Fretless Spearfish

fretless spearfish guitar
PHOTOS: Fretless Spearfish™ 6-string guitar. Patent-pending Element™ single billet machined aircraft aluminum neck with engraved position markers. Patented Intonation Cantilever™ bridges. Proprietary all passive DiMarzio™ pickups with 10-way switching. Swamp ash solid body in modern poly sunburst.
spearfish fretless guitar

With the multi-scale Element™ aluminum neck I’m playing fretless now in ways I didn’t think I could…ways I didn’t even know were an option. With the multi-scale I am able to play more harmony. I can play fingerings that are simply impossible on parallel frets. (Chris Buono)

VIDEO: Chris Buono tears through 50 seconds of finger-twisting fretless improvisation. Signal chain is Noble DI > Strymon Iridium > Logic so you can hear exactly how good this guitar sounds.
VIDEO: Roopam Garg on Wingspan™ 8-string and Chris Buono on Fretless Spearfish™ 6-string. Live one-take improvisation in the guitar shop where both instruments were built.

Death Of Superman

VIDEO: Death of Superman featuring Chris Buono, Todd Haug, Ken Kinter, Gabriel Levi, Steve Sjuggerud, Rick Toone, Ede Wright. Instruments, music, lyrics, production: Rick Toone.

“Shop’s closed,” I called out. “New national holiday.”

Quiet laugh from outside. “This would be a social visit.”

Intrigued, I opened the door. Slender graceful figure, bullfighter. Dark hair, swept back, deep mirth lines around keen eyes.

“Have we met?” I asked.

“Several times. Never in person.” He stepped through the doorway, casting a quick appreciative glance at tools and systems neatly arrayed in the guitar shop. “My name is Francisco.”

I studied him: self-possessed, confident in his own body and thoughts, without arrogance. Straightforward.

“How is your supply chain?” His eyes focused directly on mine.

“Delays. Suppliers — like DiMarzio, for example — forced by government to suspend business during lockdowns. StringJoy, and others, waiting for raw materials or facing a shortage of skilled workers. Wait times for some items are more than twelve months. Prices are increasing.”

He nodded slightly.

“What are your clients saying?”

“My clients are people of means, or quite often very serious players who understand the value of my work and are willing to save for a guitar purchase…or sometimes sell off other equipment. Universally, they appreciate what I am doing: designing and building singular pieces, transforming raw materials into a finished instrument, delivered directly into their hands. They pay me, I invest back into my own company, keeping some money for my personal needs.”


Startled, I looked at him more closely. “That’s not a word I hear often…with your tone of appreciation. A friend texted me a few days ago. She was at a party with 25-30 year olds. She noticed their main discussion topic was: ‘How Capitalism has ruined their lives’.”

Holding my gaze, he said: “Because they have correctly identified they are slaves. However, they have not identified their master.”

“Provocative statement,” I responded.

“No,” he replied. “Education failure. Those partiers don’t understand they are trapped in a Socialist system — where select few politically connected classes of people are given unlimited amounts of unearned Dollars. Why do you think there is growing unrest and political tension within the United States? It’s because competing political tribes are in a fight to the death to gain access to that free money.”

I thought quietly. “What is the solution?”

“Scarcity has value. Things that are scarce are valuable…consider what you would be willing to pay for a bottle of drinking water if you were canoeing on a pristine glacial mountain lake vs. dying of thirst under relentless desert sun. This same principle applies to money. When money is unlimited, it has no value. The solution is to end the central bank: The Federal Reserve.”

He continued.

“Those angry partygoers clearly understand it is increasingly difficult to simply survive: pay for food, pay for housing. Why? Prices are going up, and the reason is: our culture is quite literally drowning in excess money. Over time that money will accelerate toward accumulating in the hands of the few, but the nature of the problem will remain unchanged.”

He shrugged, “Even if everyone was given the exact same amount of money, prices will continue to rise. Because each Dollar is worth less, as unlimited amounts of new money are created. Every additional added Dollar buys less.”

“What if the government implements price controls?” I asked. “Setting a basic price for wages, or food, or housing?”

Francisco laughed.

After a moment he walked to the window and looked out across the farm fields.

“What makes you think other nations will continue to use the Dollar? What happens when they begin to use scarcity-backed competing forms of currency: blockchain-crypto, gold? How will you survive when nobody accepts your form of worthless money?”

“Force always fails. Ours is a Darwinian planet.”

Guitar Tone vs. Sound

PHOTOS: ‘American Girl’ Goshawk™ 6-string guitar. Bone nut, carbon fiber, torrefied flame maple, stainless steel frets.

Last week me peeps dug down a txt thread rabbit-hole regarding the difference between guitar TONE vs. guitar SOUND. I had enough coffee in my circulatory system to posit a position guitar videos demonstrating sounds are useless for evaluating what an instrument actually sounds like.

The blowback was pretty intense.

I am happy to report however, that because I have a website — and can type using all ten fingers (instead of texting with thumbs) — some slight speed and bandwidth advantages accrue to me outlining the dissemination of my philosophical perspective.

