Sound construction

KELVIN TEIXEIRA
Last updated 09:55 24/01/2013
guitarHC

Back to roots: Three-string and one-string guitar builder Mike Sayle of Shannon.

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Mike Sayle is taking guitar building back to its roots.

From his home in Shannon he builds three-string guitars and is happily recreating the sound of traditional Delta blues slide guitar.

"I got bored playing conventional six-string guitars and was looking for something else. Ukuleles don't do anything for me, because they sound like ukuleles, whereas I've always liked the bluesy slide guitar sound."

Inspired by American blues musician Seasick Steve, who often plays hand made three-string guitars, two years ago Mr Sayle built himself one, with the body made from copper from an old toilet cistern.

"The guitar itself was a failure, but the idea was good," he said.

"The first time I twanged it I was unimpressed. Copper doesn't reverberate well and this is the reason why acoustic guitars are made from wood. So, I did the best thing you could do with a metal one and electrified it, using an old electric guitar pick-up."

Since then Mr Sayle has continued to build three-string wooden guitars, mostly from recycled materials such as old floorboards and wooden bedheads and using nails as frets.

Mr Sayle has also built himself a one-string guitar, known as a Diddley Bo, after the late American rhythm and blues musician Bo Diddley.

"Anyone can stretch out a piece of wire and beat out a rhythm. It's been done since the early days in America, with a piece of wire stretched between two posts on the front porch."

Mr Sayle said anyone who can play the three basic chords on a six string guitar will easily learn to play a three-string guitar. With a lower string tension it is as comfortable to play as a ukulele.

"And, for the same amount of effort to learn the ukulele, you can learn to play slide blues on one of these."

Mr Sayle, who works as a caregiver, said his guitar building is nothing more than a hobby.

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- Horowhenua Mail

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