My main flow for playing live shows is for half the songs I’ll play my nylon guitar and for the other half I’m carving jazz lines on the steel string. Mix that up with being the band leader and wanting to talk a little to the audience about the next song, add in plugging in the guitar jack plus the midi cable every time I switch guitars and you’ve got a semi flow buster. In trying to keep it seamless between tunes, I got to thinking that maybe one special guitar might be able to do it all.
Who can build such a thing?
I went to Taylor guitars and they didn’t seem to be interested in building a twin neck. Granted, it’s a weird idea and the landscape of twin neck guitars traditionally is fraught with dinosaur instruments. Google “double neck guitar” and you’ll see what I mean.
I’d known about the young Andy Powers for years. He’s a great surfer, a really good guitarist, and a master guitar maker. He’s repaired my instruments and built some fantastic guitars and ukuleles’ for some of the best including the Nickel Creek kids and Elvis Costello. I brought my idea to Andy and he was onboard immediately. I love his “we can do anything” spirit and we set out to build a mock up of the guitar to check how it would work ergonomically. The challenge was to make it so each neck felt like it was in a good position, close enough but not too close so that my hand wouldn’t get caught in between the necks. We decided that the nylon neck should be on top and the steel string neck on the bottom. The guitar would be a hollow body so that it has some acoustic qualities but still enough of a thin line guitar to not battle feedback.
Andy began building the guitar around September of 2007. He let me select the wood and we mapped out all of the electronic possibilities for the instrument. Check out these pickup options that the twin neck has:
- The nylon neck has a RMC pickup in the bridge that gives the nylon guitar sound plus midi output.
- The steel neck has 2 Humbucker pickups for a jazz sound. The coil on these pickups can be split to give a Strat type sound. The steel neck also has a RMC pickup in the bridge that gives midi but also, just by using this pickup, the guitar can sound like a steel string acoustic guitar. I love this option for the folk type tunes!
- The third volume knob on the guitar is for a transducer pickup in the body to allow me to tap the instrument and have it be heard. I also add a little of this into the mix for a pleasant “woofiness” that adds warmth to the overall sound.
- The guitar has the RMC pickup output, the Humbucker pickup output and a midi output.
- Andy is known for his ability to do great inlays on his instruments and he took my logo that I’ve been using for years and worked some magic on it. Om sign included!
I’ve had the instrument now for a couple of months and I’m thrilled with it. I just plug it in at the beginning of the concert and then I’m there the whole way, no more fiddling between tunes. Sometimes I get confused on which neck I’m supposing to be playing and I have to laugh at the absurdity of the whole deal. This instrument is weird and I’m weird. The intonation and playability of the twin is off the Richter! It’s so in tune and pretty much stays that way the whole gig. Andy’s craftsmanship is absolute top drawer. I’ve never had an instrument with this kind of detail and sonic options.
I’m a happy guitarist…
Twin neck photos by: West Kennerly and Jim Ochi