Guitar. An ancient (yep, you read that right) instrument I’ve never learnt to play. As sad and uncool as it makes me look, it doesn’t exclude me from being a massive fan of everything guitar-related. Especially when it has something to do with Australia.
So I was thrilled to find out there’s a pretty awesome guitar manufacturer in Melbourne whose products are used around the globe. And that company is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
PART 65 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE
A few years ago, I dropped a brief post about the best guitar brand in the world. We all know it’s impossible to judge objectively. Because every player looks for different features in the instrument, depending on their individual preferences and the music genre they represent.
Yet, the question comes back periodically. Countless interviews with experts and musos alike have been conducted covering that unsolvable topic. Luckily, it’s not always the biggest, fanciest and most famous manufacturers that get the geeks’ attention. That’s where companies like Maton Guitars come into play (literally).
I love me a good Australian music success story. And Maton Guitars is definitely one of them. From their humble beginnings to the present days, the company has been tirelessly building its reputation in the guitar world. What impresses me is that “every worker on the factory floor plays guitar and their passion for their craft is clear as they devote themselves to making instruments they would want to play.”
Established in 1946, Maton Guitars is still 100% family-owned and run. The founder, Bill May, was a “guitar practitioner” in two aspects. He played in bands and made the instruments himself. The name of the company cleverly reflects this piece of history – Maton is pronounced “May – Tone”.
Additionally, the founder’s contribution to the development of Australian music “was recently recognised at the Australian Music Association Awards where he was posthumously awarded their highest honour and inducted into the hall of fame”.
Maton Guitars use uniquely Australian types of wood to make their instruments, amongst them bunya, found mostly in Queensland. Sustainability plays a big part in sourcing the materials – it’s one of the company’s signature features.
From an aesthetic point of view of a total layperson, I particularly like their Blackwood Series, for its elegant simplicity. But you can get pretty much anything in their shop: bass, acoustic, ukulele, electric or a mini version.
In non-pandemic circumstances, you can even take a tour of where the magic happens (Box Hill in Melbourne). But since the visits are now temporarily unavailable, here’s a quick glimpse into the Maton Guitars workshop:
If anything speaks to a company’s legacy and popularity in its industry, it’s three things.
Firstly, it’s the visibility in the business. American vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme (of QOTSA), Brit Phil Palmer (who’s played with Eric Clapton or Dire Straits), Joe Zhu – a fingerstyle artist from China and New Zealand’s music all-rounder, Aly Cook, all have Maton products. That covers the international bit.
Another aspect that proves the company’s reputation is the use of its instruments by artists of very diverse music genres. This is particularly visible on the home turf. The Aussies who have chosen the local brand include The Pierce Brothers (folk), Courtney Barnett (alt-rock), Morgan Evans (country), The Amity Affliction (metalcore), Ball Park Music (indie pop), John Butler (roots) or Tash Sultana (psychedelic/rock/reggae).
Maton Guitars has also partnered with Aussie guitar “celebs” to deliver real gems. The world-renowned player from Down Under, Tommy Emmanuel, inspired the TE Personal series. And singer Joe Robinson, who won Australia’s Got Talent in 2008, has his own J.R. Signature model. Hear the latter talk about his new baby on the TrueFire podcast:
The list of regions where your product can be purchased speaks to its reputation as well. With a 75-year experience in the industry, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that all Australian states have at least one shop selling Maton Guitars.
But, in case you’re currently outside of Oz, look for the dealers in the following countries, for instance: Belarus, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand or Spain.
Finally, having an exhibition in a museum dedicated to your product is no small achievement. The Powerhouse in Sydney is currently hosting Maton: Australia’s Guitar until the end of January 2021. Since the Melbourne tours are on hold, it’s your only chance to see the instruments in their (pretty much) natural habitat.
Aside from the gear itself, Maton Guitars offers other experiences for guitar aficionados. If you’re keen on learning a few tricks from the experts, they make various virtual workshops available. Their YouTube channel is full of insightful instructional videos, short gigs and Q&As.
On other channels, the company currently focuses on different playing techniques. They have partnered with muso Jon MacLennan for a 4-class crash course on Facebook and Instagram. This coming weekend will be all about the fingerstyle blues. Check out the event invite here.
Last but not least, for their 75th anniversary, the company unveiled a Diamond Edition that sounds as beautiful as it looks. And I’m sure they can make your wildest guitar dreams come true with their custom shop options as well.
So, are you ready for your new Australian-made instrument yet?
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