Six-String Innovators

6th Annual Guitar Show a Must for Musicians

Meredith Coloma with one of her guitars.

This weekend the Montreal International Jazz Festival is hosting one of the most expansive guitar shows in North America, the 6th Montreal Guitar Show. Hundreds of handcrafted instruments will be on display and fans are allowed to try out these exceptional works.

Hundreds of hours go into some of these instruments but even skill and dedication doesn’t always guarantee success.

“Sometimes you have an instrument that doesn’t want to be built,” said an exhibitor with luthier Bernard Vachon.

After countless hours sometimes the piece doesn’t work and has to be scrapped.

Experimenting with different materials Vachon said that rosewood is one of his favorites because it’s beautiful and easy to work with. Building guitars and basses at his studio in Longueuil, he added that a single instrument can take up to 200 hours to make – but that he doesn’t like to keep track.

Although most luthiers are also musicians, their designs and craftsmanship represent a type of artistry that uses music as a vehicle, so crossover isn’t necessary. Vachon added that last year’s show had a craftsman who didn’t play guitar but created some exceptional pieces anyway. He sold a guitar on the spot, for $5000 cash, to an impressed attendee.

Among the active musicians in attendance is Meredith Coloma from B.C. The aspiring actress-turned-musician attributes her involvement in guitar building to her former commute in New York City.

“I went to acting school in New York and on my way home I’d walk by a Jewish guitar-builder. He didn’t speak a word on English, just Yiddish, but he’d let me come in and tune guitars.”

From there she became increasingly involved in instruments and now is a rhythm guitarist and professional guitar builder. Her art-deco designs are inspired by a love of 1940’s gypsy jazz.

The ultimate guitar event is almost buried in the huge Jazz Festival. It’s happening in the Hyatt Regency Hotel and includes dozens of free mini-concerts by renowned guitarists. There are also workshops where guitar virtuosi will be sharing tips and techniques and answering questions before jetting off to their Jazzfest gigs.

6th edition of the Montreal Guitar Show / To July 1 / at the Hyatt Regency Montreal / $18 Reg. $14 Students