In 2012, Aaron designed and built a one-of-a-kind instrument: an electric theorbo. The instrument is featured in the evening-length song cycle Old-Fashioned Love Songs, the concerto Strange Seasons, and other upcoming projects.

The theorbo is a member of the lute family that emerged in Italy in the late sixteenth century. Aaron's electric theorbo uses a traditional configuration of fourteen strings; seven are fretted, as on a guitar, and seven are open strings tuned in a scale, like a harp. The top two strings are an octave lower than what would be expected, a feature known as re-entrant tuning.

theorbo tuning

One of the unique elements of the electric theorbo is the use of tuning levers on the bass strings, a technology borrowed from harps. These levers allow each string to be quickly raised by a half-step.

Hear the electric theorbo in action:

Click the thumbnails for larger images and details about the design:

full body honorary luthiers head head
top view bottom view back label

Thank you to the vendors whose parts and materials were indispensable:

Soulmate Guitars (fretted neck)
Dragon Plate (theorbo neck tube)
Benedetto Pickups (bass string pickup)
Lollar Guitars (treble string pickup)
Graphtech (Ghost pickup system/saddles)
La Bella (strings)
Music Makers (sharping levers)
Stewart-MacDonald (most everything else)
Lumber from Gilmer Wood, Oregon Wild Wood, Buzzsaw International and Crosscut Hardwoods

Additional resources:

IsGood Woodworks - hourly shop time in Seattle - comprehensive resource for the entire harp guitar family tree, including theorbos - excellent web reference from a British lutenist
Building the Ergonomic Guitar - a forum with brilliant ideas for ergonomic guitar design