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Tag Archive for: custom guitars

UPDATE: Paul’s personal baritone guitar built by Ken Jones and Mountain Song Guitars has been completed and added to the Dream Guitars website!! Sorry folks, this particular one is not for sale but you can order your own Mountain Song baritone through Dream Guitars! Click here for more info on Paul’s baritone and Mountain Song or click on one of the images below to watch Al and Paul jamming away on this beauty!






Ken Jones is up to it again – this time this guitar is going right to our own Paul Heumiller. Ken is building Paul a very special IMG_5447-2Baritone featuring Padauk, Carolina Red Spruce and fanned-fret neck. The scale lengths range from 28.5″ on the bass side to 27.25″ on the treble. The body is slightly smaller than Jumbo proportions with a 16.5″ lower bout and 20.5″ body length, and a 4.75″ body depth at the tail, tapering to 4″ at the heel. Ken also offers the same body shape in a full-Jumbo size of 17″ LB and 21″ body length, with a 5″ body depth at the tail and 4.25″ depth at the heel. Top bracing is also Carolina Red Spruce.

“I knew for certain that I wanted the body to be Padauk Wood. The finest baritones I have ever played were made from Padauk. It has an amazing clarity that really helps the bass notes maintain separation when they’re tuned down to A or B. In recent years I have been primarily playing Fanned Fretted instruments and knew that I wanted that element as well. I play in many alternate tunings and it is key for me to have the bass strings longer than the treble strings. It insures that my bass notes will be strong and never floppy, while at the same time the trebles maintain a pleasant tension and sweet tone. Ken had a chance to get some wonderful local Carolina spruce tops from legendary luthier John Arnold so he suggested we use that for the top as it is wonderfully stiff and has incredible tap tone,” says Paul Heumiller.


Other details include ebony headplate, fingerboard, and bindings, armrest bevel and ribrest bevel and a one-piece, carbon fiber reinforced Honduran Mahogany neck with double-acting truss rod.

Paul first played a Baritone guitar at Martin Simpson’s home in England many years ago. That very first moment he felt a wave of inspiration that has led him to continue to play in alternate tunings and on Baritones ever since. Paul states, “The most wonderful thing about the Baritone guitar is that you play exactly the same piece that you would in standard pitch but everything changes. The low register, rumbling bass and sweet, lucid trebles alter the mood and inspire the soul.”


“I started to play the guitar for the sole purpose of writing songs. While I can do a lot of things on guitar, I consider myself primarily a  singer-songwriter. So whether an instrumental piece or accompaniment, my Baritone guitar offers me a voice that takes me into another world, another head space and invites me to write something I would likely never find at standard pitch,” says Paul Heumiller.


Paul continues, “When I decided to invite Ken Jones of Mountain Song guitars to build me a Baritone instrument we had long conversations about the many Baritones that I have been able to play in the shop over the years. I am in the very fortunate position of getting to play the finest guitars ever made every day of my life. I have played many Baritones by Lance McCollum, Bill Tippin, David Berkowitz, Steve Klein, Ralph Bown and so many other of the finest makers in the world. So having the chance to collaborate with Ken was like dropping a three-year-old in the middle of a candy store with a credit card!!”


“It’s been really enjoyable and informative collaborating with Paul on the various design elements, from the scale-length spread, to tonewoods, to the neck shape/profile. That was particularly interesting, since we were able to look closely at some of Paul’s favorite neck shapes, and come up with a hybrid that perfectly suits his needs. It’s essentially a D-shape with a slight V carved into the bass-side. We decided to keep the adornment to a minimum, with side dots only, and just a small inlay on the fingerboard at the twelfth fret. Being a large-bodied guitar, we agreed that an arm bevel was in order, as well as a super-comfortable ribrest bevel,” says Ken Jones.

IMG_5386-2“Paul has played more of the world’s finest guitars than just about anyone out there, and it’s been a pleasure and honor to learn from his insights what makes a truly great guitar,” Ken continues.

Great news! There are two more Baritones underway from Ken and Mountain Song Guitars – one in Quilted Maple and another in Cuban Mahogany. Ken is shooting to have these completed by the end of this year. These two will have similar features however it is still early enough for customizations.

Call today 828-658-9795 to reserve and customize your own Mountain Song Baritone Guitar!!

Dream Guitars is proud to bring you some exciting news from Tippin Guitars including a brand new model and incoming DG inventory!!

Bill Tippin’s New Forte Model

First off, Bill Tippin introduced his newest creation, the Tippin Forte, at the recent Healdsburg Guitar Festival in California. This is a new model from him and is one of his most creative projects to date.

The Forte, based on his Crescendo model, was inspired by Tippin’s own personal guitar preferences. He found a way to boost the richness of the Crescendo — he increased the width of lower bout while maintaining the balance — and it’s slightly wider (3/16th”) at its widest.

Our own Paul Heumiller and Al Petteway had the privilege of playing the new Forte while out in Healdsburg. “The new Forte model from Bill Tippin has everything I love about the Crescendo, balance, clarity, power and Bill’s trademark full trebles, but it adds a bit more fullness to the bass for the player that enjoys a bit more thump in the chest. Outstanding!” – Paul H.

The Original Tippin Crescendo Model

The Crescendo, which is considered to be the cornerstone of Tippin’s entire line of guitars, is large yet versatile. Imagine a 14-fret OMT with the rich tone normally found in an 00012-fret size. The Crescendo manages to combine the feel of a 14-fret OMT while preserving the rich tone of a 12-fret body model, replete with incredible tone, balance and projection.

Dream Guitars has a pre-owned 2005 Crescendo in stock featuring Brazilian Rosewood and Carpathian Spruce – contact us if you’re interested in acquiring!

And, by the way, our own Paul Heumiller is anxiously awaiting to take delivery of his personal, custom Crescendo. Paul’s model is made from Brazilian/Moon spruce with a cutaway, MOP sparkle trim. What makes this custom job so unique is that it includes a short-scale, Fan Fret design, which will perform well in Drop-D, DADGAD and standard tunings.

The Tippin Al Petteway Signature Model

Also, Bill has embarked on a new build of the Tippin Al Petteway Signature, also based on the Crescendo model. Check out this video demonstration of the Petteway Signature on our YouTube channel. This instrument is representative of Bill at the top of his game, and when you listen to our studio recording you’ll understand what we mean. Interested in purchasing the incoming Tippin Al Petteway Signature model? Contact us today to learn more about your reservation options.

We do also have a pre-owned Al Petteway Signature in stock as well if you would rather not wait for the incoming guitar. This 2008 Crescendo Al Petteway Signature was actually originally purchased by Al Petteway himself and was the first Signature model ever made! This beauty features brick red Brazilian Rosewood, Moon Harvested European Spruce, an armrest bevel, beveled cutaway, and new heel design. Click here to learn more.

This is exciting stuff, folks. We all know that Grit Laskin is one of the finest luthiers around and is widely considered as a master of inlay work. Today, Dream Guitars announces that he is working on a custom guitar that we have made available for reservation with delivery expected in December.

Our own Paul Heumiller worked with Grit to develop the basic inlay ideas and Laskin took off running. As you can see in these pictures, the design is amazing, intricate and just short of groundbreaking.

Here is some of what Grit himself had to say about this piece:

One of the most beloved and influential guitarists was the legend who passed away just last year, Doc Watson. I began thinking about Doc, and about the natural world and the title from Shakespeare popped into my head: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ which takes place in a forest. The more I read about Doc, the more his life inspired me: His musical beginnings, the events in his life that shaped him and the fact that what gave him the musical bug was the shape-note hymns sung by his mother. My brain locked onto that seminal influence and also latched onto the literal meaning of the word shape — this old-style singing shaped his life, yes, but the notes themselves also provided physical shapes in which I could place scenes and elements from his life. Bingo.

“I’m putting a large portrait of Doc picking a guitar on the headstock in the same realistic I used for John Lennon on the ‘Imagine’ guitar. Flowing down the fret board are the seven basic shapes of shape notes (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti) large enough to place within elements such as Doc’s earliest musical instruments, his early solo album, ‘Southbound,’ which  first brought him to prominence. In fact, the working title of the piece is ‘Southbound.’

Talk about creative thinking.

If you’re jazzed about this guitar and Laskin’s work no one would blame you if you missed our announcement, so here it is again: This guitar is available and you can reserve it now by contacting the Dream Guitars shop near Asheville, NC, right away. If you miss this opportunity, or want to see more of Grit Laskin’s work, check out the gallery on his homepage.

