Sketch 7-String Guitar

PHOTOS: Sketch™ 7-string guitar. Fully restored to NAMM 2012 condition. Sketch™ plays perfectly…ready for professional studio or stage use. Altieri custom fitted gig bag from NAMM 2012. (photos: 11.2021)

Designed and built in less than a month for emerging artist Tosin Abasi (Animals As Leaders) in summer of 2011. At that moment Tosin and I were relative unknowns — both of us pushing our personal limits to see what was possible.

Sketch™ was never intended for public life.

The nickname “Sketch” refers to the speed and intent of the build.

Tosin is an 8-string player…and only a prototype 7-string version of the new tuning system I had designed was available. So we both knew going into the build that the guitar would be a proof-of-concept sketch to test ergonomics.

In the original incarnation (photos below) ink marks are visible on the body, references for component layout. The curly maple neck blank was a discard found in my father’s wood shop scrap pile. I bought a piece of hickory for the fretboard at Niece’s, the local lumber yard in Lambertville, NJ.

The irony of this is not lost on me.

Sometimes the art we create is unintentional.

PHOTO: Sketch™ 7-string patented Intersecting Plane Neck Profile™ with Rick Toone signature and original (2011) build date carved into back of headstock. (photo: 11.2021)
PHOTO: Full scale neck blank pattern sent to Tosin Abasi in May of 2011 for custom fitting. He signed the neck blank and shipped it back to the shop, where it was used to create precise dimensions for the Sketch™ 7-string guitar build. (photo: 11.2021)
VIDEO: Tosin Abasi plays Sketch™ 7-string guitar backstage pre-show during 2011’s Animals As Leaders tour. Because Sketch™ is seven strings the guitar never made it onstage for live performance. However, this time with the instrument was excellent R&D for developing Blur™ 8-string.

Patented IPNP™ neck profile…
Effortless neck joint…
Patented Intonation Cantilever™ adjustable nut…
Leading into the highly unusual multiscale fretboard…
String pitch controlled by the patented PCSPCS™ precision tuning system…
A single prototype pickup created by DiMarzio R&D master Steve Blucher…

IMAGES: Drove to meet Tosin for his Animals As Leaders soundcheck on 7.19.2011 at The Crazy Donkey, Farmingdale, NY. Amazing afternoon together, meeting Javier Reyes (AAL) and also (solo bassist) Evan Brewer. Evan pioneered two handed harmonic tap on bass and helped Tosin develop the technique for 8-string guitar. Below, you will see a video of Evan Brewer playing Sketch™ at NAMM 2012.
PHOTOS: Images of Sketch™ 7-string being built in my first shop, an 8′ x 12′ Amish shed powered via an extension cord. The guitar was nicknamed “Sketch” because it was intended to be a simple proof-of-concept prototype. In the original version seen above, notice the ink lines demarcating component positions. After a few months with Sketch™ Tosin shipped the instrument back to me in trade for Blur 8-string guitar, which would be delivered to him at NAMM 2012. In the meantime, I decided to revise Sketch™ for NAMM. The ergonomics of Sketch™ are radically groundbreaking and slowly catching on in the guitar building community. The ergonomics of Sketch™ helped motivate Tosin to form Abasi Concepts.

Sketch™ is the one guitar that has always been in the center of it all.

Sketch™ has been on more adventures than possibly all of my other builds combined. Toured with Tosin Abasi in 2011, featured at NAMM 2012, sold into obscurity, found and purchased by investment legend Steve Sjuggerud, fully restored by me in 2019, played by a seminal roster of incredibly gifted professional musicians: Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes, Evan Brewer, Chris Buono, Harvey Valdez, Mike Dawes, Killick Hinds, Gabriel Levi, Roopam Garg.

