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