A while back, guitar great Al Petteway sat in front of the camera at our showroom in Weaverville, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville, and gave us all a lesson on how to play his own composition, “Tennessee Mountain Rag,” which is included on the “Dream Guitars, Volume 1, The Golden Age of Luthiers” CD and tablature book.

For the lesson, Al plays a Tippin Al Petteway Signature Model with Brazilian Rosewood and Moon Spruce, built by one of the great luthiers in the United States, Bill Tippin of Tippin Guitars.

“In this style of music, everything is out there to be had,” Al explains when discussing his writing method for this song, which taps into many other tunes and progressions in the genre, and the way he puts it all together to make it his own. This is songwriting, folks.

Al also details his chords as well as a cool “chicken picking” technique that he uses for a neat walk-down. He also details optional rhythm choices, which he points out are reminiscent of the style of Chet Atkins. He also shows you a neat lick he learned from listening to Atkins.

You can watch the video here on our Dream Guitars YouTube channel. The “Dream Guitars, Vol. 1” CD and complete book of tablature is available in our online store. All of this and more is available in the online shopping cart.

You should also visit his website at www.alandamy.com to learn more about Al Petteway, his wife, Amy.

The pleasure of owning your very own Dream guitar — Tippin, Traugott, Martin, Laskin, McConnell or any other instrument from our collection or from one of your lucky finds — can only be ensured with proper care and maintenance… and that starts with the right case. Get into one today!

Dream Guitars has a solid collection of outstanding guitar cases from trusted brands including Main Stage, Hoffee and others.

How about a little primer on exactly which guitar cases we have to offer, shall we?

First off are the magical Main Stage cases, which are comparable to Calton Cases, another popular brand. In fact, Main Stage was founded by two former employees of Calton and these guys remain true to the quality and care that helped make Calton a big name. Now they’re doing it on their own and the Main Stage brand has earned an excellent reputation for superbly made, professional grade hard-shell fiberglass touring cases for stringed instruments. Each case is handmade for your exact instrument, featuring custom fit, color and finish.

We order all of our Main Stage cases with Thinsulate thermal padding and granite finish. Custom Order prices may vary.

Another of our most popular cases is from Hoffee…. you won’t be disappointed.

“We are very proud to offer Hoffee Carbon Fiber cases,” our own Paul Heumiller is proud to tell you. “They are light, super strong and worthy of holding your Dream Guitar.”

Hoffee cases are priced right and the strong, lightweight, carbon fiber cases are custom Made in the USA. Hoffee is proud of its state-of-the-art mission, from the materials to the process itself.  The carbon fiber shells are stronger and lighter than other wooden, ABS (plastic) or fiberglass cases.

Dream Guitars offers custom sizing and an array of colors, allowing 4-6 weeks for delivery. Check out our store — where we also have cases from Cedar Creek, Colorado and Ameritage for sale — and contact us for details. If you’re in the area, stop by the shop in Weaverville, NC, just outside of Asheville, and explore.

As you may have noticed, bottleneck slide guitar great Steve James spent quite a bit of time at Dream Guitars in our Weaverville, NC, studios back in May, when he came in for a house concert here.

He took time out of his schedule to demo several National Resophonic guitars and perform the classic song, “Guitar Rag,” widely regarded as the first slide guitar song ever recorded (1923).

He also sat down in front of the camera to talk about his life in music; click here to check it out on our YouTube channel. Steve recalls his first records (a collection of Lead Belly 78 RPMs he got the age of 4), his first guitar (a 1963 Gibson J-50) and his early days in New York City studying under such greats as Freddie Lewis and Stan McGee. He also points out the importance of the lessons he learned listening to the unique techniques of Blind Willie Johnson and the alternate tunings of Muddy Waters and Bukka White, some of the unsung heroes of the bottleneck slide blues.

He wraps things up talking about American blues music, calling it “our great export… this is what we offer to the world. People love our music and love to listen to it.”

This video is brought to you by Dream Guitars, proud to be a National Resophonic dealer… and a good friend of Steve James! Contact us today to get your very own National steel! Visit www.stevejames.com for more about Steve!

This is great stuff.

Dream Guitars is a proud dealer of Composite Acoustics guitars, seen by many as superb travel guitars that require little maintenance or worry. They have been described as “virtually indestructible” because of the carbon fiber construction. They can handle heat, cold, life in the closet and will emerge ready to play.

Even more, the sound great, especially in low tunings, like DADGAD or low C, since the action won’t change when the string tension is altered.

We have several coming into the shop now — the GX (an auditorium-sized cutaway), the OX (a 20-fret cutaway with a raw finish) and Cargo (a travel model with or without electronics) — and we are a dealer of the entire Composite Acoustics catalog. If all this isn’t good enough, you’ll get a free $50 Dream Guitars Gift Card when you purchase a Composite Acoustics guitar at our shop here.

Curious yet? We took a ride on one of their classic Vintage Performer D models a few years back and everyone at the shop was blown away. Check out our YouTube link to take a listen before you call us to pick up one of these beauties.

Again, here are the takeaways:

  • Carbon Fiber composition
  • “Virtually indestructible”
  • Awesome in low tunings
  • Great sound
  • Hassle-free
  • Get a $50 Dream Guitars gift card

Take one to the beach or the mountains. Leave it in the trunk or the closet for months, it’ll be fine and sound great. Drop the tuning and have at it.

Singer-songwriter Danny Ellis has had an interesting life to say the least. After growing up in an orphanage in Ireland in the 1950s, Danny found music and it saved his life. He began his professional career as a trombone player with “The Boyne Valley Stompers,” a Dixieland band touring Ireland. From there, Danny expanded his horizons, his singing and playing and started a diverse musical career that has taken him all over the world as a trombonist, keyboardist and guitarist as well as a professional songwriter.

Flash forward to today and Danny is opening for for many musicians, including the great Bonnie Raitt for her recent show at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. Bonnie is a great fan of Danny and his music and personally invited him to fill the opening slot.

Danny now maintains a studio in Asheville, NC, just down the road a spell from our Dream Guitars headquarters in Weaverville. We have built a solid professional relationship with Danny and he granted us some of his time to record a lengthy video interview with our own Paul Heumiller to talk about singing, songwriting, musicianship and his latest role as a teacher, which he conducts out of his studio in person as well as on Skype. In fact, Paul himself has spent plenty of time learning from Danny, studying the finer points of singing and songwriting. Paul considers Danny a mentor and a friend as well as a teacher. You can get more information about Danny’s teaching career and how to become a student by visiting his website and checking out his lessons page (www.dannyellismusic.com/musiclessons.cfm).

We have two videos on our YouTube Dream Guitars channel, one the full-length interview (22:28) and a short highlight reel of the same (5:31). Check them both out, then take a trip to Danny’s site, where you can read about his history, his discography, find links to his Facebook and YouTube pages as well as learn more about his teaching methods and how to contact him for lessons.

When Steve James spent time with us at Dream Guitars just before his rocking house concert performance at our Weaverville, NC, offices, not only did he demo several amazing National Resophonic guitars, he also taught us all a lesson in bottleneck slide playing the legendary “Guitar Rag.”

Your moment of musical history for today: Sylvester Weaver’s “Guitar Rag” is recognized as the first recording of slide guitar. That was way back in 1923, though Steve’s classic style is more than simply reminiscent of the period.

Now you can learn a thing or two from James himself right here at our YouTube channel, study the master’s moves and styles. There is an awful lot of information here and you’ll be able to apply what you learn as you progress as a player. Steve takes the time to demonstrate basic hand placement, string contact, touch, pick technique, vibrato, chords and more as he teaches the viewer how to play like a pro.

Steve James is world-renowned as an expert slide guitar master, not only touring and recording his own material and but acting as a sideman for such legends as Bo Diddley, Kinky Friedman, Buddy Guy and John Hammond. For more information and cool stuff, visit Steve’s homepage… after you learn how to play “Guitar Rag” his way — arguably the best way!

We host a number of events here at Dream Guitars. Just one of our many ways to give back to the community and share music with others who are passionate about it. We welcome you all to come join us at a House Concert, Guitar Clinic, Setup Saturdays and other events throughout the year. Come visit Dream Guitars and the wonderful Asheville area!


Loren and Mark in Concert!

Sunday, July 7 @ 7 pm

Pre-Show Pot Luck @ 6 pm

Tickets $20, Reservations required

About Loren and Mark

Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb, both virtuoso players in their own right, ran into each other several times over the years, first meeting in 2005 at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch guitar camp when working with Tommy Emmanuel. Loren was a seasoned player making his first deep foray into the world of acoustic guitars, while Mark was in the process of finishing his degree in classical guitar at the University of North Carolina. They met again in 2009 at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) convention in Nashville, Tenn., and then they were late additions to the CAAS 2010 Saturday night finale performance lineup based on what the gathering of international guitarists had heard from them during the week. You can see part of that performance here.

