People in your Neighborhood: Meet luthier Tim Rayner of Riffs Studios

In addition to the titles of operations manager and musician for Riffs Studios in Bird Rock, La Jolla High School graduate Tim Rayner holds another, more unique title: Luthier. For those unfamiliar, a luthier is a maker and repairer of stringed instruments. In an ongoing project in luthier-ship, Rayner is working on building a guitar from a single piece of wood.

How did you become a luthier?

“To be in honest, I don’t have any journeyman papers or anything … I just had a few summers off in high school and had a bunch of guitars, so I tinkered with them. I took them apart and put them back together, and having experience in woodwork, I figured out the connections and how things worked. I read a lot and watched a lot of instructional videos. It came to be a passion of mine.”

What is it about the guitar that interests you?

“My father is a jazz drummer, so I grew up around instruments and a lot of musical influence. The guitar was my first love. My parents got me a little guitar when I was about 7, but they didn’t get me lessons, I had to figure it out for myself, so I looked at how other people played. Today, I have a lot of knowledge gaps and weird ways of doing things, but I know guitars inside and out. Plus, the guitar combines my two loves — music and woodworking. Some of these guitars are masterpieces of woodworking.”

How many guitars do you have?

“My collection is always in flux, because I’m always taking some out of commission to make them better, or in many cases, make them worse. But I have currently three that are complete and in full working order; two that are incomplete that I’ve scrapped for parts and one that I’ve been building that is about halfway done.”

Do you name them?

“No, I think that’s weird. I name them by their defining factors — the black one, the fret-less one, etc. But I do have one that I call my wife.”

Are you in a band?

“Yes. I perform during the live music yoga classes we offer here, but I also play bass guitar in a band called Kid Wilderness that is based in Pacific Beach. I’ve been in bands since I was 16 and I’ve always been a bass player in bands because no one wants to do it, so you get a lot more job opportunities. When I was in high school, I was in a band called the Saline Solutions. We played together for two years and put out an LP and a few singles. But I got stolen by Kid Wilderness (they were called High Noon at the time) two years ago.”

What does the bass contribute to the overall sound?

“It’s a multi-faceted instrument. The guitar is a mid-range instrument, so you can only go down to a certain frequency, without bass you are leaving out an entire range of frequencies that fill out the sound more. The bass takes more of a background position. You are feeding off the drummer and creating a foundation for the guitar. If you are a fan of Rush, you can hear Geddy Lee’s bass very clearly and it bridges the gap between rhythm and melody.”

You grew up in La Jolla, what did you enjoy about that upbringing?

“The casualness. It was very laidback and nearly carefree, but also rife with opportunities. I had a lot of opportunities many people didn’t have, and I’m incredibly grateful for all that — not to mention it’s beautiful beyond anything.”

Editor’s Note: Welcome to La Jolla Light’s “People in the Neighborhood” series, which shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile through “People in the Neighborhood,” send the lead via e-mail to or call us at (858) 875-5950.