Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

1999 Schoenberg Standard

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Schoenberg Guitars 00-size 12-fret with Indian rosewood back and sides and an Adirondack spruce top.

by Scott Nygaard
January 09, 2015

As a flatpicker who tends to concentrate on bluegrass, old-time, and jazz and work primarily in groups, I’ve played large-body guitars for most of my guitar-playing life. I’ve played Martin and Martin-style dreadnoughts (I currently own a 1956 Martin D-28 and a Bourgeois Country Boy Deluxe, built with cocobolo back and sides and an Adirondack spruce top) and my current main instrument is a 1948 Gibson J-45. But I’ve also been quite fond of some smaller instruments. I played a Steve Andersen OM-style Concert guitar for quite a few years in the 1990s and have had this Schoenberg Standard (00, 12-fret) guitar since 1999.

I first met Eric Schoenberg around 1980 and would visit him in Boston at his shop, the Music Emporium, when I was traveling in the Northeast. I knew a few guitarists in the Seattle area, where I was living at the time, who had bought the Martin OMs that Eric was having Martin built to his specs in the early ’80s, and I also got my hands on a few of the early Schoenbergs that Eric and Dana Bourgeois began building in the mid ’80s, mostly OM-style instruments. In the mid-90s, I heard Eric play a new 00-size, 12-fret cutaway Schoenberg Standard model that had an amazing sound, and I told Eric to let me know if any became available. A little while later he called me to tell me that a customer who had ordered a non-cutaway Standard had decided to pass on the guitar (built by Julius Borges), due to an almost imperceptible flaw in the finish. Since the sound was as rich and clear as the other Standard Eric had played me, and I had plenty of room to move beneath the 12th fret, I purchased the guitar, which has Indian rosewood back and sides and an Adirondack spruce top. It also has a long (25¼-inch) scale, slightly larger than 1¾-inch nut (although the string spacing at the nut is more like that of a 1¾-inch nut), a solid (rather than slotted) headstock, Waverly tuners, and a pyramid bridge. I usually string it with D’Addario phosphor-bronze lights (EJ16).

I’ve since used it in small groups (with mandolin and fiddle), for solo gigs, and in studio sessions when I need a clear, rich tone. It’s also a great acoustic jazz guitar, both in the studio and live, where I’ve often amplified it with a Fishman Rare Earth Blend and AER Compact 60 amp. But it’s also very easy to amplify with a mic. I once played it onstage with a band of mandolin, fiddle, acoustic bass, and two other guitars, one of which was amplified, and I had no problem being heard above the band. Its fat, clear sound projects extremely well, although it does break up a bit if I hit it too hard, which I rarely feel compelled to do. All in all, it’s a remarkably versatile guitar and a real gem. Schoenberg Guitars (om28.com).


Category: Instruments & Gear

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