Michael Schreiner: Modern Day 19th-Century Luthier
Guitar Connoisseur|Guitar Connoisseur Kevin Eubanks Spring 2019

I Once Had A Sick Guitar. Not Just Any Guitar, Mind You. This One Is Truly Special. My Instrument Was Made By The French Builder, René Lacôte, In 1823. Paul Pleijsier In The Netherlands, A Classical And Electric Guitar Player, Also A Researcher Of 19th-century Guitars, Tells Me That Although There Is A Substantial Number In Existence, He Has Cataloged And Documented Only 84 Of These Instruments.

By The Early 1800s, Paris Had Become A Center Of Instrument Making And Many Of The Ateliers Churning Out This Newly Popular Instrument Modeled Their Construction After The Instrument’s Coming From Lacôte’s Shop. Of All The Great Instrument Makers Living In Paris At That Time, It Was René Lacôte Who Was Dubbed The “stradivarius Of The Guitar”. He Was A Student And Apprentice To The Famous Pons Family Of Instrument Makers. Joseph Pons, Born In 1776 And Son Of Cesar Pons, Was Commissioned By The Wife Of Napoléon, Empress Marie Louise, To Make A Guitar For Her Favorite Court Musician, Mauro Giuliani.

The Many Lacôte Guitars Remaining Today Are All Different, A Fact That Reveals The Master’s Constant Quest To Improve Performance And Playability, Through Developments In Manufacturing Technique, Innovative Features, And Rare Materials.

I Found My René Lacôte At A Dealer In Rochester Ny. I Tried About A 6 Or 8 Other 19th Century Guitars, Many Without Labels, And Even A Panormo. You Might Call Panormo The London Rival Of Lacote. The Lacôte Was Not In The Greatest Shape, The Victim Of Numerous Dismal Repairs, And Sporting A Poorly Matched Spruce Patch Under The Bridge. This Was The Result Of A Repair Needed After One Of The Owners Tried To Use Steel Strings On An Instrument That Was Made To Be Played With Gut Strings. The Tension Of The Steel Strings Pulled Off Not Only The Bridge But Most Of The Wood From The Soundboard Below It. It Wasn’t Pretty.

The cursory repair had been done not with the intention of restoring the original instrument, but in a hasty attempt to make it playable again. Still, its sound was unlike the others in the showroom. It carried me to a different place. Even with this patch, the bass register had a deep, rich warmth, and there was a playful bright tone in the trebles. I was hooked.

The guitar became my source for appreciating the music of the 19thcentury guitar composers such as Sor, Giuliani, Carcassi, and Coste. In fact, Carcassi played a Lacôte and worked a bit with the master in the design of his instruments. In 1826, together with Rene Lacôte, they applied for a patent for a 10-string guitar.

When played on the larger, modern classical guitar, this music can sound trite, simple and not worthy of the overreaching volume of instruments built in the 20th and 21st centuries. You can experience these pieces in a fresher way through the soundscape of one of these smaller, but no less powerful guitars. The bass can roar and the trebles have a sweetness that enhances the melodic dominance of this music.

I mentioned earlier that my guitar was sick. Every summer the bridge would pull up. I had it fixed two years in a row, but the repair would not hold. I began an internet search for the person who would know what to do. Conscious of its historical importance, I wanted someone who could understand that I didn’t want anything changed in the instrument and feared that after the repair, the instrument would no longer be playable. I posed the question in newsgroups and on websites asking whom I might trust for the job. The name of Michael Schreiner from Toronto came up numerous times. Once I heard a theorbo of his during a concert in Québec and had even written down (and later lost) his contact info. It was a beautiful and rich sounding instrument and was drawn at the time to the excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail.

I found Michael on his website and wrote to him, enclosing some photos of the problem. He agreed to fix the guitar, so I caught a Porter Airlines flight one day in August 2008. I dropped off the guitar and had the chance to visit Michael’s pristine Workshop, located in his house, a long but pleasant walk from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

We talked as a great deal, and Michael told me of his interest in guitars of this period and specifically his fascination with Lacôte’s. I came to realize then that Michael was a voracious reader and researcher. Informing his instrument building through visits to museums in America and abroad, Michael would gain access to some of the most precious instruments, lutes, theorbos and early guitars, housed in these museum collections. While visiting, he would make drawings and take photographs of each instrument. He would later use these to re-create the instrument as close to historical accuracy as can be achieved. I was indeed in good hands.

