Chris Buono is a good personal friend as well as one of my best test pilots. For the last decade he has fearlessly played anything I’ve built — often sight unseen…and before a live audience. The only exception I can think of is the Harp Guitar (but we are also in the midst of a pandemic).
With the possible exception of Steve Sjuggerud, Chris has certainly played the greatest range of instruments I’ve built, which makes him uniquely qualified to make comparisons and discuss preferences. If you ever want an objective opinion about my work from a working professional…contact Chris.
I’ve never (ever) asked any of my artists to be exclusive to the guitars I’ve gifted or sold them. I believe in free markets and free association. If an instrument is a good match, it will naturally become an honest favorite. Chris owns a Goshawk™ which seems to appear on a high percentage of his work since it arrived to him.
A good sign.
Chris is a master teacher. Hit him up to take your playing to next level.
Windows open, cool early spring air offsetting the warmth of sunlight on the building. Trees just beginning to bud, Robins and Red Wing Blackbirds in lively song all around us. My dog, Lena, content to lie in the grass and wait for our run.
I set up the Apple laptop, Apogee converter on my workbench. Direct into Logic, with one channel each for guitar and sub-bass. Capture the sound of this instrument as accurately as possible.
All twelve strings tuned: EGABCD sub-bass, EADGBE guitar.
Pause. What will I play?
I slowly breathed. Let the thoughts fade, emotions replacing them. I asked myself: “What are you feeling?”
All of humanity feels what’s coming. Storms just beyond the horizon. There is a weight to this moment. If ever there was a time to take out Skynet and eradicate the fucking filters, this would be now. While we can still connect as a species, person to person, beyond the systems of corporate and government power. Communicate necessary truths peer-to-peer across geographic and political borders.
I picked up my guitar pick and clicked record.
“This thing looks incredible.” (Tosin Abasi)
“Gorgeous all around! I just listened on the big speakers. The lows are excellent. Those basses sound beautiful!” (Killick Hinds)
“Hope it won’t offend you to say the first thing I noticed was the excellence of your photography. Might have been a different career path in another life. What to say about the guitar? It’s another of your creations that could easily be displayed in a museum. More practically, I’d love to hear a player with a classical background try it. Wonder what some of the teachers at Berklee would make of it?” (Steve Blucher)
Wow Rick…I feel like I have just glimpsed decades into the future! This must be the ‘poly-metal alloy’ construction…I enjoyed your commentary too, very poignant. (Alasdair Bryce)
NAMM 2020 | Report
“NAMM was an excellent experience – and thank you so much for offering your outstanding guitars! Little Angle Wing exerted a magnetic pull on anyone within eyesight of it – I am serious, even NAMM officials came up to ask about it and our booth enjoyed a constant flow of visitors as a result. I was able to see that guitar in the hands of several gifted players at the show – I am less of an 8-string player myself but I loved the Goshawk, all tonal planets are in alignment with that instrument in a way which is quite unique, the variable split concept being only one element of the synergy going on there. Steve was a pleasure to be around from start to finish and an excellent ambassador too – not to mention a great player!” (Alasdair Bryce)
“My good friend Bryan (owner of the “Modern Guitarist” company, which I am an original member and moderator for), went as my proxy of sorts and checked out Little Angle Wing at NAMM – he basically said ‘it’s a guitar from 2121’ and was just floored in how deliberate it was in execution, aside from being the most incredible 8 string he’d ever played.” (Matt Richards)
“Jason from NSF Controls is a real guitar player. And he was blown away. Loves the guitar and the switch. Good times. Man, the end result is everyone loves both guitars…in different ways. Most people were instantly in love with Goshawk™ comfortable right away and seeing it as a premium instrument. Most were simultaneously very curious and fearful of Little Angle Wing. Only young players could take it on full flight.” (Steve Sjuggerud)
“Man I’m telling you, the clarity of Little Angle Wing is something I haven’t heard in other guitars. The tension is so good on it, no flub and pure sustain. I experimented with tapping on the 20-24th frets and no dead spots. Just awesome.” (Gabriel Levi)
NAMM 2020 | Free-Way Switch (Booth 2726 Hall E)
This year I have teamed with Alasdair Bryce, inventor of the Free-Way™ Switch (NSF Controls), for NAMM 2020. Steve Sjuggerud has invented an add-on to the Free-Way™ which will completely revolutionize the sound and performance of pickup coil splits.
I will not explain Steve’s invention at this time. He and Alasdair will be at NAMM in person to demonstrate this important new technology. Go experience.
NAMM Show: Booth 2726 Hall E
Little Angle Wing 8-string guitar.
Hi Rick, I wanted mention that your 8-string fan-fret guitar will be the pride of the Free-Way booth and we are hugely appreciative to be hosting it at NAMM!! That guitar is a fusion of worlds ideas and materials – an absolute masterclass. (Alasdair Bryce)
Guitar Moderne | Magnets & Wire
Michael Ross of Guitar Moderne published a piece on Magnets & Wire album. He does a nice write-up plus excellent compilation of videos featuring some of my builds in the hands of these exceptional artists.
