My goal is a simple one; build the best sounding, easiest playing, most powerful guitars on the planet. Fortunately, 50 years of building and 2200 guitars provide me with the experience to do just that. It also allows me to voice any instrument to fit the specific needs of the player through wood choices, construction details, and body styles. (For more information on Voicing the guitar, go to the Workbench section for an in-depth discussion.)
While shop foreman at Gruhn Guitars in the early to mid-1970's, I was fortunate enough to work on some of the finest vintage guitars ever made, in particular Red Smiley’s pre-war D-45 and Charlie Monroe’s pre-war D-45. Both guitars are iconic in their tone and power. Their sound haunts me to this day and is, in my mind, the “holy grail” of guitar tone. It is this sound which forms the basis of the Greven sound.
(The sound clip on this page is of the Red Smiley D-45 from an early 1960's recording. While the fidelity is low by modern standards, it is still possible to hear the thundering bottom end and the intense mid-range of this and other original D-45's of the period.)
I look for materials that will give me the voice I seek, but more than materials alone, I build very much like Martin and Gibson did in the early 1930's; light, strong heavily scalloped bracing, low body mass, and thin, flexible finishes. My guitars are “modern” where modern adds to the function without impacting tone, but the feel and sound is every bit “vintage”. Powerful over the entire range of the fingerboard, deep and rich texture to the voice, responsive to a fault are all descriptive of my guitar sound.
Check out the many sound samples under the Models pages. All were recorded under identical conditions with a Zoom H4 digital recorder and are quite representative of what you will hear playing one of these instruments. Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoy your visit.
— John Greven, Luthier