Smile Politely

The music of making

Notes slide into the air like water as Hector Trevino picks a smooth jazz lick along the strings of his guitar. It’s a mellow tune filled with heart and a gliding tempo. He puts a lot into the music he plays, more than most can say. Because Trevino doesn’t just play his guitar — he also made it.

A skilled machinist and craftsman, Hector Trevino is a luthier, a builder of the guitar. He owns and runs The Guitar Workshop, located in Urbana just off of Chester Street, offering custom repairs and bodywork that most guitar specialists in the area aren’t able to do. Due to his wealth of experience with their blueprints, Trevino understands the inner workings of these instruments and just what it takes to make it play.

“It’s a very complex thing,” Trevino explains. There’s a lot more that goes into guitar making than just wood and mechanics.  

Trevino first became interested in guitars growing up in Los Angeles, playing in various bands during his high school years. He later moved out to the Midwest, started a family, and worked as a machinist, all the while never losing his love for music. Eventually, with his kids moved out of the house and retirement on the horizon, he decided that he wanted to combine his love for music with his passion for building.

“I always said that someday I wanna build a guitar,” Trevino reflects. “I’m obviously mechanically-oriented, always worked with my hands, I build things, fix things. And so I thought: yeah, I’m gonna do that!”

After researching the luthier craft more thoroughly, Trevino came up with a design for what he calls an “alternate style for a guitar”.

“Rather than just make a standard guitar,” explains Trevino, “I wanted to make something really unique. Something out-of-the-box.”

And so came The Sonic Wind.

Displayed on a stand at the entrance of The Guitar Workshop, The Sonic Wind features a rhombus-shaped hollow-body, a thin curl wrapped seamlessly around a pocket of air. It’s ruby red and sleek, carrying its sound with the same bright intensity.

“Most guitars have a solid wood body and the neck is just kind of bolted on,” Trevino explains, holding up his Sonic Wind guitar. “This one’s built a lot different. The neck goes all the way through one piece of wood and then it’s got this hollow chamber. The design is a lot different than your standard Les Paul or Stratocaster.”

After taking the Sonic Wind on tour to several guitar shows, allowing fellow guitarists to also have a spin on its stings, Trevino came back to work at his shop in Urbana. As he invested his time and care in making repairs for local musicians, word got around, and Trevino soon had a growing influx of customers. “People are pretty careful about the guitars they love,” says Trevino. “It’s like their family. They don’t want to take their guitar to some guy unless they trust him.”

Trevino first set up shop in his garage several years ago, but his growing audience of customers soon called for some expansion. He first opened the doors of The Guitar Workshop in Urbana a little over a year ago, and now has a place where he’s better able to cater to the needs of his clients. It’s a small and simple space, but with his workbench, his guitar, and music playing on the radio, Trevino has all he needs to share what he loves.

Building guitars, Trevino explains, “it’s my way to be connected to the music. I’m kind of an average, mediocre guitar player, but by using my abilities, I get to really be a part of it.”

There’s a deep level of understanding that goes into working on guitars. Trevino describes his part in the work as not only a set of skills, but a special kind of caring and investment. “I come with woodworking skills, machine shop skills, electrical skills. Working on guitars, you need a lot of patience. It may seem straightforward on the surface, but it’s not like that at all. Guitars, they’re all different. It’s a matter of analyzing, understanding, and fixing, but then there’s also tone and playability, and how it’s gonna feel. Guitars are artwork. Beautiful finishes, fine woods…you know. You have to consider the whole thing.”

With the “whole thing” comes a deep level of mindfulness and consideration, and an engagement with every aspect that goes into making the guitar. Guitar building comes not only with a knowledge of the craft, but with a passion and caring that brings the strings to life. It’s not just the guitar behind the music; it’s the music behind the guitar. It’s what makes Hector Trevino not just a machinist and a music enthusiast, but an artist.

The Guitar Workshop is located at 1007 N Cunningham Ave, in Urbana, and is typically open 10am to 6pm, weekdays. Stop in for repairs or inquiries, or just to hear Hector at the strings of his Sonic Wind.

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