STUDIO AZURA: THE GUITARS
This is a small gallery of the guitars that I use when inventing, developing, and testing all of the audio processors that you find on this website. Our musical project is known as Azura, and the studio we own is known as Studio Azura. All of the developmental work I do for Farndurk Custom Modular is cut from raw stone in Studio Azura. Essentially, my wife and I are Azura, we'll be publishing product demos of many Farndurk modules hopefully by the end of this calendar year. We'll also be posting some of our silly little instrumentals just for fun, and we'll be gigging locally again soon as well (I simply cannot wait - I absolutely LOVE playing live). Stay tooned!
The odd gallery of stringed instruments I play.
These are the guitars and basses I play. These are the guitars I use when I develope and test every Farndurk audio processor I make that are for guitars and/or basses. I'm set up with Single Coils, P-90s, and Humbuckers (all of which are used to better serve my customers' needs). I've built many of them, some of them were store-bought. You'll find that most of what I own is plenty weird! The day I took these pics was when I had taken to task getting the Dean MLX, the Iceman, and the Shredbilly properly intoned. So sharp-eyed players will note that the saddles of those three guitars aren't in any state of intonation. The Shredbilly isn't even strung! (it was "first" on the list to be restrung and intoned properly). I use 10 guage Ernie Ball strings on my guitars and Elixir ultra lights or a cannibalized set of six-string Ernie Ball bass strings on the Cort.
The Backwards Lefthanded Warmoth Iceman:
This guitar is a total oddball. I got the body on a smoking deal from Warmoth. It was a body that someone had ordered and refused. The paintjob fairly sucks, and there are some screw-ups on it here and there (you can even see where they accidently drilled three control knob holes in the wrong place and plugged them). It's a solid mahogany left handed reversed Ibanez Iceman body. It has a rear rout for the control cavity that I cut through to the front. I made a control plate out of a pedal enclosure cover and outfitted it with some custom controls that suit my uses just fine. The neck is unfinished Padouk with a boatback rear contour and a straight ten inch fretboard radius ("a bat"). Stainless steel frets (are there any other kind?), Planet Waves locking, self trimming tuning machines and a Callaham stainless steel backing plate. Pickups are Seymour Duncan Phat Cat P-90s, Gotoh bridge and stop-tail. It looks a little different but it is VERY comfortable whether sitting or standing.
The modded Dean ML-X:
This is one of those $200.00 Deans. I changed nearly everything that matters over the last three years. Seymour Ducan 59s at the neck and bridge, Gotoh bridge, all new control pots and pickup switch, 100% rewired. I wired it to have just a tone control and volume control. There was one more hole left over in the Basswood body so I stuck a big stainless steel bolt/flat washer/lock washer/nut in the hole to plug it. It plays excellently and sounds just great with all new electronics and a better bridge in it. I really love this guitar. The body shape really works well with my back and shoulder issues.
The Dean MLFR I use as an FX-Slider:
I bought this Dean as an experiment. I'd never owned or played a guitar with a Floyd Rose type tremolo bridge with locking nut, so I figured this was a good way to try that system out without going through major expenses. I'd never really given any kind of trem-outfitted guitar any kind of lengthy trial before. I learned how to properly set up a Floyd Rose trem, and to be honest I did a very good job of getting it properly adjusted so that it sat very level and was in a proper state of tensional balance. Well, after a few months of making the worst noises you've ever heard I decided the wammy bar just wasn't for me, so I decided to sell the guitar. It was in 100% perfect condition, so much so that it could have been sold as brand new and nobody would have known any better. After lowering my asking price a number of times to the point that I was asking less than half what I paid for it, it still would not sell. So, I decided to experiment with it some more. It has a "shredder neck" with a very flat 16 inch fretboard radius (one other aspect about this guitar that I really did not like at all). I figured this fretboard would suit slide playing very well being so flat (16" radius) and I turned out to be right! It has uber-hot passive "blackout" pickups that have really high outputs (but sound like ass-in-a-bucket when used cleanly). When I process this Agathis-bodied axe with some of my own circuits and a slide it sounds unbelievable! So I made an all new set of mounting rails on the back of the body, and it literally mounts solidly to the top of my 1962 Hammond A102 tonewheel organ. I process the hell out of this thing and it sounds incredible. I use it as a special FX instrument with a slide, numerous types of delays (to include two Boss DD-20 Gigadelays, a Boss Re-20 Space Echo, and a Line 6 M13 multi-FX unit). I pipe it through various overdrives and distortions of my own design as well. This guitar that I was completely unable to make friends with has become one of my favorite instruments. It fits in very well with my mighty Modular Synthesizer and spacious FX array. With the micro-tuners of the Floyd Rose type bridge right there next to my plucking hand I can knock it out of tune just slightly and get some of the coolest distorted sounds out of it that work quite well with wahs, delays, ring modulators, and the modular synth. I can then just as easily retune it in milliseconds. It's a very fun instrument to play.
