The amoeba-like Giannini Craviola may be somewhat of a curiosity here in the USA, but the company has deep roots back to 1900, when Italian luthier Tranquillo Giannini established an acoustic-guitar factory in his beloved Brazil. The Giannini family still runs the operation, blending Tranquillo’s age-old techniques with modern technology, design, and production. That said, the Craviola line—which includes nylon-string, steel-string, and electric solidbody models—looks decidedly Renaissance, as if a cittern or lute maker around 1500 had imbibed too much mead and set about to craft a “new concept in stringed instruments.” It’s certainly an eye-catching silhouette.
Its unique shape also makes the Craviola very easy to play. It sits comfortably on your thigh when you play sitting down, and the sloped cutaway allows access to the high frets whether you’re seated or standing. The neck is wide and meaty, which I liked, and it always felt quite comfy, whether I was strumming chords or playing single-note lines. The setup out of the box was very good. The Craviola’s compact size and light weight are also advantages, as I think it would make a perfect “to go” instrument for traveling.
Sonically, the pure acoustic tone of the Craviola is somewhat bright and tinny. When played along with ukuleles and mandolins, those smaller-sized instruments tended to project bigger, clearer, and more balanced tones. Now, there are very good uses for thin, steel-y acoustics when layering Phil Spector-style “walls of jangle” (a la “My Sweet Lord”), texturizing acoustic tones under overdriven electric parts, and other situations where you want to present different tonal spectrums. But I wouldn’t reach for the Craviola for a purely solo-acoustic performance or for fingerpicked acoustic parts.
However, thanks to some electro-acoustic voodoo by the Fishman Isys+ preamp, the Craviola completely redeems itself when plugged into a good acoustic amp. It’s like magic. I used a Fender Acoustasonic, and the resulting tone was rich, balanced, and articulate—even before I started messing with the preamp’s EQ. For darker tones, I turned the Treble knob down, which is cool, because that type of dusky woodiness is not possible when the Craviola is in pure acoustic mode. I can’t stress enough that this guitar must be plugged in to unlock its tonal goodies. Another benefit is that the guitar’s articulation when electrified handles effects very nicely. So if you like playing ambient acoustic parts with reverb and/or delay, or enjoy crafting expanded jangle through a chorus, or just dig getting trippy with a touch of overdrive, the Craviola is a good partner.
Giannini has manufactured Craviola models since the 1960s, so I guess I was late to the party, as I hadn’t seen one until it landed at the GP office. But I’m glad I finally met this instrument, because it’s a lightweight, ergonomic, and good-sounding acoustic-electric for house concerts, coffee shops, and busking gigs.
MODEL Craviola GSCRA-36 CEQ N
PRICE $459 street
NUT WIDTH 1.69"
NECK Nato, Dual-action trussrod
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 22 27/32" scale
TUNERS Die-cast chrome
BODY Mahogany back and sides, Sitka spruce top
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir Coated Phosphor Bronze, .012-.053
PREAMP Fishman Isys+
CONTROLS Volume, Bass, Treble, Phase, Tuner
WEIGHT 3.56 lbs
KUDOS Lightweight. Excellent electric tone. Easy to Play. Great for traveling musicians.
CONCERNS Thin acoustic tone.