Friday, July 23, 2010

Portrait in guitar by Scott MacDonald

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Jolanta and I visited luthier Scott MacDonald, owner of the S.B. MacDonald Custom Instruments in Huntington.

Scott builds fewer than a dozen new guitars a year, but when he does, he creates a new being. The new instrument is more than just a bunch of precisely cut wood or metal pieces masterfully glued together, it becomes a reflection and a part of the owner.

Scott attempts to find out as much as possible about the player's musical preferences, the shape, strength and size of the musician's hand, his or her technique and the energy level. This allows him to craft an instrument that performs beautifully in the hands of its owner. It does not hurt, either, that the instrument looks stunning, from its shape to its color and decoration. These are also a reflection of the owner's personality.

The finished product is a result of hard labor and a long dialog between Scott and the musician. It may take up to 24 months between the initial contact and the time the ecstatic owner leaves the shop with a guitar under his arm.

We have asked to have a "portrait in guitar", as I called it, painted of one of us. Since I had a background in music, we have worked on a hypothetical guitar for me. I fancied a strong, rich blues sound and some red accents. We have settled on a black electric guitar with a mother ladybug on the body and baby ladybugs walking all over the neck.

Scott built his first banjo in a college dorm. Some years later he returned to lutherie by first putting together a guitar from a kit, then by trying his hand on building an instrument from scratch. His father still owns this memento. Scott now runs a successful studio where in addition to creating custom ones he repairs all types of fretted instruments - guitars, banjos, ukuleles, mandolins, even lutes. The list of his clients is extensive, with about half of them local.

His instruments have a crisp, full and warm sound. You can find some recordings plus photos of the instruments on Scott's very informative website His Scott's Guitar Blog is a must for a professional.

Scott can be reached at 631.421.9056.

Also listen to Scott show his own ukulele in this YouTube clip:

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