The Cort A4 Artisan 4 string bass: "The ThundaBitch"
I bought this bass in 2000 as the third one in a string of twenty six basses. I had started playing bass in 1990 with an Ibanez 4-string SR sumthin-or-another .. it was black. Eight years later I was thrown into the role of Bass Player in the band I was in when the bass player quit (very loudly so .. my oh my what a drama scene that event was!). I had literally given my black Ibanez 4-string away just a few months prior to that, so I went to my local music store and bought a 5 string Ibanez sumthin-er-another (it was silver). The bandleader/songwriter did not approve of the 5 string format, so I traded that Ibanez in on this Cort. I eventually bought 23 other bass guitars over the course of the next five years, each one falling by the wayside. I went through Rickenbackers, Warwicks, Fenders, Steinbergers, Deans, Carvins, Kent Smiths, Yamahas ... 4-5-6 stringers. The works! I even tried to sell this Cort twice! It went as low as $185.00 and still didn't sell (these are over $1200.00 these days). This bass is on over 100+ recordings, gigged everywhere from Los Angeles, to Las Vegas, to Pheonix, to Mexico. It doesn't have a single scratch or mark on it, anywhere. It's The Survivor .. I call it El Cabrone (The Badass, The Buddy, The Badass Friend .. there are a number of translations for "Cabrone" depending on context). It sounds friggin FAT-AS-HELL and can do anything from Geddy 70's rock bass to jazz-type music. Only issue is that since it's a neck-through made of solid Maple, it weighs THIRTEEN POUNDS without a strap (I weighed it on our US Postal Service scale that we use to weigh packages prior to shipping them). I have no choice but to laugh at these guitar players that whine about their "heavy" Les Pauls .... I wish this bass were so light as the heaviest of heavy Les Pauls. We played nearly two-hour long sets, and practiced three nights per week every week from 6pm to 9pm+ for nearly five years in the last band I was in. This thing used to murder my neck! Haahaa! These days I love this thing, and from what I've come to learn about Cort (they are the largest guitar manufacturer on Planet Earth and make guitars and basses for nearly every one of the "big name" guitar manufacturers known) as well as what the Artisan line has as a reputation I will never EVER sell this bass. When strung with Elixirs it can easily do that piano-like John Entwistle tone, Geddy's 70's rock bass tone, 80's pop sounds, and modern "scoop".
