Playing music is a popular pastime for many people and there is one instrument that dominates the scene from campfires to arenas: the guitar. Getting started is easy but once you are ready to take things to the next level, choosing the perfect instrument can be difficult. One local and savvy player has taken his passion to the next level by introducing a line of parts and customized guitars to the decision-making process.
Joe Neal has taken his background as a woodworker (his family made cabinets in their Valparaiso shop for years) and applied the talents into a new direction. This crafting spirit has allowed him to refine his ideas and find a unique niche in the world of guitar making. Producing under the name Rock Rabbit, Joe has created a line of guitar parts that are made of lightweight aluminum and titanium metal. The benefit is resonant components that are also strong. Many custom builders around the world have adopted his parts to retrofit older guitars or to shave weight from new instruments they manufacture.
"Musicians and luthiers who like my products appreciate my design aesthetic, which I've been told is 'classy', 'understated' and 'elegant'. The guitar industry is very crowded in areas of 'traditional' and 'flashy' designs, so I just try to build things that I like and hope that others appreciate them too." Neal Said when prompted about what buyers appreciate about his work.
Neal has been making guitars since he was a teenager who was just plucking basic chords. However, his experience in woodwork and metalwork has resulted in a new, official line of Rock Rabbit boutique instruments, a few of which can be seen above.
"Becoming a luthier isn't a destination, it's a journey; one that I'll spend the rest of my attempting to reach the top. I push myself with every project by first imaging a process or result that I don't know how to accomplish. Then I start with a chuck of wood and remove everything that isn't the guitar in my head. Some results are better than others. That's fine because I usually learn more by completing a non-success project. Eventually these experiences add up to become wisdom."
Neal is committed to to his craft and the industry at a level that few small-batch builders I've seen are typically. He even built an amplifier in time for Rock Rabbit's participation in its first trade show in Nashville. So, whether it is just a few customized parts or an entire guitar to add into their collection, there are sure to be a lot of players that will like what they see and hear when it comes to Rock Rabbit.