J. T. Hargreaves Basses & Guitars

The Kasha Guitar

guitar parts

The Kasha Guitar represents a major effort to improve upon the traditional classical guitar. It uses modern physics, acoustical theory, and new materials for construction and finish, to go beyond the limits of an instrument which has largely reached the maximum of its design potential. The finest (that is to say the most sensitive, responsive and resonant) classical guitar converts only about 5% of the energy of a plucked string into sound. The rest becomes heat, as one’s guitar literally warms up with playing. The energy available for sound may be heard as great volume, or as great sustain, but not as both. This unfortunate trade-off is enforced by the limitations of a design basically settled upon in the 1870’s, with only subtle changes in internal structure and materials since then.

In the 1960's, a physical chemist named Michael Kasha purchased a classical guitar for his son. Although he didn't play guitar himself, Dr. Kasha thought it just didn't sound as good as it could. Upon further examination inside the instrument he decided that some changes needed to be done so that every note was clear and strong. While he earned Doctoral degrees in three disciplines, Dr. Kasha’s astonishing intellect became focused on applying modern scientific theory, exact tools of measurement, and new construction materials, to develop a radically re-designed and potentially far more capable “classical” guitar. Richard Schneider, then a master builder of traditional classical guitars, began a 30-year collaboration with Dr. Kasha, resulting in a series of constantly evolving and improving instruments.

In an effort to create an instrument converting perhaps 7 or 8% of string energy into sound, and thus allowing greater volume AND greater sustain, while all the time insisting on perfect pitch and balance in all notes struck anywhere on the neck, the Kasha design focused heavily on 5 areas...

First, the neck was made very heavy and rigid, while keeping normal dimensions and a graceful shape. This prevented a loss of string energy into useless vibration of the neck. Subsequently, this saved energy helps prolong excitation of the soundboard via the bridge. The weight of the neck also increases treble response.

Second, the impedance dependent bridge, shaped like a wedge rather than the traditional rectangle, was designed to more efficiently transmit bass tones to the bass (left) half of the soundboard, and treble tones to the treble (right) half. It was made to have as little mass as possible to allow ready responsiveness.

Third, the soundboard was given a decidedly thinner bass half, and thicker treble half, again to respond more readily to bass and treble tones. The soundhole was moved from its centerline position to the upper-right area of the top, an area found to be almost “silent”, hence useless in sound production. This move tremendously strengthened the top and created a much larger vibrating area than in traditional designs. It also allows the braces that affect the midrange to be the appropriate length.

Fourth, a truly radical bracing system on the underside of the top became a crucial design element. Again, it was designed to reinforce production of bass tones by the bass half, and treble tones by the treble half of the top, while taking advantage of every possible square inch of the top surface for creation of a truly big sound. This system also allows the bridge to move more freely in a rotary as well as up-and-down manner, adding sustain and richness of harmonics.

Finally, for the back, an elegant and complex bracing system in conjunction with the use of tonewood allowed it to move like the diaphragm of a speaker, reinforcing the profundity of bass, middle, and treble notes.

These complex instruments are slow and exacting to produce, hence expensive and rare. Every part is hand-built and placed “just so”. They are solidly built to last virtually a century. When compared in play-offs against superb guitars of traditional design, they display a rich and profound tone sometimes compared to a grand piano. They lend themselves splendidly to true classical music. The recent recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Kurt Rodarmer makes this point brilliantly. These guitars enormously impressed Andres Segovia, and are today in the hands of some of the world’s finest players.

by Vince Meyer
Billings, Montana
(used by permission)

classical guitar top
Classical guitar top with
Kasha/Schneider bracing.

cut-away top
Cut-away guitar top,
K/S bracing almost finished.

cut-away back
Cut-away guitar back with
Kasha/Schneider bracing.

Kasha bridge
impedance dependent bridge.

access door
Heelblock access door,
by George Majkowski.

access door open
Heelblock access door
opened view.

More about
Dr. Michael Kasha.

More about
Richard Schneider.

One of the most asked questions I get is: "How do I build my own guitar?"

While I enjoy sharing tips and information, my time is valuable to me and it is very difficult to teach someone how to build an instrument through emails! On my Links page you will find a list of sites and reference materials I recommend.

Two of the most helpful organizations that I strongly recommend that you join are
Guild of American Luthiers http://www.luth.org/
The Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans http://www.guitarmaker.org/

Hear some sample songs on youtube.

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