Friday, April 18, 2008

The Newport at Miami Beach Guitar Festival

Or: "What I Did With My Long Weekend Before Jury Duty..."

I spent the weekend of April 11th at The Newport at Miami Beach Guitar Festival

I shot a ton of video! Below is a link to my playlist, there's about ten videos there now, and it will grow pretty much daily as I get them processed. Paul Asbell and Al Petteway are both current/former Swannanoa Gathering ( instructors, for those of you familiar with the "Gathering" that I go to every year (Al Petteway is the Guitar Week coordinator).


  • Least expensive of the custom luthier guitars: $3400
  • Most expensive: a Benedetto archtop - $40,000
  • Most expensive one I played: $33,000 (Ryan Dragonfly with custom Deco period inlay - video forthcoming)
  • Personal Favorites:
    Oriskany's parlor model, Sugita Kenji, Kevin Ryan, Erich Solomon, Schenk, Charis (looks, not sound), Benedetto, Linda Manzer (Pat Metheney's luthier), MacPherson, and Brunner Guitars (check out their Outdoor line; it comes apart at the neck to go into a REALLY teeny case, goes back together, and doesn't go out of tune significantly! and they sound great! They are $800-$2000, but aren't really "custom handbuilts", they are more factory-oriented, though you can custom order one. A bit pricey for the sound, but unmatchable utility!

The average guitars in the custom luthier area ran between $8,000 and $12,000. There were some $2700-$3500 S-series Breedloves that were every bit as nice as the five-figure custom stuff.

Why does a luthier charge $6000 for a custom guitar? Well, *some* of it is materials; for example it costs a luthier about $3000 to buy enough Brazilian Rosewood to do a bookmatched back and sides. There were no guitars with Brazilian that were under about $8,000. On average, from the folks I talked to about it, a $4000 guitar is about a grand in materials, and the rest is labor; they literally can take months to complete, and hundreds of man-hours. A luthier turning out 12 guitars a year (like Oriskany Guitars, will usually have 3-4 guitars going at a time; in various stages of completion.

A luthier turning out 12 guitars a year and selling them for $4,000 - $6,000 is not by any financial definition a wealthy person. Johanna and Curtis of Oriskany Guitars live on Curtis' parents property, in an apartment above their 600 sq. foot workshop. But their guitars are simple, elegant, and spectacular; in fact thier 50th guitar, a small parlor model ( was my absolute favorite of the custom models to play, and it was somewhere about $4300. (A relative bargain, right?)

Fun stuff!!

1 comment:

Illuminated Spirits said...

You are so lucky to have gone to the Newport guitar show in Miami, and especially to get to meet the Oriskany luthiers and play the new parlor model. I own and play Oriskany guitar #8 and it is an absolute gem - by far the best sounding guitar I've ever touched!