Anyone who plays guitar professionally or with passion should think about upgrading to a custom handcrafted guitar, which can have much better tonality and durability than factory made guitars. One of Sacramento’s premiere custom guitar makers is Mark Dobbins, who creates his own line of instruments called Dobbins Guitars from his home workshop. Not only does he build guitars, he designs and manufactures mandolins, ukeleles and other instruments. This past week I interviewed Mark for a SacTV.com video series, exploring the nature of handcrafted guitars and how they compare with mass produced assembly line guitars.
Mark likes guitars made by C.F. Martin, which not only makes handcrafted instruments, but has become the model company that many other guitar makers try to pattern their acoustic guitars after. Mark has learned a lot about the art and science of such quality guitars and has applied this knowledge to his own custom work. In this five part video series he explains how he builds his instruments, the nature of what affects guitar quality, how he repairs and restores guitars and how various guitar parts affect tonality. He talks about how even banged up guitars can hold their value as long as they sound nice and are playable.
Originally from Cleveland, Mark moved to Dallas after high school and eventually to Sacramento, which actually has excellent humidity for preserving guitars as long as they are properly stored to avoid extreme hot and cold temperatures. He learned how to play guitar at an early age and has now been handcrafting guitars and other instruments for over a decade. He also repairs and restores instruments for Northridge Music in Citrus Heights, Strum Shop in Roseville and Tim’s Music in Sacramento. As Mark explains, guitars must be handled with care if they are to live long and healthy lives. Mark also works on electric guitars as well as innovative hybrid instruments.
Ukeleles, says Mark, have become extremely popular in recent years because they are lighter, easier to play and less expensive than guitars, which still remain popular as well. In fact, he will be showcasing some of his ukes, along with guitars and mandolins, at a Golden Nugget festival in Sparks, Nevada April 12-13 next month. He says another reason ukeleles have become so popular is due to their bright tonality, earning the nickname "the happy instrument." In his workshop, as the SacTV video series reveals, he has blueprints and instrument bodies laying around that can make any musician marvel at the fascinating process of how these instruments are made. He has even built his own machines for manufacturing the instruments.
So if you’ve ever wondered why some guitars sound cheap and others sound amazing, this video series answers many of those questions. The major factors affecting the sound quality are the types of wood the bodies are made from, the care put into the fretwork, the strength of the neck, the materials used for even the smallest guitar parts such as nuts and bridges and the lightness of the guitar. Mass and weight work against guitar quality, Mark says. One of the most amazing aspects of the manufacturing process is how guitar curves are made by heating wood. Despite his incredible knowledge in building guitars, he says he’s always learning something new about it. He also performs original and cover material at local venues on bills with other local artists such as Ken Koenig and the Taylor Chicks.