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Between Scylla and Charybdis: a South African perspective on guitar building

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The modern classical guitar is an instrument that has seen a great deal of change and experimentation in recent years with regards to its construction and concomitant sound production. Guitar builders are faced with the significant challenge of having to produce instruments that can adhere to aspects of playability and volume required of the modern instrument. This often results in having to sacrifice in some way the colour and sound so characteristic of the instrument as produced by the 'traditional' construction method consolidated by Spanish guitar builder Antonio de Torres. This uncomfortable position of having to sacrifice in one area in order to gain in another will be interrogated by investigating seven selected South African guitar builders. The manner in which they confront this challenge by adhering, to a greater or lesser degree, to two 'poles' of construction in line with international trends is highlighted. It is argued that this changing voice of the guitar is inherently part of what the essence of the guitar is and should not be seen as representing failed attempts in the quest for the 'perfect' guitar. This lack of consensus is thus part of the appeal of the guitar and will arguably always be.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2009

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