PHOTO: Chris Buono, Steve Sjuggerud, Eric Corpus, Steve Blucher (finger caught in the bottle opener headstock), and Rick Toone. This is either the 'avoid in dark alley' or 'band promo' shot for our new album cover. Guitars (L-R): S1 proto, Sketch 7-string, S2 proto.
Life comes at us in waves. It's not unlike body surfing in the ocean, bobbing neck deep in the water, feeling the peaks lift your feet off the sandy bottom as the air in your chest buoys you (almost) over the crest. Evaluating, biding. A lull of relatively predictable wave heights punctuated by Big Ones that sweep you onto the beach...sand in your bathing suit (if it's still on) and mouth tasting like a fish market.
Inventing is not so much different.
Punctuated equilibrium is the term evolutionary biologists use to describe stasis mixed with rapid development. I find that all the time in what I do. Often months of linear applied thinking is less valuable than a moment of accidental insight.
So often comparison leads to insight, as well. A rare harmonic convergence of three of my guitars — in the same place (DiMarzio) at the same time — yielded exciting confirmation of development progress.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): Chris Buono with S2, Brett Eversole with '59 Les Paul reissue, Rick Toone at Mandolin Brothers, Staten Island, NYC. Brett Eversole cradles Sketch 7-string at DiMarzio. Steve Blucher of DiMarzio gives S2 proto an inquisitive stare as Chris Buono looks on.
Guitar pickups are like cameras...they can only capture the quality of light in the scene. A great photo requires great light. A great camera captures great light more effectively. Begin with light.
Sound is like light. Great electric guitar sound begins with great acoustic response. I work constantly toward optimizing string vibration.
I know Rick’s last prototype well (I’ve had it for months). It is fantastic. What most people can’t see or understand through internet photos or YouTube is that Rick’s thin aluminum neck is a major breakthrough — a huge innovation — in both 1) playability, and, 2) sustain (not to mention stability).
Having the old prototype and the new one side by side last week was eye opening...
The new S2 absolutely blew away its predecessor on those two major breakthroughs. The playability of the new S2’s neck is somehow a dramatic improvement (I say somehow because the changes were subtle)... slightly different back contour, and slightly different finish feel... these were subtle changes, but were major improvements in playability and feel.
The sustain was somehow dramatically improved as well...
You would think that essentially the same ingredients — an aircraft-grade aluminum neck and bridge, a swamp ash ergonomic body, and DiMarzio pickups — would result in a similar sounding instrument. But that was not the case at all. Many incremental improvements were made in each of the above.
Acoustically, the two prototype guitars sounded dramatically different... When not plugged in, the new S2 has a wide frequency range, with belly-shaking lows and crispy highs. In comparison, the old prototype was missing both extreme ends of the frequency spectrum, and the mids were more prominent. These sounds translated to their plugged in sounds as well.
The icing on the cake for the new S2 was the addition of a brand new type of full-size DiMarzio humbucker pickups. Just awesome... particularly in the neck position.
Steve Blucher from DiMarzio basically said this new pickup just 'gets out of the way of the sound' and 'simply lets the instrument’s sound come through.' Steve wanted to keep the guitar for a few days to dial in a bridge pickup as awesome as the neck... He sees something good here, and has been willing to invest time into making this absolutely great.
In short, with the new S2 prototype, the playability and the sound are dramatically improved. The biggest new innovations — the new neck shape and the sound — are hard to translate in web pics or YouTube clips. But in person, the improvements were obvious, and massive.
I think the new S2’s neck is the most 'shredable' neck ever made... but you can still easily do thumb-over Hendrix-style playing, and everything else. Everything is easier.
— Steve Sjuggerud
(owner S1 prototype)
PHOTO: Brett Eversole and Steve Sjuggerud beautifully perform a Jason Becker instrumental during their shop visit (below). S2 proto & S1 proto (L-R).
PHOTO: Chris Buono suggests perhaps you'd like to try this at home (above).
It's rare I allow visitors to the shop. A handful in the past few years. My shop is an intensely personal place, intimately filled with inspiration and innovation. Experiments in progress. New developments and trade secrets balanced against hand labor. I sometimes forget what I can reveal vs. what could become a patent...so it is easier to just release completed instruments.
As rare as they are, shop visits are often inspiring to me as well.
I had an awesome time, Rick. Definitely my pleasure all the way. And I'd love to do it again sometime in the future.
I'm excited for you and excited for the guitar community with what you're working on. The entire package is going to change how people think about the instrument. Exciting!
— Brett Eversole
PHOTO: Another place of innovation: DiMarzio. Each in their own way, all of these guys have provided immeasurable support, helping me to realize this vision. I am grateful beyond words. Photos by Masi.