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: . 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.
Our Experiences and Take-Aways from 2016’s Santa Barbara Acoustic Instruments Celebration & Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase
People often ask us how we find all the splendid guitars that we offer. Of course we have numerous methods for finding these fine instruments, but one of our most exciting avenues is attending guitar shows. Each year there are a few great shows that feature custom guitars by independent luthiers, often working in one-man workshops and with an unparalleled attention to detail. Dream Guitars owner Paul Heumiller recently came back from two such shows, the 2016 Santa Barbara Acoustic Instruments Celebration and the 2016 Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase. Heumiller: “At these shows many of the top luthiers in the world display several of their most recent developments, which gives us the rare opportunity to play a few different models of each maker. Being able to play more than one at a time is key for us at Dream Guitars, because it gives us a chance to honestly evaluate newer makers and evaluate their builds for consistency and quality of tone. It’s also important to meet up with established makers that we already work with in order to pick out our new favorite instruments to bring back for our clients.”
These shows invite between 80 and 120 guitar makers and are open to the public, which is another reason that we like to attend. Heumiller again: “It’s a joy to finally meet clients that I’ve been working with on the phone and over email for years. The shows are a great opportunity to see the faces and shake the hands of clients with whom I’ve worked for the past 20 years. It’s a part of the business I truly love, since guitar people are all great folks and we all have so much in common. I’ve made several dear friends while running between the shows over the years.”
As we mentioned earlier, the shows are one of the key ways that we discover new talent. This year was an exceptionally rich one for identifying younger makers that had something worthy of the Dream Guitars name. At most shows we expect to perhaps find one new builder that impresses us, maybe two, but this year we found no fewer than six! Heumiller again: “I think the fact that there are so many stellar young builders has a lot to do with the sharing of information these days. Young makers have so much access to good information that if they have talent they can much more quickly reach a high level of quality both in terms of construction and tone.”
At the Santa Barbara show we invited Hollywood, California-based luthier Isaac Jang to join us. “I’ve been watching been him for some time now, and at Santa Barbara his OM just blew me away; the timing was right to start a relationship. Jang’s work has impressed me for years, and during that time I gave him advice and my honest opinion of his work. This year he did something about it, so we decided to purchase the Brazilian Rosewood-and-German-Spruce OM that he’d brought.”–Heumiller. We were also delighted to learn more about Jang’s past, namely that at age 17 he asked Kathy Wingert for an apprenticeship. Kathy wisely told him that he had to graduate from a lutherie school, get a job working in guitar repair, and then come see her. Isaac did all of that by age 19 and returned to Kathy’s door. He apprenticed with Kathy for a number of years, and it shows. Isaac is now a teacher at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
While we were there we also made good on our long-standing respect for Michel Pellerin of Canada by offering to represent his work–and we brought back a beautiful Sunburst Jumbo he had recently finished. In addition, we met the truly inspiring creations of Benoît Lavoie. None other than Pierre Bensusan bought Lavoie’s guitar which we planned to get after the show! We are delighted at Benoît’s success; just goes to show we have good taste if Bensusan beat us to the chase, and we’ll wait until the next one is finished.
We also got to see the new work of Noemi Schembri from Italy. The tone of her guitars mesmerized us at Santa Barbara, and by the time we saw her again in Woodstock we simply could not resist any longer: we brought back an Madagascar Rosewood SJ and a Koa Baritone.
In Woodstock we were introduced to the inspirational work of Canadian builder Loïc Bortot (of Bouchereau Guitars fame). After playing a few of his instruments, it was clear why he graduated first in his class at Quebec City’s National Lutherie School, and is now a teacher there. From that week we brought back his wonderful slotted head Mistral model. Speaking of teachers, we were also able to connect with Sam Guidry, a teacher alongside Bryan Galloup at the American School of Lutherie, and get one of his Maple OMs for the shop. Paul: “Bryan told me I had to look at Sam’s guitars, and I’m really glad I did. I’ve long respected Bryan, so when he tells me about someone new, I listen. At Woodstock I got to spend a lot of time with Sam after events; he’s a great fellow to be around, and he’s incredibly passionate about his craft. As soon as I played this Maple guitar I fell in love. It’s voiced for a big, round attack with superb clarity across the registers–which is why I’m stoked to get in the shop!”
