Avante Gryphon - Tobacco Burst

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Veillette Gryphon 12-String SetVeillette Gryphon 12-String Set

John Sebastian & The Gryphon 12 String

The veteran American songwriter and blues-folk legend visits the Veillette workshop in Woodstock, NY 2016.

Veillette Guitars, led by veteran luthier Joe Veillette, has established a international reputation for innovation and excellence with an astonishing canon of limited-run, high-quality, hand-crafted instruments that deliver exceptional playability and unique tonal range. Informed by Joe's 40 year career as a engineer, master craftsman and performer and developed through his willingness to play with scale lengths and string tensions, the self-styled "king of weird sh*t" has rightfully earned his moniker as the driving force behind a product line that includes some of the world's most inventive acoustic designs.

But whilst his guitars are certainly unconventional, Joe forgoes the esoteric body shapes and overt ornamentation typical of the high-end market, favouring an exquisitely beautiful simplicity and utility that clearly expresses his ethos that musical instruments function first and foremost as performance and creative tools, rather than merely eye-candy.

It is through this dedicated, down-to-earth approach (shared by AndE Chase and Martin Keith, Joe's co-conspirators at his workshop in Woodstock, NY) that Veillette has garnered such immense worldwide acclaim and attracted a devoted roster of A-list clients that includes artists as diverse as Steve Miller, James Taylor, Ani DiFranco, Mike Gordon of Phish, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Aerosmith's Joe Perry & Brad Whitford, Todd Rundgren, Earl Slick, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, Kaki King, Neil Schon and Manowar's Joey DiMaio.

Of course, such sumptuously crafted instruments inevitably come with a price tag well north of the reach of many guitarists, which is why The Acoustic Centre is so pleased to be the exclusive UK representative of the brand new Avante imprint - serious guitars, of professional quality, priced for the working musician.

Manufactured in Korea under exclusive license, these instruments don't just look like a Veillette guitar, they truly perform like one. Every single element - from the bracing, frets, and neck shape to the control locations and pickup type - has been guided by Joe Veillette's meticulous eye for detail, ensuring that Avante guitars retain the unique characteristics of their premium, bespoke namesakes, whilst collecting their versatility, tonality and personality into a far more affordable package.

Have Fun. Be Inspired... The Avante Gryphon®

Launching the new range is the Avante Gryphon, a production remix of one of Veillette Guitars' most charming and beloved designs. A travel sized, 18.5" scale, 12-string guitar with an eye-catching, clean, modern profile, the Gryphon - in solid Spruce and Mahogany - is played just like a regular guitar but may very well be one of the most exciting, fun and inspirational instruments you will you ever play.

Courtesy of its ultra short scale and custom string gauges, the Gryphon is tuned to high D (equivalent to the 10th fret of a standard guitar) and delivers a lush, colourful, mandolin-like sound with a shimmering, naturally chorused top end character. Its celestial, sparkling highs - combined with a rich, pronounced mid-register - give this diminutive instrument a unique cut and punch that will shine in an unusually wide range of applications. Guitarists will love the ability to immediately play mandolin-style parts in a new high register without learning a new tuning, whilst mandolin players will be thrilled at the opportunity to explore guitar-like, finger-style patterns in a mandolin tonality and range.

The unison courses of the Gryphon and its rich natural chorus and depth also allow it to excel as an guitarist-ready alternative to other traditional folk instruments like the bouzouki, mandocello, oud and Cuban tres and cuatro, with its powerful rhythm "chop" making it a perfect fit in contemporary rock & pop styles.

Equipped with a piezo transducer and active preamp, the Gryphon is equally at home amped-up on stage, in the studio, or in the most intimate unplugged setting,

As with all of Joe Veillette's instruments, the Avante Gryphon is endlessly rewarding and heaps of fun to play... its intriguing textures and tones - with no learning curve - provide a wonderful tool for guitarists interested in playing mandolin and octave mandolin parts without learning different fingerings, and an perfect opportunity for all fretted-instrument musicians seeking to expand their creative horizons.

