Jean Larrivée – Pioneer of Canadian Guitar Craftsmanship

When delving into the annals of modern guitar craftsmanship, it becomes impossible to overlook the monumental contributions of Canadian luthier Jean Larrivée. His unique approach to guitar making, combined with a deep-seated respect for traditional methods, has cemented his position as one of the leading figures in the guitar world. In this biography, we journey through the life, innovations, and legacy of Jean Larrivée.

Early Days and Introduction to Luthiery

Born in 1944 in Toronto, Ontario, Jean Larrivée’s journey into guitar-making began serendipitously. Initially a budding auto mechanic, a chance encounter with a classical guitar at a Toronto folk club in the mid-1960s changed the trajectory of his life. Intrigued by the instrument, Larrivée sought out German luthier Edgar Möench, under whose guidance he began his apprenticeship and laid the foundation for a remarkable career in guitar craftsmanship.

Marrying Tradition with Innovation

While deeply rooted in traditional European methods, Larrivée was never one to shy away from exploring new avenues. Early in his career, he adopted an X-bracing pattern (commonly associated with steel-string acoustics) for his classical guitars, demonstrating an innovative streak.

Westward Expansion and Growth

The early 1970s saw Larrivée move to British Columbia. This westward transition was pivotal, marking the beginning of a significant expansion in his production capabilities. Here, Larrivée began to shift his focus from classical guitars to steel-string acoustics, incorporating indigenous Canadian woods into his designs. The rich tonal qualities of woods like Sitka spruce and Canadian maple, combined with his craftsmanship, led to instruments of unparalleled resonance and clarity.

Family Legacy and Expansion

Larrivée Guitars, as the brand came to be known, evolved into a family enterprise. With his wife, Wendy, contributing intricate inlay artistry and their son, John Jr., joining the business, the company witnessed both domestic and international growth. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, Larrivée had expanded operations to the United States, opening facilities in California.

Recognition and Impact

Jean Larrivée’s commitment to quality, coupled with his innovations, has earned him numerous accolades over the years. Larrivée Guitars, known for their impeccable craftsmanship and tonal excellence, have found their way into the hands of renowned musicians worldwide.

Moreover, his dedication to imparting his knowledge ensures that the tradition of luthiery remains alive. Over the decades, Larrivée has trained numerous luthiers, many of whom have established successful careers and brands of their own.


Jean Larrivée’s story is a testament to passion, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to the craft of guitar-making. While Larrivée Guitars stands today as a beacon of quality in the acoustic guitar world, the man behind the brand remains a symbol of dedication and craftsmanship.