8 STRING GUITAR
Although I love the guitar, I've often been envious of some of the things pianists can do that guitarists can't (perhaps a Freudian would say I suffer from deep seated "pianist envy.")
I had been aware for years that guitarist George Van Eps, one of my heroes, played a seven string guitar with an extra low A string (a fifth below the low E), and also that Lenny Breau, another hero of mine, played several different seven strings later in his career that had high A strings (a fourth above the high E).
In my quest to be able to play more extensive contrapuntal ideas, play chords with more notes and that covered a wider range, and just in general to expand the possibilities of what I could do on guitar to "narrow the gap" between myself and the average pianist, I thought "why not have a guitar built that does BOTH?"
Since I first had the idea for the instrument, I had thrown different thoughts around with different people (most notably my good friend, bassist Randy Ward, who knows a lot about a lot of things, and more about guitars than a lot of guitarists I know) and come up with the basic idea for the design.
After one failed attempt to piece the instrument together "frankenstein" style, on a shoestring budget, from parts, I finally threw in the towel and decided to find a builder to make me one from scratch.
I finally settled on Conklin guitars, which was a bit of a gamble since the company is located in Missouri, and I live in S. Florida, and since I wasn't that familiar with Bill Conklin's work.
Nevertheless, I got a really good vibe from Bill immediately, and found out that he had already built several eight strings already. I'm very pleased with the instrument he built; the workmanship is first rate and it really gets as close as anything ever does to the sound I heard in my head.
The guitar uses the Novax fanned fret system to accomodate different scale lengths on one guitar (23 5/8" at the high A string down to 26 1/2" at the low B string), pickups that Seymour Duncan custom makes for Conklin, an RMC piezo/synth pickup (the synth pickup is set to trigger the top 6 strings; current guitar synths aren't built to trigger more than 6 strings).
The neck is a multilaminate of purpleheart and maple, with a rosewood fingerboard, and the guitar's body is swamp ash, solid with hollow chambers, and is Conklin's "Crossover" style which is somewhat of a hybrid between a Les Paul and a Telecaster in design. As might be expected in a chambered solid body, the sound is somewhere in the middle between a solid body like a Telecaster and a semi hollow like an ES335.
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