Acoustic Soundboard

Linda Manzer and Pat Metheny’s collaboration on the Pikasso guitar proves that a good creative chemistry between luthier and client can lead to extreme innovation!

Photo by Brian Pickell

The construction of your dream guitar can be a fun journey, but learning the language is essential.

You’ve visited countless websites, played as many guitars as you could lay your hands on, and zeroed in on the luthier that resonates most with you. You’re ready to take the plunge and your next step is to have a conversation with the builder. You’ll both have lots of questions. Be sure to listen and let them guide you through the process. This is when the fun begins.

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Students in lutherie school can build a variety of instruments depending on the program. Here we see a budding luthier rough carving the back of an archtop guitar in preparation for running and vicing.

From enrichment classes to six-month master-luthier training, here’s a big-picture view for potential lutherie students.

As many of you know, I have operated a school of lutherie for over 40 years. It all started when I took control of the Guitar Hospital repair shop from my friend Dan Erlewine in the mid ’80s. The establishment was already offering short-term training to select individuals, and, at first, I focused on teaching repairs, which was the prime area of interest for most students. Since then, my school has grown from working with one student at a time to a peak of over 20 students in a single term.

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World War II was over, but this D-28—Martin’s highest model at the time—still got shipped with about the cheapest tuners you could imagine, with no bushings and black screws, because of supply chain issues.

It’s not a bait and switch. This year is a throwback to the post WWII-era of instrument manufacturing, for better or worse.

As we all remember, Covid hit the music industry hard in early 2020: music stores and concert venues were closed, guitar manufacturers shut down, and in-person instruction essentially disappeared almost overnight. Fortunately, lockdowns and the resulting surge of interest in playing music at home proved that even a pandemic couldn’t kill our love for the guitar. And thanks to YouTube tutorials and Zoom lessons, the number of hours that people actually played their instruments went from hardly-ever (for some) to all-the-time. Maybe you couldn’t find that new guitar model you’d been saving for, but at least you could play the guitar(s) you already had.

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A bone nut being back-filed for proper string placement and correct action height.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to change your acoustic guitar’s tone and playability.

In my early days, all the guitars I played (which all happened to be pre-1950s) used bone nuts and saddles. I took this for granted, and so did my musician friends. With the exception of the ebony nuts on some turn-of-the-century parlors and the occasional use of ivory, the use of bone was a simple fact of our guitar playing lives, and alternative materials were simply uncommon to us.

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