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JohnMarr's blog

Delivering Guitars in Uncertain Times

The coronavirus that appeared four months ago has arrived in North America with a vengeance.
At MacKenzie & Marr Guitars we want to let you know some of the things we're doing to ensure the continued safety of our customers.

Here's what we're doing:

Only one person works in our loft at a time. We usually work as a team but for the duration of the danger, we'll stay away from each other.

The option of picking up your guitar in person is temporarily not available.
We've suspended customer visits to our loft.

We've also suspended all shipments of replacement tuning buttons, bridge pins etc. Sending them requires a trip to the post office which violates our self-quarantine and social distancing. We apologize to those waiting for parts.

Guitar orders - including pre-orders of Tofino X - are on track and will ship on time. We have instituted a two-day delay between packing a newly set up a new guitar and shipping it. It's highly unlikely, that, if present,  the virus could have survived on guitars or cases during the voyage from the workshop to our loft or, from there, on the trip to a new owner's home, but the addition of a couple of days rest seems to be prudent.

We're extending the 7 day "Love It Or Leave It" money back guarantee by three days which will allow new owners to leave the carton closed for a day or two if they so choose, and still have a week to fall in love with the guitar.

Perorders of Tofino X won't be affected. The May production has been completed and will arrive in our Montreal warehouse on time. We'll have enough stock to cover all existing pre-orders and a few extras for additional orders.

It's too early to say what delays we'll experience with The Ian Tyson Inspiration, a potential new Tom Rush guitar and other fall deliveries. Testing and quarantine of artisans in our workshop have been in place since early January. I'm pleased to say that theses measures have all but eliminated the spread of the virus among our workers and their families. Our hope is that our suppliers of materials - wood, bone tuning machines etc - will have similar success and resume deliveries soon.

In short - we will take every step possible to ensure the safe delivery of guitars to our customers. We may believe that some of the things we now do are overkill but we also believe that's not our call to make. We will listen to the medical experts and rigorously follow their advice.

A Letter From a New Friend

A letter from a happy guitarist

We've always said that we're not in this for the money. No sane person would start a guitar business to get rich. Yes, turning a profit is kind of important. It helps pay the bills and keep the lights on. But the real reward is the satisfaction of our customers. We encourage reviews from owners for three reasons: Firstly, it strokes our ego. We love hearing from owners who are surprised by just how good their new guitar actually is. Secondly, it gives us feedback on where we need to focus to make the experience even better, and finally, it plays a vital role in attracting other new owners.

Most reviews arrive in the form of bits and bites - small digital chunks that end up stored as words, sentences and paragraphs. Imagine our surprise and delight when we found an envelope in our physical mailbox that contained an actual letter from a new customer. Not only a folded paper letter but one that was composed on a typewriter.

I wrote John (by email, I confess) asking if we could share his praise for Tofino X, at the same time mentioning how unusual it was to receive a typewritten letter. He replied with his generous assent and went on to say:

Hi John, yes, by all means you can use my comments. And let me add that the guitar continues to show me new notes and combinations and melodies every day. An amazing instrument.

Speaking of amazing instruments, every now and then when I write I like to go acoustic, and I found a 1963-ish Olivetti Lettera 32 for those times. It's a legendary typewriter in its own way. Its initial iteration, the Lettera 22 (the same typewriter, really), is in the Museum of Modern Art for its design. American author Cormac McCarthy wrote nearly all of his works on a 32, and then sold it for a quarter of a million dollars. He used some of that to buy another 32. And you can find Leonard Cohen's muse, Marianne Ihlen, seductively typing on one on the back cover of Cohen's album "Songs from a Room."  It's really a lot of fun to play -- I mean, write with.

Thank you so much for sharing your story and for giving us a look in the window of your creativity.

We're Not For Sale

Years (iOK...decades) ago, when I was in the sporting good business there was a saying that went something like "If you haven't heard a rumour by noon on Monday - start one". Lately, a stream of questions about whether MacKenzie & Marr is selling out to one of the major guitar brands has hit my inbox. Someone is starting rumours with no basis in fact. The potential suitors in these false stories range from Martin to Taylor to Gibson. How the misinformation gets traction is beyond me.

Let me put any and all of them to rest.

We are not for sale. We have had no conversations or correspondence with Taylor Guitars on any subject including the purchase of MacKenzie & Marr Guitars. The same goes for Gibson.

No conversations with representatives of Martin Guitars touched on MacKenzie & Marr Guitars as a potential acquisition. They neither expressed interest in buying us nor did we suggest we were open to a purchase.

In short, we're independent and intend to stay independent.

Canadian Price Increases

The Canadian dollar has taken a bit of a hit in the last few months. We buy materials and pay artisans in US dollars so that's had a significant effect on our costs. Much as we'd like to avoid price increase it's no longer possible.

We need to bump Canadian prices by approx 10%. The Canadian price of Tofino X already reflects the change. Other models will follow on June 24.

US prices will remain unchanged.

A Professional at Work

The Professional Sound Engineer

It's no secret that a MacKenzie & Marr guitar has a stellar sonic voice. But how do we achieve that perfect sound?

That's been a closely guarded secret......until today.

Here's a video capture of our highly trained sound man evaluating a hollow body electric. It took years of study and hands-on experience to reach this level of skill. The concentration in his face and subtle dexterity of his fingers convey a sense of confidence.

