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What are Schoenberg Guitars?

The Genius of
Eric Schoenberg!
Eric and Bruce in the shop
One of the most popular guitar types in today's world is the concert sized OM, and the similar 000 sized instruments, which are used by virtually all fingerstyle players, and many other stylists as well. We take these for granted, but the truth is the type had nearly died out just 30 years ago. The Martin Guitar Company created the Dreadnought in the Early 1930s, phased out their other long scale guitars. They replaced the OM with a short scaled version and called it a 000, dropping the 12 fret 000 at the same time.

Then along Came Eric! About 30 years ago he came into possession of an original OM and recognized that it rendered his fingerstyle ragtime music in a way that surpassed his previous experience. As he was an excitable young man he made a lot of noise about it for a long enough time that he is still associated with the Orchestra Model Guitar resurgence to this very day. Not only was he vocal on the subject, but on discovering how few of these OM guitars had actually survived, he tried to talk Martin into putting them back into production. He succeeded at creating a relationship with the factory where in his then associate, Dana Bourgeois, would brace up the soundboard, and then Martin would complete the guitar. They had some assistance from another luthier, T. J. Thompson, who took over that part of the operation when Dana went on to other things. TJ also built a number of complete instruments, and then he too went off to the next thing, and is today mostly known for his stellar restoration work.

A few years went by and then Eric discovered the latent talent of another builder, Julius Borges. Along with a financial partner, they created a factory to make Schoenberg Guitars in Littleton, Ma. Several luthiers associated at one time or another with Bourgeois Guitars worked in this operation, keeping it in the family to a degree.  While this was happening, Eric and his wife, Debbie, moved to Tiburon, Ca. Surprisingly few instruments got completed before this venture too became history.

An architect of my acquaintance, David Spurgeon, helped Eric with the design details of the new store he planned to open, and referred me as someone who could actually create the store. While doing this I recognized the potential for myself as a builder, of course, and set out to learn to make guitars that would make sense to Eric. At first I used my designs and made the bracing and some of the trim in the 30's Martin style. These I designated ES (Eric Schoenberg), as opposed to FT (Flat Top) as I call my standard line. After the dust had settled from the Littleton venture, I began to contract with Eric for instruments that more directly reflected the Schoenberg concept.

At this point we have made the OM based "Soloist", the long scale 12 fret 000 based "Standard", 12 fret 00 based "Standard" and 14 fret 00 base Soloist (00 OM), 12 fret long scale 0 sized "Standard", and the "Advanced Rosewood" inspired by Gibson's AJ. At about a half dozen examples a year for about ten years as I write, there are in fact over 60 Sexauer built Schoenbergs in the world.

I have encouraged Eric to develop relationships with a number of luthiers at the same time. No two will really build in quite the same way, and is gives his customers choice within the conservative parameters that define the "Schoenberg" guitar. Choosing to have his guitars made by one-off builders like myself instead of more practical means like the Martin factory or the Littleton facility means that there will be less of them available, and they will have to cost more dollar-wise, but it also means more flexibility for personal appointments, and, depending on the builder of course, the possibility of a truly superior instrument.

Bruce Sexauer/2010

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