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Old 06-21-2021, 08:43 AM
Jamiejoon Jamiejoon is offline
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Default New Interesting Guitar-Like Instrument Day

Hi everyone,
I just received a new custom ronroco from David Dart. Though most people don't know what a ronroco is, I thought at least some of the luthiers might be interested, and perhaps the ukulele freaks as well. If the moderators think this would be better placed elsewhere, I am cool with that.

A ronroco is a South American instrument that is the big brother to the charango. It has five courses of paired strings, tuned in this case in the Argentinian style: DGBEB. The strings descend in an unconventional manner: 1-4-2-5-3, with the exception that one of the "3" strings is the same as the "1" strings. That is, one of the "3"s is one octave lower than the other. This is the same as a charango.

You can find more information on ronrocos at this blog put together by a mysterious and generous fellow named Don Berglund:
https://ronrocoreview.wordpress.com/

I have always found charangos awkward to play, partly because they are tiny and partly because they have a rounded back - so they tend to slip off my lap. Also, like smaller ukuleles, they sound a little like a toy to me and not a full-grown instrument. I thought a modified ronroco could solve all of these problems - give it a little longer scale, a little wider neck, and a baritone ukulele body, and voila you might get a more playable and better instrument.

David Dart has been building up in Navarro, Mendocino, CA for over 50 years. He has made 50 different kinds of instruments, including lap steel guitars, mandolins, guitars, lutes, ukuleles, etc. My ronroco is instrument #280. He has built instruments for David Lindley, Alex DeGrassi and many others. I own a 2014 cocobolo Dart D-12 that I think is excellent, and is detailed in a build thread by our own Diamond Dave. David (Dart) was game to try a ronroco, so we were off to the races.

I took a road trip to Navarro this weekend to pick up my completed ronroco, and I am extremely pleased with it. It is quite a bit better than any charango I have played, and I expect it to get a bunch better with play. It has a significant advantage of being built with really really fine materials. The top is a ridiculously nice set of sitka spruce from a blown-down tree on native land near Ketchikan, Alaska. Just perfect, exceptionally tight grain and excessive silking. The back is a very nice set of old cocobolo. Mahogany neck. 14 frets to the body. I have included a few pictures below in a follow-up post to this thread (if I can figure out how!).

BTW, while I was at David's place I got to see/play a number of other very interesting instruments. Most notable was a new Honduran rosewood D-12 that was spectacular, in my opinion quite a bit better than my already-excellent D-12. If I didn't have too many guitars already, I would have bought it. While I cannot judge the sound of mandolins, there was a truly gorgeous mandolin in redwood and cherry. Maybe the prettiest set of redwood I have ever seen, salvaged from an old sheep barn nearby. The cherry was local too, cut down by mischievous local kids. Also a beautiful lap steel guitar with a segmented back and beautiful hand-carved headstock and camatillo fretboard. Quite a work of art. Other neat stuff too, such as a beautiful parlor bass! David and his building partner Jeff were great hosts, generous with their time and enthusiastic about all things with strings.
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Old 06-21-2021, 08:54 AM
Jamiejoon Jamiejoon is offline
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Old 06-21-2021, 09:55 AM
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What a cool instrument!

How big is it? It's not easy to get a sense of its size from the pictures.
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Old 06-21-2021, 01:11 PM
Jamiejoon Jamiejoon is offline
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Originally Posted by David Eastwood View Post
What a cool instrument!

How big is it? It's not easy to get a sense of its size from the pictures.
Thanks for asking, David. The instrument has a 19" scale nut to saddle, 2 1/16" width at the nut, 10.5" width at lower bout, 7.5" upper bout, and 3 3'8" deep. Small instrument! I am already thinking about designing a larger one, with a Single 0 body and a longer scale...but that might stop sounding like a charango and might be more like a classical guitar.
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Old 06-21-2021, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Jamiejoon View Post
Thanks for asking, David. The instrument has a 19" scale nut to saddle, 2 1/16" width at the nut, 10.5" width at lower bout, 7.5" upper bout, and 3 3'8" deep. Small instrument! I am already thinking about designing a larger one, with a Single 0 body and a longer scale...but that might stop sounding like a charango and might be more like a classical guitar.
Thank you - that is small, but beautifully proportioned
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Old 06-21-2021, 03:18 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Hi Jamie,
That's a lovely instrument, it looks like it will serve you well.

I just completed a 20" scale Ronroco (guitar shaped body) that I haven't strung up yet. I designed it to tune identically to Charango, but I'm most likely going to octave courses 3,4, and 5.

I communicated with Don Berglund via e-mail a few times when I was working on my overall design.

