Monday, August 12, 2013

Rodrigo Constanzo Specty

The Specty is the more compact, portable sibling of my larger Specto instrument. The original was built many years ago, and although I still love and use it today, it’s size and weight made it impractical for taking around to rehearsals/gigs. I’ve also been trying to downsize my setup as to make it easier to gig internationally. There is no way I’d be able to take the full sized Specto on a flight. The Specty on the other hand fits in a carry-on suitcase.
Firstly, it looks and sounds like this:

When designing the Specty I obviously wanted to make it more compact, but I also wanted to improve the original design/functionality. The first thing was using conventional tuners. The Specto used zither pins as both tuning pegs, and tail piece. It was very easy to implement as they have a tiny footprint, and don’t require clearance below or on the side of the instrument. The downside to the zither pins were that I needed a special tool to tune them. If I didn’t have the tool with me (as was often the case) I couldn’t adjust the tuning of the instrument.

The next improvement dealt with the pickups. The original did have two pickups, one per side, but the ‘left’ side pickups were very weak single coil pickups. The disparity in volume meant I couldn’t have both on and get that ‘third bridge‘ guitar sound like with Yuri Landman‘s instruments. Although the Specto predates my knowledge of Yuri’s instruments, building a Homeswinger at the Yuri Landman workshop hosted by The Noise Upstairs a couple of years ago, gave me a hands-on play with that sound world. For the Specty I went with two humbuckers, and a 3-way switch, so I could use either pickup, or both, giving me plenty of timbral options, as well as pitch/3rd-bridge options. I also used an on-board volume control (as compared to the volume pedal control of the original Specto). A volume pedal is still ideal, but with onboard volume I can at least mute the instrument when not in use.

The final design decision was to do with the mounting/stand. The original used an orchestral music stand that was slightly modified to support the weight of the instrument, while keeping it stable. After much googling and checking local music shops I found the perfect music stand. A Stagg model (MUS-A5BK) that has a detachable stand. By that I don’t mean that you can remove the top segment from the pole (as is possible with most stands), I mean that the actual flat part has a flat dove-tail type metal joint that removes easily from the base. I drilled out the rivets holding that in place and mounted that on the bottom of the Specty. After trimming down the base of the stand so that it also fits inside the 20″ carry-on bag limit, I had a compact, relatively lightweight, super sturdy stand.

As far as tuning, I went with the tuning of the top layer of the Specto. For more information on the tuning and playing techniques, check out the page on the Specto.
Here are some pictures of the build process. Note the ‘shallow’ routing for the pickups, the stagg mount on the bottom of the Specty, & the aluminum side bracing to add structural support.