*** Preface - I like to name the guitars I own and use. The following is a post
about one of them, presented with a classic b/w slideshow portfolio.
Photographs by yours truly. ***
I like to say I first discovered Wechter Guitars through my many dealings with Sweetwater®. That would only be partly true though. In actuality, I came across my first Wechter in a Seattle WA, guitar store. I was there trying out various Larrivée® acoustic guitars. I remember seeing a guitar up on display with the name "Wechter" on the headstock. I inquired about it. The salesman said a "boutique" builder in the area made it. The salesman also told me the builders name was Ambraham Wechter and that he had a shop based in the cities "University District".
When doing a little research for this post I discovered that Wechter started his Seattle shop in 1973 and then moved to Michigan in 1975 to study under master luthier Richard Schneider. I was in Seattle looking for Larrivées around 2001, which puts Wechters presence there quite a ways back in history compared to the time I arrived. So, as I recall now, I'm not quite sure how I could have run into one of his early guitars. Maybe, despite the fact he moved away, he developed some kind of distribution deal with the Seattle based stores to continue to carry his instruments? Maybe, it was actually a used one left over from when he was active in the area? Maybe someone had traded it in? Hmmm . . . Few "boutique" guitar builders have national, or even regional distribution. If you want a guitar, you usually have to go straight to the source. Once doing so, there is often a several month to several year wait before you can physically acquire an instrument. It's part of doing business with a literal "one-man-shop". If you can afford to wait (and afford the price tag) then it might seem worth it in the end. By any means, I was at the store that day to buy some Larrivée guitars. So, I did. I purchased two (2) of them in fact. I didn't even take the Wechter off the shelf to strum it. Perhaps, I should have.
Fast forward to 2009. I'm in Colorado looking through a nice fat full-colored sales catalogue Sweetwater had just sent me in the mail. Sweetwater, B&H Photo, Full-Compass and others like to send me these thick catalogues full of gear because, evidently, I buy enough stuff from them that they think I'm worth the money they spend on printing and shipping the said catalogues to try to entice me to buy even more stuff from them. I'm ashamed to say it but this strategy has worked well on me in the past. They dangle the candy in front of my face and I raid the jar in response. Dang!! I guess that makes them brilliant and me a gear lusting sucker! Before you shake your head too much though, I humbly submit. How many of you also get those nice flashy catalogues in the mail? If you do, every wonder why those companies are spending the money they do sending it to you??? G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), We've all had to wean ourselves off, but I digress.
To make a now long story short . . . er, after being re-introduced to Wechter Guitars via the Sweetwater catalogue, I purchased a Nashville Special Elite Cutaway. It was touted as being the worlds first "purpose built" high-string production guitar, meaning the wood choice, body style, soundboard thickness, bracing, etc., were specifically chosen to accentuate this type of instrument. Presumably, to cut down on the retail asking price, the guitar was "factory built" under Wechters guidance, supervision and certification in a plant located in Guangzhou, China. I was comfortable with this fact, at least in part, because I already owned other instruments, namely my Pearl River® studio upright piano, that had also been built from one of the Guangzhou factories. You can hear the Pearl River on the single, The Other Side. To this day, I still have my "moral conflicts" when buying products made in China, the main issue being my suspicion of a Comunist govornment exploiting it's workforce. But then again, in today’s world, how does one avoid buying anything that doesn't have at least one part of it made in China? American flags I've purchased for Independance Day celebrations have had the words printed, "Made in China", on the spine for heavens sake! Talk about ironic . . .
I named this guitar "Little Wings" because it works agreeably with my Taylor 612ce (aka "Wings"). If you look at the guitar, the Rosewood saddle block is shaped kind of like a pair of stretched out "wings" as well. It plays great and sounds beautiful. It uses the traditional "Nashville" (high-string) tuning of E3-A3-D4-G4-B3-E4. This, basically, gives you a six-string guitar strung-up with the "high" strings only from a twelve-string set. The term "Nashville" comes in deference to the long historical use of the "high-string" concept by musicians from the traditional Old-Time / Bluegrass / Country music scene found in and around Nashville, Tennessee. One of the advantages of using this instrument, instead of a single twelve-string guitar, is you can record a main guitar part with one set of chord positions and then overdub the "Nashville" guitar using inverted chord positions based off the original recorded track. Mixed together, this can produce some very pleasing richly stacked voicing in the music that would otherwise be physically unacheivable with a standard twelve-string.
Here's a Youtube link with Abraham Wechter himself talking about his path into guitar building: The Story Of Wechter Guitars.