Guitar Design Form follows Sound – Electric Guitars by Ulrich Teuffel

Studio Ulrich Teuffel
Studio Ulrich Teuffel | Photo: Regina Prinz

In his workshop in Holzschwang near Neu-Ulm Ulrich Teuffel builds 20 to 25 electric guitars every year, for the most part on order from North America, but also from Asia and Europe. The waiting list of his customers is long. Between 50 and 80 hours of labour are invested in each instrument.

Ulrich Teuffel is above all interested in the following question: What constitutes a guitar? To him, good-sounding instruments are a duty – creative freedom then comes with design and perfection in the sense of craftsmanship.
Ulrich Teuffel’s career as a designer of electric guitars began in his father’s hobby workshop. Here, he built his first acoustic guitar when he was 12. After completing his A-levels, a training course in metallurgy with the bus manufacturer Kässbohrer-Setra provided him with the necessary technical expertise. At first he built his guitars as an autodidact, guided by old designs. In 1988 he founded his own company and began with the construction of electric guitars and electric basses in classical design.

„Form follows Sound“/ © Alexander Stengel
In 1992 Teuffel chose a course of study in product design at the University of Arts and Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung) in Karlsruhe. He then introduced a radically novel electric guitar: the Birdfish. For this purpose he de-constructed all the components of an electric guitar and assembled them in a new way. The result was a new type of guitar with which the musician actively modifies the sound by using various claves and can vary it with five interchangeable pickups, making possible a great variety of acoustic patterns. The Birdfish won numerous design awards and gained prominent customers throughout the world: Among Teuffel’s clients are Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Kirk Hammet of Metallica and film score composer Hans Zimmer.
Over the years, Teuffel has been developing additional innovative and unconventional guitar models, and in doing so has continually refined and perfected his production technique. Thanks to a five-axis industrial milling machine and many a technical subtlety, he is able to produce all guitar components himself, including the mechanical ones made of metal.
Ulrich Teuffel is a co-founder of  European Guitarbuilders, a network for guitar builders for which he organises an annual trade fair in Berlin.