Do you appreciate perfection? Had a great interview with Guitar Master Craftsman, David Cervantes who builds the world's finest guitars from scratch. Absolutely incredible works of art. We had a great time!
David Cervantes and Amanda Slingerland at LA Talk Radio - StudioVox - Get Famous Friday
Here's a link to the interview on LA Talk Radio's StudioVox - Get Famous Friday. Or enjoy the transcribed version below.
AMANDA: Let's talk a little bit about dreams today. Say your dream is a career as a musician, maybe you're playing a guitar on a stage with screaming fans you know, this beautiful, beautiful music is pouring out of this instrument. If that is a dream for you, we have a guest today that makes musical instruments sound extraordinarily special. Playing music so magical that when it leaves the instrument, it touches millions of people.
Our guest, the incredibly talented David Cervantes, David is Founder of David Cervantes' Guitars. He is a very recognized master-craftsman in the industry for handcrafting the finest guitars in the world for rock stars and musicians in all corners of the universe. David is going to share his passion for creating these guitars. His company is actually located on the big island of Hawaii. He'll share his philosophy on what makes a guitar great. Hey David, thanks for being here!
DAVID: Hello. Thank you for having me.
AMANDA: Aloha! And welcome from Hawaii. It's awesome to have you here. I think that it's incredible that you dedicate your life to such really a beautiful pursuit you know, a master craftsman of something that is a true art form. That - I don't really know if people really realize the art that goes into making an instrument and being a craftsman of that sort. I think there’s sort of, maybe, this sort of fantasy of people have like - of ditching their office for you know a workshop, and working with their hands and honing something, and shaping raw materials into something beautiful and noble. And so the fact that you are actually doing that I'm sure is very, very inspirational for those people who are sitting behind their laptops in their cubicle this morning, going, Oh God! How did I end up here, when I could be creating something beautiful? So, how did you actually get started making these magnificent instruments?
DAVID: I started playing the ukulele when I was 5 years old, started playing guitar when I was 10; started taking them apart and messing with them when I was 14. So, at that point, it just kind of gravitated into this career.
AMANDA: Is what you do - I mean, I've heard the word - is it Luthier?
AMANDA: Luthier? Now, is that all string instruments? That's not just guitars - that's all of them.
DAVID: All types of string instruments, yes.
AMANDA: And so, but what you do is you specialize in guitars?
DAVID: I specialize in guitars, yes. But I also make a variety of different types of string instruments as well.
AMANDA: Okay. And so did you have to go to - is there a school that teaches that? I mean, I don't think I've been to a university that offers that. So, do you have to, like, figure that one out?
DAVID: Luthier school. There are a variety of schools that you can go to, in the U.S. and abroad in Europe that you can go to, and learn just about any type or aspect of this field.
AMANDA: And so, when you entered it, what was there something about it that pulled you in, that you knew that this is how you wanted to spend your life?
DAVID: It was the expression - that artistic expression was on such a broad range or variety of levels. There's an art to just about every aspect of building an instrument as you progress through it until it’s done, even just something as simple as putting the frets in the fingerboard - there's an art to that. There's an art to every section of the instrument as you're building it.
AMANDA: When you were learning the process, is it, do you take on the whole guitar, sort of at once and learn it? Or, do you learn it, sort of piece by piece?
DAVID: You kind of start at the bottom, and you work with the simplest pieces first, depending on your aptitude, you know, whatever you are able to handle. But usually, you want to start slower, and work yourself into it and become familiar with the basics and then go from there.
AMANDA: Do you still play the guitar?
DAVID: Yes, I do.
AMANDA: Okay, so you started playing when you were young and that’s sort of where the passion came from for you, and you said that that you also played the ukulele?
AMANDA: Do you still play the ukulele?
DAVID: I do.
AMANDA: You had said your factory or your company is in Hawaii, so were you originally from there? Is that where the ukulele-playing came from?
AMANDA: No? Just a coincidence.
DAVID: My dad had a bunch of Hawaiian friends who were always at the house.
AMANDA: Okay, so there is a Hawaiian connection someplace!
AMANDA: Okay. Do you handcraft your guitars for specific people, for collectors - you know who's finding you?
DAVID: Well, right now we've just launched in January. So, we've been building the factory and getting the website and all the social media together.
