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Maton Guitars - Pre-visit

Maton Guitars

The Maton factory floor. Image courtesy of Maton Guitars.


Musical instruments play a very important part in rock music, and indeed all genres of music. Instrument making is an art, and the Australian guitar making company, Maton, started in 1946 by Bill May, certainly still view it this way. Maton see a guitar as an extension of the musician who owns it, they need to understand and love the guitar, and even sometimes participate in its design. Each Maton guitar is handmade from Australian wood, and they have a unique tone, much loved around the world.


Maton Guitars

A variety of guitar shapes.

Maton Guitars

The parts of an acoustic and electric guitar.


A musician’s instrument is one of the most important items in their life. It contributes to their sound, their look, their persona, and often spends more time with them than their family and friends. Quite often a musician will have several instruments and they can chart moments in their life by the instrument they had at the time. Sometimes musicians contribute to the development of an instrument or modify it in a way unique to them. It is for these reasons that it is interesting to collect and display instruments owned and played by musicians in exhibitions and museums. We can hear those instruments in recordings, but we can also see them, their modifications, their wear and tear, and perhaps even see the signs of love accumulated during their lives.



Maton Guitars

Australian tone woods, used for the body of Maton guitars. Image courtesy of Maton.

Maton are well known for their use of Australian tone woods to shape the body of their guitars. They use locally sourced wood wherever possible. The Blackwood comes from the forests in the Otway ranges. The woodsman picks out ‘guitar trees’, ones that are towards the end of their life. He cuts them into guitar sized pieces on the forest floor and carries them out one by one.


Queensland Maple Queensland rainforest hardwood light and strong, beautiful Sweet tones, upper-mid and top end sound ranges
Victorian Blackwood Cut in Victoria’s Otway ranges Warm tones in the middle sound ranges
Tasmanian and Queensland Sassafras Ideal tonewood for a bass guitar

Did you know? Maton specialise in making guitars from Australian timbers such as Blackwood, Bunya, Pine, Queensland Maple and Mulga which are chosen for their natural tonal qualities.


Before the wood can be shaped, it needs to be dehydrated so that it doesn’t expand and contract from residual moisture. Maton has two large rooms, essentially giant microwaves with different humidity levels. The wood is first exposed to high humidity, before being left to rest on the factory floor at room temperature. This allows the wood to ‘cure’ (dry out). Dehydrating the wood can take between 8 weeks and 8 months but is very important – if this isn’t done properly the wood can shrink and expand, making it impossible to keep the guitar in tune.


The first step in the process of making a guitar is cutting timber down to ‘blanks’ – smaller pieces of wood shaped into the component parts of the guitar. These parts are the two face and back plates, the curved sides and the neck.

Maton Guitars

Neck Blanks at the Maton Factory. Image courtesy of Maton.

Maton Guitars

Maton guitar side blanks. Image courtesy of Maton.

Back: When cutting the wood for the back of the guitar, the luthiers cut the wood down the middle and open it like a book – this is so that the sound vibrates evenly and the patterns in the wood are mirrored.

Face: Crossed wood is attached to the face of the guitar – this bracing helps to provide both structural and tonal integrity to the instrument.

Maton Guitars

Body Blanks at the Maton Factory. Image courtesy of Maton.

Sides: The sides need to be bent into shape before they are attached. They first have a quick hot bath to make the wood easier to bend, and then are put into a press that is shaped to the sides of a guitar. The wood is heated for 10 minutes while the water evaporates. When the wood comes out of the press it is ready to be attached to the other pieces.

Maton Guitars

Side blanks for Maton guitars at the factory. Image courtesy of Maton.

Maton Guitars

Side blanks for Maton guitars at the factory. Image courtesy of Maton.

Did you know? This method of bending the wood has been done the same way since Bill May started making guitars in 1932.


To build the body of the guitar, the guitar makers use a ‘jig’. Jigs are big frames that are shaped like guitars. All the pieces are glued together and clamped into the right shape to dry.

