When it comes to instrument design, the nylon-string guitar community’s appetite for change is modest compared to that of the steel-string world. Push the wood choices or decorative elements too far outside the standards set by early Spanish builders like Antonio de Torres Jurado, and a luthier risks alienating players. And yet, some classical makers manage to successfully add unique touches to their concert instruments.
All of the pieces fit together for Greg Brandt when he built this “jigsaw puzzle” guitar for the last California International Guitar Festival (formerly La Guitarra), held in San Luis Obispo in September 2022. “I try to make my show guitars be show-off guitars,” the Los Angeles–based luthier says.
This show-off guitar started with a hunk of super curly black walnut for the back and sides, as well as a rosette comprised of pieces of koa, walnut, tulipwood, padauk, and bog white oak, fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle. “It took me some time to make the rosette happen,” Brandt says. “I had it before I cut up the walnut, and once I did, I knew this was the rosette I wanted to use.”
After Brandt assembled the guitar—relatively traditional with its cedar top, Honduran mahogany neck, 650mm scale ebony fretboard, and 52mm nut—he added matching jigsaw inlays to the butt end as well as the bridge’s tie bar. He acknowledges that he took a few chances in stepping outside of the norm with the jigsaw puzzle motif. “I know from experience that some purists may not like it, but so be it,” Brandt says. “I was able to get what I aim to get out of all my guitars—a bass with a strong fundamental, singing trebles, evenness across and up and down the fingerboard, and a wide tonal palette.”
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.