Teye – 2005 List of Bitchings (The Birth of the Electric Gypsy guitar)
Issues that Teye has with all existing electric guitars and his plans to fix them.
The Lofty Philosophical
- Lack of versatility: bring many guitars to a gig. This is absolutely not the case in classical guitar, nor flamenco guitar, where you bring ONE (AKA ‘Your’) guitar to the gig and cover all different sounds, from transcription of a Bach Cello suite to south-american works by Heitor Villalobos, from punctuated dance accompaniment to lyrical solo pieces. IMHO classical as well as flamenco guitars are as instruments much harder to build to excellence than the lowly electric plank with some metal pieces screwed in. And here we are treating the electric as more of a soul posessing thing? IMHO totally ridiculous. An electric guitar is some pieces of wood with some coils wound around magnets bolted on. Surely we (I?) can do better with such a basic item?!?
- I desperately need a guitar that can move between sounds just by changing my playing style and maybe move a knob (or two) so that I can change from say Mick Taylor to Jimi in the middle of a solo.
- I desperately need to cover the following (my
personal favorites) sounds:
1. Mick Taylor 1969-71 solos / 2. Jimi on The Wind Cries Mary-Red House-Angel / 3. Ron Wood on Stay With Me / 4. Keith on Brown Sugar / 5. Pete Anderson on Dwight Yoakam’s records
- But more than the emulation, I need a guitar that can be a sonic eye-opener and make new sounds and be inspired, just like my heroes were by their guitars in the creative 1960’s. I NEED to be able to coax a sound that I need right now for the part that I’m about to play: hence the approach of a control panel with working and usable knobs for ‘LOUDER/SOFTER’; ‘BRIGHTER/DULLER’ and ‘THICKER/THINNER’. Plus a pickup switch that acts as character choice.
- Extra Versatility (more sounds available) must never come as a gimmick. Added sounds must always be excellent in their own right, never added just for versatility alone and by itself (the famous ‘Willem van London guitar with 46 micro-switches and one – kind of – useful sound)
- The control panel is to be 1) simple, and 2) totally intuitive. After a day of playing around with the idea of two extra switches, I set myself a maximum of 1 switch and 4 rotary knobs, even if this meant totally non-guitar parts and the most expensive switch available.
- After a pickup change, I do not want to fiddle w the amp just to adjust the amount of treble. With my Gibsons and Tony Zemaitisses I had a treble booster to activate every time I switched from bridge to neck pickup. IMHO ridiculous and unnecessary, must choose my guitar’s pickups with care for sonic balance.
- The controls are always a bitch to operate, sometimes they are in the way of playing, Volume knobs must both be operable with right hand in playing position, but not too close to be in the way like on a Strat. On my Strat I experienced sudden volume drops because I’d hit that volume button again. On my Gibsons I was always fiddling to find the volume controls. The switch is the same way: must be right there but not obnoxiously so. I spent an afternoon mounting the 5-way switch in different positions and angles until it felt perrfect, and that’s where it sits today.
- Coil tap is the most obvious way to go, but all coil taps that I’ve ever tried sound hopeless. You can either have the full screaming sound of a good humbucker, or the expressive growl of a good single coil. A tapped humbucker just sounds like a castrated single coil: weak in output, tone, and expression. Thanks to my father, I have knowledge of 1930’s hifi techniques and circuitry so why not USE that? This is what makes me unique among guitar makers! (Plus of course the fact that I’ve had a 30 years professional guitarist career behind me, and all of its experiences.)
- The entire stuff that I put between pickups and amp MUST be 100% passive. I must not sever that magical connection between the pickup coil and that first gain stage of the amps first tube. Also I do not wish to deal with neither batteries nor with any shape of external phantom power.
- The guitar must have a great acoustic resonance, so that any note is a pleasure to play and not a struggle. My Gretsch sounds glorious not-so-loud; my Les Paul sounds really good when loud.
- Conventional hardware: the downward pressure of strings keeps it all in place. Things sound better when the hardware stays in place by itself, the strings don’t do that job anymore and only resonate. Also, now when a string breaks you don’t have to search under the drums for a saddle or a screw. My bridge evolved until I finally admitted: do not divert String pressure for other jobs
The Absolutely Mundane
- Strap buttons work loose. All guitars experience
this. I’ve ‘fixed’ the loose screw on dozens of planks. Always toothpicks and
glue at the ready. WHY not do this right the first time around?