Together, Loren and Mark run the gamut of acoustic guitar performances of both original and arranged music. With a background of bluegrass, jazz and Western styles, their thumb-picking technique harkens back to guitar greats such as Atkins, Merle Travis and Jerry Reed. When performing original compositions, Loren brings amazing vocals along with Mark’s stunning harmonies.

They have already recorded two albums together — the first of which won the 2011 SAMMY (Syracuse Area Music Awards) Best Album at the Northeast Music Industry Conference — and have been touring as a duo since 2011. For more on Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb, visit their website http://www.lorenandmark.com.

Reservations required for all events, please email [email protected] or call us at (828) 658-9795.

How it works….

  • Come join us at 3 pm and bring a dish to share and a bottle of your preferred beverage. It’s always a wonderful array of treats!
  • Show starts at 4pm and performers play two sets with an intermission to mingle and meet the artist!
  • Guitar demos available in the shop before and after the show.

Future Concerts/Clinics

Paul Asbell, Mr. Versatility on Guitar, August 3

Clive Caroll, From England! February 28 (7 pm)


With an average wait time of two years, players and collectors don’t often get the chance to get into William “Grit” Laskin’s building schedule… until now.

Dream Guitars has opened the door to Grit’s shop and will now make a single slot in Laskin’s busy production schedule available to one discerning and lucky collector . This is a chance to own a custom-made Laskin, replete with his world-renowned, superb and unique inlay design.

Oh, and by the way, the turnaround for this deal is just six months. That means you’ll be playing your custom Grit Laskin guitar this December. Nice.

Plus if you act quickly, you can completely customize this guitar including your model choice and inlay design!

Grit is widely recognized as one of the top inlay artists in the world. Add to it the opportunity to have the back and sides your guitar made with approved Brazilian Rosewood not only enhances the look and quality of the guitar but it vastly improves the resale value, assuming you would ever want to part with one of these babies.

Click Here to View some of Grit’s Works

The Base Model price includes Sitka spruce wood for his soundboards and East India Rosewood for the back and sides. The guitar also comes standard with a Hoffee Carbon Fibre custom case, Abalone-ringed rosette and the famous Laskin armrest bevel.

Base price is $15,400 retail. Brazilian Rosewood upgrade, starts at $3,000. Inlay art priced upon request.

Contact Us Today to Reserve!





Take a Tour of Grit Laskin’s Workshop





View Laskin Guitars Previously Sold at Dream Guitars


“This is the kind of guitar that makes your heart stop. It is so beautiful and so wonderfully crafted that it is mesmerizing. I simply cannot walk by it without holding it and playing it. Boaz spent countless hours tirelessly creating this museum quality piece, he even cut the Abalone from the shells. The details are too many to mention so be sure to carefully study the photos. The tone is majestic and warm, delightful in every way. This will be a prize in any serious collection.” – Paul Heumiller

Dream Guitars is thrilled to offer this stunning museum quality Baroque style guitar by Israeli luthier extraordinaire, Elkayam Boaz. The amount of detailed workmanship in this instrument is mind-boggling — from the multi-piece back to the eleborate rosette, soundboard inlays, wooden bridge extensions, friction pegs with ivory seats, ivory strings stops, and back of neck inlays. This is a true work of art.

This very guitar was the subject of a wonderful article in Acoustic Guitar Magazine by luthier Rick Turner in November 1997. The Boaz Baroque Guitar’s voice is detailed and articulate, intimate and sweet, and of course, perfect for period music.



  • Body Size: Medium
  • Scale: 650 mm (25.6 in.)
  • Nut Width: 53.2 mm (2.1 in)
  • String Spacing: 55 mm (2.15 in)
  • Body Length: 17 3/4 in.
  • Upper Bout: 9 5/8 in.
  • Lower Bout: 12 3/8 in.
  • Body Depth @Neck Heel: 3 in.
  • Body Depth @Tail Block: 3 1/8 in.
  • Frets to body: 12
    Woods & Trim 

  • Back/Sides: Brazilian Rosewood, Maple
  • Top Wood: German Spruce
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Neck Wood: Mahogany
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Rosette: Abalone & Wood
  • Binding: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Bindings: None
  • Headplate: Ebony
  • Headstock Bindings: None
  • Headstock Inlay: Custom
  • Top Trim: Abalone
  • Back Strip: Custom
  • Fret Markers: Custom
  • Tuners: Friction Pegs
  • Tuner Finish: Ebony



*Paul’s Pick is a new feature on the Dream Guitars website that highlights exceptional vintage and handbuilt guitars that deserve more attention — guitars with exceptional tone, playability, appearance and provenance. For more information on the featured guitar, or any instrument we offer, please call Paul or Steven at (828) 658 – 9795.

Frequent visitors to the Dream Guitars website have no doubt noticed our recent fine classical guitar demos, all compliments of one extremely talented guitarist, David Stevenson. David is both a skilled performer and an immensely gifted composer. On May, Arise Stevenson and percussionist River Guerguerian collaborate on a engaging set of music that showcases  instrumental mastery, as well as great emotional depth.

May, Arise by David Stevenson with River Guerguerian

The songs have a transcendent uplifting quality that sound contemporary and immediate, while simultaneously conjuring images or the ancient and arcane; no mean feat indeed! Guerguerian’s skillful performance, featuring a wealth of global percussion, supports and enhances the material wonderfully.

For guitarists, David Stevenson’s playing is an inspiration. Technically brilliant, the sound of his custom Abe Wechter guitar propels May, Arise with skillful execution from the very first track to the CD’s extremely satisfying conclusion. We highly recommend this very fine CD! For more information about David, and to purchase May, Arise please click here.

Check out the following clips:

1) Eastern Anthem

2) 11/8

3) Bulldozing for Zen

4) Resolution

Dream Guitars is extremely pleased to have a player of David’s high caliber to demonstrate our nylon string instruments. Look for more information about David, including video lessons and performance video in weeks to come!

The talented Mary Flower stopped by Dream Guitars recently and spent the afternoon playing some of the fine guitars we have in stock. Mary plays a great combination of roots music, including ragtime, acoustic blues and folk. If you like these videos, be sure to check out Mary’s website for upcoming gigs, and information on her albums and instructional DVDs.

Everyone knows that Al Petteway is an extremely fine guitarist, but what you may not know is that he is also an excellent guitar teacher. In this video Al instructs how to play  his  original tune “Tennessee Mountain Rag”. If you live in the greater Asheville area or just visiting, Al is available for one-on-one lessons that are sure to inspire. Give us a call anytime — we’ll be happy to schedule a lesson or two for you!

Even more waiting to be added to the DG website.

A few weeks ago, Paul received a call from a gentleman he’d never spoken to before. Like many conversations with Paul, this one ranged from guitars and motorcycles, fast cars, and the finer things in life.

John's Classical Guitar Shrine

John's Classical Guitar Shrine

The callers name was John, and within a few minutes he and Paul discovered that they had many things in common. What transpired from that first call lead up to a monumental event of Paul dropping everything, and driving North in the largest empty white van he could find. The next day, Paul returned to Dream Guitars in Western North Carolina, but this time the van wasn’t empty. If fact it was packed floor to ceiling with over a half a million dollars worth of the finest nylon string Classical Guitars we’ve ever laid eyes on.

Cases upon cases.

Cases upon cases.

Paul explains:

“One of the true joys of this business is the chance to touch, feel and play music on bits of history. Guitars are treasures and they tell a story. I was honored to get a call from John asking us to represent his prized collection of some of the very finest Classical and Flamenco guitars ever made. I dropped everything and drove 4 states away very excited to see the fruits of his years of collecting guitars. We spent a wonderful Sunday open case by case, each more impressive than the next, Monch, Pena’ Fernandez, vintage Contreras, Ramirez and Kohno, modern gems such as Blackshear, Redgate and Humphrey. There is even an unplayed 1994 Schneider Kasha guitar complete with a video of Richard Schneider discussing his design. Flamenco guitars by Ramirez, Conde Hermanos, even a rare Valda Sobrino Domingo Estesos, and a Ruck Flamenco cutaway. Just astonishing instruments!”

A small percentage of the collection.

A small percentage of the collection.

It may takes Dream Guitars a few months to get all these stunning instruments on to our website, but if you are a lover of Classical and Flamenco guitar, we invite you to make a trip to our shop now. Flights into Asheville put you just 30 minutes from us. We humbly offer you the chance to play the very finest collection of instruments perhaps in the whole of the U.S. Come enjoy them with us. You will be amazed.

