Monday, June 22, 2009

Guitar Manufacture -- China As The New Korea And Beyond

In the mid to late '70s, if the price of a US-made guitar was out of our reach, Japanese companies like Ibanez, Greco, Aria, Hondo et al offered the next best thing at a fraction of the cost. These Japanese instruments were aethetically identical copies, and they were well-made.

By the 1980's, the Japanese guitar companies had embarked on innovative and original designs that expanded and improved upon the tried and tested iconic American instruments. The country was in a technological and manufacturing renaissance and guitar-making was at its peak -- long forgotten were the connotations of inferiority associated with the words 'Made In Japan'.

By the early to mid-90's, rising labour costs in Japan meant that many Japanese brands began to outsource their mid to low-end models to factories in Korea. High-end US guitar companies like Hamer also moved production lock, stock and barrel to Korea while maintaining only a small custom facility Stateside. Gibson resurrected their once-flagship Epiphone brand in a new incarnation as a budget line of guitars and started making high-quality renditions of their Les Paul and Sheraton models in Korea.

And it always amazed me that Epiphone Korea could offer such amazingly figured flame-maple tops on their Les Pauls.

Korea soon also began manufacturing their own household guitar brands, most notably, Cort, probably with new-found guitar manufacturing technologies borrowed from Gibson's Epiphone.

By the early 2000's, low to middle-end guitar manufacture had nearly all but moved to China. China is now where Korea stood a decade before as the go-to place to set up a guitar factory. Even Yamaha who has had a guitar manufacturing plant in Kaoshiung, Taiwan since 1970, has moved operations to the mainland.

With China's burgeoning economy and rising labour costs, it could be less than a decade or so when guitar brands seek out other shores for lower-cost production -- and already we're seeing glimmers of Indonesian-made instruments making their appearance.

And Indonesia may well be the next force to be reckoned in the world of musical instrument manufacture, given their long cultural history in woodworking.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...