View Full Version : One last Gibson comment

Marty Jacobson
Mar-19-2004, 10:35pm
I’d like to say one last thing, which Mr. Tichenor will hopefully not see as an affront to his judicious decision to lock an incredibly banal thread. No reply necessary or requested, I merely think it is the keystone of the matter, and I hope it will be considered.

The gentlemen who replied to my previous post missed the objection entirely. I understand the marketing, practicality, and legal issues involved. My objection is purely aesthetic in nature.

First a side note of clarification:
The concept of “quality control” is very different from the mindset of truly great luthiers. Someone with the well-earned reputation of, say, John Monteleone, do not strive for “consistency”, they don’t claim that every instrument they make is as good as any other they’ve made. The goal is that each instrument built is the culmination of their experience to date.

“Consistency” implies a minimum standard to which each instrument is held. However high that standard may be, it is still a concrete and standardized threshold. Such standards are useful if one must produce stator vanes for turbines, but if you want to claim that your instruments are the best of their type available, as does Gibson, then consistency is simply not enough.

Minimum standards are in fact maximum standards.

But that’s beside the point.

The point is that Gibson is taking a tragic stance in this whole issue, completely disregarding scale of production.

I do not resent the comments suggesting that for one to publicly criticize Gibson’s approach, one must be able to personally exceed Gibson’s minimum standards, with a healthy margin to spare. As absurd a statement as that is, it bears the tenor of what seems to be quite prevalent throughout modern thinking.

I cannot build a Jaguar coupe the way a Jaguar ought to be built. However, it is true that because Ford acquired the rights, tooling, and patents attributed to Jaguar as a company, the Jaguar-ness is now confined to cars produced in the past. This is a shame; with all Ford’s “quality control”, engineering, and design brilliance, they choose to divest a product of what has made it endure.
This is the truth.. and though I have never even driven a Jaguar, I can say this with certainty.

Now, while it is entirely legitimate for Ford to “protect their patents and trademarks”, it would be preposterous to assert that by forbidding custom builders to build custom cars which are actually Jaguars, through and through, that they would be “protecting the consumer”. Bosh, they’re protecting their profits. Jolly and good for them, but don’t try to fool us with the swill that it’s for the consumer’s benefit. I’m not saying they oughtn’t do that, but at least be straight-up about it, eh?

Gibson’s case, while not identical, is quite similar in many respects. A company that has not produced a new design of any quality in over eighty years is not entitled to complain that unless they protected their patents, the fruit of the labor would be adversely possessed by another through illicit means.

Come up with something good, new, and truly Gibson, and all the arguments will rally in your favor -- as will we all.
It’s very true that a company’s reputation must be protected or be effaced. This is done through sustained effort and continued progress, not elaborately fencing antique designs.

I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing the results of the creativity which the folks at Gibson must possess.

And now I’ll get back to work like everyone else. Here's to the next fifty years!

Charlie Derrington
Mar-19-2004, 11:08pm
I've tried to stay out of this one, but I must take issue with one statement.

Gibson is not "elaborately fencing antique designs". We are protecting the standard by which most all mandolins are judged. It this were not so, then all other builders would be building instruments like Montleone, and Rigel and Breedlove, etc., not copying what you call an antique design.

I have always stated that, in the mind of most mandolin consumers, the Gibson/Loar design is indeed the Stradivarius of mandolins. If it were not, then unlike the violin world (as Dr. Dave so eloquently stated) most buyers would not prefer the Gibson design. It is quite obvious that this is not the case. It is any builder's right to come up with a design to change the public's mind instead of copying someone else's. I think it must be easier to just give them what they want and then howl and scream when the designer of the preferred design takes issue with another copying it.

If I were building on my own, I must be honest and let you all know that I don't know which path I would personally take. But I will tell you this, I'd ask permission if I decided to copy the Gibson standard. If anything about the PRS decision sinks in, I would think, in this case, it would be more affordable to pay a small liscensing fee than to pay a court-ordered judgement.

I'm not about to argue this point any further, so flame away, and expect no further post from me on this subject.


Scott Tichenor
Mar-20-2004, 12:45am
I'm disappointed this has reared it's head again only briefly after attempting to stop it, but I can't say I'm terribly surprised. What saddens me about this is that there are two sides that feel strongly about their views. My experience tells me these discussions happen for a reason. It's a pretty good one. I have my own opinion on why this is continuing but it's not my place to share that. First off, it wouldn't make anyone feel any better. Probably the most troubling is that this is a guitar issue. It's being bent to fit a mandolin argument by both sides. Not sure that works for everyone but do what you must. I never make decisions late at night unless they are very clear to me.

Tomorrow's another day though.