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The company Godin is one of the leading guitar manufacturers on the North American market. The tools of this company are distinguished by high quality of manufacturing and application of the most advanced innovative technologies.

Subsidiaries and trademarks:

Seagull Guitars, Simon & Patrick Guitars, Norman Guitars, Art & Lutherie Guitars, La Patrie Guitars, TRIC.

Brief history / technical and technological achievements:

Once in 1972 Robert Godin went hunting, but instead of a deer he returned with another prey - a guitar factory. Today, the company that bears his name is one of the largest manufacturers of string instruments in North America, and such legendary musicians as John McLaughlin and Steve Stevens are among its endorsers.

Combining classical traditions with innovative ideas, the company Godin Guitars has grown into one of the leaders of the guitar industry in North America over the past 40 years. The company, which annually produces 175,000 instruments for seven brands - Godin, Seagull, Simon & Patrick, Art & Lutherie, Norman, Richmond and La Patrie - cannot be called a small one, especially comparing to private masters working on individual orders in basements, attics and garages. However, the company retains this spirit of individual approach to the demands of musicians while striving for innovation. Robert Godin’s personal attitude towards the business is reflected in all these things.

In the early 60-ies most guitarists-amateurs dreamed of achieving a guitar sound that they heard on the records. Among them there was the 15-year-old Canadian Robert Godin. Like many others, he was enthusiastic about Ventures and Beatles music. But most of the instruments available to him were not suitable for performing such music. Working in the Montreal music store "Harmony Lab", Godin began to experiment with the caliber of strings, put on the guitar strings for banjo, modified some parts of guitars. Soon local guitarists started to speak about his experiments. Little by little the rumor spread throughout Canada.

“He ended up becoming the place [to get mods],” says Mario Biferali, sales and marketing manager at Godin Guitars. “He had people coming from as far away as Toronto and Quebec City. Toronto is, like, five hours away! People talked, ‘Oh, there’s a place to go … he’ll make that guitar scream.’”

Godin purchased the stroboscopic tuner Conn Strobotuner (maybe the first in Canada) and this purchase promised the young master great career success.

“In the old days, tuners were the size of a refrigerator and cost thousands of dollars,” says Robert Godin—still president of the company that bears his name. “I was doing intonations on guitars and realized that guitars needed many modifications to get the sound I was looking for. That’s what really got me started on my dream of creating a guitar truly built with the player in mind.”

During a hunting trip in 1972, Godin accidentally hit the Norman Windows sawmill, which was producing not only wooden window frames but also tried to make guitars (strange enough, ain’t it?). The latter was not very successful, but Godin was confident that he could improve these instruments. Upon returning home, he was confirmed in the decision to take control of the factory in his own hands and focus on creating the guitars of his dreams.

“Everyone else on the hunting trip came home with a deer,” Godin joked in a 2011 interview with Music Trades. “I came home with a guitar factory.”

Today the Norman line of guitars is produced in the same window frames factory. It’s no surprise, those early years weren’t easy for Godin, when he loaded his van and traveled through Canada trying to establish rapport with guitar shops. Many of his ideas were out of standard and innovative. From the very beginning, many of Godin's design solutions were too unusual for conservative guitarists and the subtleties of innovation often had to be explained. For example, one of the first ideas of Godin - the use of a more thin coating which gave more liveliness to the sound - seemed quite alright. But back then most of the instruments had a dense glossy coating which looked more beautiful though it had a negative impact on the sound.

“He was getting more sound out of it,” says Biferali, “but it was hard, because everybody would say, ‘Man, I love your guitars but, dude, finish that thing!’ It wasn’t shiny—it wasn’t even semi-gloss. It was literally satin [finished]. They’re walking into a guitar store, trying to sell what people thought was an unfinished guitar—but after the dealers heard the guitars, they’d be convinced.”

Another innovative solution was the narrow cone-shaped design of the headstock "Seagull” by Godin. In addition to the fact that such a design made Seagull recognizable and outstandingly noticeable among the mass of other guitars, it had a practical meaning: a narrowed headstock facilitates direct tension of the strings and minimizes the twisting of the neck.

Godin Acousticaster appeared to be a serious breakthrough - 18 tuned metal tines mounted under the bridge to create its unusual sound. “There were a bunch of electric players that wanted an acoustic sound,” says Bifareli. “That’s how the Acousticaster differentiated itself. Here’s this thin, Telecaster-looking guitar with an electric guitar neck. But wow, it sounds acoustic when you close your eyes!” The company recently released a jubilee version of Acousticaster to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

As Seagull guitars, humbly decorated, had to make their way through the glamorous mass, the modern Godin Multiac series took time to draw the attention of musicians and sellers. Modern models of Duet Ambiance are equipped with electronics "Fishman Aura", and models "SA" ("synth access") are equipped with polyphonic (MIDI) system "RMC Poly-Drive" and piezo sensors under each string. An unusual arrangement of the timbre-block and controllers will surely strike you eye.

“Even the Multiac—one of our biggest success stories to date—wasn’t, like, an immediate ‘Okay, I get it,’” says Bifareli. “It was something that had to be explained. We did a lot of product training on it. But with the sliders on the face, that’s just logic. Why put the knobs closer to the bottom when you can keep your eyes on the knobs and the neck if they’re closer to the top?”

In time Multiac won fans and became one of the most famous Godin guitars. And the above placement of the controllers was then copied by many other Godin models. The design appeared to be so successful that today Multiac line features 23 models with nylon and steel strings including ukuleles as well.

