FRAME WORKS "CLASSICAL GUITAR"

Both the postman and the acoustic guitar tester were amazed. They were used to impressively sized packages containing acoustic guitars. On this occasion it was completely different, though: A package of barely 100 x 19 x 24 cm stood in the test-room. Out came a fine and rigid ‘Cordura’ gig bag which contained the Frameworks guitar
The secret lies in the construction. This instrument is a far-reaching abstraction of what we normally refer to as “classical guitar”. Its intended use is first and foremost a professional live and studio setting. Accordingly this model comes with an integrated MIDI-pickup designated for the connection to a Roland, Axon or Yamaha Converter.

ASSEMBLY/BUILD
The Frameworks is built out of a single piece of mahogany of fingerboard width, to which one end of the strings are attached. One searches for the peg-head in vain (headless-design). On the other end, behind the bridge, one finds six gold plated Schaller machine heads provided with black buttons. The so-called frames are attached to both sides of this reduced body by the use of stable steel pins. The result resembles the shape of a normal guitar body, in this case a guitar with Cutaway. The frames themselves have a metal core covered with tubes of black foam-rubber. They are extremely durable and pleasant to touch. Putting together the guitar is easily done – in the shortest time the instrument is ready to play. It’s quite amazing how quickly the guitarist gets used to this concept: The first glance is mysterious, followed by a satisfied grin with the instrument hanging in front of the player’s belly. This guitar, which consists of 90% pure air, plays very comfortably in a sitting as well as in a standing position (the latter is done by using a strap, the therefore needed strap pins are already there. A few minutes later even the right hand’s automatic grip of the tuning pegs, which can be found in an unusual place behind the pickup, becomes familiar. The body’s and neck’s mahogany has an oil finish which lends the instrument a pleasant, silky feel. At least the guitar neck gives the bewildered guitarist a reminder of the common “woody” playing feel! To ensure the natural sound quality, the guitar’s construction has integrated resonance chambers. These have a positive side-effect: The guitar’s extremely light weight. The fingerboard, which has 19 frets (22 between the e- and b- strings), is made of fine ebony and comes with three small fret orientation marks (V, VII and XII) on its upper side. The fingerboard dimensions are planned according to a classical guitarist’s needs. Indeed, all relevant measurements such as scale lengths, neck-width, as well as string spacing, are kept to familiar dimensions. The player finds the operating elements of the Frameworks MIDI Classic on the upper side of the instrument’s neck and body. These include two volume control knobs, one for the guitar’s volume and another one for the connected synth´s volume, as well as a switch that may / can be assigned to various MIDI functions. The 13-pin DIN connector for using a MIDI interface is also placed here. The standard !” phone jack for the audio cable is sunk into the back of the instrument, near the easy-to-open battery compartment. The string guidance is exactly the classical guitar’s opposite: At the end of the neck where the peg-head is usually located, the strings are fastened to a piece of Ebony and led over a zero-fret. Located at the other end one finds the integrated pickup for the audio and MIDI signals. Six individual piezo-electric RMC string sensors are included. In this fashion an optimal separation of each individual string is achieved.
Summary: The open-minded guitarist should be able to handle the design’s extravagance well. A strict classical playing technique also poses no problems. The only guitarists who will encounter difficulty are those who, whether playing finger-style or using a pick, are used to resting their right ring or pinky fingers on the instrument’s soundboard: There is no soundboard! If needed, a resting position on the lower side of the mahogany block will do the trick.

SOUND
As with any instrument, it makes sense to check this guitar’s pure acoustic sound. When doing so, one immediately notices that the sound is very balanced and clean. The Sustain is long and clear, and unpleasant noises accompanied by undesired overload of any specific frequency are not detectable. In addition, one can witness the vibration behavior of an acoustic guitar in the broadest sense. Of course the Frameworks is not designed to function in the same way as an acoustic guitar. The volume functions in a way that allows control of the playing, and therefore midnight practicing is always possible.
But the Frameworks’ true advantages will be heard in the studio. The sound flowing out of the monitors is a true pleasure even with linear equalizing. The frequency spectrum is absolutely balanced, and the acoustic reproduction of a classical guitar is thereby enabled. Piezo-typical characteristics such as slight over-emphasis of the attack and compressed sound are maintained within acceptable boundaries. Just add a dash of the right reverb, and time begins to fly…Checking out the possibilities of the mixer’s parametric equalizer is an interesting experience as well. The already good basic sound can easily be processed in different directions: More richness/depth? Are you after a “HiFi nylon-string sound”? Do you prefer a slightly warmer sound or perhaps a bit muted? None of these are a problem for the Frameworks. The guitar is a true multi-function talent which willfully reacts without complaints to the smallest EQ changes. Remarkably hereby is once again the homogenous of sound and dynamics. The string-to-string balance, the volume of each single note across fingerboard, and the long sustain, are perfectly balanced and well-analyzed. The Frameworks MIDI Classical is, for electro-acoustic use, an absolutely professional instrument. Musicians with the courage to devote themselves with this unusual instrument will find their longedfor dream-instrument in both live and studio situations. In a live setting, one must always keep in mind that results depend on available amplification systems. If high quality equipment is available, the result for musicians and audience will be absolutely convincing. Jazz, Fusion and Latin guitarists, not having a puristic classical sound ideal will thoroughly enjoy the Frameworks. In any case a certain open-mindedness applies to having such an instrument.

