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Esoterica Electrica

Pickup wizard and innovator Seth Lover, as captured by the author.

Guitarists are always changing pickups. So, what are we searching for?

Everyone knows that tone is in the pickups, right? At least that’s what the prevailing thought seems to be. There must be something to that idea because guitarists are spending a huge amount of cash changing pickups like dirty underwear. Almost daily we hear about a new pickup maker who has “cracked the code” by utilizing materials and techniques that somehow companies with million-dollar R&D budgets missed. I’ve worked with and rely upon a large number of pickup brands, and I truly love a lot of what they produce, but I’ve also learned that it’s easy to get lost in the hype.

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While Annie Clark was named the 26th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone in 2023, she couldn’t care less about impressing an athletic stamp on either her sound or her image.


Photo by Alex Da Corte

On her eighth studio release, the electroacoustic art-rock guitarist and producer animates an extension of the strange and singular voice she’s been honing since her debut in 2007.

“Did you grow up Unitarian?” Annie Clark asks me. We’re sitting in a control room at Electric Lady Studios in New York’s West Village, and I’ve just explained my personal belief system to her, to see if Clark, aka St. Vincent, might relate and return the favor. After all, does she not possess a kind of sainthood worth inquiring about?

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The pin router in action.

As CNC machines have become more prevalent, how much have they changed the building process?

“The Ballad of John Henry” looms large in the annals of American folklore. Versions of it have appeared in a number of narratives, usually referring to Henry as a “steel-driving” man who dies from the effort of defeating a steam drill machine designed to replace his ilk. Henry, who cuts holes in stone for dynamite with his hammer and chisel or alternately pounds railroad spikes, represents a way of life threatened by a powered machine.

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Luthier Ken Parker blends old world lutherie and aerospace tech materials, proving that wood and carbon fiber can dance together in a romantic tango of sonic bliss.

In the guitar market, classic models still have the biggest influence, but the future is lurking.

In the ever-evolving music industry, the electric guitar stands as an enduring stalwart, having shaped the sonic landscape for generations without much physical change. I’ve joked about the state of the guitar before, but let’s take a more serious view of what’s happening in the guitar business. It’s apparent that the classics continue to wield influence, while also undergoing a transformation reflective of the current tech era.

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A high-tech rendering of what a hyper-futuristic musical instrument shopping location could look like.

Photo by Jol Dantzig

While we’re all caught up in the online-gear-shopping rat race, our columnist wonders: Is there a better way?

Without a doubt, America’s greatest contribution to civilization is consumerism. It’s not only the “engine” of our economy, but I’ve read it’s the force behind everything good worldwide. (I know you come here for insight on how to make your guitar sound like Eric Johnson and Buddy Miller at the same time, but trust me, this is important.) Our obsession with guitar gear is outpacing our ability to shop, but I’ve got a next-level solution. With my track record of predicting the future, I’m betting on this, so buckle up, people.

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