Although I no longer build acoustic guitars, I have kept these pages for anyone interested in the guitars I built between 1976 and 1998. -- sc

Building acoustic guitars that respond best with fingerstyle technique has been my passion. Though I enjoy building custom instruments for any style of playing, most of my experimentation as a luthier has centered around the fingerstyle guitar. In fact, the main thing that compelled me to build that first instrument, was the desire to own a guitar with a fingerboard a little wider and flatter than that of the standard steel string. At the time, I was performing on both classical and steel string guitars. I noticed that some of the music easily played on the classical guitar was difficult to play on the steel string. I envisioned a guitar that felt and played like a classic but sounded more like a steel string.

In designing a fingerstyle model, my typical fingerboard is 1 7/8" at the nut with a string spacing of 2 1/4" at the bridge. These dimensions are midway between those of your average steel string and classical guitars. I have found this small amount of extra width a great help to clean execution for both left and right hands. I have balanced this modification with a neck that is a bit thinner in cross section. This makes it comfortable and still easy to wrap a thumb around the neck to catch a bass note if you wish.

Another concern I had was responsiveness. It is my contention that an instrument ideal for hard flat picking is probably not the best guitar for fingerpicking and vice versa. My aim in constructing a fingerstyle guitar is to make it responsive to a light touch. When a player has to extend a lot of energy toward just being heard, there isn't much room left for expression. My goal is a round, full sound with lots of sustain produced with little effort.

I believe that I have made great progress toward this goal with my latest instruments. I have designed my fingerstyle guitars using elements of both classical and steel string guitars. They are braced lighter than the typical steel string but heavier than the typical nylon string guitar. The strings I recommend for these "hybrid" guitars are the "Silk & Bronze" type strings made by GHS. They also have the added advantage of being easy on the fingers. My hybrid fingerstyles were designed from the start with these strings in mind.

Steve Cloutier

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