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About Schoenberg Guitars

Welcome to OM28.com, the web site for all guitar ventures Schoenberg. We are two different enterprises run out of 106 Main Street in Tiburon, California: our own line of top quality, tradition-based Schoenberg guitars, and the store in which they, along with examples of other top builders of today and yesterday are sold and repaired. Joe Miller teaches private lessons and classes, and concerts and workshops are held. You will find details of all this in the related pages here on the site.

The Shop
Our focus is patient, detailed expertise in selling, repairing, and teaching guitars and other acoustic instruments. We are dealers for Martin, Merrill, National, Schoenberg, Sexauer, Recording King, Loar, Eastman, Blueridge, Guild, Santa Cruz, Pohaku Ukuleles, Michael Dunn, John Morton, Asturias, Gold Tone Banjos, Godin and Seagull. We represent various luthiers, including Bruce Sexauer, Robert Anderson, Randall Kramer, James Russell, Howard Klepper, Mike Baranik, Tony Yamamoto, John How, Fabrizeo Alberico, Laurent Brondell, AJ Lucas, Moonstone, John Slobod (Circa) We are brokers of many fine used and vintage instruments, such as Martin, Gibson, Epiphone, Vega, National, Dobro, Fairbanks, Vega, Washburn, Regal, Tonk Brothers, Larson Bros., Maurer, Stahl, Prairie State, D'Angelico, Lowden, Guild, Dell'Arte, Collings, Ditson and many others. Check our Current Inventory for the most complete and up-to-date listings.

We try to carry the best in all price levels. If you're looking for a beginner or student instrument, we will try to make sure your needs are properly met. Too often students are sold the wrong or unplayable instruments (example: selling a dreadnought or jumbo with super-high action to a 12 year old—we've seen it!). We set up every instrument that goes out the door, specifically to the needs of its new owner.

Schoenberg Guitars

As a professional fingerstyle guitarist Eric learned through experience that all guitars are not created equal. He discovered in the Sixties that the Martin Orchestra Model (OM), produced only from late 1929 through 1933, had qualities possessed by no other guitars. "The tonal wonder of the 1929-30 guitars to me is the explosive response, the full, complete tone from bare fingers. It's a magic thing, like the guitar is alive and kicking, giving back to the musician as much as he [or] she is putting in," he says. The balance, projection, and responsiveness of these guitars really stood out to him - and he heard something in these guitars that no one else did. Eric's strengths as a guitarist led him to these qualities in the first place - especially his superb touch and his near-obsession with creating great tone as he plays. The seeds were planted - Eric had found the archetype for the guitars that would follow - his guitars.

It was so difficult to find these original guitars in good condition - or any new guitars like them. He went to talk to Martin. "It took years of cajoling to get them to make OMs," Eric reports. In 1969 Eric was finally able to order a batch of six OM-28s through the Folklore Center and Matty Umanov in Manhattan. They were the first OMs Martin had made since 1933. Then, later, Eric ordered more OMs from Martin through his Massachusetts shop - six "Special" OM-45s from Martin's Custom Shop in 1977.

Eric was still playing the early guitars in performance when, in the early Eighties, after builder and repairman Dana Bourgeois had worked on "some two dozen" of the early pre-war Martin Orchestra Models for Eric, he had an impulse to build an OM for Eric with the one non-traditional design element Eric was hungry for - a cutaway.

Schoenberg Guitars, then, started with one guitar. Eric would work with Dana to develop the specs. They would base much of this new guitar on a specific Martin OM from 1931, attempting to replicate the same neck shape, and the lightness of the bridge plate and bracing (Martin stopped using scalloped braces from 1944 through the mid-Seventies). They would attempt to voice this new guitar in a way that would improve upon the original by applying hand-building techniques to the original factory specs. This involved hand-splitting the braces and ‘tap-tuning' the top, back and assembled box. Then they would add the cutaway.

This would become the prototype they took to Chris Martin, who approved the project - a partnership to create multiples of this design that improved upon something Martin had abandoned in 1934. Dana's "hand-voiced" tops would be integrated into Martin's production line: guitar parts would be fabricated by Dana in Maine, according to specifications developed by Eric and Dana, in order to meet Eric's notion of what a great guitar would feel like and sound like. These "kits" would then be assembled and finished with lacquer by Martin. This would be Martin's first experience in 65 years of building guitars for another company: from 1986 to 1994, Schoenberg guitars would emerge from Nazareth, PA, with Martin serial numbers and "Schoenberg" on the headstock.

But the nearly 500 Schoenberg guitars that exist today are not mere imitations of earlier designs. As Eric has said, "We're not doing vintage reproductions. We're taking what's special from the old ones. We're trying to take the next step." One subtle yet crucial distinction is that the Schoenbergs have the advantage of being designed in light of Eric's perception as guitarist, of the qualities of the great vintage guitars. If 1929 and 1930 were the years in which Martin Guitars, for one, created its enduring monuments, its peerless instruments, then Eric would draw on his knowledge of those designs and pull out only the elements that would lead to greater guitars.

The hand-built Schoenbergs could be individually voiced to generate beautiful tone and capture some essence of the patina of the earlier guitars. Plus the functionality of recent designs - the cutaway, the adjustable truss rod, plus the knowledge of how guitars can be set up to play at their absolute best - could be added to the mix. And with the more varied tonewoods available today, a wider palette of voices is available in the guitars that are made. In these ways, Eric is attempting to create the ultimate finger-style guitar.

The Schoenberg guitars from the Martin days are generally acknowledged to be superior guitars. Since the days of the partnership with Martin there have been many hand-builders who have worked with Eric to create guitars with exceptional tone and responsiveness. With each successive builder Eric has fine-tuned his perception of what construction elements result in a superb guitar. And like a great archer whose arrows seem naturally to find the bull's-eye Eric's innate ability to hear and feel the subtle attributes that create a guitar's aliveness has combined with his talented partners' gifts to yield guitars that hit the mark, time after time.

The consistent quality of these guitars over time is the best testament to Eric's success. Although he is the first to praise the wonderful partners he has worked with - all amazing luthiers in their own right -, it is the pleasure which each successive guitar is able to give its player that should make us notice the one variable that hasn't changed in twenty years. And Eric says he's still learning.

Eric has followed his own muse, guided by an implacable desire to play great instruments. His gift is his ability to imagine what kind of guitar would be a great one and to guide its creation. Yet he has also provided a service. As Eric has said, "I'm not just building a guitar that gets me excited." He may have begun looking for his own ideal guitar, one that would give him the means to achieve his own deepest musical satisfaction. But his search has created opportunities for every player who has hungered for the perfect guitar (nearly 500 opportunities, in fact). And if Eric's guitars are capable of producing great tone, exquisite tone, then they have the potential to bring those of us who play closer to a beauty that satisfies. Could it be . . .? With Eric's guitars we might just get to that music beyond longing.

Today, the Schoenberg Guitars are built one at a time by the capable hands of world-class luthiers Bruce Sexauer, Robert Anderson, James Russell, Sparky Kramer and John Slobod.