Calgary duo team up to create beautiful sounds from scratch

Guitar-maker Clifford Regino and musician Noel Amante teamed up to create a classical guitar performance. One made the guitar, the other played it.

Classical guitar creation documented in short film by Calgary musician

Clifford Regino, left, made it, and Noel Amante, right, played it. Now, the two have released a documentary chronicling the making of a great guitar. (Ellis Choe)

A guitar maker and a musician have teamed up in Calgary to create a bit of classical harmony, in between shifts at their day jobs.

Cliff Regino found himself at the National Music Centre in 2016, talking about guitar-making with a group of other like-minded individuals.

Regino wasn't an old hand by any stretch of the imagination. His first guitar-making course had come only a couple of years earlier, when, on a trip to a wood store in Calgary, he stumbled upon a section that sold pre-fabricated guitar necks, bridges, tops, backs and sides. 

It turned out there was a guitar-making shop on the second floor. Regino signed up for a three-month class. He was hooked.

"I wasn't there [at the National Music Centre] selling guitars, I was there to learn and share my craft with other lutheries, or guitar builders," Regino said in an interview on The Homestretch.

One of the people in attendance that weekend was musician Noel Amante, a guitarist (who also plays piano, organ and sings).

The guitar is made of a variety of woods and other premium materials. (Ellis Choe)

"Noel said, 'Hey, do you build classical guitars?' And I said, 'No, but I'd love to build a guitar for you — whatever that may be,'" Regino said.

Amante, like a good sideman, picked up the story from there.

"I said, 'If you build a guitar for me, I will have a concert, I will prepare my skills again, it will be the first time people are really hearing it onstage,'" Amante said.

"And we can prepare it that way and we can celebrate it that way."

That set in motion a year-and-a-half-long creative journey, as Regino built the guitar — over 300 hours, after work and on weekends — that culminated when Amante performed early Sunday evening at the Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

The guitar was made of a rich variety of wood, including claro walnut (for the back and sides), redwood cedar (for the top), and bloodwood, on the binding. 

The neck was made out of Honduran mahogany, with the fretboard and headstock made from African ebony.

It features a rich, luxurious palette of colour.

"In the purfling, I wanted to complement some of the colours found within the rosette — golds, reds and yellows. We wanted to pull some of the gold out, so we did a gold mother of pearl around the perimeter of the guitar," Regino said.

Over the construction period, Amante and Regino filmed the process, documenting the experience of creating the instrument that creates the sound. 

The documentary film will be available beginning May 6 on their website.

Playing it

The headstock of Noel Amante's guitar. (Cliff Regino)

For Amante, the experience of playing the guitar was unforgettable.

For one thing, he wasn't a classical guitarist, apart from a bit of youthful dabbling. When he picked it up, to pluck at it, it wasn't like any old guitar.

"I played one note, and I could feel the bass note out on my chest and in my heart," Amante said.

"I've never played an instrument like it before in my life."

Of course, just like in the super hero movies, with great powers come great responsibility — something Amante is only too aware of.

The duo in Regino's workshop, where he made the guitar that Amante performed with at the Bella Concert Hall on Sunday. (Cliff Regino)

"I would say the cleanliness is very distinct. You can hear those individual notes very cleanly.

"We did tech rehearsal at the Bella and it filled the room. Just as an acoustic instrument, I can't even describe it. It goes a lot deeper than just hearing the music," Amante added.

"I felt like there' s a responsibility here to really pay homage and really work towards my craft so I can play it on this big stage."

While the Bella concert has come and gone, Regino said there was a larger message to the experience of creating a guitar from scratch with Amante that was one of the things that inspired them to create a documentary film.

"We want to show people that just because you have a full-time job, full-time responsibilities, doesn't mean you have to give up on the things that really matter to you in your life, that fulfil you.

"That's what guitar building has become: that  platform to show people and give people permission to look at themselves and say, 'You know what? I could be doing something. Look at these guys.'"

With files from The Homestretch.


Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email:


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