Born on the 9th of January 1886 in Cropsey, Illinois, USA, Lloyd Allayre Loar studied music theory and orchestration at Ohio’s Oberlin Conservatory. By the age of 20, he was performing professionally as a mandolin player.
In 1918 he traveled to Europe, where he spent six months as a concert entertainer with the American Expeditionary Forces. During his time in Paris, he studied at the National Conservatory of Music as well as attending the National Institute of Radio Engineering.
On his return to the US, he studied harmony and composition at the Chicago Musical College, receiving his Masters of Music Diploma in Theory and Counterpoint from Chicago’s American Conservatory of Music in 1921.
His relationship with The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. began prior to World War One, when he performed in various Gibson-sponsored bands and prepared musical arrangements that were published by the Company.
Contrary to popular belief, Loar was not a luthier but rather a musician and acoustical engineer. His most notable achievement while contracted to Gibson was the design and development of the ‘Master Model’ series of instruments, namely the F5 mandolin, the H5 mandola, the K5 mando-cello, the L-5 guitar and the Mastertone banjo (credit should also go to Gibson’s Chief Engineer Theodore ‘Ted’ McHugh, who was patent holder for the adjustable height bridge and truss rod, both of which were featured on the F-5 and other Master Model instruments.
Unwilling to abandon his career as a musician, Lloyd Loar negotiated a contract with Gibson that allowed him to spend the months of July and August performing concert tours. As a result, very few ‘Master Model’ instruments were signed and dated by Loar in late July or August!
Though earlier Gibsons had been built with a carved top and back, the instruments designed by Loar (with the exception of the Mastertone banjo), were the first to feature components that were ‘tap-tuned’ to a specific pitch, a technique employed by the great violin makers. The soundboard, backboard, longitudinal tone bars and f-holes were individually adjusted so that each part of the instrument worked in unison to deliver a balanced tone with maximum volume and projection.
All good things must come to an end, and after working with Gibson for over five years, Loar parted with the company in 1924.
This is a Webster’s Dictionary of 1909 which lists Lloyd A. Loar as one of the assistant researchers for the music section of the dictionary.
Images courtesey of Peter Jung.