As a versatile, songwriting partner, for doubling or layering in the studio or to add a unique, sparkling tonal personality to any performance environment, the Avante Gryphon is guaranteed to inspire and enchant. Totally road ready in its included overhead-friendly, custom-fitted soft case (a thing of beauty in itself), the Gryphon makes an ideal travel companion.

Handcrafted under exclusive license, The Avante Gryphon features...

  • Solid Spruce Top
  • Solid Mahogany Back and Sides
  • Mahogany Neck
  • Real Bone Nuts and Saddles
  • Rosewood Fingerboard and Bridge
  • Piezo Transducer with Active Preamp
  • 18.125" (46cm) Scale
  • 32.125" (81.6cm) Overall length
  • Choice of Clear, Tobacco Burst or Vintage Mahogany Finishes
  • Complete with Custom Veillette Soft Case

 Avante Gryphon by Veillette Guitars

 Tuning  D to D (10 frets higher than standard guitar tuning)
 Body  Solid Sapele Mahogany
 Top  Solid Sitka Spruce
 Finish  Choice of Clear, Tobacco Burst or Vintage Mahogany Gloss
 Neck  Mahogany
 Binding  Ebony
 Fingerboard  Rosewood
 Frets  21 (13 to Body) + Zero Fret
 Fret Markers  Side Dots Only
 Bridge  Rosewood
 Tuners  Black Chrome Mini Hipshot
 Pickup  Piezo Transducer + Active Preamp with Volume & Tone Controls in Soundhole
 Scale Length  46.04 cm (18.125")
 Nut Width  4.92 cm (1.94")
 String Spacing @ Bridge  6.05 cm (2.375")
 Overall Length  81.6 cm (32.125")
 Body Length  38.42 cm (15.125")
 Upper Bout  22.23 cm (8.75")
 Lower Bout  32.07 cm (12.625")
 Body Depth @ Neck Heel  7.3 cm (2.875")
 Body Depth @ Tail Block  9.05 cm (3.5625")
 Extras  Custom Fitted Veillette Soft Case included

The Veillette Avante Gryphon

Sam Wise gets to grips with an unusual 12-string guitar from Jow Veillette that sits somewhere between a mandolin and a bouzouki and is - dare we say it - rather cute...

  Sam Wise | Acoustic Magazine | January 2016

Joe Veillette started out as half of Veillette-Citron, an unlikely union of two architects building high end electric guitars in 1976. After pioneering baritone guitars, neck-through body construction and high-strung guitars, their partnership ended in 1983, and after various ventures mostly in bass guitar building, Joe formed Veillette Guitars in 1994. For a long time, he stuck with custom building, which is still a key part of the business, but more recently, he's gone the foreign manufacturing route, overseeing the building of baritone and high-strung guitars in Asia under the Avante name. Avante offers no standard guitars at all; finding itself a niche market with six- and 12-string baritones, and this, the Gryphon, a short scale 12 string tuned D to D, as though a standard guitar were capoed at the 10th fret. 

To a guitar reviewer who gets to see a lot of identikit, mid market, Martin-alike guitars, the Gyphon is a breath of fresh air. We defy you to pull it out of its custom case without thinking 'This is cute!' because it really is. Dinky in size, unusual in shape and styling, and short of neck, the Gryphon doesn't look like anything you've got hung on your wall. For a £1,000 guitar, it's notably short on adornment; the heavily offset solid sitka top is bound in plain black, and there is no decoration around the twin offset soundholes. The back and sides are sapele, not especially figured, and the heel-less, bolt on neck is mahogany. The rosewood fingerboard has 21 frets, at least on the treble side (the diagonal fingerboard end only allows the top fret to cover the four highest strings), but no dot position markers, while the trademark swooping headstock, with its 12 black chrome closed back tuners, only has a rosewood faceplate and a silk screened logo. None of this is to say that the little Veillette looks or feels cheap, however. 

