Ryszard Latecki interview

An Interview with Ryszard Latecki (2004)

Ryszard Latecki is the inventor of the LATAR, which could be described as a semi-fretless guitar.

Rysard’s exclusive interview with Unfretted is a unique insight into his creation.

Ryszard Latecki with Latar
Picture by Marcin Majewski

Full Name – Ryszard Latecki
Born – Poland, 1956
Living now in – Warsaw, Poland

Our interviewer (Jahloon) starts off….

Jahloon: Tell me a little about your work.

Ryszard: Well, I am a professional musician, but it’s hard to make both ends meet out of playing noncommercial (nonpop) music in Poland, so I take up other jobs too.

For example I organize concerts of non-commercial music in prisons or in Warsaw slums.

Jahloon: Are you a Guitar maker (luthier)?

Ryszard: No. My LATAR has been made by a professional guitar maker, but in accordance with my design instructions concerning the fingerboard.

Jahloon: When did you first start work on the LATAR?

Ryszard: About 8 years ago.

Jahloon: What made you think of combining the fretless with the normal fretboard?

Eight years back I wanted to buy an acoustic fretless bass guitar. Fretless to free myself from mechanical playing, to start playing more intuitive, by ear (anyway I don’t have to convince you of a fretless instrument! You know yourself what it means to feel the sound under a finger and what articulation, colourity and interpretative possibilities has a fretless instrument. It’s another poetry!). And acoustic to be independent from electricity. However I haven’t found such a guitar in any shop in Warsaw.

Thus it came to my mind to turn a regular acoustic guitar into a fretless bass. Just then I sustained a brain wave and thought of combining advantages of a regular and a fretless guitar. I have made the first instrument like that from an old guitar bought on a bazaar. It has turned out to work! The next one has been bought in a shop and transformed by a guitar maker (this one is on the photo on my website).

Now I have a custom-hand-made instrument. However it has appeared that a traditional, guitar playing technique can’t be used with LATAR (the name comes from my name). That it’s a different instrument.

So I worked out special ways of tuning (I use at least a few ways, most often E6 is lowered to B or even A) and playing technique. I also use special sets of strings. (11-57).

I have also carried out an instrumentological research and it has turned that it is an original solution. It has never been used before neither in historical nor in ethnical instruments (loose burdons strings have been sometimes used but it’s not the same).

That’s why I have reserved this solution in Patent Office and was awarded a patent. The patent concerns the guitar neck, no matter of number of strings or number of fretless strings and whether a guitar is acoustic or electric. More information about advantages of this solution can be found on my website: www.geocities.com/rlatecki


Jahloon: Do you make LATARs for other people?

Ryszard: No, but a few of my friends-guitarists play LATAR.

Jahloon: Do you think a main manufacturer would take on this project?

Ryszard: Yes I guess, but I don’t think the LATAR could be the first and only instrument for a guitar player. Very often guitarists have a few instruments and are interested in new solutions in the whole. They look for possibilities of extending their view of expression.

Jahloon: The Latar in the picture certainly looks like a fine acoustic instrument, do you have any plans for an electric version?

Ryszard: I play only the acoustic LATAR. Anyway, of course, an electric version is possible too.

Jahloon: What type of music do you play?

Ryszard: Improvising music and my own compostions mostly (I also play piano and trumpet). I play in many different bands, which most often are created by me for the purpose of a concrete concert or recording session. It is a very wide spectrum of music. Starting with modern music, through alternative jazz and world music, to club music.

For example yesterday I played a concert in duet with a musician who makes live electronics. But the next concert I play with a cellist. And later on with an oud lyre and a sarangi. And after that with a DJ (lounge music).

Jahloon: If you had to pick a famous guitarist to play the Latar, who would it be?

Ryszard: I don’t know, really. Maybe someone from the ECM circle (ECM produces a lot of intuitive music) and maybe John Mc Lughlin or Pat Metheny (he uses fretless instruments).

Jahloon: Where do you see the Latar in five years time?

Ryszard: I don’t look so far into the future. The only thing I know is that the day after tomorrow I have a concert and that tomorrow I should pay the rent.

However I have patented this invention. Not because I don’t want other fellow-artists to make LATARS for themselves. Anyway, if someone would like to produce the LATAR and make money from it, he should share the profit with me.


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