DAVID: That's just getting completed now. People will be able to find me relatively easily within the next few months.
AMANDA: So, what's the state of what the factory or company - I don't even know what the right word is, I want to call it a studio but I don't know if that's the right word for it. Is it up and running right now, or are you still putting all the components together to make it your baby?
DAVID: It is up and running right now; I have two guys over at the shop that are working as we speak. And when I get back over there, we'll probably have at least 20 instruments to get into paint and start painting them and getting them completed.
AMANDA: So, what is your area of specialty? Like, what's the core instrument that you love making the most?
DAVID: I'd have to say it's kind of a toss-up between electric basses and electric guitars. Although, I have made some acoustic guitars that sound really well because the passion's there; no matter what I am making, I've just been really fortunate to have that pride in workmanship and it just comes through in everything that I get my hands on, really. I’m lucky.
AMANDA: So, sometimes you've done acoustic, but the sort of the core of what you do right now, is sort of a hybrid between the two? So what does that mean, for those of us who don't play the guitar? What does that mean - a hybrid?
DAVID: It's a different type of instrument, it's a solid body. It's been chambered out, and it's been chambered with some thoughts of the physics and properties of sound to allow it to have some acoustic tonal properties. It has an acoustic top on it that makes it look physically like an acoustic to some degree. But the bridge is the same type that you would find on any acoustic guitar, so that sound is there to a certain degree; hopefully as much as possible.
AMANDA: Yeah. Now, when you are looking at creating a guitar, are you looking for - are there rare woods? Are there rare materials you know that help the instrument have that certain resonance?
DAVID: There are, but these rare woods have been so depleted, primarily Brazilian rosewood. It's really tough to get anything of a quality that you were able to have acquired in the ‘60s, ‘70s - it's pretty much depleted at this time. So there are some woods it's just not possible to get anymore.
AMANDA: Yeah, that makes sense.
DAVID: So, I don't try to view it in terms of the materials so much as in terms of a color palette. Because there are so many people building guitars out there, and there's some great builders that are building guitars and basses. There are not a lot of people out there building other instruments that will add to that tonal palette, that people can employ in their writing and in a variety of ways. So that's what my focus is on right now - it's just trying to bring people more colors into their work environment.
AMANDA: When you change the wood, or select it based on color or something like that, does that impact the sound at all? Like, can you tell that different varieties of wood impact that?
AMANDA: It does?
DAVID: Honduran Mahogany is a much warmer sounding wood as opposed to like maple, say Eastern Hard-rock Maple, soft maple if you are using that, for the back end sides of an acoustic guitar; it's going to be a lot brighter, a lot edgier, a lot thinner sounding.
AMANDA: Do musicians know this? Like, do they come to you and they ask for a certain sound, or they say, "I really like the sound." Or, is this something that you just know, because it's in your repertoire of expertise that mahogany sounds different than, you know, whatever?
DAVID: A lot of musicians know.
AMANDA: They do?
DAVID: Yes, they do. They know what they are after, they know what they want. Those are the guys that I really like to make instruments for, because they know specifically what they want and I know how to get what they want. So, we get to point B really quickly.
AMANDA: Yeah. I would imagine the more astute they are in actually a sound or what they want. You know, you can - that's sort of your dream client, right? To be able to be after this quest of perfection together and get to the same place? You know, how much background information though does, you know sort of, the majority of people have when they are coming to you? And they want something special - do they even know what that means?
DAVID: To a certain degree, they do but then, there's also room to educate them and take that time necessary so that you're giving them enough information so that they can make that decision based on knowing and your experience. So, you are giving them your experience so they can make a decision that's going to benefit them and have an instrument that they are going to use.
AMANDA: So, how does this sort of expertise start? I mean, you go this school and you get started. But then, there has to be this long journey of working for other people or apprenticing and - what were those steps for you? What did that look like, the last you know I don't know, 20 years or more, I'm not sure?
DAVID: I started working at BC Rich Guitars in the heavy metal days and I wound up running the woodshop there.
David Cervantes, age 28 at BC Guitars
AMANDA: OK. Those must have been some fun days!
DAVID: Yeah! It was.
AMANDA: What we remember of them, they were probably great!
DAVID: There were always some strange characters coming in the shop. We made a lot of instruments though for a lot of good people, so it was a lot of fun.
