- Rig Rundowns
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Who are some of your favorite players, and do they influence your designs?
Jimmy Page and Alex Lifeson are the first two guitarists whose tone I noticed. Throughout middle school I was into heavy metal and hard rock, and in high school I got my first taste of improvisational fusion music with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. This led me to guitarists like John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny, and on to David Torn, Terje Rydpal, David Fiuczynski, John Abercrombie, Paco de Lucia, and Fareed Haque. Frank Zappa was another revelation for me. These musicians influence my work as a luthier in ways I can’t begin to describe, since I often have them playing while I work. Tonally, I use them as references and will sometimes investigate their guitars and setups as a concept to work toward. But, honestly, the most influential guitarists are my clients, since the design process can be fairly intense.
Are you involved in all aspects of the building?
Yes. Currently, I’m working with apprentices who will eventually assist me in producing a range of standard designs that will be fully customizable. This will be done under my supervision, and I’ll personally complete the final details to ensure these are true Myka guitars. I’ll continue to build the fully custom guitars completely by myself.
Would you consider using CNC machines?
Well, there is a lot of controversy about CNC machines. Like all tools, they are limited, and the skill in using them lies in understanding what they can and cannot do—just like my Dupli-Carver. I have no issue with using any available technology, so long as there is a distinction in the processes between what is automated and what must be done by hand. What makes my guitars unique in the marketplace are the processes of selecting the woods, tuning the bodies to work together with the necks, and carving and tuning the tops and backs. Regardless of whether the instrument is acoustic or electric, these tasks will always be done with the skill and knowledge that can only come from an appreciation of what is pleasing to the human ear and the experience of enjoying music. The only machine capable of that is the human body. A machine can certainly help get to the point where this important work begins.
What do you think about the Plek fret-leveling machine?
Actually, I think extensive fretwork is unnecessary on a new instrument. After reading the many chapters on leveling frets in every guitar- making book, it occurred to me that the problem was not with the frets, but with the generally accepted way that necks are built. Over the last six years, I have spent my time perfecting my neck processes and have achieved zero fret buzz without ever leveling the fret surfaces. I simply dress the fret ends and polish them. When this is done, the fretboard is stable and straight and is predictable under string tension. So, the Plek machine seems redundant.
What are your favorite woods and why?
For electrics and archtop electrics, I love to use claro walnut for the tops. It is such a gorgeous wood and has this dark tonality that appeals to me musically. Another favorite is korina, because of its rich midrange tones that are perfect for that classic carved-top sound. Paired with a nice set of humbuckers or a good P-90, korina just sings. I also love to use rosewood necks for my electrics. Matched with a resonant body, a rosewood neck brings a complexity of tone that is hard to describe. I recently acquired some Brazilian Kingwood that was imported in 1929, and this wood is fast becoming one of my favorites.
What is it about the Kingwood that you’re digging so much?
I have a collection of Brazilian rosewood fingerboards, and I hear the same complexity of tone during my tap test. The deep low end is there, along with excellent sustain and that crisp, glassy top end that Brazilian is known for. In a blind tap test, I am not sure I could tell the difference—it’s that good!