- acoustic guitars
- bass guitars
- electric guitars
The Guild Guitar Company was founded in 1952 by Alfred Dronge and George Mann. Dronge was a guitarist and music-store owner and George Mann had worked as an executive with the Epiphone Guitar Company. The Guild brand name is currently owned and used by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.
The first Guild workshop was located in Manhattan, New York, where Dronge (who soon took over full ownership) focused on archtop jazz guitars, both electric and acoustic. Rapid expansion forced the company to move to much larger quarters, on Newark St. in Hoboken, New Jersey, in what is now known as the R. Neumann Leathers building. The advent of the folk music craze in the early '60s had shifted the company into production of an important line of acoustic folk and blues guitars, including a dreadnought series (D-40, D-50 and, later, D-55) that competed successfully with Martin's D-18 and D-28 models, and jumbo and Grand Concert "F" models that were particularly popular with blues guitarists like Mississippi John Hurt and Dave Van Ronk. Notable also was the Guild 12-string guitar, which used a Jumbo "F" body and dual truss rods in the neck to produce a workhorse instrument with a deep, rich tone distinctive from the chimier twelve-strings put out by Martin.
The company continued to expand, and was sold to the Avnet Corporation, which moved production to Westerly, Rhode Island, in 1966. As the folk scene quieted, a new generation of folk-rockers took Guild guitars on stage. The most notable Guild performance of that era was on the D-40 that Richie Havens played when he opened the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
During the 1960s, Guild moved aggressively into the electric guitar market, successfully promoting the Starfire line of semi-acoustic (Starfire I, II & III) and semi-solid (Starfire IV, V & VI) guitars and basses. A number of early West-Coast psychedelic bands used these instruments, notably guitarists Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, as well as Jefferson Airplane's bassist Jack Casady. Alembic started their transition from sound and recording work to instrument building by modifying Lesh & Casady's Starfire basses. The rare S-200 Thunderbird solid body electric was used by Muddy Waters and The Lovin' Spoonful's Zal Yanovsky.
The decline of the folk and acoustic market in the later '70s and early '80s put severe economic pressure on the company, and while instrument specialists generally concede that quality suffered at other American competitors, Guild models from the '70s and '80s are considered still made to the high-quality standards the Westerly plant was known for. Guild is also known to have successfully produced and marketed the first dreadnought acoustic which incorporates a "cut-away" in the lower shoulder of the instrument, known as the D40-C. During 1972, guitarist/designer Richard "Rick" Excellente, while working under Guild's new president Leon Tell in Guild's Elizabeth, New Jersey plant, conceptualized and initiated the idea for the first production acoustic dreadnought guitar featuring a "cut-away" design. The cut-away feature (which was commonly found on electric guitars), enabled the player to have a more usable higher fret range. Since the Guild D-40C, dreadnought guitars with a cutaway began to be produced by other guitar manufactures. Guild continues to manufacture the D-40C, and since its inception in 1972, now virtually every acoustic guitar company in the world incorporates this cut-away feature on their acoustic dreadnought guitars.
In the 1980s, Guild introduced a series of Superstrat solid bodies including models such as the Flyer, Aviator, Liberator and Detonator, the Tele-style T-200 and T-250 (endorsed by Roy Buchanan) and the Pilot Bass, available in fretted, fretless, and 4- and 5-string versions. These guitars were the first Guild instruments to bear slim pointed headstocks, sometimes called "pointy droopy", "duck foot" and "cake knife" for their distinctive shape.
After several changes in management and ownership, Guild was eventually purchased by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in 1995. In late 2001, Fender decided to move all Guild production to its factory in Corona, California. To ease the Corona facility (which had only made electric guitars up to this point) into making archtop and acoustic guitars, the Westerly factory artisans and workers prepared guitar 'kits' that they shipped to Corona. These kits were near-complete production guitars that only needed finishing and final assembly before being sent to retailers.
Production in Corona was short-lived, however, as Fender acquired the assets of Washington-based Tacoma Guitar Company in 2004, and moved all American Guild acoustic production to Tacoma, Washington and discontinued production of US-made Guild electric guitars completely.
In 2008, Fender again moved Guild when they acquired Kaman Music Corporation and its small production facility in New Hartford, Connecticut, where hand production of all US-made Guilds resumed in a manner consistent with other high-end, boutique guitar builders. The New Hartford Guild facility began production in early 2009, starting with the D-55 and F-50 models. Production quickly ramped up to include most of the popular Traditional Series acoustic guitar models. Acoustic-Electric versions of these models are also available. Starting with 2012 models, all US-built Guild Traditional Series guitars are available in right- and left-handed configurations.
