Nick's Guitars

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The Hohner: 

 

The die-hard road-worn guitar of my career. Nothing special about this guitar, except she's been with me since the beginning. I've written most of my songs on her, and performed well over 1000 times onstage with her. I've broken the headstock off on three separate occasions and had to glue her back together with woodglue and clamps.

 

She's been to Australia twice with me and all around the Pacific coast of the USA. This guitar has been used in every project I've ever been in, whether for songwriting, performing or recording. I've modified her over the years to have an internal microphone and a humbucker, but I keep going back to the stock piezo undersaddle pickup, processed through my pedal rig. 

 

Signed by Adrian Legg, Tommy Emmanuel, and Eric Johnson.

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The Benavente: 

 

This handmade guitar by luthier Chris Benavente is my main electric guitar. It was commissioned in 2010 and completed in 2011.

My desire for a Stratocaster that was versatile in stage and studio resulted in the commission of the body, and then I realized it was my opportunity to experiment with flat frets. Flat frets are very rare in electric guitar design, and to my knowledge, only Shawn Lane and Stanley Jordan use them.

 

An all mahogany neck on a mahogany body with flame maple top, this guitar has my signature razor flat frets (like a classical guitar) and hybrid S and T hybrid body design. The body shape is what a single-cut Stratocaster body would be, with the upper bout of a Telecaster restored to it. I've also moved the output jack to the side like a Telecaster. The pickups are coil-tappable, Seymour Duncan Jazz II in the neck position and a JB bridge pickup.

The Key: 

 

This guitar was built to showcase my piano styled neck design. This invention for guitar displays an alternate approach to the unlabeled guitar fingerboard, one which offers different placeholders and references for students and masters alike. Embedding the information from piano onto the guitar, the invention allows the student to explore the guitar in a way pianists have enjoyed for hundreds of years.

 

In 2013, I commissioned Benavente Guitars to manufacture a prototype neck. I think he appreciated the challenge, and the custom CNC inlay work is spectacular. The final result was rendered in maple and walnut, absolutely stunning, and it deserved a proper body to bolt onto. 

I inevitably commissioned another luthier to manufacture a compatible custom body based on the original Fender Starcaster hollowbody shape, and had Benavente finish and assemble the guitar in 2020.

Blondie: 

 

A whimsical new instrument that I "accidentally" commissioned in pieces from several builders and assembled myself with assistance from Kinnatone and Benavente Guitars. With a reverse headstock and a kill switch, this guitar is all about funky idiosyncracy.

I originally commissioned the guitar body from a New York luthier who absolutely got everything wrong about it in terms of drilling and routing. It was intended to be compatible with The Key, and that's why it has a matching color theme and walnut pickguard.

 

After much frustration at the incompatibility, I realized I needed things to be custom fit and retooled by more capable hands. I invoked Kinnatone to fully build the electronics and pickguard, and I had Benavente reset the neck pocket and route additional wood away to make it sit deeper. This guitar absolutely kicks ass now, but should probably never be disassembled again and is no longer modular.

Barda: 

 

My classy stage guitar used in Stray Kingdom and other projects. A red Ibanez Artcore, Barda is named after the Jack Kirby character Big Barda, in DC Comics.

 

I purchased this guitar while Charlotte was struggling at gigs and The Benavente was half finished. As soon as I got it, I modified it internally. On the inside, Barda is wired with 100% Gibson branded wire, switches, jacks and pickups making her electronically very similar to a Gibson ES-335 guitar. The bridge pickup is a Gibson Dirty Fingers and the neck pickup is a Seymour Duncan Jazz II.

The guitar is usually kept in D standard tuning and heavily strung for hard rock rhythm guitar, and after having the headstock broken off twice, she's kept around mostly for songwriting and recording. 

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Charlotte: 

 

My shreddy stage guitar for my first 10 years playing. A blue Ibanez S series with a Floyd Rose bridge, Charlotte was used on every project up until 2011 with Stray Kingdom. The guitar wasn't good for drop tuning and it was just a little bit fragile from too much gigging with The Jamlanders, so she was retired.

I got this guitar as an 18th birthday present, and it was a dream come true. My hero was (and always will be) Steve Vai, and this guitar was as close as I could get to his set-up at the time. 

The only upgrade to her was a Trem-setter to stabilize the Floyd Rose. Otherwise, she was stock and infinitely reliable. The best intonation and thinnest neck.

Named after the love interest of Meyerling in Vampire Hunter D.

Angel (Strat): 

 

My first electric guitar, purchased in 1997 at Larry's Music in Medford, Oregon. It was originally black with white pickguard.

 

I was 14 years old when I received this Mexico Fender Stratocaster and began dinking around with guitar, already a somewhat skilled young keyboardist. By 15 I was learning from books and the early internet was just beginning to share tablature. At 16 years old I received lessons and began playing Angel constantly, eventually swapping her pickups out to Texas Specials as I tried to find my niche. At some point I dropped in single coil sized humbuckers changed the cosmetics to black on dark pearloid, like in the image shown.

In 2020, she is now a fretless guitar with a new black pickguard, dual humbuckers, and a blocked off tremolo. Angel bears a small Autobot symbol next to the Fender logo and is signed on the headstock by one of my heroes, Stanley Jordan.

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Black Betty: 

A heavily modified Ibanez Gio with scallopped frets and a blowtorched finish. This guitar was the first to receive fingerboard markings as I developed my invention The Key.

Growlvatron: 

 

A stock 4-string Yamaha Pacifica bass, which I slappa. I've played bass on quite a few projects over the years, and this is nearly the only bass I've used.

The only interesting thing about this bass is that I glued glass eye's onto the volume and tone knobs, glass eyes that my dad got from an optometrist or something back in the 1980's.

Also, it's got a Decepticon symbol, and is named after Galvatron.

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Ovation Mandolin: 

 

My acoustic electric mandolin with a guitar style bridge is particularly reliable in its design. Purchased in 2005 or so from Medford Music, I first performed using this instrument on an album for recording artist Dawson Cowals in 2007.

In 2010 I joined the Fret Drifters, and soon the mandolin was embraced as my alternate instrument, representing roughly a quarter of our early material.

In 2016, the eponymous album The Fret Drifters featured this instrument on the tracks Summer '08, Wildflower, and Buskers Shuffle.

In 2020, there are still plans for a Busker's Shuffle music video.

The Key (Prototype): 

A heavily modified Schecter Diamond 7 that received my first black and white piano key neck design while developing The Key.

This guitar has been through a lot, modified at the headstock and fingerboard, cosmetically elsewhere... it's one of the first instruments I go to when I start to plateau and need to brainstorm for new material..

The Key exhibited at Guitar-B-Que 5 in 2015
The Key exhibited at Guitar-B-Que 5 in 2015
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The Key in my hand at Guitar-B-Que 5 in 2015
The Key in my hand at Guitar-B-Que 5 in 2015
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