'Pure Flow'

This is the name I give to the concepts and methods that have resulted in my 'Naiad' guitar design, my 'philosophy' for this design if you like.

One way to look at it is to start by seeing the guitar as part of an energy transfer system. This energy changes form many times during it's passage through the whole system, and it's nature is debateable- I'm just going to stick with the term energy throughout. The path of this energy could be said to start with the player and finish at the mind of the listener, but as an instrument builder I'm concerned with the portion of this system that I'm in control of- strings to output jack.

This means start at the strings. I don't make the strings, but I do build the instrument in relation to them. For me this is crucial. Most guitars are made to allow a range of string choices- I say choose the strings first then make the instrument to fit. Many of the mechanical and musical aspects of an instruments construction depend on the properties of the strings. My standard Naiads use Elixir 10-46 gauge, these strings sound amazing, are manufactured consistently and impeccably in my experience, have an optimal balance between mass and flexibility and have the huge advantage of an effective system of protection against deterioration. They are not the only great strings in the universe and I am happy to build for any make, any gauge.

The strings form the starting point for the whole instrument, and knowing the characteristics of the strings beforehand allows me to remove the need for most of the adjustability in the whole system.

Why remove adjustability? Looking at the guitar as an energy transfer system, I see that I want to remove any barriers to the 'pure flow' of that energy, to maximise the portion of that energy that reaches my last point of control- the output jack. Most adjustability in a guitar results in a barrier. In practice it is relatively low level signals, in either volume or time, what I often call  'details' when describing guitar sound, that are most easily lost. It is also 'details', in my opinion, regardless of the genre or style, that make the difference between an expressive, responsive, dynamic, and musical sounding instrument, and one that isn't.

So the Naiad design is made to be 'adjusted' at the building stage, preset with knowledge of what the player wants, something that obviously can't be done if the builder doesn't get to talk to the customer. Two adjustments are not built out- tuners, obviously, and the truss rod. Here's why...

The Truss rods function is to resist the pull of the strings, and the force needed to do this will vary over time, hence the adjustability. It is critical that the truss rod is adjustable with the strings at full tension- if you have to take the strings off, or ven just slacken them to adjust, fine setting will be a guess, and one that will get more and more wrong over time, resetting to the beginning of the balancing process each time you have to release tension to adjust the rod!

All stringed instruments will perform more consistently if always kept at full tension, this is why I advise changing one string at a time. Occasional removal of all strings is not a problem, it will just take longer for the whole system to balance itself again. This balance will develop over the first few days, after that the need for adjustment will be VERY gradual, over months then years. The truss rod opening is at the end of the neck to allow access without string removal, although it is also to do with the advantages of having the truss rod run beyond the playing surface at both ends. The headstock on a guitar will ALWAYS bend with the neck, usually MORE than the neck if it's thinner- this is an often overlooked fact that leads to string tension forming unpredictable stresses on the playing surface of many guitar designs, which leads to a deviation from flatness on the fret tops that only occurs once the strings are a full tension, then changes as tension settles in. This destroys the carefully achieved plane that was on the tops of the frets when the strings were off. A truss rod that does not overun the neck/body connection will not curve the neck evenly- another source of weird action problems on many guitars (asymetric neck/body connections have this affect also).

The multi taper neck is also stiffer than a single piece neck of the same wood and size, and this stiffness both reduces uneveness in the distortion from string tension and minimises the need for the truss rods balancing force, which will NEVER be a perfectly even curve, but will be more even the stiffer the neck. It's structure also means it responds more consistently over both it's length and width, i.e doesn't destroy the carefully achieved plane of the fret tops, critical to action, intonation and tone, by bending unevenly.

Back to 'pure flow'... disconnects between separated parts is the primary source of any loss of energy not dissipated by the construction materials themselves. This leads to my goal of making the 'Naiad' guitars as one unified whole, with particular focus on the nature of any joints.

The Naiad design is about exploring the sound of wood in conjunction with steel strings and magnetic pickups. Use of chemical adhesion under high pressure between matching plane surfaced is the optimal way to join wood, for many reasons, and is superior to metal screw based fittings ( like 'bolt-on necks') or mechanical wood joints that don't achieve high pressure on the face grain mating surfaces (like traditional, shouldered dovetail or tenon 'set necks'). I plan to write a separate article about this on the site soon, because this understanding of the nature of wood as a material is one way of understanding the advantages of many of the concepts behind the 'Naiad' design. This is true both for strength and long term durability of bond and in terms of the transfer of energy. The other way is to own one and experience the sound, playability and long term stability and balance of the design ;)

There are places where the characteristics of wood are not suited- hence the use of metal for most string contact points. I use fretwire for nut and saddle contact points in order to minimise the volume of metal, and for consistency. Although I do not use adhesives for fretwire connection, the nature of the joint is a pressure fit and so effective in minimising energy dissipation. This is a minimal but necessary compromise for long term performance- string contact points unavoidably wear out and will eventually need replacing, but this is also minimised by using very hard and durable stainless steel as the fret, nut and saddle material.

still writing this, more to come soon...