Fingerstyle master Adam Miller demonstrates a recent creation by archtop-guitar visionary Ken Parker.
by Teja Gerken
September 03, 2019
It’s hardly a stretch to call Ken Parker one of the most innovative luthiers of our time. Ken built his first archtop in 1976, and by the time he co-founded Parker Guitars in 1991, he’d established himself as one of the premier makers on the East Coast, specializing in a line of solid-body electrics that re-evaluated just about every aspect of guitar construction. After the sale of Parker Guitars in 2003, Ken refocused his attention on archtops, coming up with an original design that has been the foundation of his instruments ever since. His guitars have been used to play a wide variety of music (one of Ken’s goals is to expand the archtop’s role outside of jazz), and one of Ken’s instruments is among the very few contemporary guitars in the permanent collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ken only builds a small handful of guitars each year, so when Australian fingerstyle ace Adam Miller stopped by the Peghead Nation studio with one of these rare archtops last spring, we took the opportunity to have him demo the guitar.
Ken built this particular archtop, named “Lucky,” to have on hand at guitar shows and to lend to artists, which is how Adam ended up with it during a lengthy stay in the US earlier this year. The guitar has a 15.9-inch wide, non-cutaway body, and it’s built with a Sitka spruce top and curly mahogany back and sides. It includes typical Parker traits such as a top and back joined to the sides with violin-style overhang, an off-set soundhole in the upper bout, a completely adjustable and detachable floating neck joint, a neck constructed with a light-weight Douglas fir core wrapped in a hardwood laminate (in this case mahogany from “The Tree”), a hollowed-out bridge, etc. The guitar also includes a Duneland Labs noiseless magnetic pickup with an unobtrusive mini-jack output mounted to the pickguard.
In this video, Adam discusses the guitar in detail and uses it to play his original tune “Sleep,” as well as a portion of “Parker,” a tune originally inspired by another Parker archtop. You can hear a complete version of “Parker” played on this guitar here, and Adam also teaches “Parker” in his segment of Peghead Nation’s Advanced Fingerstyle Workshop. Kenparkerarchtops.com.
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