Peter Blanchette is known around the world as the inventor of the 11-string archguitar. Blanchette performed recently at Gateway City Arts and is featured in this week’s digital extra.

Learn more about Gateway City Arts in our full feature on the Holyoke cultural hub. 

Read the full transcript:

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Peter Blanchette, Archguitarist: This guitar is called an archguitar, and it’s an instrument that a long time ago in 19… about ’79,’80, I designed and had built for me by a great instrument maker in Boston named Walter Stanul.

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When he built this for me, I was a student at Boston Conservatory of Music and I played in the subway to make a living and pay for my school. So, I told him, “I want you to build this thing really tough, really strong.”

And back then, there was no internet, right? 1979, 70 — 1980. So, but there were libraries back then, got a lot of books about instruments and looked at a lot of pictures, a lot of photocopying, and found this beautiful body of an instrument called a vihuela — vihuela de mano — Renaissance lute-like instrument in Spain and Portugal.

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It has 11 strings because when I designed the instrument and had it built, Walter asked me, “Okay, you want more strings on the guitar? How many, kid?”

And being 19-years-old, you know, and kind of having a little bit of attitude, I guess, I said, “We’ll make it 11.”

I thought it would just be a sort of prototype, and once we knew if it worked or not, we’d – we’d make me a really pretty one.

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It’s been through all kinds of transformations and it’s been stepped on, and had the face broken in and repaired, and it just sounds and feels so good.