My Third Trip to Saigon in Search of Some Decent Handmade Acoustics.
Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, the place where the kings of all Vietnamese luthiers hustle. It’s always bustling, with the sounds of guitar strings hopelessly whistling over the traffic noise. I was there to buy a decent guitar and I finally found a bunch of great guitars. Thanh Musical Instruments has some of the best selection of guitars in terms of price, quality, sound and service.
Last time I was there I bought a mahogany all round acoustic guitar from one of the shops, which I only later discovered how bad the guitar was when I brought it back home. The quality was just not there, the neck was bent with the strings grinding against the cheap fretboard, there were wood chips inside and outside with dry glue leaking onto the wood, there were all sorts of problems. There were some shops where the guitars looked incredible, but the sound was flat and blunt. Don’t get me wrong the guitar sounds nice, but the bad finishing was noticeable.
If you go to Saigon, you got to stop by Thanh’s shop at 61 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street in District 3. I was lucky enough to meet Thanh, the owner and guitar luthier of that shop. He usually is quite busy working behind the scenes, and rarely sits in his own shop. My god is he an incredible guy with a great sense of awareness to customers. Thanh doesn’t speak English, but his wife does. Thanh says his been a guitar luthier for 30 years, and started off selling guitars without making much profit. He only started becoming famous because he focused on quality and was honest to his customers. Thanh makes his guitars at his own workshops, and is not a reseller like most shops there.
I have been told they all worked for Thanh when they were young, hand making musical instruments from start to finish. Thanh recruits young workers from Mekong and trains them in hand making musical instruments from start to finish. Thanh was raised in Mekong by his grand parents and understands the poverty there. Thanh is passionate in teaching his skills to his workers and often gives job opportunities to these young workers.
Thanh’s Musical Instruments has great selections of guitars from ukuleles to slim light guitars to acoustic jumbos to zithers. I find his guitars best in quality, finishing, and sound. His got a bunch of young workers working in his shop, and workshops.
I bought a custom made Texas style jumbo acoustic guitar for a bargain considering the detail abalone inlay work done to it. The wood Thanh used were AAA Canadian Spruce with Indian Rosewood Back and Sides. It’s just incredible, the sound is so crisp and clear and the echoing of the bass is amazing. It’s easy to play with the strings being soft and the action nice and low. I was very impressed; the end product was incredible and the guitar was easily undervalued. He only had one so I snatched that up quick.
Thanh Musical Instruments by far has the best value for money guitars, quality, and service. The owners of other guitar shops nearby are very relentless, I find the whole Nguyen Thien Thuat street ruthless, after all it’s a hustler’s paradise. The vibe you get there is negative, if you have money than your welcome, if you don’t then don’t bother trying out a guitar because they won’t like you. The shop owners are not friendly unless you have money. Thanh has price tags for all his guitars so the prices are the same for locals and foreigners. Being a foreigner, this comes as a great benefit.
After coming back to visit his store the next day and buying three guitars from Thanh, I found out from his workers that Thanh is a very famous guitar luthier in Vietnam. He is often in newspapers, and has featured on an interview on the very popular channel HTV 7. I found a clip of him here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7sJAIeuDd8. Thanh has also appeared on Jetstar Asia in flight magazine.
Thanh is very passionate, and always makes sure his guitars have zero faults before selling them to customers. Thanh used to be a singer before he started making guitars so I have been told. That’s probably why he can distinguish different tones in various woods. I visited his workshop in district 8 and met some of his workers. His workers are very warm and welcoming, I spoke to some and they say Thanh is their father, their teacher and a good boss. He shares everything with them and provides accommodation and other needs.
If you are travelling to Vietnam and looking for some authentic acoustic guitars handmade with great detail and quality, check out Thanh Musical Intruments at 61 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street District 3. Thanh and his workers are very friendly and helpful. His wife is very bubbly and speaks good English. I am currently ordering two more custom acoustic guitars from him. Here’s one of my guitars I ordered with the eagle on the back.
firstname.lastname@example.org, you can order acoustic guitars from him or customize your own design. I’ll be going back there at the end of the year; I’ll make another blog then.