Paul: “The other aspect of the shows that is pure joy for me is seeing my old friends that I’ve known for many, many years. Many of them I met as young upstart builders when I first opened Dream Guitars’ doors, and they’re still building guitars today. The many dinners and glasses of wine from bygone years allow us to really get to know each other as human beings that share a common passion in the art of the guitar.” This time around it was wonderful to make a new friend in Richard Hoover, the founder of Santa Cruz Guitars, and Joe Glaser a repairman beyond compare. Paul: “I was delighted when Richard Hoover asked me to introduce him to a few talented young makers. He was beaming over the fine work of Isaac Jang and Leo Buendia like a high schooler opening his guitar case for the first time. Clearly the passion is still inside of Richard, and he so gracefully complimented his younger peers on their fine work. He told me later that ‘just when he thought we’d gotten this guitar making thing down these new guys come along and make it harder again with their new ideas!'”
The one common thread that binds these young makers together and excites us so much is their open mind, open heart approach to the craft. They don’t just want to build good copies of guitars, they want to push the envelope in all the right ways and create innovative musical tools to inspire musicians in ways not yet known to us. Paul: “This is something you can’t just feel by just looking at their guitars necessarily, but trust me: as I dined with these folks and taste tested dozens of their guitars I could feel the boundaries they were pushing and hear the voices they were pioneering.” These new builders are seekers chasing down their crazy dreams–while they fulfill the dreams of players the world over. We are beyond excited to consider what will become of the guitar world in the years to come. This is the golden age of guitars, and it’s not stopping any time soon. Let’s hang on and enjoy the ride!
Early in 2015 I had the pleasure of playing my first Preston Thompson guitar. I was mesmerized by the warm and full voice that came out of the small 000 sized body. I remember Al Petteway and I talking about how magical the voice was. The build quality was also perfect in every detail.
I reached out to Preston and asked him to make us a Dream Series instrument. This is something we have only done with approximately eight to ten builders over the years. I very much look forward to seeing and hearing the first of many Thompson guitars. I’m certain our clientele will absolutely love them.
Following are a handful of specs featured on this incoming Dream Series guitar:
Back and Sides: Brazilian Rosewood
Binding: Brazilian w/BW purf
Top Purfling: Herringbone
Rosette: Abalone 3-Ring
Back Strip: 45 Style
Tail Wedge: Brazilian w/BW Purf
Neck: Honduran Mahogany
Headstock Binding: Brazilian w/BW Purf
Neck Binding: Brazilian
Nut width: 1 3/4”
String Spacing: 2 5/16”
Heel Cap: Brazilian
This one is currently available for purchase here at Dream Guitars – Please call the shop for more information 828-658-9795. Following are a few additional early images of this beauty coming together as well:
For more information on this incoming Preston Thompson 000-14BA Custom please call the shop 828-658-9795.
Here are a few new pictures of this beauty as it comes along:
Here’s a great video of the Brazilian binding coming together on this incoming Thompson – Enjoy!
Kim Walker Waiting List Closed Again
A luthier’s ability to succeed depends on a host of factors, not the least of which is their reputation, which can be a precarious thing. They need good tools, the best wood, a perfectionist’s disposition and a jeweler’s eye for detail. They need to be self-motivated, marathon woodworkers—and they need to be able to deliver on their promises. A luthier with a reputation for incomplete builds and exorbitant delays will not be long for the world of fine instruments. If, however, you have a reputation as ironclad and golden as Kim Walker’s, then you might just find yourself with eight years’ worth of builds on the calendar, and what do you do then? Close the book, and get down to business, which is precisely what Walker’s just done—again.
How has Walker achieved such a legendary status? Through years of honing his ears and his hands with an unwavering dedication to lutherie. Starting with George Gruhn and his repair shop, then graduating to Guild’s R&D department and custom shop, before launching his own Walker Guitars label in 1994, Walker has been at the forefront of both vintage restoration and contemporary innovation for his entire career. As such, Walker is one of a very select group of luthiers who successfully straddle the line between traditional and contemporary guitar building, the result of which enables his instruments to appeal to all audiences, from pre-war Martin collectors to the devotees of bleeding-edge luthiers like Steve Klein and Ervin Somogyi. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Walker has felt the need to close his waiting list again, in order to buckle down and dedicate his complete and undivided attention to the guitars already on his bench. Because Kim insists on working alone, he is able to ensure that every aspect of these guitars is 100% an expression of himself and his art. His way isn’t a school’s, or a builder’s with apprentices: this is one man with two hands, premium wood, and a studio space in which to create.