The history of the Ronroco is not easy to nail down, but it pre-dates the common "origin story" of the Hermosa connection by a few decades.

Last edited by Rudy4; 06-21-2021 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 06-21-2021, 04:56 PM
Jamiejoon Jamiejoon is offline
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Originally Posted by Rudy4 View Post
Hi Jamie,
That's a lovely instrument, it looks like it will serve you well.

I just completed a 20" scale Ronroco (guitar shaped body) that I haven't strung up yet. I designed it to tune identically to Charango, but I'm most likely going to octave courses 3,4, and 5.

I communicated with Don Berglund via e-mail a few times when I was working on my overall design.

The history of the Ronroco is not easy to nail down, but it pre-dates the common "origin story" of the Hermosa connection by a few decades.
Rudy, that is so cool! Ronroco lovers unite! My next one, if there is one, will have a longer scale for sure - 19" is still a little bit tight. I am almost 6'3", so I am still hunched over this little ronroco. Will you share pictures of yours when you string it up, and report on how it sounds/plays? I am glad to know Don Berglund corresponded with you, as his last blog post was 2015. I was hopinh he would keep posting discoveries, including ronroco tablature.
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Old 06-21-2021, 05:05 PM
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Jamie that is a beautiful little thing for sure.
Are these ever strung with steel strings?

Mathis
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Old 06-21-2021, 05:29 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Originally Posted by Steve Kinnaird View Post
Jamie that is a beautiful little thing for sure.
Are these ever strung with steel strings?

Mathis
I'm hashing over stringing mine with steel strings, basing my strings on a commonly available 12 string set.
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Old 06-21-2021, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Kinnaird View Post
Jamie that is a beautiful little thing for sure.
Are these ever strung with steel strings?

Mathis
Iím about to take delivery of an Emerald Amicus - a short-scale (18Ē) 12-string carbon fiber instrument, strung with steel strings in unison pairs, and tuned D-D (like the 10th fret of an regular guitar). Larger body than the OPís ronroco, but very similar proportions.

This thread has made me start thinking about alternatives beyond standard guitar-based open tunings.
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1963 Martin 0-16NY
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2019 Emerald X20-7
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Old 06-21-2021, 05:41 PM
Jamiejoon Jamiejoon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Kinnaird View Post
Jamie that is a beautiful little thing for sure.
Are these ever strung with steel strings?

Mathis
Thanks Mathis! Good to hear from you.
I have only ever seen charangos with nylon strings. Rudy sounds like he may know more than me.
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Old 06-21-2021, 06:19 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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To those looking for a good way to judge size, see the Ronroco being played 47 seconds in here:

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Old 06-21-2021, 06:29 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Eastwood View Post
I’m about to take delivery of an Emerald Amicus - a short-scale (18”) 12-string carbon fiber instrument, strung with steel strings in unison pairs, and tuned D-D (like the 10th fret of an regular guitar). Larger body than the OP’s ronroco, but very similar proportions.

This thread has made me start thinking about alternatives beyond standard guitar-based open tunings.
There are a lot of "alternative" instruments out there when you begin looking for them. Your Emerald Amicus sounds very similar to the Veillette Avante Gryphon, a 18-1/8" 12 string guitar. These are fairly popular, enough to the point that they are manufactured as a "import" instrument.

http://www.veilletteguitars.com/avante_gryphon.shtml

I developed a "short scale mandola" that I played many band gigs with. I made that instrument because it matched my vocal range better than any other commercially available instrument.

That instrument, as well as the new Ronroco, are close enough to baritone ukulele size that I can use baritone uke cases. I learned a long time ago that it's not difficult to make odd-sized instruments, but the tougher part is finding a case to fit them!

Last edited by Rudy4; 06-21-2021 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 06-21-2021, 09:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudy4 View Post
To those looking for a good way to judge size, see the Ronroco being played 47 seconds in here:

Great video! That was a lot of fun, thanks for sharing.

Steve
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Old 06-22-2021, 08:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudy4 View Post
There are a lot of "alternative" instruments out there when you begin looking for them. Your Emerald Amicus sounds very similar to the Veillette Avante Gryphon, a 18-1/8" 12 string guitar. These are fairly popular, enough to the point that they are manufactured as a "import" instrument.
It was playing an import Gryphon a couple of years ago that set me thinking about adding an Amicus to my collection - they are indeed very similar in configuration.
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1963 Martin 0-16NY
2018 Emerald X20
2019 Emerald X20-7
2021 Emerald Amicus

Some of my tunes:
https://youtube.com/user/eatswodo
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