For over ten years Chitarre Barbanera has mostly served my Italian customers – as one can easily suppose – but in recent years my work has also received notice abroad and I now have customers all over the world. I have noticed that especially my international customers seem more curious about the craftsmanship behind a guitar (or a bass), asking about woods, techniques, and other details.
For this purpose I have created this page, to not only welcome non-Italian speaking visitors but also to answer some of the most common questions about my work and my instruments. Forgive me for not having a full version of my website in English, but given that (almost) every guitar I made is represented here it would have been a huge job. I would rather communicate with you directly and dedicate my time to making wonderful instruments 😉
I am always available by e-mail — you can write me in English (but I read also French) — at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I build guitars either on order as well as following my own inspiration, without following any constraints but own pleasure and vision. These instruments will be offered for sale on this page.
I am happy to work on commissioned instruments as long as they follow my style and my building philosophy.
I try to break the established patterns but still keep a classical design. I look for new solutions and materials but I also try to propose instruments that do not distort or betray their original purpose: I want them to be playable musical instruments, visually appealing and pleasant to touch. This is what I set out to achieve in all my instruments!
Wood is a material that has a lot of life within itself. I like to work with it, trying to exalt that vitality and the unspoken history that every piece of wood has in itself.
I always liked to work “off-the-cuff”, following the extemporaneous inspiration that every wood calls forth. I think that forcing one’s hand and pursuing directions that don’t feel appropriate is never a good idea. This also explains the low number of varnished instruments in my archive: you will see more guitars and basses that proudly display their irregular grain, their knots, even their cracks.
Since the beginning the shape of the Telecaster has been my primary source of inspiration: this shape allowed me to invent new variations that yet still show their origin. But – in the long run – it was inevitable that I would try new shapes and explore other directions. This came also as a direct result of the experimentations with different kinds of wood.
After a period of research I found myself repeating some consolidated typologies – at least regarding the use and the pairing of some woods: typologies that showed themselves winning both in the reception they encountered and in their intrinsic qualities. The choices behind are driven by the research of a original intertwining between materials and finishing, between hardware, sound and look. By loosing the orthodox path of swamp ash + maple and a butterscotch finishing, I found many opportunities.
I do not have a real catalog. There are no standard models or series. But everything I created during my years of building fall more or less in one of the categories that I list here and that are based more on the combination of different kind of woods and on construction techniques than on the shape of the instrument itself.
Yellow Pine is one of my favorite woods and it is easily available in sizes that allow to make one piece bodies.
The roasted finishing exalts his grains, already put in evidence by a brushing treatment that gives to the wood a tri-dimensional texture by removing a little part of the softer tissues (earlywood). Yellow Pine can be heavy so I use it mainly for semi-hollow bodies and thinline models. But even with solid bodies – with light planks – one can obtain instruments whose weight range from 3.2 to 3.8 kg (7.05 to 8.37 lbs)
Here you have some examples of my ‘roasted’ guitars.
Usually a pine body goes well with one piece ash necks, roasted as well, or sometimes with maple necks, with rosewood or wenge fretboards.
My ‘roasted’ guitars sit tonally in the medium-bright range, not shrill nor with too many bass frequencies, with an average sustain and a great dynamic. The tiger look of these guitars is flashy: hardly they go unnoticed. An aluminium engraved pick guard fits usually very well.
For my Root guitars I use the poplar root part (usually black poplar, but sometimes I can use chestnut or walnut, with similar features) often highly figured and with knots, cracks and holes. Very often the burl shows very dramatic and spectacular patterns. Sometimes the wood can crack transversely due to shrinkage from seasoning. If possible I avoid to put a pick guard on these guitars to preserve the beauty of the wood.
The very first root guitar I built is this one: it is still part of my personal collection.
The tints range from dark yellow to brown. Mainly I use oil for the finishing or a small quantity of varnish, just to show off the contrasts and protect the wood, without loosing the tactile sensation of the wood grain.
For these bodies I prefer maple necks, often flamed. Usually these guitars have a deep, full sound and plenty of sustain, given the density of the wood.
They can be on the heavy side, but not overly so.
These builds use the cover of old boxes (spirits, ammunition, etc.) for the top of the guitars, enhancing the writing and images printed on them. This is an example.
The material of these “tops” is usually the common fir, which was used for that type of crates/packaging, but has virtually no effect on the sound as it is reduced to a thin sheet of about 4-5 millimeters. The body is generally made of chestnut (light if possible) or yellow pine and almost always adorned with double binding. Necks are almost always made of maple, with or without a maple cap.
The sounds that result from these pairings are generally bright and present, with less mids if in chestnut, a bit more aggressive in the midrange if made with a pine body.
For this typology I use moth-eaten wood: poplar, chestnut, walnut.
The wood is, if necessary, sanitized with special products or microwave treatment, but often the pieces are so old and seasoned to make the treatment unnecessary.
Using material rejected by most craftsmen is a special challenge, since you have to know how to enhance it and find those who appreciate it of course. The finish is rustic, the varnish minimal, usually shellac for the bodies and polyurethane or tru oil for the handles.
Poplar is particularly suitable for basses, as it is light and resonant in the mid and low ranges, and therefore not too bright. The coupling with the neck can be variable: ash, maple, single piece or with a dark wood fingerboard.
The chestnut I use for the Worm guitars comes from an old wine barrel from the late 1700s.