Australia Week – Interview with Perry Ormsby of Ormsby Guitars

Ormsby Guitars is an Australian company headed up by Perry Ormsby, dedicated to making very high quality instruments, many of which are multi-scale and feature ornate inlays.

What made you want to start building guitars?

I was an avid fan of woodworking, since high school days, so it was a natural progression for me to enter into a woodworking career. At first, it was woodwork in school, and then nightschool classes when the school didnt offer the right classes, then leaving school for a pre-apprenticeship for 12 months, then into a full apprenticeship in Carpentry. I quickly realised that building homes, wasn’t the direction I wanted to pursue. I completed the apprenticeship, and started over again in Cabinet Making. I did well, 95% for my final overall marks, which is still the state’s record after more than 20 years. I was nominated for apprentice of the year, but chose to step down as I didnt feel it should be a competition.
A few years later, I went into kitchen design, and even owned a small software company supplying 3D design products to cabinet makers. However, the passion wasn’t there, and I missed the hands on work. I’d read Melvyn Hiscock’s “Make Your Own Electric Guitar” from cover to cover numerous times (we were fortunate enough to have a hardback copy in my school library… I think only myself and one other person ever loaned it), so decided to give it a shot. From there, I started a website for people to follow my progress, and within 12 months I’d decided working for the ‘man’ wasn’t for me. That was eleven years ago.

Tell us about the models that you offer.

My most popular models are the SX (29 frets), and Hypemachine models, followed by the DC (Vintage style double cutaway), and SC shape (single cutaway). Most of the guitars I build are Multiscale style instruments in 6 and 7 string formats.ormsby hypemachine

What is your design philosophy?

First and for most, the tone must be the most important aspect, with playability right up there too. Only then can we look as aesthetics and colours. A guitar should be comfortable, not exceedingly heavy, and inspire us to want to play.

What other Australian builders do you like? How about internationally?

Andrew Ellis, Ellis Guitars (acoustic). Internationally, my inspiration from the early days was always Jackson, but Paul Reed Smith encouraged me to build.

What bands play your instruments?

Most clients are technical metal bands, but due to the wide variety of clients I’m fortunate enough to have, rock, blues, and even jazz styles are all represented.

It seems that your instruments are popular with metal players. Why do you think that is?

I understand what a metal player demands from an instrument. My pickups are not based on output, or having the highest resistance that others all seem to strive for, but tonality. I build my more popular models with chambering for tone and weight relief which is preferred by my clients that move around on stage a lot. You shouldn’t feel worn out just holding a guitar, right?

Do you generally listen to and play metal?

I’m a big fan of 1982-1992 hard rock. Glam Metal! Hair Metal! I love my CD collection (I refuse to download!), with only a small handful of the 1000+ CD’s being something other than hard rock or metal. Pink Floyd is awesome too. When it comes to the heavier stuff, Obituary and Psycroptic are killer bands. I also like to collect vinyl, and have a hundred or so albums, some being extremely rare.

What is the music scene like in Australia? Who are your favorite Aussie musicians/bands?

I guess its like everywhere else. Pockets of hardcore fans all trying their best to spread the word. We have some fantastic musicians here in Australia, especially Melbourne and Perth. Psycroptic tops my list of favourite Aussie bands, and it’s a pleasure to work with them. Psychonaut, Emerald City, Ragdoll, Graham Greene (solo) get all my gig money!

What is the very first instrument you ever owned?

An Eston. Jackson/Charvel inspired, with a pointy headstock and plastic fretboard. I still have it. It was stolen from my car once, and we found it 4-5 years later.

You recently launched two more affordable production models. Tell us about them.

To spend the time required, and use the absolute best timbers available, my custom hand made guitars do end up being out of reach of most musicians. This is something that always worried me. I didn’t want to just be helping people who were lucky enough to be financially well off. My dream was to have a line of guitars that were more affordable, but still had the Ormsby quality control, and innovations like Multiscale fretboards, and my favourite pickup winds.
However, it wasn’t just a case of finding a cheap Asian manufacturer and contracting them to go forth and build. It was planned over a number of years, then 18 months of talks and discussions with the team, and now finally releasing the guitars. There was only one company I was willing to work with, and if they said no, there was no way the entire project would have been started.orsmby gtr
The two models we are starting with are the SX GTR, and the HypeGTR, both featuring Multiscale fret layouts, Hipshot hardware, and our own pickup designs for $1599 AUD. We will be releasing a new ‘Telething’ later this year, along with eight string models, and early next year a new ‘metal’ shape.

How have trends in requested specs changed over the years you’ve been a builder?

Multiscales! For five years I tried to sell the idea to people. No one was interested. Now, it’s virtually all people want.
As my reputation has grown, I’ve also been extremely lucky to see clients start requesting instruments that are entirely my choice of timbers, design or specifications. As in, “here is the budget, build whatever you like”. Those clients are AMAZING!

What do you think is the most courses a guitar can have and still be playable? Where do you stand on the guitar strings arms race?

I understand the seven string thing, but it’s not for me. Black Sabbath are the heaviest band in the world! I’ve seen some phenomenal eight and nine string players in my time, but it’s always a little underwhelming seeing most of them play live. Their sound is lost in the mix, and if you’re ‘new’ to the band, you can’t even hear what they are playing.

Do you think fanned frets will ever replace traditional frets entirely?

No. Same as aircraft haven’t replaced cars, or cars replace bikes. It’s not for everyone. But for those that try it, and like it, it’s difficult to go back. For me, it was all about ergonomics. I suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, and struggle to play a regular guitar for anything longer than ten or fifteen minutes. Multiscales allow a more relaxed wrist angle, and that fixed the issues for me.

ormsby copperDo you think there will ever be another truly original guitar design?

What’s original? Where do we go to next? More midi/synth/modelling? All I do know is, Gibson won’t be leading the pack!

What do you think will be the next big thing in guitar design?

I think we will see more composite materials. At the moment there are a handful of manufacturers doing this type of thing, but the cost to produce is prohibitive. As costs and manufacturing techniques improve, we’ll see more of this type of thing.

Do you think the guitar will ever fall out of favor as the world’s most popular instrument?

Not in my world it won’t wlEmoticon-winkingsmile[1].

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As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.