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World-renowned Luthier Sets Up
Humble Shop in Los Angeles

Storefront of German Vazquez Rubio Guitars | The storefront is small and unassuming. If not for the yellow paint, it could be missed entirely.

German Rubio Vazquez himself| Holding one of his many creations.
View Vazquez Guitars in a larger map
5117 W Adams Blvd | Vazquez has been creating his guitars in this shop for more than 15 years. It is surrounded by other carpentry stores.
Storefront|Vazquez reaches for one of his models available in the store, which ranges from $2500-10000.
Armand Arnazzi |Arnazzi is the sales manager and was kind enough to translate all of Vazquez's words.
A GVR Creation|Vazquez has a waiting list of custom orders and continues to replenish the store's inventory.

Photo & Audio Slideshow
The voice speaking throughout this slideshow is Arnazzi's. Vazquez is only heard once, speaking in his native Spanish. All the guitar music heard in the background is also played by Arnazzi.

By Kathy Le

“I usually don’t work in my jacket, but it’s so cold in the shop,” German Vazquez Rubio mumbled with a smile.

Vazquez is a world-class luthier whose guitars go for thousands of dollars—his most economical model is priced at $2500—and he has created guitars for the likes of Eddie van Halen and Gene Simmons.

His fame reaches far beyond his little, cluttered Los Angeles workshop, which has no central heating or air conditioning, but it's difficult to tell from the exterior.

Speaking to him won’t reveal any more, either.

The 61-year-old guitar maker is as gentle and soft-spoken as they come, barely aware of his reputation himself.

Armand Arnazzi, his sales manager, recounted, “Recently, we went to Cleveland, Ohio, for a guitar convention and concert series and we gave a talk about his life and his work. I could tell that he was very surprised and it was very nice that in a city so far away, there were so many guitarists that owned his guitars and came up and wanted to take pictures with him and wanted to talk to him.”

Arnazzi, who manages the front end and online presence of the store, handling shipments to other states and countries, as well as advertising, translated all of Vazquez’s answers from his native Spanish.

He remembered another moment during the convention.

The two dropped by a master class for classical guitar students, and Arnazzi recognized a GVR guitar in the crowd.

“And I go, German, look, it’s one of your guitars. He goes, oh look at that! And after that, this girl, I introduced myself, and I said, I wanted to introduce you to German Vazquez Rubio and when she realized that it was him, her jaw dropped.”

When asked which accomplishment he’s proudest of, amongst which are training with great luthiers, opening his own shop and building custom guitars for great concert and recording artists, he named the luthiery competitions he’s won in his hometown of Paracho, in Michocan, Mexico.

Certainly, this is no small feat as Paracho is known, in Mexico and around the world, as the capital of luthiery.

About 90% of guitars made in Mexico come from the small town, according to Arnazzi, who is also a professional guitarist.

“[Paracho] has an abundance of luthiers in a long tradition of luthiery that comes from a long, long time ago,” said Arnazzi.

In fact, Vazquez himself is part of a line of luthiers. All six but one of his brothers know how to make guitars and many of his uncles and cousins work as luthiers.

He started learning the craft full-time from his uncle when he was just 11.

Vazquez explained that he was the oldest of eight children and there was an economic need for him to contribute to the family.

He decided to leave school to work full-time in the shop, to “make ends meet.”

Vazquez came to the U.S. in the 1970s, working first with companies like B.C. Rich and Valdez guitars, but constantly making his own guitars and selling them on the side.

Eventually, the demand grew and he started working solely out of his apartment, and finally got his hands on the shop at 5117 W. Adams Blvd. about 16 years ago.

“I think that because he started it at such a young age that helped him, and the idea that it wasn’t because of a romantic notion, like, I like playing guitars so I want to be a guitar maker. But when you’re a child, you don’t think that way. It’s more just like, well, I gotta make some money, and to make some money, I gotta do this work and to get paid, it’s gotta be right. And so I just—that mindset has really kind of shaped his career and I think that in all the stages of his career, you see that quality in his guitars,” explained Arnazzi.

The drive that Vazquez has now has been with him from the beginning.

“He does remember when he was very young that he would see his family and friends, peers, that they would be studying and that they had a goal of getting… graduating and getting a degree and had a goal of becoming something. And he remembers thinking, well, I’m not—I can’t do that, but if I chose this as my profession, then my goal is to be the best I can be. He does remember thinking that I have to really become more than what I am now.”

Still, while the decision to begin learning the guitar-making skills came from an economic necessity, Vazquez always loved the craft and still does.

Arnazzi said Vazquez works in the shop 12 hours a day and even though the storefront is closed on the weekends, he still comes in.

Vazquez explained, “When you enjoy what you do, it’s always a pleasure to go to work. It’s something you look forward to.”

He insisted it would be impossible to work in this field without the love and passion for it.

“That is very important because it requires a lot of patience and you can’t have that kind of patience if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing,” he said.

Plus, even after 50 years of experience, Vazquez still feels like he has work left to do, “It’s a craft that he’s always striving to do better, to find new designs that produce a better sound. It’s just a constant struggle to make the guitars better. He’s never felt like okay, I’m accomplished and I can rest here. It’s a non-stop like, it’s gotta be louder. There’s gotta be more resonance, it’s gotta be clearer, it’s gotta be more balanced, it’s gotta be easier to play, it’s gotta be more beautiful,” explained Arnazzi.

“People ask him, when are you going to retire? And he goes, well, what do you mean? This is what I like to do.”

Vazquez working | All video clips shot by Kathy Le
From GuitarsbyGVR YouTube Channel| Video directed by Michael Cox
Handmade | Every piece of the guitar is sculpted, carved, cut, sanded, and made by Vazquez.

Working|Did you take the poll and are you surprised at the answer?