Ervin V. Somogyi (born 1944) is a maker of high-end steel string guitars. He is known for his craftsmanship, and places particular emphasis on the voicing of his instruments’ soundboards. He is also an influential teacher.
Building guitars started out as a hobby. At first, Somogyi had little hope of making a living at it, he says. With few how-to books available or schools where he could take classes, he learned primarily by getting his hands on some well-made instruments and studying them. “It was a very oddball activity,” he says. Now, as one of the “grand old men” of American lutherie, Somogyi is often invited to lecture at guitar shows and exhibitions.
Building primarily high-end steel-string guitars that sell for over $30,000 each, Somogyi cultivates a clientele of serious musicians—such as the late John Denver and Michael Hedges, and fingerstyle master Alex de Grassi—as well as collectors who buy his instruments as investments. Recording artists such as Daniel Hecht and George Winston list Somogyi as the builder of their guitars for several past and present albums.
Working in his Temescal district shop, he creates exactly one handmade, steel-string acoustic guitar per month, twelve annually (he doesn’t take vacations), [more than] 456 since he started in the early 1970s.
He has written two volumes on lutherie, “The Responsive Guitar” and “Making the Responsive Guitar”, as well as “Voicing the Guitar”, a DVD produced at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in 2009.