The Gryphon H1 12-String
It's a very rare occasion for me as a vintage guitar collector to enthuse about new items that appear on the market claiming to be totally different in concept and sound. I'm also pretty sceptical about amplifying acoustic instruments with on-board electronics claiming a 'pure' acoustic sound. By the very definition of amplification, once a guitar gets plugged in, it is no longer acoustic. Having played all manner and styles of guitar over the years, both electric and acoustic, I always look out for something different that I can really explore the parameters of. That's why I play mainly 12-string acoustic these days as I find the 12 strings to be the ultimate in solo accompaniment. I never feel I have to add other instruments to compensate for a lack of sound width.
A couple of months ago I was surfing the net, researching various projects when I happened upon Dream Guitars. This is a retail site, purely dedicated to selling hand made guitars by some of the world's best luthiers. It was whilst browsing this site that I stumbled on another claim for yet another new concept, this time in 12-string guitars. Mmmm, I thought, looks interesting from the photographs and certainly an entirely new visual design for 12-string. It had an 18.5" scale length and a recommended tuning of high D, a tone down on normal guitar tuning. I usually tune my normal 12-strings a tone or a tone and a half down, but was intrigued to hear a sample of a much smaller 12-string in this tuning, as obviously with a shorter scale length, the string action would be tight. When I hit the sample button I was absolutely amazed at the sound that came out. For here, was a truly genuine 'NEW' sound and concept that did live up to it's publicity. Without hesitation, I raided my piggy bank and ordered the exact one listed which the luthier, Joe Veillette, had delved into British Folklore and named The Gryphon. The origins of Joe's creation lie in his experiments with Baritone guitars. Here's what he says:
"In the final year of the Veillette-Citron company we were building a substantial number of electric baritone 6-strings. I thought I'd like to see a baritone 12-string so we did one with a 27.8" scale. Miraculously, the first time it got tuned up I tried tuning it in octaves all the way across the fretboard - no unison courses, only octaves. It sounded huge, but got sold almost immediately in the company's last weeks. Since then, while I've always done a brisk business in bari-12's, I've made many attempts to recreate that all-octave thing, both at "N and "B" tuning. It was my Holy Grail. No luck. Finally, about 4 years ago, I tried a 25.9" scale tuned to A and it worked! I got so excited that I decided to try a guitar identical to the bari as if it were capoed at the 7th fret, yielding an all-octave standard-tuned 12-string with a 17.5" scale. Even though the guitars tuned and intonated perfectly on the bench, when it came to actually making music, the squirrelly little high strings never seemed to be in tune with their compatriots. The guitars just didn't sound sweet no matter how you tweaked the tuning.
I am always prepared to be disappointed when taking a flyer on imported goods
The D-Tar, 18 volt on board electronics produce a near true acoustic when amplified. It's certainly the closest I have come across to replicating the acoustic sound without adding all kinds of effects and plug ins. I cannot fault this instrument in any way and I immediately became a fan of Joe Veillette, who is a very experienced and heralded Luthier operating out of Woodstock. He produces some unique instruments including 6 and 12 string guitars, baritones and some amazing basses, all stamped with his own unique designs. Joe will also make to order (www.veilletteguitars.com).
I have put a video clip of The Gryphon on You Tube so you can see and hear for yourselves what The Gryphon looks and sounds like.
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