|Type||Privately held company|
|Founder||Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson|
|Parent||Two Old Hippies LLC|
History and background
Breedlove Guitars was established In 1990 by California luthiers Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson, who left their jobs at Taylor Guitars to create what would become Breedlove Guitars. Their intention was to produce guitars that merged traditional guitar making skills with modern technology. After moving to Tumalo, Oregon, Breedlove and Henderson began specializing in custom, fingerstyle six and twelve string guitars.
In 1991 the first Breedlove guitar model appeared, the shallow body C-10. At the 1992 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade, Breedlove and Henderson unveiled five models and three body types. Around 1994, Larry's older brother, Kim Breedlove, joined Larry and Steve as a master craftsman and Larry returned to work at Taylor Guitars. Other master luthiers at Breedlove included Terry Myers, who also left Taylor Guitars in the early 1990s then returned, as well as later luthiers Jayson Bowerman, Aaron Adams, and Chris Lindquist.
In 1999, Breedlove suffered a financial setback and hired a new president, Peter Newport, who invested in the company and expanded the company's model lines. In 2001, founder Steve Henderson quit the company due to disagreements with Newport. In 2003, under Newport's direction, Breedlove launched its first series of Imported guitars, the Atlas line which was manufactured in Korea. In 2004 the company launched its first traditional designs not focused on fingerstyle playing, the Revival line which included dreadnoughts and orchestra models, which departed from Breedlove's history of original designs.
In 2008, Breedlove relocated from Tumalo, Oregon to Bend, Oregon. In 2010, Breedlove experienced its second financial setback when president and investor Peter Newport was unable to raise additional capital in the wake of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, and ultimately sold Breedlove to Tom and Molly Bedell's Two Old Hippies LLC of Bend, OR, which owned Tom Bedell Guitars and Great Divide Guitars, as well as retail stores. In 2012, the combined company moved to a larger facility in Bend, which produces about 2,000 guitars a year as of 2020.
In 2013, Breedlove completed the purchase of the world's largest collection of legal, CITES-compliant Brazilian Rosewood for use on the company's highest-quality instruments. Beginning with 2014 models, Breedlove changed its headstock logo from a stylized "B" to fully spelling out "Breedlove" in a script logo and made numerous changes to the model lineup, including launching several new series of instruments and discontinuing the Revival series of traditional body shapes. In 2015, Breedlove produced a limited run of 25th Anniversary guitars, including a Kim Breedlove Signature, a Brazilian Concert, an Oregon Concert, and a Pursuit Koa.
In 2017, Breedlove made significant strategic changes, including the announcement of the new Concerto and Concertina body shapes, the simplification of the company's model lines and body shapes, the introduction of a Sound Optimization process (replacing the long-standing bridge truss and graduated top design used on its premium models), and the introduction of the Tonewood Certification Program for sustainable forest practices.
In 2020, Breedlove announced a partnership with actor Jeff Bridges to produce a signature model guitar that was sustainably sourced. Later that year, two additional Jeff Bridges models were announced. In 2021, Breedlove announced a limited run of four 30th Anniversary guitars, including a Northwest Classic, King Koa, Focus, and Phoenix, each based on a different model from Breedlove's past.
Soft cutaway (1990–present)
First used on early Breedlove models like the C1 and C2, this soft, steep cutaway provides excellent access to the upper frets and is still used on present-day models. The Breedlove CM (made from 1992-2017) also used a steep, angular cutaway from both sides of the fretboard.
Asymmetrical headstock (1990–present)
While Breedlove makes guitars with traditional symmetrical headstocks, namely the Concerto and Concertina, the asymmetrical design found on current Concert, Companion, and 12-string Concerto models provides a straighter path from the guitar's nut to the tuners, reducing the break angle at the nut and allowing the string to move in the nut more freely, avoiding the variance in string tension that comes with traditional headstocks.
Pinless bridge (1990–present)
The Breedlove pinless bridge routes the strings through the bridge from the back side, rather from the bottom. Consequently, bridge pins are not needed, the string stays straighter, and the string cannot come loose from the bridge as it can when using pins. There is also no need to drill six holes down through the top of the guitar for the bridge pins and the bridge is more secure due to a larger glue area. Downsides of the design are the need to use layers of masking tape or a plastic pad to protect the top of the guitar when restringing it, and the inability to easily remove the strings from the bridge for soundhole access—strings must be disconnected at the tuners instead.
