Angela Waltner Guitars outlook

The classical guitar in its present form is a relatively young instrument. It still has a lot of unexplored potential and the musician is not wrong in hoping that its scope can be expanded further still. In the last few years in particular, a continual process of enquiry and development has taken place. The focus of interest is increasingly shifting towards the instruments of an older generation of Spanish guitar makers, following in the footsteps of Antonio de Torres (1817-1892), which are serving as models for contemporary designs. Their romantic sound undoubtedly has a highly developed and fascinating appeal.

However, today’s forms of musical interpretation and performing pose challenges to the instrument that had no great role to play in the days of these long-gone master craftsmen. The guitar is no longer simply a solo instrument, it has become an established part of mainstream musical practice. As a result, the need for a more assertive sound, projection and a new sound concept has arisen.

Until now, there have been no perfect instruments that are fully able to rise to these new challenges. Unlike the violin, which has such exceptional reference instruments like Stradivarius and Guaneri del Gesù, the guitar lacks suitable role models. As a result, the acoustics of the violin have been investigated at length, contributing many insights to the construction of new instruments, whereas those involved in researching the guitar’s sound have hitherto worked largely in the dark.

The field of psychoacoustics is giving important qualitative and quantitative impulses to the further development of the guitar. The underlying phenomenon here is that the ear reacts most sensitively to incoming sound frequencies of 2000-4000 Hz. In addition to other positive effects, an overtone -rich sound spectrum heightens the subjective volume of the guitar, independent from the fundamental. This is one fact that will pave the way for future developments. The guitars of Richard Jacob ‘Weißgerber’ offer one potential approach in this direction. His instruments unite a Spanish timbre with the ideal silvery sound from a tradition that stretches right back to Viennese classicism.

An additional factor to consider is the very complex structure of today’s concert guitar. To make the many variables more manageable, it is crucial to aim for a simplicity of build. An excellent model to follow in this respect is the ingenious construction concept of the stringed instrument family. Some guitar models by Hermann Hauser I are also worth studying in this context.