The following builders are included in this collection, with multiple guitars from several of the builders:

Brand Model Product Year
Andres Caruncho Classical 2001
Bella J. Gemza Concert 1973
Bellucci Concert
Bernabe Concierto 2002
Blackshear Concert 1999
Blackshear Flamenco 2007
Bogdanovich Guitars Concert 2005
Conde Hermanos Concert 1986
Conde Hermanos Domingo Esteso Reedicion 2004
Conde Hermanos Flamenco 1962
Contreras Double Top 1985
Contreras 1969
DeVoe Flamenco 1988
Edgar Monch Concert 1972
Francisco Barba Flamenco 1968
Gioachino Giussani Concert 2008
Greg Smallman Reproduction Lattice Braced 2002
Hermanos Yague Concert 1987
Humphrey Millennium 1993
Ian Kneipp Concert 1998
Jeff Sigurdson Flamenco
Jeronimo Pena Fernandez Concert 1974
Jeronimo Pena Fernandez Flameco 1995
Jose Oribe Concert 1972
Jose Ruiz Pedregosa Concert 2004
Kohno 15 1977
Kohno 20 1976
Kohno 30 1980
Kohno 5 1970
Kohno Professional J 1993
Kohno Professional R 1989
Kohno Special 1993
Kohno Special 1996
Kono 3 1964
Manuel Rodriguez Concert 1982
Manuel Rodriguez e Hyos La Magnifica 2010
Manuel Rodriguez e Hyos La Maja 2010
Manuel Rodriguez e Hyos La Mereuilla
Miguel de Cordova Flamenco
Moreira Anniversary #1 2005
Moreira Hauser 2004
Moreira Santos 2003
R.L. Mattingly Concert 1968
Ramirez 1a La de Camara 1991
Ramirez Flamenco 1959
Redgate Lattice Braced 2006
Ricardo Sanchis Solista 1996
Richard Schneider Kasha 1994
Rubio Concert 1967
Ruck Flamenco Cutaway 1996
V. Da y Sobrinos De Domingo Estesto Flamenco 1950
Velazquez ‘Shop Guitar’ Concert 1961
Walker Twins

Walker Twins

I warn you, if you haven’t seen these guitars already, you may want to sit down. These two Scott Walker Custom Twins are the very same instruments that were the hit of the recent NAMM Show in Anneheim, CA. Crowds gathered around to see the intricate sculpting, deep quilting and exceptional details that only Scott Walker could imagine.


Mr. Walker is an exceptional builder. His instruments are rich with unique appointments and custom features that set them far ahead of the pack.

Honduran Mahogany

Honduran Mahogany

With Scott’s recent set of twins, he has taken his craft to yet another level creating instruments that are timeless and at the same time revolutionary.


Shared features include gorgeous, solid Brazilian Rosewood necks. The color is so dark and chocolaty you might just be tempted to sink your teeth into them — but don’t do that! These necks have been shaped to perfection, and are appropriate for guitarists playing any genre. The feel of natural Brazilian Rosewood against the palm of your hand is natural, and so comfortable, you’ll find yourself playing things you never knew possible.

The bodies are made of gorgeous flamed Honduran Mahogany, and capped with exquisite quilted maple so deep you could swim in it. The slightly tinted very natural color brings out the nuance and detail of the maples figure, and lends an earthy sophisticated look to the guitars.

Scott Walker is one of a very small handful of builders that we represent at Dream Guitars. We know our clients only want superior instruments, so we are extremely selective in who we choose to represent. Scott Walker’s inspiring creations, go way beyond what conventional electric guitars offer.

Call us to find out more about these exceptional instruments, and learn how they can be yours today. We prefer to sell these 2 as a set, but we are very happy to discuss individual purchases with you as well.

Don’t miss this chance to own a part of the Scott Walker Legacy!



The first time I spoke with Matt Artinger, I was blown away by his enthusiasm for designing and building exceptional guitars. Matt has an aura of “creative genius” all around him, and that energy is transferred in every single instrument he builds. Every Artinger Guitar is a great guitar — mediocrity is not in Matt’s vocabulary. That is why we are so thrilled to be representing Artinger Custom Guitars at Dream Guitars.
Incoming Artinger Trio!

Incoming Artinger Trio!

In the coming months Matt will be building a series of elegant, extraordinary guitars to be offered in our new Dream Guitars Electric Guitar Showroom. I encourage you to visit our shop, and give these great instruments a thorough. Your definition of what an electric guitar can be, will be forever altered!

Here are the first 3, due in soon! Call Paul Heumiller today to reserve yours!

John Osthoff 000-12C

This gorgeous new John Osthoff 000-12C is headed toward the Dream Guitars showroom. A stunning guitar with gorgeous African Blackwood back and sides! Give us a call to find out how this exceptional instrument can be yours!

John Osthoff 000-12C

John Osthoff 000-12C

Osthoff 00-12C

Osthoff 00-12C

Large Accessory Box

All of us at Dream Guitars are huge fans of the Paul Reed Smith line of Private Stock acoustic guitars — and we’re not alone. These are great sounding instruments with exceptional playability. And now, we’re thrilled to bring you the newest addition to the line, two exceptional new signature models for guitar legends Tony McManus and Martin Simpson.

“It’s an ironic thing to say about such a beautiful instrument but it becomes invisible- leaving the player to concentrate solely on the music- which is what it should be all about. The Tony McManus signature model is based on the Angelus model but with the PRS wide fingerboard. The bridge and fingerboard are in ebony, and the Private Stock wood choices are pretty spectacular. The guitar is capable of going anywhere I’m capable of going musically. It works beautifully as a solo fingerstyle guitar but if I need to flatpick, it’ll go there too. It’ll accompany songs, tunes…whatever I need…tuned high and tuned low, gently caressed or driven hard,” said Tony McManus.



Tony McManus Private Stock Acoustic Specs

Tony McManus Private Stock

Tony McManus Private Stock

Shape 15 1/2″ Cutaway
Bracing PRS X-brace/classical hybrid
Back and Side Woods Cocobolo
Top Wood European Spruce
Neck Wood Mahogany
Fretboard and Bridge Wood Ebony
Strength Rod High-Modulus Carbon Fiber
Inlays Mammoth Ivory J Birds
Nut Bone
Nut Width 1 3/4″
Saddle Bone
Tuners Proprietary Robson Hand-Machined Tuners
Tuner Buttons Ebony
Electronics PRS Pickup system



“The new Martin Simpson signature model guitar is simply the result of the PRS team being truly attentive to the feedback of a player. I have felt privileged to be able to tell them what I think will make a better guitar for great acoustic playing, and they have listened to my input from materials to neck width and string spacing, pick up sound and inlays….and when the last model arrived, I was blown away by the results. The new signature model is entirely the best materials, and the specs which I asked for, presented in a deluxe version. It is a great instrument made by people who care and strive always for the highest standards in tone, playability, workmanship and aesthetics.” – Martin Simpson.

Martin Simpson Private Stock Acoustic Specs



Shape 15 1/2″ Cutaway
Bracing PRS X-brace/classical hybrid
Back and Side Woods Cocobolo
Top Wood Adirondack Spruce
Neck Wood Mahogany
Fretboard and Bridge Wood Ebony
Strength Rod High-Modulus Carbon Fiber
Inlays Green Abalone J Birds
Nut Bone
Nut Width 1.81″
Saddle Bone
Tuners Proprietary Robson Hand-Machined Tuners
Tuner Buttons Ebony
Electronics PRS Pickup system

Click here to hear examples of Tony’s amazing playing on the Maker’s Mark CD!

As we launch our new website — we thought it was a great time to introduce ourselves

Dream Guitars Entrance.

Dream Guitars Entrance.

to guests who may be visiting Dream Guitars for the first time. And for our old friends, we’d like to remind you of the many reasons we believe Dream Guitars should be your number one destination for custom, hand-built guitars.
Click here to launch video!

I’d like to take a few minutes and talk about experience. Dream Guitars grew out of a joint endeavor with world -renowned acoustic guitarist Martin Simpson. That experience led to the creation of a new type of guitar store.

Since 1995, Dream Guitars owner Paul Heumiller, has been bringing the very best custom and hand built acoustic instruments to an eager audience. Respected as a leading authority, Paul sits on the Board of the prestigious Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans, and is a member of the Guild of American Luthiery, and the Guitar Foundation of America.

Paul Heumiller

Paul Heumiller

Our shop is staffed by professional guitarists, including legendary Grammy Award winning Al Petteway. Unlike other shops, we won’t ever rush or pressure you. You get one-on-one consultations and guidance — and every opportunity to ask as many questions as you need to.

