A custom guitar made for performing songwriter Tracy Spring of Bellingham, WA.
Completed September, 2012
Body size: 14.75″ lower bout
Top: Sitka spruce
Back and sides: Amazon rosewood
Saddle: Barbera Transducer
Binding: Birdseye maple
Purfling: Mother of pearl
Soundhole Rosette: Stained glass, mother of pearl, abalone
Fingerboard Inlay: Stained and mirrored glass, mother of pearl, abalone
Fingerboard Side Markers: Mother of pearl
Tuning Machines: Gotoh 510 Contour Gold
Tracy Spring is a wonderfully talented singer, songwriter and guitar player who has been performing and recording for many years. She has always played dreadnaught sized guitars, but never found them comfortable. Having to hunch her shoulder to get her arm over the guitar was starting to cause her pain. Without a doubt, a smaller guitar was in order.
My challenge was to build a small guitar with a big sound. Tracy has a powerful voice that could easily overshadow a quiet instrument. Additionally, Tracy plays in a lot of different open tunings, and she plays slide, both of which require more string tension to maintain a clean sound. I decided to go with a longer scale length (25.5″) than is usually found on smaller guitars. A longer scale keeps the tension up for slack tunings and adds power to the instrument. The combination worked. Diva sings with a loud voice despite being small. I chose an especially stiff top with a very glassy tap tone for this instrument. The result pleased both Tracy and me. The musical quality and clarity of this guitar is exceptional.
Another part of making this guitar comfortable for Tracy was to put a bevel on the edge of the back. We played around with life-sized 3-D paper models to determine exactly where the bevel should go. The sharp corner where the guitar’s back meets the side tends to dig into a person’s ribcage, which is especially uncomfortable if you happen to have a breast there. For five hundred years guitars have been shaped like a woman’s body. This guitar is shaped for a woman’s body.
I’ve had this rosewood since the 1970’s. It is an unidentified Dalbergia species that I have seen listed in catalogs as Amazon rosewood. It is very much like Brazilian rosewood in its musical properties.
Tracy needed the guitar to be able to be plugged in for performing. If you look closely at the photo to the left you will see that the saddle is different. In fact it is a pickup made by Rich Barbera in NYC. There is a separate transducer under each string. At the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop Tracy saw John Knowles perform using a Barbera pickup. The sound convinced her that we should try it. Rich has been making transducers for violin family instruments for many years, and is now making them for guitars.
Tracy and I agree that this is the most natural sounding guitar pickup we have heard. Since it is not microphonic, the transducer does not amplify any slide rattles, string squeaks or body bumps. You only get the guitar’s pure tone.
I call this soundhole rosette “Tracy’s Spring”. I came up with the idea of a ribbon spiraling around a circle some time ago, and actually inlaid one into a spruce top for future use. That one has six sine waves completing the circle. By tightening up the design to eighteen waves I created a spring for Tracy. The cicle is blue glass bordered by black/white/black lines. The spring is mother of pearl and abalone.
Tracy has spent a lot of time in wild places, and is often found paddling Bellingham Bay in her kayak, cavorting with killer whales and fishing for Dungeness crabs. Her favorite spirit totems are the orca, the bear and the crab. I have created them here in mother of pearl, blue glass and green mirrored glass.
Chilkat Center For The Arts – Haines, Alaska – Sept. 28, 2012
In front of an enthusiastic Chilkat Center crowd, in a nearly three hour concert, Tracy played many of her songs that will be released in future recordings.
You can purchase recordings and sample Tracy’s music at www.TracySpring.com
For her Chilkat Center concert Tracy used four of my guitars, all in different tunings. From left to right are “Grateful Fred” (2008), “Rosie” (1978), “Diva” (2012) and “Salmon Spawning” (2012).