes rather accurately on a diatonic harmonica. To hear this done to good effect, and with a virtuosic accuracy, check out the stylings of Howard Levy.)

Most new players will likely be looking at the harmonica from the perspective of the first two positions to start with.

To play a harp in first position, you simply match the key of the harp to the key of the song that you are playing. If you are strumming a country ballad in the key of G, you will likely play a harp in the key of G.

For people exploring the bluesy "cross harp" style, you choose the harp based on the second position which places an emphasis on the draw, and as such, facilitates easier bending. In this case, you choose a harp that is in a different key than the song is written.

Here is a chart that will help you to determine the key to choose:

Many new harp players might want to begin by using a book, CD, or other learning tool. In that case, the most common key is C, though you should check with the materials first to be sure. Having the right key harp will make it possible to play in tune with the lesson materials.

For the price of a few packs of strings, giving the harp a try is a pretty low risk investment that could open up a world of fun.

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to all from The Podium. May 2008 be a year of joy, music, and of course, fine guitars.