Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ryan Thorell - Thorell Guitars - Luthier Profile

 Posted on: December 14, 2011

Ryan Thorell- Luthier at Thorell Guitars
Builder of Custom “Hand Tailored” Archtops, Electrics, Nylon Strings, Dreadnaughts- Most known for Archtops.
Built first guitar electric guitar age 13 Years
Endorsed by Frank Vignola- Jazz and Gypsy Jazz guitar- Frank says about Thorell Guitars: “They are great and getting better”
Studied Jazz guitar and woodworking in College
Apprenticed 8 years with various craftsmen including  acclaimed cabinet maker Chris Gochnour, Tim Gonzalez, Joel Nowland, and studying privately with Tom Ribbecke
Hand carves and personally constructs each guitar.
Custom Builds to order, some spec guitars and concept guitars available direct or select dealers.
Major Influences: Lloyd Loar, John D’Angelico, Antonio Torres, Johann Stauffer.
Quote: ““I try build with honest intention in each moment.”
I talked to Ryan from his shop in Utah. I had read some about him and I knew Frank Vignola, one of my favorite guitar players today, is playing a Thorell guitar. Ryan was very passionate about guitars. Noticeably, he is expert at handling wood and understanding how to select wood and “hand tailor it” for the desired sound, ergonomic and stable; resulting in an exacting instrument. Most of our discussion focused on how he chooses wood and tunes it to the specific instrument.
Ryan says he caught the guitar building/ luthier bug rather early. It was around at the age of thirteen, when many guitar players start. From my experience teaching it is the same time most kids can physically handle a standard size ax. It was the same time as he started studying guitar at a local music store.  “There was a great Luthier there, Tim Gonzalez… and I watched him make a very intricate neck joint” he explains. So impressed, Ryan eventually took lessons from Tim in guitar building and repair. He also feverously continued to study jazz guitar. Tim Gonzalez helped Ryan make his first electric.  But his passion for building guitars had yet to fully develop.  He enjoyed working with wood but he was set on playing music for a living.
He went to study jazz guitar and woodworking in college.  Out of college he apprenticed with renowned furniture make Chris Gochnour. Interestingly, many of the Luthiers Axvault has profiled also have had a background in woodworking -other than creating guitars.  Ryan says he learned from Chris “how in a small shop (you can) build effectively and efficiently without retooling”.  I asked him about how being a jazz guitarist influences how he builds? As a player I understand “the intricacies of the feel of the fret, shape of the neck, the plume of a note, how it attacks and dies”.
He adds that he does not have any particular tone woods he likes to build with.  In the past he states, there were only a few tone woods to choose from. There was Brazilian rosewood, mahogany, spruce and maple and a few others. Now there are “so many small wood suppliers and the scarcity of these traditional varieties” (it has) “changed the mindset of many builders”. The “different types of wood, different properties of the wood influence the build” he states. Ryan seemed to relish the potential of the vast varieties of woods and what he could create from them.
Unlike many of the factory builders, he is not just trying to reproduce a Les Paul or a Strat, but he gets to try anything he or his customer can dream up, maximizing the tone potential of each piece of wood. “I try to build with all of my experience at each moment”he says referencing the master Luthier Ervin Somogyi.
As you can gather, Ryan is passionate about tone woods. As we stated before “the wood influences the build” he adds. He seemed to delight in the potential of the wide selection of tone woods available. “Brazilian rosewood is not the Holy Grail. It is a great wood and has made many great instruments. But at the recent Woodstock Luthiers Invitational Festival, several people told me that a guitar with Douglas Fir back and sides was the best sounding. (If I had known that I would never have thrown out my last few Christmas trees). Port Orford Cedar and Oregon Costal Myrtle (which he has been using) have awesome tonal properties” he added.
I asked him how important the species of tone wood is compared to stiffness and other factors.  Emphatically he said “It is less important than the conditions… where it grew… and conditions it grew (under)”.  It is “most important how the wood responds, (how) it plays out modally (resonate)… (on) the sound board”.
The difference between a factory build guitar and a custom Luthier is guitar is “huge” he explains.  I can fit the guitar “ergonomically” i.e. the scale, nut width etc. to each buyer.  “I can get” as close as you can to the “customers tonal idea”.  Each piece of wood is hand chosen and individually tuned. “If I buy 100 Sitka spruce (blanks) the range of material is vast”.  I can sort through and choose only the “excellent” pieces of the “right” thickness.
Ryan finishes his guitars in nitro-cellulose, French polish, and oil varnish if requested. “Nitro is a classic finish that does improve tonally as it ages, and if sprayed thinly it can produce a mirror surface without hampering the sound of the guitar”
What you can expect from a Thorell guitar.  A personally tailored, individually tuned instrument built to exacting specifications.  When you get one of his spec made guitars, like the Frank Vignola model. (Total shredder) You can get a guitar he has carefully constructed using his years of knowledge and instinct. You can expect each guitar is built from the best sounding, painstakingly selected, “proper thickness” for that wood blank.  People will be “blown away” by the difference you get from Luthier built instruments. He also added that the difference you get from a Luthier guitar and the many builders working today, it makes these guitars relatively cheap. I can agree, but every time I ask my wife if I can get one, she always mentions the Gucci purse she wants too. Either way, I am still saving for one.  Check his work out at and recent Tommy Emmanuel’s guitar too. Prices start out @$3900.00 on up.
Also Call 435-713-9507

LINK to the AxVault article shown above:

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