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Bourgeois Guitars

 

Dana Bourgeois of Bourgeois Guitars is a central figure of the 21st century steel-string acoustic guitar renaissance. His tireless obsession with isolating the factors that made vintage guitars great, and then refining and improving these designs for modern players, has resulted in some of the finest instruments of our time. His first success was a subtle reinterpretation of the Martin Orchestra model. When he asked the veteran bluegrass virtuoso Tony Rice how to make his dreadnoughts sound better, Rice suggested that he make them sound, “more like his OMs”.

 

  

Three distinctive features of a Bourgeois guitar are the quality and specificity of its woods, its top voicing, and the bolt-neck joint. Dana selects his tonewoods very carefully, determining what model they would be best used for from grain structure and stiffness ratios. He was one of the first luthiers to determine the advantages of using the same species of Spruce harvested for the coveted pre-war Martin guitars, Adirondack Red Spruce. He has also embraced the modern practice of torrefaction, which accelerates the long-term drying process, resulting in an “aged” tone.

 

  

When the wood has been chosen, Dana and his small team of luthiers in Lewiston, Maine pay careful attention to scalloping of the soundboard bracing. By balancing the bass and treble sides of the guitar top, they are able to create instruments with incredible power and dynamic range. They also set the neck to the body with a bolt, which allows for easier customization without compromising the translation of vibration.

 

  

Bourgeois Guitars currently makes about 400 guitars a year, and it is an honor to receive some of them at Midwood Guitar Studio. We custom order most of our inventory based on the preferences of our clientele, often picking out specific pieces of wood in Maine. Give us a call today if you have any questions about the different models and packages offered by Bourgeois, and let’s build you an heirloom quality instrument.

 


Contact us for more information, or stop by our shop in Charlotte and check out what’s in stock.

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About Bourgeois Guitars

Dana Bourgeois is perhaps the most significant luthier in the modern acoustic guitar renaissance. He effortlessly imbues tradition with innovation, consistently producing instruments that are both iconic and unique. While many builders start with a specific design in mind, Dana begins by deeply considering the tonewoods he has available to determine what kind of guitar they would like to be. An especially clean, responsive piece of mahogany might perform brilliantly on an unadorned Generation-M, while a dark, tight-grained piece of Ebony may prove ideal for a Soloist . He doesn’t just listen to the woods, however. He mines players for insights, too, taking careful notes on how different guitarists respond to his instruments. After all, the most important feature of any luthier or musician is not their hands, but their ears. 


After teaching himself how to build and repair guitars, he got his “big break” designing what would become the modern OM in collaboration with C.F. Martin under the banner of Schoenberg guitars (the guitarist and dealer who introduced Dana to virtues of vintage instruments). Martin first introduced the 14-fret “Orchestra Model” in 1929, but it fell out of favor over the years with players preferring the larger dreadnought designs. However, as pickup systems got more accurate and sophisticated, acoustic guitarists became less concerned with sheer volume and started to appreciate the balance and control offered by mid-sized instruments. Dana noted this trend and further adapted the design to modern sensibilities by adding a smooth Venetian cutaway. 


Dana’s OMs became so popular that when he asked Bluegrass legend Tony Rice to critique one of his dreads he said to make it sound “more like his OMs”. To accomplish this, Dana scalloped the bass side of the X-brace more than the treble, thus increasing the string to string balance without compromising the forward thrust and volume that characterizes the body style. By heeding the advice of the master guitarist, Dana was able to bring the dreadnought into the 21st century by increasing its articulation in the higher registers. 


Not afraid to deviate from tradition, Dana was one of the first luthiers to embrace an alternative to the dovetail neck-joint. His bolt-neck construction makes his guitars much easier to work on, and he is adamant that this design doesn’t sacrifice any tone. On the contrary, the ease of adjustment allows the player to dial in the perfect setup, which one could only assume would improve the overall sound. 


He was also one of the early proponents of the re-introduction of Adirondack “Red Spruce” into modern guitar building. He recognized that the tops on many of the coveted old Martins were actually a different species than the now-standard Sitka. Scientific measurements have proven that Adirondack has the highest stiffness to weight of any of the spruces, making it the perfect top-wood for players who want more volume and bite. To this day he continues to explore and experiment with different tonewoods from across the globe. 


More recently, Dana led the charge in the torrefaction of tonewoods. This technology was originally developed by contractors in northern Europe who recognized that by cooking their wood flooring prior to installation they could increase its stability in cold climates. By doing this to guitar tops, Dana is able to build new guitars that sound like they have already been aged to perfection. Of course, they still need to vibrate, but the chemical side of “breaking them in” is already taken care of.