Also, the screws break, you can actually break them with 2 pliers by hand, I have a broken screw end inside my see-through Dan Armstrong: ugly and impossible to camouflage. Later I realized that even strap button makers deal w OEM: in their case it’s screws: how cheap can I still get away with? More profit for the button-maker.
A solution is: 2-inch long stainless steel screws. And that’s what I use, even on the rear of my Gypsy Arrows (Flying V’s) where the screws go in with their tip 1mm away from the fingerboard.
- You can never really reach the top frets. My Dan Armstrong has 24 frets (Fenders 21 and Gibsons 22) but you really cannot play the high ones: the cutaway is simply in the way. I came up with a cutaway design that slanted away on the rear so that you CAN reach the top frets.
- On guitars with a neck-to-body and a headstock-to-neck angle (both needed on the guitar I want to make, with tall bridge and with flamenco-guitar-like downward pressure on the strings while travelling unhindered from nut to tuners) it somehow is always the top rear of the headstock that splinters and damages. What if that area simply was not there to begin with? What’s not there cannot damage. The aerodynamic rounded-off curve of my guitars also adds a touch of class to an otherwise ugly area.
- Nuts of pots and of the jack output always work loose by the vibrations of loud music and rough travelling. This is a total easy fix with blue lock-tite but you must go through the trouble.
- The contact area of the jack plug becomes scratched and looses some of its spring over time. When you mount the ‘leg’ of the chassis plug on the top-side, the actual plug at the end of the cable is always pushing up onto it inside the guitar. So the cable pull is actually helping the plug contact.
- My Gibson Firebird sounds glorious but I cannot
use her onstage due to horrible neck diving. My Dan Armstrong is both heavy and
cumbersome. My Gretsch is cumbersome, my Les Paul is just heavy. So what we
need is a perfectly balanced and not so heavy guitar that nonetheless sounds
After a few 100% solid Electric Gypsy guitars (001 thru 4, and 006) that already sounded great, I was left with the one body from that batch that was heavy. My desire to experiment with sound chambers, was being forced upon me now, and, suddenly inspired, I drew the sound chambers shape onto the body and stuck the router in. Compared to # 001-004 she was not balancing differently on the strap, nor was the tone that different from the solid guitars. If anything, she was more responsive. So 005 (the chambered one) became the poster guitar and featured in all the early reviews, she simply played more responsive. Today, the Electric Gypsy guitar is basically made like 005, with improvements.
- During the break, you usually put your guitar facedown against the amp. Totally ugly. One of the lessons girls get from older more experienced seductresses: before you leave your room/house to go out, check your backside in the mirror. Boys will absolutely certainly be looking at that! Guitars rears are certainly not sexy: but I could fix that!
- With the 3+3 tuner setup that I planned on, the 3 tuners on the bottom side (especially the b and g) are awkward to reach, they just ‘sit wrong’. I designed a way that all tuners would fit naturally into your hand, angling them different from the usual/standard way.
- I’d always detested the use of big plain plastic slabs on guitars, I instead opted to use the pick-guards as canvas for some nice Moorish-inspired engraving, using aluminum as material since it added so much top (high frequencies) to the sound. In this I was immensely infouenced by the guitars of Tony Zemaitis, of course, of who I had 2, that both sounded better than my own Gibson 1957 Gold Top! So Tony was IMHO an excellent influence!
- But I wanted to be instantly recognizable from other aluminum-topped guitars, so I added a mosaic ring (using turquoise mosaic as obvious homage to my life on Turtle Island – or America as it is known to non-Native Americans) that acoustically acts like the ring on any drum: providing an anchor to the resonating middle part.
- I also covered my headstock with aluminum.
Certainly for looks but also sound. Once I performed backing Joe Ely at a
festival hosted by Steve Earle. The sound man stuck a mike on my flamenco
guitar, using the plug-in pickup as monitor send and the mic for the hall. He
also stuck a mike on my headstock, which forced me to sit motionless. Why that
head mike? He turned it on all by itself and behold! The most beautiful shimmer
came from the PA. So there I learned the sonic importance of the lowly
Also Tony Zemaitis as well as Manuel Reyes used to lecture me on the importance of the head to balance out the long slender neck and how you need some girth there too.