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

New Builder Profile: Loïc Bortot of Bouchereau Guitars

Paul attended three shows last year, Fretboard Journal Summit, the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration, and the Woodstock Invitational Luthier’s Showcase. 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 Michel Pellerin, Sam Guidry, and Isaac Jang, we’re also proud to have added French builder Loïc Bortot (of Bouchereau Guitars) to our ranks! We’ve already sold the Mistral OM Loïc sent us, but do check out the listing to read more about this awesome guitar and get a listen to Al’s demo. You can find it on our site here: http://www.dreamguitars.com/detail/5391-bouchereau_mistral_009/. The next Mistral is already in the works, though, so read to the end for a few sneak peak photos of the next one. In addition, we’d like to share his responses from a brief interview we conducted with Loïc earlier this year. Enjoy!

What or who inspired you to begin building guitars?

Before coming to Canada to become a luthier, I experienced several fields of study and unpleasant jobs in France. I spent two years in college studying Geography, but I was fed up with theoretical knowledge and I needed to experiment in a handwork field. Besides that I did a couple jobs in huge factories with low revenues and boring days. Seeing people who have been working there for years so unhappy made me realize that I had to find a good job before it was too late. I played a lot of guitar by that time, and even though I had never worked with wood before, I decided to give building a try. My first glimpse of the beauty of handmade guitars came from the work of Frank Cheval. Then I went to Quebec City and began the course at the Lutherie School in 2011.

2016 Bouchereau Mistral #009 in Ziricote & Lutz Spruce

What builders inspire you today?

Today, I am inspired by a lot of luthiers, mostly from North America: Ervin Somogyi indeed, and all his students. Michael Bashkin, Mario Beauregard, Michel Pellerin, Tom Doerr. Also, I am a great fan of Japanese craftsmanship, and their luthiers honor us with their great talent: Nishi Keisuke, Ryosuke Kobayashi, Ryohei Echizen, Hiroshi Ogino, Keisuke Fuji, and others. I am developing my own approach of design and building, but all these talented fellow builders are a part of my own development as a luthier.

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

As I am still at the beginning of my career, my voicing methods are constantly evolving. My guitars are mostly designed for fingerpicking, and I am now focusing on controlling my back, top, and body pitch so they work together as a whole. When calibrating the parts, I focus a lot on their stiffness to weight ratio, I try to get my tops as light as possible so they have a quick and focused response. My comprehension of the frequency and vibrating behavior of the instrument remains a complex point for me. I am developing a new testing method based on some precious advice I got from Leo Buendia at the 2016 WILS. I truly believe, like most builders, that voicing and making instruments is an endless learning process.

Ziricote Back & Sides, Ebony Bindings & Heel Cap

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

My goal for now is to get my name out there. My participation to the 2016 WILS and my new partnership with you guys at Dream Guitars have really helped me to put my name on the map! For the next five years, I want to attend more guitar showcases like Woodstock, fill up my order list, and continue to develop my model lineup. I also have some unique guitar projects that I am dreaming to complete when the timing and finances allow it. I want my job as a luthier to be secure, and for that the Canadian Immigration department has a critical role to play as well.

Any interesting facts about your building process or shop arrangement?

My shop is small but functional for my work. I build most of the tools and jigs I am using myself, such as the binding channel routing arm, bending machine, molds, etc. I would rather spare hundreds of dollars in making my own stuff, and I also find it more satisfying in the end. My job as a technician at the Quebec Lutherie School is an amazing opportunity for me to have access to heavy machinery.

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Bortot’s One-Man Shop in Quebec, Canada

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

My very first guitar was my father’s old Japanese Takeharu Dreadnought, but it was not my favorite. As I am mostly an electric guitar player (which can sound odd as I have never built any) my favorite guitar in terms of playing would be my Gibson Les Paul. I also love playing on Bouchereau Guitars, indeed!

What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?

My life is mostly lutherie-focused, and even though it can be kind of isolating, my mind remains pretty healthy. Of course I have other activities in life, like paragliding in the summer and skiing in the winter, or just hiking from time to time. I love hanging out with my friends too. I try to go back to France once a year for a couple of weeks. It is always a blast to spend time with my friends and family there, and to put aside my rushed Canadian life for a while.

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

If I was not a guitar maker now, I would probably be working in France in a wine industry job with my brain turned off and my TV turned on.

What music are you listening to right now?

Led Zeppelin, The doors, Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, System of a down, Chinese man, Justice, Paul Kalkbrenner, Chopin; among many others. I almost always work with music in the background in my workshop.

