Mother’s Guitar: The Fretboard, A Lifetime Project

Fretboard and a chart showing corresponding notes

As a teenager, I found a guitar at Bill’s Pawn Shop in El Dorado, Arkansas. I strummed a few chords while in high school and figured out the introduction to Fire and Rain by James Taylor. Drumming became my focus, so guitar fell by the wayside.

Years later, while teaching elementary music, I picked up the guitar again and strummed some chords while the kids sang, but never got out of the first position on the fretboard.

While looking at the neck of his guitar, John Prine said, “Most of this is virgin territory.” I could relate. It seems appropriate that another definition for the word fret is “to cause or suffer emotional strain” because the frets of a guitar can be intimidating.

When I retired from education, I decided it was time to grab my 1991 Yamaha guitar and try again. I found a great teacher, Randy Soller in Fayetteville, and we do distance lessons using Facetime. His degree was music and guitar, so he’s helping me explore all that virgin territory up the guitar’s neck while relating it to what I know about music and past keyboard percussion experience. Frets continue to be a challenging precess, but I’m encouraged with progress, and the fun increases as skills grow.

Watching my Pledger Guitar take shape has been fascinating, but nothing excited me quite like seeing the fretboard construction, knowing I’ll spend the rest of my life exploring that challenging landscape. When I pass this instrument down to a grandson someday, he or another family member can take on the fretboard challenge.

Mother set the example as a lifelong learner. I think she’d be pleased to see her gift motivating me to continue my musical learning.

In February, with frets firmly installed, Clayton Pledger tuned the guitar and let it “settle in” for a while as he checked the function and tone of the instrument. He sent the following photos showing the instrument essentially complete and almost ready to ship to Arkansas.

This is the fourth post about this instrument. Earlier posts can be found at the following links.

1 Mother’s Guitar on the Builder’s Bench: Beginnings

2 Mother’s Guitar: A Work in Progress

3. Mother’s Guitar: Calling Our Best Self

Mother’s Guitar: A work in progress

Clayton Pledger, Luthier, sent several photos of the continuing work on the guitar that is a gift from my mother, Elsie Warnock. I tell how this little project came about in my previous post, Mother’s Guitar on the Builder’s Bench

Mother made journal entries from time to time. I noticed one entry that mentioned my interest in music generated many gift ideas when I was a teenager. Back then, it was all about drums. One time she selected drum sticks for me only to learn that they were neither balanced nor straight. The sweet owner of the music store, Rebecca Roberson, let me return the sticks and make another selection. Mrs. Roberson enjoyed watching me roll drumsticks across the glass display case until several straight sticks were collected. Then I dropped them lightly on the concrete floor until two rang with the same pitch indicating they were close to matching weight.

I did this stick selecting ritual until my senior year in high school when my percussion teacher, Gary D. Cook, told me about Vic Firth sticks that came from the factory straight and balanced. I’m still using Vic Firth sticks today.

After Mother’s experience picking out my drumsticks, she gave me gift cards for anything musical. I think she would enjoy knowing that an instrument is being created by hand as a keepsake of her memory.

Using a laser to align the neck connection structure.
Guitar neck in early stages.
Some neck shaping and the ebony fretboard in place.
Continued shaping of the neck and headstock
Headstock and fretboard in process.
Slotted headstock taking shape.

This photo gives hints at the future beauty of this instrument. The emphasis is on sound, but this guitar will also be a work of art that would make Mother proud.

Below is a short video from Clayton Pledger’s website.

The story continues at the following posts:

3. Mother’s Guitar: Calling Our Best Self

4. Mother’s Guitar: The Fretboard, a Lifetime Project