Given his sterling reputation and master skills, it’s hard to put a price on an instrument of this calibre, and as the opportunities to own one of Kim Walker’s guitars become fewer, the respective worth of any one of his instruments is correspondingly increased. The resale value of a Walker often exceeds the original cost of the instrument (a fact Walker himself notes on his website) because demand is so high: no one wants to get rid of theirs, once they’ve managed to beg, borrow, and steal to get it in their hands in the first place. In the world of high-end guitars, a Walker is worth its weight in gold, and nearly as rare. Will Walker open up his waiting list again? That’s certainly the hope, but who knows just how many years in the future he’s already booked himself: it could be a lifetime in the waiting.
We’ve all heard the phrase “The Golden Age,” which is defined as “the period when a specified art, skill, or activity is at its peak.”[i] Lately the term has been used to describe this epoch in the history of guitar-building (lutherie). From the unique vantage point at Dream Guitars (www.dreamguitars.com), they couldn’t agree more: today we are definitely in the middle of the Golden Age of Lutherie, and Dream Guitars stands at the center of this renaissance.
“I have had the chance to play spectacular examples of instruments from the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th century. Many consider these early guitars to represent the “Holy Grail” of guitars, but I truly feel that the explosion of the independent guitar-maker has challenged this conception. There’s no doubt that some of the pre-war guitars are among the best instruments on the planet today, but now there are dozens of contemporary makers whose instruments rival, and sometimes even surpass, these ‘Holy Grail’ guitars–and their talents continue to improve on the best ideas of yesterday.” – Paul Heumiller, Dream Guitars owner
“We are very proud of our role in these great days of the guitar. From the very beginning, it was a sincere goal of mine to help luthiers market their craft. In the early days as I visited shops and got to know these great people, their passion and artistry captivated me and I wanted to be a part of their success.”- Paul
Dream Guitars has built a platform for luthiers to successfully market their work, which is backed by Dream Guitars’ reputation for expertise and honesty–allowing a maker’s instruments to be seen and heard by people all over the world. “We have been able to help many luthiers to not only find homes for their instruments, but also to increase their prices to provide fair compensation for the years invested in their craft.” -Paul
Like everything in the modern world, easy access to information, including books, videos, symposiums, guitar shows, and training courses has expedited the growth of talent in the guitar-making world. But there’s something more than simply the proliferation of information at play here: something special has happened in the acoustic guitar world in particular. Paul: “Many of the older guitar builders talk of a time not so long ago when everyone guarded their secrets, but they all agree that somewhere along the line everything shifted. In the last 25 years or so, guitar-makers have opened up to each other–and that sharing is, in my opinion, the impetus for our current Golden Age.”
Paul continues, “I get to spend a lot of time with guitar makers at the various showcases around the world, as well as visiting them in their shops. Time and time again, I hear stories of how one builder has advised or inspired another. They speak of each other in reverent tones, each one wanting to raise the bar, but do so with the utmost respect for their contemporaries. They all want to see the craft itself improve, and that’s what’s truly special about what’s going on now in 21st-century guitar building.”
Another obvious trend is this year a number of new guitar-makers are on the scene. There are now hundreds of independent guitar-makers hanging their shingles outside of shops which range from the corner of a basement to 5000 ft.² master shops. As a result, some say the market is flooded with too many new makers. At Dream Guitars, they see both sides. Dream Guitars is constantly approached by new makers wishing to promote their instruments with them. Most of the time, Dream Guitars demos and critiques their instruments and advises possible improvements where they simply haven’t mastered the craft yet. Occasionally a builder shows tremendous promise and Dream Guitars offers to work with them and continue to offer valuable insights along the way so they can blossom. Paul: “One thing I see a lot are makers whose first few guitars look beautiful, but they haven’t yet found their voice. By that I mean they’re building a guitar that is perfectly beautiful and functional but sounds no better than an inexpensive guitar off the rack at any big-box store. They’re missing what I call the ‘White Magic:’ that builder’s unique voice which makes a guitar inspirational. Master Luthier Ervin Somogyi once told me, “The first fifty guitars you’re just gluing wood together.” There’s something to be said for that: it’s the years of experimentation and feedback from great players that keep a builder striving and searching for that intangible something that makes one guitar better than the others.”