MIDI
We are, of course, especially interested in this model’s performance when used with a guitar synthesizer. At our disposal was a Roland GR-09, which, after its connection with the special multipole cable, functioned without flaw. One of the biggest problems with guitar synthesizers is the socalled “Tracking”. The strings vibration has to be analyzed for which several amplitudes need to be detected. Accordingly the response is slightly slower with the lower notes. The Frameworks` MIDI pickup functions very well in this sense. When played cleanly, tones with very fast attacks (for ex. Piano, bass, vibraphone, trumpet, etc.) may be triggered flawlessly. The button switch on the upper side of the guitar’s body allows choosing between bank-up and bank-down modes, enabling switching sounds using the feet without having to pull the hands away from the instrument. In reality a MIDI guitar, especially a nylon-string acoustic, is not typically used to perform a piano concerto or brass sections. It’s more typical to support the electro-acoustic guitar sound with soft surface sounds of the synthesizer. One can control these with the sustain-pedal, creating a lasting chord background over which one may improvise. Strong expression solo sounds are possible, as Pat Metheny has proven time and again. Unfortunately, the flute or saxophone ROM samples in most synthesizers perform poorly in this setting. It seems logical to assume in this case that the sound choices have nothing to do with the Frameworks guitar, which was simply used as MIDI controller with which the synthetic sound was generated.

CONCLUSION
The Frameworks MIDI Classical Guitar is a professional instrument for the open-minded guitarist. Those who know how to use it will reap the highest level benefit from this guitar. The Frameworks is definitely a “niche-product”, but as such it is pioneering and ground-breaking. This is proven by its list of users, which reads like a Who’s who list of modern Jazz, Fusion and Brazil guitarists.

Andreas Schulz translation by Oded Ben-Horin



FRAMEWORKS - 7-STRING MIDI GUITAR

Another “Travel-Guitar” review. Far from it! The 7-string Frameworks nylon-string guitar is much more than a travel-guitar made for the purpose of headphone practicing. This professional instrument belongs on the stage. Frameworks guitars originate in Burghausen, located in the southern part of Germany, and have been developed and built by Frank Krocker since 1995. During this period, five different models have been created: Three nylon-string and two steel-string models. The 7-string Nylon-Guitar with MIDI support is the current technical ‘flag ship’ by Frameworks.

CONSTRUCTION
The guitar essentially consists of an extended mahogany neck with an ebony fingerboard. The Strings are tuned by machine heads located behind the bridge. This fact makes the head-piece redundant – hence the modern “Headless” design. Instead of the head-piece, one notices a device which allows the strings to be fastened to the very end of the guitar’s neck in the usual fashion for classical guitars. A saddle ensures the constant horizontal string spacing and a zero-fret ensures a comfortable action. The guitar has 22 frets, the last three of which are usable for playing the treble strings only. According to the manufacturer, this detail supports the picking hand, which has more space for free movement due to this feature. Two foam covered aluminum pipes substitute the usual guitar body. Those frames are easily attached and later removed. The lower frame is slightly smaller, a fact which provides a cutaway feeling, and makes the higher fret positions more easily accessible. Both frames are attached at a slight backwards angle in order to give the impression of some more ‘body-depth’ The built-in pickup can deliver the guitar signal in two different ways: As a common audio-signal or as MIDI-information. Using the MIDI option, the Frameworks can be connected to compatible controllers (Roland, for example). The cable is connected to the 13-pin DIN connector), which is unfortunately the standard for guitar synthesizers. For this reason, Frameworks had to use this kind of jack. If there were an alternative, Krocker would surely have chosen it instead, as these jacks aren’t really ‘road-capable’. Luckily, the player has quite a few possibilities to wrap the 13-pin cable around the guitar’s frame in order to ensure a safe connection. Behind the bridge one finds seven gold-plated machine heads made by Schaller, equipped with black ebony buttons. The routings for mounting the tuning pegs don’t run through the ‘body’, but are simply open cavities which are invisible from the backside of the guitar. Instead, here one finds the jack plate with the standard 1/4" output jack as well as the easy-to-open battery compartment.
The guitar has two volume controls as well as a toggle switch that allows for quick access to three positions: ‘Guitar Only’, ‘Guitar and Synthesizer’ or ‘Synthesizer only’. On the bottom side of the guitar one finds the Up/Down buttons the functions of which are choosing the desired synth-sounds. Two well-placed strap pins guarantee a comfortable and secure handling in upright playing positions. The craftsmanship is entirely flawless.
The Frameworks comes with a perfectly fitting gig bag which offers full protection for the disassembled guitar. The complete package is very small, light, and highly suitable for traveling.

