Issue 5

Guitarmaker Issue 5—Letters

Cathy Currier

“My thoughts about Symposium 89 (for those who weren’t there). Symposium 89 was not just an event for luthiers to meet each other and show off their instruments. It was a gathering of luthiers and repair people to share experiences, knowledge, music, and a love of their trade. I had a chance to meet and listen to people who are some of the best in the business. This was one of the most informative and stimulating events, concerning my career, I’ve ever attended.

“Before next Symposium, every acquaintance I know that is a builder or repairer of musical instruments, will know what ASIA. is, and what they can gain and give by being a member. Thanks to all for a fabulous Symposium 89.”

Ralph Novak

Ralph Novak's unique variable scale fingerboard design.

Ralph Novak of San Leandro, CA has developed a new patented design (U.S. PAT #4,852,450) for fingerboards. Some may have read about his design in Guitar Player Magazine/October 1989. Ralph’s idea allows for a different scale length for each string. To accomplish this, he slots his fingerboards so that the frets are no longer parallel, rather radially aimed at a point that seems to be projected several feet off of the treble side of the neck. This makes the bass strings about an inch longer in scale length than the treble strings, requiring a more severely angled saddle on an acoustic guitar or highly staggered compensation ability on an electric guitar.

Currently Ralph is building guitars and basses that incorporate his idea. His idea seems to be receiving some attention with some professional musicians. Ralph explains in the Guitar Player article that:

“Shorter scale instruments such as the Fender Mustang or Gibson SG, are favored for ease of bending treble strings. They also have sweeter trebles because of pronounced midrange harmonic sustain. However, those guitars suffer poor bass string definition, difficult tuning, and lack of articulation. On the other hand, longer scale guitars such as the Fender Stratocaster, offer crisp bass string response, more accurate intonation, and good definition, but the treble strings lack midrange harmonic sustain. They sound percussive and thin, feel stiff when bending, and are more prone to string breakage due to higher tension.”

Ralph is seeking a licensing agreement with a large scaled manufacturer, believing that the concept has much greater potential that one luthier can address.

Jeff Jewitt

Jeff informed us of his participation in the 1st Annual Guitar Trade Show in Cleveland, Ohio held on October 22nd, 1989. Perhaps we can coax Jeff into writing a follow-up about the show. Jeff also has requested help or ideas as to how he can market his repair business and his line of handmade guitars.

In response to Jeff’s request, an article written by Ken Donnell that touches on several elements of Jeff’s request, has been retrieved from the ASIA files and printed in the article section of this issue.

Mario Baldoni

ASIA has received word from Mario Baldoni about George Manno. Many of you know about George through his many contributions to the String Instrument Craftsman and other publications, in addition to his extensive violin and stringed instrument experience. George had quite a bad accident last March that left him in pretty bad shape. He will be a long time in recovering, and apparently some of the damage will be permanent. It would be nice for those of you who know George, to drop him a line (address witheld from Web).