This is evinced by the handful of makers whose order books are strained by ten plus year waiting lists, or whose guitars finally fetch a price that’s commensurate with the years of work they’ve put into their craft. These are the instruments that collectors covet and professional players are inspired by. These are the ones that define the Golden Age of Lutherie–the guitars that they will be talking about for the next hundred years.
Dream Guitars was perhaps the first website on the Internet to record every instrument that they offered online. They have now amassed a library of over 5,000 recordings of the finest hand-built instruments in the world. They have also created a Listening Studio which allows anyone to search their library of recordings by a myriad of guitar specifications, and use the recording to educate themselves about various makers, woods and general guitar differences. Dream Guitars has also created video interviews of many of today’s makers, either in their shops or at trade shows. All of this footage is available for free on their website.
Dream Guitars owner Paul Heumiller is one of the premier experts on acoustic instruments. While not an active luthier, Paul has studied guitar-making with Kent Everett of Atlanta, Georgia, and has performed shop repairs at Dream Guitars since the beginning of the company over 18 years ago. Heumiller has also been the only shop owner to be on the board of A.S.I.A., the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans. Paul is also a professional musician who has spent many years performing and teaching Fingerstyle guitar. He has been quoted in numerous publications and books. Recently, in 2015, Acoustic Guitar Magazine printed a two-page article, “Dream Weavers,” on Heumiller.
Elle (Jayne) Henderson, daughter of Wayne Henderson, has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps, yet still make her own path. A few years back, Elle decided to take a pause from pursuing a career in environmental law, and instead learn the craft of guitar-making directly from her father.
It is clear that Elle Henderson grew up around guitars and her father Wayne’s workbench. But it’s easy to sense that she has her own dreams and desires for her instruments. Obviously Elle has a massive amount of respect for her father’s legacy, and in some ways wants to preserve that in her own work. However, there is a new twist to Elle’s work propelling her into her own standout brand.
For instance her love of inlay artwork. Elle sees the guitar as a canvas for expression in a less traditional way than her father might. Her appreciation of the intricacies and detail of inlay work shines through and is clear in the end-product. As she explains on her blog on Luthier’s Apprentice regarding inlay, “I also enjoy attending to the minute details of shaping a piece just right, first with the saw and then with a tiny file, and I appreciate the challenge of routing a space in which the pearl perfectly fits.”
Elle is also interested in using more sustainable woods – something we are all inspired by. She is striving to use hardwoods such as local Maple and Walnut rather than the more exotic woods. She is aiming to build instruments that provide similar sound and beauty as those boasting a Brazilian Rosewood back and sides, but with fewer environmental impacts.
Interestingly, Elle’s pursuit of learning the craft began from her drive to be closer to her father. We can all relate to this in one way or another. Wayne’s demands of his career made it more difficult for the two of them to spend time together. While there is clearly a lot of love and respect between the two, life got in the way a bit for them to spend the amount of time they may have wanted in earlier years. By making the decision to pause her career in environmental law and become a luthier, she has taken a big step in getting closer to her father. Building guitars has now given them both another chance to spend time together, learn more about each other, and create an amazing legacy that spans generations.
Elle’s passion for learning, her commitment to family, and her drive to create beautiful guitars propels her to protect the family tradition and build upon it. We are very excited to see what new creations will come up out of the next Henderson to join the scene.
We were also very excited to learn that Elle is setting up her shop right here in Asheville, North Carolina just a few miles from us at Dream Guitars: we look forward to a long and close relationship to create some very special instruments together.
Be sure to follow Elle on her blog on Luthier’s Apprentice here
Also, like her Fan page on Facebook here
We had the privilege of catching up with renown Canadian luthier, Al Beardsell and asking him a few questions on his building, interests and background. Following were his responses to our questions for him:
Q. What inspired you to begin building guitars?
A. My Dad, his workshop, my brother, Bill Lewis Music, Larrivee and Gurian guitars – probably in that order. My Dad was an amateur furniture maker, so I learned from him that if you want something done a certain way, do it yourself. My brother, who was a serial obsessive, made some guitars in high school, got bored and moved on to beer-making (he’s still a master brewer to this day). I swiped all of his guitar-making books, “borrowed” all his tools and wood, and got started. This brings us to Bill Lewis Music in Vancouver. In the 70’s, Bill had a music store that also supplied instrument building materials, plans and tools. They also carried handmade guitars by Larrivee and Gurian, which I guess was a defining idea for me that you could actually make these things. This totally blew my mind – something so beautiful to look at and sound so beautiful. I was totally hooked.
