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Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

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Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Wout Moerman » Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:03 pm

Hi all,

Although I am a long time reader of this forum this is my first post. I have a question I like to share with you all. I am building a cross over between a lute and a classical guitar. This is a project I've started 30 years ago a one of my first projects and to be honest, it has quite a few flaws. It has hung on the wall for many years and the bowl is a nice eye catcher and conversation piece. But it always kept itching, should I toss it or finish it. I decided to choose the second option and am now actively working on the lute. My main concern on the moment is how to get a pleasant sound using classical guitar strings. I don't want to use ladder bracing as I'm afraid it will go in the direction of the unsuccesful Wanderlautes, which seemed to be rather anemic sounding. I do have a nice top of Alpine spruce. Fine grained and by now nicely matured. It still is about 2.5 mm thick so all options are open. I can use a standard fan bracing or I can use a more novel aproach such as a lattice bracing. I will take some pictures and measurements and post them here.

I would like to hear your opinions and the reasoning behind them.

Wout Moerman
Nijmegen
The Netherlands
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Alan Carruth » Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:37 pm

I'm not at all sure the 'anemic' sound of those old Waldelautes is due to the top bracing. The flexibility of the more or less flat back on a guitar contributes a lot of sound, particularly in the low range. Compare the sound of an Ovation with it's almost perfectly 'reflective' back with ant decent guitar with a more 'active' one. Even an Ovation with a new top that has better bracing and lacks the full millimeter of epoxy finish doesn't have the tone of a similar sized regular guitar.
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Wout Moerman » Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:51 am

Thanks Alan,

That is something I hadn't thought about. I have seen mention of 'flat' backed classicals with heavy 'dead' sides and back and a lattice bracing for the top and they are told to project well. I never played or even hold one and I've no idea if this is correct. But might this be a good route to get a good tone out of a bowl shaped guitar body?

At this moment I am considering using a traditional fan bracing. But if a flat back contributes to the sound in the lower regions I might need to compensate the top for the missing part of the lower region. Anyone has ideas how to do this?

Wout
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Alan Carruth » Sun Jan 08, 2017 3:24 pm

The contribution that the back makes to the low-range sound of the guitar is due to the fact that it can move. A round back, such as a lute or Ovation has, is simply too rigid to move much at low frequencies In order to get something like that effect you'd need to add significantly to the area of the top. The problems there are doing so without making the thing too big to hold, and keeping it rigid enough to hold up under string tension without weighing too much for the strings to move.

You could make a flat-backed lute, AKA a cittern. Of course, that would leave the bowl you've got hanging on the wall. It would also not really sound like a guitar. Although it would have more bass than a lute, without the waist and upper bout the timbre would still be significantly different. Find some videos of Irish Bouzouki players to get an idea.

I replaced the top on a Waldelaute some years ago. It was ladder braced, and I simply went with what they'd done on the original. It came out sounding quite nice. Several lute makers I've talked with have commented on experiments they've seen with fan bracing on lute tops. They were not impressed.

I think the mechanics of the lute, with the bridge 'way down at the lower end of the top. are somewhat different from the way a guitar top works. They seem to be designed to accentuate the upper end of the frequency scale; they emphasize clarity and projection, rather than fullness or power. If you think about the ways they were used, and the sort of music that was played on them, that makes sense.

In short; if your objective is to make something that sounds like a guitar, make a guitar. If you want to make a bowl-backed instrument make the best one you can. It will have it's own characteristic timbre, which is actually very nice in it's own way, but not much like a guitar in some respects.
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Wout Moerman » Sun Jan 08, 2017 5:47 pm

OK, thanks.

I want to make a bowl backed instrument, strung with 7 classical guitar strings (6 plus an extra low d string). I have the bowl plus the 7 string neck and it is waiting for the soundboard. The bridge will be quite far from the tailblock so a fan bracing still seems OK. It won't be a fan braced lute. Thanks, this is really helping me to decide.
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Wout Moerman » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:33 pm

Here are some measurements of the finished parts:
- Bowl is 54 cm long, 34 cm wide and 17 cm deep
- The neck joins the bowl at the 12th fret
- The bridge will be placed 22 cm from the tailblock
- The internal volume is about equal to that of a classical guitar

I am a bit hesitant to post pictures because of the flaws in the construction. But maybe it won't show... Biggest problem is that I have built the bowl in free air and the ribs weren't glued perfectly 'flat' to each other. In de wanding process I tried to even things out and in some places I just sanded through the 2 mm ribs. Luckely the glue joints were internally backed by strips of linnen cloth so the integrety wasn't lost.
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Wout Moerman » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:03 pm

Here are two pics of the lute guitar. The block of wood attached to the neck is to secure it in the vice.
Attachments
1484081732-picsay.jpg
1484081838-picsay.jpg
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:59 pm

I wonder how it would sound if you glued in a flat "inner back" to give it more of the characteristics of a guitar body? You might want to give it a sound port to allow it to move more freely between the curved "outer back" and the soundboard.
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Wout Moerman » Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:47 am

Interesting idea, but I think I value the internal volume more than a internal soundboard.

The official name for these guitars seem to be Wandervogel Laute. http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~wbc/lute/w ... index.html

Using that name I get multiple search hits, while Wanderlaute or Waldelaute doesn't bring up much.
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Mark Day » Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:30 pm

There is a historical instrument called a "Colascione" that is similar to what you have going. See the bottom of this page for pictures and some descriptive information:
http://www.lutesandguitars.co.uk/htm/cat08.htm
You could contact Stephen Barber and Sandi Harris and ask them about the bracing but I would hazard a guess that it probably follows standard lute bracing.
The colascione is an 18th century instrument not a 19th-early 20th century one like the wandervogle and so was built and played prior to the 6 string guitar that the wandervogle was based off of.
Also see the "Gallichon", a type of bass lute with 6 single strings.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Gallichon
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Wout Moerman » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:25 am

Thanks for the info on the Colascione. Totally unknown to me and mighty interesting! Maybe I adopt the name for my instrument. That 88 cm stringlength makes it a kind of tenor guitar. Almost a 6 string acoustic bass guitar. Nice!
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Re: Bracing suggestions for experimental lute guitar

Postby Mark Day » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:49 am

Another early lute-like instrument strung and tuned similar to the guitar is the Mandora. Unfortunately "mandora" is used as a name for several instruments that have little to do with one another. We need Latin taxonomically assigned names for musical instruments like we do for trees so you know exactly which instrument you are talking about :P It's more of an issue with early instruments, I guess. Anyway, here is an audio introduction to the mandora by Richard Mackenzie from BBC radio. He plays it so you can get an idea of how one sounds.
https://youtu.be/00Wi-Z4ae60
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