Everything about it, from the chunky, super short scale neck to the zero fret and those unbranded tuners, feels quality. It simply seems like a matter of priorities. For all that this is a fascinaLing piece of kit, it's always going to be niche, and if the numbers are small, and the quality is high, something has to give. The truth is that Veillette's custom instruments are similarly unadorned - it's simply not his style. It's evident, however, that even though nothing is branded, the Gryphon is built to a standard that reflects its price. Even the unnamed pickup and preamp match the quality of the rest of the instrument. 

Simply put, the Gryphon doesn't sound quite like anything else. The unison tuned courses and the range in which it is tuned lend it a mandolin-like air, but you can't play the sort of chords on a mandolin that you can on this. It has the air of a bouzouki, perhaps, with those low notes, but again a full complement of six courses lets you go places that these similar instruments can never go. With such a high tuning and 12 strings, you might expect a bit of a fight out of the Gryphon, but it's beautifully set up and barely requires more effort than a regular six string. It can be a little cramped when playing certain chords at the nut, but once you get up the neck there is no issue. The top end chimes wonderfully, a combination of there being nearly an octave above what you're used to, and the doubling of the strings (it's almost tempting to detune one ever so slightly for a tremolo effect). 

As you come down through the midrange, the tone beefs up, though of course never enough to sound like a regular six or even 12 string. It's taut sounding and punchy, and you can't help wondering how it would sound with octave-tuned low strings, though physics would make this a difficult task to achieve. It's interestingly difficult to know-what to play on an instrument that's equal parts familiar and alien: it's almost impossible to put it down, but running through your favourite songs is a mixed bag. Most songs. played as you would on a regular guitar, won't feel right, but in our experience. you'll come across the odd one that sounds utterly transformed. 

More fun is to be had by treating it as an instrument unto itself; sit and play, and see what music comes through your fingers. Even better, sit with a regular guitarist, and find some new ways into old songs; the combinations of shapes, voicings and timbres is fascinating. Plugged in, the Gryphon is much as it is unplugged. One of the benefits of such a high-tuned instrument is that voicing the pickup must be relatively simple. 

It would be easy to say it's not for everyone, but you know, it just might be, as long as you don't expect it to do a 'normal guitar' job. If you've already got a good six-string that you love, try one of these before you supplement it with anything else – it's very likely to win your heart.

The best summary here is that we couldn't put the Gryphon down, and when we did, we were soon picking it up again. It's a fascinating little instrument, easy to play, yet challenging and intriguing, and it was only here for a matter of hours before we were plotting what we could sell to buy one.

Acoustic Test Results

  • Pros: Jangly and adorable
  • Cons: Rather niche and pricey
  • Overall: We're in love

Acoustic Rating

  • Sound Quality: ★★★★★
  • Build Quality: ★★★★☆
  • Value for Money: ★★★★☆

5 Stars: Superb, almost faultless • 4 Stars: Excellent, hard to beat



Veillette Avante Gryphon 12

  Art Thompson | Guitar Player Magazine | June 2015

The yearning to create more chiming textures has traditionally led many guitarists straight to the mandolin. But the obvious hurdle to making the transition from guitar to mando is that fact that the latter is tuned in fifths (like a violin) instead of (mostly) fourths, like a guitar. It's a whole new thing, and when you throw in the mandolin's four courses (8 strings), narrow neck, and tight fret spacing, the transition gets even tougher.

Some years back, Joe Veillette introduced an acoustic-electric instrument called the Gryphon that was designed to deliver some of that mando-style magic, but in a form that would be way easier for guitar players to grok. A compact 12-string with a wide neck and an 18.5" scale fretboard, the Gryphon was tuned like a guitar, but with the outside pairs pitched D to D. It totally did the hightuned sonic trick, while feeling very familiar to the fingers, and the only downside was its $4,000-plus price tag — a show stopper for a lot of players. Fast forward to 2015, and the Gryphon Avante hits the scene to change all that.

