The clean lines of early L-5s, D'Angelico's and D'Aquisto's
are what made me want to start building archtop guitars. These
instruments had a certain something that, to my eye, made them timeless
and "classic" in the same way that the refined profile of golden age
Italian violins are timeless and classic. The visual appeal of those
instruments seemed to be a result of their proportions and dimensions,
both in their overall shape, and also with the way the individual
components related to each other.
Inspired, in 1995 I began building fairly traditional 17 inch guitars
but was never fully satisfied with the body shape, so the quest to
design my own body shape began. I made many attempts but each new
guitar sent me back to the drawing board. Years passed and I still was
not completely happy with the aesthetics of my guitars.
In 2003, while still trying to find that elusive body shape I cut out
pictures of my favorite guitars, measured them and using math, scaled
them up and found their actual dimensions and I started looking for any
and all common factors.
After two fruitless and frustrating weeks of drawing and re-drawing
body shapes I still was dissatified with them. There
was something missing but I was determined to find those
and proportions that were so appealing to me.
I happened to be listening to The DaVinci Code
audio book one day while I was drawing, and the Harvard professor who
main character in the book started giving a lecture about Phi or the
Divine Proportion. As he was speaking, things started to click for me,
and at the end of the lecture, when he mentioned Stradivarius and using
Phi for his f-hole placement, the last missing piece fell into place.
Simply put, Phi is a ratio of 1 to 1.618. It is sometimes called the
Golden Mean or Golden Section, as well as the Divine Proportion. It is
derived from the Fibonacci sequence, which is 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5,
3+5=8, 5+8=13, 8+13=21 and so on. If you take any of those numbers and
divide it by the number immediately preceding it, you will come up with
an approximation of 1.618. The Divine Proportion is found everywhere in
the universe and throughout nature, in the spiral of the milky way, the
double helix of DNA, nautilus shells, pinecones and in our bodies. Phi
is a basic building block that is found in art, music and architecture.
Once I learned about Phi I realized that many of those classic guitars
had proportions, dimensions and relationships that approximated the
Divine Proportion. Whether this was intended or merely intuitive I do
not know but I decided to consciously apply Phi in my designs.
I found many opportunities to implement the Divine Proportion in my new
Phidelity body shape. While I do not use Phi as a strict formula, I
have found that it is a great starting point, and I believe utilizing
Phi helps me create instruments that are both visually and aurally
If you are interested in learning more about Phi, there is a great
Number that goes in to it in depth. You may want to check it out!