Category Archives: luthiers

New 10-String Guitars by Hans van den Berg

Master luthier Hans van den Berg recently completed two more ten-string guitars for students of Fritz Buss. (Photos below.)

Said one of the proud new owners: “I never expected such a result. What a fine, sensitive humble, respectful human being. I am completely honoured to own and play a guitar he has constructed.”

All we have to add is that these are world-class instruments that are inspiring to play. Hans van den Berg’s consummate professionalism, his desire always to keep refining his craft, the fact that he cares about his customers and the meaningful position that a musical instrument could occupy in a person’s life: all these are quite extraordinary qualities, as are those of his beautiful guitars.

We have no reservations about recommending Hans van den Berg’s masterful ten-string guitars. (Viktor van Niekerk, Fritz Buss)

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The people at Guitar Salon International have also described Berg’s six-string guitars as having “a very silky, textured and rich quality of sound, while at the same time [being] clear in every register. … Overall a very impressive and unique instrument by all standards.” (http://www.guitarsalon.com/store/p4780-hans-van-den-berg.html)

For a GSI article about Hans, see: http://www.guitarsalon.com/blog/?p=8932

For an earlier review of Berg’s first ten-string guitar, see: http://blog.tenstringguitar.info/archives/32

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For orders, please contact Hans at bergguitars@gmail.com

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Photos of Tsivia’s Guitar:

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Photos of Carlo’s Guitar:

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Ten-String Guitar by Philipp Neumann

German luthier Philipp Neumann has built an excellent ten-string guitar.

The instrument that I tested could not be faulted on the usual issues of poorly-made ten-string guitars. The neck is constructed from Spanish cedar (its darker appearance is due to Neumann’s custom finish) and thus it is properly balanced in relation to the mass of the body. The compact, minimalist headstock further reduces the mass on the neck-side; it’s a feature I highly recommend other luthiers to adopt. Another pleasant surprise is that the fingerboard on this particular instrument has an adequately ‘high’ action (upon the request of the owner) and thus facilitates not only a genuine dynamic range but also nuances of timbre produced not just by shifting the right hand along the strings but ‘in place’, by varying the type of touch, e.g., being able to play various types of soft, medium, and strong rest strokes without a ‘buzz’. As we come out of the formalist era and the inevitable swing of the historical pendulum begins to move in the opposite direction, I believe that more classical guitarists will again recognize the primacy of such musical desiderata and not predominantly the ease of the left hand.

Of course, the most important consideration is tone quality – because the timbre is present first and throughout any performance. If the tone quality is low (percussive, ‘bright’, ‘tinny’, ‘thin’, lacking ‘voice’), the performance is a mistake from beginning to end, no matter how ‘perfectly’ executed in the formalist sense. While tone quality varies from one guitar to another, it does also vary from player to player, from touch to touch – a fact that has sometimes been overlooked in these difference-reducing times. With some guitars a performer attentive to tone quality will work harder to make them ‘sound’, by which I don’t mean simply to play louder! I mean to give it ‘voice’, to make it ‘sing’ – in acoustics jargon, to produce a sound recipe that is richer in fundamental and lower partials and poorer in upper partials, or, to put it differently, a tone colour that approaches that of the voice, piano, or woodwinds rather than the ‘tinniness’ of the harpsichord or steel-string guitar. Such careful mastery of timbre is what makes the difference between a classical guitarist’s projection or non-projection in the concert hall, not mere decibels.

Thus I was pleased to find that Neumann’s ten-string guitar is not only resonant and very powerful but, more importantly, that there is for the most part nothing inherently ‘tinny’ about it. In fact, it was a rare and unusual pleasure to play. I would, however, prefer a slightly ‘darker’ (more ‘singing’) timbre on the first string. But this might be remedied by using a (non-carbon) first string with a greater gauge. (I would, for the same reason, also be interested to hear Neumann’s work in a cedar- as opposed to spruce-top model.)

The only other small caveat is that I hope luthiers in general will solve (for serious post-formalist artists) the problem of raising the action, not (as seen on another luthier’s work) by bulking up the bridge, or even by gradually sanding down the fingerboard, but by setting the neck at a slightly different angle to begin with, plus, of course, recalculating the fret spacing to compensate for the greater displacement of the strings by the left hand. (Who is up to the challenge?) With respect to action (for dynamic range), as with the 664mm scale length (for projection), I’m convinced that Ramirez III and Bernabe Sr were onto the right track by the early 1960s, that is, before a technocratic (‘plugged-in’) and miniaturizing formalism rose to dominance. With waning interest in the formalist ‘classical’ guitar, it’s time to pick up where the old masters left off.