Winged bridge (1990–present)
From Breedlove's first guitars through 2017, a winged bridge with a characteristic asymmetrical design was used on higher-end Breedlove models. It was phased out in 2018 on production models, but can still be custom ordered.
Use of Myrtlewood (1990–present)
Myrtlewood (Umbellularia californica) is a large hardwood tree native to coastal forests and the Sierra foothills of California, as well as to coastal forests extending into Oregon. Harvested Myrtlewood typically has intense figuring that is unique to each piece and is easy to work with as a luthier. Tonally, it is a stiff yet lightweight wood with strong clarity, sustain, and high volume, similar to Mahogany and Hawaiian Koa. Breedlove pioneered the use of Myrtlewood in guitars in the 1990s and still uses it extensively today.
Tonewood certification program (2017-present)
In 2017, Breedlove announced a Tonewood Certification Program with four principles:
- Salvage trees from the forest as dead/fallen or at the end of their lifecycle.
- Individually harvest trees in a manner that leaves the forest and ecological system as undisturbed as possible.
- Only use “treasured tonewoods” that are fully documented to be compliant with all CITES and Lacey Act regulations.
- Partner with tonewood suppliers who commit to our principles and provide documentation on the providence from where the trees grow to receiving the wood at our workshop.
Sound optimization (2017–present)
Historically, luthiers tapped the wood pieces they planned to use for instruments to listen for their tone. In 2017, Breedlove expanded on this concept with a process of measuring the frequency response of the top and back woods of the guitar, and then adjusting the shape of the bracing and thickness of the wood, effectively customizing each guitar's sound based on the resonance of the pieces of wood that are being used for that particular guitar. This process has been used on all Oregon-built Breedlove models beginning in 2017.
Bridge truss and graduated tops (1990–2017)
From the early 1990s until 2017, many Breedlove guitars featured a patented JLD bridge truss system to stabilize the bridge. The truss incorporates a lever which applies pressure on the tailblock to counterbalance string tension on the top of the guitar as well as various bracing techniques designed around this system. The bridge truss was originally designed as an aftermarket product to repair guitars with damaged tops. In Breedlove guitars, it connects the bridge plate to the tailblock with two wooden dowels, sending tension to the guitar’s bottom side and allowing the top to move with reduced stress. Breedlove marketed this as a means to allow for thinner guitar tops that produced enhanced sustain and overtones.
A graduated top was combined with the bridge truss, where the guitar tops were hand-shaped to have a thicker treble side and thinner bass side, enhancing bass response and providing a warmer, more resonant tone. The reduced tension on the top from the bridge truss allowed for this level of thinning of the top. Graduated tops were also used on some models that did not have a bridge truss, including many Revival series instruments.
Models with the bridge truss can be identified by a circular plug in the center exterior of the guitar's bridge about 8–10mm in diameter. Some larger-bodied models may have up to three of these bridge plugs. However, if the bridge plug was well-matched to the color of the bridge, it may be difficult to see, so the only way to confirm for certain is to look inside the guitar and see if there is a truss mechanism under the bridge. The bridge truss was not used on Revival models but was used on both Oregon-built and Imported models.
In 2017, Breedlove phased out the use of the bridge truss system in favor of traditional bracing combined with a patented sound optimization process. Starting in 2018, Breedlove no longer mentioned the bridge truss or graduated tops in sales literature.
Current guitar models
Guitar body shapes
As of 2021, Breedlove offers four guitar body shapes in ascending order of size:
- Companion: A travel/parlor guitar with a 13.5 inch lower bout, 14 frets to the body, a 23.5 inch scale length, and a body depth of 3.25–4.00 inches. Introduced in 2020.
- Concertina: A small-bodied guitar with a 14.75 inch lower bout, 12 frets to the body, a 25 inch scale length, and a body depth of 3.25–4.00 inches. Introduced in 2018, replacing Parlor shape.
- Concert: A medium-bodied guitar with a 15 inch lower bout, 14 frets to the body, a 25.5 inch scale length, and a body depth of 3.75–4.50 inches. The Concert is Breedlove's most popular body shape, dating back to 1991.
- Concerto: A large-bodied guitar with a 16 inch lower bout, 14 frets to the body, and a 25.5 inch scale length, and a body depth of 4.00–5.00 inches. Introduced in 2017, replacing Dreadnought, Jumbo, and Auditorium shapes. A Concerto cutaway model was introduced in 2018.
Oregon-built guitar series
Breedlove's Masterclass, Legacy, Premier, and Oregon models, as well as some premium Signature models, are made in Bend, Oregon and are hand-voiced using the Sound Optimization System.
