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Thread: Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

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    Administrator Evan Skopp's Avatar
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    Default Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars



    With more than 40 years of experience, Rick Turner has built a solid reputation among musicians worldwide as a living legend.

    About Rick


    Rick with one of his Compass Rose Ukuleles

    The former guitarist for the ’60s Canadian folk duo Ian & Sylvia and soundman for the Grateful Dead, Rick co-founded Alembic in 1970 and designed their classic Series 1 and Series 2 basses. He founded Rick Turner Guitars in 1979 and joined Gibson in 1988 where he served as President of Gibson Labs West Coast R&D Division.

    Rick left Gibson in 1992 and ran a guitar repair shop at Westwood Music in Los Angeles where he developed piezo pickups designs, working with Jackson Browne, David Crosby and others. He later co-founded Highlander Musical Audio, manufacturer of piezo pickups for acoustic guitars. He continues to design and build guitars for many professional players such as Ry Cooder, David Lindley, David Crosby and Andy Summers. His Model 1 electric guitar was made famous by Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham. Rick is a regular columnist for Acoustic Guitar and a former columnist for Bass Player, Frets and Guitar Player magazines. He teaches courses in lutherie and has a popular class called “Build a Mandolin in Four Days” which he teaches in California and Australia. He’s currently working on an autobiography. There's more information about Rick on his site.


    Turner Model 1, Made Famous by Lindsey Buckingham


    A Quartet of Rick's Acoustic Instruments

    But most important to us at Seymour Duncan, Rick is the “T” in D-TAR (duncan | turner acoustic research). He's also a great guy and a personal friend.

    About D-TAR and Mama Bear
    Like any other paradigm shift, Mama Bear started with a wild idea. At a Seymour Duncan-lead focus group in 2000, Rick said that acoustic guitar pickups had reached the maturity of their product design. Savvy players would use pickups with higher voltages, or multiple sources, or sophisticated off-board EQ; but, at best, the pickup only delivered an approximation of the true sound of the acoustic guitar. Sometimes that approximation was close. But too often, it was way off; and could make a high quality guitar sound like a cheap guitar, when amplified.

    Rick’s idea was to bring the guitar’s signal into the digital realm where a computer could neutralize the sound of the pickup and then add back in the string and body resonance of the guitar. To do it right, Rick reasoned, you would also have to account for the way an acoustic guitar note changes or blooms over time. Only in this sense, thought Rick, could an acoustic guitarist achieve an amplified tone that was virtually identical to the unamplified sound of the same guitar. And quack would be a thing of the past.

    Some folks at Seymour Duncan liked the idea so much we decided to spin off a new company to develop this product. That’s how D-TAR and Mama Bear were born. If you haven't experienced the amazing Mama Bear yet, click here to watch some incredible videos.


    Mama Bear

    Rick is on hand to answer questions today (10/6/09) about lutherie, guitar repair, pickups, the music industry, and anything else you want to throw his way. As a bonus, one lucky participant in this chat will win a Planet Waves Acoustic Guitar Humidifier.

    Please join me in welcoming to the Guest Luthier Series, Mr. Rick Turner!

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    Administrator Evan Skopp's Avatar
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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Welcome Rick. One of our members, Beandip, could not be here for this chat, but he asked me to forward these questions to you. Here's what he wrote:

    "Rick,

    Thanks a ton for doing this. I've been sitting here wondering when you were going to jump in, as it only made the most logical sense.

    I've got tons of questions, and if I overwhelm ya, feel free to pick and choose.

    1. What are your favorite personal instruments?
    2. What lead you to lean towards the unplugged boxes?
    3. Why'd you start working on/developing acoustic electronics?
    4. What's your favorite tool in the shop?
    5. Least favorite tool?
    6. Why'd you start working on instruments in the first place?
    7. Favorite job to do?
    8. Is there anything being a repairman I should know that you'd like to pass along?
    9. Can I have your permission to pick your brain when I'm stumped? That'd be awesome.

    Take care, Rick. Thanks for doing this, and for joining up with SD for DTAR.

    Also, what DTAR pickup would you recommend for a Martin D-28 style guitar used mainly for rhythm at high volumes, but still offer a great tone playing through a little acoustic amp at the house doing some fingerpicking. I was thinking maybe the Multi Source, but wasn't too sure.

    Thanks bud."

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Got_tone?'s Avatar
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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Thanks for being here Rick.

    Do you think that going to a lutherie school is the best way to learn about building and repairing guitars? Is the education/experience worth the money?
    Last edited by Got_tone?; 10-06-2009 at 10:06 AM.

