Friday, December 16, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Hill Guitar Company http://hillguitar.blogspot.com/
Friday, October 28, 2011
"After visiting some shops and noticing that many of the guitars in my price range that I liked were made by Kenny Hill, I called him, then visited and had a guitar built just for me. It's so good I may never buy another guitar, so, in a way, being too good a luthier is self-defeating.
Condensed version: they're good guitars."
Click title for more reviews.
Friday, October 21, 2011
This is a 640mm double top, lattice braced, narrow necked [1 7/8"] radiused fingerboard thin bodied guitar, with a sound port, dTar pickup, strap buttons, and, did we say, great sound.
It's got marker dots at 5,7,9, strap buttons... and look at that Florentine cutaway.
Finally, let's talk about the double top: Indian rosewood/Nomex/Western red cedar. This guitar has a unique look and a unique sound - mellow, not subdued, but jazzy. It's got a lot of range in its acoustic palette, but it's right in the pocket for the jazz player.
You won't find guitars with Indian rosewood double tops. In fact, this is the only one so far. Unique. One of a kind.
More photos and specs here.
Want to buy it right now? It's currently on ebay.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Brazilian rosewood back and sides, European spruce/Nomex/western red cedar top, lattice braced, thin body, Florentine cutaway, 640mm string length
standard width neck 51mm with classical fingerboard, sound port, strap buttons and a dTar dual source pick up.
This set up is what you want on stage with other players.
It sounds terrific acoustically, and it sounds the same plugged in. It also features lovely ebony Alessi tuners. More images here in the showroom.
It carries the 'prototype' label, but there is nothing about this guitar that is second class or second rate - it's just not a production model - and it's possible all future instruments of this nature will be Performance models and not Signatures. Comes with a custom case.
Every once in awhile, Kenny builds a couple of Signature Flamenco guitars. Well, here is one of two just completed.
It features a solid European spruce top, Spanish cypress back and sides, 650mm string length, standard Sloane stippled Ebony machines.
You can see more photos of this guitar in the showroom.
Both of these guitars are a great value, check them out online, or if you are in the neighborhood, stop by and try them!
Friday, October 7, 2011
Acoustic Guitar checks out a punchy-sounding double-top classical. With video.
By Michael Millham
At a Glance
The Specs:Double top (Alpine spruce on outside, Nomex honeycomb in the center, western red cedar on inside). Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Lattice bracing. Spanish cedar neck with Spanish heel joint and dual-action truss rod. Ebony fingerboard. Indian rosewood bridge. 650-mm scale. 51-mm (2 inches) nut width. 57.5-mm (217/64-inches) string spacing at the saddle. Gotoh Deluxe tuners. French-polish finish. D’Addario Pro-Arté normal-tension strings. Made in USA.
This Is Cool:Double-top power. Fat tone. Overall value.
Watch For:Modern tone and construction may not appeal to traditionalists.
Price:$5,500 list/$4,850 street.
Maker:Hill Guitar Company: (831) 336-9317; hillguitar.com.
California luthier Kenny Hill first planned on building organs—the kind with pipes—but quickly shifted his focus to guitars in the mid-1970s. Starting out as a solo builder, Hill has since expanded his operation to the point where his six-person atelier is the largest dedicated manufacturer of nylon-string guitars in the United States. Much of the Hill Guitar Company’s growth has come by offering high-quality, yet affordable, replicas of designs by Fleta, Hauser, Rodriguez, Ruck, and Torres. In recent years, however, Hill has put an increased emphasis on his original designs, which he calls the Signature series. Featuring double tops, elevated fingerboards, soundports, and other contemporary innovations, these instruments have found favor with many top-tier players and teachers. True to his company’s dedication to offering value, Hill started looking at ways to offer his contemporary designs’ tone and playability at a price that working classical musicians would find relatively affordable. Launched earlier this year, the culmination of Hill’s efforts is the Hill Performance series, of which we checked out the standard model.
