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Luthier Focus: Ryan Guitars

Say the name Kevin Ryan and the whole of the guitar world stands up to listen, whether that is a player or a fellow a luthier. Kevin has been at the forefront of innovative guitar design since the early '80s and has developed, produced and designed many of the ergonomic and sonic features that we know and love on the guitar today. But this incredible innovation is not just in 'our world' of custom shop luthier-built instruments, many of his designs have been replicated and are now seen in almost all of the ‘mainstream’ brands such as Taylor, Fender Acoustics, Martin, Faith…the list goes on. A great luthier (who shall remain anonymous) once told me that many of the big brands visit and monitor the boutique guitar market and shows, as R & D (research and development) for their own mass-produced product line. Did we see arm bevels, rib rests and beveled Venetian cutaways to name a few on guitars under £2,000 6 years ago? I don’t think so. And luthiers like Kevin Ryan (along with many other such as Grit Laskin, Linda Manzer, to name a few..) are the reason why these designs are seen in the mainstream today.

In this week’s Luthier Focus we dive into the incredible Kevin Ryan of Ryan Guitars…

The man behind the guitars…

Kevin Ryan 

The seed for Ryan Guitars was planted at Christmas time in Southern California. 1984. Kevin Ryan—an Ohio-born cabinet maker and furniture designer—had recently taken a job in the thriving California aerospace industry, designing fighter jet models for transonic wind tunnel testing.

 

On this particular Christmas, Kevin received a book from his wife called, Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology. The book explored techniques for building a steel string guitar by hand. A hand-made steel string guitar was still a relatively new concept in the 1980s. A handful of independent luthiers around the world had originated methods for doing this over the previous two decades and created a cottage industry for handmade steel string instruments from scratch. But the majority of steel string guitars made in North America had always been turned out by factories—familiar names like C.F. Martin, Gibson, and Guild.

The book Kevin held in his hand contained some of the founding insights of the burgeoning independent guitar-maker’s movement. Immediately, Kevin knew he wanted to be a part of it.

 

For the first few years Kevin was building guitars, it seemed like he was putting in 100 hours of work every week. He’d work days at the wind tunnel, constructing scale prototypes of emerging aircraft designs, then hurry home, have dinner, and spend long evenings constructing his first guitars. As the worlds of aerospace engineering and guitar-making converged, Kevin would consult colleagues on the most advanced ways to ensure the strength and responsiveness of the guitar body. Engineers normally tasked with outlining strength-to-weight ratios for stealth bomber wings were giving input on the design of guitar bracing systems, bridge design, and neck placement. Kevin Ryan’s dreaming and collaboration with his aerospace colleagues first coalesced in 1987 with the first production model Ryan Guitar: A fingerstyle, OM/OOO-style guitar with a powerful acoustic voice—the Mission Grand Concert.

 

Years later, Acoustic Guitar magazine would describe the Mission as one of the most influential guitars of the last thirty years: “A blueprint for scores of other builders” and “a modern classic.” The success of the Mission confirmed the shop Ryan shop’s burgeoning culture of seeking inspiration outside the guitar industry to conceive some of the most advanced acoustic guitar designs in existence.

 

2017 marked the Ryan workshop's 30th anniversary...

 

The Design and Innovation that sets them apart…

Core Ryan Innovation:

 

For thirty years, Ryan has pushed the acoustic guitar toward the pinnacle of design efficiency to reach the next level of comfort, refinement, and acoustic response. 

 

Engineered Laser Cut Bracing. Strong and light for an exquisitely responsive soundboard. Plus Acoustic Honeycomb. Eliminates plate distortion and further reduces soundboard mass for iridescent tone.

 

Spherically-Arched Back. Combines the focus and comfort of a standard body with the powerful acoustic voice of a deep-bodied instrument.

 

The Ryan Bevel. Provides the ultimate ergonomic comfort for long performance sessions. With Acoustic Flutes. Situated on the Ryan bevel, these elegant sound ports direct and reflect sound from the guitar’s interior toward the player’s ear.

 

Custom Machine heads. Super 510 tuners, in black or gold chrome, feature an 18:1 gear ratio for precise stay-put tuning.

 

Low Profile Neck. Our proprietary micro-adjustable truss rod supports an ultra-rigid yet slim neck shape. With Extended Scale Length. Facilitates responsive string tension while the guitar is set in alternate tunings.

Precise Intonation. Oxbone saddle with CNC-milled string compensation is set in a reduced profile bridge to maximise clarity and volume.

 

Each Ryan guitar is furnished with abalone shell or wood marquetry details, fitted with custom titanium bridge pins, and coated with a brilliant UV diamond-gloss finish.

The Guitars, The Models, The Sound...

Abbey Grand Parlor:

  • The most intimate model size offered in the Ryan Guitars lineup.

  • Extended scale length delivers more volume and presence than traditional small-body guitars.

  • Larger-than-normal projection and consistent, clear articulation up and down the fretboard.

  • Versatile as a casual, at-home guitar or play-out performance instrument.

  • Suited for fingerstyle, ragtime, blues, light strumming, and singer/songwriters.

