Choice and value

The choice of guitars available today is huge. Forty years ago all we had were a small number of well known manufacturers, basically similar but each with individual identities, working in ways that hadn’t changed much in 100 years. Now there are many large manufacturers, dozens of medium size, hundreds of individual makers, and technology has changed everything. The distinctions between small and large scale, between hand and machine work have blurred, changed and now in some cases, reversed. Standards of work and materials seem to be higher than ever, but the issues of quality and identity are still there, residing in places that are often invisible.

It is now easier to inlay a delicate pearl motif into a headstock veneer than it is to make and apply a gold leaf transfer. Even individual “luthiers” can make use of expensive computer controlled machines, laser cutters, infra red ovens and vacuum presses. Traditional hand skills are still plentiful, but cannot compete in terms of accuracy and speed. Information that was once rationed is now easily available, but experience cannot be bought. Quality seems to be high. Value is more difficult to judge.