With the availability and advancements of 3D printers today, how far off are we from creating replicas of classic instruments with the touch of a button? The easy answer is not far. If measurements can be taken, theoretically it can be reproduced by a 3D printer. It seems futuristic and some would say unlikely. However; I suggest that we look back 35 years or so at the probability that most instruments being made and played today would be produced by CNC (computer numerical control) routers. (Machines)
The rumor is Harley Peavey made the 1st CNC production guitar model around 1978. Anyone remember the T-60? If you played one for any length of time, I’ll bet you had back or shoulder problems. It was very heavy.
I currently own a few guitars produced in CNC production facilities and they play and sound fine. CNC creates consistency and uniformity. CNC allows for faster production. CNC cuts tedious and expensive labor hours so guitars will be more affordable? I’m sure there are more attributes to automating the production of musical instruments but right now we will just stick with those.
So what will it mean to print guitars? If you could access a program of let’s say a 1959 Les Paul considered the Holy Grail of collectibles, would you print it? What would it sound like? I don’t know the answers and I’m probably not the guy to print the first one but I can tell you as a builder and a player, there is a singular difference between a guitar that has been built/ crafted and one that has been manufactured/assembled.
What’s the difference? CHARACTER
A builder will become painstakingly intimate with the materials looking for strengths, weaknesses imperfections, and ways to work into and around those characteristics. We are also human (or at least claim to be) and therefore, capable of inconsistencies in technique and craftsmanship. Overcoming, adapting and incorporating these variables into an instrument builds character – not just in the instrument but in the builder.
As much as we strive to perfect our craft with each guitar we produce, builders are integrated into the character of each instrument they create. Yes, Rocco Guitars offers standard models to maintain a catalog and uniform product offering but because each one is handmade, they all have their own unique character. It’s evident in how players interact with them, how it feels and sounds in their hands and eventually its developed musical identity.
I’m not a tech basher sitting around spinning albums on my turntable lamenting the days of analog tape, UHF TV and Bakelite landline phones. However, music is part of the human experience and when we separate ourselves further from the physical production of music and instruments it is reflected in the end product. If Leonardo Da Vinci is right when he asks, “Do you know that our soul is composed of harmony?” I want to have more than just a computer, WIFI and a 3D printer as a connection.