Desde el Escritorio Sept. 24, 1997

Desde el Escritorio de Randy Osborne


Translation of the French:
Dossier Ints. 9 Guitars of luthiers on the testing bench
Dossier done by Thierry Faradji
September 24, 1997

Copyright Randy Osborne F.F.S.I. La Guitarria Fina, October 20, 1995

The young French luthiers awaken. A true elaborate national school, the refined French, the cold region. Look and listen over a musical phenomenon in full momentum. Facing the grand procession of musical instruments, the guitar is alone. Across its repertoire, its folklore, its concertizers, its luthiers, the guitar is Regent of the world of six strings in an exclusive manner. Strong of that identity, the guitar is one of the very rare instruments today that has again evolved since its conception. If the violin of Stradivarius has not increased in size one millimeter after three centuries, the guitar had not possessed the equivalent standard then and must have been a kneeling servant. Indeed the moderness of the present is always inspired by the skillful architecture elaborated by Torres of the 19th century, but all the variations are tolerated. In reality all guitars are on interpretation of the guitar of Torres. If one is permitted, then every luthier will impose their artistic imagination. Today the hand made guitars are authentic musical sculptures, magnificent and luminescent. In these nine guitars, eight are made by the new generation of French luthiers, and one by Yamaha, who has trained its own team of luthiers in Japan.

  • Michel Donadey
  • Michel Donadey, at 39 years, belongs a little more to the exploratory luthiers side than to the conventional luthiers side. Indeed, his 15 guitars annually at 27,000 Francs a piece for 80 to 100 hours of work are ahead of all of the concert instruments although they appear identical to those of other luthiers. But the demarcation Donadey makes is the difference of the level of the interior architecture and its equivalent of vibrations. After 7 years its conception has not enlarged. Upon first look, the back in rosewood ardour is a marvelous aesthetic, emitting the precious wood by excellence. In the same way the rosette, designed by the luthier is repleat in Indian mosaic of blue and red, linked together are symbols of the Yin and the Yan. Blink your eyes. The bridge in Brazilian rosewood presents a profile tapering to its edges, and a spark of fiery wood decorates the tie block. Besides the veneer of the headstock being an open book, the soundboard is of Red Cedar. To the interior, the sides are laminated with Cedar and the small braces are reinforced with carbon fiber that present the advantage of retaking their initial position after the 1000's of deformations. The fan bracing consists of 8 barres and two transverse barres also in carbon. The Fustero gears are black and hand engraved. The two ebony bars in the neck contribute to the strength of the neck. The fingerboard intentionally very thick, therefore must rid itself of all vibrations of the soundboard and does not confiscate and distribute any to the neck. One condition Donadey follows to achieve more harmonics.


    The note and only the note. It appears that the luthier has hit his target. That guitar is of great precision, it chisels every note toward crystal sonority without some parasitic or secondary vibration. The trebles themselves are kept lightly in check by so much of the precision, the tone remains long with a very good balance over the whole entire fingerboard. The indolent charm, that interior seduction called intimacy - "the occult experience" according to one of the musicians doing the test it has a fullness that will serve all repertoires with confidence. The neck, lightly too large, can offer the guitarists accustomed to instruments of ease what they seek. In conclusion, one guitar of flavor, for learning a different sonority and maybe to let yourself be carried away.

    Maurice Dupont

    Some of his aid comes from two workers and two apprentices. Maurice Dupont achieved his belief of making 100 guitars in a year. That is a record for an artisan of only 34 years. Every instrument demands around 70 hours of attention and the Grand Concert classical model costs 21,000 Francs. Maurice Dupont furthermore makes an enormous amount of Jazz and Folk guitars besides an original system of amplification. On examination the instruments appear to be solid and very stable. This is because overall its internal structure of sparkling braces. Above the traditional bracing in fan style of 7 braces of 5mm height, 2 transverse braces 13mm in thickness reinforcing throughout. It results in creating a soundboard that is very rigid, theoretically sheltering it from sinking while letting it correctly age. The top is domed toward the edges, facing a back of Brazilian Rosewood that accentuates its brilliant sound. The bridge is tapered toward the ends, in a V-shape, typical of Romantic guitars, signs the linking of the sides, and marks equally in a V-shape the joining of the neck and headstock. The high quality gears are Gotohs from Japan. The binding of the top is of "amourette". Maurice Dupont purchased this wood directly from the woodcutter, practically on foot.