AMANDA: So that was your first shop? And so when you were there, you were learning and apprenticing and sort of figuring it out. That was sort of your foray into whether or not you were going to stick with this and then, where did you go from there?
DAVID: From there, I went to Fender and started working at Fender in Corona. They had just started opening the plant there in Corona, so I started working for them. And I worked for them for about a year, and then I actually left Fender and started doing some OEM manufacturing for some other companies - Washburn and Charvel, I was making bodies and necks for them for a while. So, it was kind of underground at that time, I wasn't really making a lot of instruments with my own name on them, primarily just necks and bodies for other people.
AMANDA: And, getting better and better sort of along the way. And then you left from Fender, and then went out on your own? Or, you had another jump in between of that?
DAVID: I went out on my own for a while, and then after that, I started working well I got a dream gig - it’s like the top of the heap really, as working as a designer and master builder for Yamaha.
AMANDA: Oh, okay. Cool! Alright. And how long were you with Yamaha?
DAVID: Six years, from ‘94 to 2000.
AMANDA: And where are they? Are they here in LA, or are they someplace else?
DAVID: They were here on Weddington, between Lankershim and Vineland, they were right there. They're no longer there now, I don't know what happened. It's been several years so - I just spoke to some friends yesterday and asked them about it but they weren't really clear on what happened or why they pulled the facility.
AMANDA: Yeah, where they've gone. They've just sort of - they've gone wherever they've gone. But if you were - I mean, my gosh everybody knows Fender and Yamaha and these are the names that you know, resonate in that, and to be sort of the master craftsman at Yamaha! I mean how much impact and how much of your expertise sort of has ended up permeating sort of, their entire you know their whole line? I mean, the impact that you made at that time, I'm sure was overall.
DAVID: Yeah, definitely it was. I came up with some unique instruments for them that are still sought after today. You don't really see them on eBay or anything like that. They're not turned over like a lot of instruments that you see on there. People that own them usually keep them because they sound good.
AMANDA: Yeah. They're a one-time owner. You get 'em, and you hang on to them for life and then, maybe if you are lucky, you pass it on to your son or something like that. Yeah, I think that the kind of instruments that you create at that kind of quality, you know I would imagine they don't end up, sort of in mainstream market very much. So, who are you making these instruments for then? If it's not the mainstream market, who are you making them for?
DAVID: My focus on these instruments is for primarily singers, songwriters, producers, people that are always looking for some new color to add to whatever they are creating. Like painters always have so many colors to use, and these producers, musicians - they have a guitar and a bass and usually a bunch of effects types of things. But having other instruments where the instrumentation is actually completely different; you could play it like a guitar, or you could pick it up if you’re a guitarist and play it, but the sound, the amount of strings that are on them - they're different. Usually, say, like a Cuban Tress for instance, it's actually three strings, but there's three choruses of two, so it’s two-two-two. So, it's like a half of a 12-string, kind of. That has its own vibe, that's how the Cubans get that Afro-Cuban rhythm going - it's with that Tress, when you actually hear what that instrument is, and then hear it in the context of that music in then you connect the dots, and you're like, Oh, that's how they get that, that cool vibe! So, there's so many little cool vibes like that that you can add to things - that really are not that available right now in a working man's sense, where you can just plug it in and get it done.
AMANDA: Yeah, the off-the-shelf sort of do-it-yourself sort of sound is what you get.
DAVID: Yeah, plus you have mic some of these instruments and they’re poorly made and they don't play very well, so they don't lend themselves to actually being in that kind of recording environment, or writing environment.
AMANDA: Yeah. So, when you are hand making something, is everything handmade, when you are doing it? Or, you're sort of working - you know, are there pieces that are partially manufactured and partially handmade? Is there a process – I just, what's that process like in your studio?
DAVID: Pretty much everything that's made out of wood is made in the shop. Everything from like even the acoustic bridges - I don't buy those, I make those myself. Because that does impart certain color as well to the instrument overall. So, if you want to be in control of those subtleties, as well as just buying something hoping it sounds good. Electronics wise, I tend to go with the expertise of companies, like the company we are working with now, they are well-known LR Baggs and they’ve been around for a while, a long time and they make great stuff. So Ryan over there is super helpful, and I just would rather go with them, let them kind of guide me in that direction so I can spend the majority of my time focused on what I do best.
