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Stefan Sonntag – Jazz Guitars


Let me introduce to you a luthier from my hometown Augsburg, Germany. His name is Stefan Sonntag and he is one of the finest luthiers in Germany. He is not only able to build excellent guitars but he is also very actively organizing workshops with some great guitar players.

Typically he organizes an autumn workshop in France and this year for the second time a spring workshop in Italy.

I just received the invitation for the workshop in the south of France from  October 21. – October 25. 2014. This year Stefan invited Mimi Fox from San Francisco and Ulrich Hoffmeier from Berlin.

The spring workshop in Bolzano, Italy might also be quite interesting for vocalists. Jazz-vocalist Jeanne Gies and Jazz-guitarist Howard Alden from New York together with Helmut Nieberle, a long-time friend from Stefan, are the instructors at this workshop which takes place from April 25 to April 28 and there are still seats available.

During the workshops you can also play and try out Stefan Sonntag’s instruments and if you are interested on playing a real “classic”
archtop Jazz guitar, excellently constructed and built, with a perfect acoustic and electric sound then this is the perfect opportunity.

I am a lucky owner of one of Stefan’s guitars and I’m very happy with this instrument. Stefan is able to fulfill many different ideas and visions and he is capable to build an instrument according to your specifications.

I wanted to have an archtop guitar (“archtop” means that the top of the guitar is arched) with a 17″ size body and a floating pickup. I tried out some guitars but I always found one or more things to complain about the guitars I tested, so in the end I had a list of things which I didn’t like and a vague idea of how the guitar should look like and went to Stefan Sonntag’s factory and tested some guitars to find the right size of body and neck.


The picture here on the left shows the model I ordered. It is a J17 Standard guitar which is his “more elaboratly decorated version of the solid built Sonntag archtop”. The guitar has a full acoustic sound,  can be very loud even without amplifier and produces the perfect Jazz sound. I had to wait for some months to get the  guitar to be built, but the waiting was worthwhile: I got my perfect guitar.


If you want to read more about Stefan Sonntag please check his website under: 

There is also a nice video (in German) where you see Stefan explaining how to build a guitar. For those of you who do not understand German here is the summary: “Take a tree and cut away everything that is not part of the guitar.”

My Favorite CD Shops

What was once a main street business has become a niche market: the CD store.

The way music is sold has significantly changed over the last few years. Huge CD stores with multiple floors where you could get everything from Bach to Zappa have been closed and the CD stores (even in major cities) are difficult to find. The biggest players are now online with Amazon and iTunes as the leaders of the pack. In addition, streaming services like Spotify use the availability of the web to propose their music “to go”.

Entertainment retail stores offer bigger departments for computer games then for CDs, and for the Jazz lovers the choice is typically reduced to the stuff from the marketing campaigns of the big music labels. Shelves of CDs are only equipped with Jamie Cullum, Diana Krall or Gregory Porter. Even if the music is nice and entertaining, once you have bought the CDs there is no need to go into that store again. There is nothing to discover there, no hidden treasures and no local artist you have seen recently in a jam session or a concert.

I’m one of those die-hards who love to hold a CD in their hands and carry it around e.g. to listen to it in the car and for that reason I’m constantly looking around where to get new and interesting material.

Lucky enough for me, there still is a nice CD store in Bern where you can go to search and discover those hidden treasures.

The store is called Roody Be Goode Records and it is right in the center of Bern. The exact address is Spitalgasse 36. The store is in the basement of the building so from the street you should see only the singing black lady and a banner with the store’s logo but when you take the the steep stairs down you find the biggest selection of Jazz and Blues in Bern. You find all the popular stuff (obviously) but also all the local Jazz and Blues artists.


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In addition there is also a very nice CD store on the web which I would like to introduce to you: It’s called

They call themselves the best independent music store on the web and I think that online store is also full of interesting stuff you will never find at the big stores. I discovered CDs from some of my favorite guitar players like Frank Vignola, Bruce Forman or Mark Whitfield on This online store gives all those artists that manage their CDs themselves a platform to sell their music online. The store is very well organized and you’re able to listen to all the songs before buying.

They are able to handle the distribution to international addresses as well, it just takes a little bit more time, but the stuff is well wrapped and your CDs should arrive without damages.

And: I received the funniest automatically generated mail ever when my order was being shipped.

Finally, I found a third way of buying CDs: Go to a concert and buy the music directly there. If you are lucky, you even get an autograph from the artists making your CD really a collector’s item.