Visit to Brian Monty

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by stan p, Aug 6, 2008.

  1. stan p

    stan p Member

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    About a month ago I went on a drive to visit Brian Monty, an extremely talented luthier from Ontario, Canada.

    I had a chance to spend a couple of hours in his house and play some awesome guitars that he has built over the years (Brian has been in this bus. for 31 years now!). No I would like to share with you some of this experience. It is hard to communicate over the internet how good a guitar is, how it sounds and feels and reacts to playing technique.

    Unusually we are using terms such as clarity, richness, power, note separation and ... my favourite - dynamic that are supposedly very good things to have in THE ideal guitar that everyone wants.

    The problem is - you cannot really know how these descriptive terms translate into your own real playing experience, therefore ending up with a lot of money spent on hype-of-the day instruments that do not really work for you.

    As much as possible, I will try to give objective description of Brian's guitars. The first highlight is versatility. I play many different styles and often switch between electric guitar and classicals, selmer macaferri jazz guitars and sometimes oddities like guitars tuned in 5ths and MIDI guitars (Step DGX).

    I use both pick and fingers. Everyone who combines two techniques, knows that on most electric instruments, some adjustment is required to switch between fingers and pick playing - worst case - changing strings, best case adjusting the volume and tone. Not on Brian's guitars! I played 4 of them on that day - 2 LP style Bluesmasters, 1 acoustic flattop and 1 335-looking guitar called 'Blues Queen". This guitar is featured on Brian's website. All of them made the transition from pick to fingers absolutely seamless. Basically there was no loss of dynamics range and expressiveness as I was switching to finger style playing.

    All guitars had very pleasant tone. It is almost impossible to describe tone of electric guitar in words without misleading 100s of people. I will try to use a reference point that people will probably be abe to relate to. I am sure most people played Taylor acrostics. Many of these have this characteristic spruce tone, that many refer to as Taylor tone. Somehow Brian’s' guitars sound like a mix of that acoustic tone with a lp-335 type of tone - all in one note. I am sorry if this description is confusing.

    Basically every guitar that Brian built can pretend to be a jazz archtop with proper amplification and eq or even a pure acoustic guitar. You could literally record them un-amplified and get a nice OM-style tone to tape!

    All the guitars I played were very light in weight, I guess, due to woods chosen and chambering inside, that also creates that nice acoustic like ring. There was none of this annoying midrange that is just excessive in some hollow bodies and chambered guitars.

    I strongly recommend Brian Monty's instruments if you are looking for a master-grade instrument capable to support multiple styles and playing techniques - kind of Swiss army knife guitar.

    For me this is it. I found the ideal instrument that works perfect for what I do on guitars. Brian is working on my new 7-string that will have 25.5 scale, tone chambers and spruce top.

    Stay tuned for the tone report due in September.

    Also If you are considering an order and would like to learn more about Monty guitars and what they feel, play and sound like, will be happy to share my experiences with you.

    Stan
     
  2. Guitarpentry

    Guitarpentry Member

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  3. pickslide

    pickslide Supporting Member

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    I love my Bluesmaster and thinking about a Blues Queen. Cant go wrong for $2500 for a 100% hand made guitar.

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  4. stan p

    stan p Member

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    That cherry Blues Queen Brian stole my heart:) It looks like 335, but the sounds I find much jazzier & blusier. The real 335 by contrast sounds more like a rock guitar. In my opinion the Blues Queen is an archtop killer for gugging situation as I cannt think of better sound for jazz guitar. It will easily do Jango as well Wes as well as GB. I feels a bit bigger than 335 and much lighter.

    The 7 string that I am getting is a hybrid between Bluemaster and Brian's own Tonemaster design. Brian called it 14 incher. Basically a chamberred LP, that is bigger in every category including, size, thickness, scale and number of strings.

    Cannot wait for it to arrive.
     
  5. stan p

    stan p Member

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    No ... unfortunately. I can only guess how it may sound based on my experience with Brian's other guitars. According to Brian, in his own words 'it sounds like a grand piano'. This coment usually stands for a fine balance between fulness and clarity ...

    My 14 incher is heavily inspired by the Tomemaster ... I will let you know what it will sound like once it is ready. The Tonemaster is a very thick guitar - 2 inches thick I believe.
     
  6. ssdeluxe

    ssdeluxe Member

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    yes ! I have, it left a huge impression on me! was a gr8t guitar, large 2 inch body, with flat back/arched top, crisper/brighter than a typical jazz gtr with more sustain, so you could do the jazz, but you could also do gretsch/335/ whatever !...very very cool gtr.

    . I highly recommend more folks check Brian out. No affiliation, just love the honesty and purity of these guitars.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2015
  7. trap

    trap Supporting Member

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    i played a couple of his guitars at parkway music in clifton park, n.y. and i really loved the chambered les paul. immediately comfortable. great tone. great guitars from a dedicated builder.
     
  8. satilight

    satilight Member

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    Great to see credit to Brian for his excellant guitars. I got my first archtop off him in 1984. Very sweet sounding and easy to play. Had him make a flattop for me in 1986-- A cutaway the size of a sj200 with rosewood back and sides and of course the Monty neck. The next one was a New Yorker size archtop that would punch through anything. In 1989 I had him make me a guitar I designed, a fully hollow archtop only 2" deep without any F holes, floating pickups , two gibsons paf's and out of a walnut tree my grandfather planted. What an awsome guitar. Instant response and a tone not as bright as maple but soft and clear. I believe the flattop Stan P tried out at Brians was mine as it is there getting some touch up work done on it. You can't go wrong on any of his guitars.
     