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Yes, I'm a fan of lutherie schools like Roberto Venn where I've lectured quite a bit, Red Wing in Minnesota where my friend Cat Fox learned, the Brian Galloup school, and others. If you're serious about learning the craft, this gives you not only a head start toward an apprenticeship, but you'll really learn the language of lutherie and have a chance to build instruments under the watchful eyes of experienced luthiers. If lutherie schools had existed when I went to...and dropped out of Boston University, I would have looked very seriously at that choice, and it's one I know my parents would have supported.

    The second part of this, though, is that I firmly believe that luthiers aren't ready to take up full time building until they've put in three to five years doing guitar repair in a busy retail music store. It's the only way you'll really learn setups and fretwork and see what goes wrong with thousands of guitars, and that will make you a better builder. You also need people skills; you need to know how to deal with musicians of every temperament, and you need to learn from them what they like and dislike.

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Do you have a preferred acoustic shape and body wood combination?

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    thanks for doing this rick!

    please tell me about the wall of sound that you guys built. it seems like a foh guys dream and nightmare all wrapped in a 10 tractor trailer package.

    if a guitar player with a hard attack was going to electrify an acoustic for stage use, a deeper 000-28 type guitar, what would you suggest, sound hole + under saddle or ???

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Hi, Rick!!

    Thanks for coming in today.

    A couple of practical questions...

    1. Have you ever considered making mandolins? How about mandolas and bouzoukis? Ten string citterns? One of those with a humbucker is a dream of mine.

    Philosophical...

    2. Is there any one guitar you can name that pointed you in the direction of building? One that you knew you could do better than? One you hoped to do as well as one day?
    - Tom

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankly
    Some people make the wine. Some people drink the wine. And some people sniff the cork and wonder what might have been.
    The Eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the Crow.

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    For Beandip:
    1. What are your favorite personal instruments?

    My own “player” instruments are a jumbo acoustic that I built a couple of years ago that is going to go to a friend in Switzerland when I get a second neck made for it…it’s going to have interchangeable necks, a standard scale that it has now, and a 27” baritone neck. It will take him about five minutes to change the guitar from standard to bari.


    2. What lead you to lean towards the unplugged boxes?


    I grew up with folk music in my home, with my dad noodling on acoustic guitars, and into the folk boom of the 1960s. I got good enough at playing to get the lead/backup guitar gig with Canadians Ian and Sylvia and was lucky enough to then have Felix Pappalardi join us playing bass before he got deep into record production with the Youngbloods and then Cream.


    3. Why'd you start working on/developing acoustic electronics?

    I actually started in about 1967 or ’68 trying to amplify my Martin D-28, first with a piezo disc that had originally been a Navy diver’s throat microphone, and then with building in a Sony electret microphone. I’d been an acoustic player who switched over to electric, and I wanted to be able to use an acoustic live in a fairly loud band setting. My early experiments didn’t work too well, but they put me on the journey.


    4. What's your favorite tool in the shop?

    I have many, but one of the hearts of my operation is a WWII era Ekstrom Carlson overarm pin router. It’s a beast of about 1,500 lbs of iron with a 7 hp motor that spins the spindle at 20,000 rpm. It’s made to follow a pattern and cut duplicate parts.

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    5. Least favorite tool?

    I’d have to say all the ones that fill the air with too much dust! I don’t really have a least favorite, but dust is the enemy in our shop. I guess I don’t really like the noisy whine of routers or the shop vacuum cleaner, either.

    6. Why'd you start working on instruments in the first place?

    As a kid I build models of boats, planes, and the usual things; at first I did it from kits, and then graduated to making my own designs, mostly of boats. I had my own workshop areas from the time I was about five or so, and full run of the basement of an old house in New England from the time I was about eight up into my teens. The first instrument I built was what I guess you’d call some kind of a dulcimer made of balsa and strung up with some of my dad’s guitar strings; that must have been when I was ten or so. When I was fifteen or sixteen, I bought an old Fairbanks and Cole open backed banjo at an antique store for sixteen bucks, took it apart, stripped the crackled finish off of it and re-varnished it. I was hooked, and there had been a very logical progression into working on the instruments I wanted to learn to play. I also had a 24 foot sailboat at that time, and so working with my hands, fixing things, all that was just normal to me.

    7. Favorite job to do?


    Design new products and make prototypes…whether it's a whole guitar or a new pickup design like I'm working on right now for Selmer/Maccaferri style and archtop guitars.

