building guitars

Luthier Ken Parker blends old world lutherie and aerospace tech materials, proving that wood and carbon fiber can dance together in a romantic tango of sonic bliss.

In the guitar market, classic models still have the biggest influence, but the future is lurking.

In the ever-evolving music industry, the electric guitar stands as an enduring stalwart, having shaped the sonic landscape for generations without much physical change. I’ve joked about the state of the guitar before, but let’s take a more serious view of what’s happening in the guitar business. It’s apparent that the classics continue to wield influence, while also undergoing a transformation reflective of the current tech era.

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Just some of the bits and pieces that make up a guitar.

Every detail that makes up a guitar contributes to its unique personality. Just like your friends.

One of the best things about being a guitarist is the people you meet and the friends you make along the way. Whether you’re a pro or a weekender, making music attracts a wide variety of people who share your passion for guitar and aren’t afraid to tell you about it. I’ve always been a fan of the swath of characters that wash up on the shores of guitardom, and to say that they can be interesting and entertaining is putting it mildly. It’s pretty certain that when you stop to think of the people you call friends, you’ll find that many are in your orbit because of the guitar. Maybe it’s because the guitar has so many facets and can slot into so many genres of music. It’s a bond that can last a lifetime.

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“The first one I put my signature on the back of the headstock, I had to sit and look at it for a little bit, taking it in.”

Photo by Han-Su Kim

Following a long road from Saskatchewan to California, this master builder lands in Corona, to painstakingly reproduce Jerry Garcia’s “Alligator’ and other gems.

Like everything in the Grateful Dead’s orbit, each of Jerry Garcia’s stage guitars has been pored over by Deadheads, with data on their usage rivalling baseball-stat-level analysis. Dedicated fans can hear the differences between each of these iconic instruments—not just because of their tones, but in the type of music and playing they inspired. So, it’s only natural that each 6-string has its own subset of fans. Some love to hear and see Wolf and Tiger—custom instruments built by Doug Irwin, both of which have their own merch, including T-shirts, hats, and miniature replicas. And some prefer Garcia’s deep-cut Travis Bean era. A large cadre of others prefer Alligator, the Stratocaster that Graham Nash gave to Garcia as the Dead embraced cleaner, country- and folk-inspired sounds.

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