vaulted-back classical guitar?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
Ryeman
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vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by Ryeman » Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:06 pm

I am thinking about building a vaulted-back classical guitar along the lines of the Vault-Back steel-string guitars built by David Anthony Reid, as seen here

www.darluthier.com/guitars/Vault-Back

I'd be interested in anyone's ideas about this.

Alan

simonm
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by simonm » Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:44 pm

He certainly has nice prices on his website. Most classical backs are domed to some extent so it should work just fine. I am pretty sure I have seen pictures of quite similar backs on classical guitars however the market is very conservative. Joining that many "slices" will be challenging. Some lute making skills will be required. His top bracing pattern is quite interesting too.

Alan Carruth
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by Alan Carruth » Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:05 pm

Vaulted backs were common on high-end instruments of the 17th century, apparently. Some of them are pretty spectacular! Acoustically a vaulted back will be more 'reflective' and less 'active' than the usual 'flat' back. It's a little hard to pinpoint the exact acoustic consequences: I'd expect some differences in 'projection' and 'tone color'.

I believe the high end ones were part of the inspiration for the composite backs on 'Ovation' guitars, but, of course, those were not built to high end standards. To me they lack a wide tonal palette, and I attribute at least some of that to the vaulted back, which simply cannot vibrate much at low frequencies, which helps to color the sound. There is generally so much else wrong with those that it's difficult to assign causation to any one feature in particular. I've re-topped a few, and they always improve, but still tend to lack something in the 'color', OMO.

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James Lister
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by James Lister » Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:20 pm

That African blackwood vaultback is pretty stunning. David was a student at London Guildhall University at the same time as me, although he had started his training at Anniesland College in Glasgow. Even then, his workmanship was exceptional.

One question - why in particular do you want to use a vaulted back? As Alan says, it will have an impact on the tone of the guitar. If that's something you want to explore, then there's no reason not to. If you're more interested in the aesthetics of the multi-piece back, you can get something similar with a standard "flat" back, with little impact on the tone.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Ryeman
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by Ryeman » Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:50 pm

Simonm, as it happens in a former life I was a professional lutemaker. I also made quite a few vaulted backed Baroque guitars and Vihuelas . I did one with fluted back ribs once. That was a bit of a challenge. Now I'm just doing the odd instrument for fun...and I do like something to get my teeth into.

Alan, if the sound quality is likely to suffer as you seem to be suggesting, there doesn't seem to be a lot of point in doing a vaulted back. And I did have a reservation about the way David Antony Reid rounds off the back. This smooths off the angle formed by each abutting pair of slats, and will thin out the wood in the joint area. So in order to ensure that enough thickness is left at each joint, the slats will have to start at a thickness of perhaps 4mm and each will retain this thickness in its central area. So the back will be thicker and heavier than a normal back, something I'm not too happy about. I seem to be talking myself out of this project!

James, yes I suppose I am more interested in the aesthetics. I also have a pile of wood left over from when I made lutes many years ago, and also another pile of interesting local wood that I have harvested and gathered more recently. None of this is wide enough for a conventional two-piece back, so I fancied the idea of a vaulted bac to put some of it to use. But I suppose there is nothing stopping me making a conventional back with 10 or 11 seperate slats. I used 7 slats on the back of my Ryedale guitar ( a small "Romantic" guitar) which I posted pictures of a while back.

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Alan

Alan Carruth
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by Alan Carruth » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:35 pm

I'm not sure that I'd say the tone will 'suffer': it will certainly be 'different'.

Some years ago I was given a book to review. It was a coffee table book on guitars, full of lovely 'guitar porn' shots and not much in the way of reliable information. What I found particularly irksome was the 'apex of history' bias that the author had. In his estimation all earlier instruments were 'flawed' to the extent that they were unlike modern ones, and all prior makers were trying to make a fine modern guitar. I'll note that the 'apex' in this book was the Parker 'Fly' solid body electric, so you can see why I might have some issues. At any rate, the point is that vaulted back guitars were made for a hundred years or more, so they must have had a sound that people liked; if they'd wanted something different they'd have made it. Given the music of the time and the way they were used, they were probably eminently suited. We have somewhat different needs and expectations now, and use different instruments. If you were to take a fine modern guitar back to that time I wonder what they'd have thought of it? Maybe not so much.

