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TogaMan GuitarViols - Hand built by Jonathan Wilson - Sylmar, CA - A.D. 2017

News of the Moment:

The Story

A Decade of Proven Viability

For the last decade, the GuitarViol has proven to be a viable alternative medium of musical expression. It is not merely a hybrid between Guitar and Viola (bowed guitar), it has a timbre and range of expression all it’s own! For the guitar player, and alternative strings player, it opens up a whole new world of musical possibilities. It’s distinctive sounds have provided sonic tapestry in such movies as “300” “Day the Earth Stood Still” “Watchmen“ “Iron Man“ “Curious George“, TV’s “CSI Miami“(CBS), and True Blood (HBO) to name but just a few. It continues to be in demand by film composers and sonic artists. (Some studio queue sheets even specify “GuitarViol!“) Other players, from World music to Rock have embraced it’s “other worldly” sounds. in some cases, careers have been built with this instrument as the devotee’s “calling card”. A true niche.

Unique Characteristics

The Guitar Viol (*“GuitarViole” in Français, tuned EADGBE, BEADF#B or other variants of guitar tuning sequence) is distinct from its ancestor cousins, the Viola Da Gamba and the even lesser known Arpeggione. The decidedly semi-guitar playing stance, steel strings, and frets allow for “guitar” string bending/vibrato techniques associated with 20th century blues/rock guitarists (unthinkable on instruments intended to be played in Violin, Cello, or Viola Da Gamba playing stances or treatments). Further, advanced techniques allow for “fretless at will” techniques (drag and glissando a la violin). Other advanced bow techniques allow for complex multi-phonic harmonics that can be described as “well controlled Hendrixian feedback without the loud amp stacks”. A single musical phrase can include an ethereal open chord bow sweep arpeggio, guitar bend, sliding violin glissando, and controlled multi-phonic harmonic (for instance). That is just the tip of the iceberg! One bowed note can bring so many emotionally expressive sound….. But, one does have to practice! The journey is so worth it!

Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan Wilson began this quest in the early to mid 1980’s (in boarding school) when dreaming of ways to achieve bowed sounds to his Fender Stratocaster (other than volume knob swells and high volume feedback techniques). By 1989, he committed to this path while reading a brief paragraph in an encyclopedia describing the “Arpeggione” (A six string fretted cello invented by Johan Staufer, and tuned to the guitars sequence of intervals EADGBE). At that moment, it was as he was struck by lightening and a long hard road began. Snubbed by tradition constrained luthiers and classical musicians, he persevered and in late 1993 had a prototype built by another luthier. After playing this instrument 9 years hence and battling some design shortcomings, he was convinced that the only way he could get it right was to build it himself. Having been a well regarded guitar repairman in music stores for many years, it was a natural fit. Before long, some prominent film composers sought out his instruments and the TogaMan GuitarViol was born! The rest is history….. More History