Development of the Takamine
Natural Series. An Interview with Mr. Gerard Garnier ...
Natural Series, easily recognizable by their solid cedar tops, satin
finish and lack of pickguard, has been a mainstay in the Takamine
product lineup since 1984. The origin of the Naturals was a
collaboration between Takamine and Mr. Gerard Garnier, head of ALGAM
- La Boite Noire, one of the largest musical instrument distributors
in Europe. His vision of this new Takamine design was brought to
reality and has grown into one of the most popular off all Takamine
styles. Needless to say, Mr. Garnier has been a long time
supporter of Takamine guitars and was kind enough to participate in the
following interview and has authorized it's publication here on the
Takamine Forum. My thanks to him for his kindness and
contribution. French-English translation
by Tom Roca
Dave: Mr. Garnier, What
your purpose for designing the Natural Series ?
design of the natural series - initially specifically designed for
- was the result of three goals
I was looking for, one psychological, the other esthetical and the third
was the sound. Their
success, still today, tends to prove the correctness of this global
there a particular brand or model that you wanted to reproduce ?
Mr. Garnier: "I
wanted to do the exactly
the opposite: I wanted to
help Takamine find its own personality. Since
1980 I was the happy distributor for
of the Ovation guitars – the
guitar of the stars – as was said in the commercials for several
years. For me, Ovation
embodied the high-tech guitar that was played on stage under the
spotlights. In one word, it
was an instrument for extroverted guitarists."
opposition to Ovation, I
was distributing since 1978, a small Japanese brand called Takamine. A
brilliant slogan/motto perfectly summarized the emerging philosophy of
this future big brand: Takamine “amplifies
the natural wood sound”. The
palathetic pickup system equipping Takamine made it indeed possible to
amplify a traditional guitar. It was extraordinary, only the Ovation
brand could do it until this time. Takamine
alternative, and bound to become, in
the instrument for introverted guitarists, the one you would play
in front of your chimney fire. By
creating the Naturals, I was simply wishing to increase the difference
between Ovation and Takamine, to allow intimate guitarists to find the
perfect guitar for them."
were the key differences from existing Takamine designs at that time ?
was at the time a Japanese copy of Martin guitars. The Takamine logo and
the Est.1967 was a copy of this well-known brand who celebrates its 175
years. So it was first
necessary to find an original headstock. It was rather simple as a
special model for Bruce Springsteen had this little treasure. I also
designed a bridge, different than the Martin bridge, with pinholes. The
satin finish representing the "natural" finish was also a
major change in the search for originality. This
was a very different finish at the time - I remember the English making
fun of this “non-finished” guitar - now it is a classic."
which year was the Natural Series designed ?
Mr. Garnier: "It
was in 84/85. I wished to find with the Naturals the spirit of the folk
instruments I had built since 1971 (my brother Joel will continue this
manufacture by making it evolve to superb CAMAC concert harps)."
what extent were you technically involved, Mr. Garnier, in the design ?
Mr. Garnier: "I
was not technologically involved on the level of the manufacturing
processes. This is why I refused the proposal of Mr. Hirade to name this
new series of guitars: “Garnier Series”. It
was very nice of him, but, if it is true that I had a role of originator
and designer, I did not consider myself as a luthier."
you share some of the design details with us ?
Choice of woods ?
Mr. Garnier: "I
was aware of the advantage of the use of Red Cedar for the soundboard.
Less expensive at the time, we bought balls of Red Cedar at the harbor
instruments, and that gave an incredible price/quality ratio."
thus asked Mr. Hirade, president of Takamine, to use only this wood for
the tops instead of Spruce traditionally used. The round and warm sound
of Red Cedar took a large part in the success of the naturals."
the Takamine factory receptive to your ideas ?
Did they make other suggestions ?
Mr Garnier: "Absolutely.
I have to say that all these requests were done with the help of a
sympathetic interpreter, because Mr. Hirade did not speak a word of
English. The project could indeed never have been possible without the
friendship of Ichiro Katayama, today president of Takamine, and at the
time a young assistant of Mr. Hirade. His enthusiasm and his
understanding of the concept combined with an extraordinary know-how
made it possible to harmonize a project which could appear very
eccentric at the beginning."
"The initial launch being crowned with success not only in
but everywhere in
, it was very easy
to convince Ichiro Katayama to start nylon string models with narrow
nutwidth and 14 frets to body, but also steel strings models with a
wideneck for fingerpicking."
wanted to go further with the development of models like Selmer
Macaferri, of course, being French, I wanted to give to the honor the
guitar of Django Reinhardt! Unfortunately,
when Takamine passed under the control of Kaman, we only heard: "
No more prototypes"! Too
bad, we could have been pioneers!"
the first prototype very different from the final production version ?
Mr. Garnier: "The
production of the base model , the N10 with maple binding was difficult.
As I wished an economic model, we replaced the maple bindings by a
synthetic material. Nevertheless the usual white color was replaced by a
pretty ivory color which perfectly matched with mahogany. It was, I
think, the only major modification."
would you judge the final outcome of the Natural Series compared to
your original ideas ? Are
you satisfied ?
Mr. Garnier: "How
can you not be satisfied when you hear that a third of the Takamine
production is the Natural Series ?"
could begin again would you change anything about the Natural Series ?
Mr. Garnier: "I
believe that all creation has to renew again. Thus
I had shown to my friend Ichiro Katayama, an evolution project from the
Natural Series to the “4 Seasons” concept. He
was seduced, but it is finally with another friend, the wellknown French
luthier Michel Lâg, that this project became reality."
life to the Naturals and the 4 Seasons!"
sincere thanks to Mr. Gerard Garnier for partaking in the
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