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High and Mighty
Veillette Gryphon Mark IV Hi-tuned 12-string
by Joe Gore, Guitar Player, December 2002

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It's funny how many electric guitarists who have stretched their range downward via 7-string and baritone guitars have been less eager to explore the soprano register. But that may change once a few players get their mitts on the gorgeous Gryphon Mark IV Hi-tuned 12-String ($2,025). The brainchild of Woodstock luthier Joe Veillette, the Gryphon is tuned to D above standard E. Fitted with all unison strings (as opposed to the mixed unisons and octaves of regular 12-strings), this guitar overlaps with a standard mandolin's range, adding an extra fourth below the mando's low-G string. It's important to note, however, that any guitarist can play the Gryphon without having to learn a new tuning.

Less is More

One of the few precedents for Veillette's petite, 18 1/2"-scale design is the 1960s Vox Phantom 12 (resurrected a few years back as the Vox Mini XII). But while the Vox featured magnetic pickups, the Gryphon relies on an Alvarez under-saddle piezo system -- a detail that contributes to the guitar's knockout appearance. Dig how the dark wenge-wood of the 21-fret fingerboard and immaculately carved bridge frame the body's gorgeously figured maple top. Equally handsome is the asymetrical headstock with its 12 mini-Gotoh tuners.

Dig how the dark wenge-wood of the 21-fret fingerboard and immaculately carved bridge frame the body's gorgeously figured maple top.
The Gryphon feels great, too. The 5.5 lb ax balances beautifully, and the expertly rendered jumbo frets afford great control over the strings. But the most exciting thing about the Gryphon is its glistening treble response. I generally loathe the sound of piezo pickups, but I loved the Gryphon's tone -- perhaps because the piezo quackiness is less pronounced in the upper registers. The 3-band EQ (with sweepable midrange) is simple and effective, but you must remove the entire preamp assembly to replace the 9-volt battery.

Flying High

Crafty players will discover dozens of uses for the Gryphon. Its strings are spaced widely enough for fingerstyle playing, and the all-unison tuning makes the Gryphon more suitable for full-range, single-note work than regular
But the most exciting thing about the Gryphon is its glistening treble response. Crafty players will discover dozens of uses for the Gryphon.
12-strings. With its huge, ultra-present sound, the Gryphon excels as a doubling instrument. Duplicating standard rhythm guitar parts offers an exciting variation on Nashville high-stringing, while doubling single-note melodies at the octave gives them piano-like authority.

But the Gryphon also has a beautiful solo voice -- one that can easily mimic the mandolin, bouzouki, tres, cuatro, and other doublecourse instruments. In other words, the Gryphon excels as an all-purpose "ethno" ax. Bottom line: Anyone hungering for a taste of something different will find a lot to dig about the Gryphon. You definitely won't find a better legal way of getting high!


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