Whats in Process
The development of the modern guitar from its ancestral roots has followed two parallel routes—the classical guitar and the steel string guitar.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Spanish guitarist and guitar maker Antonio Torres (1817-1892) gave birth to what is now known as the modern classical guitar. At the request of his friend and professional guitarist Julian Arcas, Torres manipulated bracing patterns and dimensions of the body and came up with something that pleased both Arcas and the rest of the guitar community.
Before Torres began his illustrious career, guitars were built with small bodies and a short scale length that produced very limited tone or volume. Torres sought to build those complaints out of the instrument. He made the body larger, expanded the string length, and made the body deeper. All of these improvements, coupled with his innovations in fan bracing patterns, made big news and changed the shape of the guitar world throughout Europe. These innovations eventually spread to the rest of the world. Torres’s ideas were adopted by the shops of Manuel Ramirez in Spain and Herman Hauser in Germany, who, with the help of the young guitarist Andres Segovia, further developed the classical guitar.
The development of the steel string guitar began in 1811 when Christian Fredrich Martin was apprenticed to Johann Stauffer, a Viennese maker of guitars and other instruments, at the age of 15. Upon completing his apprenticeship, he returned to his birthplace, Mark Neukirchen, Germany, but immigrated soon after to the United States, eventually settling in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where there was a thriving German community. Here he established his business, building the gut-strung European guitar but with the innovation of using x-bracing under the soundboard. Carrying on the family business, Martin's descendants saw the demand for a new style of guitar, one which could generate a larger volume of sound and blend well with much louder banjos, mandolins, and fiddles when played at barn dances. By 1900 the development of steel strings, which produce a louder sound than gut strings, necessitated a stronger x-brace under the soundboard. These two elements together produce the desired characteristics of the modern steel string guitar.
Through the years and continuing today, musicians have voiced their needs and wants to luthiers in order to get exactly what they desire in an instrument. Over the course of one hundred and fifty years the guitar has taken many shapes and sizes. Many people—luthiers and musicians alike—have put forth ideas in hopes of coming up with the perfect guitar. Those who succeeded did so because their instruments matched both their customers’ and the builder’s ideas of the perfect guitar.
While mass producers of instruments may produce a fine instrument, they are not able to match design and materials for consistent results and the evolution of their design often comes to a standstill. At Woodsound Studio we strive to to fulfill the needs of many players by producing guitars with a variety of balanced tonal schemes. We achieve this through one-off production, the manipulation of bracing patterns, and the selection of appropriate woods and finishes, coupled with subtle blends of trim and appointments.
We offer both steel string and classical instruments in varying grades to meet your desires and, with advanced designs, to improve your ability. Throughout the entire range of instruments we build, beginning with our conservatory models through the elite master models, you will see, feel, and hear the difference in our instruments.
In addition to guitars, Woodsound Studio produces a line of fine hand-built mandolins.
The Blodgett Mandolins
John builds a variety of mandolin-family instruments: carved-top mandolins, mandolas, octave-mandolins, and citterns, all of his own design—designs that are informed by his broad exposure to instruments from the past but which also incorporate modern elements and contemporary understandings of acoustics.
The Mandolin In History
The mandolin traces its history back to some of the earliest musical instruments built by our ancestors from a gourd, a stick, a string of stretched sinew, played with a finger, a plectrum, or a bow. The modern mandolin family was developed from the European lute, itself a decendent of the Arabic oud, introduced to Spain during the Moorish conquest of 711 to 1492 and spread throughout Europe by coastal trade, especially Italy, where the instrument underwent a great transformation during the Italian Renaissance. These multi-coursed stringed instruments were of a flat-topped design, with a curved, many staved, bowl-shaped back. In Europe they acquired the tied gut fret, easing the learning of intonation and furthering the chording capabilities. The mandolin is in reality a short-necked lute with four double courses for a total eight strings, tuned as the violin, E-A-D-G. Here we see the diverging path of the flat-topped, plucked instruments and carved, bowed stringed instruments, only to see the technologies fuse again with the invention of the modern carved top and back mandolins by the inventive mind of Orville H. Gibson.
Orville Gibson was granted a patent in 1898 for his new arched top and back mandolins based on the principles of violin construction. This break with traditional bowl-back instruments spelled their doom. The new flat-back mandolin was easier to hold, had better projection, and the wider neck gave more room for fingering. From that day to this, the mandolin is still developing, stylistically varied, but more importantly, its tonal qualities are linked to different genres of music, such as Bluegrass, Celtic, old timey, country and popular. There has even been a resurgence of interest in classical mandolin.