The History Of Chapman Guitars: A Beautiful Story

Rob Chapman has gone from being a gear reviewer on YouTube to a partner managing of one of the most talked about guitar brands on the planet.

Chapman Guitars has been on the up since their inception and we take a look at the history of this small but brilliant British company. Read on for the history of Chapman guitars...

Jed Van Wyngaardt

Jed Van Wyngaardt

Chapman guitars have established themselves as genuine contenders in the highly competitive market of electric guitars. They’ve done this by offering a number of different guitars that suit a number of different styles. Most importantly, their core standard range has always remained affordable.

Not only are their guitars affordable, despite using high-quality woods and hardware, but they’re also collaboratively designed.

2009: It all started with the ML-1

The concept of collaborative design was born with the first Chapman ML-1. In a series of videos, Chappers put out a vote to the public for what each individual aspect of the guitar should be. This included body shape, woods used, pickup style and hardware too. This is still the way that Chapman Guitars choose to design their newest releases.

By getting the public to vote, people felt like they’d invested in their own little way to a guitar design that would suit other guitar players like themselves. Rather than a guitar designed by marketing analysts trying to follow the current trend. Ahem *offset guitars* ahem…

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Easy To Modify

One of the early unique selling points of the Chapman range was the fact that they were (and still are) so easy to modify. This allowed guitarists to take on the project of turning a blank slate into the guitar of their dreams. The initial run of ML-1 guitars was the perfect starting point.  This has been a part of the Chapman ethos ever since however it’s worth noting that they’ve turned up the quality in hardware, wood choice and pickups since inception. This has resulted in some stunning guitars for the money.

They also refuse to go through third-party distribution which means that they’re able to keep the price down.

Chapman Guitars Between 2009 and 2022

The years between 2009 and 2016 are where Chapman Guitars really found their niche and defined themselves, and have only grown from there. They did it all! From releasing brand new models, body shapes and signature models to limited edition one-off runs. Here’s a timeline of guitars released between 2009 and 2022 in order:

  • ML-1 – Stands for Monkey Lord-1. This was the first Chapman Guitar and still exists to this day. It had an HSS pickup configuration in a natural satin finish.
  • ML-2 – This was the second Chapman guitar to come out. It’s a single-cut, dual humbucker modern rock and metal guitar.
  • ML-3 Modern & ML-3 Traditional – Both of these guitars are T-shaped and had either an SS or HH pickup configuration.
  • ML-7S – a 7-string with an ML-1 body shape and a Mahogany body.
  • ML-7T – a 7-string with a ML-3 T-style Ash body.
  • ML-1 CAP10 – The very first Chapman signature guitar for Lee Anderton – the Captain. It was based on his favourite Mahogany-bodied strat with an HSH pickup configuration.
  • ML-1 BEA – The Rabea Massaad signature model with Seymour Duncan humbuckers.
  • ML-3 RC – Rob Chapmans signature T-style guitar.
  • Rob Chapman Signature Ghost Fret – Incredibly popular metal guitar – For the explorers amongst us…
  • ML-1 Natural Ash – A limited edition run of swamp ash ML-1s.
  • ML-1 CAP10 Blackout – A limited run of the Captains signature model but with all the white reversed for black.
  • ML1 CAP10 America –  A limited run of the Captains signature model but with a cherry sunburst finish and Maple fingerboard.
  • ML-1 Hot Rod – A limited run ML-1 with a single humbucker and Floyd Rose tremolo system.
  • ML-2 Classic – The ML-2 in a gold sparkle finish with 2x Seymour Duncan humbuckers.
  • ML-1 Norseman – A special ML-1 designed by Chapman guitars in conjunction with Norwegian retailer, Evenstad Musikk.
  • MLB-1 – The first 4-string bass in the line-up.
  • ML1-8 RS – The Rob Scallon 8-String guitar.
  • ML1 RS – Rob Scallons 6-string signature guitar.
  • Chapman V2 Standard guitars announced.
  • Snake Oil Fine Instruments pedals announced at the NAMM 2019 show.
  • ML-3 BEA – Rabea Massaad Signature T-Style Guitar (Standard & Pro Series)
  • ML-3 P90 Pro – Classic ML-3 looks supercharged with punchy Seymour Duncan P90s
  • ML-2 Pro – The 2022 return of the Chapman Single-Cut

NAMM 2017 : The Pro and Standard Series

It was at the NAMM 2017 show that Chapman made the decision to split their entire range into 2. This is when the Standard series and Pro series were formed.

The Standard Series – The Standard Series guitars are all made in Indonesia and have bolt-on Roasted Maple necks (with varying fretboards). They also feature veneers instead of thick Maple caps and have gloss finishes.

The Pro Series – These are made at World Guitars in South Korea with 3-piece Roasted Maple through-necks. They’ve also got solid carved tops, stainless steel frets, hipshot open-gear tuners and this is the range that you’ll see signature and satin-finished guitars.