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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by RobMacKillop » Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:54 am

£35,000??!! That is ludicrous. I could buy ten baroque guitars and vihuelas from Alexander Batov for that price, all equally as spectacular. http://vihuelademano.com/guitars.htm

Ryeman
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by Ryeman » Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:59 am

Alan, apologies if I mis-represented what you wrote. And thanks for the reply.
It's true that Baroque guitars were quite different from modern guitars. Proportionally much deeper in the body, but smaller body size, and smaller soundboard area. Gut strings at much lower tension. Soundboard barring consisting of just two main bars, one on each side of the soundhole rosette. Soundboard in the region of 3.5mm thick; much thicker than a modern guitar. (because it wasn't braced) But there is no doubt that they fulfilled the musical requirements of the time, or times; they were popular for 250 years. So these guitars were certainly not inferior to modern guitars - just different.


My reason for toying with the idea of using a vaulted back on a modern guitar was partly aesthetic - it looks good! And I also like the challenge of doing it. These reasons may overcome sound quality reservations.
Alan, I know you make steel string guitars as well as classicals. Do you think I would be better advised to make a steel- string vaulted back guitar rather than a vaulted -back classical? ( A steel- string guitar is something I'm keen to make anyway)

Alan

RobMacKillop
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by RobMacKillop » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:20 am

Gut strings were not at a lower tension compared to normal tension today. That's a myth.

Ryeman
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by Ryeman » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:54 pm

RobMacKillop wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:20 am
Gut strings were not at a lower tension compared to normal tension today. That's a myth.
Not sure what you mean by this.
But in the 16th, 17th and 18th. Centuries guitars, and lutes, had strings which had a much lower tension than those on a modern Classical guitar.

Alan

RobMacKillop
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by RobMacKillop » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:02 pm

Prove it.

RobMacKillop
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by RobMacKillop » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:18 pm

Sorry, I didn't mean to be confrontational, Alan. Mimmo Perufo gives the working tension of gut trebles on 19th-century guitars as:

1st, E (325.9 Hz): 7.4-9.0 kg (average 8.2 kg) gut
2nd, B (244.0 Hz): 6.9-7.9 kg (average 7.4 kg) gut
3rd, G (193.8 Hz): 7.4-9.3 kg (average 8.2 kg) gut

and Pujol-era 20th-century guitars as:

E: 7.4-8.6 kg gut
B: 6.0-8.1 kg gut
G: 6.6-7.7 kg gut

and modern medium tension as:

E: 7.8-8.1 kg nylon
B: 6.0-6.2 kg nylon
G: 5.7-6.1 kg nylon

Ryeman
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by Ryeman » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:33 pm

Hello Rob.
Very interesting, but I wasn't referring to 19th Century guitars. I was talking about Baroque guitars, which had lower string tension.

You ask me to prove it. Perhaps you can do this yourself. Go down to Oxford and visit the Ashmolean Museum. Take the 5 course Stradivarius guitar out of its glass case when nobody's looking, put 10 modern guitar strings on it, tune it up, and time how long it takes for the tiny bridge to fly off.
Send me the bill if you end up in court!

Alan

RobMacKillop
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by RobMacKillop » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:35 pm

That's not fair. You are the one who made the assertion. It is therefore incumbent upon you to prove what you say.

Ryeman
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Re: vaulted-back classical guitar?

Post by Ryeman » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:59 pm

RobMacKillop wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:35 pm
That's not fair. You are the one who made the assertion. It is therefore incumbent upon you to prove what you say.
OK Rob,
You buy a nice Baroque guitar off Alexander Batov, and I'll come round your house and put modern strings on it and tune it up...How's that?
But I won't be able to manage it for a week or so as I'm busy proving to someone else that the earth is round...

Alan

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