august 2013

Jay Duncan with his first DuncanAfrica students in Mpigi, Uganda.

Canadian luthier Jay Duncan makes the world a better place by helping others build sustainable communities, one guitar at a time.

Canadian master luthier Jay Duncan is emphatic about the ability of guitars to change the world—but not just in the hands of heroes who create timeless music. In fact, his own guitars are hard at work, impacting lives at this very moment in ways that are arguably more important and far-reaching than, say, hearing the music of a master player from any genre. His will to empower those in poverty and desire to share his acoustic guitars with the world led him to open DuncanAfrica, a registered charity and trade school in Uganda where, for nearly a decade now, he’s been teaching locals everything there is to know about guitar making.

In a 1,000-square-foot cement shack in the tiny village of Mpigi, Duncan’s students learn about every step of the process—from bending sides to bracing soundboards and handcarving beautiful mahogany necks. And they’re not just learning a trade, either. Duncan’s acolytes are also paid to be there five days a week, nine hours a day, creating the gorgeous, classically inspired guitars sold on the company’s website—and all the profits go back to the community. Just as at many larger operations in the States and abroad, most students work on an assembly line, perfecting a specific job, such as rim or body assembly. But some of the better woodworkers graduate from working the line to becoming the sole luthier for one of the handcrafted instruments in DuncanAfrica’s higher-end Artisan series.

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Designed to address the age-old issues of feedback, noise, and hum without losing the sweet, syrupy chime that defines a great single-coil.

Having worked at Suhr Guitars and Azola Basses, in addition to gigs as a recording engineer, Carey Nordstrand is one of those guitar builders who’s seen a bit of everything. And in 2004, after developing pickups for both his own custom basses and other luthiers, word of his pickups’ excellence spread so much that he expanded the pickup side of his bass company into a full-fledged operation. Today, his pickup line includes designs for both bass and guitar, and his recently released Shush Puppy single-coils are designed to address the age-old issues of feedback, noise, and hum without losing the sweet, syrupy chime that defines a great single-coil.

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