montreal guitar show 11

We travel to the fifth-annual Montreal Guitar Show to bring you photos, specs, and video interviews on the latest designs from some of the world’s most highly esteemed and forward-thinking luthiers.

Just outside the halls of the Montreal Guitar Show, the Montreal Jazz Festival’s
family-friendly atmosphere delighted children and adult music lovers with
whimsical street performers, delicious food, and cool tunes at every turn.

Features that turn heads at other musical- instrument trade shows—things like fanned frets, side soundports, armrests, exotic woods, and scalloped fretboards—are standard fare at the Montreal Guitar Show.

Now in its fifth year, the invitation-only annual gathering of cutting-edge luthiers from all over the world—including from Turkey, Malaysia, Brazil, and Germany—was held July 1–3 on the fourth floor of the Hyatt Regency Montreal. If you’re a journalist covering the show, it’s easy pickings: Every direction you look, there’s a masterpiece worth photographing, filming, verbally dissecting with its creator—and perhaps even playing if you’re lucky.

When we say “creator,” we literally mean the person who built the instrument with her/his own hands. Luthier attendance is mandatory for any outfit exhibiting at the show, and most of the exhibitors are oneperson operations. Because of this, there’s also something else wonderful going on just beneath the surface of the MGS—something that benefits players and the industry at large alike: These passionate builders don’t just come to show off their eye-and ear-grabbing instruments, they also come to share, learn, and help each other perfect and innovate the instruments that will shape both the music and the instrument building of tomorrow.

This year marked the third year Premier Guitar has covered the event, but it was no less charming and inspiring this time around. Because the MGS is actually part of the Montreal Jazz Festival—the world’s largest jazz festival—covering it meant weaving our way through crowds buzzing with French conversation (much of it powered by Heineken, official sponsor of the extravaganza), elaborately costumed street performers, and the joyful tones of more than 750 free outdoor concerts. It was impossible not to have a great time.

As always, our mission was to bring the Montreal Guitar Show to you in as many ways as possible, beginning with the pages before you. When you’re done here, be sure to visit to see nearly 40video interviews with acoustic and electricluthiers from the show, a hefty photo gallery that includes the instruments shown here and more, and Montreal Jazz Festivalperformance videos from Kaki King, EricBibb, Laurence Juber, the California GuitarTrio, and Jake Shimabukuro.

Without further ado, let’s begin marveling at the masterpieces from Montreal.

Pagelli’s interchangeable-top guitar is shown outfitted with the acoustic tone plate,
while the resonator plate is on the table at right and the electric plate is on the left.

Pagelli Interchangeable-Top Guitar
This innovative design from Swiss luthier Claudio Pagelli was one of the show’s highlights. With multi-instrumentalists in mind, Pagelli created an alluring gem with four interchangeable tone plates that you can transfer in and out of the 6-string to go from acoustic to electric to resonator to banjo tones in a minute or two—with the strings essentially staying in tune throughout the process. (Pagelli says the plates will soon have quick-change wireless connections to make swapping them out even easier.) The electric tone plate features Lace Alumitones (Volume and Tone controls are hidden in the upper-bout soundholes), and the floating bridge can also be changed out with a sitar bridge for even more tones.

1. Claudio Pagelli unscrews the lock-pin on the back of the neck. 2. Pagelli carefully removes the neck and slide-out tailpiece. 3. The tone plate pops out. This prototype had wires connecting the electronics, but the final version will have quick-change connections. 4. The electric tone plate is dropped into place. 5. The floating bridge is positioned before the neck is secured. 6. Pagelli strums the guitar for a few onlookers. (Note the banjo tone plate at right).

Tone-plate changes are made possible by a lock-pin mechanism in the neck-heel area that allows you to unscrew and tilt the neck forward for access to the removable disc, and the same mechanism also facilitates removing the neck for easy transport. Deconstructed, the whole package fits in a case you can easily stow in an airplane’s overhead compartment. “I was sure it was a cool idea, but I wasn’t sure if it would work,” Pagelli told PG. “I’m very happy it turned out like this.”

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