Maton Guitars

Jigs being used to build the body of a Maton guitar. Image courtesy of Maton guitars.

Once they are dry, the guitars are carefully sanded. To make sure they are perfect, the guitar makers put them under a special UV light to pick up imperfections that can’t be seen in normal light.

Maton Guitars

Sanding the guitar body in the Maton factory. Image courtesy of Maton.

The neck of a guitar is attached using a special kind of join, called a ‘dovetail.’ The wood is cut like two edges of a puzzle piece and then locked together.

Maton Guitars

The process of attaching the neck of the guitar. Image courtesy of Maton.

They paint the guitar with a special kind of paint, called lacquer, which dries into a hard and shiny coat.

A fretboard, the part of the guitar where a guitarist presses the strings to play different notes, is then glued to the neck.

Fret boards

Fret boards stored at the Maton factory. Image courtesy of Maton.

They then attach the bridge, the part where the bottom of the strings are tied and the guitar is strung and ready to play.


Bridges stored at the Maton factory. Image courtesy of Maton.

To see the Maton Factory, check out any of the following videos.


Before visiting the Australian Music Vault, listen to the following playlist to hear songs performed by artists who use Maton Guitars, both electric and acoustic. As a class listen to one a day and discuss.

Here are some examples of questions you can discus.

Listen to the Maton Guitars playlist on Spotify

Fire and the Flood by Vance Joy

Fire and the Flood was released by Australian songwriter Vance Joy in 2015. He wrote and recorded the song whilst on tour to promote his debut album Dream Your Life Away and the track was subsequently included on the deluxe edition of the same album.

"I had a recurring image in my head of a guy walking in the neighbourhood where his ex-girlfriend lives,” he says of the song. “He is haunting the places they used to go together. He has time on his hands and feels kind of useless. He thinks that when they are back together he’ll be at peace again." The song showcases Vance Joy’s emotion-filled vocals with acoustic guitar and the epic sounds of horns and drums.

Tip of My Tongue by Diesel

Mark “Diesel” Lizotte began his musical career playing with Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. The band was named as a joke after a mispronounciation of John Dalzell – their bass player’s name. The name stuck and Diesel became a moniker for Lizotte’s work as he continued to release albums and tour. Tip of My Tongue was released in 1992, taken from the album Hepfidelity. In 1993 the album received the ARIA award for Best Album, Diesel received the award for Best Male Artist and the song itself was nominated for Single of the Year. Diesel continues to release albums and tour, celebrating 30 years of his musical career in 2018.

The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti

Michael Franti is an American musician, singer-songwriter and hip hop artist known for his participation in musical projects such as The Beatnigs, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and his independent project Michael Franti and Spearhead. Speaking of the political and social emphasis in his work Franti has said “I’m not so interested in politics as I am in ways that people make a difference in the world.”

The Sound of Sunshine is the title track from the album of the same name released in 2010. It was written following a ruptured appendix and hospitalisation, “It was like I was seeing everything with new eyes. Every day I'd go to the window to see if the sun was shining - and if it was, I'd have this feeling of optimism!” Franti has said of the track “These days there is much to worry about. The economy, climate change, war or just making it through a rough day. 'The Sound of Sunshine' is a song about the sun's ability to make any day better."

On My Side by Gordi

Gordi is the moniker for Sydney based Australian folktronica singer/songwriter Sophie Payten, a name that originated as a family nickname given to her by her older brother. Growing up on a farm in rural Australia, she filled the space around her with music, continuing to write and release music whilst completing a medical degree. The single On My Side is taken from her album Reservoir released in 2017.

The track deals with needing support, but not wanting to ask for it, “I wrote this song about wanting to tell someone that I needed them to ask me how I was, but for some reason, I couldn't do it” Payten says about the track. “I couldn't ask them to be there for me, I just wanted them to do it without my invitation.” The song poured out in 45 minutes and the finished track features guitar strums and raw, reflective lyrics.

