2024 NAMM Report

PHOTO: 2024 NAMM Spearfish™ guitar displayed in the Bare Knuckle Pickups booth and demoed by Gabriel Levi. This guitar is currently listed for sale. Gabriel Levi reports below on his experiences at 2024 NAMM show…

Q: What was the reaction to Spearfish?

A: Overwhelmingly positive and mostly pure shock. In a very oversaturated guitar market (especially evident at the NAMM show) it’s cool to see when a name lives up to its hype. The neck is of course a major selling point of the Spearfish and is an instant conversation starter. It reeled people in to learn more about the guitar…it grabs attention and sparks interest in ways a traditional neck wouldn’t. The International Orange finish totally shook people and was clearly visible amongst the noise at NAMM. The reaction to the FreeWay 10-way switch was GREAT. It almost adds another layer of value and individuality to the guitar. It gives the impression that the guitar is infinite (rightfully so). A lot of folks came out to see your guitar. None left disappointed and I was so happy to see it all go down!

Q: What did people like best about Spearfish?

A: THE NECK. The neck. It really is the selling point of this guitar and the feature most people want. Very unique but extremely playable and functional. “Effortless” is a word that kept coming up. People noticed the balance and ergonomics of the instrument. It does an excellent job of comfortably adhering to your body as you play. The International Orange finish sort of spoke for itself…it was a great display of the depths you’re able to go. People loved it. Another thing people loved? That headstock. It’s really sick.

Q: What did they like least about Spearfish?

A: The neck. HA! Just kidding…but in all seriousness, it is the one thing that threw a small number of people off. I will say for 99% of skeptics, this wore off quickly. It does not surprise me that something of this nature would throw off a more traditional player. It’s a massive sea change when you first try it out, but the benefits quickly become evident. The only other thing I can think of (which wasn’t necessarily a dislike) was the extra space on the fretboard room on the high E-string side. Most players were not used to being able to pull the string in a downward motion on the high E string, and I think they weren’t used to feeling fretboard under their hands on that side on the neck. It was an interesting observation because I’m SO used to the Element neck at this point, but I understand — because if I pick up a Telecaster, I find myself falling off the high E-string side more than I’d like to admit. Ha! I think it’s a cool part of the guitar that I personally love, but something I did get feedback on.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Fretboard Flare™ is the geometric feature included in the patented Element™ neck.

Q: What did you learn regarding how people perceive my work? 

A: You are definitely an elusive creature in the guitar world, so watching people try your guitars is like witnessing man discover fire. It is interesting because as far as I can tell, you’re not worried about marketing and shoving your name down peoples throats. You just make real evocative art and it resonates. Word of mouth is still alive and well when it comes to art that people feel the need to share, and seeing this cult-like following towards your work is inspiring. DIY to the max.

Q: Did you make any connections to help your career?

A: Oh man. Where do I begin? First of all, thank you for the Bare Knuckle Pickups relationship that you started. They were amazing people and it was a gift to help represent a brand that I have been a proponent of for so long. I confirmed a big project with Neural DSP that will be taking place within the next few months. I secured an artist deal with Happy Cable Company which are making some really high quality cables. They’ll be helping me with cable needs for the wireless packs we use on stage and cables here in the studio. Steve linked me up with an entire hotel room of guys that totally rocked my world with emerging technology for guitar. I like to go deep with the Fractal Audio units and utilize things like automated preset/scene changes via MIDI, and to see what’s possible when it comes to using the guitar as a controller blew me away. If this can become optimized, it would be a total game changer for live performance. I think we’re officially in the future! I met SO many people and there is a lot that I’m leaving out, but it was without a doubt the most fruitful NAMM experience to date. Thank you for putting me in a position to make these new connections and plant many seeds. I will forever be grateful to you my friend!

IMAGE (below): Tim Mills demonstrates why he has successfully built a world-class business.

NAMM Show 2024 | Bare Knuckle Pickups

PHOTOS: Bare Knuckle POLYMATH signature Nolly Getgood pickups. International orange Spearfish™ guitar wired in 10-way configuration will be on display in the Bare Knuckle Pickups booth at NAMM, January 2024. Come explore this amazing instrument.

