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  • What makes Hill Guitars unique in terms of craftsmanship?
    Hill Guitar Company specializes in classical nylon string guitars. Worldwide this is a rather narrow niche, and by focusing directly on this we have a clear and comprehensive overview and experience. Kenny Hill has spent over 50 years building and developing guitar-making productions on every scale, from simple old-world hand tool construction to small artisan production to building guitar-making factories. He has studied and replicated historic instruments and experimented with many more modern designs and techniques. He has worked with many of the finest luthiers and the finest players in the world. His guitar-making goal is to serve the needs of contemporary players. He is a lifelong professional player and performer of classical guitar and is now immersed in composing new music for classical guitar. This range of experience informs the trends and needs of the gamut of players young and old, professionals and aficionados. The current Hill Guitar workshop is perfectly sized with a small team of master luthiers, able to respond to individual needs in a precise and timely manner. Good customer service is very important.
  • What strings are recommended for a Hill Guitar Company classical guitar?
    We send guitars out with high-tension strings. The rationale for the high tension is to be sure the instrument can handle it. Actually, the amount of extra tension in the guitar is minimal. Normal tension strings will work fine, maybe even better. We don't see that there is a direct relationship between volume and string tension. There is also a two-way acting truss rod, so any changes in the neck due to string tension can be accommodated. This is best adjusted by a guitar tech, or if you're good, by yourself. If you're going to use lower tension strings we recommend changing them before deciding to lower the bone or adjusting the truss rod. We always put high-tension strings on the guitar. Each person finds out what works best for themselves, this is a personal choice. We suggest trying a variety of string brands and tensions to come up with the right combination for your own technique and your own guitar. We use D'Addario Pro Arte high tension RJ-46. For more information see D'Addario High Tension Strings
  • What are the benefits of a custom boutique-made classical guitar?
    When ordering a custom classical guitar from Hill Guitar Co., you have the rare opportunity to get exactly what you want. The string length, the wood and tuners, the body size, and other custom features can all be decided before the first tool is put to work. You'll also have the unique opportunity to watch an instrument being made, either by well-timed visits to the workshop or through photos shared via personalized written correspondence. See what the insides of a guitar look like and experience how a guitar goes from raw lumber to a refined and lovable musical instrument. Aftermarket service is important. At Hill Guitar Company we take care of our instruments by answering questions, managing adjustments, and addressing issues as needed to keep customers' guitars in good condition. Our personalized service and attention are especially helpful when customers are within driving distance of our workshop in Northern California. Though less convenient due to insurance costs and handling risk, we are accustomed to assisting customers long-distance and experienced with the best shipping options available. Hill Guitar Company offers the maximum know-how and skill to support our instruments.
  • What is the difference between New World and Hill Guitar models? Do you sell New World Guitars in your workshop?
    New World Guitars are made in China. Around the turn of this century, Kenny Hill went to China with the expressed purpose of building good guitars there. He was able to partner with some very talented and aspirational people there and train them in lutherie to high standards. At that time it was groundbreaking. This had a profound impact on classical guitar-making all over China and on New World Guitars in particular. New World Guitars are traditionally made classical guitars and available in a variety of sizes, woods, and design specifications at relatively affordable prices. Through original training and an ongoing relationship with the Chinese workshop, we aim to keep the quality and design standards very high. New World Guitars are available through select dealers in the United States and directly from Hill Guitar Company. Varying factors affect the inventory available including season, shipping, and fluctuations in the political climate. All New World Guitars are inspected and individually adjusted before they are shipped from the Hill Guitar Co. shop in California. Hill Guitars are all made in our California workshop in the coastal mountains about 20 minutes outside of Santa Cruz.
  • How does the choice of wood affect the sound and quality of a classical guitar?
    Wood is a big subject. While common to have strong opinions and convictions about the woods used in guitar-making, guitars are quite complicated. Opinions are generalizations and thereby subjective. Guitar Soundboard Woods | Spruce or Cedar? The common generalization is that Spruce is brighter sounding with more clarity and separation and that it takes longer to “break in” or warm up. And it’s often said that Cedar is warmer, rounder, and darker in sound, and is quickly broken in and doesn’t change as much over time. Although these “opinions” may have some basis in observation and experience, it’s anything but conclusive. Those thoughts can be true, but sometimes the opposite could be true. Every guitar is different. A person’s attractions, preferences, and predispositions are important to take into account, but these are not rules or limitations at all. Nowhere is this more true than in trying to describe the sound of wood. Back and Side Woods | Indian Rosewood is very reliable and for classical guitars is most likely to deliver the familiar sound in terms of volume, balance, bass tone, treble tone, and sustain. Indian Rosewood is less likely to crack or warp than other more exotic choices. Madagascar Rosewood looks more exotic, but to the trained ear still sounds very similar to Indian Rosewood. Brazilian Rosewood is a magical secret surprise that despite its costliness and CITES control, is maddeningly attractive. To trained ears, Brazilian Rosewood might not be quite as loud as Indian Rosewood, but Brazilian can have a wonderful seductive spirit and complexity to the sound that is hard to resist. Amazon Rosewood has much of the same intrigue but at a lesser cost and regulation. Maple wood gets a bad rap, often described as too bright or too quiet. This hasn’t proven true in experience. Of the three types of Maple that we work with, Flamed is the most common, Birds Eye is the hardest, and Quilted is the softest—very psychedelic to look at. Overall, Maple may have a more cushioned attack but the volume and beauty of the sound can be really warm and attractive, and the appearance—quite beautiful. Koa wood is usually used in crossover-style instruments and is not commonly used for classical player guitars, though it can be very beautiful in both look and sound.