Guitar Modern is:
Guitar Moderne offers extensive coverage of the world-wide explosion of avant, experimental, and unusual players, as they discuss their approach to this classic combination of metal and wood. Here too, you will find articles and reviews covering combining computer with guitar and the world of plugins that this opens up, as well as news about the more extreme pedals available. Guitar Moderne is not genre specific; it covers forward-thinking players of any musical style: jazz, experimental, classical, blues, rock, metal, etc. Guitarists and fans from every continent can converge here to learn about the many directions this versatile instrument is taking and the gear being used for the journey.
Magnets And Wire | Album & Documentary
“Hey!” I asked, “Would you guys be interested in recording an album? I have an idea in mind.”
A flood of yesses flowed in before I had a chance to explain…
I had developed independent friendships with each of them as individuals, but most had never met one another in person, just basic awareness as fellow artists via my website. All of them have been loyal long-time supporters of my craft. I knew this mix of personalities would be synergistic and supportive.
Even working professional musicians find it difficult to gain enough time and space to be able to record an album. The pressures of touring, teaching, writing, and performing are intense. And so many of my clients are passionate amateurs — in the purest sense — they make a living unrelated to music, yet dedicate their free time to playing. Many are highly skilled but have no outlet to record.
I want to change that.
To keep our focus tight and set logistically achievable goals, we established several criteria. Each participant will be featured on at least one song. Choose someone(s) to collaborate with or perform solo if you wish. Most importantly, recordings will be first or second take…looking to capture spontaneous magic.
Steve Sjuggerud contributed his time and resources with incredible generosity. He hosted us at his location Sugar Pointe, surprised everyone with custom t-shirts and a coastal waters sunset cruise, plus brought in supremely talented photographer Adam King (check out those photos!) and drummer Dan Ostrowski to add depth to our mix. Thank you, Steve. Thank you also to Steve’s wife Kassy, and his business partners Chris & Kelly Manus.
Killick Hinds generously contributed his audio recording and production skills, first in tandem with me on location, then in his studio mixing and mastering. His deft touch transformed the raw audio into a coherent whole — a difficult task because each song was an entirely different arrangement of room, mics, musicians.
I gratefully thank Chris Buono, Todd Haug, Ken Kinter, Gabriel Levi, and Ede Wright for flying or driving to Florida to contribute their beautiful art.
PS: This album is dedicated to SB. You have inspired many more lives than you could ever know.
Goshawk | Dawes Goes Electric
Cradling a cup of coffee in my left hand, I sat at the kitchen counter as Steve Sjuggerud scrambled eggs. The lure of frying bacon would soon wake Mike Dawes — currently sleeping off a six hour time zone difference.
Steve was also simmering baked beans.
“Are beans a Southern breakfast specialty?” I asked. “I’ve had grits and gravy before…”
“Actually, they’re for Mike,” Steve replied. “I think the English like beans with breakfast.”
Photographer Adam King arrived, along with his cousin. “What’s with the beans?”
“They’re for Mike.”
Hoodie-draped Mike appeared, long pale arm extended. Grim Reaper seeks caffeine. “Why does everyone always make me beans at breakfast…?”
So, Mike’s Goshawk™ 6-string electric is nicknamed: Beanst.
Beast + Beans
NYSE | Steve Sjuggerud
The Yellow Cab Prius slotted itself into an imaginary third lane. Horns are a tool to open opportunities, and my taxi driver was clearing our path to Wall Street. Touching 60 mph down the next block, tires chirping as we came to a dead stop mid-intersection, inches from the box truck bumper in front of us.
“Unexpected,” he muttered.
Yesterday, Steve Sjuggerud rang the closing bell for the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange). He was also keynote speaker, presenting his film: New Money. I love Steve, and it was exciting to support him in his new venture, so lower Manhattan was the setting for our meeting this time.
Seven visible layers of security then an elevator ride, we stepped onto the trading floor.
Power is not a sufficient word, but is the precise word. Immersive powered electronic environment, labyrinthine, purposeful. On these screens, fortunes are made (and lost) in less than an instant. Capital from investors and central banks are injected into this abstract Darwinian metaphor, traded so fast that — even at the speed of light — proximity to the exchange matters, influencing real estate prices as companies compete to locate hardware closer to the NYSE.
The pulse of human ambition, the collective physical and intellectual labor of billions of people, flow through this space in fractional seconds.
Up in the balcony, Steve banged the iconic gavel and spontaneous cheers erupted around me as the trading day came to an end (Tuesday, April 16, 2019 @ 4 PM EST). Asia then Europe will carry things forward overnight then into tomorrow.
“Money flows to where it’s treated well.” (Steve Sjuggerud)
Later, at the reception, I balanced a small plate of exquisite medium rare porterhouse as Steve shared his initial impressions of the treble bleed capacitor on the wiring harness I’d sent him for testing. A few blocks away, Steve Blucher’s ears were no doubt tingling. Yes, talking guitars, Jack Ma and Warren Buffet looking on.
Just for a moment my concentration broke. An emotion, unfamiliar, a realization…an appreciation…as two worlds clicked together and I felt the course of this incredible journey in lutherie.
PS: Kind thank you to Steve Sjuggerud and his family (and staff).