Echoes of Time
Studio photos: Pierre Barrellon
Echoes of Time - Andre Instruments no.114 - 2022
A truly sculptural -Étude- piece, this baryton scaled harp-guitar follows Thierry André's prior works on the multi-string theme.
Echoes of Time is dedicated to the expressive possibilities that the guitar still beholds ; From its distant origins - all the way to its current standard & cultural icon status.
Visual & sound aspects are equally cared for in its design ; Both characteristics are worked in tandem, for to create a cohesive and balanced instrument.
Made according to a very naive preliminary sketch, -Echoes- is primarily based on visual expression - this to eventually encourage the development of new technical ways in its fabrication - all looks aside:
1-Its active soundboard is internal, and set mid-depth into its soundbox. Just like a car engine is hidden by its hood, here, the visible relief-carved -top- of the guitar is truly a just cover.
This cover is a continuation of the guitar’s back - ultimately forming its acoustic soundbox.
2- This 3 element configuration (cover, soundboard, back) comes to a focused meeting point at the guitar’s (harp) column:
The acoustic horn thus created becomes the main sound port for this guitar, bringing its own share of vibration to the whole.
As we can hear in the demo video above, -Echoes of Time- manages to have its very own acoustic voice.
Its sound is surround-like, diffused more at its side-port area (around its electronic compartment) and greatly focused at its column-horn.
On this page will be shown the step-by-step making of the Echoes of Time instrument:
- Certainly a marker in Thierry André's guitar making practice - Its design brought-up some interesting ideas, that can later be applied to more conventional forms of guitar making.
1- Its 3-layer construction (cover, internal soundboard, back) does bring a -warm-, surround-like tone to the instrument.
2- Its acoustic horn gives a highly -compressed- tone, reminiscent of the sound brought-up by the use of a -Wah- pedal on electric guitars.
3- Its integral neck (or neck-through soundbox) anchors the instrument's internal tailpiece, This supported connection permits both soundbox and sound board to be made very light an sensitive.
The guitar's bridge is tied directly to its internal archtop sound board, emerging through the relief-carved -cover- element.
The bridge total height permits its pronounced back-and-forth pulsating motion under string movement, while its -playable height- is archtop standard when all elements are in place (cover, soundboard, back).
I hope you like Echoes of time and its making as shown below!
Aside from the usual top & back, the internal arched-top soundboard sets this baritone harp-guitar apart from any other.
Numerous days of design where necessary to tackle each part of this instrument.
From original sketch to completion, is presented on this page. Enjoy!
I spoke about this guitar project to luthier friend Mario Lamarre.
Upon seeing the sketch, he hinted that the drawing reminded him of the paleolithic mother goddess.
I looked that up and found something interesting:
Numerous clay figurines examples of this subject are found all over the world. What ties them all together, is their raw-ness and chalky colour.
Working from the light Poplar wood for the viewable part of Echoes of Time, inspired its current mineral finish.
Poplar: Its two large slabs where originally 3.125 inch thick.
Making a little plasticine mockup at the beginning, really helped to figure out how the top would transfer its deeper lines to the back (below).
Areas of the back are carved with ergonomics in mind ; 1- The rib-cage area of the player meets a thinner body (as on Multi 2 ) at the waist, which is around electric guitar thickness on bass-side.
2- The treble side of the back is less rounded, especially where the leg meets the guitar, in the traditional -lap- area. This makes for a guitar that doesn't slip and stays put.
The column, here a little more refined with files, hints a twisting shape while looking strong.
Only 3 strings will be supported by the column, Its greater function might be this time around more acoustic, as it is the hollow channel by which the air from the guitar body will exit :
The column is the main sound hole for this guitar, and is shaped in the form (as Zyra) of an acoustic horn.
Here are a few pics of this process:
Later, once the outside form truly established, the plates will be separated to permit the actual soundbox to be carved out.
Left is both circle and oval as potential horn shape.
As mentioned, the oval won the title! Inspiration for it came in part from the (below) - horn in field- which is part of an amazing landscape art project by StudioWeave.
More technical :
The more technical drawing above shows string layout, and a later opening around the bridge area : The top of this instrument is truly a -cover- for to keep relief expression, while a more dynamic soundboard will be below it. The bridge goes through the -cover- to meet with the strings, hence an opening is needed (and part of the design).
