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 Post subject: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 11:39 am 
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Mahogany
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Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2019 12:00 pm
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First name: Terry
Hello Acoustic Experts! I'm new here, and looking forward to learning as much as I can from those who have gone before.

I'm in the planning stages of my first acoustic build, and am fortunate enough to have a great working space and a full complement of tools from building fine furniture over the last 30 years. I'm also an acoustic player, with specific goals for my project(s). The problem is that none of my furniture pieces have ever made music :-). So I need a lot of advice on how to get as close as I can to what is the perfect sound for me.

Two of the acoustics I currently own are Gibson Hummingbirds. One Mahogany and one Rosewood (both with low-medium action and .013 coated round-wound strings). I loved the Mahogany for a long time... and then I played the rosewood. Couldn't leave the store without it. I love the overall thickness in feel and sound of the Rosewood Hummingbird, and the range of tones, but there isn't enough bass, or power for me in my typical live setting (1000-3000 person room with a lot of energy).

Bottom line is I play aggressively, mostly because I played saxophone for over 25 years and I'm used to an instrument I can really lean into when the moment gets big. I basically want to build a huge sounding guitar that can take hard strumming while delivering powerful low-end and crips highs. Yea, I know... I want a miracle. This brings me to my current strategy, but I'm hoping for advice on how to improve! Thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions!

Design: SJ-200
Top: Sitka, pre-joined (on the thicker side?)
Sides: Rosewood, pre-bent
Back: Rosewood
Bracing: Laminated and carved (thin Jatoba center with rosewood sides)
Bracing Pattern: X with 2 diagonal lower bars
Neck: Mahogany, Carbon Fiber sticks, Single action rod
Neck Joint: Mortise and Tenon, bolted with Mahogany neck block
Side Bracing: Jatoba, every 4-6 inches
Kerfing: Mahogany
Bridge and fretboard: Rosewood or Hard Maple
Nut and Saddle: Bone, 1/4"

I'll worry about the tuners, frets and inlay when the time comes but the list above seems to be the important stuff for tone.

Bring on the expertise! I'm really looking forward to a new world of woodworking combined with music!


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 11:56 am 
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First name: colin
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And scale length?

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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 11:58 am 
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Mahogany
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Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2019 12:00 pm
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First name: Terry
25.312.

I hear 25"+ is good for "louder" or more "powerful" instruments. But what do I know?


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 12:20 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Honest advice? Prepare yourself for disappointment. The likelihood of building your ultimate guitar first time out is pretty slim. Building good guitars is a process of accumulated experience, being able to tailor the sound especially so.

That being said, don’t be discouraged. If you’re already a good woodworker you’re miles ahead of the game. But you’ll need to build a few to have a baseline to adjust from.

I would suggest ditching the J-200 style for a standard dread. It’s really easy to make a jumbo sound woolly. And since you have two dreads already, you’ll have something in hand to make realistic comparisons to...



These users thanked the author meddlingfool for the post: groesjoshua (Fri Jan 17, 2020 12:27 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 12:45 pm 
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Mahogany
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Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2019 12:00 pm
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First name: Terry
Thanks for the perspective. Do you think I will learn as much or more making something that I don't intend to make? Meaning, if I make a dread, will I get more benefit because of its inherent learning characteristics?

I know the first one will be firewood in the end. I just want the first one to be the very best I can start from, so I don't have to make 10 in order to figure out I should have used wood "x" or bracing "y", etc.

I learned this lesson about furniture over 20 years ago. There are a few hundred years of history to draw on, so I immersed myself in as much of it as I could to avoid the mistakes my forebears made. It helped me skip over years of stupid mistakes. That's what I want to do with guitar building...

Bring it!


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:34 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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The other side of the "be prepared to be disappointed" coin is even thought it won't be your dream guitar you will love hearing your first no matter how far it is away from what you (think you) want right now.