HANDLING
Due to the existence of a seventh string, the neck is noticeably large, but is convincingly conceptualized and well shaped. Classical guitarists are used to larger guitar necks. But also steel and electric guitar players will, after a short acquaintance with the guitar, feel entirely familiar with it. The seventh string is tuned to a low B and vibrates quite powerfully, demanding higher action for the lower strings. The available test model reveals a very satisfactory solution for this: When picking the strings using the fingers, no interfering parts get in the way. All finger style techniques can immediately be played on this new instrument. Naturally, certain Flamenco techniques which include the use of soundboard tapping are, of course, not possible with the Frameworks. Using the pick I encountered some problems with the tuners, which got in the way of the right hand when trying to use certain damping-techniques. Frank Krocker explained that this is a specific detail problem with the 7-string guitar only. All other models allow for enough space to attach the tuning pegs diagonally, avoiding the described disturbance.

SOUND
The enlarged range of the low B string would have been enough to call this an inspiring instrument. The bass notes sound powerful and punchy. This extra string enables completely new chord combinations, especially in the higher positions, which are just waiting to be discovered by the player. Normally unreachable bass notes are suddenly playable due to the extra string.
The Frameworks guitar was not built for the pure acoustic sound. The instrument’s true advantage is in the live setting. The Frameworks 7 string MIDI Classical is, from an electro-acoustic and amplification perspective, an absolutely professional instrument. Its reliable and convincing guitar signal makes one sure that the guitar will function perfectly in every live situation, shiny eyes among the people behind the mixing board included. The guitar has no tone control, but I didn’t feel the need for one – there was no wish to adjust anything. The guitar’s smooth sound spans the entire fingerboard, always providing sufficient power to ‘cut through’. Those frequencies which cause irritation with other Piezo-systems seem to somehow be filtered out. Despite its Avant-garde-like look, the Frameworks has the very natural sound of a concert guitar whether played with fingers or pick. The string-to-string balance, the volume of each single note across the fingerboard, and the long sustain are well-balanced and of analytical clarity. The lack of ‘body’ means the instrument has no feedback problems at all, which guarantees problem-free use, even in loud bands.

MIDI
The built-in pickup receives each of the seven strings’ signals individually, which is absolutely necessary for the MIDI option. There are unfortunately no seven-tone controllers on the market: All readily available systems work with six MIDI channels. For the seven string guitar, this means the two lowest strings must share one single channel, with the consequence that they cannot sound simultaneously. I don’t perceive this as a disadvantage, as nobody would want to play a sequence of third intervals on the two lowest strings of a nylon string guitar, for example. The 7th string can be muted by using the push/pull function of the MIDI volume control knob. The pickup’s tracking is marvelous and the guitar is therefore perfectly suited to function as a MIDI controller.

SUMMARY
Frameworks deserves much respect for this instrument. The advantages of this seven-string instrument are its unbelievable natural sound and its great ‘playability’. The guitarist who plays nylon-string on stage could find this to be his/her dream instrument. The seventh string is a true expansion of the guitar’s possibilities, just as the MIDI option opening to/ is a doorway to the world of sampled and synthesizer sounds. The Frameworks is a professional instrument for these uses. Its price is therefore absolutely justified.

Peter Autschbach translation by Oded Ben-Horin



FRAME WORKS "MODERN CLASSIC"

Well, everyone had already agreed that the development of guitar design had reached its peak and that nothing new was expected to happen in this field. But then came the big surprise, and how! Consider just the gig bag…”Do you play the soprano saxophone?” One person asked me. “No, guitar,” I replied. He couldn’t believe me: He used to play a bit of music, and knew this much: There could not be a guitar inside that bag! Well, we opened the gig bag. Inside was a Frameworks Modern Classic. The instrument was assembled in 2 minutes. Then he said: “But that’s not a guitar”. “Yes it is,” I said, “and a great one at that.”
The basis of the Frameworks is a massive piece of mahogany. Upon it is an ebony fingerboard. If one reaches for the tuning pegs on the left side of the guitar in the usual fashion, one will not find them. The tuning pegs, in this case made by Schaller, are placed on the opposite side of the neck. The side parts, “frames”, are simply attached to the mahogany base using steel pins. The frames themselves are made of metal covered with foam rubber.
Handling the assembled instrument, one realizes how light it is. What is truly fantastic is how well the Frameworks fits one’s body. The guitarist who prefers to stand while playing will be pleased to find that the necessary strap pins are already built in. The neck has an oil finish and lies very comfortably in one’s hand. Only minutes later, one is already familiar with it, and even the musical flow seems to benefit from the design. The neck profile is slimmer than that of a classical guitar’s, but this depends on the model. A variety of models exists, but the one we’re currently dealing with is the Modern Classic which goes more in the direction of Fusion. The instrument’s handling is superb, and after not too long one feels perfectly at home with it. The acoustic sound is of course very soft, but extremely balanced, and the guitar has a beautiful, even sustain. This creates curiosity regarding the amplified results, for which the Frameworks was actually designed first and foremost.
The electric structure also enables a variety of advantages. The pickup system is made by RMC. The guitar has six separate string sensors. This division is important since the Frameworks is equipped with a “GK compatible” output jack. One can therefore connect the Frameworks to readily available guitar synthesizers without any additional equipment. This occurs by means of a market standard, built in DIN 13pin jack. The guitar also has a common !” output jack. In addition, we find two volume controls, the first of which is for the guitar signal’s volume, while the second serves the connected synthesizer system. For this purpose, we find two additional push-buttons on the bottom side of the mahogany block which can control the “Up/ Down” GK pickup function, as for example when switching programs. The Frameworks doesn’t seem to need an equalizer, making the prospect of amplified performance even more exciting.
The guitar sounds very balanced and round when used with acoustic amps. This is exactly how we imagine an acoustic guitar should sound. It’s bewildering to try and realize where the guitar gets its sound depth from. Is it necessarily a disadvantage to not have an equalizer on board? Surely not in the case of Frameworks: The instrument reacts so sensitively to personal playing styles that every nuance is immediately audible: The guitarist’s individual technique is still the best equalizer. This instrument simply supplies this unfiltered sound further. Impressing! It goes without saying that personal preferences can be supported with the help of amplifiers. And though this is true, the guitar never loses its character: A blend in which this instrument no longer sounds good is more or less impossible. The same is true for use with a PA system. Neither bass nor high frequencies are heard in excess in the foreground, and everything remains well balanced. From a technical point of view, the Frameworks is very satisfactory, and mixing engineers will love it. Can it get better? Sure it can: I connect the Frameworks to a Roland VG-88. Many cables are connected to the instrument, and both outputs are now being used. The Frameworks’ acoustic sound goes directly through the ! “ output jack into one channel, and the VG-88 is connected via the DIN 13 jack plugs into an additional one. In this situation the guitar’s possibilities are endless. During just one hour of testing time at least five usable song fragments were created. Even distortion sounds were delivered perfectly (we’re still discussing a nylon-string guitar!). The Frameworks is rightfully named Modern Classic. A Further test using a Roland GR-33 displayed incredible tracking. One is acquainted with the problems of incorrect tone recognition related to synthesizer systems from past experiences. With the Frameworks, what comes out of the loudspeaker is exactly what was played. This is probably due to the ebony fingerboard and the instrument’s previously mentioned acoustic balance. Guitarists whose past experiments with guitar synthesizers led to “bloody nose” situations will now be “cured”. The guitar is absolutely recommended for the ambitious player.
Who builds the Frameworks, though? Frameworks guitars are hand-crafted by guitar builder Frank Krocker. The concept’s many details and extravagant problem-solving speak for themselves regarding his competence. Frank Krocker built conventional guitars for many years and therefore knows the field thoroughly. My satisfaction level regarding quality is 700%, and one can safely order a Frameworks without testing or seeing it. A bit of patience may well be needed, though, due to high demand for these guitars.

THE BOTTOM LINE
Whoever believes this is a practice or travel guitar, or even a construction toy for adults is absolutely mistaken. The Frameworks is a highly professional instrument and perfectly fulfills all expectations that come with that. Whether the player is an Avant-Garde-, Fusion- or Classical guitarist, he/she will love the Frameworks. The guitar would be an easy main instrument choice for anyone. It provides many new developments and details which always benefit its sound, not to mention its cool look. Frank Krocker has absolutely turned the tables regarding the previously referred to design status quo. An anecdote about the great Segovia tells of how he used to book two flight seats: One for himself and one for his guitar. The Frameworks would be well worth the plane seat, but functions perfectly as hand-luggage, too ...

Wolfgang Weber-Terne translation by Oded Ben-Horin