Stradivarius also made guitars
May 29, 2016 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Five of them still exist, albeit chiefly as artifacts and inspiration for luthiers. In 2011, luthiers Daniel Sinier & Françoise de Ridder got the job of restoring one of them, a process they describe in some detail. End result, the Sabionari can go back on stage. Here's Rolf Lislevand (and others) making it work.

(In 1948, it was shown to Segovia, who managed to sign the back. You can read more in 2014 #119 issue of American Luthier (some detailed pictures are here. See also here. Ongoing maintenance is the responsibility of this gentleman.)
posted by BWA (21 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
This is awesome. I am not a musician, but I am someone who appreciates craftsmanship, attention to detail, maximizing the efficiency of the build design, the thought that goes into both the original build and the restoration. The videos of the gentlemen playing the Sabionari, the look in their eyes says as much as the terrific sound says about playing the instrument. I really like the gentleman who got to essentially noodle around on it.

Maybe the secret to Stradivarius' craftsmanship is, as the article points out, that there is no secret, just painfully detailed and thought out craftsmanship. I heard the speculation that it was the old growth forest wood or the varnish formula, but maybe, likely, it is just the careful design and craftsmanship and little bit of love that made old Strad so great at building instruments.

Thanks for the post. It too is well crafted.
posted by AugustWest at 9:52 AM on May 29, 2016

Just don't let Kurt Russell near any of them.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:08 AM on May 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

I don't know why but it has literally never occurred to me that he must have made other types of instruments. What a wonderful find!
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:48 AM on May 29, 2016

Luthier is a kickass word. The world needs more Luthiers, fewer Scrum Masters.
posted by DigDoug at 10:54 AM on May 29, 2016 [12 favorites]

This is very very cool. Thank you!
posted by bardophile at 11:07 AM on May 29, 2016

Wow -- who the ell is Ugo Nastrucci? (other than the possessor of some of the longer thumbs in the world).

That brought tears to my eyes.
posted by jamjam at 11:53 AM on May 29, 2016

I am not a good judge of violins. A good one and a great one sound much the same to me.
A guitar I can tell the difference. This is amazing.
posted by twidget at 12:19 PM on May 29, 2016


This is a list of all of the Stradivarius instruments. So besides violins, he made violas, cellos, a handful of guitars, a harp, and a couple of mandolins.

As one of the links describes, the Sabionari guitar in the post has had extensive modifications over the years. While it has been restored, it is a best guess, and is not the same guitar as Stradivarius built.

The violins are considered among the best in the world, but in blind studies, there are many others of comparable quality. However, most world-class players would probably pick a Stradivarius over another instrument, just because it's a Stradivarius.
posted by Xoc at 12:56 PM on May 29, 2016

This is fantastic, thanks.

Hey rich people: consider patronage (or, ideally, take money from the rich and let society do so). It's worth it to pay crafts people in all sorts of fields what they need to live comfortably in exchange for keeping knowledge alive, and/or inventing new but arcane knowledge.

We, as a species, have enough people and enough money to ensure there are at least a few people at any time who know how to do a thing we've done in the past, or who have the genius to tinker and invent things we'll be using in the future.

It's almost inconceivable that we lose technologies all the time.

posted by maxwelton at 1:50 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

A very early Strad.
posted by ouke at 2:12 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I love the Arabesque decoration. The "Spanish guitar" can't hide its Moorish origins: oud to lute isn't much of a step.
posted by scruss at 3:36 PM on May 29, 2016

Edit: Or what Xoc said while I was reading my article.
posted by Canageek at 3:44 PM on May 29, 2016

You haven't lived til you've heard a Stradivarius kazoo. It's like an angel humming.

No but seriously thanks for posting this, I found it fascinating.
posted by w0mbat at 4:31 PM on May 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Agree that this is a fascinating post, but the thought of a Stradivarius kazoo cracks me up!
posted by TedW at 4:50 PM on May 29, 2016

It certainly doesn't hurt to have a fine instrument, but it really is the player. I'm sure Yoyo could make a pawn shop cello sing, but your toddler with a Stradivarius is still going to sound like a toddler with any violin, albeit accompanied by the keening howls of preservationists and insurers.

On the other hand:

So I went ahead and made me a guitar. I got me a cigar box, I cut me a round hole in the middle of it, take me a little piece of plank, nailed it onto that cigar box, and I got me some screen wire and I made me a bridge back there and raised it up high enough that it would sound inside that little box, and got me a tune out of it. I kept my tune and I played from then on.
— Lightnin' Hopkins

posted by adept256 at 5:00 PM on May 29, 2016

That solo was breathtaking in several ways. The tone of the guitar soars, the player and his passion, the whole thing, ahhhh...
posted by Oyéah at 6:21 PM on May 29, 2016

Well, sure, it's easy if you have a cigar box. We didn't even let ourselves dream about having a cigar box.
posted by thelonius at 1:40 AM on May 30, 2016

the thought of a Stradivarius kazoo cracks me up!

Well, then, gather 'round while I tell you of Alabama Vest....
posted by BWA at 5:13 AM on May 30, 2016

This was amazing. The recording in the cathedral was especially sweet. An acoustic guitar is better heard when you get a sense of the space it fills when it's played. Even better are the soft sighs wrenched from listeners during the rest notes.

I wonder how original strings might have sounded. I understand they were making wrapped strings even in those days, but my go-to image is of luthiers chasing down cats to get strings for the higher resisters.

Let me know when you find the Strad-banjo.
posted by mule98J at 9:28 AM on May 30, 2016

What I've always understood is that although violins mature over centuries, fine classical guitars take about ten years to settle in, then sound amazing, but eventually there's a falling-off of quality - I found this out after asking about the playability of the wonderful collection of guitar-ish instruments at the Victoria and Albert museum. Yet here's a Stradivarius sounding very good indeed.
posted by Grangousier at 2:49 PM on May 30, 2016

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