3/28/2013

c.1950 Stjepan Gilg Brac




I don't have a lot of tamburitza instruments through the shop but I do hunt for them. They're lovely and interesting and I think, if people caught on to them, would have great use in music outside of the Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, etc. folk traditions they're associated with. This one was made (I'm guessing) in the 50s or latest the 60s by Stjepan Gilg, a maker in Yugoslavia. That said, there are a number of extant US-made instruments that are similar to this style and used within the folk music over on "this side of the pond."


This instrument in the tamburitza family is known as a "brac" and is usually tuned EADG low to high an octave above the low EADG strings of a guitar (at least, I think so!). I've got this one setup with a set of strings that can get into this traditional tuning but also do really well for "Chicago style" DGBE and "tenor guitar" CGDA tunings. It also does a beautiful open CGCE tuning with this set as well. I'm sure it could do a nice GDAE tuning, too, but I tend to find the voice of these guys prettier for the slightly-higher tunings.

This instrument is essentially the same size and shape as a 1930s tenor guitar and has a 21 3/4" scale length. What sets it apart from a tenor guitar is the excellent fret access (17 frets clear), bridge high on the body and floating (which gives this a strident, projecting tone), and of course the doubled high course of strings which gives a somewhat different voice and imparts a lot of zing to solos and melodies played up high. It also gives it more of that "Celtic bouzouki" feel especially with full-strummed chords and crosspicking combined with the expanded fret access.


The front-mounted engraved tuner plate is very cool. The tuners work just fine, too.


The fretboard is rosewood and has cream clay dots in its face. Frets are nickel-silver and smallish like old-style frets. I leveled and dressed these guys which removed a hair of relief that was in the neck. Action is quick and fast with 1/16" height at the 12th fret (spot on). The neck itself is a good sturdy hunk of maple and has a deep D shape to it. I find this a very comfortable feel as it provides plenty of support to your hand while chording, but it may not be for everyone. I find it suits melody playing and sliding chord shapes especially well.


The inlaid, pearloid pickguard is way too cool! The top and soundhole are also bound in thick plastic binding. Note the plethora of apparent "hairline cracks" in the top. Strangely enough, this appears to be just the grain opening up a bit in the top. None of this stuff goes through the wood as seen with a mirror from the back. Still, I prematurely cleated under the longest/biggest looking one to the left of the bridge, just to be sure.

The top is solid spruce while the sides and back are maple. I'm pretty sure the back is laminate but the sides look solid.


The 6-hub tailpiece will take ball or loop-end strings. Don't you love that cool dot/brown purfling?


As usual for these instruments, the back is stained a medium dark crimson color that really pops over the maple.






The finish on the back shows plenty of scuffing from playwear, but hey, that's what we like to see!





Obviously, with a label like this, it was intended for export.

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