We seek out the best builders, and are highly selective before giving instruments the Dream Guitars seal of approval. Even our pre-owned inventory is given a full inspection — inside and out. Only guitars with superior tone and exceptional build quality are accepted. You can buy with confidence knowing we only offer the best.

Additionally, Dream Guitars offers a generous 3 day trial on any guitar shipped domestically. We are also experts at international shipping. We’re happy to ship to your home — wherever you are, and whenever you want. Our rates are very fair, and all of our instruments are fully insured.

We also take the fear out of ordering custom guitars. If you are not fully satisfied with a special order, we’ll resell your instrument, and refund the entire purchase price to you.

Do you have a guitar sitting around, that you no longer play? Dream Guitars can help there too. We have a highly successful consignment program that will help you get top dollar for your pre-owned instruments.

In addition to all of these things, Dream Guitars offers world class repairs, with all repairs performed by our highly skilled, carefully selected luthiers. Together, our repair department has decades of experience. No job is too big or too small.

Located just minutes outside of Asheville, North Carolina, the Dream Guitars showroom is nestled in the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our shop is run by appointment — so when you visit, you will get our undivided attention, and as much time as you need to explore the nearly 200 guitars on our private showroom floor.

So give us a call, and let Dream Guitars be your experienced guide to the world of custom, hand-built guitars.

Photos From The Mountains -- by Al Petteway.

Photos From The Mountains -- by Al Petteway.

When visiting the Dream Guitars showroom, you’ll want to take full advantage of all the great opportunities that the Western North Carolina area provides. No matter what you like, Asheville has something for you. Click here to launch video!

Frommer’s named Asheville a must-see destination, and it’s easy to see why. The mountains are ideal for hiking, and other nature adventures – like zip line canopy tours, abundant mountain biking trails, and whitewater rafting. Our scenic drives bring you into the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the pristine wilderness.

If the great outdoors isn’t your thing, pamper your self at one of Asheville’s famous spas. Also, our downtown offers many unique shopping opportunities, and an unmatched variety of world-class restaurants to choose from. The areas top chefs are regularly recognized for their culinary excellence.

Asheville is known for its beautiful and historically significant architecture — from the historical Thomas Wolfe Memorial, to the majesty of the Biltmore Estate and it’s epic mountain views.

Asheville is famous for its rich, eclectic, thriving arts community. Whether you are interested in visiting galleries in the River Arts district, checking out fine arts, theater or folk arts — it’s all here for your enjoyment.

Photos From The Mountains -- by Al Petteway.

Photos From The Mountains -- by Al Petteway.

And then there’s the thriving Asheville music scene. Drawing performers from around the world, Asheville has become a key destination for performers of all genres. You’ll find the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, traditional mountain music, as well as a thriving local music scene – and of course our legendary drum circle in Pritchard Park.

The New York Times said, “Scores of talented acoustic musicians call Asheville home.” and the Houston Chronicle echoed, “The music scene in Asheville is boiling and about to explode.”

When you visit the Dream Guitars Showroom, you’re at the epicenter of the best guitars on the planet. So why not visit and play some great guitars — then explore this wonderful town of ours? We’re sure you’re going to love it here!

Ervin Somogyi is not your average person. When speaking with him, or when reading the things he has written, it is immediately obvious that he is keenly insightful, full of equal parts of knowledge and good humor — both a scientist and an artist. He is a lovely man with uncommon patience, and sincerity.

Viewed from any direction, Ervin’s career is the template of success. His list of achievements is unrivaled. He is an innovator, educator, creative thinker, author, artist, lecturer and inspiration to myriad builders who have followed his lead.

If there was a Mt. Rushmore of luthiers, you would certainly see the face of Somogyi chiseled out of stone, staring down on the throngs of guitar enthusiasts who view his work as the quintessential representation of the modern Renaissance of steel string guitar.

The following is an interview recently conducted with Mr. Somogyi. It was my extreme honor that he agreed to share his thoughts with me. Thank you Ervin.

Ervin Somogyi

Ervin Somogyi

Yours is a prolific, celebrated career. You have received recognition from the guitar world, and you are highly respected by your associates and peers. As one of the cornerstones of what is often called a new renaissance in instrument making, what are your thoughts on the future of lutherie as an art and as a lucrative career?

I wrote a four-part series on the future of lutherie (at least, as I see it) for Fingerstyle magazine back in 2001.  I don’t know that I want to repeat all that, but the gist of it is that ‘real’ lutherie (in the sense that I understand that word) will probably survive between the cracks of mainstream commercial culture — which is certain to do its best to standardize, efficient-ize, productive-ize, and roboticize the life out of it.  All in the service of progress, of course.  Factories like the Taylor facility are already doing pioneering work in that.  Sorry if sound negative, but I gave a lot of reasons for my thinking so in those articles, and none of the reasons have changed.

There are two main reasons for this.  The first of these is the sorry state of the manual arts in this culture: people use their hands less and less to accomplish things these days.  The second is the primitive state of lutherie education.

When I was young a lot of kids, teenagers, and even adults puttered, futzed, tinkered, whittled, played with clay and plaster, built models, and fixed things . . . much more than people do now.  At least, as far as I’m aware.  Does any of you remember hobby shops, the Revell model kits, fixing up old jalopies (or even newer cars), erector sets, tiddly-winks, ships in bottles, woodburning kits, balsa-wood gliders, paint-by-number pictures, or even making playhouses out of cardboard boxes, or any other long-term-attention-span-engaging activity?  Today, most productive work is driven by the need for speed, efficiency, and profit and the element of human judgment is dumbed down through steady reliance on the latest jig, accessory, tool, or set of time-motion guidelines that do a lot of the work for us.  Entertainment is provided not by ourselves but by electronic devices and use of computers in a myriad ways.  Oh, and there’s television too.  This is a costly trade-off, and it ain’t exactly progress as far as I can see.

On the other hand, making guitars isn’t likely to produce lucrative careers under any circumstances, hand skills or not, unless one knows what he’s doing.  I won’t beat the existing guitar schools up for doing the best they can, but their efforts don’t extend past a beginner’s level education in making-and-assembling-guitar-parts.  This education lasts as little as ten days to as much as several months; it’s a great starter kit, but necessarily cannot be more than that.  In comparison, there are respected schools of furniture making that turn out competent journeymen craftsmen and which put their students through several years of training — which includes design, proportion, a variety of woodworking techniques, history, joinery, and finishing.  The better violin-making schools have a four-year curriculum!  A large part of the problem is that many people simply don’t know that there’s any more to making a guitar than its merely being a more complicated woodworking project than, say, making movie sets.  You know: looking good but nothing substantial behind the façade.  I think you can appreciate that just learning to put a guitar together — with very little actual joinery (sand-flat-apply-glue-and-then-clamp is not a difficult skill to master) or tone-making savvy going on — is not going to provide a realistic foundation for any kind of success.  A hobby, maybe; but not an income.

And even with a competent education, lutherie is a tough gig.  You only need about a hundred brain cells and minimal knowledge of the history of the world to get an appreciation for this.

I do think that you should make guitars — and/or art — if you find that you cannot be happy if you do not do so.  At least until you determine that you need to go into something else.  Otherwise, lutherie really isn’t for everyone.  There’ s too much romance in it, for one thing, but one soon finds out that it really is a bunch of hard work.  The upside is that one can get some genuine peace of mind and satisfaction on this planet, throughout most of a lifetime, if one goes into this work with genuine love and curiosity.  The smartest alternative plan is to approach guitar making as a business; you can support yourself doing the work like that.  It ain’t quite the same as being an artist, but it’s better in some ways: it produces paychecks, not to mention happier mates.

Mr. Somogyi

Mr. Somogyi

Your two volume master-work of “The Responsive Guitar” and “Making the Responsive Guitar” is destined to become the standard by which all future written works on the subject of lutherie are judged. Did you feel obligated to capture your method and philosophy for the benefit future generations?

“Obligation” is the wrong word, I think. Luthiers are rather obsessive in many ways.  While this may be problematic in the realms of addictions or living a self-actualized life, it’s a real plus in lutherie — not to also mention in other things like brain surgery, parachute packing, and chess — because being ridiculously careful produces better results.   But mainly it never occurred to me to write a book that only told 3/4 of the story.  It never occurred to me to edit out things that were arguably minor but still pertinent, or to not include plenty of photographs (there are almost 1,000 photos and images), or to not have the nicest hard binding and cover art that I could manage, etc.  The books are no different from my approach to making any of my guitars.  I mean, in Japan they don’t call me a crass act for nothing, you know.