So here it is:

TONE is the acoustic character of a guitar when played un-amplified, or played through a basic signal chain: clean (or overdriven amp) or direct. TONE is the acoustic responsiveness your ear uses to discern the differences between guitars, or types of guitars.

SOUND is the finalized combination of a guitar plus a signal chain when heard in the context of a song. SOUND is TONE plus the addition of effects, compression, EQ, mixing.

I like guitar videos where I can hear the TONE of the guitar. Once that baseline is established, it becomes easier to determine which guitar a player would choose for the gig or session. You have a clear idea of your basic building block which will affect all other results downstream in the music.

Aloha Rick,

My fingers are raw after running through some of the paces amplified last night. I only went through the 5 positions on the humbucker side. It sounds so HUGE!!

I locked in a sick Wes Montgomery 335 tone using the tone knob and position 2 on the selector with the volume knob dialed back slightly. The versatility, clarity and dynamics are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

I found myself daydreaming for a few minutes not feeling this instrument either on my body or in my left hand. I literally woke up noodling and did not feel this instrument on me at all. Totally invisible, but not at all missing in any way, as it has just the exact amount of chunk to still be felt.

The neck feels absolutely perfect. The frets… Oh My… How did you get them SO SMOOTH?!?!? If I could translate the design specs of the perfect neck for me, this one is better! Its also the most gorgeous natural wood grain… Perfect! 

Words cannot describe how striking this neck is to my eyes. It is so beyond birdseye which until today was my favorite look on a neck. This is just so many levels higher. The pictures and demo video did not at all capture how insanely patterned and beautiful this neck is.

I can’t call the Goshawk ‘American Girl’ a guitar at this point. You probably hear this all the time – its flawless!

I appreciate you Rick, I really do. Thank you.


PHOTO: This beautiful Goshawk™ natural finish swamp ash solid body. Patented Intonation Cantilever™ bridges. Hand-wound Lindy Fralin custom pickups with sweet organic classic 50’s Tele/Strat/Les Paul voicing. Perfect for the versatile guitarist who uses all of those benchmark American TONES.

‘American Beauty’ Goshawk™ is inspired by the classic Strat/Tele/Les Paul tones of the 1950’s. Lindy Fralin hand winds pickups using all of the original methods and materials in Richmond, Virginia. I wanted to bring his aesthetic into Goshawk™ to create a one guitar which allows you to leave your vintage closet queens home. Combined with 10-way switching and truly useful tone control, everything is at your fingertips. In a professional studio or stage setting where you desire that American sound, this is the guitar you will reach for night after night.

Even grained, light weight, and resonant — when I find Swamp Ash this lovely — it begs to be paired with highly figured roasted Flame Maple, with a minimalist organic clear finish. Expect snap, resonance, plus the exceptional string clarity and sustain characteristic to my builds.

Goshawk™ is hand built, luthier’s art. Details throughout: Hipshot locking tuners, luthier’s joint tilt-back headstock, bone nut, mother of pearl inlays, polished Dunlap stainless frets, custom neck mount plate, carbon fiber pickguard. Patented Intonation Cantilever™ solo bridges precision machined from stainless steel. Trademarked Advantage™ neck profile for hours of ergonomic comfort. Unrestricted upper fret access. Perfect curves and lines blend with your body as you play. (Rick Toone)

I love this video of Chris Buono improv-looping through the pickup selections on ‘American Girl’ Goshawk™ 6-string guitar. We used the simplest signal chain: Noble DI > Strymon Iridium (Deluxe) > Logic. His playing is superb and his switch selections shine through.

VIDEO: Even Chris Takes Lessons From Chris. Chris Buono multiplies himself and teaches a master class on channelling Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead). Goosebumps tone from ‘American Girl’ Goshawk™ 6-string guitar. Signal chain is Noble DI > Strymon Iridium > Logic.

Dark & Chris Buono

roopam garg and chris buono
PHOTO: Roopam Garg ( and Chris Buono casting shadows after recording.

Perfect spring day in early May when Roopam Garg flew in to take ownership of his new Wingspan™ 8-string guitar. He’s been a good friend ever since Camping With Animals As Leaders (2013) when we met for the first time. That amazing experience with Tosin, Javier, and Evan Brewer first introduced Ken Kinter and me to Roopam and Gabriel Levi…friendships which have shaped all of our trajectories over this past decade.

His visit was also a first opportunity to establish new connections. I had a hunch Roopam and Chris Buono would generate musical sparks.

Wingspan sounds INCREDIBLE. I am currently still exploring all facets of this instrument. I have only scratched the surface so far. I am finding this instrument to be transformative of my perception and relationship with guitar. I see it as a symphonic tool of strings: strings representing the universe. (Roopam Garg)

VIDEO: Roopam Garg and Chris Buono one take live improvisation in the guitar shop. This piece is pure energy. Roopam with Wingspan™ 8 and Chris with Spearfish™ fretless.
VIDEO: Chordal progression. This longer one take live improvisation sets a mood. Love hearing Wingspan™ and Sketch™ 7-string being played in the shop where both instruments were designed and built. Signal chain is Strymon Iridium > Logic.