Culture & Art

Feb 29, 2016

The perfect sound

To achieve the perfect sound and feel of an acoustic guitar takes years of preparation and training. Heir to the tradition of handmade acoutic guitars, Michihiro Matsuda produces only a dozen instruments per year, with the care, craftsmanship and passion it truly requires.

Michihiro Matsuda moved from Tokyo, Japan, to California, USA, in 1997 to fulfill his dream of becoming a guitar builder. He enrolled in the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, where he made such rapid progress that at the end of the course he was chosen to apprentice with the respected builder Ervin Somogyi, the only student in his class that year to achieve that honor.

Matsuda further refined his craft studying with the innovative luthier Taku Sakashta. He also studied guitar restoration with the well-known instrument repairman Frank Ford. Matsuda spent about three years in Somogyi's shop honing the guitar making skills he learned at Sakashta's shop and at the Roberto-Venn school. He credits Somogyi, Sakashta, and Ford with helping him understand the structural complexities involved in hand building acoustic guitars. Matsuda is especially thankful to Somogyi for showing him the meaning of craftsmanship, and most importantly, teaching him the subtle art of making wood sing.

In 2002 Matsuda opened his own workshop where he uses traditional woodworking skills to craft guitars with an innovative sense of design. He draws his inspiration from nature, and he strives to make the peghead, body, bridge, and cutaways shapes harmonize in an organic way. But Matsuda is not just making guitars to appeal to the eye. He realizes that guitars are first and foremost tools to play music, and so he devotes as much time to the tone and playability of his instruments as he does to their appearance. Michihiro Matsuda was drawn to guitar making by his love of music and he hopes that his instruments will inspire guitarists to greater creative heights.

Michihiro strives to make instruments that integrate fine materials with organic shapes and graceful lines. Each of his guitars is unique, personal, and individual, even if it is one of his basic models

According to the builder, "the guitar is the tool of the performer. Good guitars enable anybody to express themselves musically and artistically. But I start to think that guitars are not just the tool to make music, they are more than that.  In the process of making the guitar, the wood becomes a musical instrument. I am the person who puts the voice into the guitar, and with my creative visual and sonic design choices, I am expressing myself artistically as well. My custom instruments not only meet the technical needs of the player; they are also personal creative works from my imagination."

Each guitar takes, at least, three years to begin construction. The luthier is flexible with materials and custom orders, but optional features will be reflected on the instrument's price.

The base model Matsuda guitar features a Sitka spruce top, Indian Rosewood body, a simple rosette and is a non cutaway instrument. Matsuda guitars are especially well-suited for finger-picking, however whatever the player's style is, the luthier can make custom guitars which fit his or hers type of music.

And as each customer's needs are unique Matsuda will work with the client to choose the neck size, scale length, soundboard tuning, set up and any other details that will make the guitar perfect. Every Matsuda guitar is uniquely built for each client.

All guitars made by Matsuda have a limited lifetime warranty tied to the original owner. The bulder can fix defects in materials and craftsmanship, as long as he remains in business as a luthier. This warranty does not cover any damage due to extremes of humidity or temperature, alterations or modifications, accidents or improper handling and misuse, and normal wear and tear.


There are three choices of body sizes for steel string guitars, Style M1-modified OM size, Style M2-modified OO size, and Mini-modified Parlor size.

Matsuda also offers two body shapes for nylon strings guitars. Essentially the same size as classical guitars, they are "crossover nylon string guitars". One shape he uses achieves a well-balanced guitar with a full tonal body and the other shape delivers a quick attack with a percussive sound.

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