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Off the workbench – March 2017

Work has been a bit slow for the last month or so, because I’ve been having some building and plumbing work done on my house/workshop, but I have made this miniature 5-course guitar for myself:

It’s a cross between a baroque guitar and a soprano ukulele (which I’m calling a baroqulele), designed to fit into standard hand luggage, as a convenient travel instrument.

I’ll get back to doing some real work now…

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On the workbench – February 2017

I’m working on prototypes of two new 5-course baroque guitar models at the moment, both using the same body shape/size (my own design, based on averaging several surviving 17th century 5-course guitars) and string length (660mm), but with a few key differences:

The first will be my attempt to reproduce a good, but inexpensive players guitar of the 17th century. The surviving 17th century guitars are mostly elaborately decorated instruments which probably represent the most expensive guitars of the time, made for aristocrats or royal courts. My guess is that 90%+ of the guitars made in the 17th century would have been simpler. There are various 17th century paintings showing relatively simple guitars, which often seem to be made with locally available European woods, and without a lot of ornamentation. I’m taking the basic form of the instrument from surviving museum guitars, and the wood choices and details from paintings.

The second will be a semi-modernised version, with fixed frets, a bridge with a removable/adjustable saddle, and geared peg tuners. The aim of this version is to make a 5-course guitar which works in a modern musical context: i.e. it plays “in tune” in modern equal temperament, and is quick and easy to tune accurately, so it can be used more straight-forwardly with other modern instruments. It should also be an easier transition for someone who’s used to a modern guitar.

 

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Renaissance fiddle

In December 2016 I made this semi-authentic reproduction of a renaissance fiddle, partly based on one found on the Mary Rose (http://www.maryrose.org), partly based on a 16th century carving, and partly making it up as I go along, with the aim of making an instrument which will be fun and playable for a modern fiddle player while still sounding something like the original… It’s a slightly random sidetrack from my research into the renaissance guitar in 2016: I was looking at stringed instrument construction in the 16th century, to get an overview of the range of ideas that were being used in other, related instruments at that time – found out about the Mary Rose fiddles and couldn’t resist trying to make one. Anyway, I finally got round to stringing it up today, and it’s sounding surprisingly nice 🙂

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On the workbench – November 2016

I’ve been working on the second prototype of my new classical guitar model for the last couple of weeks. I’ve made a lot of changes from the first prototype design, aiming to improve various aspects of the instrument, mainly focusing on ergonomics and playability. I’m going for a very lightweight construction in this version, taking some ideas from Torres guitars and some from baroque guitar construction, and adapting them for a modern instrument. The aim is to make a modern classical guitar which is as comfortable and enjoyable to play as possible… we’ll find out if it works in another couple of weeks.

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The dusty end of the fingerboard

I’ve been thinking about the question of high-fret playability quite a lot for the last year or so. Ultimately, that led to me developing a whole new guitar model to solve the problem effectively. I think that is the best solution to the problem, but I’m aware that the new model doesn’t appeal to everyone, and many people would prefer to have a more traditional looking guitar with improved high-fret access. There is a fashion at the moment for elevated fingerboards, but that isn’t an option which I offer, because I feel that it gives, at best, a marginal improvement in high-fret access. In the past I’ve offered a simple cut-away option, but this week I’ve been experimenting with a scalloped cutaway (using my cheap plywood test guitar) and I’m liking the results… so a neater and nicer version of this this will be an option on my guitars in future.

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