Artist Endorsers: Kevin Kastning

Kevin Kastning has been called the most modern guitar player in the world today by Sting guitarist Dominic Miller! Kevin, a graduate of Berklee College of Music with a M.A. in composition, also studied as a private student with Pat Metheny during his early education at Berklee. It seems it was time well spent, as Kevin has gone on to shake the modern classical and jazz world with his innovative music. Kevin is being called one of the leading guitarists in the world and certainly among the most innovative!

What the critics are saying about Kevinís music:

The Book of Crossings is named one of the Top 10 Albums of 2012 by Acoustic Guitar Magazine.

The Book of Crossings is named one of the Top 20 Albums of 2012 by and FAME Magazine.

"With the release of these two very guitar-centric albums, Kevin Kastning sets a new standard for the guitar world..." - Music Web Express Magazine, Nov. 2012

"Kevin Kastning earns his spurs once again as the reigning modern guitarist in the country." - Midwest Record Magazine

"Kevin Kastning keeps expanding as a guitar phenomenon...." FAME Magazine; October 2012

"A work of veritable musical wonder by two gifted, kindred virtuosos, In Winter (with Michael Manring) is one of the most awesome sounding musical collaborations thus far in the 21st century." - Music Web Express Magazine

"A fantastic, expansive and adventurous album from two master musicians. Unquestionably, I walked into the silver darkness (with Mark Wingfield) is one of the best albums of this or any other year." -Anil Prasad, Innerviews

"Anyone reading this should seek out Kevin's work, as it is extraordinary and unlike anything you have heard before. Kevin is one of the deepest guitarists I've ever encountered." - Barry Cleveland; editor, Guitar Player Magazine

"Kevin's music, both solo and in tandem with other talented musicians, creates a bedrock of "aural familiarity" using the classic sound of the acoustic guitar while seamlessly taking the listener into his impressionistic compositional world of alternative tunings, phrasings, and tonality." - Joel Krutt; WHUS-FM (NPR)

Kevinís collaborators include Sandor Szabo and BalŠzs Major from Hungary, renowned UK electric guitarist Mark Wingfield, renowned American guitarist Alex De Grassi, Bassist Michael Manring who used to play bass for Michael Hedges, woodwind great Carl Clements, American guitarist Siegfried, and cellist David Darling, just to name a few.

The reviews of his work are constant as Kevin is extremely prolific, and those reviews are always full of superlatives! For me, my close to 15 year artist/luthier collaboration with Kevin has probably been the single most challenging work Iíve done as a Luthier. Kevin had conceived of and taken a direction in his music that has constantly involved increasing the breadth of his pallet via going to increasingly more range, requiring extended range instruments which could go below bass range and up into alto range all in the same instrument. Early on it meant building baritone guitars with extended ranges down below the normal baritone range. Then it was adding strings to create a 12 string baritone which could be tuned to either octave tunings or later, his more complex intervallic tunings. The Contraguitars took years to develop. Originally Kevin and I developed the concept to the point that I felt we could build it at Santa Cruz Guitar Company (SCGC) where I had designed most of the earlier extended range instruments with Kevin and then SCGC built them. The Contraguitar represented such a departure from standard guitar design and challenges that though we had the design available, in the end it was never an appropriate fit and never was started.

After I left SCGC, Kevin came to me about the possibility of having me build an Alto 12 string guitar and the Contraguitar we had tried to get built at SCGC. I needed to concentrate on getting my company going, so I suggested that since we had already considered the design elements of the Alto which didnít stretch the limits of what SCGC was already doing too much. He should go ahead and have them build the Alto 12 string guitar. I told him I would consider building the Contraguitar once I had my business established. The SCGC Alto build was a success and then Kevin approached me again about the Contraguitar.

He explained that without it, he couldnít continue his musical vision in the direction he had been workingÖ that the Contraguitar was a necessary element for him to be able to continue his work. With this kind of pressure hanging over my head, I agreed to take on the project. Just to make it more of a challenge, Kevin made it clear he didnít want the instrument overbuilt the way he felt many 12 strings were. The voice had to be balanced, clear and sonorous, and if overbuilding the guitar to withstand the more than double the pressures that would be present were necessary, it would be a real problem for him. I agreed to move forward by increasing the membrane strength of the top with a tighter radius built into the top and bracing, and we proceeded to build the first Contraguitar. It was a huge success tonally, and in terms of playability for Kevin, and very quickly he began to record and perform with it. Before long he let me know it had become his primary instrument. This instrument went on to be dubbed C1 by Kevin.

While the top, with very little adjustment in the size of bracing etc. had been a huge success in terms of voice and balance, structurally it was beginning to show the additional stress, holding more than double the pressure of a normal guitar with its 14 strings which covered bass, baritone, guitar, and into alto guitar range. The bridge was beginning to tip, the top was starting to distort to a degree and the bridge had lifted a couple of times. I installed a few small screws the size Gibson had used all the way back to the 40ís and the bridge held perfectly after that. As for the distortion in the top, I devised a plan to add 3 low mass braces one in front of the bridge plate running parallel to the bridge and one each running from the forward to the rear leg of the X brace within 2 inches of the X. These 3 tiny braces, each no longer than 3 inches, was able to greatly increase the torsional rigidity of the top to the point that the guitar had no problem holding the extra pressure, yet sounded even better than the incredible tone it had previously exhibited. Some of the set the bridge had taken initially was retained but it was much better and stayed stable from then on.

Soon Kevin required me to build another Contraguitar, which he would dub C2. This would allow him to have one Contraguitar tuned to octaves and one tuned to his intervallic tunings. I built it with Maple back and sides to vary the tonal color, since the first had been built of Cocobolo and was extremely dark, rich and complex. C2 was built utilizing the additional braces Iíd used on C1 with the additional change of have 3 smaller tone bars rather than 2 larger ones. In this way I was able to additionally spread the added tension without increasing the mass much. C2 is a wonderful instrument as well and the top on it has been rock solid all along having the modís Iíd done to C1 all along. Tonally, it is very different, it has a bright clean tone but with a nice roundness in attack. The overtone series is more organized and subdued in volume relative to the fundamental but with enough support and complexity to have very pleasing color great clarity and balance, and great presence. Kevinís collaborators sometimes prefer one over the other but both are equally important to Kevinís music.

Since then I have added 2 additional strings to C2 and 3 to C1 making them respectively 16 and 17 string instruments.

Late this year we will begin to build an 18-string classical instrument for Kevin which will have only a 650mm (25.6") scale length rather than the short bass scale of 30Ē (762mm) that the Contraguitars have. It will have 18 strings and will likely have multiple sound holes like many lutes have had. Kevinís projects have challenged me beyond my comfort level consistently but have allowed me to grow immensely both in terms of aesthetic design as well as my understanding of structural design and acoustical physics as applied to stringed instruments.

To my amazement and gratification, Kevin has said this of our collaborative relationship:

"I consider Dan to be a trusted partner in my music as much as any of my concert or recording partners. Dan is the unseen force that makes my concepts come to life. Dan helps make things possible that would otherwise be quite impossible. The Daniel Roberts Stringworks 16- and 17-string Contraguitars were life-changing instruments for me, and I look forward to our future projects.  Thank you, Dan."

To read more about Kevin's music, current recording projects, tours, and to hear samples, visit his website at

To see Kevin in concert, in the recording studio, and interviewed, visit his YouTube channel.