    8. Is there anything being a repairman I should know that you'd like to pass along?

    Half of your job is psychology and education. There’s a gap between players and techs that you can help bridge. The end result is players who can better articulate what they want from a particular instrument and luthiers who can more easily take care of the needs of their clients.

    The other thing is to respect the different playing styles of your clients. There is no one setup that is right for everyone. It’s best to actually interact with the players, to see and hear how they play. It always struck me as weird when some clients would send their instruments into the store where I worked in the early 1990s, and I never interacted with them. How should I know what’s best for their playing style? I guess I got good enough at generic setups, but it was a lot more rewarding to work with guys like Ry Cooder and come up with ways that were unusual that would help him achieve better tone and easier playing.

    9. Can I have your permission to pick your brain when I'm stumped? That'd be awesome.

    Yep. Come on over to the D-TAR forum.

    "Take care, Rick. Thanks for doing this, and for joining up with SD for DTAR.

    Also, what DTAR pickup would you recommend for a Martin D-28 style guitar used mainly for rhythm at high volumes, but still offer a great tone playing through a little acoustic amp at the house doing some fingerpicking. I was thinking maybe the Multi Source, but wasn't too sure."


    For really high volumes, you might even consider a Duncan MagMic with the mic turned off or a Duncan Woody. Magnetic pickups are the most resistant to feedback of all acoustic guitar pickups. For a more acoustic tone, yes, I’d go with the Multi-Source with as much mic as you could get away with. For louder situations, you could roll back the mic volume.

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    Riffologist Extraordinaire ex-250's Avatar
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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    hey rick, welcome to the forum

    what are some of your favorite bands/artists/whatever, and what effect have these had (if any) on your work ("want to build this to sound just like..." etc.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Aceman View Post
    It was the age of suave. Men were men, and women were smacked and thrown on the bed and loved it.

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by firebirdV View Post
    Do you have a preferred acoustic shape and body wood combination?
    I love the jumbo shape that Orville Gibson designed in the 1890s and then became the original shape for the Super 400 in 1934. I've adapted that shape to smaller instruments...the Super 400 being an amazing 18" width. I do flattops in that shape in 16 1/4", 15", and even a 2/3 size in 12". I'm shrinking it even farther to make some concert scale ukuleles and a Brazilian cavaquinho.

    For woods it's all over the map. I do love the traditional Adirondack/Brazilian rosewood combination, but there are other great spruces that I use like Russian, Sitka, and Englemann. I like Western red cedar for tops on my 15" and smaller instruments, and I do like building with a wider range of back and side woods than many do. I build in maple, walnut, koa, blackwood, and other rosewoods. For ukuleles, the choices open up considerably, and I like woods I'd never favor for tops on guitars that I find work amazingly well for ukes. Our local California sycamore is spectacular, and cherry, too makes a wonderful uke.

    For electrics I have to admit a liking for mahogany and swamp ash, though making body cores from spruce or Western red cedar capped with hardwoods makes for an amazingly light and resonant body.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Got_tone?'s Avatar
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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Turner View Post
    Yes, I'm a fan of lutherie schools like Roberto Venn where I've lectured quite a bit, Red Wing in Minnesota where my friend Cat Fox learned, the Brian Galloup school, and others.
    Thanks for the reply, Rick. Yup, that's where I want to go to, The Brian Galloup School of Lutherie. I'll check out the other two you mentioned.

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by ex-250 View Post
    hey rick, welcome to the forum

    what are some of your favorite bands/artists/whatever, and what effect have these had (if any) on your work ("want to build this to sound just like..." etc.)
    Well, I am lucky in really liking the music of a lot of my clients, past and present. Of course, Fleetwood Mac for whom I've built close to 30 instruments...Lindsey, Stevie and John...The Dead, the Who, Led Zep, the Airplane, CSNY, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Sonny Landreth, Colin Hay, Trout Fishing in America, ELP, Santana, Stephen Bruton (rest his sweet soul), Henry Kaiser, Martin Simpson, Steve Lawson, and many more including a lot of what I call "local heros"...players who are great but don't have the pop recognition of the super stars.

    I can't say that I've ever approached building instruments wanting them to sound like the artists current instruments. Why bother? My thing is to help the artist achieve their own voice by making responsive instruments that will let that voice come through the instrument rather than having the guitar or bass impose some sound on them. At best I become a partner in achieving the sound...a partner in the background, but a fully creative part of it myself. All of the clients I deal with seem to understand that dynamic, and so there's a lot of mutual respect. They know that I'm really there for them and their music, not to impose myself on them or to make a clone of someone else's instrument just to have my name on a peghead.

