The Gurian guitar


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Gurian headstock It was back in May 1980 when I bought my Gurian guitar at Servaas' Muziekhandel, a famous music store in The Hague, The Netherlands (it has been closed several years ago, but we all still remember Nico). I immediately liked the traditional style of the Gurian and thought it would be a good instrument for recording. Over the years I tried to gather some information on the Gurian guitar but I wasn't very successful. Things changed however when I did a search on the Internet in 1999...

Some 25 years ago there were only a few important guitar makers, like Martin or Gibson. But acoustic guitars were getting popular and new guitar makers like Bob Taylor and Michael Gurian could easily enter the market. However, unlike the traditional guitar makers, they introduced new techniques and improvements on the concept of the acoustical guitar.

The Neck-Body joint

One of the most interesting details on the Gurian guitar is the neck-body connection. If you take a look through the sound hole of a Gurian guitar you can clearly see that the neck is attached using two wooden pins. There is no glue used at all ! A more detailed description is given in the book "Guitar making: Tradition and Technology", by William R. Cumpiano and Jonathan D. Natelson (Rosewood Press 1987, ISBN 0-9618737-0-1).

Michael Gurian

Michael Gurian was both a major American wood supplier and a builder of some of the most distinctive steel-strings to appear in a long time. Born in 1943, a Brooklynite of Armenian descent, he took lessons on various instruments and developed a fondness for wood. He later studied sculpture at Long Island University, took up classical guitar, and taught music in Roslyn, New York.

With his studio apartment for a workshop, Michael built his first guitar-a copy of a classical made by Victor Manuel Piniero, a student of Velasquez. In 1965 he moved to a three-room shop in Greenwich Village, and with two assistants began building classical instruments. Traditional steel-strings were added four years later, and Gurian introduced his own distinctive body shapes soon after that. The company moved to Bedford Street and then Grand Street, his crew of builders growing to 15. In 1971 he relocated in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, because of that state's favorable business climate. Vintage retailer Matt Umanov encouraged him to build a cutaway, and he did. It became a regular member of the line.
A terrible 1979 fire resulting from a boiler explosion destroyed not only all of Gurian's guitars but also his tooling and machinery as well. After the half-million-dollar loss he rebuilt and grew, recovering with remarkable perseverance from a defeat that would have sent a lesser person back to guitar teaching for good. By late 1979 Gurian was employing over two dozen people and servicing nearly 200 dealers worldwide. In early 1980, with 90 percent of his pre-fire craftsmen still with him, he was looking forward to manufacturing guitars once again.
Gurian's background as an expert with old-fashioned techniques manifests itself in his instruments, whose unusually rounded bodies are most appealing. They combine classical appointments and modern interior construction; the tone is bright and strong. Because of the unfavorable economic climate, Michael Gurian was forced to close his business in the winter of 1981-82.

At this moment Michael still accepts orders for custom guitars. You can reach him at the following address:

Michael Gurian
206 3rd Ave South
Seattle WA 98104

>> See also: The MiniMartin D-35 Project <<

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