Reader Guitar of the Month: The Beecaster

A gigging guitarist in Boston needed a lighter guitar with humbucking support, so he called on a local luthier to build it.

 

Name: Conrad Warre

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Guitar: The Beecaster

As the guitarist for the Boston-based, acid-blues band Bees Deluxe,there were two different guitar problems I needed to address. We sometimes play shows that can last more than three hours, and we occasionally play venues that have prehistoric electric wiring in the building, especially if they’re running older kitchens for their dinner crowds. The extremely long shows could be helped by my playing a much lighter-weight guitar than I typically play.

We sometimes play shows that can last more than three hours, and we occasionally play venues that have prehistoric electric wiring.

The older (more venerable) venues who haven’t shielded or upgraded their electrical wiring properly result in my single-coil guitars picking up local television news stations and re-transmitting their signals or merely humming along with them tunelessly, and require some level of humbucking support. So I commissioned a local expert luthier, Michael McCarten of Athol, Massachusetts, to build me a single, noiseless-pickup guitar made of the lightest appropriate wood.

McCarten specializes in building archtop guitars, mandolins, resonator guitars, ukuleles, and pocket violins, and proved very amenable to collaborating with me on the design. We chose basswood for the single-cut body, a maple set neck with ebony fretboard, and a Seymour Duncan Noiseless Stack Neck P-90. I wanted him to install a P-90 because they aren’t as far removed from single-coil pickups in timbre as full-blown humbucking pickups. I need a certain amount of bite in the guitar sound to cut through the similar keyboard frequencies in the band.

In order to enable the guitar to have as wide a range of “voice” as possible, we threw in two push/pull pots. The single volume and single tone pots each push-pull. The volume is positioned as close to my right hand as possible to enable “violining” and switches the pickup output from series to parallel, and, at McCarten’s suggestion, the single tone pot changes the capacitor in use, bringing a sharper, spankier, brighter, more Telecaster flavor to the P-90 when needed. The Beecaster weighs less than 6 pounds, so now as soon as the venues in the Northeast reopen, and we get back on the road headed north and south, I’ll be ready to play the guitar tirelessly from dusk to dawn, like a musical vampire.

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