Today Godin brand is widely known for the large-scale use of MIDI compatible technologies and components. It became relevant thanks to Robert Godin’s passion to innovation and uniqueness. He experimented with different kinds of wood and different designs deciding what would and wouldn’t work. For example, the thicker the density of an ebony fretboard the lower the attack of bass notes is, so they could be recognized more quickly by the MIDI converter. Bolton necks are also considered to be more effective because of the resonance which might hamper the pitch tracking.

This commitment to MIDI technology has become the hallmark of the brand which attracts many guitarists to Godin instruments. Steve Stevens - Billy Idol’s guitarist - "Kings of Chaos" - has been playing Godin for more than ten years. Today his collection numbers 12 instruments and once he went to the company's stand at the NAMM show only because of MIDI features. He was skeptical about the compatibility of the nylon string guitar with MIDI technology but he heard Godin name before and was willing to try it out.

“I had come off the road with Vince Neil and was getting ready to do a flamenco-based record,” says Stevens, “and I needed a nylon-string guitar. But I was also going to be encompassing some dance elements and drum loops and things like that. When I found out there was a nylon guitar that I could trigger synths with, I was all over that. Having that Godin guitar really helped me do Flamenco A Go Go [Stevens’ 2000 solo album] in a big way.”

Dennis Davis, a teacher and coordinator at Kentucky Eastern University, shares Stevens' opinion on the unusual capabilities of Godin's MIDI instruments regarding tone and nuance.

“Godin makes classical and jazz guitars that let me use MIDI input,” Davis says. “It’s a lot of fun to perform classical works using a piano sound or using the marimba sound or to play a jazz solo on electric guitar using a flute sound. It really changes the way I think creatively and interpretively.”

Stevens adds, “Man, their guitars are just rock solid—they’re roadworthy, and I’ve not found a company that really puts that much love and attention into the nylon-string instrument as Godin does. There are other companies that build nylon-string guitars—and some might even do MIDI—but right from the get-go, Godin put a lot of attention into nylon instruments.”

All Godin factories are located in North America: five in Quebec and one in New Hampshire (USA). Factories ensure that the instruments are carefully monitored at each production stage. Factories are located in small towns, where all residents are familiar with each other which means long-term relationships between employees as well as a family atmosphere.

“Some people stared with Robert 40 years ago,” says sales and marketing manager Mario Biferali. “Their wife and kids work there—it’s more of an old-school mentality where you go there, you work hard, and you build a life with this company.”

Electric guitars are also popular among Godin devotees. And some high-profile musicians, such as John McLaughlin, Marcus Miller, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, Bruce Cockburn, Peppino D'Agostino and others contributed to the fame. While working with Billy Idol, Steve Stevens often used LGXT guitar with humbuckers. “I use that for things like ‘Eyes Without a Face’ and ‘Flesh for Fantasy,’” Stevens says. “All my trem-bar kind of stuff.”

Daryl Stuermer, Genesis guitarist who used to work with Phil Collins when he began solo career as well, is also a fan of LGXT guitar. The beginning of his relationship with the brand is dated back to the 2004 tour, when he was presented to the management of Godin. Now he carries LGXT, Multiac Steel and Montreal Premiere with him all the time.

“I originally wanted a good electric guitar that would let me switch from an electric sound to a good acoustic sound,” he says. “The other bonus is that it has a 13-pin output for synth.”

The latest novelty in the Godin lineup was Montreal Premiere guitar – a thin-line semi-hollowbody electric guitar based on acoustic guitar principles. There are many guitars like that one but only Montreal Premiere takes Canadian wild cherry top, back, and sides, and weaves them together with a “breathe-through carved spruce core” that only touches at the specific pressure points necessary for architectural clarity.

“It looks like a bridge—it has these arches inside,” says Biferali. “So what happens is that there is more acoustic resonance because the air column is bigger. It’s extremely light, extremely advanced, and that’s why you can get the same dynamics as an acoustic—because your pickup is only going to get what the guitar is giving it. It’s like having a $10,000 microphone but if the singer can’t sing, it’s not going to help.

In addition to combining acoustic principles with electronic ones Montreal Premiere guitar is an excellent example of the company's attitude to the use of local wood kinds. “Some of the wood we use to build our guitars is literally less than a kilometer from our factories,” says Bifareli. “The maple and the silver leaf and the spruce—it’s right here. Our artisans have grown up in the woods, knowing how to dry wood, knowing how to cut the wood.”

Montreal Premiere guitars are produced in a special studio at the factory in Richmond - Godin Premiere Atelier. Here the mastery of manufacturing is above the economic part of a deal. This is sort of a mini-factory inside of a large one. The studio specializing in particular projects has a limited staff of first-class masters - less than a dozen. Besides Montreal Premiere, Passion RG-2 and RG-3 strata are produced here.

Electric guitars by Godin, while quite traditional, are still outstanding thanks to their looks. Stylistically they are quite classic and at the same time are far from the cliched shapes. The lines of the case - whether it's a one-necked guitar, with two or more forms – are generally associated with guitar standards, but in Godin’s interpretation these time-tested ideas have slightly changed and allowed the company to take its niche.

“When you pick up a Les Paul, you play it a certain way,” says Biferali. “And then you pick up a Tele and, all of a sudden, you think you’re in Nashville, right? With a Strat, you end up pulling out your Jimi Hendrix riffs. I find that Godin allows the artist to shine through because it doesn’t have any preconceived notions of what it is supposed to be.”

When Robert himself traveled around the country selling his guitars to music stores, and today when the company is highly appreciated the connection with musicians is the most vital reason the brand still exists. After more than 50 years in business the man who actually became the source continues to look for inspiration in new designs and sound. “When I travel, I love to collect world instruments,” Godin says. “The folk instruments from all the many world cultures truly fascinate me.”