Great Acoustics: Yasmin Williams’ Skytop Grand Concert
The first guitar that luthier Eric Weigeshoff built for Yasmin Williams was destroyed when a cold snap froze and burst the pipes in his workshop, resulting in a rapid temperature drop that caused the instrument’s soundboard to become cracked beyond repair. Unfortunate as that was, instead of making a new top, Weigeshoff and Williams decided to start over with a fresh set of unusual tonewoods.
Weigeshoff builds guitars under the brand Skytop in his New Paltz, New York, shop. His background in design and film informs the minimalist look of his guitars, which he builds with side ports in place of conventional soundholes. He uses traditional tonewoods but turns to less common species and multi-scale fretboards when customers want something even less ordinary.
This multi-scale Skytop Grand Concert guitar is the one that now belongs to Williams, a guitarist whose idiosyncratic instrumentals often incorporate two-handed tapping, played in lap-steel position, along with percussive effects. (See the May/June 2019 issue of AG for a transcription of Willams’ composition “New Beginnings,” which finds the guitarist in a more conventional mode.) While Williams might invite some comparison to Michael Hedges, her music—and how she creates it—is uniquely her own, so it’s not surprising that she would be drawn to Weigeshoff’s guitars.
For her Skytop, Williams chose a tonewood set that happens to demonstrate how other forms of life can transform wood. The guitar’s Sitka spruce soundboard is pocked with holes that are cross-sections of tunnels bored into the spruce by Teredo clams (aka shipworms). Long before being milled into guitar tops, the logs were used to surround rafts towed around Puget Sound, in the Pacific Northwest. Teredo worms had chewed meandering tunnels through each log, leaving unique patterns that can be seen in the top of Willams’ guitar.
For the back and sides, Williams opted for tamarind, a tropical hardwood, with elaborate spalting (the result of fungus staining the wood into a dramatic figure) and contrasting sapwood on the back. The Skytop GC came together thanks to a mollusk, fungus, a guitar maker, a musician, and some wood uniting to create a guitar with a powerful sonic—and visual—punch.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.