We’ve sold the first Mistral you sent us, but you’re already working on the next one. Can you share a few details about the upcoming Mistral for Dream?

I have some pics of the guitar in progress for you, but it is at a pretty early stage right now. I am currently gluing the bracing on the top and back, and I have not started assembling the rim yet. The features of the upcoming Mistral are high-grade Sitka Spruce top, Quilted Sapele back and sides, Florentine cutaway, Ebony bindings, and Honduran Mahogany neck. 25.4″ scale length, Ebony fingerboard and bridge, Schertler tuners (or Gotoh 510 maybe), and a raised fingerboard.

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Quilted Sapele

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Sitka Spruce Top

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New Builder Profile: Sam Guidry

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 Michel Pellerin and Loïc Bortot (of Bouchereau Guitars), we’re also proud to have added American builder Sam Guidry 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/detail/5400-guidry_sg2_2016/. In addition, we’d like to share his responses in a brief interview we conducted with Sam earlier this year.

One last thing! We recently hosted absurdly virtuosic guitarist and composer Clive Carroll at Dream for some video performances, and Clive recorded an original composition, “The Prince’s Waltz,” on Sam’s SG-2. You can find that video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUYXHmQUXhY. Clive was kind enough to offer us a copy of the TAB as well, which you can find here: http://www.dreamguitars.com/tab/The_Princes_Waltz.pdf. Enjoy!

What or who inspired you to begin building guitars?

In high school I was on the college prep course with all the intention of going to university and becoming a “normal” person. Shortly after graduation, one of my best friends was killed in a car accident which sent me into an existential depression. I didn’t want to go to college, I didn’t want to get off the couch! After about two months of that routine, my mother found Bryan Galloup’s luthiery school on this thing called “the internet” (it was 1998 by the way) and she wouldn’t let me waste away on the couch, so my parents shipped me off to learn luthiery. My goal was to learn to do a good set up and then return back home and work in a music store. Then I made my first acoustic guitar. Even though I was not an acoustic guitar player, the experience changed me. I knew that I had found my calling.

2016 Sam Guidry SG-2 Birdseye Maple & Engelmann Spruce

 

What builders inspire you today?

I try not to be too influenced by any one maker, but for inspiration I often turn to Michihiro Matsuda. He gave a talk at a Northwoods Seminar at our shop which centered around the idea of taking ideas and growing them; at least that’s what I took away from it. To think that the guitar doesn’t have to be anything really makes you free as a designer. I do not do the kind of work he is known for, but in my own way, I am trying to always be thinking and moving forward.

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

My goal in voicing an instrument is to make an instrument that responds quickly, with clarity and balance. My method is different from most as I take a scientific approach that begins with rigorous material testing and leads up though precise tuning of body resonances. This approach was developed between Bryan Galloup and I over the last 15 years that we have worked together. We started researching how to control our voicing because we would build two guitars with the same materials and they would sound different. Over the years we would build and test, and build and test some more, each time learning a little more of the secrets the guitar holds. All of this research led to a voicing method that gives me a high level of control over the voice of the instrument. There is always more to learn, and currently I am studying the effects of higher order modes of vibration of the perception of tone.

Birdseye Maple Headstock with Ebony Inlay

 

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

I have been trending towards a minimalist style lately. I used to be obsessed with purfling, but I have been paring that away and looking for new ways to embellish my instruments. I will probably continue that trend for a while, but who knows when inspiration will strike!

Any interesting facts about your building process or shop arrangement?

I have a unique shop arrangement as I am the senior instructor at the Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair. Firstly, this gives me access to a world class shop many folks would be envious of. Secondly, as a teacher it forces me to understand each process to the nth degree so I can explain what is happening to my students. This arrangement also gives me the time and incentive to develop new, more effective techniques to push the art of lutherie forward.

2016 Sam Guidry SG-2 in Birdseye Maple & Engelmann Spruce

 

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

I have always been a guitar man. I received my first guitar for Christmas in 1994 (an Ibanez Iceman) and I have never looked back.

What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?

Aside from building guitars, I have two beautiful daughters, 10 and 1 ½ years respectively, that keep me busy outside of the shop.

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

My path to becoming a guitar maker has been almost accidental, seeming to be in the right place at the right time at key junctures in my life but if I wasn’t a luthier, I would probably work in retail, maybe a chapeau shop like “what size are you, sir, 11?”

What music are you listening to right now?

I used to be a big jam band fan but lately I have been getting into progressive metal. I really like a band from the UK called Haken and I am getting into the band Animals as Leaders lately as well.

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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