Bracing patterns. They’re kinda like opinions and as…..errr…..rectums: everybody has one. To add even yet another variable to the mix, many players approach the purchase of their next instrument with a preconceived notion that a particular bracing pattern will yield a particular set of results. I was once on the consumer side, so I once was just as guilty of this.

Flashback to a time @23 years ago, when I visited a guitar dealer with a very large selection of guitars by many luthiers past and present. There were 2 guitars by ><. One guitar was braced in a very traditional fashion, while the other had very radical and “modern” bracing. This >< had recently told a publication the reasons for his radical and modern innovations. In this interview, he used all of the buzz words associated with modern lutherie at that time: “Louder”, “better projection”, “separation of voices”, “increased sustain”, etc. After playing a few dozen guitars, those preconceived notions were still in my head a bit when I got to those 2 guitars built by  ><.  So imagine my surprise when the modern braced guitar built by  >< was rather quiet, dull, lifeless, and overall very uninspiring, while the traditionally braced guitar built by  >< had a beautiful voice, impressive volume, and a projection that seemed to permeate every corner of the room.

To be fair, there were plenty of guitars in that showroom that day that had modern bracings that were very impressive…..and there were plenty of guitars that had traditional bracings that were very impressive. Not to mention, there were plenty of guitars from both camps that were rather lifeless and uninspiring. I came to 2 conclusions:

1) the bracing pattern in and of itself is just one variable among countless other variables that contribute to the tonal outcome of any given guitar, and..

2) the bracing pattern is unique to the individual builder, and the countless other variables also unique to that individual builder and to the mechanical properties of the tonewoods involved WILL contribute to the final tonal outcome.

When I was a student and a consumer back in the 80’s, there were basically 2  modern builders at that time whose guitars were in steady use among touring concert performers. One of them believed that in order to achieve even the smallest improvement, a luthier must make radical changes . The other firmly believed and practiced keeping the changes and variables from one guitar to the next to an absolute minimum, so that in the final tonal outcome, desirable changes could be noted and less desirable changes could easily be bactracked.  My respect for those 2 builders is immense, but in this aspect, I tend to agree with the latter.

That said, the Bull Run Experiment continues, with all 3 tops thicknessed and graduated to the same dimensions, and braced as identically as I humanly could brace them, with the overall weight of each top currently within 2 grams of each other. I will get the weight exact from top to top before I attach them to their respective boxes, and then only one variable will be allowed on each.

Here we go:

My album is available now!

Sacred melodies freely arranged for solo classical guitar. I’ve had this idea brewing in my head for decades. The ideas started flowing to manuscript and to my fingers about 2 years ago. Last September, my son, Joey, and I took a pair of Neumann KM184’s, an RME Fireface UC, and a laptop running Reaper into St. James Catholic Church, a century old midtown parish in Kansas City, MO. After Joey METICULOUSLY positioned the microphones for optimum room and guitar sound, we recorded through the night over the course of 2 days. This album is the result of those 2 nights. There is no reverb or echo of any kind added to the recording. The reverberation that is heard on the recording comes entirely from the room itself and where Joe chose to place the microphones.

The album is available at CDBaby, iTunes, and Amazon.

Ken Whisler: Adoration

On Amazon:

Adoration (mp3 download)

Brazilian rosewood w/cedar top

On my bench right now. I inlaid the cedar top with sections of spalted maple. The Brazilian rosewood I am using for this one has some spectacular figuring. The pieces were very tight against my template, after moving the template around for hours I decided to not fight it, and borrowed an aesthetic the late Tom Humphrey used to do: insert a flame maple wedge. The bindings will also be flame maple to compliment.

In the finishing stage, and I would like to share my new neck joint. The way I am executing this joint, I can easily vary the amount of neck elevation to the customer’s preference.

This guitar is finished, looks and sounds phenomenal, and is for sale at Savage Classical Guitar.  Richard has SOLD this!

“A Fantasie” by John Dowland

I recently stumbled on this while going through my files, and am making it available here. It is the famous Dowland Fantasie, I made my own transcription while in college. I used colored pens, and assigned each voice it’s own color, as a visual aid to help me hear the individual voices in a linear way, and finger it accordingly. Feel free to copy and distribute freely.


Handcrafted rosettes

I’m kind of a restless spirit in this regard. The end result is no two guitars appear the same. When I start a guitar, I start by picking the requested materials and laying them out on our ping pong table. I then begin to sort through my ever increasing pile of hardwoods and veneers until an scheme pops into my head. The common thread from guitar to guitar is that I use naturally colored and figured hardwoods and veneers for lines, tiles, herringbones, solid rings, and simple mosaics.


Joseph LoDuca

The award winning film composer and guitarist Joseph LoDuca records with one of my guitars.  When Joe received a handcrafted classical guitar from me a little over a year ago, he took it to Angel Studios in London and recorded this for the movie, “The Edge of Love” starring Kierra Knightley:


He used the same guitar for cues in the TNT movie, “The Librarian: the Curse of the Judas Chalice”. Here are a couple of excerpts:



Please pay Joe a visit at