I won't claim to know how to get you where you want to go tonally since I have not made enough guitars to begin to get myself there. I will weigh in with a few of my thoughts:

Bracing: Laminated and carved (thin Jatoba center with rosewood sides)
Do you really mean you want to brace the top with rosewood and jatoba? I think you should stick with
spruce. Haans makes great guitars using thin rosewood center lams in his spruce braces but he made
many, many guitars to get to where he is. Most use spruce. . .
Bracing Pattern: X with 2 diagonal lower bars
There is a lot more to tone when it comes to bracing than just X and two tone bars. There is top
thickness, brace height, X position, brace profile. . . all of this works together and takes a long time to get
a feel for. Be prepared for that.
Neck: Mahogany, Carbon Fiber sticks, Single action rod
I would strongly recommend a two way truss rod. They are not expensive, won't ruin your tone and the
two way adjustment may save you one day.
Side Bracing: Jatoba, every 4-6 inches
I use solid side braces inlet into the linings. Every 4-6 inches seems excessive though I suppose there
isn't much harm in it. I usually put about 5 in on each side.

Have fun, good luck!

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These users thanked the author Bryan Bear for the post: Corky Long (Thu Jan 16, 2020 4:10 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:59 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I find Jatoba not worthy of musical instruments..... much to sensitive to RH especially for braces. And rosewood is much too stiff!

Fortunately for you (maybe) building a good sounding guitar is easier than building a good looking one. But good sounding and sounding like the dream in your head are two different things.

Then there is the perspective of tolerances.... I came from a professional cabinet and furniture background where +/- 1/32" was considered high tolerance and +/- 1/16" was the norm, instrument making is woodworking by the thousandth of an inch and +/- .015" can make or break playability or function..... Also you will be working pieces of finished wood far smaller than what you now consider scrap. What I am saying is that even from a really good high end wood working background there is a steep learning curve.

Then there is all the non woodworking. The finishing,fret work, nut and saddle, set up and we haven't even touched the topic of working shell for inlay. Woodworking is only 50% of this endeavor and half of that involves things directly related to making sound from a string vibration. And then there is being able to repeat this magic with different pieces of wood.

I admire your attitude and gumption and wish you the best but caution you to temper your hopes. Building something as nice as your H-bird on your first outing even with pre-made parts will be very difficult. You haven't even figured out how much you don't know yet. ;)

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These users thanked the author B. Howard for the post: Bri (Thu Sep 05, 2019 7:05 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 2:01 pm 
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Location: Southeast US
City: Lenoir City
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Square or slope shouldered dred, red spruce top, x-braced with 2 tone bars, scalloped spruce bracing, rosewood back/sides. You might get lucky and nail it the first time (I hope you do), took me about a dozen but I don't care anymore cause I like building them. Since you're a player and already a woodworker then you'll probably want to make more.

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"Music is what feelings sound like"


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 2:35 pm 
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Terry--

I think you are suffering from a title to this thread that implies something we see every so often: A person who expects to make their dream guitar the first time they build one. I know you are saying you don't expect that, but that's what the title sounds like, so forgive the "pile-on" about managing your expectations. We all mean well.

I do think that you would be better off making your first guitar by following an established building guide, and that means building whatever common model the building guide has you build. Believe me, there is plenty to deal with on your first guitar without having to tweak the instructions to fit the special guitar you decided to make. Don't worry; you will be able to build the model you want soon enough. But the first one really is a big learning experience. I would keep it simple, follow the instructions, and see what comes of it.

I would also buy all of what goes on the guitar at the same time. Some of the suppliers give you a price break if you buy everything for a guitar all at once, and you will want to take some measurements on a few things (tuners, for instance) while you are doing the woodworking.

Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 2:36 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Nobody builds just one...:)



These users thanked the author meddlingfool for the post: TerrenceMitchell (Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:12 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 2:49 pm 
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A 12 fret body joint will help position the bridge more in the desirable area of the top, which can help with volume. IMO

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These users thanked the author Jim Watts for the post: Luthier1975 (Fri Sep 06, 2019 6:47 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:14 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I agree with all the advice given already. It took me ten guitars before I finally felt comfortable selling one. But having said that I still have my very first guitar and I still play it regularly and frankly it sounds pretty darn good. Is it a dream guitar? No not really but my point is if you follow the recipe then you will build a decent guitar. Just don't expect it to be a Somogyi or a Klepper on your first try ;)

Typically students find one of two common approaches to building a guitar. THe first approach is to study everything in the finest of all possible details before executing the first job and then studying in every detail all the jobs after that to assemble a guitar to completion. The second approach is to jump right into it and start making mistakes, finish a guitar and move on to the next one.

