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Hello and welcome to part 3 of "In Search of the Perfect Guitar", originally published in November 1981. Please click here to see Perfect Guitar Part One or Perfect Guitar Part Two.


This is the third and final segment of Julian Bream's quest for the perfect guitar. In this article Mr. Bream goes through at least one hundred and fifty more guitars to find a reserve guitar like the one that he had chosen from over one hundred guitars a week before.

The most amazing feature about this event with Bream was his fantastic memory. He was able to recall the sound of nearly every guitar he had previously played.

óJames Sherry

A few days after Bream chose his first guitar, he called saying that he really liked the guitar and that he would like to choose another one in case this one got stolen like the Bouchette. He said that the choice would be easy since we had six picked out. He returned in two days and played the six guitars. The guitar he had taken and played on tour had improved greatly. It was hard to believe that the guitar had improved so much by being played on for just one week. A week previously the six guitars were nearly identical. This proved the fact that perhaps playing a guitar does improve the instrument sometimes by twenty-five percent.

Now this did not settle too well with Mr. Bream. He wanted a backup guitar to be at least equal to his guitar, and none of the six picked out were now equal to it. And, how could he be sure that after a week of playing one of the other six, the guitar would turn out as good as his present guitar?

Bream insisted on playing more guitars. I told him that it was impossible for him to find a better guitar than the one he was playing, or even one equal to it or close to it. I said that his only hope was to play each of the remaining six guitars the same amount of time that he had played his present guitar and then one of them would surely come up to his guitar.

Bream said that that was a great idea, but, if he played his guitar twelve hours a day for seven days, it would take six full weeks to play six guitars. or have six other guitarists play the guitars for one week. None of these ideas would work because he had to be in London for a concert in two days. He said that his only choice was to try to find something close to the guitar.

Bream asked how many guitars were left to be played. I said, "Since you played 100, and there were about 350, you have at least 250 guitars to play and make a choice."

Bream, a determined, strong Englishman, set his jaw to the task. So like "Gordon" the English commander, he attacked the mountain of guitars.

James Sherry and Julian Bream

He opened case after case looking only for tops equal to the top of his guitar. He sorted out about twenty-five guitars, we tuned them up and listened. We found one and put it aside, it was not bright enough.

We tuned up another twenty-five. We found two almost equal to his guitar; we now had three guitars. We tuned up another twenty-five, nothing this time. We tuned up another twenty-five, found two more, tuned another twenty-five and found two more. We now had at least another magnificent seven to choose from. (Bream had played over 250 guitars to find the magnificent fourteen guitars.)

I suggested that we go out to dinner before we made the final choice from the new batch of seven. At dinner Jose Rubio's name came up and I asked how the guitar making venture turned out. Bream said that he and Rubio could not see eye to eye on many things so they decided to go their separate ways. Jose Rubio at that time had a small factory in England.

After dinner we settled down to make the final choice. After two hours of testing for resonance and perfect balance, Bream found two guitars equal to his, perhaps even better after being played. He played both guitars for over an hour, he could not make up his mind. I said. "Take both of them, I can ship them by air along with your Fleta."

Bream said that this was a great idea. He would show them to John Williams and maybe he would want one. After Bream left for England I shipped the guitars to him and never heard a word from him, although his manager sent a check for the guitars. (Harold Shaw, Bream's manager, told me Bream never answered his mail or phone calls.)

Twelve years later a friend of mine asked him if he received the guitars. Bream said, "Yes, tell Jim they arrived in great condition."

After all the guitars Bream played to make his choices I thought he would play the guitars for at least twenty years. Not true. Two years later someone said that Bream was playing a guitar by a new maker by the name of Romanillos. Unbelievable?