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Handmade & Vintage Instruments: Acoustic Guitars, Classical Guitars & Electric Guitars

New Builder Profile: Michel Pellerin

Paul attended two shows last year, the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration and the Woodstock Invitational Luthier’s Showcase, and there he met a number of new builders with some truly awe-inspiring builds. Naturally, we took several of them on as new builders for Dream Guitars! Alongside Isaac Jang and Loïc Bortot, we’re also proud to have added Michel Pellerin to our ranks! We have one of his big-voiced Jumbos in the shop right now, which you can find on out site here: http://www.dreamguitars.com/builder/501-pellerin-guitars/. In addition, we’d like to share his responses in a brief interview we conducted with Michel earlier this year. Enjoy!

What or who inspired you to begin building guitars?

When I was in college studying jazz and classical music, I was in a guitar ensemble class. I was 17 years old. There were 30 students in the same room, all with their personal guitars, and I discovered that there were so many different sounds, levels of volume and tone. Mine was one of the worst in every aspect, an all-plywood Sonata classical guitar (I’m not proud of it, but it is what I could afford at this time). The year after that I applied to the Quebec National School of Lutherie with the thought of building two nice guitars for myself. I didn’t plan on guitar building becoming my career at that time.

2016 Pellerin Jumbo in Engelmann Spruce

 

What builders inspire you today?

Without any hesitation, Mario Beauregard is the one! I have always loved his artistic taste and his classy lines; always astonishing. The first time I really played one of his guitars (an OMC Blackwood/German spruce I remember like it was yesterday), I realized that perfection could be achievable.

Please describe your goals in voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice, and how do you continue to experiment?

My goal is to have a balanced instrument. Strong and defined bass notes, but not too much, a wide and even midrange, and clear and rounded trebles. Highs with an envelope, not harsh, and sparkling harmonics. All of this with nice bloom and long decay, like a grand piano. Of course, I can adjust these qualities regarding what the musician needs.

Birdseye Maple Heelcap, Wenge Bindings

 

Where do you think your building style will take you in the next five years?

I have had a wonderful evolution since 2011, when I took Ervin Somogyi’s plate voicing class. Since then, my guitar tone has improved a lot due to refining my bracing, recording data, tuning tops and backs to a specific note, and minimizing energy loss. My goal is always to maximize evenness, tone, and volume for a wonderful playing experience. In the next five years, I hope to achieve what Mario Beuregard is able to do in his instruments today. I don`t mean to copy his voicing or his guitar building, but to learn to know exactly how a guitar will sound before closing the soundbox. I want to be able to know where to carve to remove a wolf-note, or how to mitigate a boosted frequency. I want to achieve what I would call “Anticipated Fine-Tuning.” Of course, studying with him would be a dream come true.

Any interesting facts about your building process or shop arrangement that you’d like to share?

I work in my shop with my friend of almost 15 years. François Paradis is a luthier specializing in oriental music. He`s a multi-instrumentalist and a djembé music teacher, but mostly an Indian sitar player, left-handed, and…he’s got perfect pitch. What luck I have to have him in the shop! I like to try and test different woods, different bracing patterns, but, always following my tone. Even a guitar with 6 or 12 strings or a multi-stringed instrument such as a harp-guitar (one of my specialties), a Pellerin will stay a Pellerin to your ears.

2016 Pellerin Jumbo in Birdseye Maple

 

What was your favorite, or your first, instrument that you ever played?

The first instrument I received from my mother was an EL Dégas electric guitar. I was 15 year old. It was not the best guitar, but I wasn’t able to leave it alone. I slept with it. I only stopped playing when my fingers hurt. I loved this guitar so much.

What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?

Playing (and camping in the summer) with my children; I have two (Florence, 7 years old, and Jérémie, 11 years old). Training myself (running outside, hiking, gym, crossfit). I’m fascinated by ancient cultures like the Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs. I love sushis (making them and most of all eatting them!). I love to travel and discover other cultures, especially for food!

If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?

I would say: technical designer on Solidworks, Autocad, etc., a CNC operator, or maybe a mechanical engineer.

What music are you listening to right now?

I love a lot of different styles. Snarky Puppy, Steve Vai, Michel Cusson, Justin St-Pierre, Antoine Dufour, Stephen Bennett, but also Gentle Giant, Yes, Mr.Bungle, NOFX, Metallica or Animals as Leader, depending on my mood. Right now, I have Marie-Mai (a Quebec female singer) in my car’s CD player…my daughter’s choice.

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New Builder Blog Profile: Isaac Jang

Paul attended two shows last year, the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration and the Woodstock Invitational Luthier’s Showcase, and there he met a number of new builders with some truly awe-inspiring builds. Naturally, we took several of them on as new builders for Dream Guitars! The first was Isaac Jang, a Hollywood-based builder who studied under Kathy Wingert and now teaches building at the Musician’s Institute. We’ve already sold the two OMs we received from Jang, and we can’t wait for the next ones to arrive! In the meantime, we’d like to share his responses in a brief interview we conducted with Jang earlier this year. Enjoy!

What or who inspired you to begin building guitars?

I started playing guitar when I was 14 years old. Discovering Tommy Emmanuel was what sparked me to fall in love with acoustic guitar. Since then, I explored deeper into the acoustic guitar sound, and when I went to Bryan Galloup’s school of lutherie, my love for guitar making began.

What builders inspire you today?

My biggest inspiration is my wonderful, and forever mentor Kathy Wingert, who’s been the biggest influence in my guitar making. I am blessed to be building guitars in this golden era of lutherie where many of the mentors in the guitar making world have already established so much valuable resources for the younger generations. I’ve been in the industry for some time before I started making my own guitars, so I have a long list for the builders who inspires me.

Here are some of the builders who inspire me: C.F. Martin, Richard Hoover, Michi Matsuda, Ervin Somogyi, Claudio Pagelli, Sugita Kenji, Mickey Uchida, Mike Baranik, Jim Olson, Bryan Galloup, Gerald Sheppard, T.J. Thompson, Ken Parker, Mike Bashkin, Linda Manzer, Ed Claxton, Jeff Traugott, Tom Ribbecke, Mario Beauregard, Jason Kostal, John Slobod, Kim Walker, Bill Collings, and so many more, the list could go on.

Please describe your goals in voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice, and how do you continue to experiment?

My main goal in voicing is to have a balanced sound. I’d like to first have strong fundamentals accompanied by sweet overtones. I feel that if either of two characteristics stand out too strong on one end, then the guitar could sound too dry, or too wet. So I aim for the balance of those two.

When I apprenticed with Kathy Wingert for about 10 years, I never voiced her tops, but only got to see how she did it, and she gave me directions on my prototype tops. Later, I realized that she was teaching me to fish, not giving me a fish. While apprenticing with Kathy, I also worked at a repair shop at Westwood Music, and I was able to work on many great early Martins and Gibsons. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I wanted to work from the great examples, and go from there.

As much as my guitars appear somewhat modern, my building approach is very traditional: X-bracing, dovetail neck joint, hide glue, nitrocellulose lacquer, and etc. After my first few guitars, I wanted to see the consistency in my sound, and make small changes at a time. As I build custom guitars, I value each players need/want for their specific sound. When I met Paul Heumiller at the Memphis show in 2015, he gave me his honest feedback on my guitars and I made few changes when I voiced my next ones. I’m thankful that those small changes contributed to good feedback from many players from recent exhibitions at Santa Barbara, Berlin, and Woodstock in 2016.

Jang’s Uchida-style bend cutaway on our 2016 Brazilian OM

Italian Spruce