Behind Bespoke: Michel Pellerin

For fingerstyle guitarists looking for precision and a perfectly balanced blend of tone and cohesive aesthetics, Michel Pellerin builds some of the most sought after instruments.

And it has been far too long since we last had a guitar in from the wonderful Québec-based luthier! But that drought ends today with the arrival of a stunning Grand Auditorium in Mexican cocobolo and bearclaw Sitka spruce. But for folks who want a fully customized Pellerin, we're delighted to add a 2023 slot to help you work with Michel. He was also kind enough to share his thoughts on building custom guitars with us today, digging into what it offers players, and how to avoid the "paradox of choice" element that can come from starting from scratch.

"When I talk with a customer, the guitar is slowly building in my head. I I can draw sketches if needed, but I have a sense of lines and unity. I don't like "patchwork" guitars. Everything has to be thought and put in the right place."

Michel, thank you for chatting with us! First off, how would you define bespoke and what does it mean to you?

It's more or less the complete understanding of musician's needs, to be able to create their dream guitar.

And what does bespoke give a player, that building a spec or stock guitar doesn't?

The feeling that the client already knows the guitar, or feels like home while playing it.

That's a compelling thought! Bespoke typically incorporates aesthetic, playability and ergonomics, as well as specific tonal considerations. Do you find the customers tend to focus upon a specific area within this?

Yes, but there are limitations. The customer can explain what they are looking for about general aesthetic (fancy or plain and simple) , and playability (neck thickness, width, string spacing), but he has to choose the best luthier to deliver specific tonal considerations in the first place. It's the same when you're looking for a nice restaurant... you choose the best based on what you like, but you won't ask the chef to change the recipe he's been working on for years....

How do you interpret what a customer asks for? And how do you put all of these elements together?

I've been a musician myself since I was 5 years old. I understand this language. I've played guitar for 30 years now and I have been building them since 1998. I did repair and setup for musicians since the beginning, so I had to understand many different needs based on the type of music and guitar played. When I talk with a customer, the guitar is slowly building in my head. I I can draw sketches if needed, but I have a sense of lines and unity. I don't like "patchwork" guitars. Everything has to be thought and put in the right place.

That's such valuable experience, and I think that goes a long way in reassuring players that you understand them. Separately, is there one tonewood you always think customers should explore? 

There are many. It's not so simple, but Wenge and Padauk are still terrific but misunderstood tonewoods. Lutz spruce is one of my favorite for tops.

What is it about the bespoke process that takes people out of their comfort zone? 

Having too many options is not always the best. The customers has to explain his needs but he also has to trust the builder. And the builder has to put his own limitation on what he's willing to do.

Yes, it can be overwhelming. What is the scope of specific customizations and requests that you receive?

I have had a lot of weird requests over the years that I politely refuse to do with detailed explanations. But usually, because I'm renowned for great fingerstyle guitars, people just ask for specific woods and width for the neck and bridge. Maybe they have a few ideas for aesthetic, but since I've built 235 guitars up-to-date, they just find on my website or social media the guitar that I made that inspired them. Then we're good to start!

Last but not least...what do you love most about building bespoke? 

Making the musician's dream come true...and usually, making new friends by the same occasion.

Thank you, Michel, for sharing your thoughts and approach with us! Don't forget to check out Michel's gorgeous website...

In addition to a Bespoke slot with Michel, we also just got in a beautiful Mexican cocobolo and bearclaw Sitka spruce Grand Auditorium.

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