Science shows us that the second approach is often times the best approach for any given task. In this case the task is building guitars. So in theory if you buy enough wood to build ten guitars and start tomorrow then at the end of the year when you are on your tenth guitar you will be closer to your goal. Meanwhile at the end of the year the student who took approach number one is still over engineering how to make a head block.

Just some food for thought ;)



These users thanked the author jfmckenna for the post: banjopicks (Thu Sep 05, 2019 4:01 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:57 pm 
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpNS0JpnUNY

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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 4:35 pm 
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jfmckenna wrote:
I agree with all the advice given already. It took me ten guitars before I finally felt comfortable selling one. But having said that I still have my very first guitar and I still play it regularly and frankly it sounds pretty darn good. Is it a dream guitar? No not really but my point is if you follow the recipe then you will build a decent guitar. Just don't expect it to be a Somogyi or a Klepper on your first try ;)

Typically students find one of two common approaches to building a guitar. THe first approach is to study everything in the finest of all possible details before executing the first job and then studying in every detail all the jobs after that to assemble a guitar to completion. The second approach is to jump right into it and start making mistakes, finish a guitar and move on to the next one.

Science shows us that the second approach is often times the best approach for any given task. In this case the task is building guitars. So in theory if you buy enough wood to build ten guitars and start tomorrow then at the end of the year when you are on your tenth guitar you will be closer to your goal. Meanwhile at the end of the year the student who took approach number one is still over engineering how to make a head block.

Just some food for thought ;)


A big Amen to everything JF just said. The first approach is also where you will find the folks who expect to build a masterpiece the first time out. It is unrealistic and somewhat crippling, if you let it be such.

My wife and I were just discussing this. There are some things in life that require skill, rather than just talent. Skill requires honing. Honing means doing it, and tolerating being less than perfect at it, and then getting better at it with repetition.

Some folks handle that OK, and some struggle with the frustration of not being excellent out of the gate. I'm not saying which I am . . .


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 4:46 pm 
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How big is your arm, wrist & hand? If you have more of a slender build, it will be easier to reach inside the sound hole & shave braces to adjust the sound.

Personally I'd not mess with laminating jatoba into your braces. I don't see the benefit of adding the mass but it's your call.

My experience is limited, I've only built 7 acoustics but from what you're saying, I'd build a little heavier. It may be less responsive to a light touch but you won't run out of headroom when playing it hard. You can always "lighten" it later by sanding the top more after it's built and/or shaving braces.

Have fun & post pictures, I like pictures.

Kevin Looker

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These users thanked the author klooker for the post: TerrenceMitchell (Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:14 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 5:15 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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"I basically want to build a huge sounding guitar that can take hard strumming while delivering powerful low-end and crips highs."

You might want to consider building a long bodied 12 fret @ body Dreadnought with a dense spruce (red spruce) top. Red spruce and denser pieces of other spruces usually give a bit more "head room" when strumming hard. Your first guitar could be a "cannon" and I've seen some "first" guitars that look great.


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 5:22 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Pretty common scenario. A good woodworker getting into guitar making and asking for advice. There was even one guy that I talked to that was going to use Brazilian for his first!

Your woodworking chops will be extremely valuable but I think a good 60-70% of what a guitar sounds like and plays has nothing to do with woodworking. As Mr Howard mentioned, the final outcome is a result of a million small things.

My advice in similar situations has been to start by following a tried and proven formula and in your case maybe consider a kit guitar (Rosewood Dred?) from Martin, Blues Creek, StewMac or LMI and follow the instructions. Maybe sounds too simple for a top woodworker but I assure you there will be plenty of challenges. The parts are shaped but the difficult stuff that makes or breaks an instrument like assessing top stiffness, voicing braces, neck angle and alignment, bridge position, fretwork, making a good nut and saddle, intonation etc. still have to be learned from scratch. Those things take a while but if you build a kit to spec it will be a good guitar you will be proud of.

I am up to 80 instruments and what I learn from each one is mainly how much I still have to learn. It is a bottomless pit of knowledge.

Good luck!! I think you may find you will get hooked, if you do, the best way to get better fast and shave years off your learning curve is to build two or three so you know what questions to ask, and then take an established building course. It will be money well spent.

