Orchestra guitar no 14 adds a soundport in the side to give the player a rich, direct sound.
Orchestra guitar no 14 adds a soundport in the side to give the player a rich, direct sound.

I put the finishing touches on two orchestra model guitars around the holidays, and they sounded great right away.

I tweaked a few details from the earlier versions, including making some minor changes to the bracing. About two years ago, I was talking to local violin maker Tom Verdot, who asked about trying some hybridization between the way classical guitar soundboards and steel string soundboards are braced. I’ve been sketching out ideas ever since and paying attention to how my completed guitars settle in under the tension of the strings. With this pair, I’ve braced the lower belly in a slightly different way that pushes the total weight of the soundboard down while adding longitudinal stiffness to my lightly built tops.

The other unusual feature of this pair of guitars is the addition of sound ports. The sound port changes everything from a player’s perspective. Instead of getting whatever sound filters through the guitar’s back and sides or whatever is bouncing around the room you’re playing in, you get a direct shot of what your guitar is doing. It’s not just an increase in volume, the player suddenly hears an incredible amount of detail, like the color of the tone and the shape of the attack. It’s been entertaining to watch the looks of surprise dawn on players as they first sit down with these guitars. I’ve played a few sound-ported guitars over the years that left me with mixed impressions, but playing these two new guitars in a noisy room has made a believer out of me.

Coming soon: Classicals

A rosette in a new Engelmann spruce top
A rosette in a new Engelmann spruce top

I’m looking forward to taking a classical guitar soundboard¬†class in early March with master builder Robbie O’Brien. I’ve always loved the way classical guitars look and sound and have been meaning to try my hand at building one for some time. However, steel string soundboards are most often braced with an X-brace support system, whereas classical guitars are most often built with a Torres-inspired fan brace scheme. It seems like a small thing, but the two types of soundboards work decidedly differently. When I found out that Robbie was planning to offer a short workshop focused solely on the classical soundboard, I jumped at the chance to learn more about a different way of doing things.

I’m really looking forward to completing the prototype classical I’ve been building bit by bit over the last month or so, and hope that I can sneak it across the finish line by mid-April or so. My biggest complaint with my factory-built classical is that the mid-range is muddy and the upper trebles are weak, so I’m ¬†using a spruce top and red maple sides and back in an effort to really pull the trebles out on this prototype. I’m hoping to build a couple classicals over the early summer and begin offering it as a new model for sale this fall.