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Luthier Focus: Bourgeois Guitars

In this week's Luthier Focus we will be homing in on Bourgeois Guitars and world-renowned luthier Dana Bourgeois. With over 40 years of lutherie experience, Dana is widely known as a master craftsman, playing a prominent role in the American steel-string guitar renaissance for more than 20 years. Known particularly for their voicing methods and application with the finest tonewoods, Bourgeois Guitars provide instruments with a balanced and pure tonal pallet alongside a wide selection of additional features and bespoke appendages allowing these craftspeople to create guitars with unrivalled sonic and visual characteristics.

Located in Lewiston, Maine, Dana has a small team of highly skilled and dedicated individuals. Each year they build just under 400 guitars, ensuring each guitar is made meticulously, with the utmost attention to detail. Dana and his team build guitars for musicians and artists all over the world including Doc Watson, Ray Lamontagne, Bryan Sutton, Ricky Scaggs and many many more...

History

Dana Bourgeois' interest in acoustic guitars was sparked after watching the Beatles' 1970s performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Inspired by Irving Sloan's song 'Classic Guitar Construction', he built his first guitar whilst at the Bowdoin College. Less than seven years later, he had already established a guitar restoration and repair shop and received a commission for a handmade, acoustic guitar. 

During the '80s, Dana began to work with fingerstyle musician Eric Schoenberg, giving him the opportunity to hear, see and repair many rare vintage instruments. This musician and luthier relationship gave Dana the opportunity to respond to Schoenberg's interest in a cutaway guitar. After trialling and testing many prototypes, one of which, built in the early '80s, was the one which went on to be used not only as the Bourgeois 'Schoenberg Soloist' model but also as an industry standard used on endless makes and models of guitars. This escalated into a partnership with C.F. Martin & Co, in which the world renowned 'Schoenberg' model was built. This guitar led to the introduction of the OM model in Martin's regular guitar line - which is now one of the world's most popular models and offered by the majority of luthiers and guitar manufacturers.

After World War II, Adirondack Spruce was massively over-harvested and then became unavailable to use, after being a popular favourite for soundboard for guitars built in the golden age of 1930-1940. Having learned that Maine held some of the largest remaining stands of Adirondack Spruce, Dana independently processed the first Adirondack Spruce guitars in 40 years, reintroducing one of the most popular soundboards back into the industry. 

Furthering the influence which thriving musicians had on his work, Dana received feedback from flatpicking guitarist Tony Rice and set out to develop an incredibly powerful, yet balanced dreadnought. This required Dana to experiment with every possible lutherie element he could including choice of woods, bracing, finishing techniques and truss rods. 

After the success of Dana's previous hand built instruments, he founded Bourgeois Guitars in 1992. He gathered a small team of meticulous builders and was able to apply the knowledge, theories and techniques which he had developed over the past 10 years of working with guitars, tone woods and successful musicians. Working with such a small team of highly trained individuals ensure that there is a superb and consistent level of skill and detail in all of the guitars built, allowing each guitar to reach its highest potential as a bespoke, handcrafted instrument.
Body Sizes
Bourgeois guitars base their designs on traditional acoustic guitar body shapes:
  • Dreadnought - This style features a broad waist with a comparably small upper bout and a deep body. Known for their huge projection and tremendous bass, they are currently the most popular style of guitar for bluegrass and flat-picking.
  • Slope Dreadnought - This guitar is very similar to the dreadnought, yet tends to be slightly wider with a shorter scale length- these are incredibly versatile models supporting a large variety of playing styles. This size tends to suit the fingerstyle player better than a standard dreadnought.
  • Jumbo -This model is the largest within the acoustic guitar family. Jumbo guitars are known for their booming bottom end and dramatically curved body shape.
  • O - This style of guitar was introduced in the early 1920's. It's a medium sized guitar with a thinner waist than a dreadnought and a wide upper bought. These models produce a big sound, with a good bass-treble balance. Typically this size of guitar is great for the fingerstyle player.
  • OO - Similar to the O model, but an enlarged version. This is therefore a louder guitar, yet still well suited to the fingerstyle player.
  • OOO/OM - Shallower in depth than the dreadnought, narrower in width and with a less curved shape. These models tend to have a more mid-focused quality shining through. The difference between OOO and OM guitars is that the OM tends to have a slightly longer scale length. 
  • Parlour - A slimmer, small bodied guitar which joins at the 12th fret. 

Additional shapes

  • L-DBO - This model is based on the OO model. This is also available in a 12 fret model from bourgeois guitars.
  • 12 Fret Slope D - The same characteristics as the Slope D style, yet the neck joins to the body at the 12th fret
  • Small Jumbo - A jumbo model scaled down to give it the same characteristics but in a reduced body size
  • 12 Fret OMS - The 12 fretted version of the OM guitars.

    Guitar Models/Series

    Ultimately Bourgeois are a custom shop and therefore bespoke guitars can be modified to the choice of the player, however they have a series of base designs with their models come in.

     

    Country Boy

    This guitar series features Adirondack spruce tops and mahogany back and sides. Specific appendages of the Country boy guitars are the black back strip, wooden rosette, maple/black purfling and mahogany neck.

    OM Country Boy

    D Country Model

    Vintage
    The vintage series comes with an Adirondack Spruce top, a choice of tonewood for the back and sides, a 'vintage' style rosette and herringbone purfling.
    Dreadnought Vintage

      OMS  Vintage
      The Banjo Killer
      The Banjo Killer features a Bear Claw Sitka Spruce Top, Figured mahogany back and sides, wooden rosette, DB backstrip and mahogany neck.
      Slope D Banjo Killer

      The Soloist
      This series is made with European Spruce tops, and Ziricote body binding.
      Victorian Piccolo Parlour
      Featuring an Adirondack Spruce top, Mahogany back and sides, arrowhead backstrip and signature rosette wood.


      DB Signature
      The DB Signature model features Adirondack spruce for the top, your choice of Signature tonewood for the back, sides and rosette, Koa body binding and the DB backstrip.
      DB Signature D, Madagascan Rosewood & Adirondack Spruce

      Large Soundhole
      Featuring mahogany back and sides, Ivoroid rosette and body binding and a zipper back strip.
      OM Large Soundhole AT- Madagascan Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce
      Whyte Rabbit
      The Whyte Rabbit guitar features an Adirondack Spruce top, Curly Maple back and sides with a transparent white full body colour. This series also comes with an Ivoroid Rosette, Binding and Heelcap.
        L-DBO 'Whyte Rabbit' Acoustic Guitar, Aged Tone Adirondack Spruce & Curly Maple
        For more information on Bourgeois Guitars please do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing us at hello@thenorthamericanguitar.com or calling  020 7835 5597
        Have a great weekend and play lots of guitar!

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