On any given night in Austin, there are dozens of bands playing live shows at clubs throughout the city. And there are dozens more rehearsing, writing songs and recording in studios, garages and living rooms.
And if a single instrument could define the city’s thriving music scene, it would probably be the guitar. After all, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson — both guitar slingers — are probably the most recognizable names in Austin’s rich music history. And the city is still home to several 10-foot-tall Gibson guitar sculptures, including those at the airport and along Congress Avenue.
But those sculptures are a bit too big to play. So let’s take a look at a few of Austin’s boutique guitar shops — high-end specialty stores and manufacturers where professionals and collectors go to for rare, vintage and custom guitars.
Hill Country Guitar: This high-end guitar dealer has one of the biggest collections of Collings guitars, which are made in Austin, and it has dozens of other high-end acoustic and electric brands, including some with custom paint jobs and some rare used guitars. Ever wonder what $12,500 worth of guitar looks like? Here ya go.
Austin Vintage Guitar: Recently relocated to 43rd and Red River, Austin Vintage Guitar has one of the largest stocks of high-end used guitars. If you’re trying to find that one that Stevie Ray Vaughan let get away, this might be where you’ll find it.
Austin Guitar House: If your guitar vocabulary is limited to Fender and Gibson, you could probably overlook the Austin Guitar House. But for guitarists who want something a little different, this is one of the best places to go. They specialize in boutique brands, such as K Line, Teye and James Trussart that often have extremely detailed carvings, inlays and paint jobs.
Guitar Rez: PRS has made a name for itself as one of the best relatively large guitar brands out there, and Guitar Rez probably has more PRS guitars, including several with unique variations, than anywhere in town. And they’re packed with dozens of other vintage axes and top-end brands.
Collings: They may not be as well known as the big brands. But, among guitarists, Austin-based Collings Guitars has a reputation for excellence. Though they’re most well-known for their world class acoustic guitars, the company has quickly been winning over electric players as well. And, even if you don’t play guitar, it’s likely you’ll notice the Austin twist on the model names of their guitars — such as the SoCo and I-35 models. And, guitar players and craftsmen alike enjoy their weekly factory tours where you can see the luthiers at work — or get a sense of it from your computer. The company is about to unveil its new brand — Waterloo Guitars — this fall.
John Allison Guitars: Primarily focused on acoustic guitars, John Allison’s guitars are high-end, handmade guitars that compete with other top boutique acoustic builders. Allison guitars are mostly traditionally-shaped guitars with just enough additionally styling to set them apart. Hill Country Guitars is the only authorized dealer in Austin.
Erlewine Guitars: They’ve built guitars for ZZ Top and Dire Straits. So there’s that. One of the longest-running guitar makers in Austin, Erlewine specializes in custom-built guitars. But they also have a couple standards, including a travel-sized guitar and the Lazer that doesn’t have a headstock at the end of the neck.
Teye Guitars: These artfully-designed guitars have also caught the eye of some big name artists, such as Rich Robinson of The Black Crows and Zac Brown. Aside from being quality instruments, Teye is known for its custom engraving and unique designs.
Moniker Guitars: This Austin company, founded in 2011, lets guitar players customize their guitars online. Choose materials, components and colors and watch it all come together on your screen. And the company helped build a guitar for another Austin artist — Kyle Shutt of the heavy metal band The Sword.
Textone Guitars: If you need to get some Texas tone, Textone can dial you in. These twang kings have the look and the sound of the Texas country and blues scenes. These axes got their television debut on the Craig Ferguson show when Trace Adkins guitarist Brian Wooten played one.
Schaefer Guitars: These hand-built beauties have been built in Austin for years, and they’re among the best in semi-hollowbody guitars beloved by jazz guitarists.