Q. What builder(s) do you admire?
A. This is a long list but if I had to shorten it, a few standouts would be Pons, Lacote, Martin, Loar, Mario Macaferri/Selmer, Leo Fender, The Larriveans (Laskin, Manzer , DeJonge, Wren, etal), Collings. Builders who take an existing tradition and recontextualize it into something classic yet contemporary.
Q. How would you describe the voicing in your guitars? How did you find your voice?
A. Hmm, well the voicing is dependent on the needs of the player – a tighter sound, more open or separated notes, maybe more sustain for fingerstyle, maybe a darker sound – all these things are taken into consideration. It’s just years of trial and testing to arrive at where to make stiffer and where to remove stiffness, which woods to use, etc.
Q. Can you explain your approach to sound ports? Why do you use two?
A. My approach has always been to offer the player something they may not have heard before – like what the guitar actually sounds like. The sound hole does a few jobs like allowing free air movement in and out of the box, tuning the air mode fundamental by size of aperture, and coupling the reflective and sympathetic sounds of the back with the top. There may be more to it, but these are the parts that I’m mainly interested in. Originally, in order to make the opening large enough to have a similar area as a 4″ soundhole, I split the sideport into two. This had an interesting effect of broadening the areas of the box being monitored and simply enlarging the sound projected. Also, moving the soundhole off the top does reconfigure the structural stiffness of the top. The soundhole does create a loosening of the top that must be counterbalanced by grafts and braces. By reducing this loosening, we can make the top thinner and therefore lighter. The main goal of the sideports in my mind is the acoustic connection made with the player even in amplified situations. Many times I’ve played acoustic shows where all I hear is amplified monitors. This tends to give the player a compressed dynamic range and they will pay accordingly – at top volume always. Having some sense of the instrument’s natural dynamic range will mean the audience will benefit from the player. The size has been reduced over the years to drop the air mode and develop more bass.
Q. What do you enjoy doing outside of building?
A. Curling, yoga, fencing, playing rock, being a dad
Q. What inspires you today?
A. I’ve been very inspired by the local music scene in Winnipeg. A year and a half ago, I opened a new shop (the former Garnet Amp factory) that is open to the public. We do repairs and pickup winding, restorations and, of course, guitar-making. It’s a very different connection to the people who actually make music than the rarified environment of the luthiery shop.
Q. Where do you think your building style will take you in the next 5 years?
A. I’m looking at using more computer-aided design and control technology. I’m making more archtop electric guitars and pickups, and manouche guitars especially – my first love really.
Q. Which up and coming luthier impresses you the most?
A. There are a few in Winnipeg like Jordan McConnell, but he’s been around a while so he’s no pup! I’m always amazed by the amount of new talent, all doing very high quality work. My assistant Lucas Roger is going to kick ass any day now.
Bookmark this page for frequent updates. (Please scroll down for additional guitars.)
Schoenberg Soloist OMC
East Indian Rosewood and Sitka Spruce
As mentioned in a previous post, Leonardo Buendia, one of Ervin Somogyi’s current apprentices and an amazing up and coming builder, is wrapping up his 3 year apprenticeship with Ervin and is moving to his own shop in Oakland, California.
We caught up with Leo and asked him a few questions regarding his new shop.
1) Where will the shop be located? Why did you pick there?
Leo: My new workshop is located in East Oakland. I was offered the space by Lewis Santer, whom I’ve known for 3 years and who for a long time shared this same space with Michi Matsuda. Lewis has been in this shop for 10 years and it’s well-equipped and already set up in a very smart way. It’s a pleasure to be able to work with Lewis, who was also Ervin Somogyi’s shop manager for many years. The transition is going smoothly – I’m getting back into my rhythm quickly.
2) How are you configuring your shop? Why will it be configured this way?
Leo: Since everything was already set up for the construction and repair of guitars, I’ve only had to put together two benches–one in the dry room and one in the common space. In the dry room I’m going to keep all of the wood I will be using for the guitars commissioned for these next few years. The dry room is also where I will be doing all of the gluing. I will be using the bench in the common space for shaping, scraping, sanding, etc.
3) Any sources of inspiration that you can point to in your new shop?