What follows are some highlights from this past decade…

PHOTO: Original marketing materials from 2012 NAMM Show. Business cards and postcards featuring Sketch™ in elegant B&W. Included with the instrument. (photo: 11.2021)
IMAGES: About a month prior to 2012 NAMM Show guitarist Chris Buono emailed me. Chris is a True Fire instructor and regular contributor to Guitar Player. This was a perfect opportunity to test Sketch™ prior to NAMM. We decided to meet for his gig with drum legend Rodney Holmes (Lithium Tree) in New Hope, PA, on December 16, 2011. I brought Sketch™ to the venue and Chris loved it — played the guitar live with no warm up and no rehearsal. Bold move. A beautiful friendship between us began.
VIDEO: 2012 NAMM Show. Solo bassist Evan Brewer performs an amazing improvisation on Sketch™ 7-string guitar. Lucky to capture this moment on an iPad despite the noise and chaos of Exhibit Hall E. Evan is such a musical player. His two solo bass albums Alone and Your Itinerary are a gift to all of us who love music.
PHOTOS: Blur™ 8-string guitar is the direct offspring of Sketch™ 7-string. Ergonomics and body contours are adapted for eight strings. Bridges and tuning mechanism are identical. New innovations appear on Blur™ — including 3D™ control surface and the radical concept neck which would quickly develop into the Element™ series. Building Sketch™ led to the conceptual breakthroughs necessary to develop Blur™ into the leading edge instrument it continues to be today. Note Sketch™ and Blur™ sharing the spotlight at NAMM 2012.
VIDEO: Tosin Abasi backstage with Blur™ on tour, explaining the alien technology. Rig Rundown with the ever-awesome Rebecca Dirks.
VIDEO: Tosin Abasi plays Blur™ live onstage for Animals As Leaders song New Eden.
VIDEO: How To Change Guitar Strings featuring patented PCSPCS™ tuning system in detail.
PHOTOS: Details of the precision tuning mechanism on Sketch™ 7-string guitar. Stainless steel, bearing bronze, aircraft aluminum. Changing guitars strings is simple and actually delightful. Note the extremely rare “patent pending” version. Only two seven string sets were ever machined. I really enjoyed revisiting this design during the 2019 restoration. (photos: 11.2021)
PHOTO: Another extreme rarity. The patented intonation adjustable nut. Only a few were machined, including two in 7-string version and one in 8-string version (for Javier Reyes). Development of this nut concept enabled Element™ neck design. (photo: 11.2021)
PHOTO: A single custom prototype DiMarzio pickup powers the unusual tone of Sketch™ 7-string guitar. Developed by Steve Blucher and Eric Corpus, the pickup captures incredible midrange while retaining highs and bass. Sketch™ punches through any guitar mix yet sits easily in the frequencies where other guitars turn to mud. As Tosin Abasi noted, the acoustic response of the instrument is exceptional…and this translates into amplified tone as well.
PHOTOS: Surprise visit to DiMarzio in March, 2013. Chris Buono, Steve Sjuggerud, and Rick Toone dropped in on Steve Blucher and Eric Corpus, catching them in a moment of candid hilarity. They graciously agreed to form a band with us. Here are the album cover shots. Oh, I should mention the guitars: secret Element™ prototype (owned by Sjuggs), Sketch™ 7-string, S2™ prototype.
VIDEO: Immediately after NAMM 2012, Sketch™ 7-string sold to guitarist Harvey Valdez. A year later Steve Sjuggerud tracked down the guitar through Chris Buono and purchased it from Harvey. Remind Sjuggs to tell you that story. Steve and I have subsequently become great friends. In 2019 he graciously gifted Sketch™ back to me. Full circle. Here is his excellent adaptation of Message In A Bottle (2014) where he makes it look too easy. Steve recently earned a degree in guitar from Berklee.
VIDEO: 41 minute documentary recording the album Magnets And Wire at Sugar Shack in Florida, November 5-6, 2019. This was a wonderful opportunity to gather and introduce Rick Toone clients. Musicians: Chris Buono, Todd Haug, Killick Hinds, Ken Kinter, Gabriel Levi, Dan Ostrowski, Steve Sjuggerud, Ede Wright. Sketch™ 7-string features on several tracks.

VIDEO: Artist Dark (Roopam Garg) flew in to take ownership of his new Wingspan™ 8-string guitar. Chris Buono met us and we used this opportunity to record two absolute masters playing live improvisational duets right in the shop. In this gorgeous progression Chris is playing Sketch™ 7-string. Notice how perfectly the guitar fits him.

IMAGES: Composite of Sketch™ as of 11.2021. High resolution image. Right click to download.

VIDEO: Gabriel Levi plays Sketch™ and shares his thoughts about the experience. (9.2023)