Spotting a Great Guitar Purchase

AAA Cedar top, high ration tuning machines

A great guitar is the sum of its parts plus the skill and care in assembling them. Too often, a guitarist buys a new guitar without asking the right questions about those parts.

Here are some things we suggest you should look for:

AAA grade (or better) solid wood:

It's not enough to know your new guitar is made with solid wood vs laminated (read plywood) wood. You should also ask what grade of wood was used in the construction. Top wood book-matched pairs are graded from B to A, AA, AAA and Masterclass.  The difference in sonic character between the different grades is significant. So is the price. When a brand you're considering won't, or can't tell you the grade of wood they used, assume the worst.

Dovetail Neck to Body Joint:

A dovetail neck-to-body joint is difficult to do. The skill and time involved often raise the price of a guitar. But that dovetail is critical in constructing a cohesive stringed musical instrument. Everything from weight distribution to sonic voicing relies on that one small joint. Less expensive guitars and/or guitars produced in highly automated factories where bolt-on necks are the norm rarely rise to the same standard.

Genuine Bone Nuts and Saddles:

If the guitar you're considering has a plastic nut or plastic saddle, treat yourself to an inexpensive upgrade with parts made from actual bone. The difference in sound will surprise you. Tusq and Nubone from Graphtec will produce similar results.

Wood or Bone Bridgepins:

The jury's out here. We use Rosewood, Ebony or bone, but we suspect conventional plastic would be fine.

High Ratio Tuning Machines:

Most guitars come with standard 14:1 ratio tuning machines. Really good guitars are equipped with 18:1 or 20:1 tuners, not just because they allow incredibly fine-tuning of each string but also because the machining needed to produce them must be more precise. They're simply better quality tuning machines.

 

Watching the Dragons Den episode from the United States

The blindfold guitar test

Our 2010 appearance on the CBC program Dragons Den is famous in Canada. It was one of the most popular episodes of the year.

We taped it in May of the previous year. When it aired on January 13, we were swamped with orders. Within 18 hours, we were sold out of Tofino. It would be another two years before our limited production could meet demand.

But, copyright restrictions prevented streaming Dragons Den outside Canada, so we remained relatively unknown south of the border. Let's change that. There are two options for American visitors who want to view two old guys changing the guitar business forever.

  1. If you have a VPN (a virtual private network) open it and select a server in Canada. Then simply enter the following web address into your browser:
    https://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/m_pitches/mackenzie-marr-guitars
  2. If you don't use a VPN, or, don't have any idea what a VPN is there's another solution.
     Copy the URL,"https://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/m_pitches/mackenzie-marr-guitars" (don't copy the quotes)
    Go to the following web site
    https://www.4everproxy.com
    Past the URL you copied in step one into the web site box.
    Select "Canada (Quebec)" from the drop down server list

Number two is a bit of a pain, but it works.

PLEASE NOTE. Sites that offer Virtual private servers such as 4everproxy generate their revenue from ads. Those ads are not always family-friendly.

You can order Tofino in our online store. Visit the Tofino page to learn more.

 

We'd Like to Give You a Copy of The Lost Tapes

Ian & Sylvia - the Lost Tapes

Courtesy of True North Records and Stoney Plain Records, we're giving away a copy of the new Ian & Sylvia record to everyone who purchases the new Ian Tyson Inspiration acoustic guitar.

Once we ship your new guitar we'll follow up with a coupon for a free copy of the disk.

Choose between:

  • CD
  • Vinyl LP (very limited quantities)
  • FLAC (High bit rate download)

N.B. The choice of the physical media - CD and Vinyl LP - will incur a nominal shipping charge.

We Now Ship to Europe

MacKenzie & Marr ships guitars to Europe
Musicians in Europe (that still includes Britain, doesn't it?) have been writing for years asking if they can buy MacKenzie & Marr guitars from us. Until today we've sadly had to say no. That's changed. Thanks to reduced shipping rates from our carrier and our newly discovered ability to fill out government export documents without wanting to commit murder, we now ship to most countries in Europe. We can't offer the seven day "no-hassle money-back guarantee" or the return for repair or replacement lifetime warranty but given the almost non-existence of problems on this side of the Atlantic in the last eight years, we're confident that's not an issue. Freight costs to most European countries are $300 CAD. We're working to lower that by a bit. Stay tuned.

You're not a Tom Rush Fan? We'll change that!

Tom put together a CD of some of his live shows a few years ago. We have a few copies and we'd love to give you one. All you need to do is send us a stamped self addressed CD mailer. CD mailers are available at most stationary stores. Please use our Canadian address. You'll find it on our contact page.

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An Important Note Regarding Porch Pirates

When we ship a guitar we always send it with instructions to the courier that a signature MUST be obtained at the time of delivery. If no one is home to sign for the carton, it will not be left. We do this to ensure that your guitar does not fall into the hands of porch pirates (or other nefarious characters such as bass players or drummers).

UPDATE - We've learned that during the COVID-19 crisis FedEx is sometimes leaving cartons with no signature. Please follow the tracking number we provide to make sure you know when your guitar arrives.

Fall In Love In Less Than a Week

Try any of our guitars in the comfort of your own home. If you don't fall head over heels in love within a week we'll arrange to take it back and issue a full refund (including shipping).
*certain conditions apply.

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