AMANDA: Right. Exactly. You want to partner up with somebody who is the best in that area, you bring the best of your expertise and you marry those two and I would imagine you end up with something exceptional.
DAVID: Yes, exactly.
AMANDA: How long does it take to complete a guitar?
DAVID: Depending on the instrument, an acoustic can go 6 to 8 weeks easily, an electric can be as short as two weeks and the hybrids that I'm doing right now are kind of in the middle at 3 to 4 weeks.
AMANDA: Okay. So it's, that’s labor-intensive, I mean, that's you know above and beyond a work of art. I talk to a lot of painters and a lot of people who you know make their living working, whether it’s in canvas or sculpture, or you know whatever, you know some of the artists can throw out a painting a day, or whatever and think they’ve spent a lot of time on it, others can spend a year working on it. But it really sounds like you know if something is taking a month or six weeks or something, it's really a piece of sculptural artwork that then ultimately has a tremendous future in history and that it can sort of carry with it, and that really makes it I think, one of the most dynamic art forms. Because you can actually use it and do something with it that is just absolutely magical. So, I really understand that about that. About how many guitars are you usually working on at one time? You said that you have a couple of people in your studio, are you all working on one? Do you have a couple of different gigs going on and you are working on a few different instruments at the same time? How does that work?
DAVID: We usually do production runs of about 10 pieces of each type. So right now there are 20 pieces that are going to go into paint there are 10 of 2 different types of instruments.
AMANDA: And then, you get those into specialty shops? You get them into places where people who really understand what your instrument is about would then purchase those?
AMANDA: Okay. Has the evolution of, I don't know, electronic media, I guess I mean, we talk about how sounds change and what's popular, and how music is made. Does that impact how you approach making your guitar? Or, there’s just always the same base line that you are looking for?
DAVID: Well, to a certain degree, high fidelity remains high fidelity, no matter what the media trends or the changes are in the technology. How you hear things is how you hear things, and you kind of have to stick with these formulas that work and as you go and you gain the experience, fine tune them; so that you can, in your own techniques, get to a certain point quicker or more efficiently. It’s all about trying to maintain the consistency and be as efficient as possible. So with that, it's really kind of debatable I guess, depending on what the technology is specifically - if it's a new type of recording or a device or an effects device, they always lend themselves to specific instruments that work best in combination with them. So, and there are so many varieties of guitars that have slightly different voices that work in those respects. So, it's kind of an ephemeral thing, really to try to pinpoint it’s not an exact science - it never has been and it's not going to be for many years.
AMANDA: Well, I'm actually glad. I mean, I'm happy to hear that. You know if we were having to change something as classic and fundamental as a guitar, which is so pure, you know, I mean - that's the pure part; and if that was needing to change and evolve necessarily depending on the hype or the flavor of you know whatever's going on in media and with electronics or whatever, that's sort of - that's the beginning of the end as far as I am concerned! Because there has to be sort of this core place that art comes from that keeps and maintains a standard at some level, so that other things can kind of change around and you can play, and you can create art based on sort of that solid place of purity. So, good, I'm happy to hear that. There is some purity in the world that keeps a standard which is really nice. But has the guitar evolved? Does it change? Does it evolve? Or, are there different styles of guitars that once a style comes in, you really need to do something to change it up a bit, to you know take into consideration different genres?
DAVID: They're always I think, evolving and at this point, they've gotten to an area where the evolution is slowing down but it's becoming more precise. So -
AMANDA: Okay. When you’re saying it's slowing down, what does that mean?
DAVID: It means people are taking more time and analyzing what they are doing a lot more, so that they can repeat those things. The way they are tuning acoustic tops - a lot more people are incorporating older ways that they were doing almost 200 years ago, making violins and cellos. The attention to how that piece is resonating before it is put into the context of the whole instrument before it’s built, while it’s still a component. While they’re working on those individual components, they are spending a lot more time getting them to an exact specification, and determining what that is - that is a kind of a thing that all depends on the guy who is building it, his personality, his ears, and even the way a person hears things changes. It's just a barometric pressure, so one day to the next that can vary as well. So, they're always variables and as builders we all really try to maintain that consistency and try to hone your skills and find just more techniques that you can expound on. You’re always trying to make yourself because as you are better, the instruments are better.