Anything can happen by The Finn Brothers

The track Anything can happen is taken from the Finn Brothers’ album Everyone is Here, released in 2004. Although Neil and Tim Finn had worked together in Split Enz and Crowded House, Everyone is Here was their second release as a duo. Speaking about the songwriting on this record Tim Finn has said “it was the first time we really channelled the theme of family, of us being brothers, and used it through the album.” Written during the period of their mother’s battle with cancer, Neil Finn has said she is “an all-pervasive but not explicit presence” on the album, but she passed away before it was released. The album was recorded twice, with recordings from both recording sessions being released at various times. Anything Can Happen is an upbeat guitar pop song written with the trademark crafting that has made the Finn brothers internationally renowned masters of songwriting.

Blues in my heart by Fiona Boyes

Fiona Boyes’ career as a blues artist began after winning a Maton guitar in a local coffee shop talent show. Since then she has received many accolades and awards, touring Australia and internationally for more than 25 years. During the early years she honed her skills in an all female band, The Mojos, who released five recordings together.

Blues in my Heart is taken from Fiona Boyes first solo album of the same title, released in 2000. It showcases Boyes’ laidback acoustic fingerpicking style and husky blues voice.

The Summer by Josh Pyke

During his career as a singer-songwriter Josh Pyke has released five acclaimed top 10 albums, and received 4 ARIA awards. Known for his ability to bring together strong, poetic lyrics with crafted pop hooks, Pyke first came to national attention in 2015 with his EP Feeding the Wolves.

The Summer is taken from the album Chimney’s Afire, released in 2008. Pyke has said of the song “it is about reminding yourself to live life like the way you experienced when you were falling in love and when you’re a kid.”

Overkill by Colin Hay (Acoustic Version)

Colin Hay rose to fame as the front man of the iconic Australian band Men at Work. The band formed in 1979 and skyrocketed to success in the early 80s with their debut album Business as Usual and their single Land Down Under. Despite their rise to fame during this period Colin Hay says that it wasn’t until he penned Overkill that he had written a song that he was happy with. The song was taken from Cargo, Men at Work’s second studio album, released in 1983. Speaking about the song Hay has said “I like “Overkill” for a few different reasons. When you first start writing you think to yourself “Am I any good at this?” and you keep on going. “Overkill” was the first song where I felt I was getting anywhere, so that’s a special song for me.”

When Men at Work disbanded in 1985 Colin Hay launched a solo career to fluctuating success as he struggled to focus himself in the aftermath of his pop success. He re-established himself as a touring artist, releasing several solo albums. In 2002 Colin Hay appeared in the comedy medical drama Scrubs performing Overkill as part of an episode.

April Sun in Cuba by Dragon

Dragon formed in New Zealand in 1972, deciding in 1975 to relocate to Australia to reach a bigger audience. They were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2008 following a career sometimes marked by tragedy, adversity and notoriety. They were regular on the TV pop show Countdown, and frontman Marc Hunter hosted the show several times.

April Sun in Cuba was written by the late Dragon keyboard player Paul Hewson and later added to by Marc Hunter. “We recorded April Sun in Melbourne in early 1977,” says Todd. “The band had had a bad car accident that was a very close call for Robert Taylor and Paul Hewson. When we were recording the back track, I distinctly remember looking around the studio and thinking we were a bunch of bedraggled, bandaged and neck-braced casualties recording this bright and shiny pop song.” The song appeared on their fourth studio album Running Free.

All Out of Love by Air Supply

Air Supply are an Australian duo consisting of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock who met in 1975 while performing the Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar. After the shows they would play coffee bars and pizza parlors with one guitar and two voices, gaining attention for their great harmonies and original songs.

All Out of Love was taken from the album Lost in Love, released in Australia in 1978. Written by Graham Russell, the original lyrics were "I'm all out of love, I want to arrest you." However when the album was released internationally in 1980, producer Clive Davis found the lyrics confusing and changed them to "I’m all out of love, I’m so lost without you." The song was a hit in America and the UK.


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