What is a Weissenborn Guitar?

What do famous guitar players Ronnie Wood (Rolling Stones), Ben Harper, and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) all have in common? They’ve all played a Weissenborn guitar at some point in their career.

A man named Hermann Weissenborn developed his own unique brand of lap slide guitar in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, if you’re able to get an original Weissenborn, consider yourself lucky, since less than 5,000 were produced and God only knows how many have survived. That said, Weissenborn-style guitars are still made, so there’s a chance you’ve seen one, played one, or own one.

What makes a Weissenborn guitar different than other guitars? Well, it has a hollow neck meaning its body chamber pretty much runs the entire length of the body. Therefore, conventional playing just won’t work– you’ll need to put it across your lap to make music properly.

If you were to ask an expert, “Should I buy a Weissenborn guitar?” he or she would ask you two questions: How serious are you about playing it long term? How much do you want to spend?

Price-wise, there are distributors who’ve made them in mass quantities, usually overseas in Asia, such that the prices are “more affordable.” These typically use laminated wood. Conversely, there are luthiers who custom make them, oftentimes in America, and charge more, but for good reason. After all, quality costs money. Luthiers are likely to use solid wood rather than laminate. The smart ones know to get Sitka Spruce from Alaska Specialty Woods– the best of the best for tonewoods.

For those who are very particular about the look, sound and feel of their guitars, buying a Weissenborn-style guitar from a luthier is your best bet. Laminated wood doesn’t offer the tone or resonance that solid wood does, so be willing to pay more for your custom-made, high-quality, rich-in-tone Weissenborn.

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