There are some qualities of sound common to all my Naiad guitars, that come from the design, construction, materials and methods used-
HIGH RESONANCE AND SUSTAIN- High and consistent Neck stiffness, evenness of response to tension all along the neck, the qualities of the neck joint, the truss rod design and the bridge design amongst many other subtle elements all work together to make sure that there are no barriers to the natural resonance of the wood, that as little as possible of the energy of the sound is absorbed or filtered away.
INTERACTION BETWEEN STRINGS- this is a major reason why I use the one piece fretwire saddle and zero fret arrangement. I want the strings to affect each other as much as possible, whether played together or allowed to ring sympathetically. This effect of the strings vibrating with each other is a big part of the complex and beautiful sound of the guitar, and my design really brings this to the fore.
WOOD TONE- the whole Naiad design maximises the influence of the wood on the tone. This brings out all the qualities of whatever tonewoods are used, and wood is really the key to great stringed instrument sound.
SOLIDITY- Solidity and hollowness has a huge effect. For my solidbody Naiad design I have reduced cavities to an absolute minimum. As well as creating a solid, rather than hollow sound, I think of this in terms of the opposite of the air-pump effect used to achieve acoustic volume- rather than deliberately transferring the energy of the sound to the air (to the ears of a listener in the same space), this encourages the energy to stay in the instrument, travelling from, back to and then away from the strings cyclically (towards the pickup, and staying in the form of vibrational movement that it can 'hear'). In practice this means loads of sustain, resonance, and responsiveness.
For my hollowbody design the cavities and F- holes are designed to bring a beautiful hollowness to the sound generally- the centre is solid and the guitar is very much an ‘electric’ guitar and still responds great to drive, in a subtly different way. The main effect is to to soften the high strings and open out the bass strings- the tonal centre becomes more in the bass but the treble content changes in the bass strings which gives them this more ‘open’ feel. The thinner wood sections also make the whole guitar highly responsive to vibration in a different way to the solidbody.
Combining wood choice and the level of hollowness and stiffness of various parts of the instrument in a totally free way allows a great deal of variety of subtle tonal colour to be drawn out.
DETAIL AND RESPONSIVENESS- by this I mean that many of the more subtle/quiet elements of the sound are transmitted clearly. As well as overtones, resonances, harmonics etc.. this includes picking noises, percussive effects on strings and body, finger movement etc.. all this makes for a highly responsive and expressive instrument.
This is partly down to the ‘pure flow’ concept of the instruments construction, partly due to the ‘direct out’ approach and partly due to the high sensitivity of the Q tuner pickup.
This quality also contributes to the effect of string separation. The single pickup (which minimises magnetic damping on the strings), and the direct, highly shielded output (which gives a signal which has degraded as little as possible, and picked up as little noise as possible, by the time it reaches the output), are important in making sure that subtle details like string separation are actually heard in the amplified or recorded sound.
BALANCE- The Q tuner also has a more flat and broad frequency response than other magnetic guitar pickups. This gives a natural, balanced sound- without some frequencies being strongly filtered out or boosted by the pickup or electronics. This broadness and balance of response is also part of what allows the Naiads to communicate the character of their timbers and construction so well.
Another one of the qualities of the Q tuner pickup is the presence of very high treble that is not normally 'heard' by passive magnetic pickups, this gives a presence and naturalness to the sound that I think is part of the 'acoustic' quality that many people have mentioned.
A few samples that show one of the guitars and some aspects of it’s character, recorded through a Kemper rack direct into the desk.
The thing with any electric guitar however, and particularly mine where there is so much freedom in the design, is that they are extremely versatile and capable of a huge range of sounds. If you have a balanced and minimally filtered output because of the whole guitar design and pickup choice, then the whole range of electric guitar sounds are possible with amplification and effects. Although this attention to balance and detail of sound is my standard approach, many pickups and guitar designs are very strongly ’voiced’, which is another perfectly valid approach, ‘Naiads' can also be made this way to great effect.
In choosing the woods, the amount of ‘hollowness’ or ‘solidity’, and in the pickup choice, a huge range of tonal characters are possible, all with the extreme stability, comfort and playability of the ‘Naiad’ design.
Here I’ve tried to focus on some of the more unusual characteristics of the detail, resonance and string interaction, and have barely scratched the surface of whats possible just with this instrument tonally.
More to come soon- other guitars, other players, pickups, amps, effects, rooms, mics, leads, picks, different weather etc, etc… you know how it is
Guitar - Solidbody Olive Ash Naiad, 2017, 0.8mm action at twelth fret bass and treble, 10 gauge Elixir Nanoweb strings, 650mm scale length, Olive Ash Body, Fretboard and Bridge, Sycamore Nut, Q tuner Neodymium Sc middle, Direct Out.
Gavin Singleton - Composer / Producer
"Recently I had the pleasure of scoring the film 'Rocha Matriz' for Brazilian director's Miro Soares and Gabriel Menotti. Alongside synthesizers and drum machines, I used the Halflight Guitars' Naiad on a lot of the cues that went into the final score.
One piece in particular from the film needed a lot of dynamics and a broad frequency range, which is where my Naiad guitar came into use. It helped me create interwoven layers of recordings that were punchy and full of harmonic content, which was perfect for working alongside the Minimoog Model D on bass duties. I found the high output of the guitar to really help deal with the signal-to-noise issues I’ve found when recording high gain saturation and compression. I often find this distracting and problematic in the studio when recording more traditional 'off the peg’ guitars as it requires more work and gain-staging to get the best sound from them. The Naiad guitar responded beautifully to effects and compression and really sat well within the mix when it came to mastering.
In terms of overall signal chain, I used the Naiad guitar going into a Kemper Profiler via an Origin Effects Cali76 Deluxe (1176 compressor in pedal format). From there I had a range of Meris, Strymon and EarthQuaker devices pedals on the send/return loop. It was then captured via a Lynx Aurora (n) 16 AD/DA with a little stem processing from the Dangerous Music Compressor."
“I found that the NAIAD guitar was so lively and responsive that when I was recording, a beautiful harmonic resonance could be heard when recording some more ambient background tracks for my recent soundtrack. it sounded so nice that I used just that resonance with some reverb as a music bed under the main piece I was scoring”