Lowell Levinger- Banana from The Youngbloods

I was fortunate to meet Lowell at this years (2014) International Folk Alliance. His performance was one of the highlights for me and his phrasing and voices on the guitar seemed so right that he most surely invented them. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzYxxE11E48&w=420&h=315]

1.     Can you remember the first guitar you owned? What was the make and model and how did you acquire it?

 It was a Stella and it came from Stanroy Music in Santa Rosa in probably 1958.  I bought it with money earned from mowing lawns.  It was horrible.  I traded it in on a Gibson LG-0 ( I think that's maybe what they called it back then, it had an unbound mahogany body, unbound neck, terrible fret job, challenging action, fat neck. Sounded like a cigar box.  Yuck.  I didn't have a decent guitar until I moved to Boston to go to Boston University in 1962.

2.     What are the qualities that matter to you when deciding on buying a guitar, and how has this changed over time?

Over time I've learned more and more about what makes a good guitar and I've owned a great many guitars (still do ... gotta get rid of some).  The sum of it really is that a great guitar, when you sit down awhile to play it, inspires you to come up with new licks, and new progressions, and new songs, and different ways to get different tones using only your fingers. 

But there are a lot of more specific things that add up to that result. 

 Of course, the thing has to sound pleasing to your ears.  And it's good it if can project that sound out always so that a couple of dozen people might be able to also hear that pleasing sound.  It's got to play in tune at all positions on the neck and it can't crump out on any notes anywhere.  Every note on every fret must play true and clear and fat and strong. 

And it can't be a bear to play unless you are in fact a bear yourself. Too low an action ruins the tone especially if you try to play loud.  Too high an action makes your hand hurt.  There is a happy medium but it's not the same for everyone.  So it's not a negative to have to have a guitar setup to perfection for your playing after you get it.

 A simpatico guitar STAYS IN TUNE.  An anitpatico has to be tuned for sure every time it is taken out of the case and probably all the time when it is being used as well.  Really great instruments stay in tune pretty darn well.  Every instrument has to be tuned of course but there are some that just seem to 'stay in tune' really well. Those are the ones to hang on to.

3.     How did you discover your present guitar, and how did it find its way home to you?

 Like I said I have a lot of guitars.  But my main axe now is a 5 string tenor guitar that Corrado Giacomel of Genova Italy custom made for me.  It is basically the same body as his octave mandolins but the top is carved quite differently and also the braces are done differently.  And the neck is made my specifications.  I was fortunate enough to be able to play this guitar 'in the white' (before the finish had been applied) and got to request final adjustments to the neck profile.  All my life I have only played old vintage guitars and this is the first new guitar I've ever owned (since those pieces of crap in the beginning).  It was made in 2010.  The more I play it the better it sounds.  20: scale length.  Tuned from bottom up:  F C G D A

4.     What historical aspects, if any, have you unearthed about your present or past guitars?

Please visit my Museum page at:  www.vintageinstruments.com/museum.html

The Tieri instruments are quite interesting. I hope to do an article about them some fine day.

Also the Howe Orme instruments are fascinating and there is a link to more information about them on their page.

5.     What was the most recent song you composed on your guitar, and how did your present guitar tool lead you to discover the right music?

Since my guitar is tuned in fifths and I learned my 'cannon' of a few hundred songs over the past half century mostly on the 6 string guitar and the piano, it has been loads of fun making new arrangements and voicings on the 5 string tenor guitar for a lot of gems.  ... some of them even of my own composition.  As far as new songs on the instrument, so far they have all been instrumentals.  The voicings that present themselves to me on this guitar certainly helped influence these pieces.

 Oh look, we’re done

Check out more from Banana at:

www.lowelllevinger.com