James D’Aquisto

Craftsman | 2006

The word “luthier” is defined as “someone who builds or repairs stringed instruments that are either bowed or plucked.” James D’Aquisto’s name is often found in books or on websites next to the phrase “the great luthier.” In the world of custom-made guitars, few instruments are as highly regarded, or fetch as high a price, as those made by the late D’Aquisto. In 1953, D’Aquisto, who is from Long Island, served as an apprentice to the renowned luthier John D’Angelico. He began creating the archtop acoustics that were favored by jazz guitarists and collectors. After D’Angelico’s death in 1964, D’Aquisto was considered his successor. During his career, D’Aquisto made only about 370 guitars. Since his death in 1995, collectors have paid as much as six figures for one of his masterpieces. His archtop guitars are known for their dynamic range and broad tonal color, at a time when acoustic guitars were losing out to electric and mass-produced products. D’Aquisto’s designs forsook fancy inlays and the like, as he believed that such ornamentation detracted from the sound. He instead concentrated on sonic innovations. One of his most significant innovations was an adjustable ebony tailpiece that could be moved up or down to vary string tension on the bridge. D’Aquisto lived in Islip and maintained a lutherie in Farmingdale. In addition to creating his innovative archtops, he was a designer for the Fender and Hagstrom guitar companies.

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