Built in Korea to Veillette's exacting standards, the Avante features solid mahogany back and sides and a solid spruce top. The 18.5"-scale mahogany bolt-on neck plays well thanks to its generous width and expert setup. And with a zero fret assisting the intonation, the Avante sounds tuneful throughout its short fretboard, making for sweet sounding chords anywhere you finger them.

Cosmetically the Avante is fairly austere, but its gloss-finished body is trimmed in black binding and there are inlaid black stripes at the front of the cutaway and the tail. The neck wears a smooth satin finish and the peghead has a gloss black overlay. The smoked chrome tuners with black buttons are a nice touch, and the only position markers are on the side of the rosewood fretboard.

The electronics consist of an undersaddle piezo pickup that feeds a preamp with Volume and Tone controls, which are mounted just inside the upper soundhole. Power is supplied by a 9-volt battery that resides in a quick-release holder located below the endpin jack.

Despite its compact dimensions (32.5" long x 12" wide x 3" deep), the Gryphon Avante 12 delivers a robust acoustic sound and has no problem being heard alongside full-sized flat-tops and other stringed instruments. It's inviting to play, and its high chiming tone is instantly inspiring, making it ideal for Americana, folk, and other styles where alternative instruments are de rigueur.

The Avante's electronics enhance its flexibility when performing live, and help to make this unique instrument a real boon for guitarists who occasionally need to take the instrumental high road in their band, as well as anyone else who seeks an easy way to twang in the mando zone.


The Veillette Avante Gryphon

  Joe Gore | Premier Guitar Magazine | March 2015

Session players - especially ones who do lots of soundtrack and jingle work - often carry a double course instrument to imitate various folk instruments. If they play the right notes with the right inflection, they can use a single axe to mimic Italian or bluegrass mandolin, Cuban tres, Greek bouzouki, Turkish cümbüs, Puerto Rican cuatro, various Middle Eastern lutes, or any other high-tuned instrument with double strings. The same instrument might also double standard acoustic for a 12-string or Nashville high-strung effect. 

One cool upscale option for a do-it-all double-course/high-strung axe is the Veillette Gryphon — a small-bodied, short-scale 12-string tuned like a standard guitar, but transposed up a minor 7th (equivalent to having a capo at the 10th fret). Gryphons sound, feel, and look great. They record like a dream, and they spare players from grappling with non-guitar tunings. The only catch has been their price: a hand-built Gryphon will set you back over four grand. 

Which brings us to the new Avante Gryphon.. a CNC-constructed, Korean-made version that sells for a relatively modest $1,495. 

Let's Get High

The Avante Gryphon is a cute little critter with a smooth, deep cutaway and a pair of boomerang-shaped soundholes. With an overall length of 32.5", it roughly splits the size difference between guitar and mandolin. Its 21 frets are more closely spaced than on a guitar, but roomier than on a mandolin. I suspect most players without unusually fat Angers will get around comfortably. 

By necessity, the Gryphon is neck-heavy - after all, it requires 12 quality tuners and a sizeable headstock to house them. (The headstock's length is more than half that of the entire fretboard.) But the instrument is still light overall, and the body's shape places your picking-hand elbow in a good anchoring position, both playing and standing. Some players may need a bit of practice before they feel at home on the Gryphon, but most will sail smoothly before long.

The instrument has me feel of a quality CNC guitar. The body's spruce and mahogany are attractive and evenly grained beneath an immaculate gloss finish. The neck's relatively high width-to-length ratio may feel odd at first, yet its silky matte finish and 1 15/16" nut width are comfy-cozy. A modest volute provides a stabilizing thumb perch. It's equally easy to play speedy single-note mandolin-style runs and big strummed chords. I even found the neck wide enough for intricate fingersryle Stuff, though players with bigger hands may not agree. 

