©2018 Garrett Lee

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Characteristics

Describing the sound and feel of a guitar is difficult and its merits are highly subjective. Terms commonly used by players to describe my guitars include:

  

  • Large tonal palette, capable of warmth as well as brightness

  • Traditional sound quality

  • Clear and focused trebles

  • Good sustain and evenness of notes

  • Concert hall projection

  • Accurate intonation

  • Ease in the left hand

  • Highly responsive to the right hand

Approach

My methods maximize consistency of sound regardless of the soundboard design, resulting in a signature sound across all models. Many years ago, I recognized that a guitar's sound is determined by its structure. Variables such as wood species, soundboard thickness and bracing, to name a few, can be manipulated to control a guitar's sound.

 

Because the way a guitar resonates at different pitches is largely determined by the spatial distribution of stiffness and weight in the soundboard, it is possible to correlate measured and tactile parameters during construction to the voice of completed guitars. I use physical measurements such as weight, stiffness, and resonant frequencies as targets to guide my wood selection, decision making and execution throughout the course of building each guitar.

 

In addition to achieving tonal consistency, the ability to control sound through the measurement and manipulation of physical properties also means that if desired, I am able to subtly alter the sound to suit the preference of the player. Examples include changing the bass to treble balance and relative darkness/brightness.

 
 
Soundboard Design

I build traditional solid tops and three types of double tops. All are traditionally fan-braced. Although slightly different in sound and response, one design is not necessarily better than the others, and I offer the four to create the best match to the player.

 

My double top soundboards are more accurately described as three-layer sandwiches consisting of two outer veneers of spruce or cedar surrounding an inner-core matrix of cedar, balsa or Nomex. Since my introduction of Nomex-core double tops in 2009 (right), over 90% of my customers select one of the double top configurations. In 2015, I began collaborating with robotics expert John Bower to machine a novel soundboard of my own design. For these 'holey' double tops, hundreds of holes are cut into the board (below), stopping just short of cutting completely through. This design is analogous to a Nomex honeycomb core attached to a single wood veneer. Regardless of the core material, the final step is to complete the sandwich by attaching the second veneer. 

Double top soundboards offer the intriguing possibility of combining a variety of different woods. In Nomex-core double tops, I and other luthiers have observed that the outer veneer overwhelming dictates the tonal characteristics of the guitar. One of the benefits of the 'holey' double top is that the wood core remarkably blends the characteristics of all the layers because (I believe) wood, being more resonant than Nomex, efficiently unifies both veneers during the initial impulses of the note. In the holey double tops, the most successful configurations have been spruce outer/cedar-core/cedar inner or spruce outer/balsa-core/cedar inner. These configurations behave as if they are true spruce/cedar hybrids in sound and response.

 
Features

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Back and Sides

Elevated Fingerboard

Adjustable-Action Neck

Finish

Intonation and Scale Length

Tuners and Cases