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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 8:56 pm 
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TerrenceMitchell wrote:
... I love the overall thickness in feel and sound of the Rosewood Hummingbird, and the range of tones, but there isn't enough bass, or power for me in my typical live setting (1000-3000 person room with a lot of energy)...


Just for clarity, you're playing that size/type of venue un-amplified?

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These users thanked the author Trevor Gore for the post: Colin North (Fri Sep 06, 2019 1:21 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 10:49 pm 
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Cocobolo
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This conversation is starting to take on the qualities of 'plan A'. Overanalysis is breaking out. It's been mentioned above, but just build something. Build one for practice (one or two or three or four) and see what works, and then apply that to one that might satisfy the original hopes. A kit will scratch the guitar itch relatively quickly, at a price. Guitars don't have to cost a lot of cash if one stays away from buying (cosmetically) high-grade stuff. Can't hear appearances. I've scratchbuilt three, fourth in process. None's cost as much as a hundred bucks for solid b/s, laminated neck, Alaskan spruce soundboard. They all sound nice, the most recent sounds really good. All play beautifully. And they're all different. It's a wonderful trip.

A few years ago I attended a forum at the EAA convention in Oshkosh, and the speaker asked the participants to put their heads down and generate a mind's image of himself and his homebuilt airplane. Then he asked for a show of hands for those who pictured themselves building the airplane. And then asked for a show of hands for those who pictured themselves flying that airplane. Heads up, he told the folks who imagined flying the airplane to go buy one, they'll be unlikely to see a project through to completion. The first group, welcome to homebuilding. Same for guitars.

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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:05 am 
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Cocobolo
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Use spruce for the back bracing... and mahogany or spruce for the side braces. Keep it simple and known.

Also... use a 2-way trussrod its better to have the extra option there.

Also... unless you have a teacher or someone to guide you... your first guitar will not be up to your standard... nor your 2nd or 3rd... or even........

Good luck though.... we are here to help.

G.

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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:03 am 
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Pre-war Martin, D-18, D28, Gibson AJ. A correctly thicknesses and braced Red-Spruce top will deliver what you're after. John Arnold made a tracing of a 1937 D-28 herringbone with very clear detail on how that guitar was braced.


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 7:15 am 
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Clinchriver wrote:
Pre-war Martin, D-18, D28, Gibson AJ. A correctly thicknesses and braced Red-Spruce top will deliver what you're after. John Arnold made a tracing of a 1937 D-28 herringbone with very clear detail on how that guitar was braced.

NICE- !

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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 7:16 am 
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Lots of good comments here. I'll add this: If you are really serious about building specific tone into guitars, take a voicing class. Starting the conversation with a discussion about wood species is going in the wrong direction. Top wood material properties, along with correctly placing fundamental resonances, is far more important to the voice of the completed guitar that a list of species for the parts of a guitar. Good luck on your new adventure and have fun!

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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 7:52 am 
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Trevor Gore wrote:
TerrenceMitchell wrote:
... I love the overall thickness in feel and sound of the Rosewood Hummingbird, and the range of tones, but there isn't enough bass, or power for me in my typical live setting (1000-3000 person room with a lot of energy)...


Just for clarity, you're playing that size/type of venue un-amplified?


Definitely amplified... which means pickup is another big discussion that I didn't want to muddy the waters with. I know the pickup will never sound just like the instrument... but I've experimented enough to know that a small and dull sounding guitar will never big and powerful, regardless of the engineer and pickup system. I also had the privilege of running FOH for several years, as well as running a recording studio many years back, so I feel good about the sound reinforcement aspect.

FYI... I put Baggs Anthems in my dreads, and they are the closest thing I've found so far, but I might buy a couple K&K models to experiment with next. If anyone happens to have found the "ultimate" pickup system I'm all ears.

Thanks for asking!


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 Post subject: Re: Building a Cannon
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:05 am 
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Mahogany
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Greg Maxwell wrote:
Lots of good comments here. I'll add this: If you are really serious about building specific tone into guitars, take a voicing class. Starting the conversation with a discussion about wood species is going in the wrong direction. Top wood material properties, along with correctly placing fundamental resonances, is far more important to the voice of the completed guitar that a list of species for the parts of a guitar. Good luck on your new adventure and have fun!


That sounds like it would be a fascinating class. Please share any suggestions!



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