Thursday, March 5, 2009

Designing/Building a New Signature Model #3

Kenny Hill
Now this first lattice braced double top guitar has been completed, and it really is quite interesting. I've changed a lot of things all at once, expecting a sort of monster truck muscular guitar, and to some extent that's what I got, but not completely.

This was a very opportune debut, because on the same day I was able to string up a standard Signature, with the same woods and all of the more familiar design elements, so I got a perfect side by side comparison. It was an ideal situation. The new "standard" Signature was a really good cedar/Indian one, as good as it gets. It's an exciting guitar to play, and I still like it better than the newer experiment, but it's no slam dunk.

The sound of the lattice is interesting. It's explosive, quite immediate. At first it seemed limited in its color range, but after a few days of playing it began to really open up. The bass is spectacular, and the highs are filling in quite nicely. I showed the guitar to Ricardo Cobo, and it reminded us both of the Humphrey he's been playing for several years. That's not necessarily what I was going for, but it's a curious observation.

Comparing it to my "standard" Signature, I'd have to say that the original recipe still is more sensual, a complex and wet sound that's pretty darn wonderful, while the lattice top is a more masculine and muscular sound. A lot of these subtleties start to blend as distance increases, so it raises the question of which is better for big hall concert playing and which is better for personal and small room playing. Actually, either one will do brilliantly, but I am always aware of the variety of people and players that I am building guitars for, and that everybody doesn't need or want the same thing. It's an interesting mix.

Scott Tennant also played both of the two new guitars, and he actually selected the cedar "standard" Signature for himself, but he sounded real good on the lattice too. Evan Hirshelman spent a bunch of time playing the lattice, and seemed to really bond with it, lusting after the bigger basses. Evan is a great player, his compositions are amazing. He's playing a spruce Signature now, and we'll have to see what happens later.

So over the last week I've made another of the bigger Signatures, (I don't really know what to call it yet - monster truck doesn't quite cut it), but this time with my regular fan bracing instead of lattice. This will give me the chance for another side by side comparison. Tomorrow I'm going to China for ten days, and when I get back the varnish should be about done, so I'll be able to string the new guitar up and learn some more by playing it. I'm really anxious to hear it.

Naturally I'm still puzzling over what to do with all of this. I have imagined in my head a melding of lattice and fan bracing, hoping once again to lift the best qualities from both worlds. I don't know if this push implies a psychological inability to commit, or just my gluttonous and insatiable nature, wanting it all, in every way. To realize this bracing fantasy will require me to make a lot more sawdust, and probably have some strange results along the way. But regardless of the Freudian implications, I won't know if I don't try. I expect I won't be able to get to this next phase until mid April, but If I get to steal some time some weekend or some sleepless night, I can't wait to try it.

to see this article compiled with photos click here or to download a 10mb pdf file Building.pdf

No comments: