Godin A11 Glissentar
Review – Jahloon, April 2006.
Cost: USA $1035, UK £866, including Gig Bag, 2 sets strings.
The Glissentar is a fretless string instrument, the same scale and size as a conventional guitar.
In a similar vein to an Oud, it has eleven strings, comprising a single bass string and five courses of nylon strings tuned in unison.
String spacing, fingerboard curvature and bridge are similar to a normal guitar and of course everything can be tuned to regular guitar pitch.
The headstock is very striking, black facia with white nylon winding posts driven by Godin custom chrome winders. Nothing looks quite like it, and the rest of the instrument is no disappointment.
Glissentar Headstock & 11 winders
The fingerboard is ebony on a rock maple neck, which is very comfortable. The nut width is one and three quarter inches and the fingerboard radius is sixteen inches.
The soundboard is beautifully uncomplicated, in solid cedar with a semi gloss finish, a nice balance to match to the fretless neck.
Positioning of the controls is perfect for fast access during playing, The pick up being an LR Baggs Ribbon Transducer located in the bridge. The pre-amp is a custom built LR Baggs (c) 2000 featuring Volume, Mid, Treble and Bass controls.
Our testing was done using a Schertler “David” Acoustic Amplifier, the range of control over the sound given only three eq sliders is quite amazing. A lovely amount of cut on the treble though to a very vibrant prescence was available with this control wound fully up.
The middle and bass sliders allow very dynamic control of the sound projection without us having to touch the amplifier.
Glissentar EQ controls – perfectly accessible
Feel / Look
While you might imagine the nylon strung Glissentar would demand or even expect a more gentle playing style, when you hang this guitar around your neck the temptation is just to let rip. The balance and feel is just right. You could say classical sound with electric feel.
The body of the guitar is made of silver leaf maple, the construction is double chambered and therefore not as heavy as it looks.
One thing we really like is the thickness of the body itself, just a tad more than a standard solidbody guitar.
Action / Fingerboard
Straight out of the box the action is very good, with a slight toe-in. You do get an allen key supplied to adjust the action and we used this to bring the neck dead straight.
The fingerboard was very precisely engineered, no bumps or buzzes. We could drop the height of the strings in the nut if really pressed, but it isn’t neccessary. By tensioning the neck further you can bring the action down to the point where you get that warm semi-buzz on the lower strings. We adjusted it to just above that point were the sound was clean. This left us with a very low fast action, perfect for fretless playing.
Glissentar Neck Joint – work of art
Traditional Oud players are used to a wide string spacing at the bridge, to facilitate their style of string plucking. This string spread would be impractical to emulate on a guitar based instrument.
Take a closer look at the 5th and 4th string courses. Because of the vibrating width of the string, these have to be spaced a little wider than the top three courses.
This extra spacing allows for some very interesting playing technique. The strings can be held individually technically splitting the string course. So it is possible to let one half of the string course ring open, and stop the other half at a different note.
The Battery Compartment
Just a quick thank you to Godin for incorporating a practical battery compartment, no screws, no battery clips, you just flick it out and push the new battery in. Simple.
Well there’s nothing like a live performance to test an instrument out so its down to a local jam venue. This place hosts banjo, mandolin, guitar and the odd bouzouki player.
There’s a fair bit of traditional playing so its an interesting test of the water.
Well the glissentar certainly does turn heads, and as the Oud isn’t seen much around here it takes a little time to explain the principles.
Well it certainly opened up a new aspect of the instrument, it adapts particularly well to English folk music, the lute like sounds fit really nicely into a small ensemble. We tried some alternate tunings for Irish jigs DADEAE for one of the local experts and personally I preferred the sound of the Glissentar to his conventional steel strung 12 string. The Glissentar coped well with the altered tunings, once tuned it was nice and stable, and quick to return to standard tuning without needing any attention for the rest of the night.
Up until this point I had the Glissentar pigeon holed as either an avant garde instrument, or one specifically used in Turkish and Arabic music to access specific scales, makams and microtones. However, it does remarkably well in the role of Cittern, Bouzouki, Lute or any traditional double strung instrument. What’s more, when you tap into this idea it becomes very addictive and very hard to stop playing in that particular style.
If you already play fretless guitar, the Glissentar is going to be a tempting addition to your collection.
Godin have created a very different instrument in the Glissentar, while it remains basically a guitar, you have this overlay of eleven strings that lifts it to a completely new level. There is nothing else like it, when the history of music in the 21st century is written, this will be a landmark.
My style consists of lots of slides and slide vibratos, and slides on the round wound strings can be a bit screechy. I hit this problem using the Godin Multiac Nylon Classical and cured it using some flatwound nylon strings. I recently restrung the Glissentar with Thomastic Infeld KR116 Classic S series, rope core flat wound nylon strings and the improvement in playability is dramatic.
Review – Jahloon (updated Nov 2008)
Artists playing the Glissentar:
Ratko Zjaca / Fareed Haque / Elliott Sharp / Michael Vick / Vince Millett / John Howarth / Wayne Wesley Johnson / Jahloon / Adrian Ouarar / Trey Gunn / Carljohan Grimmark / Elden Kelly / Nicolas Meier
Godin Glissentar – Comments by Michael Vick
Michael Vick with Godin Glissentar
Let me start off by saying that I am very biased towards the Godin Glissentar because I feel it could be the instrument of the Future; well at least the Guitar of the Future.
I have only had the Glissentar for about six months, and I have played, practiced and performed with it as much as possible. As you might know, the Glissentar has 11 strings and an Ebony Fretless Fingerboard. This certainly lends this Instrument towards the advanced player, but it can also be learned by beginners; as long as they are willing to stay focused during the much needed practice this instrument will take. That goes for beginners and advanced players alike.
The Glissentar can be played acoustic and electric, and the electronics are top notch with an onboard equalization system built right in. The strings that come with the Glissentar are made by Godin and are typical (thin) Nylon style strings. I do like them, but I have talked to the R & D Dept. at Godin about possibly developing a Flatwound version of these to eliminate some string noise that comes up.
The Glissentar is also very easy to tune in standard or alternate tunings, and the instrument stays in tune even with aggressive playing. All in all, the Godin Glissentar is an extension of the standard Guitar, but similar enough for the average player to pick it up and sound decent.
Again, this is a Fretless instrument; so it will obviously take some getting used too. That is assuming you have never played a Fretless Guitar before. I have played Fretless Guitar for over 10 years; so it was not difficult for me to grasp the instrument, and I must say that I felt right at home on the Glissentar from the first touch.
There is a wealth of information on-line about the Godin Glissentar which can give one a deeper insight into this instrument.
Try www.godinguitars.com and even do a search for Godin Glissentar and read what comes up. Best of Luck and no one ever said playing Fretless Guitar would be easy.
….ends – Michael ATONAL Vick
Nicolas Meier “Live at the Paradise”
Glissentar vs Multiac (Shoot-out)