Data-based building is nothing new in the acoustic-guitar world, but its impact continues to grow.
When I first took my stab at lutherie, I mostly did maintenance work. Fret work, bone nuts and saddles, and basic setups made up the bulk of my daily agenda. I was exposed to many great guitars, both acoustic and electric. And even though I played electrics out on the gig, my primary interest was always acoustic guitars. I was just obsessed with figuring out what made them tick. Once I moved into instrument making, I found it difficult to produce the concert-level quality instruments I had become so accustomed to in my repair days. I was inspired to take a more analytic approach to instrument making, which was ultimately an attempt to tighten-up the consistency, tone, and overall playing experience for my customers.
The science of instrument making is an extraordinarily interesting world. My studies began with basic data collecting, such as material strength and weights, until I eventually developed a spreadsheet to better track my builds and improve the sound quality of my guitars. Eventually, this approach introduced me to a whole culture of scientists and engineers that were pursuing the same passion, and they were very open to the exchange of information. This solidified my commitment to the field of voicing science, and vastly improved the quality of my instruments.
What we are experiencing today is an explosion in the study of sound. This is a revolution that has been decades in the making.
Over time, these methods have picked up steam, with most of today’s hand-builders adopting some level of voicing science to improve the outcome of their instruments. In the end, all of this is an attempt to unlock the methods of the finest luthiers, such as the violin makers building in the European tradition, makers such as Lloyd Loar, or even the Martin Guitar Company’s contributions from the mid-to-late 1930s.
But what we are experiencing today is an explosion in the study of sound. This is a revolution that has been decades in the making. My first exposure was in the ’90s when I met a classical guitar maker by the name of Richard Schneider, who worked alongside a physical chemist named Michael Kasha, who was not a luthier himself. Together, they teamed up and made many advancements in the science of sound. Another major push was the book Left-Brain Lutherie written by David C. Hurd, Ph.D. This is a great think-book that put most modern luthiers on the path of analytical guitar making. In our shop, this book was on the bench constantly, as it helped us maneuver through many tough questions about instrument acoustics. Most recently, Australian luthier Trevor Gore published Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build, which has been a go-to for most modern luthiers. Trevor is a talented builder, and his contributions will inspire many others to come.
Precision building is crucial for the best, most harmonically rich tops.
But what does this mean to you, the player? This is the question. In the early ’90s, us builders noticed a major improvement in the quality of builds in the micro-building market. This was mostly due to groups such as the Guild of American Luthiers and the Healdsburg Guitar Festival. These groups offered a platform for guitar makers to compare notes, and this information exchange vastly improved the qualities of their builds. About five years after that, we all noticed everyone’s building style and finish went through a major transformation. This illustrates why the dawn of voicing science is so important—the exchange of science and information improves instrument quality for everyone. This is what is happening now. All the serious makers are currently implementing techniques set into motion by the research of the past 40 years and are sharing their findings with the world.
These days, I am noticing a major improvement in the tone and the stability of acoustic instruments. One builder who stands out in my mind is Colorado luthier Michael Bashkin, whose OM classical guitar is a major play for tonal excellence. So, for you the guitar buyer, this is a very good time to be shopping around the custom-guitar market. There is no doubt we are experiencing the next level in guitar making. And it will only get better.
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Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Fender honors the indie-legend with signature pickups and accessories.
Fender announces the J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster Pickups, an ode to one of alternative music’s most prolific shredders. Throughout Dinosaur Jr’s twelve album discography and his rich solo career, Mascis has established himself as one of guitar playing’s most tone-savvy and ferocious players.
At the heart of his genre-defining, nearly four decades-long legacy is the Fender Jazzmaster. Not only does the bold and angular design of the Jazzmaster lend itself to a player as subversive as Mascis, but there is no instrument that sounds quite like it. That is, until now.
Compared to the tones on the Fender J Mascis Signature Telecaster and the Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster, Mascis notes,“The new pickups have a sweeter more vintage sound,” and as his hopes for what people might feel when they test out the new pickups, J Mascis adds, “I hope they feel like playing their guitar, ideally they could make a song that could be my new favorite record!”
Key Features Include:
- Neck Pickup: 7.27K and Bridge Pickup: 7.31K DC Resistance
- Neck Pickup: 3.6 Henries, Bridge Pickup: 3.7 Henries Inductance
- Enamel-coated magnet wire delivers warm vintage-style tones
- Alnico 2 rod magnets for warm, sweet output
- Flush-mount pole pieces produce even string response
- Installation hardware include
Exploring the J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster Pickup Set | Artist Signature Series | Fender
The pickups are being released as part of a larger collection of signature J Mascis Accessories which include J Mascis Magenta Flower Strap, J Mascis Yellow Burst Strap, J Mascis Coiled Instrument Cable and J Mascis Dinosaur Jr. Pick Tin.
For more information, please visit fender.com.
Charvel unveils its new collab with guitarist Marco Sfogli.
Charvel unveils its new collaboration with PFM and Icefish guitarist Marco Sfogli. To pay homage to a guitarist whose sonic capabilities seem to know no bounds, Charvel has sought out to create a signature instrument as limitless as the player who inspired it. A pair of active EMG SA single-coils in the middle and neck positions effortlessly evoke classic Stratocaster bell tones, while an EMG ‘89 bridge humbucker provides a powerful bite. The signature model’s bolt-on maple neck has received a unique “caramelized” heat and drying treatment that imbues the wood with a warmth and comfort that is usually unique to expensive vintage instruments.
- Alder body with quilted maple top
- Scalloped lower back bout and cut heel
- Bolt-on maple neck with graphite reinforcement, 22 jumbo frets, and Luminlay side dot inlays.
- EMG SA single-coil neck and middle pickups, EMG ‘89 humbucking bridge pickup.
- Floyd Rose 1000 Series double-locking tremolo bridge system
- Five-way blade pickup selector, tone control, and volume control with push/pull coil splitting capabilities for the bridge pickup.
Marco Sfogli Presents His Signature Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HSS FR QM
- Signature S1-style guitar designed in collaboration with Marco Sfogli
- Classic alder body with an unmistakable California sound
- Quilt maple top for added tonal depth and a premium look
- For more information, please visit charvel.com.
A highly versatile sonic tool, the pedal can deliver a broad range of tones – everything from mild, wonderfully organic overdrive to medium-gain crunch with a richly satisfying midrange kick.
The pedal is a collaboration between Shnobel Tone and guitarist, songwriter, composer, and record producer Frank Simes. Based in Hollywood, Simes‘ long list of credits includes work with A-list artists such as Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Warren Zevon, RodStewart, Roger Waters, Roger Daltrey, and Martha Davis from The Motels. Additionally, Simes was the musical director for The Who for many years.
Its touch sensitivity makes it a perfect choice for guitarists who rely on precise right-hand technique, and it cleans up nicely when you roll back your guitar's volume knob.
Frank Simes Overdrive features include:
- Three knobs: Volume, Gain, and Tone controls
- True bypass foot switch
- Top mounted power and in/out jacks
- Hand-built with through-hole components
- Crinkle-coated diecast aluminum enclosure, dimensions 4.7 x 3.7 Inches
- Standard 9v center negative power – no battery compartment
Frank Simes Signature Overdrive
Shnobel Tone’s Frank Simes Overdrive has a suggested retail price and MAP of $249.
For more information, please visit shnobeltone.com.