The legendary Larrivee story since 1967
In the late 1960s, Jean Larrivée was a young mechanic who was about to change the development of guitar making forever.
In 1967, Jean Larrivée attended a performance by veteran guitarist Edgar Munch Jr. Impressed by Larrivée's keen interest in classical guitar making, Munch agreed to take the young Jean on as an apprentice.
In 1970, Jean acquired his first commercial workspace on the second floor of the Tarragon Theater. It was during this time on the second floor of the Tarragon Theater that he developed his unique X-bracing system - the key to the signature Larrivée tone, which delivers crystal clear highs, smooth mids and punchy lows.
Over the next few years, Larrivée became increasingly well-known and successful, and today the guitars are legendary. The guitar company now employs well-known and talented artists such as William "Grit" Laskin, Linda Manzer, Sergei de Jong, David Wren and Tony Duggan-Smith. The most notable of all is Wendy Jones, whose skill and artistry eventually lead to the spectacular and breathtaking inlays still seen on Larrivée guitars today.
In search of a warmer climate and easier access to valuable Sitka spruce wood, Larrivée moves to the spectacular west coast of Vancouver Island in 1977. In Victoria, Jean Larrivée begins to develop new ideas for tooling and manufacturing while continuing to produce a handmade instrument. Greater precision with specialized machinery would allow him to produce more guitars - but since such equipment did not exist, Jean developed his own. He was soon building four guitars a day, setting in motion a productive development that would extend over the next 20 years.
Jean also began to develop relationships with the timber industry, particularly seeking access to high quality Sitka spruce. But not only did he want the best wood, he also wanted to find it himself. He soon explored the rainforests on the north coast of Vancouver Island and discovered an incredible supply of the coveted wood.
As the company continued to grow, new challenges arose. In 1983, Larrivée is faced with isolation on an island. This meant a complete relocation to the mainland. During this time, Jean's eldest son John Jr. began working alongside him in the workshop. But the 80s are characterized by electronic keyboards and flashy electric guitars. Acoustic guitars lost a large share of the market. Jean Larrivée did not give up, he quickly adapted and used his in-depth knowledge as a guitar maker. He developed a range of high-quality electric guitars not only for his label (Larrivée), but also for other well-known companies such as Kramer and Schon. Here too, Larrivée went his own way, constantly developing new skills that would later prove invaluable.
In 1991, MTV's unplugged movement breathed new life into the acoustic market and the production of acoustic guitars took off. Larrivée seizes the opportunity to expand its range and produces several new models with different types of wood - with success. The workshop in North Vancouver becomes increasingly full and Larrivée soon employs more than twenty people, including David Iannone, who later starts his own successful career.
The growth of guitar production in North Vancouver continues unabated. Every day, 16 guitars are produced, and the 11,000 ft2 workshop is close to its capacity limit. That's why Matthew, Jean's younger son, joins the team to oversee the technical side of machining. After a five-year stint in East Vancouver, Jean returns to downtown Vancouver in 1992 and buys a large two-story building on Cordova St., with 27,000 ft2 of space - enough room to alleviate Jean's growing pains. Soon, several computerized milling machines are added. Now with more than 45 employees, production of 32 guitars per day has become a reality.
In 1997, Jean produced the first high-end solid wood guitar made in North America for a price that was unbeatable at the time. This action fundamentally changed the guitar industry. Initially produced in limited editions, the remarkable D-03 soon became the most widely used instrument by the Larrivée company and players. The demand for this guitar was so great that they needed more employees and computer-controlled milling machines.
Jean also began to realize a long-held dream - to build guitars in the United States. In 2001, he opened the doors of his Larrivée workshop in sunny Oxnard, California.
While his father and brother Matthew build in California, John Jr. stays behind to run the Canadian operation and continue the 13-year success story. With the popular 03 line now accounting for the majority of sales, it was time to separate production. Satin guitars continued to be made in Canada, while the gloss guitars were now made in California. The move south allowed for further streamlining and efficiency in both production lines.
Oxnard, California 2001, with truckloads of supplies and machinery, Jean, a few employees and new friends begin the next chapter of Larrivée. After months of hard work, the family is ready for production again. Soon even mandolins are made and the production of high-quality electric guitars is resumed.
The global economic crisis of 2008 also hit the market for luxury guitars. Due to the rising costs of production at several locations, the Larrivée company decided to announce its closure in November 2013.
In California, Jean continues to experiment with tools and production and introduces a new bracing system that can now be found in the 40 series. Jean travels abroad in search of increasingly difficult-to-find tonewoods. From the jungles of India to southern Spain, Jean continues his tireless search for the best woods in the world.
Today, Jean is already in his mid-70s and shows no signs of slowing down. Take a tour of the workshop and you'll still see a humble man working in a corner, covered in dust, carving necks and still smiling.
All acoustic guitars from Larrivee
Makers of fine Guitars for over 50 years
Adjusted in the specialist workshop
All Larrivee acoustic guitars are fully adjusted in our specialist workshop before being shipped safely. The neck curvature is adjusted, the nut notches and bridge inlay are adjusted. We make sure that the instruments are very easy to play. We are happy to take your playing preferences into account when adjusting the Larrivee acoustic guitar. You are welcome to contact us after placing your order.
Interesting facts about Larrivee guitars
The 03 Recording Series
The 03 is made in America from solid wood and features a handcrafted dovetail neck joint for superior fit and sustain. This series leads the industry in price and quality. The 03 Rosewood Series is built from solid East Indian rosewood and can be upgraded with any of our available tonewood options. Maple sides, herringbone inlay, rosette and satin finish come standard on the 03 Series.
The 40 Mahogany Legacy series
The brand new Series 40 from Larrivée is revolutionary and features a unique "Scalloped Parabolic Hybrid" bracing system. Based on proven "X-Brace" designs, Jean has combined an asymmetrical, scalloped lateral cross bracing pattern with standard X-Brace. This means maximum strength with minimum use of material. This design allows the soundboard to vibrate even more while still providing a controlled dynamic bass response. Like all Larrivée guitars, the 40 Series is made in America from solid wood and features brand new upgrades such as bone nut, diamond fingerboard dots and 18:1 open-back tuners. Jean's revolutionary new bracing design provides a robust and distinctive tone that will delight both traditional and longtime Larrivée players. Solid East Indian rosewood is used for the construction and various tonewood options can be booked. Maple sides, herringbone inlay, rosette and satin finish are standard on this model.
The 60 Rosewood Traditional series
The development of the Traditional series was based on two things. The aim was to create an instrument with traditional features reminiscent of "vintage" products. These include flat headstocks, hand-carved volutes and diamond inlays. At the same time, the tonal balance of the symmetrical, parabolic standard Larrivée bracing system was to be retained. An enlarged sound hole provides more punch in the midrange, emphasizes the low tones and increases the overall volume. The 60 Series features premium rosewood, herringbone trim, a traditional angled bone nut and is available in a Custom Vintage Tobacco Sunburst finish. The cast bronze open-back tuners feature an engraving by Wendy Larrivée - one of the many fine details that put this series in a category all its own.
Larrivée baritone guitars are built to order and are available in all tonewoods and all series. This means you can get exactly the guitar you want - and you know it will be perfect for your style and needs. What's more, Larrivée guitars are renowned for their exceptional build quality