  9. stan p

    stan p Member

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    100%! I was told it was in for service! What a capable guitar you have. It is just the kind that you can play the whole night seamlessly switching styles and not feeling a need to switch guitars. I just could not put the thing down. You took a great care of it too.
     
  10. satilight

    satilight Member

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    Picked it up from Brian yesterday. Sure have missed it. If interested, you might like to try the last one he made for me that I designed. It would probably settle in your mind on what you would like. It is awsome.I'm in the North bay area so not that far. Satilight.
     
  11. 57special

    57special Silver Supporting Member

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    Hey, aren't you from Hamilton? I think you were at my house to buy a BFSR, and brought along a great sounding ES345 to try it out in.
     
  12. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    Would love to bump this thread. I just sent an email to Brian Monty asking about a single cut tobacco-burst Jr. style guitar with a wrap around tail piece and a single p90.

    Any one else have experiences, thoughts, pics to share.
     
  13. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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  14. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    Wow. That's gorgeous!
     
  15. stan p

    stan p Member

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    Very cool! Is it chambered?
     
  16. jiml

    jiml Supporting Member

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    Nah, its a 59 replica he built for a buddy of mine, I bought it a few years ago..
     
  17. stan p

    stan p Member

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    looks like a very spiritted axe!
     
  18. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    Well, my order is in. I should be seeing my Monty Jr. in about 3 months.
     
  19. stan p

    stan p Member

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    It will be built at the same time as my king size 7-stringer. We just revised the spec to make the body larger and longer by 1 inch:)
     
  20. yrtemmys

    yrtemmys Member

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    I'm excited for you guys having just gone through the Brian Monty experience myself. Looking forward to hearing about the results...

    After 15 years of playing, and years of searching and trying different guitars I decided to look for luthiers on the internet. I came across Brian
    Monty's name several times and there was a lot of positive feedback out there going back many years. I had tried one of his LP's over ten years ago in a Toronto store and it had stuck in my mind for a long time, fantastic guitar but just didn't have the cash. After finding his site, I sent Brian an email, talked on the phone about some of my ideas and went to visit him last December.

    That day I played three of his own guitars, probably the same ones mentioned earlier; the Bluesmaster (Chambered LP type), a Bluesbilly (goldtop LP type with P-90's and a Bigsby) and a Red BluesQueen (ES-335 type). All great guitars, the BluesQueen is very sweet, but the Bluesmaster got my attention and I commissioned one to be built over the winter.

    The Bluesmaster Brian made for me just blows me away. The sound characteristics of the guitar are amazing, it is a musical instrument. I play alot of weekend warrior type stuff, blues mainly, a bit of jazz/blues, (or blues/jazz..), some country efforts, with some Allman Brothers moments and some heavier things and it works well in all types of situations. The dynamic range of the instrument is superb. Acoustically, it is extremely reponsive with lots of richness and character, and loud (as were his other guitars that I tried). I've had to learn to ease off as my old guitars forced me push, but this thing just oozes thick tones with ease, and she'll howl as well when you need it. I had to reduce my recording settings as the volume was substantially higher than my old #1. You can play soft, you can play loud and the guitar just gives you tons to work with, it's a real pleasure to play and makes me sad that it has taken so long to find one like this.

    Process wise, Brian was very responsive to my requests, we exchanged a few emails at various stages to confirm some of the details or just quick updates on progress which I appreciated. For example, he customized the neck to my specs (~22mm at 1st fret, 1 5/8" at the nut) based on elements of my favorite guitars. We also talked about the finish and he selected a great top to go with the subtle look and burst colour I was looking for (I sent him some example pics as well). He also mentioned other mods such as reducing the chambering depending on what kind of sound you are after but I decided to go with the 'normal' chambering he developed. Given that, it is a very light guitar which is a pleasure for long jam sessions and lugging around. It has a nice balance with a strap on or sitting in your lap. It also sits a bit higher in your lap owing to the wider midsection (the shape is slightly different than an LP) which I like so I'm not hunched over as I was before with my LPs.

    In terms of quality, I second many other Monty reports in that the guitar is immaculate. Well it was when I got it, it's covered in sweat and the odd scuff now from hours of playing. For you lacquer junkies, the finish is thin. In some places you can almost make out the pores of the wood that are just lying underneath. The hand carved top is gorgeous, and the blending of colours are just perfect to bring out the subtle figure in the top.

    For those on the fence with respect to custom builds, the process is not for the faint of heart, but it is well worth it if you know what you want. For me, I'm really happy I decided to go the custom/luthier route with Brian as he was very easy to deal with and responsive to my requirements and the result is fantastic.

    From the price perspective I'll add my $0.02. For the same price as a standard LP, you get a custom guitar to your specs that to my hands, ears, and eyes is on another level from the historic/VOS/custom shop I've managed to lay my hands on. On top of that, being involved from day 1 is a big rush, and I envy the guys going through the experience now because it's bloody exciting.

    Anyway. If you've stumbled across this page, it's probably because, like me, you're not satisfied with what's out there on the racks at the local Guitar-Mart or Bob's Used Guitar Emporium (I'm pretty sure Bob keeps the good ones for his close associates anyway). Anyway, good luck finding what you're looking for. Check out Brian's website and give him a call to talk about what you're looking for. I'm glad I did.

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