Dedication to the progression of the craft is the crux of Breedlove’s existence. 2017 marks twenty-five years since the acoustic guitar craftsmen debuted their first five models, and since then Breedlove has come to be known the world over as an innovative, passionate brand whose master luthiers have a single-minded goal: satisfy the hands, heart, and soul of the musician.
“We’re not trying to be ‘anything for anyone,’” said Devin Percell, Breedlove’s global sales manager. “We’re trying to create purpose built instruments.” From the unique Breedlove American Guitars built in Bend, Oregon to the incredibly versatile Breedlove International Guitars, these instruments are purpose-built, targeted towards certain types of players. And while they may have started with guitars, Breedlove Bass Guitars expand musical possibilities with their own unique flavors and provide exciting new voices for solo musicians and bands alike. Ultimately, when it comes to all of Breedlove’s instruments, everything from the implementation of design to body style and bracing patterns are all geared towards specific styles of musicians.
To illustrate Percell’s point, one need only look at the long list of Breedlove-loyal virtuosos, which includes singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb, Honeytribe founder Devon Allman, and Jeff Pilson of Dokken and Foreigner, to name just a few.
A big part of Breedlove’s branding has always been about being known as a company that shifts paradigms, trying to break the acoustic-guitar mold that was created in the nineteen twenties and thirties. Their craftsmen’s mission is to advance the art of making guitars, rather than trying to recreate a design that was made popular decades ago. While other guitar manufacturers try to copy such industry forerunners as Martin and Taylor, Breedlove strives to create new styles that are unlike anything else on the market—as demonstrated by their Concerto body shape, a style that aims to exceed the big sound of typical dreadnought shapes while offering a more comfortable playing experience.
The original notion behind Breedlove was conceived long before the company’s inception in 1990. In the late nineteen eighties, Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson, the company’s founders, both worked for a well-known guitar manufacturer, but the duo had their own ideas about how instruments should be crafted.
Ultimately, in order to execute their ideas, Larry and Steve had to break away from the traditional guitar manufacturers and start their own company. The premise: create the most dynamic acoustic guitars possible! In order to produce the distinctive Breedlove sound, their early prototypes implemented two crucial elements that set the standard for the brand, even into modern day. The first was a graduated top thickness, which is slightly thicker on the treble side to produce a cleaner, more balanced tone. The second is a unique bridge truss system that allows the top wood sustained flexibility without sacrificing stability. These two components, available in many Breedlove models, enable the superior sound for which the company is known.
Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson established their company in Bend, Oregon in 1990 and unveiled three body shapes and five models at the 1992 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade show. Two years after that debut, they convinced Larry’s brother, Kim Breedlove, to join the effort. Kim, an accomplished luthier himself, brought with him an artistic strength that added a huge amount of capability to the company. Within just a short span, Breedlove grew to be a formidable contender in the acoustic guitar market and added a line of mandolins to their ever-increasing catalogue.
Today’s Breedlove hasn’t strayed from Larry and Steve’s original vision, to create artistically crafted instruments that are each as unique as the individuals that play them. All of their guitars are still designed in Oregon and though the brand has grown, their craftsman mentality has not changed.
For the last twenty-five years, Breedlove’s goal has always been to make distinctive sound by way of meticulous design and handcrafted instruments. They continue to look to the future with the exact same drive and passion as their innovation continues to push forward. In 2017 they will debut their “Big Sound” instruments, the incarnation of years of research and experimentation with various body shapes and tonewoods.
“The overarching concept is that every piece of wood is different; every tree is different, even each part of a tree is different,” explained Percell. “It’s really hard to take a guitar and just build a series to spec with the same top thickness and same dimensions and expect consistency.”
Though the concept is fairly simple, the execution was not. The goal was to use modern technology to understand how the varying top wood moves, and then engineer each top to get the best response from each particular instrument.
Breedlove set about studying the variable densities within each exotic tonewood that they use in their guitars—a diverse assortment that includes Adirondack spruce, cocobolo, Brazilian rosewood, Honduran mahogany, and even kauri from New Zealand. To complicate matters, each individual tree can have up to thirty percent variance in density, even when cut in identical dimensions.
What eventually came of this research was a new body shape that provided a vehicle for a breakthrough technology in acoustic guitar manufacturing, which Breedlove refers to as “sound profiling.” Rather than ignoring the variance as many other manufacturers do, Breedlove has embraced it—and while it makes for a more complex process, it also allows for a more consistent sound.
While the details of sound profiling are quite involved, the method itself is interpretable enough: Each unique soundboard is analyzed via a computer program to find the exact thickness required to reach a specific frequency. The top is then matched with a back that, in conjunction, achieves not only an ideal weight, but a target frequency that results in clear, clean, and precise sound.
Breedlove has already implemented their sound profiling technology to twenty-five different models, spanning body shapes like Concerto, Dreadnought, Parlor, and others—all of them made to specification in the US, at their Bend, OR workshop.
Breedlove’s pursuit of experimentation doesn’t end there. Studies in smaller sound holes have produced guitars that add texture to every note through increased air compression, creating extreme resonance and clarity.
As Percell put it, “The whole entire body is just alive.”
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About the Author - Freddy Charles
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