Guitar makers invest a lot of time into honing their craft and developing their stylistic individuality...
Guitar makers invest a lot of time into honing their craft and developing their stylistic individuality.
Over the years, as luthiers grow in skill and personality, their creativity begins to shine through in their woodworking style. Take, for example, the intricacies of guitar headstocks.
As a rule, like in any part of an instrument’s manufacturing process, headstock designs pivot heavily on performance functionality. The shape of the headstock has a significant impact on tuning stability and the way the strings slide through the nut grooves.
With this in mind, check out the following ultra-cool designs that have found the perfect marriage between artistic design and technical perfection:
1. Michiro Matsuda
Michiro Matsuda was born in Nagoya, Japan. After graduating from the Robert Venn School of Lutherie, he completed an apprenticeship under master luthier, Ervin Somogyi.
Pairing traditional woodworking skills with an innovative sense of design and construction, Matsuda builds around 10 to 12 guitars each year at his studio in California. He strives to make instruments that integrate fine materials with organic shapes and graceful lines, like the headstock seen above.
2. Spalt Hybrid Apex 7-String Baritone
Expert luthier Michael Spalt derives his skills from a wide background of artistic forms. He graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1981, followed by further studies at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. Eventually moving to Los Angeles, Spalt began to dabble in the production of guitar bodies and instrument restoration.
After over a decade of honing his skills through more conventional routes, Spalt began to develop new concepts of his own. A sculptural and materials-oriented approach resulted in a hybrid line, combining metal work with woodworking.
The Apex Q727 S Baritone 7-string guitar (pictured above) is a Spalt Hybrid guitar made from black anodized aluminum parts with walnut body wings.
3. OD Rhea
OD guitars are created by luthier and industrial designer, Omer Deutsch. The company specializes in creating extended range guitars for the modern progressive, metal, and djent players out there. Deutsch’s search for tone and unique instrumentation is unending, expressed by his creation of 6-, 7-, and 8-string guitars with long scales, multi-scales, and specially designed features.
The Rhea (pictured above) is the OD brand core signature guitar, born from the need to create something new and modern while maintaining the basic, traditional shape. The semi-acoustic headstock has naturally-shaped geometric holes to facilitate a crystal clear tone -- without interrupting your high gain riffs.
4. Sundlof Guitars: Harpoon Models
The makers of Sundlof Guitars are passionate about creating original, handmade electric guitars. They aim to use the finest materials to create edgy, yet tasteful, works of art that play beautifully.
The Harpoon models offer elegance and ergonomic balance for guitarists that want to stand out and be heard. The goal in creating these guitars was to give players all the benefits of a neck-through body, but with the aesthetics and playability of a set-neck guitar.
5. Equilibrium Guitars Masai Build, Creamsickle
The founder of Equilibrium Guitars is Dave Cohen -- an extended-range guitarist, expert guitar and bass tech, and founding member of the Boston-based metal band, Chuggernaut. With over 20 years in the music industry, Cohen has shared stages with several internationally renowned metal bands, such as Gojira, The Faceless, Within the Ruins, Revocation, Rings of Saturn, and Vektor.
At EQ, it’s the musicians that are the driving inspiration for the form and function of every instrument the company makes. The Masai build (pictured above), their flagship double cutaway model, was designed to be the perfect fusion of traditional craftsmanship and modern tone. The fully carved top and back yield loud, vocal resonance, while leaving enough mass at its center to provide long, smooth sustain.
6. “TAO- KUSANAGI”: The Tao Guitar
Belgian luthiers, Serge Michiels and John Joveniaux, met about 13 years ago in Brussels. The two found so much in common between them in terms of their musical tastes and design philosophies that they decided to set up a workshop together.
Tao Guitars pushes the boundaries of design while seeking the perfect blend of form and function. Despite their highly modernized offerings, their production process is decidedly traditional -- everything (even some of the metal parts) is hand-crafted by the luthier duo.
The “Tao Guitar” (pictured above) is carved from a single piece of selected mahogany. This model is their most sincere tribute to the cultural legacy of Japan’s minimalist arts. The headstock is inspired by the shamisen (a traditional Japanese instrument) and is carbon-layered for stiffness, allowing a “straight to the tuners” string path.
7. Ken Parker Olive Branch Arch Top Acoustic
Ken Parker was raised on Long Island, New York, and has embraced the arts of woodworking since his early 20s. In the early 1990s, he founded Parker Guitars and collaborated with Larry Fishman to design the Fly, an innovative and futuristic electric guitar that used non-traditional materials.
Although Parker sold the company in 2004, he has since been designing and creating highly customized archtop guitars like the Olive Branch (pictured above), which incorporates an adjustable neck, a unique tailpiece, and non-traditional sound holes.
8. David Sanchez, Guitar Deconstruction: Aurhea
David Sanchez is a Spanish luthier that has fully understood the importance of marrying design and functionality. This craftsman’s products hold the Canaria Craft brand, a certification that confirms the quality and commitment of his work.
The Aurhea was a project inspired by a variety of disciplines. From the deconstructivism of architecture, to the synergies of fellow craftsmen like Juan Gil (a jeweler), Sanchez’s idea was to search for a unique form of expressiveness as he deconstructed the rigid forms of a traditional guitar, while maintaining a high quality of sound.
Sanchez is an artist that believes in the emotional interaction between a guitar and the musician, and works to enhance it with his work.
9. Erwin Somogyi (8-String)
Erwin Somogyi was born in Budapest in 1944 and has lived in several different countries throughout his life. Although graduating from U.U. Berkeley in 1966 with a degree in English, Somogyi turned to guitar making in the early ‘70s when he took it up as a hobby. Being a flamenco player, he started off by making flamenco guitars. Over 40 years later, Somogyi is one of the leading American authorities on the principles of acoustic guitar construction and has won many awards for his work.
The guitar pictured above was commissioned by artist Keola Beamer, designed in the way many Baroque lutes were. The “second” head extends past the primary one, so the instrument could have longer bass strings and fuller, lower-pitched notes.
10. Alquier Guitars
Jean-Yves Alquier, the luthier behind Alquier Guitars, has been obsessed with the workings of guitars for over 20 years. His passion for woodworking, drawing and sculpture push him to keep creating a variety of stunning instruments -- winning him the Master Guitar Builder (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) Award in 2015. He believes that although every luthier must know how to build a classical guitar, he/she should not be imprisoned by any one style.
The headstock pictured above illustrates some of his explorations into modern design.
The only thing missing from these fascinating headstocks? Some Ratio® Tuners! With Ratio®, one turn is about one tone change on all strings, making tuning, retuning and open tunings easier, quicker and more intuitive. Click here to learn more.