By Mike Keenan.
He enjoys the best of both worlds. During the Shaw Festival season, Freddy Gabrsek from St. Catharines works as a sound engineer in the theatres. The rest of the year, he enjoys an exciting music-oriented career as a luthier in which he designs and builds exceptional guitars and sells them to appreciative types all over the world including Tim Carroll, Shaw’s new Artistic Director.
Growing up in his father’s St. Catharines workshop as a third-generation woodworker, Freddy got an early start, learning about wood and craftsmanship. He obtained his first set of professional tools when he was a mere seven years old. By the time he was in his teens playing in bands, his shop skills were well-honed. And after playing a variety of guitars himself, he thought ‒ “Wouldn’t it be great to make a guitar to my own specifications”!
Accordingly, in the late 1980’s he began a career as a luthier working in music stores doing repairs and building custom instruments for local players. Soon after, he began guitar work for the Jeff Healey Band, Rush and Glass Tiger. This resulted in international tours and work in major recording studios. To further develop his skills, he studied acoustic instrument construction at the Ontario College of Art and Design.
Thus, a luthier is someone who is engaged in the art, craft, and science of stringed musical instrument construction and repair. In addition to being a luthier, Freddy is also a professional audio engineer employed at the Shaw Festival theatres for over 20 years. He also freelances, recording live sound. He says, “The skill of critical listening and assessment as well as the knowledge of the physics of sound is extremely valuable to me as a luthier.”
Much of the recording equipment that he uses he has built under the name “Origin Audio Electronics”. His latest design is an “8-channel tube mic preamp” that he says, “sounds spectacular”! Freddy is currently building a new line of electric guitars. These guitars feature the finest woods and hardware, a super smooth non-locking tremolo that stays 100% in tune, quarter-sawn hard maple necks and nitro lacquer. They are truly high performance instruments for the professional musician or high end guitar aficionado. As well as building guitars he does repairs out of his home shop. His workshop is impressive as I watch him at work on eight new guitar pieces.
Freddy says, “As the traditional wood supply is often limited or rare, it becomes a difficult, not impossible, but expensive task to find the highest quality pieces. This situation leads builders to try “alternative” woods and with great success. What is needed is the understanding of the properties of the wood and how it will react. But the actual piece of wood that is to be used will always dictate a part of the design and the luthier must be sensitive to these factors.”
Freddy sells hand-made guitars of the finest quality custom-built to any specification (neck, shape, material etc.) with showroom finishes. He specializes in precision set-ups, instrument repair and restoration. Guitars are not inexpensive. His steel string acoustic guitars run from $3,500-$5,500, but he admits that it’s the repair work that adds up. His costs, pics of guitars and a wealth of other valuable guitar-related information are all available on his instructive website: http://www.freddysfrets.com/
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