The Combolin

The Combolin

(in fact it’s a sympitar …)

When I was a teenager in Edinburgh the top act on the folk scene was the Corries. They went on to major success as a duet and to write unofficial national anthem “Flower of Scotland”. (A bit militaristic for my taste but that’s something else) One of the Corries, Roy Williamson, built them a pair of instruments, the combolins. One combined a mandolin and a guitar along with four bass strings tunable with slides, the other combined guitar, a set of sympathetic strings and a bandurria, the latter being an instrument Williamson had played since the early days of the Corrie Folk Trio. Roy has passed on, there’s not a lot of information about the Combolins and as far as I know they haven’t been seen or heard for many years.
So … a while ago Ted Brown asked if I could make one. Long pause, much sucking of teeth and a bit of “Are you kidding?”. Long discussion. With very little information to go on we decided not to even try to stick to the original design, to skip the mandolin / bandurria neck, to go with sympathetic strings and otherwise keep it as simple as possible. (That last bit may have been a joke) Finally on the original it sounds as if the bass strings have a sitar style Jawari buzz bridge and this was the sound that was wanted. The result is essentially a sympitar, a guitar sitar hybrid. I’ve built this instrument with a floating bridge and tailpiece, partly so we can play with different configurations. The present bridge is temporary while I get the rest of the instrument set up.
To be continued …

Here are the Corries and the Combolins


  1. admin

    Hi Cameron, there was a long conversation before we got to this design, notably ditching the mandolin / bandurria bit. I’ll send you an email so we can have a conversation, I can tell you what I did and what I’d change next time. Good luck – it’s quite a project!

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