There is a difference between acoustic guitar finishes and electric guitar finishes. With electrics, the flashier and more attention-grabbing, the better. For acoustics, there is only a handful of “acceptable” finishes that we all go back to time after time. Maybe it’s because the style is so classic. Maybe it’s because guitarists are stuck in the past (aka, vintage).
Well, the Breedlove 2023 Limited Edition guitars are challenging the whole idea. Each of these stunning Concert models features a show-stopping look that would give the highest-end custom solidbody a run for its money. From our Oregon Concert CE in its Tequila Sunrise fade to this writer’s favorite soon-to-be-released model with a deep-rich Pino Burst, each limited edition guitar is sure to be as collectible as they are beautiful.
When most guitarists think of an acoustic guitar, they’re usually picturing a natural, tobacco burst, or vintage burst finish. Maybe we can throw in black and cherry burst as well. Those five finishes cover the vast majority of acoustic guitars in history, and most see no reason to change that.
But innovation, tradition, art, and the environment drive everything we do. We’re constantly pushing the limits of sound and sustainability. So, looking at the world around us, we thought, “Why not color?”
Breedlove Master Finisher Jade McNair and Wood Management & Product Development Manager Angela Christensen explain.
“One of the things I do here at [Breedlove] is design our colors, and all of my inspiration comes from the beauty in nature,” says McNair. “The first thing I do is pick a scene from nature that draws my eye and imagine how those colors would look on the guitar. I’m also thinking about the layout and whether it should be a teardrop, traditional, or faded burst.”
McNair’s inspiration for the Oregon Concert EarthSong CE Limited Edition
“We are surrounded by inspiring color and patterns,” added Christensen. “From the cool colors of our local [Bend, Oregon] rivers and lakes to the depth of the ocean at the coast. From the vibrant greens and yellows in the forest canopy and underlying brush to the lichen and mosses that cover our hillsides. We experience the warm colors of a high desert sunset and the painted hills in the eastern part of the state. There’s also the beautiful range of color we see during the Fall when the deciduous plants begin shedding their leaves.”
Guitar by Guitar
But it’s more complicated than painting some earthy colors on a guitar. First of all, no two guitars are the same. This is especially true when it comes to adding color to various species of tonewood. Some, like maple, can have a fairly consistent grain and color. But darker woods like mahogany and koa take a completely different approach.
“Our team has a sensitivity to the woods we work with, not only from a tonal perspective but also from a visual perspective,” explained Christensen. “Which tonewood we use determines the ‘color’ of canvas we will build on.
Myrtlewood, for example, can range drastically in color: from light grey to pale yellow, to golden yellow and tan, to pinks and light browns. The color range and patterns vary more than almost any other wood species. So having a sensitivity to this dynamic wood is the basis for how we execute color development.”
After years of crafting some of our finest acoustic guitars from the tonewood, we know what works and what doesn’t. But success still comes down to McNair, his inspiration, and his artistic process.
“I have worked with Myrtlewood for ten years now and have played around with many colors to see how they look on this wood,” he said. “I choose a base stain color and apply it to a cutout. Then apply burst colors to see which looks the best.”
While we love the iconic finishes and designs of vintage guitars, we believe acoustic guitars can also reflect the stunning allure of the environment in which their materials were born. As we see it, crafting beautiful acoustic guitars is a beautiful art form that allows you to create art music. So, why not play a guitar that’s as colorful as the music it makes?