Founder of MK Guitar Workshop Mahir Karaman stands out with his bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and classic guitar designs along with string instrument designs such as violin, cello and contrabass. Musicians all over the world from Holland, Germany, Sweden, and Greece to America and Canada prefer the instruments that carry Karaman’s signature.

From furniture business to instrument craftsmanship
Founder of MK Guitar Workshop, which offers its services in the Kadıköy Bazaar, Mahir Karaman makes, repairs, and maintains musical instruments. Karaman, who gets in touch with many musicians thanks to his profession, used to work in his family’s furniture business. Karaman, who is a Vocational High School graduate, had received electric-electronics education. Stating that his interest in music comes from the family, Karaman says, “All of my cousins are all about music… Almost everyone in our family plays the baglama (a traditional instrument with three double strings). The person who encouraged me towards this job was my cousin who professionally makes music, Ali Ekber Kayış. I also play the baglama and the guitar. Because I had already worked in the furniture business, I already knew the materials pretty well, in other words the wood, and its different varieties. Ali Ekber Kayış also asked if I could make music instruments. I told him that I could try. Therefore, we slowly started getting into this business. We opened our first shop in 1996 in Kartal. I gained experience in this area by disassembling-reassembling and trial-and-error. Afterwards I opened my own shop in 1998 in Kadıköy. I’ve been providing my services in Kadıköy for six years now.”

The hand tools must be high quality
Stating that he has been mostly taking care of maintenance and repair jobs recently, Mahir Karaman says, “Under today’s conditions, individuals do not prefer designing instruments from scratch, because this is an expensive process in reality. Especially because of cheap Chinese instruments imported and the decreased value of our currency against the USD, musicians are facing the fear of being unable to bear the cost of handmade designs. That was why most of my time for the last 5 years has been occupied by repair and maintenance jobs. However, I appeal to a certain circle of musicians. In accordance to their requests, I put my signature under personalized guitar, baglama, and bass guitar designs. Besides designing bass guitars, classic guitars, acoustic guitars, electronic guitars, and baglamas, I also design other string instruments such as contrabass, cello, and violin.”

The material is important
Karaman who points out the importance of using dry materials, especially the wood, says, “The drier the tree is the better that instrument will be. For the guitar and similar instruments, which we call western string instruments, I use trees imported from foreign countries 90 percent of the time. I usually prefer maple. However, it is very important for which part of the instrument you will use this material. For example, maple is usually used for the neck or fingerboard and body of the guitar. Hand tools used for the design must also be very high quality.”

The design process takes 6 months
Mahir Karaman, who emphasizes that the factor which most determines the price of the personalized guitar designs is the dryness of the tree used along with the materials used for its accessories, says, “Today in a bass or electric guitar there are equipments such as magnetic tuning keys and circuits imported from abroad. Each material has its own quality classifications. The price of  rosewood, ebony or maple tree is different. You will get different prices for classic or acoustic guitars, when you make their covers from let’s say a 10-year cover or a 2-year cover. The better you dry the tree, the better the sound it makes. This determines the price. The average price for handmade instruments, except baglamas, start from 1000 USD. However, the price for the highest quality changes between 3500 and 4000 USD. It takes an average of 6 months to design an instrument from scratch.”

Mahir Karaman, who sends his baglama, bass guitar, and guitar designs to all over the world particularly to Holland, Germany, Sweden, Greece, America, and Canada, says that he created 3 bass guitar designs in 2016 and he is working on a special design for 2017. By using a shorter method this time, he will be turning yet another guitar into a fretless one. Karaman’s biggest dream is creating a different style for instrument design that has never been attempted before.