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1992 Santa Cruz FS
 
A modern classic optimized for fingerstyle playing.
July 8, 2022
 

The Santa Cruz Guitar Company prides itself on pushing beyond the templates of vintage designs while also respecting tradition. But company co-founder Richard Hoover discovered early on that it was easier to sell a guitar that looks like a traditional dreadnought or OM while tweaking its tonal properties and internal design than to deliver his sonic visions in unusual packages. But by the late 1980s, with a wave of innovative fingerstyle players on the scene and highly visible through record labels such as Kicking Mule, Takoma, and Windham Hill, Santa Cruz decided that the time was right for a guitar designed from the ground up as a fingerstyle machine. Called the FS, the instrument helped popularize several design elements which, while common today, were unusual at the time, securing a spot in Santa Cruz’s catalog of classic models. I’ve played quite a few FS models over the years and have always liked the guitars, so when I recently came across one built in 1992 at Schoenberg Guitars in Tiburon, California, I took it to our nearby studio for a demo. 

With a 16-inch lower bout and relatively tight waist, Santa Cruz’s F-style body (which is also used on the company’s F and FTC models) loosely matches the common “small-jumbo” designation. One of the most common body styles for fingerstyle players today, its popularity can be traced to the introduction of the FS. The FS came standard with a cedar top, and while Santa Cruz wasn’t the first to use cedar on a steel-string, the choice was much less common in the 1980s than it is today. Taking a cue from Spanish classical guitars, where cedar has long been a popular top wood, Santa Cruz sought to take advantage of cedar’s quick response to a soft touch or lower-than-standard string tension. As a company that specializes in custom instruments, Santa Cruz has built FS models from a variety of woods, but the guitar I checked out was built with the standard Indian rosewood back and sides. In another nod to classical guitars, the FS has a somewhat austere appearance, and there’s no inlay or abalone on the instrument. Brazilian rosewood binding, blue-green purfling, a similarly colored multi-ring rosette, and a plain ebony fingerboard help give it a look closer to guitars made in Madrid, Spain, than in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. 

As with other FS models I’ve played (including most recently, a spectacular “Legends in Lutherie” edition built with mahogany and redwood), this 1992 example offers great tonal sophistication at the lower end of the dynamic range while also being able to pump out respectable volume when played accordingly. The guitar’s wide (1¹³/₁₆ inches at the nut) and relatively shallow neck accommodated advanced fingerstyle playing techniques, and its inherent tonal character had great balance, the strong midrange often found on cedar-top guitars, and enough power to be heard when played solo. 

There aren’t many flattop guitar designs that originated after the 1930s that can be considered true classics, but  the Santa Cruz FS is one. The guitar has clearly influenced scores of luthiers and manufacturers, and it continues to be a choice to consider for a serious fingerstylist! santacruzguitar.com

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2014 TOM-R | Huss & Dalton Guitars
Fingerstylist Dustin Furlow demonstrates a great OM built with Brazilian rosewood.
 
 
 
 
 
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    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com