Killick HINDS & Adam Wilson

PHOTO: Killick Hinds & Adam Wilson — so good to see these friends in person. Thank you both for wonderful conversation and music…let’s do it again soon!

Have a listen to the recording above.

That’s the unedited raw audio, exactly how it sounded to us in my studio, as Killick and Adam played live. Think of it like a documentary. No EQ or compression. FM9 + Noble DI > Logic = as heard through NS-10s.

Duet guitars are Wingspan 6 and my personal Strat equipped with a prototype RICK TOONE ’67 tremolo.

The playing is extraordinary. Completely unrehearsed live improvisation for five and a half minutes, exchanging guitars halfway through the session, giving each a turn with both instruments. The performance is so compelling, as they listen and respond to one another.

I asked Killick if he would be willing to master the recording. What he created using the “documentary” mix above is quite fascinating…mastering as a creative act:

A gathering of friends under sunny skies. We hit record and talked and laughed and marveled. Adam and I got to try on new guitars and new timbres like tailored crystalline cloth. From undifferentiated exploration these precious snippets fell into the grand cosmic lap, a glimpse into insight and telepathic conversation on the subtlest of levels. A very inspiring and elucidating day! (Killick Hinds)

VIDEO: Killick Hinds coaxes out harmonics not found in the textbook.

Perfect indulgence for a guitarist: spending an afternoon with Rick Toone and Killick Hinds, doing nothing but talking about and playing guitars. Highlight for me was getting to play “Wingspan” — three things stood out about the instrument: (1) the unparalleled harmonic richness of the instrument (meaning natural harmonics can be played in places on the neck that only produce dead thunks on most other instruments…plus the strength of the upper partials when plucking strings is equally remarkable), (2) the immense timbral palette afforded by the electronics, and (3) the incredible ergonomic design, particularly the balance of the guitar. Having played many of Rick’s guitars, and being lucky enough to own a couple of them, I see the elements that he’s been refining for years finding their culmination in this machine. Devoid of any hyperbole, Wingspan is the finest guitar I have played. (Adam Wilson)

PHOTO: Adam Wilson with Wingspan 6 guitar.

Goshawk Trem

PHOTOS: Goshawk™ 6-string guitar with Antique Pewter finish. Carbon fiber, torrefied maple, alder.

Oh wow…that doesn’t really encapsulate it, but oh wow…

The neck that you picked for this is perfect – it has amazing figuring in the wood and the dot inlays perfectly compliment the body.

I love that you ran with my story about Alan and his Pewter Clapton Strat being a huge inspiration for me. You absolutely knocked it out of the park. I really really like the finish scheme that you created for this! You nailed the depth of tone that was so important to me with your use of silvers, pewters, and blacks. On some glances it looks a bit like marble and on others it looks a lot like a well-worn metal surface. The blue carved line is a wonderful compliment and resonates with some of the color that I get from the inlays (and ties into another of my color themes!). 

It is just stunning. I can’t thank you enough.

I’d like to take a moment to appreciate your trem design. It is really really clever! Regardless of the engineer in me wanting to nerd out over the design, I have to say that it is the smoothest trem that I’ve ever had the pleasure to try.

I’ve only spent a few minutes tuning and playing, but I have to say that it feels like home. When I play 6 string, I’ve been playing the purple goshawk and this feels so much like that, but sounds so very different! I can’t wait to spend more time with it.

Thank you again. This has been a wonderful experience. (Jason)

PHOTO: Patent-pending Rick Toone tremolo precision machined from aerospace materials. DiMarzio noiseless single coil pickups designed by Steve Blucher. 10-way switching.

Thank You

PHOTO: Sea Monster 6-string guitar with Pisces™ tremolo system (2023).

Hi Rick,

I acquired Sea Monster approximately 10 months ago. I intentionally wanted to wait a while before providing my thoughts. I appreciate your patience.

Prior to Sea Monster I was playing shorter scale hard-tailed fiddles. So Sea Monster was different for me in many ways. The Advantage neck profile is the best feeling neck I’ve ever played. The neck profile alone makes me feel like a better player in that I’m able to comfortably execute difficult passages on a longer scale neck – I went up a heavier string gauge because I found my attack more aggressive due to the ease of play. The new trem is so much fun and so much easier to manage than a Floyd – unlike a Floyd, this trem appears to move chord shapes together in tune, which is amazing and changes the whole approach to playing a trem – excellent tremolo design.

The 10 way switching provides so many useable tonal options and again, makes it so much fun to play.

Over the past 10 months I’ve been asking you various questions and you patiently answered all of them. Since day 1 I have loved Sea Monster but it took time for us to fully bond – no fault of the guitar, but rather I’ve been accustomed to playing certain guitars/specs, and soon realized with Sea Monster, that I needed to make some changes in setup re: string gauge/action in order to fully connect – I learned all about the Rick Toone tremolo when I performed the setup. So, not only have I bonded with Sea Monster via the physical act of playing but also by learning the components that make up Sea Monster – many of those components are specific to Rick Toone guitars. I’m now a big fan of Rick Toone guitars. (Rick. R, 2024)

PHOTO: Self-portrait in sunburst nitro. Spearfish™ 6-string snapshot prior to shipping (2019).

Hey, Rick! I just want to send another thank you for the incredible guitar you built for me. Of all the luthier built guitars I own, yours stands head and shoulders above them all. The Spearfish excels at all styles of music, from rock to blues to jazz and even finger style. Clean, distorted, ambient, the Spearfish sounds great no matter what style and no matter what amp I put it through. It is the standard I use for seeing how an amp sounds. The volume and tone controls are far and away the most responsive of all the guitars I own and the single coil switch is the closest to true single coils. The neck is supremely comfortable and intonation and string balance are superb. I have considered selling all my other guitars, as the spearfish is really all I need. One of the nice features about it is that I can go from super light gauge (I’ve used Billy Gibbons .07’s all the way to .13’s) and not be concerned about the neck. Everyone who has played it is instantly impressed at how effortlessly it plays and how full and rich it sounds. A truly stellar instrument. Thank you and I wish you continued success. (Bill Mitchell, 2024)

Review: Spearfish Guitar

VIDEO: Dr. Andre Fludd reviews the 2024 NAMM Spearfish guitar that was on display at the Bare Knuckle Pickups booth in January of this year. Appreciate the shout out to Gabriel Levi too…
VIDEO: Dr. Fludd performs “Where Or When” on Spearfish. Lovely, lovely playing.

Andre did a superb job not only explaining all the unique features of the guitar but also walking through the tones in a way that allows the listener to really digest what they’re hearing.

The note separation between bass and treble strings really stands out. It’s almost like hearing two individual guitars. 

Polymath’s mid-range delivery is very much the foundation of the tone coupled with lots of dynamic headroom (no real surprise with Polymaths being the signature set of Nolly Getgood who’s one of my closest friends and arguably one of the best mix engineers in the world right now). 

Dialing in the mid-range response was key to the design of Polymath and something we worked very hard on so that tonally they would sit perfectly in the mid-field, which in turn allows for extension in the bass and the highs to retain attack without sounding sharp or lacking in weight. This all comes across extremely well in the video presentation by Andre.

For sheer all round tonal flexibility and also suitability to Spearfish’s unique design features, the Polymath really is an excellent set. Throw in the further versatility of the 10-way switch and there’s virtually no limit to the tones you can create. (Tim Mills, Bare Knuckle Pickups)

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.