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Rock'n'Roll with Amber

"The Black Amber Drop #1" is created by a Lithuanian industrial designer and musician Rapolas Gražys. Rapolas is a professional product designer focusing on an interdisciplinary approach to sound and design. After born and raised in a family of well-known modern and conceptual artists R. Gražys started to create in a field of design. After creating high-end audio designs, worldwide conceptual and interactive art installations, futuristic technology concepts he started to specialize in one of a kind product creation - boutique section. The LAVA trademark was founded by him on the principle of cross pollination between the fields of acoustics and modern instruments design concepts crafted using very authentic materials.

R. Gražys wanted to build a guitar that connects the past and the future while also giving a nod to his home of Lithuania, where black amber from the Baltic Sea is harvested. The construction of the guitar is a single seamless piece of Sapele for the body and neck with an ebony fretboard and 24-3/4” scale length. The neck has a truss rod that is reinforced by two rods of carbon fiber. The Sapele has been routed out in the body to house the 4.4 pounds of Baltic black amber, with a 5mm rim around the inlaid amber rocks. Baltic amber is over 45 million years old, produced by the Pine trees which grew in Northern Europe and around the Baltic Sea. It is also considered by many to have therapeutic properties due to its high level of succinic acid, a compound said to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. The fact that the Baltic amber is millions of years old is humbling to say the least when you pick this instrument up to play. The guitar as an instrument is a joy to play, with a very fast and striking response to notes and chords, likely from the rigidity of the amber. The neck has a rounded neck profile, with large frets that give way to fast riffing. The pickups are Lace Alumitone humbuckers, and rounding out the looks of this one of a kind guitar are gold hardware, and a 24 karat golden plated Lava Guitars headstock logo.

When/how did you start making guitars and how many have you created?

In my early youth when I was 12 years old I started to learn playing guitar. Since that time it has been an integral part of my daily life. While playing guitar I was always interested in producing this instrument and I accumulated sufficient knowledge about it. I made the first guitar as a final design project when I was a student of Vilnius Academy of Art. It was a fretless neck guitar inspired by instruments of Eastern countries. Its properties allowed getting microtonal sound; it was the first LAVA guitar. Later I designed the whole series of innovative electric guitars called “Lava Drops”. These are the series of handmade electric string instruments that were made of rare materials that give specific sound, tone, distinctive and convenient design.

Lava Drops line basically consists of 3 different models that could be adjusted by request. Models are made of solid wood case that is reinforced by carbon fiber that gives a sustained note sound. The first MIDI laser controlled guitar in the world “Lava Drop X“ is among these models. It is made of especially durable wood used for construction of ships, aircraft aluminium contours and lava stone incrustations.

Now it is difficult to tell an exact number of guitars I have created; anyway, only few are produced per year because it takes from 4-5 months to one year to make an instrument. Much attention is drawn to selecting materials and details, and the most important is the fact that instruments are handmade.

Black Amber Drop #1 is a unique guitar made of amber. How using amber for guitar design is different from other projects? What challenges did you overcome?

“The Black Amber Drop #1” is my greatest challenge for the whole time I’ve been engaged in designing guitars. Because of my Lithuanian origin I wanted to make an instrument that would be directly related to my native region located on the Baltic seaside and present it to the international music industry. I have searched for material that would both reflect that wish and would have a clear and intense sound. For this project I chose unique black amber that was turned into a solid 2 kg structure and could be seen through both sides of the guitar case.

Amber is considered a curing and calming material. I wanted this instrument to have not only a distinctive sound, but also a deeper meaning.

“The Black Amber Drop #1” case is made of a rare Sapele wood solid case reinforced by carbon fiber. The edge of the guitar case is covered by 5 mm thick binding made of the same wood. The instrument neck is made of Ebony wood that is used for producing classic instruments.

A combination of a soft wooden and harsh sound of black amber creates sound balance and coherence of tones. The sound and note sustain became very long and intense. The highest quality pickups that allow getting 3 different timbres were used for the guitar. Locking tuners were also used. And the top feature is a gilded Lava logo.

This guitar is the first instrument in “Lava Platinum collection”. Each instrument in this line will be made of very rare materials with a unique history and sound.

Have you worked with amber before in other projects?

I have worked with amber in several design and conceptual jewellery projects.

The Black Amber Drop #1 is the first case when I used amber for producing musical instruments.

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