    One of the guitars tested with the most balanced response, in particular the three trebles are linked one after the other without the slightest hint of Wolf Notes. The projection is not timid, the result is due largely tothe sonority of nuances that are situated at the hinge of its roundness and clarity. If that is not enough, then consider it learned balance. This instrument has contributed to edify the fame of the French who have appeared to have elaborated with the new generation of luthiers. One guitar of undeniable qualities and without major defect, beneficient from the increase in connection to high quality efforts. To the guitar buyer from the tester now by putting its color in parallel with its competitors. The rest was an affair of enjoyments.

    Olivier Fanton D'Andon

    This luthier from Chateaudun offers one of the concert guitars highly finished that one can find in the French marketplace. Fanton D'Andon, the born perfectionist, makes 8 guitars a year, spending close to 200 hours on each of them. A little tempermental to the standard of Rosewoods, Indian or Brazilian, that will utilize to the taste of what is available, it designates the instrument with a soundboard that is very curved. A bracing that is a double fan of 16 spruce bars, and one transverse the whole waist. Four bars criss-cross the back, by that amazing architecture, one of the instruments very rigid, to the positive sense of the word, considered by anyone. A bar of ebony is embedded in the neck. The finish is pushed to the extreme. Example, the 19th fret is drowned in the mass of ebony by not letting it appear to reach the ends of its placement. The baroque "pistagne" that surrounds the rosette is made by the luthier himself. Its motif is made by alternating filets of light and dark wood at angles. In the interior the linings are made lightly with a pen knife that follows the sides elegantly. The instrument is French polished and border marquetry is done in rosewood or "violette" wood. The luxury is to be found in the Rodgers gears. Hand made gears that cost 3,000 Francs alone. An instrument exquisitely made that justifies largely the 30,000 Francs demanded for this concert guitar.


    Thanks to the strings being very close to the neck, this guitar is exceptionally easy to handle. Its neck, relatively slim, begets by furthermore a pleasure of playing lightly with the left hand for some aspects that are very physical. The sonority is spontaneously clear, enriching a color somewhat nasal but not to the point of having too much twang, that gives it an original profile. That sonority rounds out the wishes of the lovers of silky tints. In connection with that clear sonority the attack delivers immediately a sound consistent and luminescent. The guitar from virtuosity by excellence.

    Jean-Marie Fouilleul

    At 34 years, she is one of the luthiers of the modern aesthetic. It is enough by seeing one of his guitars to tell the difference. Incrustations in the rosette and headstock of tinted wood marquetry as well as abstract motifs and geometric shapes in tin or pewter. The present model G.W. is the crown of the range of Fouilleul's work. He makes 4 models from student to concert. This G.W. at 21,000 Francs contains an aspect that is very charming, bringing a spruce top with Indian rosewood back and sides. The soundboard benefits from being domed, and is made to coincide its summit with the bridge. With 4mm of an arch in the top it offers a comfortable parabola of resonance. Classically, a system of 7 fans supports the soundboard. Those fans are adjusted over the top, thus the linings when they are in a row give rise to the spherical mould. One transverse brace the height of the bridge width accentuates the inherent acoustic hinge to that place. The purflings of "amourette" surround the body. Indicated to us is the fact that although "amourette" is a delightful wood, it is difficulat to work with - it splinters easily. He builds 3 guitars at a time, 25 per year.