AMANDA: It sounds like to me, is guitar then just sort of a tent word? Like really it's like a big - you say the word 'guitar', and you think you are talking about something specific, when really it's just sort of a big general category and it gets very, very specific as you look at the details underneath.
DAVID: Well, there are specific models that sound certain ways. There's a Dreadnought that sounds this way, there's a Jumble that sounds this way, there's a Par and they sound that way. So, there are specifics that we have in place but within each of those guitars there are builders out there who are just trying to push it forward, making them sound as good as it could possibly sound.
AMANDA: Is there any I don’t know, is there any ego in the craft? Let's say as far as like I don't know, acoustic guitar creators versus you know, electric guitar creators? Is there any sort of that sort of ego piece in it?
DAVID: I haven't experienced it myself, not with the smaller builders. When you get into a production sense in big companies like Fender, there's always going to be a little bit of abrasion no matter what, because of the amount of people there.
AMANDA: Oh, there's always abrasion! Friction is the force of life! So, I totally get that.
DAVID: With some of the smaller builders that I've had the opportunity to work with, no - there's always just this camaraderie there where everybody really wants to push things forward, no matter what you are putting yourself into, whether it is electrics or acoustics. Because you could be in a concert hall playing the most beautiful acoustic, but you could have the most beautiful electric sound coming out of this 100 watt Marshall that's just as amazing.
DAVID: And there is just no way to really compare them, you could just really appreciate them both, or learn to appreciate them both.
AMANDA: Do you have to - I mean, you are an independent master craftsman; so, obviously you are selective about what you are creating and sort of where it goes you know. Is there still some sort of a - not a conflict, that's not the right word, but there are big commercial companies that obviously you are competing with who are saying, Oh, what they are making and creating sounds so great. And so as a business owner, and in what you are doing, how to you try to think about that piece?
DAVID: I just try to find my own niche within that. There are always gaps, as far as what they are producing, and the numbers that they produce. Like when I worked for Fender, I always thought, “Where do all these guitars go?" There’s so many!
AMANDA: Yeah, who, there's not that many musicians! Where the hell are they going?
DAVID: But it’s scary when you see that firsthand! You find ways, you make instruments that are different, they sound different they have a uniqueness to them that people will understand and appreciate. And there isn't really any other way you can go about doing it that I've found yet. So, that's why -
AMANDA: Now, do you think that in – I mean you must have a philosophy about some something about you that you feel really differentiates you from other guitar makers. What is that?
DAVID: I've been studying sound itself for years, for a long time, and making myself more familiar with it in a variety of ways so that I can document what I'm doing, understand what I'm doing and try and bring it into a focus so that I can have a better understanding of what I'm doing.
DAVID: That is the main thing. A lot of people that I have spoken to, I wind up informing them because they aren't familiar with - just say as an example, what is the low E string on a bass guitar? What is that frequency? And they might not know its 41 hertz. It's just a simple thing like that. You just start somewhere and you start compiling your data, and you just keep compiling it until the point where you do have such a body of work. There are programs where if you feed them enough data, you'll get a formula out, and then that's something that you can really start applying.
AMANDA: So I mean, it's fascinating to think that there's this whole idea of physics kind of behind creating the sound and that you know you're capturing that. Are you going to be able to you know put that into a book, or are you going to be able to do something with that so that it lives on?
DAVID: Definitely, definitely. Once there's a substantial body of work that people can take, digest, expound on, once that is viable, yes we’ll definitely publish it and get it out there.
AMANDA: Are the physics in the things that you are looking for in the sound and the things that you are studying? So, you're studying that, and then you are taking some of that and then, is it impacting some of the decisions that you are making you know in the instruments because of what you are finding out?
DAVID: Definitely, definitely. It allows me to take whether it's an acoustic guitar top or an electric guitar body, and I can fine tune that, once I'm understanding how it resonates and being able to manipulate that in a way that's going to allow that instrument to resonate more efficiently, more beautifully. Overall, it's going to wind up making that instrument as best as it could possibly be. Or as good as it could possibly be. So, that's kind of what we're all after, that's the bottom line instead of just guesswork and trying to do the same thing all the time, just trying to document all this so that at the end of the day, I have a better understanding of what I'm doing and it allows me to focus my direction on something that I'm really trying to achieve.
