Meet the Luthier

Christopher Cozad

Life at a glance

I was born in Portland, Oregon, a city located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, one of the most beautiful regions and most temperate climates in the world. I grew up outside the city in a cedar log home on acreage having a vista view of the western face of Mt. Hood, perfectly framed in my family’s dining room window.

Mt Hood
Mt Hood from my dining room window

The environmental influences of my youth are indelibly imprinted upon my soul. The serene strength of the mountains under a big sky, the metronome of therapeutic rainfall, the whispers of the wind through the evergreens, the babble of the streams and roar of the mighty rivers, the language and songs of the animals both domestic and wild, and the thunderous applause of the Pacific ocean as it’s waters crash into the very walls of the earth...these images and sounds all provoked me to wonder at their marvelous design and stirred the artist and musician within me.

My first guitar was a Stella 4-string, discovered under the Christmas tree when I was 9 years old. We became fast friends.

By the age of 11 I was studying classical guitar on a Lyle nylon string with a wonderful teacher who introduced me to the instrumentals of Paganini, Bach and Beethoven.

I began repairing and, subsequently, building guitars during my teenage years (See one of my earliest guitars in the photo, above). When I was 16, I purchased my first production-built guitar, a brand-new 1976 6-string Guild F-50R Navarre. That jumbo Rosewood and Sitka Spruce guitar took my aspirations of what a guitar could sound like to a whole new level. I grew to appreciate the big, woody sound of those Westerly-built Guilds.

In my late ’teens and early 20’s I was performing with some combination of someone else’s guitars or my own hybrid inventions in clubs, hotel lounges, and dinner houses throughout Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, and Mexico. It was during this time that I found myself exploring sounds and techniques on my guitars that would later come to be known as fingerstyle guitar. As a player of a particular calibre, I came to understand that my ear was demanding more guitar than I could afford.

By my late 20’s I had neither a musical career or the life of a guitar maker, but rather a new family and the beginnings of a woodworking and design company. I supplemented my efforts of those days with software engineering, a skill that took me all over the world, all the while yearning to get back to serious guitar building. I was afforded the opportunity to own and play many, many guitars. Decades later I realized that, quite by accident, I had compiled a veritable encyclopedia of sound.

In 2004 I began building again in earnest and subsequent years found me studying the methods and techniques of luthiers who began their journeys around the same time I had, but had gone on to become some of the foremost guitar makers in the world. I am honored to have been able to spend precious time with these skilled builders who have been so willing to share their love for the art of lutherie with me.

These days I am afforded the honor of building the guitars I want to play. I love a sumptuous acoustic guitar tone, one that floods the senses, inspires new music and makes the instrument difficult to put down. I want to hold a guitar that wants to be held, that rests easily in my lap, is responsive to my touch and supplies anything that is requested of it. I want to create a memory with my guitar and that is the kind of instrument I build.

From the Archives

Kent Carlos Everett
May 2013

A Week with Kent Carlos Everett

Spending a week with master luthier Kent Carlos Everett has been a life altering event, and taken my guitar building to a whole new level. I am convinced it would be impossible for the most callous and jaded luthier to walk away from a time such as this un-changed...

George Gruhn
Apr 2013

A Guild and George Gruhn

A great bunch of folks from the Let’s Talk Guild forum had gathered in Nashville, Tennessee in April 2013 for a chance to see and play some great guitars, swap stories and build camaraderie. As a result of that event, and a phone call placed by a dear lady from Texas, Ms. Toni Hynds requesting a special tour, I was privileged to spend a Saturday with George Gruhn...

John Greven
Dec 2012

A Saturday with John Greven

The days right after Christmas provide for a particular time of reflection. The somber realization that another year is winding to a permanent close is replaced by the anticipation for the celebration of the new year about to begin. It was during this special time in 2012 that I was able to spend a Saturday with master luthier John Greven...

Spotlight

James May Ultra Tonic Pickup
Dec 2017

The Ultra Tonic Pickup

I recently received my first shipment of Ultra Tonic pickups from James May Engineering. James is also a partner in Audio Sprockets, creators of the ToneDexter (see my article on Pickups and Gamechanging Technology). The Ultra Tonic for steel string guitars is a passive, brideplate-mounted, 5-transducer pickup with on-board feedback suppression. A nylon string version is also available...In this article I install the pickup into my 1976 Guild F-512...