The Guitarangi da Gamba

a 30-string, bowed or plucked, guitar/sarangi/viola da gamba sort of thing



The Guitarangi da Gamba was the second instrument commissioned from me by multi- instrumentalist and solo performance artist Todd Green. It combines influences from eastern and western instrument traditions, as well as aspects of plucked and bowed instruments. Six main stings over the fingerboard (gut viola da gamba strings) can be plucked guitar-like, or bowed using techniques similar to playing a bass viola da gamba. Todd combines tunings from 'cello (the lower 3 strings are CGD) and Turkish oud (the top 3 strings are EAD) for his standard tuning: CGDEAD. These strings attach to a guitar-like peghead (tuned with classical guitar tuners), go over an arched, viola da gamba-like bridge, and attach to a tail piece at the bottom of the instrument. The arched fingerboard has tied-on nylon frets, as with a lute or viola da gamba. These allow for greater ease in playing complex chordal fingerings than if the neck was fretless, and offer adjustability of scale and intonation.

Ten sympathetic resonating strings run inside the neck and over the the instrument's top. Their path runs beneath the six main strings; they go over their own "jiwari" bridge (Indian style bridge that gives the strings a buzzing quality), between the legs of the main bridge, and attach to a block at the butt of the instrument. Fourteen additional sympathetic strings (that can also be plucked) run diagonally from a bass-side body extension underneath the other two sets of strings to a hitching-block on the lower treble side of the lower bout (for more on sympathetic strings see the Sympitar page).

The Guitarangi has a top carved from beautiful old-growth redwood salvaged from a stump near our shop. The back, sides, fingerboard, tail piece and head veneer are all highly flamed western big-leaf maple. The neck is Mexican cedro. The sympathetic and harp/sympathetic strings are all tuned with zither pins.

The body of the Guitarangi is 27 and 3/4 inches long, and 14 and 15/16 inches wide at its widest point. Body depth varies from 3 to 5 inches. The vibrating string length for the main strings is that of a long-scale classical guitar: 664mm (26 and 1/8 inches).

Todd makes wonderful use of the varied possibilities presented by this east/west hybrid creation. Holding it upright between his knees, like a bass viol, he bows Indian ragas. Resting it horizontally on his leg, he plucks original, guitar-like compositions. Throughout it all the sympathetic strings add their clouds of insect/angel song






For more about Todd Green's music, available recordings and his amazing collection of instruments, check out his great website,