  • What is the oldest series/model from Hill Guitar Company?
    Kenny Hill made his first classical guitar in 1976. In the 90's and early 2000's, the Master Series was very popular, replicating iconic guitars from the history of classical guitar building. In the 2000's the notion of a Signature Guitar grew, informed by experience with a range of historic designs, and evolving through experimenting with newer and thoughtful choices, and the needs of 21st-century musicians. Nowadays most of production is very specific custom orders from a wide range of design and technical options, both traditional and modern. Read more at the Hill Guitar Showroom and Custom Order sections at
  • Do you offer repairs or restoration services for classical guitars in the Hill Guitar Company workshop?
    We are a guitar-building company, which is a very different skill set than repair and restoration. We do offer complete repair services for our guitars. It is surprising, with all of the information fomented throughout the media, that there are so few really capable guitar repair techs, at least for nylon strings. Most guitar repair people work mainly on steel string and electric guitars which have very different needs and concepts than nylon string guitars. Generally, we don’t seek out repair work on guitars that we didn’t make. Nevertheless. we will sometimes let repairs in the door if it seems like we are the best option for the customer.
  • Finishes - French Polish
    What is the best way to clean fingerprints from a French polish top? A clean soft cloth will generally do the job on fingerprints or general schmutz. Our set-up department uses turtle wax or most any other guitar or violin polish - a small amount on a dry cloth, rubbed by hand should do. Two years from the date on the label - that's how long the French polish will take to finally set up, not be so soft and subject to dings and marring. How about French polish and heat? In really hot weather you just have to be extra careful. Over time the French polish becomes more durable, but anything over 90 degrees Fahrenheit always involves risk. The worst conditions are inside a car, where the greenhouse effect can heat up. Even direct sunlight hitting a part of a black guitar case can heat that spot. The trunk can be a little better, but check the guitar after a short while to see if it's heating up. Or just carry it with you. The worst is when the finish sticks to the fur in the case. It looks TERRIBLE, but it's not as bad as it looks. French polish is easy enough to fix when you know how, but few people know how. When you have questions, problems, or concerns - drop us a line or email. You can always send it back here for a touch-up. I have a Rodriguez model with French polish and I put a big fingernail mark in it just below the soundhole. I have a lacquer touch-up kit and just wondered if I could use it. Not a good idea. Lacquer and shellac (French polish) are two distinctly different substances, non-compatible and unlike. Is it possible to repair a small surface "nick" on the front of my Kenny Hill Munich without having to refinish the entire guitar? The length of the "nick" is | |. Its depth appears to be very slight. The face of that guitar is French polish which I can usually fix easily. If you want to send it here, we can deal with it, but I would suggest you wait until you are reasonably sure it won't happen again. Spend a few months getting your dings over with, and get it out of your system. Then think about sending it to us. There is no harm in delaying. What's so great about French Polish? French polish offers one huge advantage. It sounds great. It allows a hand-made instrument to realize its greatest sound potential because it is very thin and very compatible with the acoustical qualities of wood. See Blog article by Kenny Hill on French Polish
  • Do you recommend certain Hill Guitar models based on specific sound preferences or playing styles?
    There is nothing more ephemeral to try to describe than the sound of a guitar. Everyone wants the same things: the beauty of sound, volume, clarity, even tone, big bass, strong trebles, brightness, and warmth. Also low action, no buzz, beauty, low cost, availability, etc., etc., etc. We listen to every guitar with the same ears, whether it’s a one thousand dollars or a fifteen thousand dollar or a fifty thousand dollar instrument. Our goal is to find the best choices for each player's overall needs, whether it’s by trying guitars in person or by creating an instrument through conversation or correspondence. Every guitar is different, and there is no single best guitar in the world. Not yet anyway.
  • How are your guitars set up before delivery or sale to customers?