AMANDA: What are some of the you know sort of, seriously unique instruments that you love to work on?
DAVID: Right now I'm working on some indigenous instruments, like I mentioned - a Cuban Tress earlier, there's a Venezuelan Cuatro, that's another one. There's a few, there's a Mexican Harana, and there's the Requintos from Mexico as well - all these instruments. A guitar player could pick up one of mine and just plug it in and play it. He doesn't have to rethink or re-learn because these instruments are so similar to the guitar they’re usually the first four strings or five strings of a guitar, so it's going to be friendly in that respect for someone to pick it up.
AMANDA: And it sounds to me that, string instruments that are made like that, I mean, I don't think there's a lot of familiarity necessary with those types of string instruments. They're seriously unique, like you can't you know just find that anyplace and I think that, that is an incredible point to make about what you do. I think that you know the fact that you can say that about yourself, with knowing that you're probably one of the few people on the planet who can do that - is pretty powerful.
DAVID: Thank you, thank you very much. I appreciate that greatly.
AMANDA: You also have said that you've made instruments that I'm sure have made it into the hands of some very, very talented musicians. Do you know some of the musicians that your guitars have made into the hands of?
DAVID: Yeah. When I was at, well the last big gig at Yamaha, I wound up doing the Frank Gambale model, and that was a really, really interesting guitar. I actually got interviewed for a book because of the innovations on that guitar. A lot of stuff so that the guy who had already written the book thought that this was a really significant instrument and it was something that had innovations. He thought it was the most significant development in guitars in the last 50 years. So, that's why he called me and interviewed me for it. But it's a great sounding guitar and you won't see those for sale. Once Yamaha stopped making them, I think everybody just hoarded them.
AMANDA: Yeah, everybody probably has them hidden away someplace! Is it sort of uncommon that I mean you're a guitar player, is that sort of uncommon that you do that? And do other guitar makers actually you know make sure that they have that component into their craft?
DAVID: It's kind of hard - there are several instrument makers that I know that don't play guitar. They have some great guitar players around them but -
AMANDA: How can you be a guitar maker, really, and not play? Seriously?
AMANDA: Okay, well I would imagine that creates quite an obstacle for some designers.
DAVID: It would, it would. I mean it's like a race car driver -
AMANDA: Yeah! - who doesn't drive! It's crazy!
DAVID: Yeah! How can you build a race car if you don't drive? It is -
AMANDA: Do you think that, that helps you be as exceptional as you are?
DAVID: It has. That and the passion for it. It has always been there and I'm always curious about what else I can do. Every time I look at it, there’s something new that can be found in there, in that wood, in that technique, whatever it may be, just to try and push it forward a little bit more. And the next instrument will hopefully benefit from all that I've learned or discovered or remembered that I can apply to that one from the one previous to it.
AMANDA: Is there a reason you - I mean, you chose Hawaii, which is you know a great place to choose, and I could think of many reasons, but obviously it was a choice to go there. Did it have anything to do with the location of creating, or was it just all lifestyle choice?
DAVID: We're fortunate to have some land over there that was just sitting, and a house, that was just completely paid for, outright. So, it seemed like a logical thing to do as far as financing the operation -
AMANDA: That is a great place to end up with a piece of land! You know? I mean, this is a good problem to have! So, it just sort of you know became the destination. Has it ended up being a good place to be?
DAVID: It has, it has. The energy on the big island is just amazing, people are open to that and so it is really conducive to ideas, development and pushing things forward.
AMANDA: Are you able to find people who have either the experience that you need for them to have as a craftsman to come work with you, or can you help apprentice them because you need them to work in a certain way?
DAVID: I have been able to find guys, I have been lucky. One of the guys who's working for me now, he has spent 30 years as a stone mason. He has his techniques and his skills so refined in that business, working on 30-40 million dollar homes where you look at the stone work and it's just so amazing - and on top of that, the guy is like this phenomenal bass player.
AMANDA: All right! So, he had the sense of what it means to work with tools and the touch, and the delicacy of that, and then combined with an ear, I would say that he is probably a pretty good find for you.
DAVID: Exactly. You hit upon it right there. You know, you can have one or the other, but if you don't have both, you're really not going to be able to realize fully what you are creating. So, you have to have that ear and those skills.
AMANDA: Yeah. What's the best part of doing what you do? What's the best part of it for you?