Overall, the Gryphon sounds great... No, make that exquisite.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Guitar

Sonically, the Gryphon is a kissing cousin to a fine mandolin, but with a more mass. Notes leap from the instrument with a percussive, midrange-forward snap. Obviously, the small body doesn't move many lows, at least at the recommended D-G-C-F-A-D tuning (that is, nearly an octave above standard). But notes have body, warmth, and no trace of cheapo plywood "plinkiness." But the most beguiling facet of the Glyphon's tone - at least for doubling/ overdubbing purposes - is its glistening, bell-like high end. I can't think of a better way to powder a track with magic fairy dust. Or grease it with enchanted elf oil. Or marinate it in mystic leprechaun juice. It's twinkle, twinkle for days. 

With a range extending a fourth below that of a mandolin (or a fifth if you drop the low D pair to C), the Gryphon is a surprisingly satisfying solo instrument. Unlike a standard-tuned 12-string, which has octave pairs on the lower courses and unisons on the upper ones, all six Gryphon courses are unisons. This sidesteps a frequent problem with playing melodies on 12-srring: the jarring timbral contrast between the unison second course and octave third course. Linear melodies are more idiomatic to the Gryphon than co a standard 12-string. 

Intonation Celebration

The Gryphon also wins high marks for playing in tune. It certainly intonates better than any of the janky mandolins, cuatros, and other folk instruments I've wrestled in the studio over the years. (Good tuners help.) And man, does it track well! The day I received the review model I had a recording session for a video game franchise whose name I can't mention yet. The score emphasizes acoustic instruments, and the Gryphon seemed to slot right in wherever we tried it. It sounded glorious through a pair of high-end, small-condenser Schoeps mics.

Meanwhile, I recorded this prelude from Bach's G major cello suite on a mobile rig when I was home for the holidays...

The Gryphon still sounds nice through the modest internal mic and relatively noisy preamp of a Line 6 VX Port Pro. The Gryphon also includes a built-in piezo mie/preamp that lees you plug in via the endpin jack.

The Verdict

Not everyone can afford $1,495 for a once-in-a-while flavor, however delicious, but for creative players the Gryphon may be more than an occasional color. It excels as a solo instrument, and even more so as a doubling/orchestrating tool. This boldly imagined axe is well made, ultra-playable and extremely useful. The Gryphon is a shimmering acoustic gem.


Game Changer?

  Pete Prown | Vintage Guitar Magazine | March 2015

People bandy about the term "game changer" so often these days it barely means a thing, but the Avante Gryphon may be just that.

Avante is the import line of Joe Veillette, who has long been crafting fine American guitars. His new Korean-made line presents the package in a range affordable to most players. 

In a sense, the Gryphon is a hybrid instrument in that it can be applied in many ways. Certainly, one can use it as a higher-register 12-string; its shorter scale and smaller body create a heavenly "soprano guitar" effect with a shimmering top end and much less bass than a standard 12. On the other hand, being tuned D to D, it's a potential secret weapon for guitarists looking to add mandolin-like sounds to their repertoire, as it projects in a similar range. 

The Gryphon has a solid spruce top, solid mahogany back and sides, and a mahogany neck. The fingerboard and bridge are rosewood, and there are 21 frets (including a zero fret for better intonation). Its scale length is 18.5" and overall length is 32.5" - perfect size for a travel guitar. 

In performance, the Gryphon exceeded expectations. Thanks to light tuners, the instrument balanced very well on the lap. The setup was excellent and made the neck (a shallow D profile) easy to play. The Gryphon has a very bright, brash tone - again, much like a mandolin - and should cut through any acoustic mix.

Plugging into a P.A. or acoustic amp via the onboard preamp opens up new universes, and for controls there are Volume and Tone thumbwheels just inside the rim of the Gryphon's top soundhole. Add a few sweet effects (reverb, chorus, compression, etc.), and the Gryphon becomes a positively ethereal 12-string. It's easy to imagine solo guitarists from the Michael Hedges, Adrian Legg, or Andy McKee schools going wild over its sound and sonic possibilities.

Further, world-music players will note that the Gryphon serves as an alternative to traditional folk instruments such as the bouzouki, mandocello, and Cuban tres and cuatro. And for studio recording, you can double a standard acoustic guitar part with the Gryphon and mix it back slightly for a mysterious treble shimmer, much like the classic "Nashville tuning." 

