With his baseball cap and blazer on, Brooks Cobb does not look like your average luthier: a craftsman of stringed instruments. He shuns the lumberjack shirts and long, white beards, the typical trademarks of luthiers. And his custom guitars are anything but average or typical.
A Lifelong Craft
Brooks Cobb’s journey to become a luthier started early. Cobb recalls that in middle school, his wood shop teacher had a crude four-stringed instrument that he and his friends would play. “It wasn’t anything special. It was something we’d mess around with during class.” Then, in high school, Cobb began with customizing his guitar, carving a rose into his first bolt plate (now a meaningful keepsake he pulled out and showed me.) It was not until college in upstate New York that Cobb found his true calling, “I was majoring in music. I kept seeing kids finish their studies in the studio in as little as half an hour. They would get A’s while I, who would slave for hours practicing, composing, and spending all night in the studio studying, would just get C’s.” Rather than be disheartened, Cobb realized that these achievers simply had a natural “gift” for music. “I wanted to find my gift.” He embarked on his quest with independent study courses. One of his teachers happened to be a furniture-maker. “He would give me a couple slabs of wood, and I would teach myself from great books. Each time I made something, I found that the professors would be in awe of my work. I got straight A’s from then on.” By the time his college career had ended, Cobb had already made two guitars. More importantly, he had found his gift and his calling.
Quality Speaks for Itself
Store-bought guitars left Cobb, the musician, wanting more. Mass-produced, their sound is dampened, rough and diminished. Brooks Cobb decided to build his guitars, first as acoustic instruments, then adding their electronic components. Rather than solid pieces of wood with cavities made for electronics, Cobb’s premium models are almost- entirely hollow while still being electronically-capable. This allows for a resonant, cleaner sound; a quality sought by musicians, professionals and newbies alike, and especially jazz players. Cobb’s guitars however, are also collaborative visual works of art. When one buys a Brooks Cobb guitar, one chooses the wood, the shape and the look of the guitar. The guitars can have signature inlays from every material from mother-of-pearl to turquoise. Cobb even tops it off with a one-of-a-kind nitrocellulose lacquer finish that accentuates his expert woodworking. The result is a truly unique combination that inspires one to make music.
From Concept to Instrument
Cobb works with each musician to craft a guitar, whether the individual has vague ideas or precise details about the instrument he wants. “I had a friend come to me once that wanted a guitar named Shere Khan, the tiger from the Jungle Book. That was all he knew about what he wanted.” From there, Cobb launched into an intimate process with the musician. Cobb started by drawing concept sketches and then transitioning into crafted wood prototypes. The two chose a curly maple wood for the body and neck. Because curly maple has figures, separate from the wood grain, it created a long, striped pattern all along the surface. This yielded an instrument that was organically-striped across the body. The stripes continued winding up the orange-finished guitar’s neck all along the black frets to the head of the guitar. Here, Cobb topped off the instrument by sealing an image of a tiger in the guitar’s head.
Cobb created another unique guitar for an army veteran who served in Iraq. “To honor his time served as well as his fighting unit, we came up with this idea for an instrument together with a few firmly-planted ideas in mind. The themes are clearly military-based with brass inlays of 11 Bravo and the cross rifles of his battalion to mark the headstock and the twelfth fret. The finish was an obvious choice of a dark green stain on the figured maple top against the rich walnut body. A lacquer finish gave it the depth and clarity while being flexible and resilient. Top it all off with black hardware and a set of Seymour Duncan blackouts, and this guitar is a “mouth-o-war.”
A Responsible Craftsman
Not one to get carried away by profit, Cobb buys his wood strictly from sustainable wood farms around the world. “I always want to be able to offer what I’m making,” he said. The purchase of wood from environmentally-responsible native groups creates a stable economy where the wood is grown. In accordance with law, Cobb imports certain woods from the native populace. “It is better than having outsiders come in and clear-cut their natural resources. It doesn’t have to be like the exploitation of the blood diamond trade.” Instead, Cobb makes sure to responsibly import and to support native economies.
A Well-Loved Newcomer
A transplant from Alaska, Cobb only recently set up his climate-controlled shop here in Bluffton. Cranford Hollow, the popular Hilton Head Island band formally known as Cranford and Sons, already swears by his guitars. With a bass in production for them, Cobb will soon have all of the band’s musicians playing Brooks Cobb instruments. But band sponsorship and word-of-mouth are not the only ways Cobb promotes his guitars. You can find people raving about his instruments at guitar shows across the Southeast, where Cobb awes people with handsome guitars. One can even test them in Cobb’s sound isolation booth.
Cobb still plays the first guitar he ever made. “The musicians I make guitars for often cry when they see the custom creations I have made for them. I remember that feeling from back when I made my first guitar, that feeling of finally having my own personally-crafted piece to make music with. My passion is to give that feeling to whoever I can.”
For more information or to make an appointment, contact Brooks Cobb Guitars at
(843) 505-1426 or visit brookscobbguitars.com.
Written by Dylan Sell