Staff Picks: The Head and the Heart
Yonatan Gat and PG editors show off their most intriguing headstocks and discuss current musical obsessions.
Q: What’s the most unusual or amazing headstock in your guitar collection? Please show and tell!
Yonatan Gat — Guest Picker
A: My Portuguese guitar. I picked it up in Porto while I was recording my first EP there in 2013. The Portuguese guitars are used for fado, traditional Portuguese sea ballads. It can be the happiest or saddest instrument you ever heard. A big inspiration for me was always the guitarist Carlos Paredes, pictured tuning the 12-string instrument on an album cover. Was he the only guy in Portugal that could tune that thing?
Current obsession: I’ve been exploring music to put my daughter to sleep. It’s a subtle art to create exhilarating music with no sudden movement. Music that is non-intrusive, which is the opposite of my last album. Erik Satie wrote amazing music that blends with the life around it. One really deep piece is Gavin Bryars’ “Sinking of the Titanic,” where he imagined the band onboard the ship, continuing to play as it was sinking deeper and deeper, the soundwaves being carried forever inside the water, producing some strange dreams....
Patrik Berg — Reader of the Month
A: My Oni guitar was made in Australia by luthier Daniel Memory. The headstock veneer and body are crafted from American maple and Tasmanian blackwood, and the neck is Queensland maple with a gidgee fretboard. Daniel has patented the E scale, which is the curved frets rather than the straight fan frets. He also makes his own pickups. This guitar was built in 2016 and the headstock design is from a “finger pluck excitation signal obtained via inverse filtering of guitar sample.”
Current obsession: Writing strange music for my band All Strings Attached, which is a Balkan Gypsy folk/metal combination. I’m drawing inspirations from bands like Gogol Bordello, Viza, Gojira, and Destrage among others. I’m also constantly digging for ways to inspire my 100-plus weekly guitar students to compose their own music.
John Bohlinger — Nashville Correspondent
A: My 1956 Les Paul Custom has been to hell and back since rolling out of Kalamazoo 62 years ago. Before we met, the headstock left the neck, and was reattached with a scary trench snaking up the back of the headstock toward the high E. Years ago I lost the front triangle inlay on a gig. It was there when I started, gone when I got home. I was angry about that for a year; now I see it as a noble battle scar.
Current obsession: Breathing in and out. I recently noticed that I tend to hold my breath when playing something difficult.
Ted Drozdowski — Senior Editor
A: I play a diddley bow with a lobster-pot body made by East Nashville artist Mike Windy. The headstock is an old tobacco-drying stave with a grommet, a banjo tuner, and a slice of brass pipe. It’s badass.
Current obsession: Nashville songwriter Kevin Gordon’s new Tilt and Shine. As I make my new album, I’m trying to write lyrics as deep as Kevin’s. When I hear him, especially live, I’m struck by his mastery and inspired to work harder. Nobody in this town is better.
Andy Ellis — Senior Editor
A: Beauty and the beast! The former crowns a custom nylon-string built by Abraham Wechter, one of the great luthiers of our time. To me, this headstock suggests elegant spires on a medieval French cathedral. The beast? A 1979 Kramer with a cast “T” aluminum neck. Fugly. But upgraded with a Gibson 490T humbucker and converted to a lap slide, it screams.
Current obsession: Jamming to Jim Donovan’s World Rhythm Seeds, a two-volume set of hand-drum beats from the Middle East, Caribbean, West Africa, and more.