Leo: Ervin Somogyi’s shop, of course, is a big inspiration for how I would like my shop to look. I love the use of different workstations and I’m emulating that. It allows my work to be very efficient. I also took away from my experience at Ervin’s that it’s extremely helpful to have plenty of backstock of blocks, braces, fingerboards, pre-bent sides, pre-bent binding, etc.
4) Any neat facts about your building process in your new shop that you’d like to share?
Leo: In the near future I will be working on designing a different kind of headstock. So far I’ve been molding the heads in the style of a classical/Spanish guitar. In Argentina we play Spanish guitars, so I’ve always liked the headstocks I learned to make with Ervin, which are reminiscent of these. Now that I will have more time for experimentation and designing, I am going to make headstocks with a more modern style, while still avoiding the symmetrical and conventional. This new design is more like that of my fanned fret guitar. Another change that’s coming is that in about 6 months I will begin with a new model, the OO. The big sound that it makes is very surprising given its small body. In fact, it’s the guitar I plan to make for myself.
We are pleased to add EddieLee Brown to our line-up of builders here at Dream Guitars. Let’s get to know more about this great up and coming builder.
EddieLee Brown’s first love is music. He played guitar and bass in a traveling rock band in the 70’s. More recently he has fallen in love with fingerstyle guitar playing. “Whether playing electric or acoustic, for me, tone is everything. I have always worked hard to develop a great tone as a basis for playing any instrument,” states EddieLee.
EddieLee has also been a photographer, a Bonsai artist and landscaper, and studied drawing. Each of these helped him develop a sense of design, proportion, and what is pleasing to the eye. He practiced as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine helping heal people with acupuncture, massage, and herbal medicine. This helped him develop a sensitivity of touch and understanding that one part of a system will affect other parts. EddieLee also has a master’s degree in electrical engineering with a strong background in physics and mechanical engineering. He loves physics and determining, from a scientific view point, how things work. This helps him be able to predict how a system will behave when one part of it is changed.
Brown had a nice stable of electric guitars and basses from his band days in the 70’s and 80’s but in the 2000’s, he found himself playing his acoustic guitar most of the time. When he decided to upgrade his old acoustic, he found the world of hand-built guitars. “The first time they handed me one, I could not believe the difference, and it changed my world. I bought a Goodall Rosewood/Red Wood, Grand Concert and fell in love with the guitar all over again. After playing and hearing the great tone and feeling how responsive it was, I would just stare at the beauty of the wood, design and construction. That is when I got the desire to start building,” quotes EddieLee.
EddieLee has now been building guitars for about 6 years, although he had studied guitar design and preparing a few years before that. He also spent time prior to starting his first guitar honing the woodworking skills he would need to produce great looking instruments. The first instruments he built were Native American Flutes which are wooden flutes. EddieLee has been playing these for many years, and loved the instrument. Their construction uses many of the same techniques and skills used in guitar building, so it seemed like a good “warm-up instrument” for him. “They are so much fun to make and I love the feedback I get from people when they get them in their hands. Guitar building followed soon after. It is a real joy to turn a pile of wood into a beautiful instrument and then hear other players make beautiful music with them,” says EddieLee.
In EddieLee’s building style, he works to combine elements from his past careers. “I think there is real value in mixing together the old methods using touch, feeling, and tapping and meld into that the newer science to produce a very vibrant instrument with great tone”, quotes EddieLee. Among others, he is currently using Chladni patterns, along with traditional methods, for sound board voicing. He also uses techniques to produce spectrographics of the sound produced by tapping the guitar and its components during the build process. This tool gives a visual and measurable representation of what he hears when tapping the guitar. “Although it can never give me all the information that my ears can, it does allow me to see the frequencies of the main vibration patterns, allowing me to adjust them precisely. I believe these and other science based ways of measuring and determining how the guitar is operating, lets me produce an instrument with better and more consistent tone. And for me, tone has to be there” quotes EddieLee.
Outside of building guitars, EddieLee Brown is still a musician. “I play mainly fingerstyle guitar but still love to get an electric now and then a fire up the old Mesa Boogie Mark IIC”, says EddieLee.
“EddieLee is one of the guys you meet and just know that he builds a great guitar. He came to lutherie later in life and brings all his vast experiences to a new form of expression, the acoustic guitar. I was so impressed with the tone of his instruments that I broke my own rule of waiting until a maker has built 20 or more guitars. EddieLee has some special design elements as well like internal mass elements to manipulate the character of tone. Very fresh and exciting” – Paul Heumiller