Yamaha Guitar Development is a custom shop in Calabasas, California, where luthiers build acoustic, electric, and bass guitars for Yamaha artists. The shop is also a research and development facility, contributing to production guitars that are available to customers around the world. In this interview, Senior Acoustic Guitar Builder Andrew Enns talks about his approach to the craft and his collaboration process with the engineers in Japan.
How did you get into guitar building?
Before I started building acoustic guitars, I was building electric guitars as a hobby. Then I got a job building classical guitars and learned acoustic guitar construction from master luthier Kenny Hill. From there, I learned everything I could from Kenny and other acoustic builders I met, then applied that knowledge to my guitars.
What is your approach to the craft of building guitars?
My approach is very traditional. I’m not trying to reinvent the acoustic guitar — I am trying to make a better acoustic guitar. There is still quite a bit of mystery involved with guitar and what makes one sound a certain way and a seemingly identical one sound different.
My goal at Yamaha is to combine my intuition as a builder with the engineering knowledge and technological capabilities from the team in Japan. We’re trying to essentially break the code for total control of shaping a guitar’s sound and applying that to our production models.
How does the research and development at the shop connect to the production guitars that customers can buy?
All new Yamaha models go through the development process before hitting the production factories, and part of that process is building prototypes. The YGD custom shop builds all the initial prototypes for potential new models. We collaborate with the team in Japan and experiment with new shapes, materials, bracing ideas, construction methods, etc., to improve on existing designs and invent completely new ones as well.
What does the collaboration between the YGD custom shop and Japan look like?
I collaborate with the team in Japan on a daily basis. We collaborate to develop new construction methods and building techniques, and then we work together to train the luthiers at our factories who build our production guitars.
Could you pick a favorite guitar that you’ve designed or built at YGD?
My favorite project is almost always whatever I am currently working on. Sometimes I look back and think of a specific guitar that really stood apart from the rest. But mostly, I’m always in the mindset that the guitar I am building now is going to be the best one yet.
Discover more about Yamaha and their custom shop offerings at www.YamahaGuitars.com.