2018: The Chapman V2 range comes out

Chapman guitars moved the factory that produced their standard line in 2018 and made a couple of tweaks to the guitars on the way. These aren’t drastic changes by any means but every little bit helps when it comes to making a great guitar. So whilst they retained the design elements of the initial Chapman Standard range, these subtle changes are what you’ll find (and love) on the Chapman V2 guitars.

What’s new with the Chapman V2 Standards?

  • Improved baking process – all tonewoods are now baked and dried on site, improving consistency, durability and resonance in one go.
  • Redesigned rolled fretboard edges – the rolled edges have been further rounded for a smoother playing experience.
  • US-made pickup magnets – the Standard’s now feature US-made magnets designed specifically for use in guitars, rather than generic magnets.
  • Tweaked finishes – the staining and finishing process has been streamlined for extra consistency. They straight-up look prettier!

NAMM 2019: Snake Oil Pedals

Chapman Guitars announced that they’d be entering the pedal world with Snake Oil Fine Instruments. Starting with a boost and drive, these high-quality pedals are anything but Snake Oil as they really do deliver on what they promise. These pedals are handmade over here in the UK and are housed in a sturdy metal chassis – just as you’d expect.

Chapman Guitars is proud to present its latest venture “Snake Oil Fine Instruments”. Offering a joyous richness of tone unparalleled by any other inferior brand, Snake Oil is the choice of the respected musician.

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2020: ML3 BEA Rabea Massaad Signature Series

In 2020, long-time Andertons presenter Rabea Massaad, launched a line of signature Chapman Guitars. In the iconic ML3 T-style body shape, the “BEA” comes in both the Standard and Pro series, with stunning and original finishes, and versatile pickups that can thrive for both ambient cleans and chugging high gain.

The “BEA” guitars feature the time-honoured combination of Alder bodies and Maple necks, used on T-Style guitars for decades. However, what sets Chapman apart from most other brands is the premium upgrades, usually reserved only for custom shop guitars. The Maple necks are all roasted, giving them a luxurious darker look, and silky smooth satin feel. The process of roasting draws out moisture from the wood, making it lighter, stronger and more stable, ensuring the neck won’t move even in the most extreme climates. So you can spend less time tuning and more time playing.

The attention to detail is greater than most mass-produced guitars. Each and every Chapman guitar has rolled-fingerboard edges, a time intensive process that’ll make all the difference to the player. It makes the neck feel smooth and played in, so there are no sharp edges in sight.

The ML3 BEAs pair the Alder and Maple with a selection of top woods and fingerboards. Choose between a classy flamed Maple top or striking Mappa Burl – there’s even a Baritone. There are also options for a Roasted Maple or Ebony fingerboard, so whichever feel you prefer, there’s something for you.

The ML3 BEA Standard features Chapman’s own locking tuners, hardware, a rail mini-humbucker in the neck and a high output Henchman Humbucker in the bridge. While the Pro sports a PAF-style Seymour Duncan SL59 Mini Humbucker in the neck, with a coil-split for crisp, snappy clean tones, and Rabea’s signature Bareknuckle Silo Humbucker in the bridge.

Rabea used his ML3 BEA Pro on stage with Stormzy at Reading & Leeds festival in 2021!

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2022: The Return of an Icon

Amid popular demand, the ML2 returns Chapman’s catalogue. This stylish single-cut is a modern take on the legendary LP-style guitars. Featuring a body constructed from Mahogany topped with Flamed Maple – name a more iconic duo… we’ll wait!

The ML2 is a pure Rock machine with a set of Seymour Duncan pickups  – a low output Sentient in the Neck for open, full PAF tones and a hot Pegasus in the bridge, to push your amp into breakup with an aggressive midrange character!

It also boasts all the appointments you know and love from Chapman, including a Roasted Maple satin finished neck for smooth and sturdy playing, and a modern heel-joint cutaway for effortless upper fret access. This is paired with a velvety Ebony fingerboard with rolled edges.

With Hipshot ratio locking tuners, tuning is consistent and string changes are a breeze. And its String-through Bridge guarantees the guitar will sustain for days. You can go have a bite and you’ll still be hearing that one. To top it all off, the ML2 typically weighs in at around 7lbs, making it incredibly light, comfortable and resonant!

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Where to from here?

It’s hard to predict where Chapman Guitars will be going from here but one things for sure, they’re on the up! We just hope to see more signature models, more incredible guitars for the price and more out of the ordinary finishes. A baritone in the Quicksand finish perhaps?

Whatever they decide to do, we’ll be behind Chapman guitars all the way and the latest news will all be available from Andertons Music Co.

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Jed Van Wyngaardt
Jed Van Wyngaardt
Jed has worked on our shop floor, handled guitar content on the site and now leads the digital content team. He's equal parts rock frontman/guitarist and wannabe folk singer-songwriter. Jed's a PRS, Tele and Orange Amps lover with an unhealthy obsession with fuzz, octave and ambient effects.

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