In 1986, Graham Caldersmith and Timothy Kain won a grant from the Australia Council to build the first complete family of guitars.
Families of Instruments
Musical instruments reflect and galvanise the cultures in which they evolve, and most have diverged into families. The core of the Symphony Orchestra is the violin family: violin, viola, violoncello and bass. The other family of bowed instruments contemporary with the first violins was the viol family, a courtly ensemble now featuring in early music performance. Lutes came in a range of sizes and pitches, and they inspired a colourful array of Renaissance composition.
Brass instruments range from the cornet, through the flugelhorns, trumpets and trombones to the French Horns, Euphoniums and Tubas. Woodwind instruments appear in the orchestra as a polyglot assembly of clarinets, oboes, cor anglais, and bassoons. Once there was a family of oons, as there were families of trombones (sackbuts), shawns, rackets, crumbhorns, recorders and other wonderful wind instruments. Even flutes range from piccolo to bass, and more recently saxophones and clarinets have grown into families, featuring in jazz performance and modern composition.Beyond the orchestra and jazz ensembles, folk instruments appear in families : balalaikas and mandolins with mandolas, tenor mandolins, mandocellos and bass mandolins, even concertinas and dulcimers are available in different ranges.
The piano does not exist in a family, probably because its keyboard covers the register of a family – likewise for the harpsichords and organs.
The most popular musical instrument in the world is the guitar. It features in every nation’s folk, jazz, flamenco, blues, rock, pop and classical musical expressions, but it has not existed in a family. Even though the electric bass guitar has become almost universal in all musical forms except classical and traditional jazz, we do not regard the electric bass with other guitars as a family. Some South American ensembles use the ‘requinto’ guitar tuned above the standard, but not as a guitar family member.
In 1979, I became a full-time luthier (stringed instrument maker) after an intensive year in Europe studying and researching guitar and violin history.
The guitars that make up the Guitar family, include the Classical Bass, Baritone, Treble and Octave.