In 2011, Traditional Series models' were improved by means of a new DTAR pickup system, which allows blending between an internal microphone element and an under-saddle transducer. Previous DTAR configurations only included an under-saddle transducer. Also, hard shell case material has been upgraded to a high-end, faux alligator skin material with crushed velvet interior padding.
In late 2010, Guild released its Standard Series acoustic guitars, which are US-built guitars (still manufactured in the New Hartford, Connecticut facility) that are based on models from their top-end Traditional Series. These guitars have high-end features, but differences in ornamentation and instrument finish options make them more affordable. Standard Series models include the F-30, F-30R, F-50, D-40, D-50, and the return of the F-212XL 12-string model. All Standard Series models feature red spruce bracing, satin mahogany necks, and bone saddles, nuts, and bridge pins, but have lower-grade wood and ornamentation than their Traditional Series counterparts.
In 2011, cutaway acoustic-electric versions of all Standard Series models were released. These guitars feature venetian cutaways and a DTAR 18V under-saddle pickup system. These models can be identified by the 'CE' suffix at the end of the guitar's model number. All Guild guitars come with hard shell cases.
The New Hartford facility has also created a new line of specialty, limited edition guitars, referred to as the GSR Series. The GSR designation stands for "Guild Special Run." This series was first revealed to Guild dealers at Guild's dealer-only factory tour in mid-2009. These models feature unique takes on classic Guild Traditional Series models. GSR models include the F-40 (figured Cocobolo), F-30R (master-grade Rosewood), F-50 (figured Koa), and D-50 (figured Cocobolo), and Guild's only electric guitar to be produced since 2003: The GSR Starfire VI (only 20 produced). Each of these instruments feature unique designs, wood selection, ornamentation, and have extremely limited production numbers.
Guild Import Brands: Guild has had four primary import guitar lines, which are imported from China.
In the early seventies, Guild formed import brands for acoustic and electric guitars made outside the United States. Madeira Acoustic and Electric Guitars were import guitars based on existing Guild designs, but manufactured in Asia. They are characterized by their substantially unique pickguard shape and differing headstock.
Similarly to Madeira, Burnside Electric Guitars were Guild electric guitar designs (typically of super-Strat delineation) that were manufactured outside the United States. The headstocks on these guitars read "Burnside by Guild." Both brands were discontinued in the early '90s.
After Fender purchased Guild in the mid '90s, reissues of some Guild electric guitars were manufactured in Korea under the DeArmond brand name, which Fender also owned the rights to. Import reissue models included the Starfire, X155, T400, M-75 Bluesbird, S-73, and Pilot Bass series. On the front of the headstock, these instruments display the DeArmond logo above a modified version of Guild's Chesterfield logo. On early production versions, the truss rod cover is stenciled with the word 'Guild' stylized and the DeArmond reissue model number, and the back of the headstock is stenciled with 'DeArmond by Guild' above the guitar's serial number. Later production versions drop all references to the Guild brand name except for a modified Chesterfield headstock inlay on most models. The DeArmond line also included other less expensive models similar in design to the Guild reissues and manufactured in Indonesia. The DeArmond brand was discontinued in the early 2000s.
Also in the early 2000s, FMIC created a new line of Guild acoustic guitars called the GAD-series, which stands for "Guild Acoustic Design." As with the other import lines, these guitars are based on past and present Guild acoustic guitar designs, but are built in China. All of these models are designated with a 'GAD' as a model prefix. These guitars feature poly finishes (as opposed to traditional nitrocellulose lacquer on US models) and nondescript wood grading. Interestingly, FMIC did not choose to create this line under a different brand name, but left it as a new series of guitars from Guild. This choice has caused confusion, as it marks the first time that an import has actually donned the Guild brand name, which had previously only been used to describe US-made guitars. Because of this, it is no longer immediately clear if a Guild-branded guitar is a US-made model or an import, although the GAD models usually have unique ornamentation. The current product portfolio of GAD-series guitars is larger than Guild's US-built Traditional Series.
The 2011 GAD models have new features, looks, and model numbers. These new GAD-series Guild guitars can now also be identified with a number 1 as the first number in the model number. For example, a US-built F-50R's GAD-level copy would be called an F-150R. Similarly, a US-built F-512 would be an F-1512 as a GAD copy.
In 2014 Cordoba Music Group bought Guild Guitars from FMIC. Given that FMIC announced the closing of Guild’s U.S. manufacturing facility in New Hartford, Conn, Cordoba Music Group was expected to begin production of some models in Cordoba’s factory in Oxnard, California.