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Guild of Quality

  02/23/11 08:01, by , Categories: BFMN Exclusive, Dan Grigor, Review, NAMM 2011, NAMM 2011 Music , Tags: dan grigor, f-412, guild guitars, namm 2011, review, usa standard

There is something about Guild guitars that I have been trying to put my finger on for a long time. I think I may have found out just what it is that makes them special: a tradition of passionate craftsmanship. There is an Old-World feel to a guitar that is made with the attention to detail of a true craftsman. You can use the same materials, automate the process and make guitars that look like a Guild…and many have. Some even sound good, because making the right choices in materials alone can help make a good guitar. What you can’t replicate is the “feel.”

Click through for a video from the Guild Guitars booth at NAMM 2011

The history of Guild starts in 1916, when the Dronge family left Poland, moved to Paris, then came to New York City. The story evolves into the American Dream. Avram “Alfred” Dronge spent his childhood in the music stores in Manhatten’s Park Row, where he eventually opened his own successful music store. A hard worker and particularly astute businessman, he sold his store in 1948 and made a ton of money dealing in accordions, of all things.

One day in 1952, Al’s friend George Mann said, “Hey, why don’t we start a guitar company?” Another pal of Al’s, Gene Detgen, thought it was a swell idea and suggested the name “Guild.”

In 1953, a small ad appeared in the April issue of Musical Merchandise magazine, announcing the new company:

A new corporation, known as Guild Guitars Inc., with headquarters at 220 Fourth Ave., New York, N.Y., has been formed to manufacture high-quality guitars, including Spanish and Hawaiian electric — solid wood body electrics, amplifiers, cases and strings.

The rest, as they say, is history. In 1968, they introduced the F-412 as a high-end custom 12-string guitar available only by special order. They were snapped up and became so popular that Guild made it a part of their line in 1972. Since then, it has quite literally become the standard by which all others are judged.

I played one at the NAMM show and talked with Dave Gonzales (Guild Product Manager) about what it is, exactly, that makes an F-412 sound, play and look the way it does. He explains it well, but I think we agree that there is an element of the Guild process that is impossible to imitate and even more difficult to articulate. The combination of the passion, the craftsmanship and the highest-quality materials proves that “A Tradition in Tone” is more than just a marketing tagline. It is the mantra they live by, proven everyday by the sound of thousands of Guild guitars “singing” their praise.

Dan Grigor playing the Guild F-412 at NAMM

The F-412 I played was a beautiful sunburst model. The things that catch your eye from across the room are the classic Guild “Jumbo” body shape and the impeccable sunburst finish. The finish is so deep you can hear echoes off of it and for a big guy like me the jumbo fits under my arm like it was born there.

Comfortable the first time you tuck it in, the big body is well- balanced and sits on your leg just like you want it to. With the arched back you can really feel it in your tummy when you play it. I like that. The neck is a little narrow for my long fingers but then all but the widest of classical guitars feel a little small in my hand.

The curves of the neck are very comfortable and well proportioned. The scale of the neck is perfect for its body. It made me feel like even long stretches were within reach. The frets are finished smooth and are just the right height off the top of the neck. The bone nut, saddle and bridge add a warmth that you don’t get from plastic or composites. The heel’s curves fit my hand well and transitions well into the body. The sound hole is placed well and large enough – the volume coming out of there is quite simply astounding. Well-balanced across the spectrum, the sound of the bass is rich and warm, mids are bright and the highs are brilliant without being tinny. The overall sound from near or far is such that you can make out every string with none of the octave strings too high and no rumble in the bottom end.

A little pricey, perhaps, for the consumer but it is, without a doubt, the choice of professionals in the industry for a stage-quality and road-worthy 12-string guitar, and the collectors’ got-to-have-it pick of the litter.

The USA Standard Series is the next-best option for consumers and we learn all about them from Dave in the video. The jumbo 12-string sounds almost as good as the F-412 and feels much the same to play. Some of the options in wood and finish allow budget-conscious players to find that happy medium between owning a top-of-the-line model and being able to justify the price to your significant other.

Check out the video for all the choices; you’ll get to hear me play the F-412 and you can judge its voice for yourself.

We had a great time at the Guild Booth playing a short set, talking with Dave and seeing all the new models for 2011. If you get a chance… strike that… make it a point to go down to the store and play a Guild guitar. If you are looking for a workhorse to take on the road or simply want to own an affordable well-made American guitar with the tradition of tone that Guild has, now is a good time. The USA Standard series is an exciting new addition to the tradition.

Thanks Dave! See you next year.


This entry was posted by and is filed under BFMN Exclusive, Dan Grigor, Review, NAMM 2011, NAMM 2011 Music. Tags: dan grigor, f-412, guild guitars, namm 2011, review, usa standard

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