For working musicians, the priority has always been value: getting a durable, dependable, great-sounding instrument, but at a price that won’t break the bank. Because the demand for such products is so high, lines targeted to the working musician are uniquely appealing to brick-and-mortar music stores, whose inventory decisions can be the difference between success and failure. Teton Guitars, a brand under Chesbro Music, a company that boasts more than a century of experience in the music industry, has achieved remarkable success by tapping into that sweet spot. In laying out the Teton philosophy, Ben Parker, Marketing and Brand Manager, said, “We set out to build amazing guitars that are extremely affordable. We want guys who have a $500 budget to be able to own a guitar that sounds way more expensive.” With instruments that range from $300 to $1,000, Teton Guitars is, arguably, the brand for working musicians.
Teton Guitars is known for product innovation—highlights include the 10-string STJ150ENT-10, the six-string STR155NT three-quarter-size mini-jumbo and the here-discussed Arm Rest Series—and that ingenuity is rooted in its development process. It begins with monitoring trends in the market and anticipating what guitar players are going to want tomorrow. “Our team has such a close, collaborative relationship with our factory that they’re like family more than anything else,” Parker noted. “We dream up ideas, send them over and, with back-and-forth communication, we iron out the fine details.” Most projects take about a year from ideation to the creation of a finished product. He explained, “We normally get the initial sample three to four months after the idea. We review the sample and try different preamp options. Once we know what we want, we send all the final specs to the factory. After that, we usually receive one more guitar that’s the finished product, which we use for photography and videos to promote the new model.”
So, what was the impetus for Teton Guitars to create the Arm Rest Series? According to Parker, “Toward the end of 2014, five or six of our top dealers approached us within a few weeks, all requesting various things. Each one, however, suggested an arm rest guitar.” The company’s team met with its factory representatives, bringing forward the idea. “They told us that they’d started development on an arm rest guitar,” he continued, “but they were still in the initial phases. So, we worked with them on ideas and specs for eight or nine months.” Teton received its first prototypes in the latter part of last year. “From the prototypes,” Parker added, “we made some changes to ensure the Arm Rest Series was in line with Teton Guitars’ vision. With that, we created our current lineup of Arm Rest models, and we had the factory make a couple of finished units for the NAMM Show.”
Teton Guitars’ Arm Rest Series encompasses six models: STS150NT-AR, STS150CENT-AR, STG150NT-AR, STG150CENT-AR, STA150NT-AR and STA150CENT-AR. The family is inclusive of dreadnaught, grand concert and auditorium body shapes; three of the instruments offer cutaway and electronics. “Our original prototypes had way too many features, which drove the price well out of what we felt was the working musician’s price range,” Parker admitted. The features removed were mostly aesthetic in nature, and Teton’s design team found other ways to make the guitars look beautiful while still keeping the price less than $1,000. “The one structural change we made was moving to laminate back and sides,” he elaborated, noting that the prototypes had solid rosewood back and sides. “Making that change drastically reduced the price,” Parker affirmed. “We felt that the guitars would still sound amazing, because our other solid top guitars get rave reviews for their tone.”
The instruments within the Arm Rest Series are all part of Teton Guitars’ 150 Series, and they share the same general specifications. Features that are common to all models in the family are as follows: 25.5-inch scale length, solid Sitka spruce top, rosewood laminate back and sides, flame maple binding, high-gloss body, satin finish necks, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and gold hardware. The guitars that boast cutaway and electronics feature a Fishman Presys+ preamp and a Fishman Sonicore pickup.
Fitting with Teton Guitars’ orientation toward “democratizing” the music products marketplace by offering high-quality gear at musician-friendly prices, the company’s instruments—most notably, the Arm Rest Series—are built for all types of players. “We weren’t targeting a specific audience,” Parker emphasized. “We just wanted to make a guitar that sounded great and felt really comfortable.” Because Teton Guitars offers the Arm Rest Series in three distinct body sizes, many differently sized players can appreciate the comfort that an arm rest provides. “We have lots of musicians who play lots of shows playing these guitars,” he continued, “but we also have players who use them at home just to mess around on, because they like the feel.” In fact, Parker’s heard from a few players who have shoulder injuries and who love the relief they get with the arm rest, which lets them play longer and with less pain.
The response to the Arm Rest Series has been nothing short of phenomenal. According to Parker, “Our dealer base was energized when we released them, and they’ve passed on that energy to their customer base. Within days of the guitars making their way to dealers, we saw social media posts from people who’d purchased an Arm Rest guitar and who loved it.” Perhaps most exciting is that, prior to Teton’s creation, most arm rest guitars could only be acquired by purchasing a custom guitar at an exorbitant price. Now, the company has given the working musician that cut of comfort, without breaking the bank.
Plans are already in place to expand the Arm Rest Series. “We’re exploring other price points and wood options right now,” Parker revealed. “I’ve seen some of the initial prototypes, and it’s very exciting!” Although he declined to elaborated further, Parker assured The Retailer that many new and exciting things are coming. “I’m still deciding how to prioritize some of the developments,” he said. It sounds like it’ll be an exciting next several months….
Arm Rest Series guitars with cutaway and electronics have an MSRP of $999.99; the pure acoustic versions have an MSRP of $799.99. “At this moment, all SKUs are available for shipment,” Parker assured, “but they move very fast.” Might be a good reason to boost your inventory now!