Neumann clearly made a thorough study of a Bernabe ten-string guitar before building his own instrument. On the whole he has made a great ten-string guitar.

For information about the luthier or inquiries, visit: http://www.neumann-gitarren.de/classical-guitars.html#

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Hans van den Berg builds a masterful 10-string guitar

Today we had the pleasure of hearing the doyen of the ten-string guitar testing out a new instrument from a rising, master luthier.

Fritz Buss (longtime alumnus and teaching assistant of the legendary Narciso Yepes) hailed Hans van den Berg‘s first ten-string guitar was as a “masterly” accomplishment.

Buss’s praise coincides with laudatory reviews of Berg’s six-string guitars from Guitar Salon International: http://www.guitarsalon.com/blog/?p=8932

Berg’s ten-string guitar combines elements of the Friederich, Ramirez and Bernabe schools of luthiery and features a composite, cedar soundboard as well as Berg’s own masterly sense of aural and visual aesthetics and impeccable craftsmanship.

The sonority of the instrument, in its own right, is every bit the equal of the Spanish ten-string guitars associated with Yepes, and may (developed by the touch – and the ears – of a sensitive artist) mature to surpass its illustrious predecessors.

I have no reservations about recommending Hans van den Berg as my first choice to anyone wanting to take the leap to the ten-string guitar, or to upgrade to a new, masterful instrument. (For orders, please contact Hans at bergguitars@gmail.com.)

-Viktor van Niekerk, Johannesburg (2014/10/25)

Fritz Buss tests Berg (2014) 10-string guitar
Fritz Buss (alumnus and teaching assistant of Narciso Yepes) tests the first 10-string guitar by master luthier Hans van den Berg (25 October 2014)
Fritz Buss tests Berg (2014) 10-string guitar
Fritz Buss tests Hans van den Berg 10-string guitar
Fritz Buss tests Berg (2014) 10-string guitar
Hans van den Berg (luthier) with Fritz Buss
Hans van den Berg (luthier) with his new ten-string guitar
Master luthier Hans van den Berg unveils his ten-string guitar with composite soundboard (25 October 2014)
luthier, student and teacher
Hans van den Berg (South African luthier) with Fritz Buss (master 10-string guitar teacher) and Trish (a student of Fritz and proud owner of the new 2014 Berg 10-string guitar)

 

Specifications for BERG 10 string Classical Guitar

MODEL: 10 STRING CONCERT CLASSICAL SUPREME DOUBLE TOP
UPPER BOUT: 280 mm
LOWER BOUT: 370 mm
BODY DEPTH: at TAIL BLOCK 105 mm
BODY DEPTH: at HEEL 100 mm
SCALE: 664 mm
NUT WIDTH: 86 mm
ACTION SETTINGS: TO SUIT INDIVIDUAL

MATERIALS:
TOP: ——————-DOUBLE TOP WESTERN RED CEDAR GRD AAA OUTSIDE and
WESTERN RED CEDAR GRD AA inside with NOMEX CORE
BACK & SIDES : —EAST INDIAN ROSEWOOD 1ST GRADE
DOUBLE SIDES – KIAAT INNER SIDES
NECK : —————-SPANISH CEDAR
FINGERBOARD : —WEST AFRICAN EBONY 1ST GRADE WITH AFRICAN BLACKWOOD BINDING
BRIDGE : ————-EAST INDIAN ROSEWOOD WITH INLAY TO MATCH ROSETTE
WOOD BINDING : —- AFRICAN BLACKWOOD with FIGURED KIAAT TOP PURFLING
FACE OF HEAD : —- AFRICAN BLACKWOOD WITH KIAAT and EBONY INLAYS
ROSETTE :———— FIGURED KIAAT WITH EBONY AND MAPLE AND ABALONE INLAYS
SADDLE & NUT : —- BONE
FINISH : ————— FRENCH POLISH
FRETS :—————– SILVER NICKLE– MEDIUM
MACHINE HEADS : — SCHERTLER SWISS

Berg 10-string guitar

Berg 10-string guitar, under construction
Berg 2014 ten-string guitar, under construction

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Lastly, here is a video of Berg’s newest six-string guitar, played by the wonderful American guitarist Jon Mendle (for GSI):