Specifications

  • Extended 25.5" Scale Length

  • 9.50” Upper Bout / 14.00” Lower Bout

  • Total Length: 38.50” / Length of Box: 19.50”

  • Depth at head block: 3.80" / Tail block: 4.80"

  • Standard Nut Width: 1.75”

  • String spacing at bridge: 2.25”

  • Venetian cutaway option

Paradiso Grand Concert

  • The contemporary update to our original Mission model – famous for its sweet trebles and even sustain.

  • Balanced string-to-string clarity and separation.

  • Consistent, clear articulation up and down the fretboard.

  • Suited for fingerstyle, single-note lead, light strumming, jazz, and singer/songwriters.

Specifications

  • Extended 25.7" Scale Length

  • 10.50” Upper Bout / 15.25” Lower Bout

  • Total Length: 40.50” / Length of Box: 19.625”

  • Depth at head block: 3.80" / Tail block: 4.80"

  • Standard Nut Width: 1.75”

  • String spacing at bridge: 2.25”

  • Florentine or venetian cutaway option

Nightingale Grand Soloist

  • The most versatile Ryan model – featuring articulate bass, iridescent trebles, and warm, sustaining tone.

  • Balanced, string-to-string clarity and separation.

  • Consistent, clear articulation up and down the fretboard.

  • Equally suited for fingerstyle, single-note lead, strumming, Celtic ballads, open and lowered tunings.

Specifications

  • Extended 25.7" Scale Length

  • 11.00” Upper Bout / 16.00” Lower Bout

  • Total Length: 41.75” / Length of Box: 20.50”

  • Depth at head block: 3.80" / Tail block: 4.80"

  • Standard Nut Width: 1.75”

  • String spacing at bridge: 2.25”

  • Florentine or venetian cutaway option

Cathedral Grand Fingerstyle

  • The Ryan largest model size.

  • Avante-garde box shape features the comfort of a smaller upper bout with the voice and projection of a larger, lower bout.

  • Extraordinary baritone bass and remarkable sustain.

  • Consistent, clear articulation up and down the fretboard.

  • Equally suited for fingerstyle, single-note lead, strumming, open and lowered tunings.

Specifications

  • Extended 25.7" Scale Length

  • 11.00” Upper Bout / 16.60” Lower Bout

  • Total Length: 42” / Length of Box: 20.75”

  • Depth at head block: 3.80" / Tail block: 4.80"

  • Standard Nut Width: 1.75”

  • String spacing at bridge: 2.25”

  • Florentine cutaway option

 

Just arrived & in stock Ryan Guitars...

Ryan Nightingale Grand Soloist

Striped Macassar Ebony & Sitka Spruce

£12,495

  • Nightingale Grand Soloist 
  • Serial No. 930
  • Master Grade Walnut Back and Sides
  • Master Grade Sitka Spruce Soundboard
  • Ebony Binding, Including Ryan Bevel with Acoustic Flutes
  • Florentine (Sharp) Cutaway
  • Inlay Upgrade Package 
  • Paua Abalone Soundboard, Fretboard, and Headstock Purling
  • Paua Abalone Rosette with Outer Circlet
  • 25.7” Extended Scale Length
  • 1.75” in. Nut Width
  • Gotoh 510 Black Chrome Tuners with Black Buttons
  • Calton Flight Case (White Exterior, Blue Interior)

Ryan Nightingale Grand Soloist Wengé & Engelmann Spruce

£9,995

  • Nightingale Grand Soloist
  • 1.75" Nut width
  • 25.7" Scale length
  • Wengé Back and Sides
  • Engelmann Spruce Soundboard
  • Venetian Cutaway
  • Ebony Binding Theme
  • Black Tahitian Soundboard Purfling
  • Wide Rosette; Ebony with Paua Purfling Ghost Fretboard Inlay (Complete Inlay);
  • Paua and MOP Super 510 Machine Heads with Ebonoid Buttons and Embossed "R" Logo
  • Innovation Suite (Ryan Ergonomic Bevel with Flutes, EO Bracing, Acoustic Honeycomb, Ryan Micro-adjustable Truss Rod System, Titanium Bridge Pins and A5 "Racing Stripe" Kerfed Liner)
  • Calton Flight Case

Ryan Nightingale Grand Soloist

East Indian Rosewood & Torrefied Bearclaw Sitka Spruce

£10,995

  • Nightingale Grand Soloist 
  • Serial No. 955
  • East Indian Rosewood Back and Sides
  • Torrefied Bearclaw Sitka Spruce Soundboard
  • Venetian Cutaway
  • Inlay Upgrade Package
  • Green Paua Inlay Theme
  • 25.7” Extended Scale Length
  • 1.75” in. Nut Width
  • Calton Flight Case

 The NAMM Show 2019

One of the things we most love about visiting guitar shows around the world, including The NAMM Show, is having the chance to hang out with our friends and luthiers like Kevin Ryan. Kevin has to be one of the nicest people on the planet and absolutely hysterical to boot...I hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did filming it.

For more information on Kevin Ryan and Ryan Guitars please do not hesitate to contact us on 0207 835 5597 or email us here.

Have a great guitar playing weekend...

Ben

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