The guitar was finished that December and rather than risk sending it UPS or the notoriously poor handling some airlines afford musical instruments, I again flew up on a small commuter jet of Porter Airlines. I was pleased beyond expectation. Besides the bridge repair, Michael had also worked on the intonation, which was becoming increasingly false with age. It sounded magnificent again.

In the process of this repair, Michael donned his research cap and made copious photos of the guitar as well as drawings, telling me that one day he would build a replica of my guitar. (You can follow the restoration of my guitar on Michael’s blog at http://schreinerlutesandguitars. blogspot.com/ ) To think I owned an instrument that a builder like Michael might even consider copying was a compliment to me.

He could not say when it might be built. He was restoring numerous instruments at the time as well as building a few of his own, in order to fill the numerous orders he receives. If this project reached completion, I figured it might take at least a few years. Sometime in late 2012, I went on Michael’s site to see what he was up to and discovered his newly created blog. It was devoted to his current projects, both restorations, and new builds. I was impressed by how he had decided to use the blog to accurately explain the complicated repairs involved in such a project. I thought what a useful site for young builders out there who might consider carrying on Michael’s and the very few people out there doing instrument restorations.

Scrolling down the site I came across an entry for Sunday, January 20, 2013, entitled

Building an Early Lacôte Guitar. There, Michael explains with meticulous accuracy the step-by-step process of re-creating my 1823 Lacôte. I was ecstatic. Although I would need to sell off some of my other collected instruments to afford it, I wrote to him and asked if it was for sale. He said that it would be up for sale when he finished it. He had started it as a special project and could not guarantee when it might be completed. I sent him a deposit check, realizing that I had to own this instrument and fulfill a dream of mine. That dream is to one day donate both instruments to a museum hoping they might be exhibited side by side. I would like the next generation to know how these guitars sound and look, both the original and Michael’s copy.

Once again, I flew over the massive Lake Ontario one cold Friday evening in January of this year (2013) and visited Michael’s workshop. He pulled the guitar from its case and unveiled his latest creation. It was a perfect copy of my guitar, a newer, lighter version, but it was also a fine instrument unto itself. The sound was bright, clear and so spot on in tune! It played like a dream, every fret, every position. The copy was a true success and I was pleased to take it home.

GC: Let’s talk about how you first got started building instruments, Michael. When did this all start for you? Had you been playing music or working with your hands before the luthier bug bit you?

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM GUITAR CONNOISSEURView All

Unvailing Randy Angella

Randy Angella Of Concord California Is A Self-taught Luthier Who Has Been Crafting Classical Guitars Since 1975. He Is Known To Make Some Of The Very Finest Sounding Classical Guitars Available Today. Randy Has Built Instruments For Many Of The World’s Top Classical Guitar Players. His Studies Are Deep Reaching Into Areas Not Necessarily Specific To The Guitar. Randy’s Designs Go Against The Grain Of The Strict Orthodox Rules That So Many Classical Builders Adhere To. Here Are Some Thoughts He Shared With Me During Our Conversations. “thickness Of The Timbers In Many Guitars Are Very Thin And Lightly Formed. The Operating Theory Being The Law Of Conservation Of Energy. A Given Mass Acted On By A Known Quantity Of Energy, Will Be Accelerated Faster As The Mass Decreases. Inversely, Acceleration Decreases As The Mass Increases. Guitar Makers Reason, Therefore, That To Produce Maximum Volume, Lightly Built Instruments Will Provide The Maximum Sound. You Can Build A Guitar Thinly And Light And It Will Have Some Very Loud Notes. The Problem Is That A Guitar Built With Only That Concept In Mind Will Have Great Volume But May Not Have Great Tone. They Are Different Ideas. I Know A Man That Can Yell So Loud You Can Hear Him From 200 Yards Out. But He Can’t Sing. To Build A Guitar That Sings You Have To Go Deeper Into How It Makes Music And What Is Musical Sound, Then Match Them” Randy Explained. So How Does The Man Go About Doing This? Let’s Find Out...

