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by Glenn Kenny

Les Paul & Mary FordFor Steve Uhrik of Retrofret, the immersion into the vintage world began with an infatuation with old music and old phonographs as a kid. "It was very visceral. Arcane technology had a real emotional resonance for me. And it was a straight line from phonographs to musical instruments."

A broken violin bow led Steve to an apprenticeship with a legendary New York instrument restorer and eventually to the creation of a shop that's a guitar lover's paradise, showcasing instruments that are finely crafted in the traditional sense… but also those that have a certain je ne sais quoi, as the French call it.

When you drop in at Retrofret, you'll notice a number of unusual items and instruments-we'll get to some of those in a bit. But mostly you'll see guitars, a veritable Eden of guitars. Guitars of all shapes and sizes, made all over the world, some twenty or thirty years old, others a hundred or more.

Even an experienced axe aficionado could get lost. The posts to follow will help the newcomer feel a little less lost-or just enjoy bring lost a little more. The guitar might be most intimate of musical instruments. There's something about one: the fact that to play it, you have to hold it close to you. The fact that it's (for the most part) made of wood, carved out of something alive and organic. There's the physicality of working it, the fact that you use much more than just your hands to do it.

A very intense player will lean into his or her guitar, really coax it, really make it an extension of the body: not just the fingers and the hands but the arms, the chest, the heart.
If the guitar really is the extension of the self, it's worth the time, trouble, and dough to find the instrument, or instrument, that's best suited to that self.

Steve has some pretty simple advice: "Buy what you like. What resonates with you. What you enjoy playing." And if you want to get something that's unique - as unique, say, as you - investing in a vintage guitar could well be your path to musical bliss. "Anybody who can play three chords can sit down with a good flat top and get a really pleasing sound out of it," Uhrik notes. "Hand that person an arch-top guitar, which was refined for big bands, more complex musical voicings, and requires a different dexterity and attack, and it might not get that player that same immediate result."

Finding out what works for you, and what's going to give you the best value for money, requires not just due diligence, but a certain amount of self-knowledge. For the experts at Retrofret, vintage instruments have a kind of character that straight-off-the-factory-floor models can't come close to.

Steve Uhrik - Retrofret


continued... "The Sound of Love" - Part II
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233 Butler Street Brooklyn, New York 11217 (on the 2nd floor)

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New York String Service | 233 Butler Street | Brooklyn, New York, 11217 USA
718 237 2532 | 718 237 6092 |