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When the guitar becomes the teacher: The Concert Guitar of Olivier Pozzo

September 22, 2015


Having been on an artistic retreat for a couple weeks I found there was a guitar maker in a neighboring town and arranged to meet him. My research had found comments about one of his guitars and a couple of videos of virtuosos performing on them as well. This gave me no real information about the quality of his instruments but it gave me some background.

It was a very hot day [35 c] and it had been a long walk uphill to his home as my wife and I arrived at his door. We were shown in and given some refreshments and had a chance to cool down a bit before the playing of instruments began.

The guitar he most wanted to show me was his concert model: a spruce top with a lovely sweet sound. One of the ways I try out guitars is to improvise a bit, letting my ear find the richest sounds on each particular instrument. Coming from a retreat, I was in good shape [except for the extreme heat] and had been practicing about 4 hours a day for two weeks. My hands were strong and capable but as I played the guitar things started to sound ugly. Continuing to play, it turned out that the ugly sounds were my vibrato, I was pressing down too intently, with too much strength. Continuing, I began to release most of the pressure, eventually finding the correct amount to employ. As I began to “right size” it, the vibrato started to blossom and the strings followed the whims of my fingers without protest.

At this point I turned to the luthier and told him that the guitar was very sensitive. He explained that his ideal instrument was one that would be very responsive to a player, that he loved music to be expressive and nuanced. I laughed, because the you tube performances had featured quite brilliant playing but did not exploit the expressive potential of his instruments.

The instrument had a brilliant singing sound – I thought of the great Bouchet from Bream’s 20th century guitar album. I continued to play and soon found that my basses were too loud, overwhelming the melody. My thumb is trained to produce strong bass notes so that the counterpoint [multiple melodic strains] in music can be clear. [On my current guitar this is necessary.] I started to scale back the force used and found the clarity improved. With much less effort my imagination was able to become more detailed. It began to seem that I was getting a guitar lesson from a guitar!

At some point in the near future I want to own one of these marvelous instruments.


Nasrudin’s donkey was parked outside a store, and as one of the Mulla’s enemies saw this he began urinating on the harness. In mid-stream Nasrudin came out and said

“You scoundrel! – by the grace of God, I curse you: in one week, you will break your leg.”

The man, quite distressed by this, scurried away and tripped on a rock.

He grabbed his leg howling, “Oh, my leg! Oh, my leg!” After catching his breath he looked at the Mulla and said “I thought you said seven days, and yet, here I am with a broken leg, now.”

“Must be someone else’s curse,” Nasrudin chuckled. “Next week you’ll have to crawl on your hands and knees.”


One Comment
  1. Maryellen permalink

    Food for thought. What do our guitars have to teach us if we listen and play attentively?

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