    This guitar offers a good compromise between roundness and brilliance which the clarity opposes and compliments a sonority guitaristic. This French sonority, lightly nasal, made to twinkle the trebles vibrantly with a long duration to the ear. A major asset for an instrument which has a natural tendency to "eat" the trebles in crystaline droplets. The basses are very sonorous and pleasantly support by following the trebles. On the other hand, a curious effect secondarily, the vibrant trebles possess a color too contrasting for a connection to the other strings. The first string is too sour or acid like. The detail that may be able to rub out the problem could be to change the strings because the enrichment of the trebles appears to be almost excessive. In evidence the Savarez alliance reds don't lie well for the first string. Delicate equilibrium between a guitar and its vocol chords.

    Jean-Luc Joie

    Jean-Luc Joie is the luthier of the future. Letting go of the idea to make a conventional acoustic guitar, he has deliberately chosen to cultivate a revolutionary one for attaining his musical goal. At 40 years of age he produces about 15 guitars per year, every one of those demands around 100 hours. His ideal: to obtain very right sounds, very straight, devoid of all parasitic resonance. The means: soundboard of Kevlar, beesnest, glass, moss, carbon-(graphite), and all imaginable composite materials, light solids, ultra-vibrants. The tender wood such as balsa provides the base for this pyramid technology. Two open rosettes, from either side of the neck are discharged on the top of the soundboard covered by a robe of overlapping granite. The vibrating surface spreads out thus without obstacle. The neck, shouldered of an ebony fingerboard, brings three different materials. The headstock is compact with gears borrowed from the electric guitar school. No pressure what-so-ever weakens the soundboard since the strings stride over until they are linked with the sides. The traction has thusly come down to the structure of the instrument. Besides the bracing of classical fans, the structure of the soundboard and its special material maximize its concentric profile. One guitar for exploratory musicians frees you of all paralytic conservatism. To discover this, listen to a disc of Alan Carl Garcia who uses this guitar.


    Another galaxy of sonority, which seemed to bring a great pleasure to the 3 guitarists. The reserve of power is collosal and there is nothing to see with the other guitars. This instrument is a deviant piano, the fantasy of all the 19th century luthiers who dreamt to make the guitar a concert-horse. The equilibrium between the registers is complete, without Wolf notes or dead notes. This is fortunate otherwise the basses devour the trebles or vice versa. It appeared that under the avalanche of clarity, some harmonics were blurred, in particular the octave vibration. Graced by a certain virility, masculinity, that others researched with annexed amplification. This guitar could well arouse new repertoirs.

    Joel Laplane

    This acoustician of 43 years of age was a student of Professor Louis Davalle, the spiritual inheriter of the luthier Arthur Carbonel-Torres, reknowned in the past from Marselle. After having followed his scientific university studies of solids, Joel Laplane has cultivated his knowledge of acoustics in becoming a luthier and making about a dozen or so instruments per year. Each one of these needs between 70 and 120 hours to complete. Laplane has defined more and more how the new lutheir who searches constantly to attainthe impossible perfection of the classical guitar by his original approach that bears fruit immediately. Having started by researching wood, using spruce or Canadian Cedar for the soundboard, sides and back of Brazilian rosewood or Indian or even Padouk (wood of Coral). The neck is of South American Cedar, and the fingerboard of ebony from India. Organic research next, since the guitar Grand Concert costs 34,000 Francs (the range of guitars begins at 18,000 Francs) and posesses a particularly personalized architecture with its two rosetes. The rosette of the soundboard is in the form of a pebble raised up and not flush to the top toward the neck, thereby freeing a large vibrant surface. The second rosette is small and on the side. It projects a complement of power to the ear of the musician directly. The neck prolongs itself to the interior of the body and ropes the string lightly addressing the soundboard. The headstock has added to it the form of a peak. The bracing of the soundboard is assymetrical, very rigid on the treble side, and very supple on the bass side. The supplementary braces surround the fan bracing of the top and are to be found on the back of the guitar. A blend of retaining and liberation of tensions.


    No, the resulting sonority is not what you have always been waiting for, an artifical flame of white colors and brights. This guitar offers on the contrary one of the sonorities very smooth, very round and warm. The first string in particular abundantly buzzy, butterfly-like without falling toward the vulgarity of its own garishness. For the guitarist who plays naturally clear like Michel Sadanowski, one such sonority that proves ideal. This emission retains but does not exclude the virtuosity. Between the plate of the fingerboard, well constructed, and the strings a flower of the neck, it permits the flight totally. Remarkable woodworking to surely draw attention.