I am not resolved, either, as to how much I’ve written my books for Future Generations.  I did, obviously, do it in part for that reason.  I also did it for my own selfish reasons that have nothing to do with those readers.  I like to write.  (I don’t think I did it for the money: there’s money in writing only if there are descriptions and  pictures of naked people; but I’ve written a damn textbook: how exciting is that?)  Furthermore, I’m approaching 70 and have had triple bypass heart surgery.  It’s a truism that I can’t take my knowledge with me and some of it just might be useful to someone.  I  mean, most of my life is nicely  behind me . . . and I can appreciate a nice behind when I see it, I’ll tell you.   God knows, I would have given a lot for any guidance such as my books contain, many years ago when I was stumbling around in the dark wasting untold hours on guitars that I now can appreciate had no chance of sounding good.

I’ve had my successes, failures and insights and have written my books in a way that more or less ‘tells it like I see it’, but without insisting that others take my path.  I’ve already gotten criticism for not having written my books the way others thought I should have, or because I’ve presented the information in a way that isn’t what people have been used to.  Some readers just don’t get my perspective: they want right-and-wrong answers or simply want to be spoon-fed ‘the quick, easy recipe for making great guitars’  without having to do any thinking.  To these, I say: hmph; grow up.  To the others, who do understand that a given sentence or paragraph in my writings might have taken me fifteen guitars worth of work spread out over six years to figure out, I say: you’re welcome; and pass some information on to someone else who is in need, when you can.

I can also say that I’m not sure I would have written these books had I suspected just how much work it was going to take.  It took eight years and the writing, editing, cross-referencing, correspondence, photographing, fact-checking, re-writing, etc. came to dominate my life.  Not to mention out-of-pocket expenses for everything.  By quite reasonable reckoning I would have been much better off simply making guitars and creating a cash flow.  Warning: don’t do this at home, folks.  Leave it to the professionals.  And think twice before criticizing someone else’s major projects.

Andamento Guitar

Andamento Guitar

Many of your apprentices have gone on to become well known, in demand builders themselves — Michi Matsuda, Hiro Ebata, Mario Beauregard, etc. That makes you an extremely successful teacher as well. Please tell me about your teaching style, and explain what special insights you bring to the equation when working with young builders?

Ummmm . . . I guess I could say several thing about this.  First of all,  I happen to like teaching and I want to do a good job of it like everything else I do.  Second of all, it’s hard work and it certainly doesn’t pay well.  Teaching is a really bad business model: it takes too long and too much attention and energy.  There’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that Donald Trump made his millions by teaching.  And it’s not always a successful pursuit — at least if you do it the way I’ve done it, which is to make it a full-immersion experience, as opposed to doing it every day from, say, ten to five.  It’s not unlike my approach to writing my books: I have a desire to be thorough.

I never set out to teach ‘future masters’ — although I’m glad that some of my apprentices will go on to make their own significant and unique contributions.  I teach because I like sharing my hard-earned information with people who appreciate its value, and I like seeing their eyes light up with ‘ah-hah!’ moments. There’s nothing casual about my teaching; it takes a real commitment for me to take anyone on.  Also, for a long, long time I didn’t make enough money to pay anyone with anything except knowledge and experience; so I agreed to train people in exchange for help in the shop.

I am aware that my more successful students and apprentices are talented in this work.  But while it’s tempting to think that my success as a teacher is the fruit of a magically successful teaching style, I think it’s largely because I teach something genuinely useful.  Remember, in my answer to your earlier question about the future of lutherie, I cited the primitive state of teaching that is available.  Well, I simply give a real, honest, and comprehensive grounding in the work — just as you’d get in any institution of higher learning, technical or vocational school, or professional school that takes several years to go through.  That a better education produces better craftsmen shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Choosing whom to take on as an apprentice has been a  difficult learning experience: I’ve made some really bad choices.  And also some lucky ones. By now, motivation and sincerity are not the first things I’ve learned to look for: everybody claims to have those.  Instead, I look for (1) ability to commit to the learning curve and stay focused (which includes the ability to subordinate one’s self to authority in the interests of learning a skill), and (2) capacity for independence of thought within the learning situation.  I also (3) try to get a sense of their learning style: not everyone learns the same way by any means.

Finally, because my apprentices are typically half my age or less, (4) I try to get a sense of how these young men will negotiate — their own and my — power and authority.  There is always a sizeable power imbalance, at least at first: I have all the power and authority and they have none.  The best indicator of how they are likely to behave in the face of the inevitable stresses (a completely new environment, learning tricky new procedures, making mistakes, deadlines, discipline, etc.) is to take a close look at what kind of a relationship these young men have with their own fathers.  This is critical.  It is is particularly acute in a work setting in which there is a lot of one-on-one interaction and there’s an age imbalance in addition to the power imbalance. All the excitement, interest and learning aside, the thing is hardly free of stress. And, incidentally, it is a significant stressor for them to eventually learn that they can make better guitars (the very thing they have come to me for!): it upsets their status quo and forces them to renegotiate the power imbalance — and they sometimes do this in very inappropriate ways.

Andamento Guitar

Andamento Guitar

All in all, the fact is that the same way these young men have learned to get along with their most significant, older, same-sex authority figure (yes: it’s their dads every time) is how they’ll behave in the shop.  I can rely on this absolutely.  If they got along with their fathers (or father surrogates), we’ll get along.  If they were afraid of their fathers, or abused, or abandoned, they’ll be terrified of me.  If their fathers were authoritarian, they’ll resent me regardless of how I actually behave — and they’ll bully newer people in my shop who are lower on the totem pole than they are.  It happens.  If they’ve learned to survive by seeking approval, they’ll be obsequious and charming rather than productive or independently curious — and they won’t stop seeking approval from me regardless of how much approval I do give them.  If they’ve learned to ‘get away’ with stuff, or be spacey, defensive, or defiant, etc. in order to get their way, they’ll want to keep on doing that.  Whether they’ve been supported, respected, or disrespected they’ll expect those things from me — and behave in ways guaranteed to elicit such responses.

Are these bad people?  No, they’re merely young and not fully formed, and they don’t know any different way to be.  They bring their predilections into the workplace every time and act them out without being aware that they are doing so.  The pisser is that problematic attitudes sometimes don’t make a public appearance for several months because people can be on their best behavior for quite a long time.  But it cannot last — so it’s a smart idea to have a several-months-long probation period.  On the plus side, if these young men have learned to communicate their needs and negotiate power and responsibility reasonably openly, they’ll do so with me from pretty early on.  And so on.

Anyway, one of the first things I have to do is to explore this territory, to get a sense of whether there are any landmines, and whether or how they can be avoided.  The fact is, an important part of an apprenticeship is that taking someone on means taking on their early life, and no amount of patient lutherie training is going to make the slightest dent in non-lutherie processes which have only one resolution: growing up.  And that’s not quite the same gig as making guitars.  And every candidate is of course unique.  And outside of all that are the necessary evaluations for focus, motivation, problem-solving ability, patience, craftsmanship, style of taking information in, business-vs-artistic orientation, and basic what’s-it-like-to-be-with-them-all-day-long considerations such as personal hygiene, ability to communicate, sense of humor, ability to understand instructions and priorities, argumentativeness, being accident-prone or not, etc. etc. etc.

I’ve trained a few people whom I really hated working with; we got off to a good start but were at each other at the end.  They’re no one whose names appear anywhere in this interview, by the way. The whole thing is a tricky balancing act. Otherwise, my teaching style is fairly relaxed and informal.  I lecture, I discuss, I recommend reading something, and we discuss more.  I’m more interested in educating than instructing.  These are different things.  Education comes from the Latin ‘educare’, whose prefix ‘e’ means ‘out of’.  Educate means ‘to bring out’.   Instruction is the opposite.  The prefix ‘in’ means just that: one puts something into place — like a fact or a technique.

More specifically, my approach is a mix of direct transference of information (through conversation or lectures) and Socratic dialogue.  I ask a lot of questions about what my students think of this or that, and why.  But I ask those questions mostly about things that I have already given out information about.  My attitude in these discussions is pretty much: “I know that you have enough information to figure some of this out — because I’ve given it to you.  So, use your brain and let me know what you think about the matter we’re discussing.”  The Socratic method brings some people in my classes up short; they will have learned to be comfortable with receiving knowledge passively, and not so much with being asked to participate in critical thinking.  Sometimes I’ll say these things out loud.  And, sooner or later, these guys begin to think, to look at things from new angles, and to have their own ideas.  The surprise of having an idea come out of the collision between raw experiential data and a newly learned rule or principle is exciting, I have to say.  Once they experience that, they’re hooked.

