parsons guitars

Randy Parsons builds guitars for Jack White, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, and more, using out-of-the-box materials like bone, flowers, copper, and solid ebony. We talk to the luthier about his craft, and see his extraordinary creations.

Randy Parsons abandoned the guitar after years of playing in high school and college. He quit, assuming he had no future in music, and ended up working for the city of Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle. But then, one day, he received a vision of sorts that sent him on a journey toward custom-made guitars made of exotic and unusual materials—in addition to interactions with some of his childhood heroes.


Page playing the Strolling with Bones flattop Parsons made for him. It features Kasha-inspired bracing and a secret button to light up the interior, and its neck, fretboard, back, and sides are all of ebony.

That journey came after a period of serious introspection mixed with sweat and hard work, a blend of the esoteric and do-it-yourself know-how. Despite starting with zero training as a luthier, he has built a business with five different shops and celebrity clientele that includes Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Jack White, and Sammy Hagar. He works out of his main Seattle shop, which is run by five women—three of whom are luthiers—and he also has Parsons Guitars repair shops in four Washington-area Guitar Centers.

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Why Fender + Fender (or other brands) = more than the sum of their own signature sounds.

This column is not for the faint of back, but the rewards of such potentially heavy lifting are great. In my previous columns "Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate: Classic Guitar & Fender-Amp Pairings" (May 2020) and "Finding Perfect Tones in Imperfect Amps" (January 2021), I've discussed classic Fender amp and guitar pairings and how to EQ and tweak amps to get ideal tones. Let's take it a step further and discuss how to combine multiple amps to achieve even more complex, richer tones.

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Intermediate

Beginner

  • Develop a better sense of subdivisions.
  • Understand how to play "over the bar line."
  • Learn to target chord tones in a 12-bar blues.
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Playing in the pocket is the most important thing in music. Just think about how we talk about great music: It's "grooving" or "swinging" or "rocking." Nobody ever says, "I really enjoyed their use of inverted suspended triads," or "their application of large-interval pentatonic sequences was fascinating." So, whether you're playing live or recording, time is everyone's responsibility, and you must develop your ability to play in the pocket.
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