Show Us Your Gear: #1 Guitars
The BB-9, Custom-built by Jim Mouradian
The attached photographs are of my main guitar, a custom-made instrument that I designed and named the BB-9 (as in “Be Benign”). One of the design inspirations was the Nuno Bettencourt Signature N-2 (inexpensive model), but with every material, dimension, and piece of hardware chosen by me. My guitar was built by Massachusetts luthier Jim Mouradian in 1991-2.
The overarching design principle was that the new guitar would be a Gibson blues guitar at heart (24 3/4” scale) in a no-holds-barred rock configuration (read state-of-the-art whammy, locking tuners, a flat fingerboard with big frets, and powerful pickups). I drew up the design (attached), outlined the design specifications, and assembled all of the pieces and parts. The neck combines the characteristics of my three favorite guitars (ES-335, Explorer, Steinberger GL-2T) and was manufactured by Hosono Guitars in California. The body is koa, which, with the short scale, maintains a percussive attack with a very warm overall tone. The pickups are an EMG 81 (bridge) and dual-mode EMG 89 (neck) with an EMG onboard gain preamp and active tone circuit for variable, simultaneous high/low boost and mid-range attenuation. While the guitar was designed for the humbuckers the single coil with EQ boost creates an absolutely beautiful rhythm sound. It features a Kahler Spyder with auto-latch, Sperzel locking tuners and graphite nut for a flawless full-on vibrato system. Jim Mouradian constructed the BB9 over a four-day period in December 1991 (finishing touches in Spring 1992). Having played the completed instrument for almost 20 years, it is still my main guitar and still plays splendidly. The guitar has a wide variety of tones with excellent attack, and it is perfectly matched to my Super Reverb. In addition to excellent lead tones, I also wanted a very detailed clean tone, a characteristic normally associated with the higher string tension of long scale instruments. However the hard Koa body of the BB9 dramatically improves the clean sound of the short scale: with a single coil in the neck position and a bit of EQ, the BB9 sounds almost “electro-acoustic”, a great tone! The BB9 is a truly versatile instrument, covering the sonic spectrum from almost acoustic-quality clean tones to scorching high gain, humbucking tones. - Charles Smith