    At the time of shipping, we normally set the string action a little higher than typically preferred because some customers like it higher, and it is always easier to lower the action than to raise it. Consequently, if you like it lower, you should only have to take a little bit off of the bottom of the bridge bone. You can complete this yourself, or use a guitar technician for assistance. The original shop action settings are these: Saddle height 3.25mm (.130") on the sixth string, 2.75mm (.100") on the first string. This is measured with the string pressed down at the first fret. These settings should be good for a pretty strong player. They can be lowered somewhat if you have a lighter touch. The nut settings are done with feeler gauges above the fingerboard. First and second string: .052" (1.3mm) Third and fourth strings: .054" (1.4mm) Fifth and sixth strings: .056" (1.45mm) We generally set the nut height with feeler gauges at around .054" from the fingerboard to the bottom of the string. This can vary according to the actual height of the fret. For flamenco we expect the 12th fret measurement to be around 2.5 to 3mm with the string fretted at the 1st fret. These are approximate and depend on the straightness of the neck. A little buzzing is expected as part of the flamenco sound.
  • What kinds of wood do you use to make Hill Guitars?
    Hill Guitar Co. uses a variety of high-quality woods from around the world including Indian Rosewood, Madagascar Rosewood, Amazon Rosewood, Brazilian Rosewood, Flamed Maple, Quilted Maple, Bird's Eye Maple, Koa, Cypress, Spruce, Cedar, Spanish Cedar, and Ebony—yes, all of these!
  • What's the most commonly used wood in guitar construction?
    For Hill Guitar Company classical guitars, we frequently use Indian Rosewood with a Cedar top, Indian Rosewood with a Spruce top is the next most used combination of woods. We mostly use a Spruce that comes from the Swiss Alps. The guitar neck is almost always Spanish Cedar and for the fingerboard, we use Ebony woods from either Africa or India.
  • Is your wood sustainably sourced?
    The answer to this question is always changing, therefore we do not know for certain due to the state of the industry at this time. In general, instrument makers are a tiny percentage of the wood consumption and deforestation of our world, and there is always the feeling that the fluxes of supply are more affected by economics, supply chains, and politics. The worrisome effects of over-harvesting and deforestation do play a direct role in sourcing wood for guitars. After nearly 50 years of doing business, Master Luthier Kenny Hill has seen various woods disappear from the market only to reappear later at much higher prices. A small shop like ours does not show up on any climate radar, but we certainly all have a deeply vested interest in sustainability and best practices when it comes to guitar-making.
  • Pickups
    We are currently using Barbera classical guitar pickup Priorities regarding pickups are these (Kenny Hill): It doesn't hurt the acoustic sound of my instrument. It sounds reasonably like a classical guitar. It's not too complicated to install or use. It is reasonably priced. There is a limit to the volume that it will comfortably produce, but for playing solo or in small ensembles it's fine. For playing in a fully electric band it may be necessary to look for further solutions. Pickup manufacturers are all coming out with upgrades and new products all the time. They come in lots of prices, configurations, and complexities. The decision is in the hands of the player. "In my workshop I work hard to make a beautiful sound come out of a wooden instrument, and I'm going to be hard to please with an electronic guitar sound. I personally now use the Barbera"- Kenny Hill
  • Does the truss rod harm the sound of the instrument?
    Many owners don't know they have a truss rod until they need it, and fall happily in love with the guitar in blissful ignorance. Then when they need it, they are very happy it's there. I say listen to the guitar. Does it sound good? Fine. A back buzz happens when the string behind a fretted note is close to the same pitch as another fretted and plucked note, and it resonates sympathetically. You may need either a truss rod adjustment or a slight nut adjustment. For the nut, raising it ever so slightly with a paper shim may take care of it. Also adjusting the truss rod slightly can often eliminate a back buzz. For directions and photos on how to adjust the truss rod, read the Tech Note: TRUSS ROD ADJUSTMENT. For directions and photos on how to adjust the truss rod, read the Tech Note: TRUSS ROD ADJUSTMENT FOR MASTER SERIES GUITARS. Also as a player, I know of certain chords (like one of the descending chords in the first Villa-Lobos Etude) that have such stubborn back buzzes that I actually adjust my left hand fingering to dampen the back string. One more detail to watch out for.
  • What is the best way to ship my guitar?
    1. We ship guitars mostly in an arched hardshell case for some added protection. 2. The guitar in case should be immobilized. The case supports the neck only next to the heel allowing the head lots of room to move about if shocked. This can cause a crack at the heel or split the sides if the shipping box is dropped...sometimes with no obvious external damage to the box or case! We pack bubble wrap to support the head to keep the guitar from moving inside the case. 3. Our boxes measure 8x18x46 which is oversized 1. Inside we have cardboard inserts at top and bottom that *suspend* the case within the box. The intent is to separate the guitar case from the exterior walls of the box and to hold it stable. This can also be done with packing peanuts or even newspaper if you keep juggling the box as you load it to insure the guitar is stationary. 4. Shipping insurance is cheap. We strongly recommend it. If you need help shipping go to your local guitar store. They will probably have used guitar shipping boxes that you can talk them out of. Hill, Martin or Taylor boxes will do fine. You might have to cut it down to size a little. If your guitar has a French polish finish consider the weather before shipping. Fed Ex has white trucks which is better than UPS brown in hot weather. Otherwise, each service is pretty good, though prices and delivery times are a little different.
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