Common Guitar Brands

Monday, November 27, 2006

Guitar makers come and go but there are a couple of name brands that have been around formany decades that are known for the general quality of their instruments. Here’s a partiallisting, with some comments about them.

Japanese/Asian Makers

  • Yamaha: This Japanese maker is well known for the quality of its beginner’s instru-ments. They make a wide variety of styles of acoustic and electric guitars, most of whichare copies of popular American models, although a few are original in design toYamaha. They also make a line of classical-style guitars based on Spanish models.

  • Alvarez-Yairi. This is another Japanese maker that makes a slightly glitzier guitar thanYamaha, with lots of “mother-of-pearl” (actually plastic) inlays. They are knownprimarily for acoustic, folk-styled guitars.

  • Washburn: Originally, Washburn guitars were made by the Lyon & Healey Company inthe late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The name was revived in the 1970sby a U.S. importer of Japanese guitars. They make a reasonably good line of acoustic,folk-styled guitars, as well as electric instruments.

  • Takamine: A Japanese company specializing in copies of Martin guitars. Very playableand reasonably priced, they are good alternatives for those who want a Martin-styleinstrument. They also make classical guitars, including some fine handcrafted modelsunder the Hirade brand name.

  • Ibanez: They are best-known for their reasonably priced copies of popular electricguitars, including models inspired by Les Paul and the Stratocaster.

American Makers
  • Guild: This venerable American maker was founded in the late forties to make jazz-styleguitars, but they are best-known for their folk, acoustic instruments of the sixties. Notquite as celebrated as Gibson or Martin, Guild nevertheless makes dependable andplayable instruments.

  • Gibson: The Gibson Company has a long history, going back to the 1890s. After aperiod of corporate ownership in the 1970s, the company underwent a remarkablerevival. Gibson makes acoustic, folk guitars; arch-top jazz models; and the famous LesPaul electric guitar (as well as other electric styles, such as the Flying V). Gibson hasimported less expensive Japanese-made instruments that it has marketed under theEpiphone name.

  • Martin: Founded in 1833, this company still makes its guitars in Nazareth, Pennsylva-nia. Martin makes some classical and acoustic-electric instruments, but basically isknown for their large-bodied, Dreadnought (or “D”) styled guitars. The gold standardfor acoustic players.

  • Fender: Founded in the early fifties by Leo Fender, this company is famed for twoguitars, the Telecaster and Stratocaster, as well as its Jazzmaster bass. Like Gibson, thequality of its instruments declined during a period of corporate ownership from themiddle sixties through the late seventies, but has recently come back. OriginalStratocasters from the fifties are worth huge sums of money.

  • Ovation: Perhaps the most radical of all new guitar designs came from the Ovationcompany in the early seventies. Acoustic guitarists either love them or hate them. Theseguitars have fiberglass bodies with a bowl-shaped back, although the soundboard orface is made of wood. The sound hole design is also eccentric, often featuring (depend-ing on the model) several small holes in the upper left-hand bout of the instrument.

Spanish Makers
  • Alhambra: Good-quality guitars from the province of Valencia, long a center of classicaland flamenco guitars.

  • Cordoba: In spite of the name, these traditional Spanish guitars also come fromValencia.