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Hi Rick, thanks for doing this.

    Other than one of your guitars, is there a guitar (Acoustic or electric) from a established company that you find either innovative (in a good way) or you'd wish you would have thought of it first?

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by guitfiddle View Post
    Hi, Rick!!

    Thanks for coming in today.

    A couple of practical questions...

    1. Have you ever considered making mandolins? How about mandolas and bouzoukis? Ten string citterns? One of those with a humbucker is a dream of mine.

    ***Yes, and in fact I teach a course called, "Build a Mandolin or Ukulele in Four Days. You can find the course brochure over at my www.renaissanceguitars.com website under "Rick TEaches". I would love to adapt our Renaissance guitar construction methods to mando family acoustic electrics. It's just a matter of too much time and too little to do...OH, that's backwards!

    Philosophical...

    2. Is there any one guitar you can name that pointed you in the direction of building? One that you knew you could do better than? One you hoped to do as well as one day?
    Yes, the main influence on me has been the Howe Orme guitars (and mandolins) made in Boston in the 1890s. The guitars have tilt adjustable necks and cantilevered fingerboards that are free of the top. For a look at an exhibit at the Museum of Making Music that I helped to curate in 2006, check out this link: http://www.museumofmakingmusic.org/i...d=12&Itemid=70

    I have yet to go all the way copying one, but I want to, and I do know how to make at least structural improvements that will help the instruments stay together without the shape being distorted with age and stress. I can only hope to make one that sounds as good.

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    hi rick and welcome

    1st - have a mamabear and love it! i use it to get great tone from the piezo bridge of a solidbody electric (brian moore i88.13) ... so thanks for that ... care to share any future upgrades/enhancements in mama's future?

    2nd - even though i have played guitar for 30 yrs, i have little to no experience in acoustic guitars ... what would you recommend as the best way to approach finding which one might be the best for me - a general purpose acoustic with good playability and tone? besides plunking myself down in a store and playing a bunch, i have no idea how to start deciding on shape, woods, etc .. any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

    cheers
    t4d
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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Everyone seems to have a different opinion about cleaning/preserving fretboards. What's your procees for that? Thanks!

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by MasterKtulu View Post
    Hi Rick, thanks for doing this.

    Other than one of your guitars, is there a guitar (Acoustic or electric) from a established company that you find either innovative (in a good way) or you'd wish you would have thought of it first?
    I remain a fan of the guitars from the Martin Guitar Company.

    As for more modern and innovative luthiers and instruments, here's a partial favorites list:
    Stefan Sobell
    Jeff Traugott
    Ned Steinberger
    Paul Reed Smith
    Ken Parker
    Alan Beardsell
    Pagelli
    John Monteleone
    Bob Benedetto
    Gary Rizzolo
    Greg Smallman
    Gil Carnal


    There are more, but that's a good start

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    Mojo's Minions dd12939's Avatar
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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by jeremy View Post
    thanks for doing this rick!

    please tell me about the wall of sound that you guys built. it seems like a foh guys dream and nightmare all wrapped in a 10 tractor trailer package.
    I'd like to hear about this too!

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    Default Re: LIVE NOW - Guest Luthier Series - Rick Turner / Rick Turner Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by tone4days View Post
    hi rick and welcome

    1st - have a mamabear and love it! i use it to get great tone from the piezo bridge of a solidbody electric (brian moore i88.13) ... so thanks for that ... care to share any future upgrades/enhancements in mama's future?

    2nd - even though i have played guitar for 30 yrs, i have little to no experience in acoustic guitars ... what would you recommend as the best way to approach finding which one might be the best for me - a general purpose acoustic with good playability and tone? besides plunking myself down in a store and playing a bunch, i have no idea how to start deciding on shape, woods, etc .. any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

    cheers
    t4d
    1) We're musing about Mama right now. I would personally like to try a different approach to how we record guitars to extract the signature tone of the wood and air, and, of course, it would be great to be able to load our software into smaller, less power hungry, and ultimately less expensive hardware.

    2) You have to decide on your budget first. I'll tell you, for less expensive guitars, I'm a major fan of the Seagull line. A bit up the ladder, and you can seriously consider one of Martin or Guild's lower priced offerings. Since you do already play, you could be in a good position to evaluate a used instrument where the dollars per note value can be really great.

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