Finally, I think the purpose of an education is to enable one to discriminate between the essential and the superficial.  There are lots of superficial, meaningless, and unimportant data, phenomena, and lore in guitar making — as there are in any endeavor.  There are also things that are gateways, and pivotal.  I help my students see which is which.

Ervin at Woodstock 2010

Ervin at Woodstock 2010

Certainly some of your most ambitious builds are destined to become integral parts of future museum exhibits, and retrospectives on this period in lutherie. How do you think history will remember Ervin Somogyi and his instruments?

It’s likely that my guitars and I will be remembered well, although I don’t know whether this will be in a major way or as a footnote.  I am flattered by the prospect of being well-thought of in the future, to have my work in books and museums, and so on.  It’s also a somewhat irrational aspiration for anyone to have, I think.  It is very much in keeping with the Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, in which one’s life is fixed with a grip of iron on the future, not the present or the past.  The older I get, though, the less sense it makes to me to place weight on what kind of impression I might make on people I’ll never meet.  I mean, of course I’d like people in the future to think well of me; but I cannot really understand why I’d go out of my way to care about that.  The older I get, the less real “the future” is for me.  I mean, let’s face it: I have less and less of that ahead of me.  The people and things I care about are right here and now.

So my answer to your question is not simple.  As I said, I don’t really know how history will remember me.  Anyone who has an awareness of the vagaries of life and society will have noticed that prominent people often sink without a trace surprisingly quickly, unworthy people rise to the top despite all evidence of incompetence or lack of worth, and every now and then someone completely forgotten (or even initially unknown) is resurrected as a significant enough figure in this or that realm to compete with whoever had been the top dog up ‘til then.  My reputation will be somewhere in that mix, I’m sure.  Roman emperors and conquering generals, as they paraded in their triumphal parades through the city in their gilded chariots, were accompanied by a slave whose job it was to whisper to them: “fame is fleeting . . . fame is fleeting . . .  fame is fleeting . . . “

There’s even a joke about that kind of thing.  A vacationer, traveling through Scotland, stops at one of those picturesque, rustic inns up in the Highlands one afternoon.  He goes in, sits down at the bar, and in a few minutes begins to chat with the Scotsman sitting on the next stool over.  As luck would have it the Scotsman is a pretty taciturn dude and conversation is rather an uphill slog.  Then , when the traveler asks the Scotsman’s name, the man pauses a long time, turns, and points out through one of the tavern’s windows and says, bitterly: “do ye see that stone fence out in th’ field over there?  It’s half a mile long.  I built it.  I dug and carried every stone.  I mixed the mortar.  I built that wall straight as an arrow, true and plumb, over hill and dale.  It’s a grand wall, one o’ the best around.  But do they call me MacTavish the wall builder?  Nay!” . . . .    Even more dourly, he goes on.  “And do ye see tha’ brick house over there?  That great big one?  I built it!  I built the walls straight up and true, brick by brick; thirty feet high it is, and fifty feet long.  But do they call me MacTavish the house maker?   Och, Naay! “. . . . .   He goes on, his frown deepening.  “And do ye see that jetty over there, at the water’s edge?  I built that!  I built it with m’ own two hands, put in the pilings, cut the wood, mixed the cement.  I built it straight as an arrow, three hundred yards right out into the water.  And strong!  It’s stood up to storm after storm!  But do they call me MacTavish the jetty builder??”  Naayy, he says, . . . . . . . . .  “But fuck ONE goat . . .  “

So you see, it can be tricky.

The fearless luthier, keeping the streets of Oakland safe from Unresponsive Guitars!

The fearless luthier, keeping the streets of Oakland safe from Unresponsive Guitars!

Second of all — even though this is very undiplomatic of me to say — I’m don’t anticipate giving much of a hoot one way or the other once I’m dead — with apologies to those of you who believe in reincarnation.  While I do value the opinions of my friends and others whom I think well of, the prospect of being well-though-of by, say, a Bostonian of the year 2057 doesn’t do much more for me than the idea of being well thought of by the citizenry of, say, present-day Cazpizapa. (It’s a small town in Peru, where I spent two years in the Peace Corps.  It’s doubtful that anyone reading this has ever heard of it.)

Finally, this being a Capitalist society and all, it does sort of chap my hide that dealers and collectors are going to make a whole hell of a lot more money off my work, after I’m dead, than I ever did while I was alive and trying to pay my bills.  You know what I mean?

Let’s examine a hypothetical situation. A customer calls you, and wants an OM sized body. They fingerpick primarily but also want an instrument with lots of headroom for the times they break out a plectrum. The guitar needs to have plenty of bass, articulate low end, and strong trebles all the way up the neck. They are convinced that they want Brazilian back and sides, but ambivalent about the top wood. What do you suggest? And why?

Well, anyone who has read my books will be able to begin to formulate a good answer to this.  I can’t take as much time and space here as it would take to tell the whole story, but I’ll give you an outlined version of my approach:


OM: The customer is the boss

Fingerpick: This has implications for the use of the right and left hands, and hence the width and contouring of the neck.  I’d take a look at his present guitar and offer to duplicate the neck, or, if it’s not quite right for him, change the neck so that it works better for him.

Headroom: As I explain in The Responsive Guitar, this has to do with openness/bass capacity, even though that sounds simplistic in sound-byte form. We’d also have to discuss optimal string action, and perhaps including some extra different-height saddles.

Plenty of Bass: As I describe in The Responsive Guitar, this has to do with the dynamics and design of both the top and the back: plate thickness, bracing, profiling, tapering, etc. — all in the service of a strong monopole motion of the top. The main thing is to not overbuild, which most luthiers manage to still do. String gauges should be discussed. Air mass comes into play too; so perhaps the client might opt for a larger bodied guitar.

Articulate low end: I’d send it to a private school.  Just kidding.  An ‘articulate’ low end actually has to do with (1) the calibration of the acoustic gradient of the top with respect to monopole response (see chapter 18 of The Responsive Guitar), and (2) building with some of the more vitreous woods.  It’s all just the tiniest bit technical.

Strong trebles & power all the way up the neck: Repeat of the above: careful voicing and calibration of the top plate. Also, engineering of the neck and head block that it’s anchored into. This too is just the tiniest bit technical.  Finally, it’s important to not sand the perimeter of the face too thin; you’ll lose the treble if you do.

Brazilian rosewood?: Why not?  It’s traditional, on the expensive side, acoustically live, and a good investment.  We could discuss straight-grain vs. figured, old-growth vs. stumpwood, etc.

Top wood?: The choices are several.  I devote a whole chapter in The Responsive Guitar to the tonal implications of each.

Anything else?: Well, we’d talk about string gauge, shape and size of neck, ornamentation, string spacing at both nut and bridge ends, action, electronics, tuners, solid vs. slotted peghead, rosette design, basic warmth vs. crystalinity of tone, size of frets, a cutaway, projection, sustain, recordability, balance, and possible other customization — such as an perhaps an espresso spigot on the bass side or a listener’s-side airbag.  J

What are your thoughts on fan frets?

They’re not parallel with one another.

Right: I’m being silly.  If you are asking for the rationale behind fanned frets, it is this: having the bass strings be longer than the treble strings serves the needs of musicians who like to play in open tunings, especially ones in which the bass strings are tuned way down.  Normally, if you de-tune your bass strings on a regular guitar enough you run the risk of having a very muddy low end, or losing it entirely.  What fanned fret arrangements offer is the strategy of starting out at greater initial string tension (at standard tuning), and arriving at a workable string tension when the string is loosened enough to give you your target bass note.  Integrity and frequency of sound have everything to do with string mass and tension, and lengthening the bass strings allows low-frequency response that has a strong enough envelope/presence that it can keep up with the guitar’s other, higher notes.

Otherwise, fanned frets are a more ergonomic arrangement than parallel frets are.  If you stick your barre-ing finger out and move your hand away from your body and back in again you’ll notice that your finger makes an arc as it moves: that’s the same arc that fanned frets present to the hand.  It’s surprisingly comfortable.  It actually takes more muscular effort for the hand to keep the finger locked into a parallel track as it moves up and down the guitar neck.

While many builders discuss the role that a guitar’s top plays in the tone of an instrument, you are one of the few that has explained the back’s function, and the way it responds to incoming energy. Could you please explain your thought on the contribution the guitar’s back makes to the tonal equation, and how variations affect the overall response and volume of the guitar?

