August 2013

Seeking Sonic Perfection

Author: Michael Paskevich


Brooks Cobb builds hand-crafted custom guitars in a secluded shop not far from Old Town Bluffton, and his ongoing quest for perfection begins literally from the ground up.

“I’m always looking for the perfect cut of wood with tight grain, and there’s just not that much of it around these days that hasn’t been affected by pollution,” said Cobb, who imports high-quality slabs of maple, spruce, walnut and even rare Koa from Hawaii for his creations. “What I’m offering is more like a Stradivarius (violin) where, hundreds of years ago, the wood grain was tighter and free of impurities; that’s where you get the resonance and playability.”

Cobb was born in California but traveled widely growing up, spending time in Europe and competing in lacrosse and downhill skiing before a broken back derailed his desire to pursue college athletics. He also played guitar and recalls a woodworking instructor building a primitive stringed instrument as a class project. Cobb, who still cherishes the classic sounds of Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, knocked around with various bands while majoring in music and architecture at a liberal arts college in upstate New York.

He pursued independent studies building and restoring vintage guitars, met a furniture maker who helped hone his skills and later found steady work in construction to pay the bills. But the self-described “seeker” hadn’t found his true calling yet, ending up in Alaska where he ran sled dogs before grabbing a gig repairing guitars in Anchorage. “I started working on hundreds of guitars and began thinking about coming up with a guitar that’s jazz-inspired and has ultimate playability,” Cobb said. “Orders kept coming in, and after a few years it became all about doing custom work.”

Brooks Cobb Guitars was founded in 1996, and the proprietor moved to Bluffton last September to be closer to family. He now spends hours best measured in triple-digits on each guitar, sawing, crafting and steam-shaping each creation to precise standards for serious players and collectors who want the best. Prices start at $1,800 for basic bolt-neck guitars and swell from there based on specified wood choices, styles and electronic needs. “These are really acoustic instruments to begin with and the electronics come later,” he said. “They are classically inspired so they have the aesthetics, and the hand-built design gives them the perfect tone.”

Professional musicians have found Cobb via website marketing and crucial word-of-mouth, many starting out with basic repair and restoration of guitars that can take a beating on the road. “The industry joke is that musicians have $5,000 guitars and drive them around in $500 cars,” Cobb said with a smile. “They value their instruments more than anything else, and I have some faithful guys who end up bringing their friends to me.”

Players soon realize that Brooks Cobb can also build their dream guitar, custom-fit to every desire. Business has grown to the point that Cobb can consider hiring an apprentice at his quiet and climate-controlled workshop. “People can call me and I’ll meet them for a cup of coffee and discuss what they need,” he said. “There are so many choices, and it’s all about the details.”

For more information or to make an appointment, call Brooks Cobb Guitars at (843) 505-1426 or visit brookscobbguitars.com.

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