Before you start choosing those finish and hardware options for your new axe, did you make sure your guitar’s neck angle feels right?
One of the most overlooked design considerations of electric guitar construction is the angle (aka incline) of the neck in relation to the body. This angle is typically called “pitch" (not to be confused with the frequency of notes) and is expressed in degrees. And despite its quiet existence on every one of your guitars, it's a technical feature that drives many aspects of an instrument's design.
To visualize neck pitch, think of an upright bass. This instrument—along with the cello, violin, and viola—has an extreme and obvious neck angle that puts the strings' contact point on the bridge high above the body. The result is a large amount of downward pressure on the bridge, and therefore the instrument's top. (Think of it like an archer drawing an arrow back on his or her bow.) Builders discovered centuries ago that the downward pressure increased vibration transfer and enhanced volume and tone. To a degree, early guitar-like instruments followed this discipline for the exact same reasons it's used on orchestral instruments.
In the 1930s, electric pickups began appearing on guitars to take advantage of developments in electronic amplification. On guitars with lots of neck pitch, designers had to fashion ways to mount the pickups near the strings, especially as the addition of a “bridge pickup" became common. The size of the pickup sometimes required a hole to be routed in the guitar's top if the strings were too close to the body. On a solid guitar with 3 to 5 degrees of neck pitch, the strings pass over the pickup's face at an angle—closer at the neck side than the bridge side. Beveling the plastic surrounds used to mount humbuckers mitigated this. So, you can see that this pitch thing is already affecting other parts of the instrument.
As electric guitars began to be commoditized in the late '40s and early '50s, builders like Fender and Rickenbacker sought to streamline their production process in any way possible. One way to save money was to eliminate the angled-neck feature, which was time consuming—and therefore expensive—to execute. To gain clearance for pickups and bridge height, Rickenbacker raised the entire neck (while still parallel to the body), whereas Fender chose to bury the pickups and design a low-slung bridge.
The two companies also came up with different strategies for increasing the downward pressure at the bridge. In an inspired move, Fender sent the string ends downward through the body, whereas Rickenbacker inserted the bridge base into the body and later adopted a large trench rout that put the tailpiece lower than the bridge. In both of these cases, the remedy to one problem created a design paradigm that still exists today. Believe me when I say that it's easier to hog out more wood than to construct a complex, angled neck joint—which is why so many builders do it.
Another side effect of pronounced neck pitch is the floating pickguards seen initially on archtop jazz guitars, and later on solidbodies like the Les Paul, referred to as “finger rests." (This is presumably because guitars are plucked with the hand rather than bowed, and these add-on parts provided a raised platform for the fingers.) Similarly, pickguards are present on solid instruments with little or no neck pitch, as they are a clever way to hide routing and provide mounting for switches, volume controls, and pickups. That also can eliminate back routing completely, since everything goes on the front. Remember that pickup-angle problem? Without pitch, as seen on Fenders and Rickenbackers (not to mention the majority of all guitars mass-produced today), the issue of angling pickups is eliminated. This also reduces the steps needed to build the guitar.
The height of the strings off the body is something we all sense consciously or unconsciously, and it can affect the way we attack the guitar, be it with a flatpick or fingers. The neck's pitch angle also alters the relative position of our two hands ever so slightly. And this small difference can make one guitar feel more comfortable than another. As much as we'd all like to shop for an instrument based primarily on tone, shape, wood selection, or color, the geometry of construction has a big impact on why we bond with some guitars and not with others. I've met players who obsess over the top-wrapping tailpiece debate, yet never consider (or recognize) neck angle.
Remember: How much angle a builder specifies has a lot to do with how a guitar feels to a player, so pay attention to which types of design philosophies create the right playing synchronicity for you. It can be just as or more important than those hardware or finish considerations.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.