As impractical and detrimental to the look and balance of the column to have tuners on it, the 3 sub-bass strings will be tuned at the tail, using 3 ABM single bridge in chrome.
Since string ball-ends are at tail, the other end of these strings has to be clamped, and held by (ABM also) individual locking headpieces on column.
Dynamic soudboard :
Seeing the image above Is mysterious yet breathtaking.
Echoes of Time inner guts are really a very iconic soundboard shape, taken from the Sun, Moon, and Vibration influence.
As Echoes of Time now shares the same dynamic soundboard outline as one of my recent instrument ; Let's see how other already completed works can have an input on the making-of the current build.
Guitare-Fruit Wurcer uses neck through the soundbox construction. From head to toe, its string tension is supported by the neck along its axis, to cover for a (calabash) very light and softer material body. Built with a floating bridge, its 6 strings anchor at its tail, bypassing the use of a long tailpiece.
A similar system was thus worked-out for Echoes of time:
The main idea is threefold: 1-Simplicity of use 2- Dynamic / solid anchoring 3- Clean visuals.
Mystery factor is a bonus, as the main strings will seem to disappear into the guitar behind the bridge.
The intent for Echoes of Time is to magnify this visual feature by making it larger, and as possible, more acoustic.
Two custom hand-made pickups where ordered especially for the instrument :
Both are stacked-humbuckers made from phenolic bobbins.
This material is neutral in colour value and texture. It look old without anything -relic- being related to it.
The colour is Willow gray.
Coming from the standpoint of more ancient instrument-making techniques:
In short, Echoes of time Poplar body's structure is to be treated literally as a gourd or calabash, in terms of weight and rigidity.
André's early-work on -smaller- instruments like Sun (right picture), a gourd-banjo made around 2007, comes into play ; - Its raised fingerboard configuration and string projection is very similar to what is needed in the context of the current build.
Below is a view of the internals for Guitare-Fruit Wurcer. In its case, a counterweight was needed at tail of the instrument, to cover for short soundbox and 19th fret body-neck joint configuration.
The neck-through construction is all spruce and epoxy glue, with carbon fibre bars inserted each side of the (picture at left) truss rod channel.
Once the whole neck is tapered according to string projection, it is -slide- fitted into the lower part of the soundbox, 1.75 inch deep.
The -dry fit- of the rectangular neck gives interesting lines from the soundbox's rounded nature.
From there the heel and whole neck shaft will be shaped off the guitar before actual gluing takes place.
Headstock and fingerboard:
Basic layout for headstock is in line with the one of Sun, Moon, and Vibration, That is with linear elements, and mostly a straight string projection:
Finding ways of design and selecting materials that can feel both modern and ancient for both these parts was quite challenging.
1 -Headstock should reference the guitar body in some way, with high-relief and carving.
2 -It should also materialize a sense of totem-like, ascending-progressive figure.
Alternate views from headstock's front/back show coherence, and a -stepped- appearance towards the top of the instrument...suggesting different levels of awareness, etc. All without pretension but with an ascending thought and positive energy..
The dark-brown side-pieces are Ziricote, multi-laminated and inlayed.
The Gotoh 510 chrome tuners will come from the side of the headstock (as per Sun, Moon and Vibrations, or Kouai) and there is just enough space around the tuner-post to fit a 10mm socket tool, for to fasten each of the tuners to the headstock.
A dedicated tool is provided in the guitar case.
Used for fingerboard inlays:
-Pipestone red recon-stone. This material is very similar in colour to the phenolic pickup bobbins.
-Parchment white recon-stone as the high-contrast line, very close in colour to aged cow bone.
-Dark green linen-micarta for the outer bindings. It is the complementary to the red, and its mid-tone has an interesting checkered appearance surface.
In short, the neck itself & the headstock both had to be of their very own thing, while working with the whole.
The fingerboard's 19th fret is short but importantly there. It fits so nicely under the 6th string, and is the geometric 2/3rd of the string.
- Since Echoes of time is such a departure from conventional guitar making, and that it represents a definite creative statement : A call of duty is felt, to make it sound as best as possible.
Neck fitted to the bottom part of body and to the top. No parts are glued yet. Here, surface finish and colour should be done prior to assembly to avoid sanding back in intricate and tight spots.