5/31/2017

1970s Japanese-made Fretless Classical Guitar (Modded)





I have a customer who's had a fretless classical guitar idea brewing for a while, now. I told him I always wind up with cheap classical guitars in summer -- and this is the first haul. It's unmarked but clearly a Yamaha-style, early '70s Japanese-made classical. Like usual, it's all-ply in construction but thoughtfully (and lightly) made. The neck was straight and the angle on it good (despite some air at the bottom of the heel visible where the finish cracked-off), and it had relatively light damage, so it was a good contender.

Work included removing the frets, filling the fret slots, planing and buffing-up the board, adding side dots, making a new bone saddle and nut, clamping-up a couple of loose seams, and setting it up with 3/32" action at the "12th fret" position. The strings are the expensive Thomastik KR116 rope-core steel strings which have the same tension and intonate the same as a medium-weight classical set but tune-up like steel strings, are stable as heck, and are entirely flatwound which makes them a good choice for a fretless application.


There are numerous instances of fretless classical guitars evident on YouTube and it seems a lot of the folks who use them are Turkish or play Turkish or Persian "classical" music on them. This makes sense as it has a very "oud-like" tone.

I've tuned it in an Eb open tuning for the soundclip -- like open D (DADF#AD) but up a half-step. Oud usually has a low D but I think the guitar itself "liked" the Eb tonality better.

I had a crazy amount of fun playing this last night after I'd finished it up and now I've got all sorts of thoughts about a fretless electric guitar of some sort. If one is careful, use of a flat-profile capo allows for getting into other keys, too, if using an open tuning.



The side dots, like on an upright bass, are at the position for correct intonation rather than in the "middle" of the frets.



The new bone saddle is quite tall.



It's beat-up but plays and sounds great.





From time to time, I add these funny old Spanish bullfighter cards to oddball creations of mine.