Jeffrey Yong promises to teach how to make a guitar in two weeks

Photos By StoryPhotos GRACE CHEN

Learn how to make a guitar in two weeks. That’s Jeffrey Yong’s promise to aficionados who are looking at creating their own signature tunes.

At Yong’s workshop in Pandan Indah, aspiring luthiers will be given the lowdown on woodworking techniques to make anything from fender benders to acoustic guitars.

Using modern technology for faster cutting and assembly, students will learn to do fret board calculations, position bracings for the top and bottom boards for sound optimisation and apply aesthetic finishings.

Experience-wise, Yong, 51, has handcrafted guitars for INXS, UB40, Alex Von Voorst and Roger Wang.

As a mark of quality workmanship, Yong’s guitars were placed in the top three spots when the Prestige Guild of American Luthiers (GAL) held a blind test listening session at a convention at Tacoma, Washington in 2006.

This former Yamaha guitar instructor, who made his first guitar from a DIY kit in 1984, is also adept at making exotic instruments like the sundatang, sapelele and gu zheng.

One of Yong’s innovation is the gambustar, a hybrid of the traditional gambus and the acoustic guitar. Over the course of seven years, Yong has made three gambustars for local musician Farid Ali, better known as Mr Gambus.

The latest one, a 12- stringed creation of narra wood with French polishing and ebony inlay, took centre stage at the ‘Gambus Goes Latin’ concert at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in April last year.

“I have always believed in not following the norm! Advancing as a luthier requires one to constantly experiment with new ideas and materials. This was also one of the reasons why I looked into the overseas market so that I could gain exposure,” said Yong who will be displaying his guitars at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in California in August this year.

The eldest of six siblings who grew up in a single-parent family, Yong recalled that his musical venture did not have the support of his mother who was a rubber tapper.

“Guitarists were perceived to sport long hair and was prone to boozing and drugs. They were generally looked upon as an irresponsible lot,” said Yong.

However, this father of two was determined to pursue a career in music and show his family that playing the guitar was a respectable field in its own right.

He made his point by starting out as an instructor for Yamaha in Jalan Birch after completing Form Five and went on to open the Guitar Institute of Malaysia in 1993 with 20 instructors and 200 students.

But aspiring luthiers take note. While Yong is known for rewarding deserving individuals with yong tau foo lunches, this professional is strictly the no-nonsense type.

No smoking is allowed in the workshop, punctuality is compulsory and “lazy” students are generally ignored.

Richard Philips, 43, from Britain and a classical guitarist who had found out about the course online, said of Yong: “If you’re interested, then he is interested.”

Course fees start from US$2,000 (RM7,176) per person and all materials and tools are provided.

Yong’s workshop is at 32, Jalan 3, Pandan Indah Industrial Park, 55100, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. For more enquiries, log on to or call 03-42976251.

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