10+ mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur Kevin Eubanks Spring 2019

Robben Ford Purple House

In The World Of Blues Guitar, There Are A Million Great Players Yet Few Standout Head And Shoulders Above The Rest Like Robben Ford. Robben Was One Of The Very First And Most Influential Players For Me Personally Since I Was A Young Boy. We Both Grew Up In The Same Rural Area In Northern California’s Coastal Mountains Just Above San Fransisco. He’s A Hometown Hero To Many That Live Here.He Has Given Back To Our Community Greatly Over The Years With Free Local Performances And Even Did An “artist In Residence” Stint At Our Local Junior College (Mendocino College) For A Semester Years Ago. His Brothers Are All Fantastic Musicians As Well And They All Played Together On And Off For Decades As The Ford Brother’s Blues Band. The Amount Of Natural Musical Talent That Runs In The Blood Of The Ford Family Is Astounding To Me. This Assignment Was Finally My Opportunity To Pick The Man’s Brain One On One About His Guitars, Amps, And Pedals. Robben Recently Relocated To Nashville Tn And Is Looking Forward To Spending More Time In The Studio And Less Time On The Road. His Latest Album, Purple House, Was Recorded Much Differently Than His Previous Efforts And You’ll Find Some Very Interesting Information About How He Found The Right Guitars And Amps For This Record Inside This Interview.I Think Many Of You Will Be Very Surprised To Learn That His Telecaster And Dumble Ods Are Nowhere To Be Found On Purple House! This Was A Shock To Me And I Think That It’s A Great Lesson We Can All Learn From The Maestro: Remain Flexible And Always Experiment Even If You Have A $150,000 Holy Grail Dumble Ods That You Need To Put On The Shelf Because It’s Not Working For You!

9 mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur Kevin Eubanks Spring 2019

Michael Schreiner: Modern Day 19th-Century Luthier

I Once Had A Sick Guitar. Not Just Any Guitar, Mind You. This One Is Truly Special. My Instrument Was Made By The French Builder, René Lacôte, In 1823. Paul Pleijsier In The Netherlands, A Classical And Electric Guitar Player, Also A Researcher Of 19th-century Guitars, Tells Me That Although There Is A Substantial Number In Existence, He Has Cataloged And Documented Only 84 Of These Instruments.By The Early 1800s, Paris Had Become A Center Of Instrument Making And Many Of The Ateliers Churning Out This Newly Popular Instrument Modeled Their Construction After The Instrument’s Coming From Lacôte’s Shop. Of All The Great Instrument Makers Living In Paris At That Time, It Was René Lacôte Who Was Dubbed The “stradivarius Of The Guitar”. He Was A Student And Apprentice To The Famous Pons Family Of Instrument Makers. Joseph Pons, Born In 1776 And Son Of Cesar Pons, Was Commissioned By The Wife Of Napoléon, Empress Marie Louise, To Make A Guitar For Her Favorite Court Musician, Mauro Giuliani.The Many Lacôte Guitars Remaining Today Are All Different, A Fact That Reveals The Master’s Constant Quest To Improve Performance And Playability, Through Developments In Manufacturing Technique, Innovative Features, And Rare Materials.I Found My René Lacôte At A Dealer In Rochester Ny. I Tried About A 6 Or 8 Other 19th Century Guitars, Many Without Labels, And Even A Panormo. You Might Call Panormo The London Rival Of Lacote. The Lacôte Was Not In The Greatest Shape, The Victim Of Numerous Dismal Repairs, And Sporting A Poorly Matched Spruce Patch Under The Bridge. This Was The Result Of A Repair Needed After One Of The Owners Tried To Use Steel Strings On An Instrument That Was Made To Be Played With Gut Strings. The Tension Of The Steel Strings Pulled Off Not Only The Bridge But Most Of The Wood From The Soundboard Below It. It Wasn’t Pretty.

10+ mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur Kevin Eubanks Spring 2019

Kevin Eubanks: From East To West

“Music Is Like A Back Stage Pass To Everything”Understanding, Timing And Audiences, And Comedy And Music, Kevin Eubanks Reveals How Truth Is A Pathless Land In The Pursuit Of An Ever Unfolding Career, As A Multi-Dimensional Guitar Player.

8 mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur Kevin Eubanks Spring 2019

Gem Picks: Made In The USA

Gem Picks Was Founded In 2016 In Providence, Rhode Island By Guitarist And Bassist Nick Pagano As A Manufacturer Of Gem-shaped Guitar Picks. After Completing A Lengthy Run Of Live Performances The Year Prior, Pagano Began Looking For A Diamond-shaped Guitar Pick With The Hope To Use Something Novel-looking And Different From The Ordinarylooking Plectrums Commonly Found Throughout The Industry. After An Extensive Search, Which Led To The Discovery That No Such Pick Existed, Pagano Immediately Began Designing And Manufacturing The First-ever Diamond-shaped Guitar Pick. Once Obtaining All Necessary Intellectual Property Rights, Gem Picks Was Officially Launched To The Public In January 2017. Using Social Media, Primarily Instagram, As Their Main Promotional Platform, Gem Picks Continues To Grow And Reach Players All Throughout The World. Since Its Launch, Gem Picks Have Made Their Way To Customers In Every Country (That Can Receive Mail) As Well As All 50 U.s. States. With Four Distinct Gem-themed Models, Gem Picks Heads Into The Future With Plans To Develop More Products Containing One Simple Goal: To Help You, The Player, “express Yourself In Richer Ways’.