Understated Style, Flawless Craftsmanship
The Performance series shares much of the Signature model’s DNA. Chief among these is the double-top construction. A bit of a misnomer, the double top (as pioneered by German luthiers Matthias Dammann and Gernot Wagner) is actually a single soundboard composed of three parts: two ultrathin “skins” of wood laminated around a honeycomb-like core of Nomex (a type of Kevlar). The goal of the double top is to provide traditional top stiffness with greatly reduced weight. Hill tends toward a yin-yang relationship between wood skins: if the outer top is cedar, he will use spruce inside, and vice versa—with the outer wood providing the dominant tonality. Our review guitar uses a creamy expanse of silky, tightly grained Alpine spruce for the outer layer, with a skin of western red cedar under the Nomex grid. In a further nod to contemporary classical guitar construction, the Performance series is braced in a nine-by-nine lattice pattern rather than the more traditional fan bracing. Using combined strips of spruce and cedar, the pattern’s crossed braces create a grid of elongated diamonds set lengthwise underneath the top grain, with the spruce braces centered in the lattice under the treble side (to enhance upper partials) and more cedar bracing at the lattice edges.
The consummate Spanish appearance of the Performance series guitar belies its high-tech construction, although two Robert Ruck–style soundports on each side of the neck’s heel add a contemporary look. The most significant construction difference between this guitar and the upscale Signature series is that it has a traditional neck set and fingerboard, rather than the elevated fingerboard found on the pricier guitar, a choice that adds to the Performance series’ more-traditional overall vibe.
The straight-grained Indian rosewood used for the guitar’s back and sides exudes depth and character, and the instrument’s unbound ebony fingerboard extends to the 20th fret for the first string. The guitar’s fretwork is flawless. The Hill’s body is wrapped in clean mahogany binding that intersects precisely with the matching minimalist mahogany backstrip and tailblock inlay. It’s a handsome, organic understatement somewhat reminiscent of Lowden steel-strings. A look inside the guitar reveals similar attention to detail. The svelte top and back bars are precisely carved, placed, and smoothly sanded—with no excess glue to be seen—and the kerfing is a wonder of consistency.
The Performance model’s neck sports a decidedly contemporary low-profile U-shaped carve, with an excellent “medium” factory setup (3.5 mm for the first string, 4 mm for the sixth string, both measured at the 12th fret) that feels much faster than the specs would suggest. The guitar’s truss rod allows for perfect neck relief, and intonation remains spot-on both up the neck and between fretted and open-string unisons. A single side dot marker at the seventh fret provides a minimalist way to keep things organized during shifts, and the overall neck geometry, string spacing, and top construction allow for fatigue-free picking hand performance, even when I tried the guitar with high-tension Savarez strings.
The result of all these modern construction efforts is a smooth, warm, yet punchy instrument with sustain, outstanding balance from low to high, and a wide dynamic range. Double tops and lattice braces typically produce a loud guitar, but at times this comes at the cost of tonal warmth. Not so with the Hill. While it is respectably loud (enough, for example, to accompany a soprano), it retains a full, weighty tone with tons of sustain even at the lowest volumes, and its response is uniform at every dynamic level. Running through the second movement of Leo Brouwer’s El Decameron Negro, I found it effortless to observe Brouwer’s wide and fastidiously notated dynamic contrasts during the echoes section. Color changes were likewise magnified across a broad palette—from sul tasto to ponticello—an advantage that nimbly sidesteps one common criticism of double-top instruments as being overly uniform in tonal response compared to traditional solid tops.
