Washburn Guitars

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Current 2014 Washburn catalog cover.

Washburn Guitars is an American guitar manufacturer. It was established in 1883 in Chicago, Illinois. Washburn is a division of U.S. Music Corporation.


Washburn guitars began making hand-crafted instruments in 1883 in Chicago, IL. as a division of stringed instrument maker Lyon & Healy.[1] Lyon & Healy had made pianos and harps since 1864, with Washburn (guitars, mandolins, banjos, and zithers) becoming their premier line. Washburn was strongly influenced by the influx of southern Delta Blues musicians to the area in the 1920s due mostly to the fact that the factory was located just a few blocks from the Maxwell Street corridor- well known for its burgeoning blues scene. Many of the musicians worked in the factory making Washburn guitars by hand and this helped Washburn gain a foothold in the local blues community. This synergy resulted in the Chicago Blues sound and would also heavily influence the sound of rock and roll.

The name "Washburn" originates from the middle name of George Washburn Lyon, one of the founders of Lyon & Healy.[2]

Early Washburn brand string instruments

In 1912 Washburn introduced the Lakeside Jumbo guitar which is considered the first dreadnought sized guitar.[3] It bridged the gap between smaller bodied parlor guitars of the late 19th and early 20th century and modern day dreadnought and jumbo acoustic guitars. Washburn currently offers a reissue of that model as the LSJ749.

Washburn LSJ749 Acoustic Guitar

In the ‘80s, Washburn introduced the Festival Series of Acoustic/Electric guitars. They were thinner than standard acoustic guitars, thereby reducing the susceptibility to feedback that previous acoustic/electric designs were notorious for. The addition of patented sound slots further reduced the possibility of feedback and the guitars quickly became the go-to stage acoustic for artists such as Jimmy Page, George Harrison and Bob Dylan. In the early ‘90s when MTV introduced their Unplugged series, hardly a show went by without seeing a Festival Series guitar. The design also lent itself well to acoustic basses and it wasn’t long before nearly every bassist of the era had to have one.

Washburn makes electric guitars, acoustic guitars, electric basses, acoustic basses, banjos, mandolins, travel guitars, and amplifiers. The company also makes accessories including guitar cases, clothing, and other parts like tuners, pick ups, and straps. Washburn is mostly known for its electric guitars and acoustic guitars.[4]


Washburn is currently located in Buffalo Grove, a suburb of Chicago, IL. This is the location of their USA Custom Shop and center of operations.

Currently, Washburn produces some 300 different models of guitars, basses, mandolins, and banjos. 2013 marked the company’s 130th anniversary.

Guitars, Past and Present[edit]

A 1980s Washburn headstock

Voice Contour Control[edit]

Many Washburn guitars equipped with humbuckers have a feature called Voice Contour Control (VCC), which is currently available only on Washburn. VCC is similar to coil splitting, in that it changes the tone of a humbucking pick-up to that of a single coil, but it does it by turning the tone knob. In doing so the musician can get every sound from the humbucker to the P-90 to the single coil and all points in between, all without the hum normally associated with single coils. In other words, it gives the player the option of a warm/thick humbucker sound, or a thinner single coil sound at the twist of a knob. With VCC at 10 on the guitar knob, you get a fuller, thicker sound characteristic of humbucking pickups.

Notable Washburn innovations[edit]

Here is a look at the headstock of a Washburn RB2802 8-String Bass which uses the Buzz Feiten Tuning System.

Over the years, Washburn designed (patented and trademarked) several guitar construction features:


Washburn uses the mechanism of endorsements, where:

This process greatly promotes the whole industry. Beginning artists often try to copy the sound of their favorite artists and thus try to use the same equipment. Endorsements help both manufacturers and consumers: beginning artists get to know what kind of equipment their idol uses and can copy their sound easier, and companies raise sales.[citation needed]

The current list of Washburn Signature endorsers. Standard Washburn Endorsers.

Product lineup[edit]

Washburn N4XX anniversary

Current Signature Product Lineup[edit]

Washburn Paul Stanley model

Previous Signature Product lineup[edit]

Washburn DIME 333 (Dean ML-style)
Washburn CP2003 "Culprit"


External links[edit]