The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

Frank Gay 8 Course Renaissance Style Lute, 1971

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It’s not every day that we see instruments from a builder mentioned by the Canadian Museum of History – here, a Frank Gay 8-Course Renaissance style fretted lute. This wonderful piece does not hew strictly to traditional standards, but includes a key modern feature, fixed frets. Lutes and other contemporaneous instruments like the Vihuela had notches at the edge of the fingerboard, and sections of gut were tied at the notches to produce frets.

This Frank Gay 8-Course Renaissance Style lute was built at the Gay Guitars shop in Edmonton, Alberta during 1971. Frank Gay was a prominent player and teacher in Edmonton, and clearly also a highly skilled luthier. His guitars were used by many top level Country artists, including Johnny Cash, Webb Pierce, Faron Young and Hank Snow. His Classical and Flamenco guitars were praised by Alirio Diaz and Carlos Montoya. One of his guitars, his personal cutaway Maccaferri style guitar, is featured at the Canadian Museum of History site as ‘Opus 29’. 

This lute is built using many traditional woods – Maple for the bowl’s ribs with Rosewood separators, a thin Spruce top, and Maple for the neck and head-box. The traditional friction pegs are Ebony, as is the fingerboard. This instrument is a bit heavier than strictly traditional lutes, at 1.5kg. This is partly due to the Maple neck. Often lute necks used a soft, light wood core with a Maple or other veneer to provide a harder surface. The bridge is a modern style, influenced by classical guitars, providing a separate saddle to define the scale length; traditional lutes tie the strings to the bridge block and there is no separate saddle. The head is configured for eight courses, but there is space for one or two more pegs.

The rose covering the soundhole is carved from Indian Rosewood, and the extension frets mounted to the top are also Rosewood. The wrapper for the tail and the top binding is Rosewood, with Herringbone purfling.

As mentioned, Frank Gay provided guitars to a number of top Country artists, and many of those artists were also patrons of Nudie Cohn, of Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors. This meant that decoration was probably going to be requested, and older videos of artists with Gay Guitars often show elaborate designs. Those aesthetic values extended here, as can be seen from the Faux Mother of Pearl inlays on the front and back of the peg head and the heel.  We’re reasonably certain that the decorative material is synthetic, as it has few joins and Mother of Pearl does not typically come that large. 

The original hard shell lute case – it won’t fit anything else! – is included.


 

Price: $1750 CAD
  • Model: Renaissance Style Lute
  • Year: 1971
  • Finish Gloss
  • Class: Vintage
  • Country of Origin: Canada
  • Condition: Very Good
  • Date Posted: 05/11/2019

  • Consignment Item

  • Required CITES documentation
  • Including original Hard case
  • Instrument Weight: 3.3lbs 1.5kg
  • Scale Length: 610mm 24.02in
  • Nut Width: 77mm 3.03in

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