- Masterclass: Formerly a high-end production line dating back to the founding of the company, now a reserved name for Breedlove Custom Shop models and limited editions.
- Signature: Launched 2020 as a partnership with actor Jeff Bridges to produce a signature model guitar that was sustainably sourced. Past Signature Series artists include Ed Gerhard, Richard Gilewitz, Chris Hillman, and for the 25th anniversary edition, Kim Breedlove.
- Legacy: Launched in 2014, highest-quality production models, typically using exotic tonewoods such as Adirondack Spruce, Cocobolo, Sinker Redwood, and Koa.
- Premier: Launched in 2014, professional-grade models, typically using traditional tonewoods such as Sitka Spruce and East Indian Rosewood.
- Oregon: Launched in 2012, professional-grade models that use Myrtlewood either for both the top and the back/sides, or just the back/sides.
Imported guitar series
Breedlove's Organic, Solo, Pursuit, and Discovery series are made in Asia, typically in South Korea or China depending on the model and year. They do not have hand-voicing using the Sound Optimization System but have designs based on Breedlove's research on this system.
- Organic: Launched in early 2020, this series of sustainably-sourced, all-solid-wood guitars features FSC-certified exotic tonewoods and Oregon Myrtlewood. This collection also includes Jeff Bridges "Organic Signature" models.
- Solo: Re-launched in 2014 to add a sound hole in the top side that enables the player to listen directly to the instrument, using solid wood tops with laminate backs and sides.
- Pursuit: Launched in 2014 with solid wood tops with laminate backs and sides.
- Discovery: Launched in 2014 with solid wood tops with laminate backs and sides.
Discontinued guitar body shapes
- Auditorium. A large-bodied guitar. Final year was 2017, replaced by Concerto.
- CM, a concert shape with a sharp, angular cutaway, first designed in 1992 by Terry Myers. Final year was 2017.
- Dreadnought, numerous types. Launched 2004, final year was 2017 for Oregon-built models and 2018 for Imported models, replaced by Concerto.
- Jumbo and Bass Jumbo. Final year was 2016, replaced by Concerto.
- OM (Orchestra Model), a mid-size guitar similar to a Martin OM. Both standard and cutaway versions. Launched 2004, final year was 2013.
- Tenor OM (Orchestra Model). Discontinued 2009-2010.
- 000 (12-fret), a mid-size guitar, similar to a Martin 000. Launched 2004, final year was 2013.
- Parlor, a small sized guitar, similar to a Martin "0" model. Launched 2014, final year was 2017, replaced by Concertina.
- Traveler, a 3/4 size travel guitar. Launched 2014, final year was 2015. Later replaced by Companion in 2020.
From 2004 to 2013, Breedlove used the name "Revival" to distinguish the classic designs of OM, Tenor OM, 000, and the square-shouldered Dreadnought from Breedlove's "Original" styles, which included CM, Concert, Auditorium, modern-style Dreadnoughts, and Jumbos. The Revival name signified body shape only, and was appended to both high-end, Oregon-built models, such as Masterclass Revival, and low-end Import models, such as Passport Revival.
Additionally, "Limited Edition" and "Limited Run" models were made for many of both the Oregon-built and Imported series, typically using different tonewoods and/or finishes.
Discontinued Oregon-built guitar series
- Exotic: High-end, using rare tonewoods. One notch below Masterclass; note that other series sometimes used the Exotic appellation. Launched 2014, final year was 2017.
- Journey: High-end, modern style. Was below Exotic, above Legacy. Launched 2016, final year was 2017.
- Focus: High-end, modern style. One level below Masterclass. Final year was 2013.
- S Series: Mid-level, modern style, lower-end custom shop (below Masterclass and Focus), circa early 2000s.
- American: Mid-level, mostly traditional styles. Below Focus series, above Oregon series. Final year was 2013.
- Voice: Mid-level. Used LR Baggs Anthem Voice electronic pickup. Similar to American series. Launched 2012, final year was 2013.
- Frontier: Mid-level, modern style, all-mahogany with gloss finish. Was below Premier series, above Oregon series. Launched 2017, final year was 2019.
- USA: Mid-level, modern style, simple design and light-weight bodies with matte finish. Was below Oregon series as the least-costly Oregon-built Breedlove. Launched 2017, final year was 2019.
Oregon-built models carried a lifetime USA warranty from Breedlove.
