Bob Benedetto, 7 string Fratello archtop jazz guitar, 1982


Bob Benedetto
7 string Fratello archtop jazz guitar
Serial Number: 
F-7- 8082
The Story Behind


About the Builder (from Wikipedia):

Robert Benedetto (born October 22, 1946 in The Bronx, New York) is an American luthier. He is best known for founding Benedetto Guitars, Inc. which makes hand-carved archtop guitars. Before the company became a division of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Benedetto made each guitar himself. Benedetto was noted for his guitars starting in the 1970s, when jazz guitarists such as Bucky Pizzarelli, Chuck Wayne, and Martin Taylor used and endorsed them.

In 2006, Benedetto ended his relationship with Fender and opened his own factory in Savannah, Georgia, partnering with businessman/guitarist Howard Paul.

More about the current operations of Bob Benedetto can be found here:

About the Guitar:

This guitar is one of the early efforts of Bob Benedetto. He started producing on a regular basis around 1978. This is guitar number 80 out of some 316 he build up until 1994. This guitar was custom build for Paul Novak in 1982. What is special about this guitar is that it is the only 7 string Fratello Bob Benedetto ever build.

To learn more, we recommend to find Bob Benedetto's book: Making an Archtop Guitar, 1994 (ISBN 1-57424-000-5).

To understand the purpose of a 7 string guitar, here an article about 7 string guitars by the master himself:

Things About 7-Strings

By Robert Benedetto

The 7-String concept is not new to guitar—it's been around a very long time. In my earlier years, I did a lot of restoration/repair work and remember restoring a Russian 7-String guitar that was centuries old. Prior to building my own first 7-String back in 1977, I'd also had a few Gretsches as well as a Sam Koontz 7-String on my bench. I found them intriguing. To my knowledge, the first application of a 7th string to the modern archtop was when George Van Eps modified an Epiphone in the late '30s, thus bringing the idea to life in our times. Later, the Gretsch company expanded on the idea and produced a line of 7-Strings.

While it took a George Van Eps to adapt the idea to an archtop, it took another great jazzman, on the east coast, to popularize it—Bucky Pizzarelli. George and Bucky were the two most well-known 7-String players for many years. Other names that followed were Ron Eschete, Lenny Breau, Howard Morgen, Alan de Mause, John Pizzarelli of course, and later, Howard Alden, Gerry Beaudoin, Van Moretti, and Jimmy Bruno. The legendary Kenny Burrell as well as British guitarist Andy MacKenzie are also taking it on. These exceptional musicians, who are exceptional six-string players, are the reason for the 7-String enjoying its current popularity.

Most players are immediately impressed when they first try it. For comping and solo playing, the additional bass string opens new doors. Chord voicings are expanded and unusual harmonic concepts, formerly beyond the guitar's realm, now become reality. To know more, ask Jimmy!

Construction wise, there are differences between making a six and a seven-string archtop guitar. With my first few 7-Strings, I did not deviate from six-string construction, only because I wasn't certain. (I did however install two truss rods in some of the earlier ones, till I felt comfortable that one was sufficient!) I wanted to see how the guitars would perform with the standard six-string construction. They did fine. Yet, over the years, while there wasn't a clearly defined modification in the construction, I did find myself adjusting the bracings and graduations, especially on the back plate, to enhance that bass note. This is where we get into intangibles. The vibrating back plate is what gives us the bass notes. If the back doesn't vibrate properly, the bass notes won't be heard. The back plate is scraped to the correct thickness for a particular guitar. If I were to carve or scrape that back plate thinner, it would be more responsive to bass notes but if I scrape too thin, then the high notes are going to suffer. As a maker, you have to know when to stop.

I prefer the "X" brace because it gives the warm, rich sound we strive for in a mainstream jazz archtop. Parallel bracing is more commonly fitted to a thinner top which gives more projection and is perfect for that old rhythm guitar sound. Most of my customers play a mainstream jazz style and seem to prefer the "X" bracing.

The standard neck width at the nut for my 7-Strings is 2 1/16". Both of Jimmy Bruno's guitars are the standard width, as are all four of Ron Eschete's. Depending on the player, this varies. Howard Alden's first 7-String is 2". (His second one however is 2 1/16", as is his new 7-String LaVenezia.) Others have 2 1/8" neck widths. Also, contrary to what one may think, I don't decrease the depth of the neck (in an attempt to compensate for the greater width)—it's the same as on a six-string guitar. The 7-String neck is also shaped round. There is no "V" shape nor are there flat spots, although the neck "feels" flat when you pick it up for the first time. The wider neck still has a 12 inch radius, also very much the standard. Ron Eschete, however, prefers a very high radius--7 1/4".

Standards also exist for body size and sound holes. While the most common body size (width at lower bout) for my 7-Strings, and my archtops in general, is 17", I've made 7-Strings with 18" bodies and a considerable number with 16" bodies. Most body depths are 3". All four of Ron Eschete's 7-String guitars are 16" bodies; yet two, maybe even three, have narrow 2 1/4" depths. Howard's two oval-hole 7-Strings are 16" (while his newest La Venezia version is 17"). Van Moretti's is 16". One I'm currently making for Andy MacKenzie will be exactly like Jimmy Bruno's second 7-String (his first was 17") which has a 16" body and 2 1/2" depth—very comfortable for him. However, Kenny Burrell's 7-String will have an 18" body and standard 3" body depth. Certainly the most unusual 7-String I've made to date is a slim semi-hollow electric with a 14 1/4" body width and a carved top and back, custom made for Alan de Mause. (This guitar, along with the 5 other semi-hollow bodies, were dubbed "Semi-dettos" by Adrian Ingram.) The most common sound hole is still the "f" hole. The first two 7-Strings I made for Howard Alden, however, have oval holes. He was previously playing a Gibson "Howard Roberts" and preferred the oval hole style.

Most of my customers tune the 7th string to a low A. I usually string the guitars with .012 to .052s, with an .080 as the bass string, in a light/medium set. The medium set, also popular, is .013 to .056, also with the .080. La Bella makes the most popular 7-String set around; it has an outer wrapping of flat black nylon tape.

While I've made a few purely acoustic 7-Strings featuring the La Venezia motif, most include a floating pickup, currently my own "Benedetto S-7" model. It's a mini-humbucker, perfectly balanced, with a "fat", warm, traditional jazz sound. On Jimmy's slim bodied guitar, he preferred a built-in pickup so that guitar was fitted with the B-7 model.

Of the almost 400 archtops I've made to date, 62 are 7-Strings. About 25% of my current orders are for this model. You really have to make enough of them, over and over, to develop any sort of "feel" for what makes a good 7-String. I do enjoy building them and of course hearing them played by such renowned musicians! I've even made a few 7-Strings for myself over the years but sold them. I finally made myself another one that I play in my living room. If given the choice, I would make only that model. Once you get involved with it, you realize the possibilities and don't want to go back to just six strings.

The 7-String model is part of the guitar's evolution—a very real part. It's perfectly natural to have the additional string; it's not a gimmick. Certainly many players try it and it's not for them (some feel that they have to relearn the instrument); however I think if students were introduced to it early on, they'd play it as naturally as they do a 6-String.

In short, the 7-String guitar is flourishing and here to stay.

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