In this day and age when young guitarists are constantly reinventing the instrument, it's easy to see how the Gryphon might be a tool of sonic evolution.


A Hybrid Lives Up to Its Name

  Adam Perlmutter | Acoustic Guitar Magazine | January 2015

Any guitarist who’s ever attempted to double on the mandolin knows that this isn’t an easy proposition. The mandolin might look like a tiny archtop guitar, but, tuned in perfect fifths, it’s more closely related to the violin. And transferring from an instrument tuned in fourths (and a major third) - the standard guitar tuning - to one in fifths is like learning a new language.

With more than four decades of experience as a guitar builder, the Woodstock-based master luthier Joe Veillette (pronounced "vay-ett") created the Gryphon, an instrument that grants guitarists easy access to mandolin-like effects. Named after the mythical beast that’s part lion and part eagle, the asymmetrical Gryphon is a small 12-string that’s tuned like a standard guitar, but a minor seventh higher, from D to D, with six unison string courses.

Until recently, a new Gryphon cost more than $4,000, but now Veillette offers a Korean-made version at less than half that price. From the all-solid-wood mahogany and Sitka spruce construction to the single bolt neck system, the Avante model boasts the same features as its U.S. counterpart.

The Gryphon, like all instruments by Veillette, is a study in restraint. There are no position markers on the rosewood fretboard, only side dots, and the twin soundholes have no binding or rosette work. And it’s nicely built, with perfect fretwork and a smooth glossy finish that’s free from imperfections.

It’s a pleasure to play the Gryphon. The 18.5-inch-scale neck gives the fretting fingers more room to move around than a mandolin neck, typically with a scale of just under 14 inches. The action is low and agreeable, and it’s as easy to fret barre chords on the instrument as it is to play brisk single-note runs.

The sound of the Gryphon is a revelation. As promised, it does have the midrange punch, crystalline highs, and shimmering quality of a good mandolin. In many recording and performing situations, it would be an appropriate substitute for a mandolin. But, given the guitar-based tuning, the Gryphon is more harmonically flexible, and it can transform even the most basic guitar chord grips into something empyrean - a sound that amplifies well thanks to the built-in under-saddle piezo and custom-voiced preamp.

At around $1,500 street, the Avante Gryphon is not necessarily a bargain for an imported instrument, but it would be a definite boon for the guitarist looking to expand his or her tonal palette without learning a new instrument.

Kyle Esposito - The Gryphon Unplugged & Amplified


From AcousticProMusician.com

From Martin Keith

Joe Veillette at Winter NAMM 2014

Joe Gore performs the prelude from Bach's G major cello suite

Joe Veillette from his workshop 2015

Tom Culbertson

Average Rating (3 Reviews):  
Write a Review and share your opinions!

A miracle instrument
Saturday, 29 October 2016  | 

You can only love this guitar!

A miracle instrument for dreamers! Thank you.

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Cute lute!
Friday, 6 November 2015  | 

Very impressed with this little guitar. Well-made and sounds wonderful. I am especially happy about the tuners, which feel very smooth with a high gear ratio to allow very accurate adjustments to the unison strings.

My own personal preference for looser strings and the range of my singing voice made me de-tune the guitar from D down to Bb which now puts it right where I would normally use a capo on a regular guitar.

Very pleased with this purchase and my experience at Acoustic Centre. Many thanks!

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Thursday, 5 November 2015  | 

Just received the Veillette Avante Gryphon today. I much appreciated the free EU postage with UPS who delivered to this little corner of the world very quickly.

The instrument itself is wonderful. The wound strings are a bit heavier gauge than I like but I can change that myself. This is a beautiful, quirky piece that will be a great creative inspiration in the years to come. Many thanks!!! I am very happy with all aspects of this purchase.

BTW... You have Brian May to thank for bringing my attention to this special guitar. I saw him with it on his site demonstrating a mic clamp and immediately knew I had to try this little 12-string.

Dave Thomas Estonia


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