Bare Knuckle Pickups
2024 NAMM Show January 25-28
Main Exhibit Hall
Level 1
Booth 5637

Spearfish™ specifications:
• Patented Element™ 22-fret multi-scale neck
• Fretboard Flare™ geometry
• Dunlop 6100 stainless steel frets
• Hipshot locking tuners
• Patented Intonation Cantilever™ solo bridges
• Bare Knuckle Polymath pickups
• 10-way wiring via Freeway switch
• Swamp ash body with international orange finish
• Carbon fiber pickguard
• Overall weight: 7.3 lbs

2024 brings significant change. I am actively seeking manufacturing partners and volume OEM licensing arrangements. If you are a manufacturer or investor who understands the potential, please contact. EMAIL: RICKTOONE@GMAIL.COM

Rick Toone | Luthier, LLC has an established portfolio of patents covering the most advanced guitar and bass component systems, including: neck technology, multi-scale capable bridges (both hardtail & tuning), multi-scale capable tremolo, as well as the new retrofit-compatible tremolo system with incredible best-in-class performance. Multiple additional patents pending.

PHOTOS: Spearfish™ guitar with patented Intonation Cantilever™ solo guitar bridges, precision machined from stainless steel. Swamp ash, carbon fiber.

PHOTOS: Patented Element™ guitar neck precision machined from aircraft aluminum.

MARKETING: Gabriel Levi will perform with the international orange Bare Knuckle Spearfish™ 6-string. Gabriel has an incredible touch on guitar and generous spirit. He can be reached via his website www.gabriellevi.com or Instagram www.instagram.com/gabriel.levi/ to learn more.

I’ve been daydreaming about this guitar nonstop. It’s really such a cool culmination of everything that makes your guitars special. Innovative, functional design meets radical, evocative art. This thing will blow some minds. (Gabriel Levi)

Spearfish at the show is glorious. How the heck can a Hiwatt amp transform to sound sparkly, almost Fender amp-ish, but with overdrive? Somehow the guitar coaxes that out of it. Kudos to you for creating such a glorious instrument. Anyway, Gabriel was super helpful. Will stop back tomorrow at 1 pm and see him again. (Brian Alex)

Focus Group

PHOTO: Adam J. Wilson plays his fretless Spearfish™ 6-string guitar. Chris Buono is also fretless in the background.

Saturday, I hosted Chris Buono and Adam J. Wilson for a focus group session. Our mission was to evaluate two current areas of research: multi-scale fretless design, and Pisces™ tremolo performance.

We tested both of Adam’s fretless Spearfish™ guitars plus Pisces™ prototype through an extensive array of tube and solid state amps plus modeling: Roland Jazz Chorus, Carr, Fender ’64 Deluxe, AxeFx II.

Not many people in the world play fretless guitar, let alone exceptionally well, nor do many people build fretless guitars, let alone exceptionally well. Today, I got to hang with both varieties. With all that’s going on in the world, this was a welcome respite. (Adam J. Wilson)

PHOTO: Chris Buono plays Pisces™ prototype 6-string tremolo guitar. Adam with his first Spearfish™ fretless in the background.

In addition to intensive discussion, I was treated to several hours of duets and solo improvisation. You are already well familiar with Chris Buono and his mastery of the instrument. Adam is similarly gifted, employing a fascinating two handed fretless tap technique. He makes fretless shredding look absolutely effortless…micro-tones, scales, harmonies: eight fingertips on the fingerboard is just so fast.

A meeting of like-minded fretless freaks is a rare thing. This was an immensely important day for me on many fronts and will surely change how I approach fretless guitar going forward. (Chris Buono)

I have some new ideas for how to improve fretless design. Fretless is a tiny niche market of players who are super skilled and super dedicated to the almost limitless possibilities of a life without speed bumps.

Imagine the virtuosity of a solo violinist yet with the added capability of harmony.

Glorious day of exploration and learning. Most importantly…it was so good to see old friends in person. Magic happens when we share a space and music together.

PHOTO: Adam J. Wilson and Chris Buono.

Serpentine Mind

VIDEO: Gabriel Levi performs his original: Serpentine Mind. Excellent vocals to accompany his playing on Spearfish™ 6-string guitar. Beautifully understated solo beginning at 2:30 mark.

Beneath the layers of upbeat major chord harmonies and deft pop production of a love song lies this image. Coiled, writhing. Existential terror as Emily Dickinson describes:

But never met this Fellow
Attended or alone
Without a tighter Breathing
And Zero at the Bone.

