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Common Guitar Brands
 

Common Guitar Brands

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

Japanese/Asian Makers

  • Yamaha: This Japanese maker is well known for the quality of its beginner’s instruments. They make a wide variety of styles of acoustic and electric guitars, most of which are copies of popular American models, although a few are original in design to Yamaha. 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 than Yamaha, with lots of “mother-of-pearl” (actually plastic) inlays. They are known primarily for acoustic, folk-styled guitars.
  • Washburn: Originally, Washburn guitars were made by the Lyon & Healey Company in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The name was revived in the 1970s by 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 playable and reasonably priced, they are good alternatives for those who want a Martin-style instrument. They also make classical guitars, including some fine handcrafted models under the Hirade brand name.
  • Ibañez: They are best-known for their reasonably priced copies of popular electric guitars, 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-style guitars, but they are best-known for their folk, acoustic instruments of the sixties. Not quite as celebrated as Gibson or Martin, Guild nevertheless makes dependable and playable instruments.
  • Gibson: The Gibson Company has a long history, going back to the 1890s. After a period of corporate ownership in the 1970s, the company underwent a remarkable revival. Gibson makes acoustic, folk guitars; arch-top jazz models; and the famous Les Paul electric guitar (as well as other electric styles, such as the Flying V). Gibson has imported less expensive Japanese-made instruments that it has marketed under the Epiphone name.
  • Martin: Founded in 1833, this company still makes its guitars in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Martin makes some classical and acoustic-electric instruments, but basically is known for their large-bodied, Dreadnought (or “D”) styled guitars. The gold standard for acoustic players.
  • Fender: Founded in the early fifties by Leo Fender, this company is famed for two guitars, the Telecaster and Stratocaster, as well as its Jazzmaster bass. Like Gibson, the quality of its instruments declined during a period of corporate ownership from the middle sixties through the late seventies, but has recently come back. Original Stratocasters from the fifties are worth huge sums of money.
  • Ovation: Perhaps the most radical of all new guitar designs came from the Ovation company in the early seventies. Acoustic guitarists either love them or hate them. These guitars have fiberglass bodies with a bowl-shaped back, although the soundboard or face is made of wood. The sound hole design is also eccentric, often featuring (depending 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 classical and flamenco guitars.
  • Córdoba: In spite of the name, these traditional Spanish guitars also come from Valencia.

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