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My path to the Archguitar

Archguitar

The archguitar was invented in the early 1980's by Peter Blanchette as a way to bridge the gap between his guitar and lute playing, as these two instruments require radically different technical approaches.  Its light bracing pattern allows the top of the instrument to vibrate more freely, and the extra strings increase the sympathetic resonance of the instrument.  The result is a sound that is a kind of cross between lute, baroque guitar, 19th century guitar, and modern classical guitar.

I was first introduced to the Archguitar by James Kline in a masterclass given in 2001, when I was 15.  Though I was impressed by the instrument's capabilities and its exoticism, I didn't feel drawn to it.  I had only been playing classical guitar for a few months, and wanted to become more established in the traditional repertoire and style. 

When I was a Freshman at the San Francisco Conservatory, I began to feel dissatisfied with the limitations of the traditional 6 string guitar.  One of my teachers, Matthew Grasso, had recently switched to 7-string guitar and encouraged me to explore the possibility of doing the same.  After playing his guitar and seeing the possibilities it offered, I felt as though I didn't have a choice.

A beautiful seven string guitar was built for me by Scott Richter, of Fairfax, California, in 2004.  I loved this instrument and developed a repertoire for it, consisting of keyboard, lute, and orchestral transcriptions, as well as 6 string guitar pieces that I adapted to fit its range.  As much as it was a pleasure to play such a unique and well constructed instrument, something wasn't working for me about the tone of the modern classical guitar in general.  I felt that it lacked a certain delicacy of sound that I was looking for.

I contemplated taking up the lute, but to authentically perform all of the lute repertoire I was interested in, I would have needed at least 4 different instruments.  This would have put a damper on my guitar playing (not to mention my wallet...) because of the lute's radically different technique.

Enter the Archguitar.

One day, while working on tone production, I put on a recording of James Kline, and something clicked for me.  I knew that this was the sound I had been searching for.  The Archguitar would allow me to keep my classical guitar technique and repertoire, but give me the lute-like tone that I loved so much.

After a period of weighing my options and playing an Archguitar loaned to me by James Kline, I commissioned San Francisco-based luthier Alan Perlman to build me an 11-string Archguitar.  The result has turned out to be my dream guitar, and I'm grateful for every day that I can wake up and play this beautiful instrument.

-Jon