A finetuned Philippines guitar? Sounds great
TROUBADOURS in the Philippines can soon strum to a pitch-perfect tune as the local guitar-making industry aims to raise the quality of instruments a few octaves higher.
A team of musicians, engineers and wood experts have joined forces to "address problems relating to manufacturing inconsistencies, intonation, sound quality and playability in locally made guitars", said Nathan Neil Manimtim, who is leading the initiative.
The project, called Gitara ni Juan, came about during talks between the University of the Philippines College of Music and the Government's Department of Science and Technology (Dost).
It involves people from the music and engineering colleges as well as Dost's Forest Products Research and Development Institute.
Mr Manimtim, an assistant professor at the music college, said he was "sick and tired of recommending imported entry-level guitars to students".
But he had no choice as most of the locally-made starter guitars were, he noted, "out of tune when played on higher frets" and some also had weak resonance.
He said this was because the six-stringed instruments had bodies made of cheap lumber.
Poor dimensions also adversely affected sound quality.
The Gitara ni Juan project, he said, set the goals of refining the elements and process of guitar-making in the country.
It also aims to produce low-cost beginner guitars following modern techniques and using the finest woods, selected from the country's indigenous trees instead of cheaper, substandard varieties or inappropriate imported woods.
It will not only help to boost local luthiery by producing good quality guitars that are affordable and accessible, but will also amplify the promotion of the country's wood industry, according to the developers.
After an 18-month run that kicked off in December 2014, the team finally completed in May an ensemble of 12 prototype guitars.
The researchers had also produced a manual that could be shared with luthiers.
Mr Manimtim added that they were delighted that music professors from leading colleges rated the guitars as superior to a first-rate starter guitar.
"According to the evaluators, the quality of the prototype is almost comparable to a recital classical guitar," he said.
The Manila Guitar Quartet recently debuted the Gitara ni Juan prototypes when it serenaded guests at a performance in Clark, Pampanga province.
The country has a rich history of guitar-making spanning back to the Spanish era. However, the level of craftsmanship deteriorated over generations.
The project entailed visits to guitar factories to study how the instruments were being crafted in different parts of the country.
As it turned out, there were no standards for luthiery - it was a case of "different strokes for different folks."
The team also had to study what types of wood would make good guitars from among the country's more than 3,000 tree species, before shortlisting five types for manufacturing.
"We analysed the properties, grains, density and hardness of the woods," said engineer Crisron Lucas.
THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK