Precise, original and innovative. These qualities describe not only J. S. Cooper Guitars, but also the craftsmanship of the creator behind the instruments… Jeremy Cooper. He has become one very well respected luthier by many professionals including Odair Assad, who is one of the newest owners of a J. S. Cooper guitar. From the top of this story to the bottom you will learn about how an automotive repair technician became a guitar maker, and for those of you who have not yet heard of Jeremy Cooper, you will …soon!!
I had the honor of meeting Jeremy a number of years ago at of all places, a dance studio. We were both ballroom dance instructors. He was also a Ford repair technician and I was getting my masters degree in classical guitar performance at the University of Arizona in Tucson. After Jeremy learned this about me, he told me that he was about to start building a classical guitar and that he would like to take lessons from me. I taught him once a week in trade for pizza.
Most people have dreams and never act upon them, but to my surprise Jeremy soon began building his first guitar. When I asked him from whom he was learning, his answer was “From books”! He invited me over to see his progress. I am not a luthier, but when I saw the operation on his back porch and in his outdoor shed, all I could think was, “This is very crude”, and, “Good luck!” I didn’t have a lot of faith in his future. Yet somehow, with a four inch diameter steel pipe and blow torch, this guy achieved symmetry to both of the guitar sides. The way he planed the soundboard, fit the braces, carved the neck and even placed the frets to have proper intonation with just hand tools was extraordinary.
Jeremy’s first guitar took about one year to build. He strung it, he tuned it, and I had the great pleasure of being asked to play it. It looked like a guitar, it sounded like a guitar and it played like guitar. Jeremy had made a guitar; a piece of work that he should always look on as a massive achievement and derive substantial pride from. An instrument was created out of a deep desire. I was overjoyed to witness the final result.
A second guitar was already in the planning stages before the completion of the first. Jeremy had detailed notes on the first guitar and had blueprints for the next, based on my David Daily guitar that I let him borrow. He bought more tools and built a machine to bend the sides of this guitar. The results of his second attempt were not only much cleaner craftsmanship, but to no surprise, a better tone quality. The second guitar was far superior to his first.
His third and fourth guitars were planned before the second was done. He built these two at the same time experimenting with lattice bracing on one of them and French polishing on both. Amazingly, both of these were vastly superior to his second.
Though a little shy about his work, Jeremy began obtaining feedback. He spoke to other local luthiers and players in the area to gain more insight on how to become a better builder. He even went to the University of Arizona and spoke to the Director of Guitar Studies, Thomas Patterson, who taught his master class with Jeremy’s guitar.
He took his guitars to a local guitar studio, Southwest Guitars, owned by Phil Hemmo. Jeremy asked Phil and guitar instructors Ben McCartney and Federico Reggiardo to critique his work. Ben is working towards his Doctoral Studies Degree in classical guitar and Federico has a Masters in Classical Guitar Performance, both from the University of Arizona. Guess what? Jeremy took notes. He took his fifth guitar back to Phil, Ben, and Federico for their thoughts. Phil then commissioned Jeremy’s sixth to sell at his studio. Months later, Ben told me that he was surprised that Jeremy had done everything that he, Phil and Federico had suggested.
Since then, outside of two guitars Jeremy created in a Canadian workshop, each piece of work has been commissioned.
Two of Jeremy’s guitar heroes are the Assad brothers. They came to Tucson on Easter Sunday in 2005 to teach a masters class at the University of Arizona, and for a concert the following Monday. Jeremy and his girlfriend, Yasmin, attended the class. Afterward, Thomas Patterson asked Sergio and Odair to play Jeremy’s guitar. Both players liked the guitar, and invited Jeremy and Yasmin out to eat with them. At the restaurant, Odair asked Jeremy’s permission to borrow the guitar overnight. Jeremy was thrilled.
After the concert the next night Odair took Jeremy into the dressing room backstage and told him he wanted to buy a guitar. It was delivered to Odair in October 2005 - a cedar top with lattice bracing. Odair said, “Bravo on the guitar!”, and that he planned to buy a spruce top guitar also.
Also in October, Jeremy attended a guitar building workshop with master luthier Sergie De Jonge in Canada, where during a five week study he refined his workmanship. He recommends Sergie De Jonge’s workshop to anyone interested in building guitars.
Jeremy strives to give each of his guitars the easiest playability possible, including super smooth tuning. He prefers the traditional woody sound of a Spanish guitar and tries to embrace this sound, but with more volume, clarity and balance. This is why he builds with fan bracing patterns and why, when he uses lattice bracing, he uses solid spruce braces with a solid top of traditional thickness, instead of graphite reinforced balsa wood braces and almost paper thin tops that other lattice top builders use.
Jeremy’s level of talent only comes around every so many generations. To know Jeremy and to have played each guitar he has built has been inspirational. Since selling the third one he made, there have been no undesirable instruments that made the cut, and each instrument has been better than the one before it. I don’t know what else to say except here is raw talent at its finest. Get in touch with Jeremy Cooper and get on his list before you find that his waiting list (and price) is comparable to the likes of Ruck, Sahlin, Daily or Byers. Cooper guitars are getting great respect at a very early stage. If you’re looking for an investment or a new guitar to play you can reach Jeremy Cooper at (520) 790-3149 or at