So you bought a guitar and learned how to play us a song. Big deal. We’ve heard that before.
Build your own instrument from scratch and we’ll talk…er sing. In a forest at the edge of Baga, Goa, Chris Horton runs Jungle Guitars, a school that teaches guitar making to the sound of chirping birds. Chord of Small Things?
About 15 years ago, Chris “met someone in the mountains” who had built his own musical instrument. When he transitioned from tourist to resident in Goa soon after, he decided to buy a book and give it a go. He’s come a long way since that first rosewood guitar that played a self-penned song called There’s Only Water Between Here and Love, from making several guitars of his own to opening a school to teach others the art. “I’ve taught close to 20 people now – teens to 60 year-olds from across the world,” he tells us.
What To Expect: Get The Clap(ton)
The course, five hours a day for 15 days sounds pretty gruelling – we recently met someone who signed up – but Chris prefers that you think of it as meditative. Out in the forest, students immerse themselves in this activity, which ends up being both relaxing and productive. As far as difficulty levels are concerned, Chris says it’s not simple, but also not beyond anyone’s means. “I’ve had students with no wood work experience, and they do okay,” he says.
To source materials, Chris takes a seven hour bus ride to Karnataka, to a saw mill that supplies rosewood to international guitar manufacturers like Martin and Taylor. While this is used for the body, mahogany makes up the neck and Sitka Spruce for steel string guitar sound board or red cedar for the classical. The workshop isn’t cheap – Rs 80,000 for 15 days – but the way Chris sees it is that you get an intensive course, a fun experience, and a guitar for this cost. “And that’s not bad at all.”
At the end of the course, students are quite overwhelmed with what they’ve made and often send Chris postcards from back home with photos of those DIY guitars now belonging to a grandchild or a lover.
Horton Hears a Hoo
While Jungle Guitars’ workshop is located at one secluded end of Baga, it’s also close enough to a whole bunch of hotels and restaurants, and Chris often acts as guide, his recommendations changing depending on the kind of student you are. “Let’s just say that Divine Guest House isn’t for everyone,” he says quite cryptically.
If you’re going to be visiting these sunny beaches for The Goa Project (March 28-29), stop by and check out Jungle Guitars. You really don’t need to prep, Chris tells us. Still want to? “Then, maybe buy a saw," he says.
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