The Shredbilly Warmoth Tele:
This guitar was designed and constructed to deal with a shoulder and back injury that plagues me every day of my life. I found that I was completely unable to play the guitar for any more than about ten minutes without being in pain for the next three or four days afterwards. Testing a customer's pedal out prior to shipping would have me in pain for every bit of three days. So I had to design a body shape that mimicked my Deans (which give me almost no trouble at all) but had aspects of a Telecaster. So I started out with an Alder Warmoth Tele body and cut the top of it to be like a Dean ML or Gibson Explorer. I then trimmed the lower horn to follow the Telecaster "hybrid" pickguard. I didn't own a router at that time so I bought some router bits and chucked them up in my drill press. After I cut the body to shape with a manual coping saw (in other words, "by hand"), I set the drillpress table to "depth" and rounded off the cuts by feeding the body through the drill press by hand. What you see is what came out of that effort. It fits me perfectly, and I can play it for hours on end. It's basically unfinished (as in "bare" wood), I just use regular lemon-scented furniture oil every time I change strings. The neck is unfinished Padouk (just like the Warmoth Reverse Lefty Iceman has). I love the feel of bare wood and Padouk sounds a lot like Maple (I can't tell the difference myself) This neck has the Warmoth compound fretboard radius (essentially conically shaped) that starts at ten inches at the nut and ends at sixteen inches at fret position #24, and has their standard "slim" rear profile. Ebony fretboard with Stainless Steel frets, Planet Waves self trimming/locking tuning machines, and a Strat headtock just to piss off the purists even more than what I did to the Tele body! The pickups are passive Seymour Duncan 1/4 Pounders with coil taps. The tap switches are located in the tone and volume controls (they pop-up when pressed down on .. "UP" = untapped, "DOWN = tapped). All of the screws, backing plate, control plate and hardware are stainless steel. Gotoh brass bridge, straplocks, and a Warmoth "Hybrid Tele" pickguard. The neck pickup rout is cut for a P-90, so humbuckers, P-90s, and single coils will all fit just by changing the pickguard. This axe weighs in at 7 pounds, 4 ounces with no strap. It sounds friggin AMAZINGLY good. When tapped it has a pleasent Tele sound. When untapped the pickups come to life and it has the most excellent single coil distortion I've ever heard. I'm easily able to get many of Billy Gibbons' sounds, and a good deal of Jeff Beck's tones as well. I've let other (very skeptical) Tele players play this axe and each time they hate admitting how much they love the feel, the balance, and especially the sound of this beast. It's easily my most favorite guitar that I've ever owned (it's Number Fourteen in the list of guitars I've owned . not including the list of twenty six basses I've owned). This is a true "gigger's" axe, no doubt about it.
Coming Soon: The Race Bass.
072212: The Race Bass is a bass guitar I'm making from Warmoth parts. It is nearly completely designed and ready to come off-paper and into tangible existance. It is to be a part of my completely modular bass system that includes preamps that vary from Line 6 stuff to analog modular synth filters and signal routers, to DIY all-tube Marshall JTM45-based tone creators. Amplification is done using a Mackie M1400i and a Baer 1x12+1x6 two-way speaker cab as well as a custom front ported 2x10 cab. The bass guitar itself will have it's pickups wired directly to the output jacks, each pickup with it's own jack. Those discrete signals are to be routed into some modular synth gear that allows me to literally sweep between pickup signals with a foot controller. It's all very modular and super-flexible. I can insert FX and signal processors at nearly any point along the 2-channel signal path all the way up to the speaker cabs. I can install a DI at any point in the chain from straight out of the bass to any point along the way up to the speaker cabs. So I may capture the tone at any point and rout that signal to a recording DAW or even a FOH board. It can even be configured like a regular sane person's normal bass if I desire it. :) The body shape is to be something of a crossbred hybrid between a Steinberger and a Warmoth Z-Bass. This is necessary to deal with my spinal issues. The development of the Shredbilly has taught me much about what works and what doesn't work with my spinal problems. I'm applying those lessons to the shape of the Race Bass. Right now the only thing holding up the project is lack of money. As soon as some of that stuff becomes available the body will be purchased, then the neck, then the EMG pickups. I'm hoping to be able to get tones that resemble Geddy Lee, Billy Sheehan, Mike Dirnt, and Dave Hope. There are two major aspect as of yet undecided: String count and body material.
4, 5, or 6 string?
I'm considering the use of a six-string bass. It would be set up as a binary rig, with two thicker Eand A strings, then a thin set of four strings. So something like E-A-E-A-D-G. The fitst E-A would be normal string guages (like 105 - 85 or so). The second set would be very light, like 80-66-45-32. This pretty much creates two spearate basses all on one single necked instrument. Two fat strings for low-end-groovin, and four thin strings for 70's rock-bass riffing. The preamp tonal changes would be easily taken care of via the comprehensive preamp section I have already built using modular synth gear and Line 6 M13 options. I've owned two six string basses in the past, so I know what to expect as far as playability (a Carvin 6 string and a Warwick Corvette 6 string). The other idea along this path is to do the same thing but with just a five string, omitting the 32 guage G string.
The last aspect is body material. I'm bouncing between Alder, Maple, and Mahogany. So by the time money comes my way and some financial responsibilities are taken care of first, I hope to have these matters decided on. Stay tuned!
To be announced.