Sound sensation

Custom-designed, hand-built North American guitars at a south-coast store

With a huge selection of handmade guitars by more than 50 North American luthiers, this Brighton-based shop, The Acoustic Music Company, certainly carries an impressive stock. Yet it is the bespoke commissions that hit the most harmonious of notes;while mass producers might make over 300 guitars every day, most of the store’s craftsmen produce just 10 to 20 guitars per year.

Sheldon Schwartz, for example, began making guitars in Toronto in 1992, after failing to find one that he liked enough to buy. After 20 years of dedicated study, the Oracle was born (firstpicture, £11,495), with its three elliptical sound-holes carved into the sitka spruce soundboard, as well as glow-in-the-dark side dots and intricate cherry- and black-pear-wood purfling.

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The guitars stocked are created from timber sourced from across the globe – including African blackwood, Italian spruce and American Adirondack – in body sizes that vary from 12in to 17in and a range of styles from traditional prewar to the avant-garde.

Made in Santa Barbara, the Claxton EM (secondpicture, £12,195), by self-taught luthier Ed Claxton, pulls out the stops with a timber trio; a German spruce top with sides, back and binding in massacar ebony are complemented with a mahogany neck. Detailed personalisation options abound, as customerscan design their own inlays, plus select customised fanned frets, arm and rib bevels.

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The shop’s owner, Trevor Moyle, regularly travels to North America to meet with his artisans, as well as identify new talent. One of his favourite finds is the Skunk by Matsuda (third picture, £12,995). A characteristic sapwood stripe that runs down the back is continued in striking white over the black guitar soundboard. This innovative design was conceived by Michi Matsuda, who moved from Japan to study musical-instrument making in the US and now works in California, making no more than 12 instruments each year.

A visit to the south-coast shop to discuss ideas with Moyle (with personal appointments outside shop hours) also offers the opportunity to use its acoustically neutral playing room toselect tonal characteristics.And since this supremely personal process can take up to two years, consider it practice time to hone your playing skills before delivery – and performance?

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