I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, that I need an instrument om which to test my longer Real Silk strings, so I combined a long-necked and rectangular design and tuned it to the common scale of the Chinese Yueqin, or “Moon Lute”
As I had only built one ‘necked’ instrument many years ago, there was much to learn in the process. Design innovations came forward as I selected a box to base my sound upon.
I actually began with the pegs, which I had been carving out of Vitex from the garden. Vitex actually carves somewhat like soap when green, then dries quite hard. I left the bark on.
I find the peg placement on the old Chinese “Moon Lute” intriguing, and graceful, so I placed mine at similar, ‘radiating’ angles. I presumed that this would make it easier to reach them, as well.
One thing for certain was the need to reinforce the combination of a very thin and light soundbox with the neck added to one side. In my earlier instruments, I had simply passed the neck through the box so that tension was primarily secured by it alone. The strings pressed against what was basically a drum, with the neck as a counterforce.
My concept of a thin wooden soundboard was cautioned by an earlier lyre I had built with an unreinforced wood face. The pressure of 8 strings applied considerable force to a small area, and the face was soon quite concave. The lyre still has a very sweet sound, but the shape is a little disconcerting.
So for my latest instrument, I provided some reinforcement similar to the strutting under a guitar face, and the bridge provided with a leg that reaches to the back.
The back is also reinforced against excess pressure, but is able to flex considerably in counter-point with the face. The box is meant to “breathe” as it is perturbed by the strings through the bridge, and being quite thin, does not get in the way of the sound of the strings.
I also passed a support through the lower part of the box to be attached to the reinforcing curve of the neck, and becomes the anchor point of the string attachment on the other side. These measures provide all the support for the tension of the strings and allow the box to be thin and very light. The finish on the very refined surfaces are French Polished.
The instrument plays very well indeed.
It is currently tuned G D g d, the traditional tuning for Yueqin. It is a little folksy and easy to work with.