One of the best parts of my job is getting to play some of the nicest guitars around from world class luthiers. I have seen some truly incredible wood sets, and heard tones that seem resonate from the core of the earth, but in my humble opinion nobody does it better then G.W. Barry.
The latest offering from G.W. Barry is a truly stunning Orchestra Model which features a Bearclaw Sitka spruce top and a jaw dropping set of Pommele Sapele on the sides and back. Sapele ( Botanical name: Entandrophragma sp) is found in west and central Africa and is selectively harvested on a sustained yield basis. It is slightly harder than mahogany and the term pommele refers to the broken quilt figure of the wood grain.
Once you get over the initial visual euphoria created by these amazing wood sets, your eyes start to settle on the beautifully elegant and subtle details of this guitar. The snakewood body binding and purfling frames the body with just the right amount of contrast in color tone and grain figure, complementing the Sapele without overpowering it. The matching snakewood peghead overlay and bridge pins complete the unifying theme. Possibly my two favourite visual features are the Paua shell rosette which is surrounded by sapele and black/white/black fillets, and the sapele edge line on the ebony fretboard. The organic and earthy quality conveyed by these features really pull together an overall aesthetic which is exciting and understated at the same time!
With so much to look at on this guitar you may be asking “how does it sound”? Well it sounds fantastic of course! Gordon Barry has tweaked the classic Orchestra Model to produce a lush and wonderfully responsive guitar which is versatile enough to cover both fingerstyle playing and pick-work with ease. Over the years Gordon has been very successful at evolving and creating his own personal tone. His ear for wood selection and attention to design elements are contributing factors in the creation of this sonic signature.
The Bearclaw Sitka spruce on the top is found in larger denser trees at lower elevations. This increased density provides added stiffness and the ability to build a lighter top. The use of billet split adirondack bracing ensures a quarter sawn bracing without runout and provides more strength and greater stiffness with less deflection. The increased energy transfer from this top and bracing combination translates into a crisp yet smooth note fundamental with tons of sustain and sparkling upper partials! The warmth and midrange bloom of the Sapele is a perfect complement to the Bearclaw Sitka spruce and adds girth to the overall tone.
An additional tonal and visual benefit on this guitar is the ebony pyramid bridge. The narrower and slightly offset rounded pyramid bridge has a beautifully smooth look. Gordon feels that it torque’s the top differently which is better suited to the 15″ top width of a smaller body guitar.
Top it off with a smooth low profile neck, slightly rolled fingerboard edges and an absolutely perfect set up and you have a guitar that is so fun to play you will never want to let it go! My hats off to you Mr. Barry you have done it again!!
* Thanks to Dave Wren for the photos!
Sound sample by Dave Martin
* Orchestra Model
* 15″ lower bout width
* Bearclaw Sitka spruce top
* Pommele Sapele sides and back
* Snakewood perfling/binding
* Paua shell/sapele and bwb fillets rosette
* Billet split Adirondack bracing
* Low profile mahogany neck
* Ebony fretboard
* 25.5″ scale length
* 1 23/32″ bone nut
* 2 3/16″ saddle spacing
* Ebony pyramid bridge with bone saddle
* Antique gold Gotoh 510 machine heads with ebony buttons
* Ameritage hardshell case