    Martine Montassier

    After having followed the courses of the school of Lutherie of London and obtaining his diploma after 4 years of apprenticeship, Martine Montassier is one of the young luthiers to have arrived on the French scene. His pace furthermore is not breakneck speed since he builds only 5 guitars a year and sells them for 16,500 Francs each. The concert instrument being examined presents this rare characteristic offering a cutaway. A little like the manner of the Jazz guitars which are not embarrassed by visual protocol. The cutaway disequalibriates a certain aesthetic of the instrument but offers an access to the treble notes making them infinitely easy to play. Theoretically, all the guitars must be made thusly, to be of service to a certain ergonomic factor. But only 1 in 10 of this type of instrument is ordered of the luthiers. Paradox. Afraid of jarring the public? Habits of a game of changing? What can one say? The concertizers rarely are orientated toward this option but all praise its flagrant advantages. The guitar of Martine Montassier comes with a rosette of marquetry and back and sides of Brazilian rosewood. Its fan bracing pattern is of six braces consolidating by the transverse brace traditionally parallel to the bridge. The German gears are by Schaller. The last characteristic to mention is that this instrument is very light, and one supposes therefore of a certain ease to play.


    The notes come out of this guitar naturally enough, maybe due to the lightness mentioned above. But the basses avail themselves to a light tendency to be cold throughout the first 4 frets. The projection and the clarity are blended, the sound quivers and evaporates near a reason of clarity a little too much luminescent which might disconcert the lovers of smooth and muffled sonorities. According to the musicians, this instrument must become better with time, surely over time it will be rid of any youthful sourness, which currently is mixed with its clear tone, yet having to acquire more charm. In summerizing, an instrument to keep for a long time, to shape itself over time, by cultivating it daily.

    Alain Raifort

    Everything takes its full course of gestation, the guitar of this young luthier of 36 years of age is an instrument perfectly mature. This guitar of concert quality is immediately recognizable with its soundboard of Western Red Cedar - the color of chocolate milk and its rosette in sequins of rosewood. To the difference of Spruce which, theoretically, penalizes the new instrument of one color a little bit green since its improving with time advancing its acoustic qualities. The Red Cedar of the Rockies at the outset gives the better part of itself but doesn't evolve more ulteriorly. The slotted headstock treelike with its filets of wood cementing the holes and edges of its sides. To the aesthetic, these filets have on eprecise function: they maintain the solidarity of the slotted fibers, cushioning the eventual shocks and preventing the humidity of penetrating the fragile areas. Very close to the guitar of Torres, the interior has a pattern of 7 fan braces which maintain the soundboard, reinforced by one transverse brace. The profile of the soundboard is quite domed, by design of an "open book", graced by a piece of wood open and affixed symetrically. The set up of the strings is very lightly tilted by a millimeter. The fingerboard is rounded, to such a point that the next guitars probably will be less rounded by admission of Alain Raifort himself. 80 hours are necessary to make such and instrument. Raifort produces a small dozen per year. Their price is 15,000 Francs, surprising for such quality. This price probably will not last. This is price marketing.


    The balance is good from one side of the guitar to the other without any inequality between the basses and the trebles. The sound, well projected toward the front, an honest tone, though there is a slight weakness in the trebles which is marked by the tenure and duration. Nevertheless, the color charming, feminine, of the instrument, allied to a great ease of execution, translating, according to the musicians, the revival of a certain lutherie typically French, particularly luminescent and attractive. The connection of quality-price, unfindable elsewhere, is as much amazing that the price is artificially deflated by the luthier.


    The Yamaha GC40 is not dealt with for obvious reasons.

    Next Article:

    Who used three metronomes while composing? What unorthodox right hand techniques did he employ? --- An interview translated from French 1 1 /2 years before the death of this great musician.


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