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Builder Profile: Becker Guitars & Ryan Martin Basses

Builder Profile: Becker Guitars & Ryan Martin Basses

Life Changes
Becker Guitars’ wood shop in Attleboro, Massachusetts, is where the magic happens. The door to the shop is at the end of a long brick alleyway, and a tiny sign reading “Becker Guitars” is the only indication of what’s inside. More than 20 guitars are on display in the lobby, each one visually stunning and unique. The lobby opens up into the workshop, where dozens of works in progress hang from the ceiling while others wait for repair. Blankets of sawdust cover the tables and workbenches throughout the 5,000-square-foot shop. At the back end, garage-style doors are kept open in the summer months to let the breeze in. Becker and Martin have been there since 2006, after Martin decided to relocate from Maine to focus on guitar making.

Before opening his first small repair shop, Becker—who has a degree in finance—did a stint working for a financial advising firm, but his heart wasn’t in it. “I didn’t want to work,” he says. “I just wanted to play guitar—I work with my hands and can’t sit still.” One day as he sat in his cubicle, miserably watching the second hand on his desktop clock tick, suddenly he got up, walked out of the office, and bought a guitar magazine. Mentally checked-out for the day, he brought it back to his cubicle to read. The issue happened to feature custom guitar builders. As he drove home, he made up his mind: He would trade a career in finance for one as a guitar builder.

Becker than traveled to Michigan to learn luthiery and repair from a pro. “I went to this guy for a few months and learned just enough to be dangerous— I got my feet wet. But you can’t leave a school after a few months knowing what you’re doing.”

Although he was still new to the guitar business, Becker managed to land a job offer from Bourgeois Guitars in Maine, building acoustic guitars and working in the repair shop. The commute from his Attleboro home was tough— two to three hours each way. But Becker recognized a rare opportunity to get into a business he was passionate about and remained with Bourgeois for close to six months. Then, by chance, he met Pat DiBurro, whom he calls “the best repairman I’ve ever seen.”

Becker studied under DiBurro for a few years before branching out on his own, and he attributes most of his guitar-building knowledge to him. “When I went out on my own I learned a lot more, because there was no one to lean on—I had to figure it out. Now I’m super confident in what I can do, but it took years and years of a whole lot of instruments coming through my hands— thousands of them. So, I got good at repair and restoration, pulled Ryan down from Maine, and we started looking for a new shop.”

Before joining Becker in Massachusetts, Martin was living in Maine doing maintenance for his parents, who are landlords, but his real love was woodworking. Martin says he was changing out a toilet that wasn’t matching up with the floor properly when he had a revelation. “I was hugging it, trying to get the nut on the bottom to seat it to the floor, and I’m, like, ‘You know what? I’m a guitar maker. I ain’t doing this.’” Kneeling on the floor, he called his buddy Dan Becker. Becker laughs, “It took him hugging the toilet to realize he should come build guitars.” Since then, Martin says he’s been studying the methods of master luthiers Bob Benedetto and Carl Thompson.

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