6 mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur Kevin Eubanks Spring 2019

Gildas Dasviken Absolute Luthier

Coming From A Long Line Of Engineers, He Has Been Working In The Corporate World, And He Has Had A Strong Interest In Building And Customizing Instruments. “dasviken” Comes From The French Dialect “breton” From Brittany (Brittany). Gildas Found It On An Antique Wedding Ring That Read “a Tao Feal Das Viken” (Yours For Eternity). His Books Are Inspired By Classics From The Past And Inspiring For Generations To Come Dasviken Also Builds Pedals And Cabinets, All Of Which Abide By One Of My Favorite Quote Of His “Can You Tell Me About The Acoustic And Sonic Quality Of Plastics? No? Me Neither.”

10+ mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur Kevin Eubanks Spring 2019

Gales Force Warning: Here He Comes...

Read any of my other pieces on GC and you’ll know that I usually open with some sort of elaborate description of the artist I’m writing about – and often end up struggling to reduce their essence into a paragraph or two.

10+ mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur John 5 Spring 2018

Chelsea Williams: From Street Musician to Studio Recording Artist

Digging in her heels and staying true to her artistic vision: Chelsea Williams bounces back with Boomerang.

7 mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur John 5 Spring 2018

Antonio Rey: Two Sides Of Me

Flamenco is one of the most beautiful and challenging forms of music. For your standard run of the mill flamenco guitarist, there are no amps, no pedals, no special effects. Your tone is the end result of fingernail, flesh, and angle of attack on the string. 

9 mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur John 5 Spring 2018

Knaggs Guitars: HONGA

Joe Knaggs is an industry powerhouse with twenty years at PRS under his belt and now a decade of his own signature brand. He approaches his work with the eye of an artist and the mind of an engineer. The Honga is the newest addition to the Knaggs line, blending classic and innovative styling with superb tone and response.

8 mins read
Guitar Connoisseur
Guitar Connoisseur John 5 Spring 2018
RELATED STORIES

Ryzen 5000 failure rates: We reality‑check the claims

Problems with bad Ryzen chips may be overblown.

4 mins read
PCWorld
April 2021

Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ : A giant leap in graphics performance

It’s the most potent upgrade the Surface Pro line has offered in years.

10+ mins read
PCWorld
April 2021

DIANA DEATH FLICK IS ULTIMATE REVENGE!

Palace terrified Hollywood's royal power couple will bankroll project

2 mins read
National Enquirer
April 19, 2021

How to create strong, secure passwords by learning how to crack them

It gets harder to crack a password if it’s 10 characters or longer—but complexity matters too, of course.

10 mins read
PCWorld
April 2021

TIM OD'S ON GYM!

Stays sober by getting ripped

2 mins read
National Enquirer
April 19, 2021

CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2021 makes life easier for artists working remotely

CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2021 is here with new features for remote work.

2 mins read
PCWorld
April 2021

MORMON CHURCH SUED FOR $100 BILLION CHARITY SCAM!

Outraged member charges donations used to build insurance & property empire

2 mins read
National Enquirer
April 19, 2021

HOW GOOGLE COULD TURN ANDROID INTO JUST ANOTHER SUBSCRIPTION

WITH A SMALL CHANGE TO PHOTOS, GOOGLE COULD BE UPENDING THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT ANDROID UPDATES.

4 mins read
PCWorld
April 2021

DANNY MASTERSON: THEY'RE AFTER ME!

DESPERATE Danny Masterson and his lawyers believe they are victims of anti-Scientology bias and cannot get a fair trial in his Los Angeles rape case, according to sources close to the scandal-scarred actor!

1 min read
National Enquirer
April 19, 2021

HOW FRAME WORK PLANS TO BREAK THE CURSE OF UPGRADEABLE LAPTOPS

THIS SMALL STARTUP THINKS IT CAN PULL OFF SOMETHING NO PC MAKER HAS EVER ACHIEVED.

8 mins read
PCWorld
April 2021