Discontinued Oregon-finished guitar series
- Pro Series: modern-style models, all solid wood. Launched in 2008; final year 2010.
- Roots: traditional-style models, all solid wood. Launched in 2008; final year 2010.
Discontinued imported guitar series
- Atlas: Modern ("Atlas Stage" and others) and traditional ("Atlas Revival") style models. Designed, engineered, and quality controlled in the U.S., built in South Korea. First year was 2003; final year was 2013 when it was split into the Atlas Solo, Atlas Stage, and Atlas Studio series, which then dropped the Atlas prefix beginning in 2014.
- Atlas Retro: Traditional-style models. Designed, engineered, and quality controlled in the U.S., built in South Korea. Switched to "Atlas Revival" name starting in 2012.
- Cascade: All solid wood, similar to Pro Series, but not finished in the U.S. Designed, engineered, and quality controlled in the U.S., built in South Korea. Launched in 2009, final year was 2012.
- Passport: Inexpensive models typically using solid tops and laminate sides. Designed, engineered, and quality controlled in the U.S., built in South Korea. Launched in 2013, final year was 2015.
- Stage: All solid-wood guitars, typically with electronics. Designed, engineered, and quality controlled in the U.S. Built in South Korea (early) or China (late). Launched in 2013, final year was 2019.
- Studio: Solid-top, laminate back and sides, typically with electronics. Designed, engineered, and quality controlled in the U.S. Built in South Korea (early) or China (late). Launched in 2013, final year was 2016.
Discontinued alphanumeric naming system
Characters before the slash
First character: Body Style
(note that S-series models may have an S prefix, such as "SA" for an S-series Auditorium, and Atlas-series may have an A prefix, such as "AC" for an Atlas Concert)
- A = Auditorium
- BJ = Bass Jumbo
- C = Concert
- D = Dreadnought
- J = Jumbo
- N = Nylon string
- OM = Orchestra Model, similar to Martin OM 14-fret
- 000 = Similar to Martin 000 12-fret
- P = Parlor
- RD = Round-shouldered dreadnought
- SD = Slope-shouldered dreadnought
Second character: Body Depth
- 1 = Shallow
- 2 = Standard
- 3 = Deep
Third character: Cutaway Style
- 0 = No cutaway
- 2 = Sharp cutaway
- 5 = Soft cutaway
Fourth character: Laminates
- 0 = instrument has laminate back and sides
- No character = instrument has all solid woods
Characters following the slash
First character: Top Wood. Note that in some cases the top wood code is not included, for example with "MH" with mahogany back/sides or "MP" with maple back/sides.
- A = Adirondack Spruce
- C = Cedar
- E = Engelmann Spruce
- EU = European Spruce
- K = Hawaiian Koa
- M = Mahogany
- MY = Myrtlewood
- PO = Port Orford Cedar
- R = Redwood
- S = Sitka Spruce
Second character: Back/Sides Wood
- AB = Australian Blackwood
- BR = Brazilian Rosewood
- F or MP = Flamed Maple
- K = Hawaiian Koa
- M or MH or MAH = Mahogany
- MB = Malaysian Blackwood
- MY = Myrtlewood
- O = Ovangkol
- R = Rosewood
- S = Sapele
- W = Walnut
- Z = Ziricote
- E = electronics included
Additional characters following hyphen, space, or comma
- -4 = 4 string bass guitar
- -12 = 12-string guitar
- -Ab = Abalone purfling
- -FS = Full Scale, used in place of wood designation (e.g. D20/FS)
- -H = Herringbone purfling
- -LH = Left-handed model
- -LTD = limited run of instruments
- ABJ250/SM-4 = Atlas Bass Jumbo with standard depth, soft cutaway, laminate back/sides, Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, 4-string bass guitar
- C15/EUMY = Concert, shallow body, soft cutaway, European spruce top, myrtlewood back and sides
- C25/CR-H = Concert, standard depth, soft cutaway, cedar, rosewood back and sides, herringbone purfling
- C35/SMe = Concert, deep body, soft cutaway, Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, electronics
- N25E/MAH = Nylon-string guitar, standard depth, soft cutaway, electronics, mahogany back and sides (top not specified in code)
- SJ20/MP-12 = S-series Jumbo with standard depth, no cutaway, maple back and sides (top not specified in code), 12-string guitar
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- Official website
- Larry Breedlove talks about the love of his craft NAMM Oral History Interview (2012)
- Kim Breedlove reflects on his role in building the business NAMM Oral History Interview (2012)