Frequently Asked Questions
About Acoustic Guitar
Who Makes Top Quality Acoustic
There are a lot of
custom guitar manufacturers. Here is a list of the more popular
and respected names in the art and business of producing hand-made
acoustic guitars, plus a few of the smaller, "up and coming"
Luthiers. For a more complete list see, Jason
Nieh's Guitar Notes.
Fabrizio Alberico makes guitars that possess
the responsiveness, balance, dynamic range, and complexity of
tone that fingerstyle players demand. He works on no
more than two guitars at a time, and yearly production is limited
to 18 instruments. He is minimally "jigged up,"
allowing him to easily accommodate individual players' needs and
preferences for neck shapes, fingerboard widths, scale lengths,
and string spacing. His guitars possess a
tastefully understated aesthetic. Rather than relying
on inlay for embellishment, he carefully selects and
uses materials in a way that emphasizes their inherent
- Allen Guitars
Randy Allen began repairing
stringed instruments in 1980 and in 1982 built his first guitar.
Over the years his love for the craft has expanded to include
Mandolins and Resophonic Guitars. His hand-crafted
instruments offer beauty, combined with exceptional tonal quality.
Every Allen instrument is individually hand-crafted.
Nothing is mass-produced. The hand carving of the braces,
the painstaking and careful construction process create a
signature sound that we are sure you will love.
Superior performance is evident in the full rich tone and the
beautiful string to string balance will inspire you throughout a
lifetime. All models feature high quality tonewoods,
air dried, aged and individually selected for each instrument.
Instruments, owned and operated by luthier and repairman, Jerry
Nolte, has been producing hand crafted stringed instruments since
1971. Jerry specializes in customizing his hand-built
instruments to fit individual musical preferences and playing
styles at affordable prices. Guitar selections include six string,
twelve string, tenor and bass. Mandolins are all 'A' style.
Traditional in many design considerations, EMI guitars and
mandolins have the look and feel of individually crafted
instruments. Clients participate in standard option
selections such as wood, body size, string spacing, action, and
decorative appointments used. Wood choices include many that are
native to the Pacific Northwest. They are resawn from selected
stock, air dried and graded at EMI in Cove, Oregon. Jerry's
preferred finish is a hand rubbed violin varnish. Each
instrument comes with a guarantee for customer satisfaction, sound
and workmanship. Custom hardshell cases are available for all
instrument is made from the highest quality tone woods, premium
soundboards, beautiful inlays of shell and wood, all finished in
high gloss lacquer. Top braces are scalloped and incorporate
an advanced x-brace to enhance the clear, ringing sound of every
note and chord while developing outstanding volume and
projection. Construction practices ensure that the full
character of each instrument will be realized.
James A. Olson ("Jim") has been handcrafting acoustic
flattop guitars since about 1977. His instruments began
getting national attention in the mid 1980s, after Phil Keaggy
commissioned the first cedar-topped Olson guitar and began playing
Olson guitars almost exclusively on his acoustic albums. In
the early 1990s, James Taylor purchased three of Jim's guitars;
through Taylor's visibility, Olson guitars became known and prized
by a wide variety of players around the world. Today an
impressive number of well-known players in styles spanning
fingerstyle to bluegrass to pop are proud Olson owners, including
Leo Kottke, Russ Barenberg, Sting, and many
others. But most of the 60 or so guitars Jim is
able to build each year go to players of less renown, although of
perhaps equally discriminating taste!
- Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan began his life of woodworking early as a
carpenter in Ohio, graduated to cabinet-making and eventually
building fine custom furniture. The qualifications and
talents for a craftsman with old-world attention to detail drew
Ryan ultimately into the aerospace industry. The task of
crafting exacting, intricate models in wood and steel to test in
wind-tunnel laboratories became an important stepping stone for
this blooming luthier. Considering the aesthetics of
guitar design and form, Ryan is a traditionalist.
Although new shapes will emerge in the years to come, the one and
only model Kevin currently offers is adapted loosely from the
beautiful Gibson J-185. Examples of his attention to
detail are evident inside and out. Although the body
silhouette is rather traditional, Ryan has stamped his
individualistic imprint on many areas of this model he calls the
Mission Grand Concert. From the elegant Olsonesque
headstock to a dramatic, highly arched back (with other Ryan
touches too numerous to describe), this guitar is really of its
Gerald graduated from East
Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in
Industrial Technology. He went on to work for 10 years as a
designer and 10 years as a quality management consultant for a
large chemical company. Gerald understands the subject of quality.
He has applied it to his guitar making processes and it shows! But
he also knows that you can't automate time honored
craftsmanship! That's why Sheppard guitars are as beautiful
to behold as they are to hear and are made of best quality
Gerald has been repairing
and refinishing and building guitars for twenty years. He started
building exclusively in 1993. Owning a fine instrument from the
time he was a child has both spoiled and trained Gerald's ear for
And then there are
the Resonator guitars, which vary in construction. Some are
metal bodied, while others are wood. These instruments
were first created in the era of the Hawaiian and Jazz Bands, prior to
electrical amplification. All sorts of musicians, Hawaiian, jazz
and blues, wanted louder guitars: to be able to be heard alongside
horns; to project out into music halls or smokey night clubs; or, to
be the loudest guitar on the street corner. In
response to this need, the mechanically amplified resonator guitar was
created. Here are two of the top manufacturers for these unique
- Allen Guitars
Randy Allen began repairing stringed instruments in 1980 and in
1982 built his first guitar. Over the years his love for the craft
has expanded to include Mandolins and Resophonic Guitars.
His hand-crafted instruments offer beauty, combined with
exceptional tonal quality. Every Allen instrument is individually
hand-crafted. Nothing is mass-produced.
- Beltona Resonators
Beltona is a New Zealand based maker of high quality
resonators. Beltona is a partnership between Steve Evans and
Bill Johnson that began in the UK in 1990. Beltona is a
small and highly specialized enterprise which relies on the
individual and complementary skills of these two people who are
committed to the uniqueness of each instrument and to the
development of resonator instruments generally.
Gibson Musical Instruments acquired O.M.I. in 1993, and since then
O.M.I. has brought together all the best qualities of the original
wood body and metal body resonator instruments, plus new models
designed for slide guitar playing, into a modern line that offers
a DOBRO® guitar or bass for every musical style and taste.
- DONMO Resonator Guitars
Don Morrison is an Australian based builder of very affordable
single and tricone resonators. In Don's words
"I've always wanted a shining, loud, magnificent metal bodied
Dobro or National guitar. After more than twenty years of playing
bottleneck style guitar I decided to make one myself. So began a
process of experimentation and research that has led to the DONMO Resonator Guitar."
- Johnson Resonators
Both of these brands of resonators are owned by the German company
AMI-GmbH. These instruments are made in a number of
different factories depending on the model, but most of these are
now made in factories in China.
Liberty Guitars is a Florida based maker of affordable resonators.
Republic reso-phonic line of instruments are made by hand, using
the same materials as used on the original reso-phonic
guitars of the late 1920's. The style and methods of
construction are also the same. The sound and
playability are as close as you can get to that of the original
National Resophonic is dedicated to re-creating the look, the
sound and the feel of the old Nationals and, in addition, creating
new looks and louder sounds than ever before. These
instruments are used by slide players and finger-pickers in many
musical genres: Hawaiian, blues, country, bluegrass, folk and