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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.