“Serpentine” combined with “mind” is especially horrifying. Reptilian non-negotiable predatory purpose superimposed on (dwelling within) mammalian skull, our locus of empathetic warmth and compassion.

Excellent writing, Gabriel.

Throughout our evolution, what is the one predator from which there is no escape? The one predator capable of silently killing, even when we are hiding in treetops for safety, seeking protection from larger carnivores below?

Snake.

I want to propose an hypothesis.

The hypothesis is this: crowd-sourcing safety is the evolutionary driver for language.

Let’s step back 2 million years for context. Fight, flight, freeze, fuck. Our basic survival responses to new external stimulus. Fight (including hunting), flight, and freeze are physical movements under the control of each individual. Fuck — sexual reproduction — is coordinated and negotiated chemically via pheromones.

None of these responses require vocalization.

However, what would? Two million years ago, what would be the single most useful tool to ensure our species survival?

“There’s a snake on the branch above you.”

The ability to transmit instantly an image directly from mind to mind using sound waves.

There is a multiplier effect when suddenly ten individuals with twenty eyes and twenty eardrums are coordinating information from ten locations and perspectives. Incredibly powerful survival mechanism. This is what drives the evolution of language.

Once Homo became fully erect and disconnected diaphragm control from breathing, our ability to develop complex nuanced language evolved exponentially. We now use and practice language as play, enriching our experiences across the entire spectrum of human activities.

However, the fundamental purpose underlying all linguistic development remains: safety.

I want to propose a second hypothesis.

Freedom of Speech is not only a moral right, Freedom of Speech is a biological imperative essential for human survival. Surrender that right at your peril.

When considered at the level of DNA replication and generational transference, all speech is useful, and all thoughts are useful. This is our species-wide survival mechanism of individuals broadcasting their unique perspective from their location. And as individuals, we assess the relative accuracy and urgency of that raw incoming data from other people…

Consensus is not analogous to safety, at any scale. Autonomy is an evolutionary failsafe.

IMAGE: Support Gabriel Levi on Spotify.

Spearfish Declaration | Video

Absolutely wonderful email last evening. My clients tend to be deeply kind and thoughtful human beings. I am very fortunate to have the privilege of sharing this bond of music with them. Thank you, Carl.

Rick —

Happy New Year! It has been 6 months since I picked up ‘Declaration’ Spearfish.  I have held off on writing this letter, as every time I began writing, I realized that I was still learning more about the guitar’s character. The full impact of this guitar has finally hit me.

Craftsmanship: The word that comes to mind is precision. Although the artistry of your guitars is what drew me in, what blew me away was the precision. The care you put into the build, and the perfection you strived to attain are clearly evident in every part of the guitar. As a hip and knee replacement surgeon with some experience in design, I especially appreciate the design/stability of the unique neck/body interface. This thing feels like it should be a part of a high-end military aircraft!

Ergonomics: My 10-year-old’s first response when I let him play the guitar was “why does this feel so easy to play?” This also sums up my feelings. The unconventional shapes and materials in this guitar hide the quite substantial considerations to size, weight, balance, and texture. Simply put, the result is an instrument which doesn’t get in the way of playing music. I find myself playing for longer periods of time, with less fatigue. The choices you have made with respect to neck shape, materials, and body shape constitute an unquestionably discernible advance in the ease and comfort of playing.  

Versatility: An unexpected surprise, which took me a very long time to fully appreciate, was the breadth of sounds that could be created with ‘Declaration’ Spearfish. I have found myself playing less with pedals, now focusing more on the guitar’s native controls. Whatever magic you injected into the electronics and wiring, I love it.

Art: The art is what drew me to your guitars. Not sure if you remember, but when I asked you to take this guitar to wherever your imagination leads you, I suggested the words: elegant, industrial, strong, depth, and striking. You nailed it. Declaration is a stunning work of art. It is the clear expression of imagination, emotion, and freedom that art inspires.

So, in case you cannot tell, I love this guitar. It is extremely special to me, and I am very grateful that you have created it for me. Thank you, and keep pushing the limits!

Carl

VIDEO: Chris Buono tests Declaration Spearfish™ before I shipped the guitar to Carl (July 2020). Relaxed six minute improvisational loop as he explores pickup settings and tone control using clean Fender Deluxe amp setting via Strymon Iridium direct into Logic. Listen for dynamics and sustain.