September 25, 2007

The Eight String Brahms Guitar

Scottish-born classical guitarist Paul Galbraith is well known for having a highly personal and unique repertoire. He has explored and arranged various folk tunes from around the world, and has recorded widely acclaimed interpretations of the music of Haydn, Bach, and Brahms.

It was his during his arrangement of Brahms' Variations on an Original Theme Op. 21A for piano, when he realized that the traditional six strings of the guitar were limiting his options on the bass, and causing him to over-stretch his hand to reach the highest notes.

Inspired by the number of multi-string variations on the guitar that had appeared over the last 200 years, Galbraith contacted renowned luthier David Rubio.

Rubio's solution was inspired by the staggered stringing system of a steel-strung Renaissance instrument - the Orphereon. The guitar features the traditionally tuned six strings in the middle, a low bass string that can be tuned as low A, but as high as C, and a high treble that is tuned to A. The bridge and nut are angled in opposite directions to give added length to the bass strings, and the frets are fanned to preserve intonation.

Galbraith has also employed an amplification system of sorts which uses an end pin on the guitar (not unlike that of a cello) that attaches to an acoustic sound box. He has various sized boxes to accommodate different tonal and volume choices.

Since the inception of the Brahms guitar, others have been attracted to the sonic options and positive ergonomics that come with the design of the instrument. Irish guitarist Redmond O'Toole also performs on a Brahms guitar, played in the cello position like Galbraith. Here's a video clip demonstrating the unique approach to the guitar that this instrument offers:

No comments: