Building a solid body electric saz

The project

Every now and then a project comes along that is quite different and presents me with a fresh set of challenges. So I was interested when in mid-2017 I was approach by Sal Ormandji, a saz player, about building a solid body electric saz.

To be honest, I didn’t know what a saz is. But I have learnt a lot about this Turkish instrument over the last year, mainly with the help of Sal. Sal is a very good player and has been playing for many years.

Many saz players now play what is essentially a traditional acoustic saz, but one has been modified to accept pickups. Sal’s idea was to build a solid body electric saz, and add some other features that are not normally found on a traditional saz. This included fret-wire. A traditional saz does have fret markers, but plastic chord is used not fret-wire.

Design stage

As a graphic designer, Sal helpfully came to me with scale drawing and clear plans of what he wanted. After some initial discussion I put together a build specification and a price for the work. We then agreed to go ahead with the building of a solid body electric saz.

There were certain aspects of this project that were new to me and had to be properly thought through before I started work. The shape and style of a saz neck is very different from anything I have built before. But I was able to take measurements from from the neck of Sal’s saz and replicate that. Also, the fret positions on a saz are totally different from anything I am used to, partially because Turkish music includes quarter notes.  Sal and I also spent a lot of time discussing the aspects of this build that would make the instrument distinctly different from a traditional saz. But it was also important that saz players felt immediately comfortable playing this solid body electric saz.

Completion of the build

When the build was finished, and Sal came to collect the instrument, I recorded us discussing the project and various aspects of the build process. At the end of the video Sal plays the instrument. So if you haven’t heard a saz played before, watch the video (or skip to the end!)

In all, I enjoyed working on this project. It was also good to bring to life a concept that Sal had had in mind for a while.