Oh, goody: at last, an easy question.  ‘-)

Actually, I may be the only builder to delve into the dynamics of the back, in print.  Who else does so?  I’d start by directing readers to chapter 14 of The Responsive Guitar, which lays out all my thinking on this subtle and complicated matter.  But for purposes of this discussion I think I can provide a simplified answer that’ll be a clever amalgam of half-truths, plausible fictions, wishful thinking, evasions, and outright lies.  Well, I’m kidding about most of these.  Sseriously, though, I’ll be quoting myself extensively from that same chapter 14.  But first, I’d suggest the readers skip down to question 15, about impedance, and read my comments and then come back to this discussion.  Impedance has a lot to do with the guitar back and one should know something about this to understand what I’ll be saying.

Let’s start with the proposition that the guitar back does something besides keep the dust out of the soundbox.  The back is, in reality, an important secondary vibrating plate which works in tandem with the face.  You can easily tell that the back makes a contribution to tone: next time you’re playing your guitar, hold it in the air horizontally by the neck, with one hand, and tap lightly on the bridge with the other.  You’ll get a woody/musical sound as the top thrums to your finger-tap.  Then lower the guitar down until its back rests on your thigh, and tap in the same way on the same spot.  You’ll get a very different sound: it will be muted and damped.  Lift the guitar off your thigh, tap again, and the former live, open sound will return.  In good, sensitive and responsive guitars this difference in tap-response is clear, obvious and even dramatic; in cheap, less sensitive ones it’s not likely to be.  What’s changed is that the back, which was damped when the guitar lay on your thigh, is now free to make its contribution.  The back, obviously, does something audible and, therefore, important: and it does it in response to and in tandem with the activity of both the face and the air mass in between.

This leads to a discussion about the proper construction of the back.  Should one make it so massively solid and heavy that it is inert?  Or so light and gossamer that it practically isn’t there?  Or something in between? And then, how would any one of these structure affect the sound of the guitar?

The answer lies in how these different plates manage incoming energy.  Backs that are so massive as to be inert act as acoustic reflectors, much like the acoustic baffles that are sometimes placed behind guitarists on stage, or the hard facades of buildings that bounce sound away and make echoes.  These reflectors function to redirect back toward the audience sound waves that are otherwise traveling away from it, and thereby increase the amount of sound listeners can hear.  On the other hand, guitars with backs that are sensitive enough to respond to the musical energies of the soundbox will act in concert with the vibrating face in a different dynamic: rather than acting as reflectors, these backs act as diffusers. This has to do with the way in which a guitar projects its sounds, as well as the characteristics of the sounds that are so projected.

We are at an interesting fork in our inquiry, in yet another way.  Obviously, a guitar with a non-vibrating face is of no interest to anyone except possibly a pickup manufacturer or an interior decorator; but some steel string guitars have purposely (or at least functionally) non-vibrating backs and others have active ones, and no one thinks either one of these guitars to be better or worse simply because of this one factor.  Consider: bluegrass flatpicked guitars are held/played on a strap, so that the backs are more or less damped out against the players’ tummies.  As I said, inert backs like that will function as reflectors — at least to the degree that the backs are damped out and thus prevented from being active.  On the other hand, fingerpicking guitars are played in a sitting position that usually allows the back to have its full motion; such backs — if they are not too massive — will tend to act as diffusers.  Far from either one being a failure, these instruments are being used successfully in different ways. And, technically, there’s no reason a fingerpicking guitar can’t be played in bluegrass style, and vice-versa. So, the strictures about the function of the guitar back will be partially dependent on how a given instrument is to be used, not how it was built.

Since the back is usually made of a dense, heavy wood one of the main functions of an active back is to act as a flywheel that catches and stores the top’s energy and feeds it back into the system so as to keep the acoustic activity going.  Just as the weight in the physics experiment that’s mentioned in question 15, once started, will want to keep going even if the motion of the hand stops, the back’s/flywheel’s mass makes it slow to start and slow to stop, and this very quality will enable it “tap the rolling hoop” of the face.  Tops and backs moving with another in this way function as coupled harmonic oscillators . I repeat: this entire dynamic is undermined if the back is so overbuilt as to be functionally  inert, or if it is prevented from vibrational motion by contact with the player’s body, or if it’s made out of a relatively lightweight wood that lacks vitreousness.

Getting back to the primary dynamic of the back — that it obviously does something audible and therefore presumably important, and that it does it in response to and in tandem with the activity of both the face and the air mass in between — means that the thoughtful guitar maker must sooner or later come to grips with the question of what, exactly, should the proper relationship of structure, mass and fundamental frequency of face to that of back, to be?   Popular wisdom is that the back should have a higher tap tone than the top by one or two or three semitones.  Other wisdom holds that the back should have a higher resonance than the top by either two or seven semitones.  This is partially because the back is a denser material than the top and will naturally have a higher tone, and partially because empirical experience has shown this relationship to be valid. But opinions are not unanimous on this, and there’s wide disagreement about everything else concerning the back: thickness, bracing, etc.  For instance, the later Kasha model guitars’ backs are made of redwood and lightly braced so that they have a much lower pitch than the faces.  Presumably, the two-or-seven semitone mismatch from the face in this opposite direction would have the virtue of coupling the top and back plates in a mirror-image-to-the-normal relationship.  But I’m guessing; no one has explained the specific logic or rationale for low-pitched backs to me satisfactorily.  The backs of most commercially made steel string guitars are remarkably alike in construction.  Ovation guitar backs have no tap tone at all.  Torres, Smallman, Hopf, Fox, Martin, Sobell, etc. guitar backs (among others) are heavy; Ruck’s, Monch’s, Carlson’s, Elliott’s and mine (among others) are not. I cannot tell you in a few sentences which approach is “right”; whatever the back does only happens in relationship to the face and its construction, and this relationship has to serve the intended range of sound of the instrument.  It should be paid particular attention to in the cases of open-tuning guitars, in which the tonal range is purposely extended over that of normal guitars.  This may all be a wee bit more technical than you were really curious to know about, by the way, but it’s part of the package.

Finally, the tap-tone pitch of the back is not exclusively a function of how thick it is, nor the specific shaping of its braces, nor where the braces are placed.  It is also largely a function of (1) choice of wood, (2) the volume of the air mass contained inside the instrument and (3) how the back is coupled and connected to surrounding structure.  A larger air mass will contribute to a lower sound.  A reasonably light, delicate back will be more responsive than the chunky backs that one finds on average guitars.  Finally, relatively lightweight woods that have low vitreousness (such as most maples, mahoganies, walnuts and koas) will have a lower tap tone — but a fuzzier, less clearly defined one — than denser and more “live” woods like wenge, padauk and many rosewoods.

Sorry to be so long-winded; it’s just that I have a lot to say about some things.

With Vicki Genfan, on stage -- Woodstock 2010.

With Vicki Genfan, on stage -- Woodstock 2010.

When I am playing with a pick, guitars with narrower diffusion sound more appropriate to me — but when I fingerpick softly, guitars with wider diffusion seem much more appropriate.  How much control does the luthier have over directional projection, and how do you control it?

Hmmmmm.  We’d have to start with what you mean by “more appropriate to me”; that could get us into an interesting discussion all by itself.  I assume, from your question, that you think ‘appropriate’ and ‘directional projection’ are related.  I don’t know how to respond to that.  But let’s go on to the question of the luthier’s control over directional projection.

Let’s start with tapping on a guitar’s face while the back is free to be active, or is damped out — as when the guitar is lying on a couch or sitting in its case, as discussed in the previous question.  The sound of the first will be very different from the sound of the second.  What you’re hearing is the contribution of the back to the tonal mix.

When we tap on a guitar with the back removed from the tonal equation we’re listening to the volume, brittleness, ping, thumpiness, brightness, etc. of the tap itself.  With the undamped back we’ll be hearing the duration of tone as well as specific fundamental frequency.  Tapping on the combination of a well-matched top and back will — even on a guitar box without strings — produce a response that has an echo-like sustain, much like the sustained sound of a shout in a cavern or an acoustically live room. This echo lasts about a second; it is the response of a top and a back that are playing ping-pong with sound energy, batting the air between them back and forth, and serially activating each other.  Once heard, and especially when compared with sound in a “dead” chamber, this quality of liveness is unmistakable.  A “well-matched top and back”, however, aren’t simply two plates that are tuned to such synchronous frequencies.  They do this, it is true; but at least as important is the fact that these plates are constructed to be the most lightly put together things that one can manage.

So: heavy and inert vs. delicately constructed and active.  With these two examples you can grasp the quintessential difference in soundbox architecture that distinguishes a reflector from a diffuser.


Click here to read part 2.

Special thanks to Robert Carrigan for providing photos from the Woodstock Guitar Show.