Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 42

A Master Model L-5 (left), and Lewis
Williams with a K-4 mando-cello.
Photos of Williams are rare, and
no other evidence has surfaced to
prove he was actually a musician.

LLOYD
LOAR
An Alternative View
T

BY GEORGE GRUHN
AND JOE SPANN

he Master Model instruments created at Gibson in the early 1920s are
famous for their sound and build. Credit for their design is often laid
at the feet of "acoustic engineer" Lloyd A. Loar, but recent study calls into
question the role he played - and may even position him as a mere tool of
the company's marketing.

VINTAGE GUITAR

42

January 2018

In its first 20 years, the Gibson company
made numerous refinements to Orville
Gibson's original designs from the late
19th century. These included the violinstyle arched back, smaller bodies with a
slimmer profile, improved neck angle, and
the elevated pickguard. By the time of the
1908 Fretted Instrument Guild of America
convention in Washington, D.C., the instruments had seized popular imagination and
catapulted the small company onto the
world stage. In 1920, Gibson debuted the
adjustable truss rod and adjustable-height
bridge - ideas from factory superintendent
Ted McHugh. Loar was hired in 1919, and in
1922/'23, the Master Model F-5 and L-5 debuted, both exhibiting further application
of violin-building technique and design.
Though Loar is often credited with
introducing f-shaped sound holes, parallel
tone-bar bracing, and tuned air chambers,
none of those ideas were new. In fact, several
employees who pre-dated Loar's tenure were
hired because they had experience carving
violin tops, and any of them could have
suggested further application of violin construction. Loar was also strongly influenced
by the Virzi Brothers - builders of violins,
violas, bass viols, and the infamous Virzi
Tone Producers; he encouraged the use


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 3
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 4
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 5
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Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - Contents
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