DAVID: Putting the strings on and getting to play it, and hear it. It's like this birth kind of thing you know she's born and now she's talking and singing!
AMANDA: Yeah! I totally get that. I mean, once it's all together and you spend so much time from you know a bunch of fragmented pieces laying on the ground to something coming together, and all the expertise that it takes to do that, it is - it's like this little person that you created. Do you play every guitar after you build it?
DAVID: Yes. I have to set it up and adjust the height of the strings, the tension in the neck, and basically what they call a setup. It's the action which is the string height, relative to the fret board, and then there's usually a truss rod in the neck that you can adjust that will counter the string tension, the pull that's distorting the shape of the neck. There's that, and then there's adjusting the height of the actual saddle, or the individual bridge saddles of the guitar to all bring it into a point where it's very comfortable to play.
AMANDA: And then you are sending these guitars all over the world. Where are these children that you are making going?
DAVID: Well, some of the instruments that I've made - they've gone to Japan, they've gone to New York, they've gone to Germany, they've gone all over. Some are in Hawaii. There's a really nice base in Utah right now that I can recollect immediately.
AMANDA: 'I'm going to get back and get that one! I miss that one!'
DAVID: I didn't want to sell it. I actually made that one for myself and I wound up selling it.
AMANDA: Yeah, I would imagine that you do make some, that you are like in your mind, when you are going through the process, you're like, Ahh! I want to keep this one for me! And then, you never do!
DAVID: That’s the only drawback about playing it’s the only drawback. The better you get at building things that sound good, it's like you get that kid in the candy store mentality a little bit. You have to fight it. You really have to - "Look! I really have to pay my bills. So you have to go!"
AMANDA: I think we've all been there one way or another, all the creative people on this planet. It's that struggle between having to pay your bills and you know how much you're willing to charge for you know what you've created and the amount of time you know that you've put in. But as an artist, that is what you do, is create things that makes other peoples' lives more rich, you know and so you sort of pay it forward in that way. Is there a really hard part or misconception about what you do?
DAVID: I think the hard part is, really just taking as many years as it takes to get to the level that you want to be. It's like that when you are playing guitars too, there are so many people that come to me like, "Gosh! How you play at that?" I tell him the same thing I tell everybody else, any donkey can do it, you just put enough time, and you're going to get it. So many of these people are like instant society, you know? They want to be a Van Halen in just two weeks, that's not going to happen.
AMANDA: Yeah, and it's the same with the craft of yours. I mean, you have put so many years of love you know into it, and I think that you know when somebody takes a guitar somewhere to get it fixed or whatever, they're thinking all those people who work with those instruments are not created equal.
AMANDA: You know, they just couldn't possibly, possibly be. And so I think that people you know understanding that and understanding what it takes to be a true craftsman, you know I think there's sort of a big education gap in what that means and the people who are buying your instruments, I would imagine are seeking out that level. Is there some way that they can tell the level of an instrument kind of by looking at it, or what should they look for in really high quality piece?
DAVID: The first thing you should look for is how comfortable and how easy it plays. And that kind of goes hand in hand with how well it sounds. I would look it over first to make sure everything looks like it’s in its place, and there's no frets lifting off the fingerboard and there’s no crooked knobs, or screws that have been put in at an angle, or anything that just looks like shoddy workmanship. It should look really perfect; it really should look like there's been so much time put into it that you're just impressed by looking at it. I mean, that's one of the major first impressions that you should definitely have.
AMANDA: So that's what a young musician - if a young musician is trying to buy a piece that they want to have for a long time - there is something about looking at it, and understanding the quality of it?
DAVID: Approach it slowly, yeah! Take your time, and really look it over, I mean really scrutinize it. And then, allow your ears and your hands to scrutinize it just as equally. If you are in a Guitar Center or wherever you are, spend all the time you need to just plugging it into a variety of different amps. Don’t just plug it in and bash your way on it; try it with different pick-ups, different amps you know move it around on the room and see what it can do.
AMANDA: And make it your own, make it your own.
DAVID: Well, thank you so, so much. Thanks for joining me today. A very special thank you to David Cervantes for your amazing insights into the music world and sharing your talent with us today. You can find David at www.davidcervantesguitars.com and on StudioVox at www.studiovox.com/members/davidacervantes/.