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Guitarmaker Discovers A Key to His Craft

Alvin Fry taught himself to build the instruments after his own was stolen

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IN a small room of a skinny Victorian house sandwiched between two brownstones in Cambridge, Mass., Alvin Fry spends about 10 hours each day at an intense, exhausting, time-consuming job that he describes as a passion. Mr. Fry builds custom guitars.

The luthier (meaning a maker of stringed instruments) moved here from Nashville last September, and he has been making guitars - classical, jazz, folk, rock, baritone acoustic, and electric ones -

for 14 years.

Ten years ago he discovered an innovation that he says has enabled him to build every one of his guitars with five features that work right every time.

These include a dynamic range that will respond accurately to the power level given to it; a properly balanced tone from the first position to the last position; evenness of volume from one note to the next; medium-gauged strings that are easier to play than light-gauged strings on other guitars; and perfect intonation - a musical impossibility, according to other luthiers and musicians.

A number of musicians claim that Fry is an undiscovered diamond in the rough.

``I've played thousands of guitars,'' says Bob Harris of Nashville, named ``best bluegrass flatpicker'' by Guitar Player Magazine. ``His are the best. There's no other guitar that even comes close. He's doing something inside the guitar that's bringing all of this out, and every one of his guitars are like that.''

``Al somehow found some kind of magic formula,'' says Ed Supple, a studio guitar player who bought an acoustic electric from Fry.

``I've played a lot of very expensive and well-made instruments, but usually they have a quality about them - certain parts are better than others. I've never played one makers' guitars where every one is consistently tremendous,'' says Mr. Supple.

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