Jazz Guitar Beauties: Richard Ralston Custom 16 – Vince Lewis

Jazz Guitar Life would like to thank Jazz Guitarist Vince Lewis for sharing his beautiful Richard Ralston arch-top with us all along with a video and personal transcription! Enjoy 🙂


New Zealand based luthier Richard Ralston has been building archtop guitars since 2004. We first became connected by email in early 2007 and began discussing his various projects. He is also teaching several private guitar students per week. His father Ian was a violinist and instrument builder. Rich grew up in his father’s shop where he spent much of his time refining jazz guitar designs and features. After becoming long distance comrades in music, Rich asked if I would like to try one of his guitars on for size. After becoming enthralled with his original 17 inch archtop, we worked together to design my Ralston VL Custom 16 Signature Model and this is the second instrument I procured from Rich with these specifications. The first was a beautiful blonde natural lacquer finish. It is a truly amazing guitar with a strong even tone regardless of the register I am playing in.


Top: Handcarved, tap toned European Spruce
Back: Handcarved, tap toned European Maple
Sides: Highly figured Maple
Body: 16″ lower bout, 2 1/2″ body depth Venetian cutaway
Bracing: X Braced
Headstock: Burled Walnut and Ebony alternate overlay
Body Binding: Maple and Ebony wood alternating 4 ply
Tailpiece: Solid carved Ebony
Bridge: Solid hand carved Ebony
Neck: 3 piece flames Maple W/ Ebony inserts
Fret Board: Ebony, 12″ radius completely suspended above the top of the guitar
Fret Board Binding: Flamed Maple W/ Ebony strip
Scale Length: 25 1/2″
Tuners: Black Schaller M-6 12:1 ratio w pearl buttons
Pickup: Benedetto S-6 Suspended Jazz Pickup – volume control mounted on pick guard
Finish: Nitro Lacquer stained in Custom Color titled “Red Passion”

Vince Lewis

Vince Lewis playing the tune “One Note Samba” on his Richard Ralston Custom 16 – transcription below!

Vince Lewis is a veteran jazz performer, composer and recording artist. He has been a headliner on Jazz Festivals with Dave Brubeck, B.B King, Ellis Marsalis, Lou Rawls, Mundell Lowe, John Pizzarelli and Melissa Manchester.  Vince has been a featured performer in concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. as well as two performances at the Smithsonian Institute Jazz Bar. He also has served as Staff Guitarist at the Ritz-Carlton Resort Palm Beach FL and at The Greenbrier Resort in WV.

As well, Vince is included in the 2014 Scott Yanow book “The Great Jazz Guitarists: The Ultimate Guide”. He has recorded 20 CDs as a leader and sideman, and each has received excellent critical acclaim in virtually every major Jazz publication. In addition, he is a Heritage Guitar Inc, Benedetto Guitar, Eastman Guitar, Breedlove Guitar, SIT Strings and Redstone Audio performing Artist, and has a Vince Lewis signature archtop guitar available built by Richard Ralston, a noted New Zealand luthier. For more information please visit Vince’s website.

Please consider spreading the word about Vince’s beautiful Ralston Custom 16 and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this article amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂

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About Lyle Robinson 353 Articles
Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/publisher and editor of Jazz Guitar Life, an online magazine dedicated to the Jazz Guitar and its community of fine players worldwide.


  1. Hello Vince. In.ilove your playing. I was wondering what heritage model were you and Bob Whitlock playing during your jazz jam several years ago. I recently purchased a Heritage Johnny Smith rose and love it. I purchased the Rosé from Bob’s daughter Jill a few months back in Florida where we live. Jill is selling off Bob’s guitar collection and will be contacting me if there is another heritage in his collection. I’m interested in another Heritage archtop guitar. Which models did he use. Thanks

    • Hi Ray and thanks for dropping by. I will alert Vince to your comment since this is not his website. You may want to send him an email directly.

      Take care and all the best.

      Lyle – Jazz Guitar Life

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