Ivan Imhof - Active Guitar

My name is Ivan Imhof.
I’m a Hungarian Technical Designer living and working in Boston, MA (USA) three years ago.
Please forgive me for my imperfect English.


This blog is and independent guitar technology magazine. I want to share my stories, experiences in guitar repair, modding, building – either fails and wins. My goal is also to introduce small independent luthiers/workshops and custom guitars (especially from Hungary), interesting news in guitar technology, milestones of guitar history and information I found useful.
I’m not a pro musician, neither a luthier or experienced guitar maker, so any comments, corrections are welcome!

Early days - High school band, playing on a Czechoslovakian made Jolana in 1982. (Active Guitar)

Early days – High school band, playing on a Czechoslovakian made Jolana in 1982. (Active Guitar)

My musical “carrier” started in middle school where I played the violin for 4 years and continued with guitar in high school. Of course, we founded a band soon with our schoolmates. Rehearsals and gigs became perhaps the most important in our lives and we played about hundred gigs throughout the coming years until we graduated.
I joined to 3 another student bands in college years – that was my really “active” era. 🙂
We played blues-rock, hard rock, new wave, and later some jazz-fusion and progressive rock experiments.
 When I wrote this post I began to be curious about Jolana current existence. Surprisingly, they are alive and offer new line of instruments based on the old series – including my old “Tornado” (see the photo on the left).


On the technical side I was always interested in guitars and gears. I’ve created my first “pickup” when  I was 14 using a magnet from a cabinet door and wire from old radio solenoid. it sounded terrible on my acoustic guitar. Actually, that time I wasn’t aware that nylon strings will not work with magnetic pickup – so most probably it just got sound being badly microphonic. 🙂

Some of my bandmates shared my interest and we built most of our own gears: distortion pedals, PA system, mixer, crossover, tape echo, etc.

When I was college student I owned a Yamaha SG200 that was one of my favorite guitars. I modified it by installing a microswitch to split the pickups. My guitar teacher used a rather unusual Ibanez IMG2010 X-ING MIDI-Guitar so I began to develop a taste  for such special axes. I wrote my thesis on Guitar-MIDI controllers at 1990 and graduated as Electrical Engineer of Embedded Microprocessor Systems.

My thesis (Guitar-MIDI conversion hardware) on breadboard.
My thesis (Guitar-MIDI conversion hardware) on breadboard.

Actually, I worked less than two years in engineering because I became attracted rather by graphic design.  I’m a self-taught in design and worked for several small studios in the nineties than joined to a market leader Hungarian software company developing special purpose graphic applications as designer and later as software instructor.

That time music was just an occasional hobby. Our high school band reunited in 1998 and played for one more year. I haven’t played in band since then any more, but I composed several dozens of songs and recorded in a small home studio.
I played acoustic and electric guitars, bass, percussions, flute. Drums I programmed on the built-in drum machine of the multitrack recorder.

You can listen some of my old and newer songs on SoundCloud (sometimes with intense use of MIDI-Guitar to emulate another instruments).

Hard times came and I sold all my gears.
Of course, I couldn’t live without guitar for long time but I didn’t want to spend much on them again. I got to the idea to buy a cheap kit and start to build my own guitar.
My job required frequent travels worldwide and I wanted to create a small but fully equipped flight-friendly instrument. Most of the travel guitars have limitations: awkward tuner placement, limited pickup choice, etc. I wanted a quality H-S-H pickup configuration with coil-split to have a broad range of tones. Recently I used a Steinberger Spirit GT-PRO that I really loved but I wanted something different.

My first design: a full-featured small travel guitar.

My first design: a full-featured small travel guitar.

I had no prior experience in woodworking except a small stairs at the porch and a birdhouse. I bought a jigsaw, a router and a router table, some files, scraper and started to work on my first guitar.
Well, it’s almost done after a couple of years! 🙂

My first guitar building project is close to completion.

My first guitar building project is close to completion.

In 2011 I accepted a job offer and moved to the US. I live in Greater Boston and I love it!

Half a year later I found DJ Parsons luthier in Watertown. He offered night classes to learn guitar setup, repair and build. I attended to his luthier school and it changed my life! I was 45 and I have realized soon that luthier craft is The Job I have dreamed in my whole life. It’s never too late to start, isn’t it? 🙂
Thanks to DJ’s great teaching skills I could progress a lot and he allowed me to work as his apprentice. With flexible scheduling I was able to do a couple of sessions every week and do my homework, too, while daytime I worked in the office.

Active Guitar in work!

Active Guitar in work!

I have married in 2013 and I played “Why worry” (Dire Straits) on the wedding to my wife. 🙂

Playing "Why whorry" on my wedding :)

Playing “Why whorry” on my wedding :)

I have started  Aktivgitar.hu, a guitar blog in Hungarian to provide news, technical stuff, case studies, English-Hungarian guitar dictionary, etc. for the Hungarian guitar players.

Aktivgitar.hu, my guitar site in Hungarian.

Aktivgitar.hu, my guitar site in Hungarian.

It became quite popular in short time so I decided to launch its “twin” brother in English, too.


Here we go! 🙂



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