c.1925 Unmarked Brac (Tamburitza Family)

This is a tamburitza-family instrument (E. Europe), and I think these are called bracs. It's a tenor guitar in size, with a slightly deeper body, domed top and back, and has a 21 3/4" scale length with 4 courses, in 1-1-1-2 format (bass to treble). I think the traditional tuning is EADG with the G in pairs and an octave up from the bass strings of a guitar, but I've tuned it as an octave mandolin minus three of its strings, so... G-D-A-EE.

This instrument went through a lot of hell in its life, most of the evidence of which is on the back, with multiple crack repairs (some hack, some decent) and seam reglues (a poor job on one side). The center join on the top was cleated at one point (a good job) and is perfectly stable. It was also refinished, or rather... more than likely it was oversprayed... and somewhat poorly... though because it's an overspray the original character of the instrument still comes through (thank goodness!).

Now, the lowdown here, is that this instrument plays awesome and sounds incredible. It's punchy, clear, aggressive, sweet, and quite rich. Back and sides are old-growth Brazilian rosewood and the top is spruce, with a maple neck and rosewood fretboard. All of this is solid.

It's also got pearl trim up the wazoo -- pearl on the edge, pearl around the inlaid rosewood pickguards (and inlaid into them, too!), pearl around the soundhole, celluloid dots in the fretboard, and a pearl backstrip on the rear. It's also got a star inlaid on the headstock and a nice engraved? tuner plate.

Unfortunately, the headstock angle is a bit shallow, so for the bass strings I added a Fender-style down-pressure string guide to give better back-tension on the strings behind the nut. Bone nut, zero fret.

Beautiful pearl/abalone flowers!

The bridge is a new bone one, fashioned by myself, and modeled on a tambura bridge on an instrument in my collection. Bridges on these were often bone.

'20s cloud-style tailpiece. I'm almost certain this was made in the '20s considering the hardware, construction, and wood. Also, there were a few American makers catering to immigrants around then, and you see some of these old fellas pop up now and again. This is one of the most ornate ones I've seen, and this particular type of instrument is much rarer than tamburas or prim!

Pretty rosewood!

I popped in this bit of walnut to fill a horribly jagged break plus missing section. It's not perfect but it's a lot better than it was! Didn't have any rosewood on hand.

Good solid neck join.

And side dots! How about that? Frets are thin "bar" stock.

Again, can't get over the nice rosewood.

Strap button added by someone at some point.


Ana said...

I'm so excited to see this brac on your site! I own two prims, but no brac yet:)

If you want to get more info about tamburicas, check out:


Antebellum Instruments said...

Ana: Thanks for the link -- I always keep my eye out for these instruments because they're so wonderfully built and sound great! I may pull this one into my private collection and do a bit of refinishing on the top as it has a slightly poor refinish already on the top.

Ian H. said...

Yesterday I found a guitar case shoved in the top of my granparents closet. Other than the engraving on the body, I have butterflies not flowers, these two are identical in every other piece. Even the star on the head. Im so glad i found yours to figure out what i had found. I need to figure out if it is worth restoring. Plenty of damage.

Jacob Skirpan said...

Just to put it out there.. i play all the tambura instruments. The brac here is very rare. It was made by Jim Kovacevich. He passed away a long time ago. If i were you I'd place this on sale right away.