Greg German, Luthier
I am an artist by training, (a Medical Illustrator to be more precise). I graduated from Baylor University with a B.A. in fine art, and from UT Southwestern with an M.A. in Biomedical Communications. My grad school thesis was a 3D computer animation exploring the physics and physiology of the inner ear. I enjoyed doing medical animation and looked for opportunities to do more. This led me to a job in Ames, Iowa at Engineering Animation, Inc.
At EAI I did medical animation for pharmaceutical ads and anatomy CD-ROMs for a while until the company started producing games. I became a character animator and modeler on games for Warner Bros® and Hasbro®. Using 3D software to model realistic looking organic shapes is almost like sculpting with clay, but the clay is on the other side of the computer screen. The difference is that you get to see the end result, but you can’t hold it in your hands or put it to use without a computer. I longed for something more tangible than an image on the screen. While I worked there, a friend got me started building vintage-replica guitar amplifiers in the search for perfect tone. Woodworking was another outlet, and I started building furniture.
After 4 years at EAI, the company closed the entertainment division and my wife and I came to Colorado. I took a job at the Art Institute of Colorado teaching computer animation. My interest in building musical instruments grew stronger, and I built a solidbody guitar. The concept of a carefully sculpted ‘model’ that doesn’t simply look beautiful, but instead sounds, feels and responds beautifully…now that was gratifying work.
Soon afterward I made the leap and quit my job to become an apprentice in Edward V. Dick’s repair shop. For several years after the apprenticeship, Edward and I collaborated to produce a line of steel string flattop guitars under the name Victor Guitars.
I now have a large basement shop in my house in Broomfield where I build and do guitar repair by appointment.
My medical illustration training has ingrained in me an attention to detail that I now apply to lutherie. I am still a computer modeler, and computer animation allows me to experiment with different instrument designs before they are built. It also is helpful in communicating my ideas to clients.
Greg in the Fretboard Journal
I worked in the repair shop at the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada for about 8 years. Repair work might seem like a lesser skill to the layman, but it is often more difficult than building something from scratch. If you are observant, years of working on both good and bad instruments will teach you a lot about successful design, troubleshooting, and fixing inevitable mistakes. I have made parts and jigs for many other guitar makers in recent years along with freelance finishing work on other luthiers’ instruments.
I have spent years weighing the relative merits of different guitars and found things I love and things I really hate. I’m not a guitar factory, and the instruments I make are different than a factory guitar. Factories make money by moving more units, and they use machines to crank out thousands of identical parts with amazing efficiency. I use some of the same machines, but more as a way of doing intricate procedures than to create an assembly line. To me, each guitar is a living, functional sculpture and not just a product.
One more thing – if you have any interest in rock climbing, check out my guiding website here: EldoPrancer.com