As beguiling as its dynamic range may be, the guitar’s flat string-to-string response is equally apparent. Even the transition from the wound D string to the nylon G passes without intrusion. Spinning the low E’s ivoroid Gotoh tuner up to F for Dusan Bogdanovic’s Mysterious Habitats, I found it easy to move between the melody notes on the upper strings and the five-beat perpetual motion ostinato in the bass. Each individual note comes off as round, with typical double-top beef and a fast response that masks the initial nail attack. Combine this character with the soundports channeling tone back toward you, and the overall impression is of both intimacy and a huge sound—a paradox perhaps befitting the Performance series’ yin-yang construction methods. It’s worth noting that the lattice and majority of the top are wood and thus subject to “playing in.” I noticed that the guitar’s tone increased somewhat in complexity, adding sparkle to the highs, during the time I had the guitar—again, in similar fashion to a traditional classical guitar.
With its extroverted sound, easy playability, and clean craftsmanship, this modern guitar in traditional guise has a lot to offer someone looking for a concert-quality classical with exceptional balance and a warm, punchy tone with wide dynamic range. In short, the Performance series may be the best manifestation yet of Kenny Hill’s desire to provide concert-quality guitars, in accessible quantities, at affordable prices.
Michael Millham (guitarandvoice.com) lives in Spokane, Washington, where he teaches at Gonzaga and Eastern Washington Universities and performs as a soloist and with vocalist Keleren Millham.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Thursday Sept. 22nd, 2011 7:30 PM
Hill Guitar Company
The Darling House
Seats are limited, please Contact Hill Guitar Company for advanced reservations
(800) 262-8858 (831) 336-9317
Santa Cruz Location:
The Darling House
314 West Cliff Dr.,
Santa Cruz CA 95060
Overnight Accommodation Packages Available http://darlinghouse.com/
Master Class Offered onsite at The Darling House
Friday Sept. 23rd 2011
Space is limited
Contact Hill Guitar Company for details
(800) 262-8858 (831) 336-9317
The award-winning ensemble, AlmaNova, is an innovative flute and guitar duo presenting an eclectic program of chamber music. Flutist Jessica Pierce and guitarist Almer Imamovic are both masters of their instruments elevating the flute and guitar ensemble to the highest level of virtuosity and artistry. Guests are sure to enjoy this live performance filled with energy and passion!
Monday, August 1, 2011
Indian rosewood nomex double top with Western red cedar inside.
The cutaway is Florentine style.
The Stage guitar comes with a dTar multi-source pickup installed, as you can see Ben doing Thursday 8/4.
Kenny will have this all Indian rosewood model and a double-top Brazilian model for people to try at the show, along with Signatures and Performance models.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Yowie Zowie! A HOT offer for a HOT guitar for the HEAT WAVE!!
This weekend, we're offering this exquisite Brazilian Hauser '37 see photos here, a $7500 value at an INSANE sale price - $1000 off!!! But wait, if you buy it, we'll throw in a brand new BAM case, a $700 value, for FREE!! How can we do it? We're crazy with the heat!!
We're only building Master Series guitars to order these days, so getting one of these would take at least 5 months to get. They're just not available.
This guitar's got the Hauser sound and beautiful Brazilian rosewood!
It won't last long!
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
FELTON -- The aroma of wood shavings and varnish hung in the air at Hill Guitar Co. along with more than a dozen guitars in varying stages of completion Monday.
Kenny Hill's been producing classical and flamenco guitars in the San Lorenzo Valley for more than two decades, but with his new shop on Highway 9 he's preparing to ramp up production to meet increasing global demand for his high-end concert instruments.
"I've been at this game long enough that it's really a golden age in my business," Hill said. "You work for 30 years and you're an overnight success, or something like that."
Monday, January 17, 2011
This is the latest latest, project, encouraged by a few of my professional clients, most forcefully, Almer Imamovic. This is a attempt to make a truly electric classical, for those gigs where you need to play really loud and strong, but not give up the feel, dynamics and tone values of a fine classical guitar. A few companies have tried (no names) and most have failed, miserably. I've built three variations on this over the last few weeks, and I'm hoping to have them wrapped up by Namm. I know it will take several more attempts to get it right, but I'm planning to get it right eventually. We'll see.....
