Born in 1952, Kim Griffin was surrounded by the beautiful instruments of classical violinist Virginia Farmer (neighbor/extended family member). He remembers the baby grand piano and priceless violins being played for hours; attending symphony and recitals as a very young lad. "This was my early connection with music," Kim explains.
Then, at about the age of 9, his parents bought Kim his first guitar (a Harmony flat top). "I made lots of noise with it, till one day I saved up enough money for a new Guild. Dad paid for lessons. My sister and I played in the local folk circuit, she with her D-18 and I would sometimes use dad's D-35." After that, barroom blues/rock, then into bluegrass with Marc Chevalier and a short stint with Frank Wakefield.
In 1975 he decided to do something constructive with information gained from the variety of musical styles he'd been exposed to. So he began repairing fiddles and guitars. In 1977 he attended The School of Guitar Research and Design in Vermont, taught by Charles Fox and George Morris. Continuing on from there he built individual commissioned instruments (some experimental), hammered dulcimers, banjos, mandolins as well as repairs.
Currently Kim works in a cozy shop Greenwich NY, building guitars of 4 basic body styles, flat-top mandolins, and the occasional hammered dulcimer. He still likes the custom building strategy and resists the urge to build more than 6-8 at a time ending up with 12-16 per year. "I will take the (critical) time, to match up the top with the bracing. I like to vary bracing pattern, size, and even type of woods depending on the 'feel' of the top. I don't like to be tempted to grab the first handful of braces from the bin and glue away." Griffin feels that the retailing of guitars forces the builder into a quantity vs. quality mind set that always eventually shows up in the final product, the tone. "You have to play a room full of identical looking production guitars to find a few that sound good." Each piece of wood has its own unique "fingerprint," both visually and sonicly. Griffin's entire thrust is to identify and accentuate that "fingerprint" to its full potential in each instrument. Also there is that compromise that takes place when trying out factory built instruments. Does this sound familiar? "I like the feel of the neck but the tone isn't what I was hoping for" or "The tone is great but the neck isn't..." Griffin will custom build the neck, select the wood combinations of the players choice, provide custom inlay work. This insures that the costumer receives an instrument built without compromise, in which he or she has a voice in its design.
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