Category Archives: instrument making

Richard Durrant introduces the Tenor Guitar

Some beautiful playing by Richard on The Uffington Tenor – the Uffington Horse inlayed in silver on the ebony headstock – which I made for him in 2016.

Richard plays The Skye Boat Song and the Two Minuets from Bach’s 1st Cello Suite in G.

Authenticity and a Baroque Guitar

I make all sorts of fretted instruments.  In fact since most people who want a regular six string guitar will go to a shop and buy one it’s often the more unusual things I get asked to make.  Since I was first asked to make a tenor guitar there’s been a clear revival of interest, maybe baritone citterns will be next.  However one thing I tend to shy clear of is early instruments.  I aim for the best in sound and playability, the early music market is very concerned with authenticity and although these things overlap they are not the same.  In this case I was approached by someone who wanted a baroque guitar in terms of sound and construction but didn’t like the ornate decoration that is appropriate for the period.  He’d already approached a maker of baroque guitars and been told that he couldn’t possibly do that.  I don’t have a reputation for authenticity to consider so I took on the job.

David Bateman plays his Baroque Guitar at a meeting of The Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society

The instrument is loosely based on the Hill Stradivarius in The Ashmolean Museum using drawings by Stephen Barber whose lute making class I attended many years ago.  The intrument is unbelievably lightly built – there’s fascinating article about Strad guitars here.

Daylight shines through the front of the guitar is progress

Some time later the guitar developed a wave distortion of the front as the bridge tilted due to string tension.  My customer consulted with the experts and was told “they all do that”.  I could have prevented that happening but the modification would have been the first step down the road that led to the modern fan braced classical guitar and the instrument would no longer have been correct for the period.

Baritone Cittern recordings by Doc Rossi

A selection of recordings featuring Doc Rossi playing his Baritone Cittern

As well as his baritone cittern Doc also has one of my guitars, a short scale model G, and a two point mandolin.

Tenor Guitar videos

My old friend Will Fly and I got together to try out a recently completed tenor guitar before I shipped it off to its new owner.  It’s maple and spruce with Waverley tuners on a slotted headstock and some rather nice vintage inspired fingerboard markers.


Here’s Will playing Josefin’s Waltz by Roger Tallroth, I’m accompanying him on a Martin O28 made in 1900 – a lovely battered old relic.


And then I get a bit of a blues jam.  Will is playing a 1917 Gibson L1 archtop.

Tenor guitar tuned C G D A.

Just before I shipped this guitar the new owner emailed me “Be sure to give my regards to Will Fly.  Of course, he is the one responsible (via You Tube) for this project.  Hopefully he will bless this guitar and stuff a little Blues mojo into it!”.  I think we nailed it!

 

 

No 21, spruce and English Cherry, 2009

The very first post I made in this blog featured a guitar made from English cherry.  Doc Rossi has just posted a video where he plays this guitar.  Sounding even better than I remember.

Tenor guitar refret

I’d barely heard of the tenor guitar until my old friend Mike, aka Will Fly, asked me to make him one back in 2009.  7 years later it came back for a refret.  I think he must like it!  It’s always satisfying when an instrument gets well used.  I’ve known Mike for something like 40 years, ever since playing with him in The Egbert Souse All Stars, so he hung out in the work shop and we chatted while I worked on his guitar.  He recorded the work and the conversation and has now edited it (if that’s the word) into two ridiculously long videos.  If you’ve got a couple of hours to waste watching and listening to two old guys ramble on about making mending and playing instruments here you are!

Blue Shed Exhibition 2016

This year at The Blue Shed I have five different steel strung guitars including a 12 string, a parlour guitar and this long scale 6 string.  It’s currently strung as a baritone tuned to B.  Redwood front, Imbuya back and sides and figured ebony fingerboard.  Benjamin scoop semi cutaway.

J57 scoopJ57 back

As well as my guitars the exhibition features:

David Browne: work includes a series of drawing, prints and reliefs inspired by a small hillside town in Italy.
www.dmbartist.co.uk

Martin Spencer: contemporary chairs, inspired by a recent commission of Sally Williams Architects,  hand made from English hardwoods.

www.martinspencerchairs.co.uk/

exhibition sponsored by sally williams architects
www.sallywilliamsarchitects.co.uk/

Open 11am – 5pm  Weekends April 30th – May 30th including Bank Holidays

The Blue Shed
6 East Gardens
Ditchling BN6 8ST
www.blueshedstudio.co.uk/

artinditchling.co.uk/AID/the-blue-shed/

Baritone Cittern Audio Clip

This is a brief audio clip from a forthcoming CD of Greek and Corsican music by Doc Rossi.  I conceived this instrument to be tuned with the bottom course a low C, like a cello.  Doc tells me that over the years he has had it he has dropped the tuning and for this recording the bottom course was tuned to F.  He says “I don’t remember whether I’m using a capo on this song, but it’s tuned F (like first fret on a bass guitar) C G C F, with octaves on all pairs. It has a pickup, but I don’t use it, and it sounds great live, with or without a mic”.
I’ll post details of the completed project as soon as I have them.

Baritone Cittern page

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The Good Blonde

Good Blonde 1

My old friend Doc Rossi has posted a Facebook album of photos of a guitar I made over 25 years ago.  Recently I visited Doc in Alsace and had the chance to see and play it for the first time in many years.  A bit rough round the edges and some evidence that I’d struggled with that cutaway but playing well and sounding better than ever.  It also confirmed my feeling that maple is an underestimated tonewood for steel strung guitars.  As Doc says it has clarity and richness, makes for a very nicely balanced guitar.

 

Blueshed Exhibition May 2015

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This year I have 2 guitars for sale:
Model ‘O’ parlour guitar in rosewood and bear-claw sitka, extremely light, currently strung with 010 gauge strings
Model ‘G’, cherry and sitka, scoop cutaway, experimental bracing pattern.

As well as my instruments the exhibition includes:

David Browne: work includes a continuing series of sculptures that explore a recurring interest in the sea. Also being exhibited are recent drawings and prints inspired by an overgrown olive grove in Lazio, Italy.

Martin Spencer: hand made chairs exploring the textural contrast of paper and wood.

Exhibition is sponsored by Sally Williams Architects.

Open
11 – 5 weekends in May including Mondays May 4th and May 25th


The Blueshed
6 East Gardens
Ditchling
East Sussex
BN6 8ST