The website of classical guitarist David Tanenbaum


I own several guitars, and use all of them. I get very attached to the guitars I own, I have a relationship with each one, and I almost never sell one. Here’s the list:

Daniel Friederich 1996 cedar top
Daniel Friederich 2006 cedar top

My babies, my main guitars for recitals and recordings. Friederich, for me, is the greatest living luthier.

Steven Connor 2007 cedar top with extra sound hole
I acquired this guitar in the summer of 2008 and have used it extensively since. It’s pretty much the loudest acoustic guitar I’ve played, and I used it without amplification at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall (900 seats) playing with a string trio and bass clarinet, at Herbst Theater in San Francisco (900 seats) with a mixed ensemble of seven instruments (Elliot Carter’s Lumien), and in Denver where I played Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint (against 14 pre-recorded guitars) with an unamplified guitar for the first time. This guitar has a Millenium design and adjustable action.

Thomas Humphrey 1992 Spruce Millenium
A classic that I have used in many recitals and recordings. Tom was a player’s luthier, and his guitars are fun to play, sort of like driving a sports car. This instrument has taken on more meaning since Tom’s untimely death last April.

Gary Southwell 1994 spruce with Fishman amplification system
I use this instrument for concertos and louder ensemble situations, and have done so since I bought it. It has an adjustable action ( the neck is off the fingerboard, like with my Connor) and is quite easy to play.

Just Intonation National Steel Guitar 2002
My most unusual guitar, one I never expected to play until Lou Harrison insisted on inventing it, at the ripe old age of 83, for his last finished piece, which he wrote for me in December 2001/January 2002. Since that time over a dozen composers have written for the instrument. It has a modified fretboard and is in DADGAD tuning. Here’s the story:

National Steel Guitars

National Steel Guitars were invented in the 1920’s when jazz guitars needed to be louder in order to be heard in their bands. Since electric guitars were not yet possible, National guitars were made with a steel body and they included a number of resonators, or speaker cones, inside the body. Lou Harrison heard Nationals as a young child, and when he heard one near the end of his life he immediately recognized the sound he wanted for his last guitar piece. He chose Just Intonation, a tuning more in line with natural acoustic principals, in that the relationship between tones is one of whole numbers. For guitars this requires a specially made fingerboard, because the frets are no longer straight across. National Guitars made such a fret board from a design by Lou Harrison’s student, Bill Slye. Harrison then chose DADGAD tuning for the six strings, a very unusual tuning for classical guitar players.

Lou Harrison was so happy with the National Steel and his piece that he accepted a commission to write a piece for National and ensemble just three days before he died. But the National legacy he began has now been carried by Terry Riley, Dusan Bogdanovic and a dozen other composers.