Think Les Paul size
thin parlor size body
narrow neck 1 7/8" w. radiused fingerboard
marker dots on the neck 5, 7, 9
double top: spruce, nomex, cedar
ebony Gotoh machines
640mm string length
solid select Indian rosewood
Spanish cedar neck
Hand applied French polish finish
Made in California [Kenny Hill]
projected list price $5750/ case included
UPDATED review from Michael Millham after playing both of these at the NAMM show and posted on the Acoustic Guitar Magazine's forum. Images of Michael playing the guitar in our NAMM posting:
Super easy to play; totally comfortable. Same feel and workmanship as all the upper level models. Feels like a typical CG to the hands, and a "thinline" electro acoustic to the body. Loud enough to be heard-about as loud as all but the full bodied lattice braced double tops, but with (I think; it's NAMM, after all) less bass response unplugged (no surprise there). I'm sure that the lattice double top and ports has a lot to do with the fact that there is still some acoustic punch-more so than with other thinlines I've played. I *think* that one was a flat board, and that Almer's was subtly radiused; both had low actions and narrower nuts, and both were as fast as any of the Hills I've played before.
I was not as enthused about the pickup, but anyone who has been around this forum for a decade or so-particularly "gear"-knows that I am a pickup snob/junkie; plus, I've never been a piezo UST guy... others who don't mind piezo coloration in, say, steel strings might really like the amplified tone; it's certainly more subtle than most USTs, and more agreeable than the typical "Chet" stylists live thinline tone.
If I suddenly found myself playing at louder stage volumes, this guitar would be at the top of a short list. It's basically just a high rent, high tech, high quality version of a stage thinline acoustic-which I think is the whole point.
It would be great for folks with shoulder or other body issues too, since there is still some authority unplugged.
Oddly, I can see these little guitars riding on a lot of contemporary pop/country/praise music tour buses: just the thing for adding natural nylon flavor to a band backing up the hot singer du jour.
Speaking of little guitars, the maple Torres (and we are talking tiny, romantic-era sized body-even smaller than normal "Torres" reproductions) was a surprise, very sweet and full at the same time. Likely a killer couch guitar.
My favorite at the show, however, was a cedar "performance" model. Kel's favorite was probably the "lowerboutectomy" beveled signature that Perf mentions.
They're all good. That's why all these players keep stopping by that booth.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Kenny, Shotaro Kido [Rokkomann Asturias Guitars] & Tim Miklaucic [GSI Tornavoz]
Kenny, Dave Hepple [Oasis strings & things] & Spruce Signature.
Fred Waleki, Westwood Music, visits w. Kenny.
Almer Imamovic plays for a crowd. His website.Their website
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
One thing I must pay tribute to is this picture. To my utter amazement my wife Roberta painted this in her secret times, and gave it to me on Christmas morning. I was overwhelmed. I still am.
She has only been painting for a little over a year! She has painted pictures of our grandchildren that would slay you, her mother in perfect joy, the heartbreaking fall leaves from the backyard maple trees, many other moments, but I never expected myself to be so discovered by her eye and her paint brush in this way.
This particular moment is from a time on a boat on the Soane river in France last summer, a perfect, perfect time. But this picture is about the guitar, and the hands. How did she do this? The guitar looks more beautiful than anything I have ever made, idealized, but familiar, like mine. And the hands, so familiar I think I know the moment those notes were played. I was writing new music. Those painted hands look exactly how these playing hands feel. How did she do this?
This girl's got talent. That's not all she's got, but talent she has. In the face of the picture I can't help to see my old uncles, my dad, my mom, and barely recall the not yet forgotten young guy I used to be, the one my beautiful kids reflect now, but yep, that's me.
So, in spite of the "too much information" tilt of this article, I seriously wish to honor my wife Roberta for her amazing accomplishments as a recently discovered painter, without even approaching her sublime qualities as a companion, counsellor, thinker and beauty. Perfect. Thank you.