You probably know the name Stradivari as the most famous violin maker that ever lived. But it is lesser known that the great master also made guitars.
Only five guitars survived to this day, in museums and private collections around the world. None of these are in their original state. They were altered and restored over time, which left them in various stages of decomposition.
To guitar makers they pose a problem: Three of the five originally had very long string lengths of 742 mm, making it too long for ‘normal’ baroque guitar tuning. Other builders often tackle this by shortening the neck or placing the bridge higher up on the body. But these are rather weak solutions. Both don’t deal with the proportions of the body, which was intended for the longer string length. It’s like shortening the neck of a viola in order to play it like a violin. Which will never sound the same.
So I started to investigate the other clues left by Stradivari; his workshop materials. Tools, templates, forms, parts, etc. These are in museums in Cremona and Paris. While there was done extensive study after the violin and cello moulds, the materials for guitars are only described in a couple of publications.
To establish whether the forms in Cremona and Paris belonged to the same workshop I looked for cross-matches. Luckily one of the Paris guitar forms was later converted to a viola d’amore form, and the paper template for the same instrument is in the Cremona collection. I then tried the forms to the “Braccio da Fabbrica”, Cremona’s local unit of measurement used in Stradivari’s time. And while not found explicitly in the violin forms (according to Stewart Pollens), the design of the guitars proved to be riddled with it. It was like the pieces of a puzzle finally fell together.
The collection of guitar templates showed various different sizes. From extra small (ukulele-sized) to XXL (770 mm string length !) and everything in between. This is consistent with music from the era. Composers like Calvi and Foscarini describe guitars of various sizes in different keys.
When looking at the Strad collection it soon became clear that the ‘normal’ E’-tuned guitar was made after template “MS no. 750″ in the Cremona Museum. So I set out on the journey to build the first reconstruction of this guitar.
This journey brought me to the most unexpected places; an article for American Lutherie and giving a presentation for the Guitar Consortium at the University of Cambridge and a variety of lectures all around…
Many players have tried the guitar and were pleasantly surprised by its weight and extreme resonance.
A set of plans
Over time other builders often asked me to publish the plans for the MS 750 guitar.
I intended to do so from the start of the project, but it took a while… Until now! The plans for the Stradivari guitar are ready and can be ordered from my PLANS-page.
The plans contain all measurements and templates you need to make your own guitar after the Stradivarius. It’s one of the lightest and most sophisticated guitars you will ever built.
Click here to order the plans directly.
Also take a look at the other plans I have on offer. They vary from a 19th century Panormo to fifties Danelectro’s and Harmony Stratotones…
More plans for the other Stradivari models are in preparation….