Finding his groove: Carmel High School senior discovers audience for custom-built guitars


Carmel High School senior Charlie Banks is turning his love for music into a creative entrepreneurial endeavor.

Banks, 18, has been playing guitar for five years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he began designing and building guitars for himself, friends and, most recently, businesses.

“Music has always been a big part of my life,” Banks said. “All my siblings and I are named after music-related things, so it greatly influences who I am.”

Banks, who is named after his grandfather but nicknamed from the Grateful Dead song “Cosmic Charlie,” recently designed a guitar for his workplace, Bier Brewery, which has locations in Carmel, Noblesville and Indianapolis. He said it was the first guitar he made for a business.

From left, Jerry Conner, co-owner of Bier Brewery, and Charlie Banks with the guitar Banks built for Bier Brewery. (Photo courtesy of Jerry Connor)

“Jerry Connor, co-founder of Bier Brewery, caught wind that I play and design guitars, and he asked to see my work,” Banks said. “He offered me money to build a guitar for Bier Brewery, and that was the first commission I have made from making guitars.”

Connor said he plans to display the guitar at the Carmel location at 13730 N. Meridian St.

“(Charlie) showed me some of the other guitars he has made, and he worked on the guitar (for Bier Brewery) all last year,” Connor said. “When he brought it over, he played for the customers one night; he christened it. He is a really good human being.”

As a kid, Banks said he always had an “intrinsic and creative mind” when it came to art and building projects with legos and clay. Once he got to high school and began taking industrial arts classes, he became interested in woodworking.

“I got my big introduction to woodworking around the same time I started taking playing the guitar seriously,” Banks said.

Banks got his first guitar in 2020 and said he taught himself basic chords while also taking classes at Carmel Music Academy.

“Guitar and wanting to build stuff with my hands just went hand in hand. I naturally gravitated toward wanting to build them,” Banks said.

Banks started by painting designs across his first guitar but was too nervous to take the guitar body apart.

“I remember being so scared of messing it up,” Banks said. “That was the first modification I ever made to a guitar, and it just kind of took off from there. After that, I started cutting off the body and messing with electronics and stuff. And then soon after that, I started making guitars from scratch.”

The senior began using the woodworking skills and knowledge he gained from YouTube to build and design guitars. He also visited the Gibson Garage in Nashville, Tenn., a store that sells guitars and guitar parts, to learn more about what goes into the building process.

“I did a lot of research, but I didn’t see it as research,” Banks said. “I enjoyed watching videos and tutorials on YouTube and learning through the internet. I also visited the Gibson Garage and asked an employee how they put their guitars together and was so fascinated by the process. I eventually just started trying it by myself.”

The building and design process always begins with an “idea or daydream,” according to Banks.

“I try to add a unique feature to each one.” Banks said. “I daydream it, sketch it out and then after that, it’s pretty easy to transfer all those measurements to a piece of wood, cut it out and make it nice and pretty.”

Banks will be a student at Ivy Tech in the fall.

“The main thing I want to study is business, and I am thinking about taking more woodworking classes in college, too,” Banks said. “I think I have a decent amount of woodworking knowledge, but I just need to learn the business side of things. Then, hopefully, I’ll keep up woodworking and building guitars as a little hobby throughout college. Once I have graduated college, hopefully, I’ll start my own business making guitars or making furniture.”

Banks also hopes to make more guitars for other businesses in the future and says his biggest inspirations come from musical artists and his parents.

“A good amount of my inspiration comes from my parents,” Banks said. “That’s where my creative side comes from.”

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Name: Charlie Banks

Age: 18

School: Carmel High School

Hobbies: Woodworking, skateboarding, film photography

Favorite musical artists: ACDC, Grateful Dead, Sublime

Favorite music genre: Classic rock

Favorite instruments to play: Guitar, bass, drums, violin