Saturday, May 10, 2008

RMC Parker Custom Shop Cedar Nylon Fly, v2.0.3

Sorry for the hiatus, but the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of programming sounds and sorting through the last few head-scratching frustration factors to get this guitar working perfectly, but I have finally done it.

I swear, after playing a Gibson Chet Atkins CE, a Chet Atkins CEC, a Godin Grand Concert Duet, two Grand Concert SA's, and now this Parker over the past twenty years, I feel like I must be the world's foremost authority on electric nylon string guitars.

Here's what I had to do to the nut and headstock:

The major problem with the stock nut is the long string channels. I sorted out that the treble strings were buzzing within these grooves, and that was what was killing the sound. I tried graphite and TUSC nuts in sorta/kinda electric guitar configurations, but nothing works as well as this antique ivory nut from an old 1979 Anthony Murray guitar I had. Since that guitar was destroyed by exposure to low humidity - I live in a desert - I just decided to use the nut that works best, so I sanded it to the correct height, and that is that. I'll file and sand the ends to the proper width the next time I change strings.

The second problem that cropped up is related to the fact that the headstock has zero degrees of reverse pitch. That works for steel string guitars OK, though it's not really ideal, but for nylon strings of much lower tension, it does not work at all. Even with Tony's nut, I was getting buzz on every open string except the low E if I played them double forte. So, as you can see, I had to add a pull-down to the headstock.

I was not able to place the pull-down so that it captured all six strings due to?... the placement of the truss rod. Arg! But, since the low E was OK, I just put it where it would get the five problematic strings, and then machined off the extra length from each end. There was simply no other possible solution. It doesn't look pretty, but it works perfectly, which is all I really care about in the end.

In contrast to the nut/headstock, the bridge design is brilliant:

Here's how you tie nylon strings to eliminate all possibility of buzzing and slippage at the bridge end: Capturing the extra length of the higher strings within the loop of the lower strings solves both of these issues. Many acoustic classical guitars have tie slots that are too short to get two twists of every string - the low E only needs one - but the Parker's are absolutely perfect. It's the best nylon string guitar bridge I've ever encountered, and I've seen $40K "Holy Grail" classical guitars. Bravo.

I also made myself another shim out of a 3x5 card to raise the action a tad more, as I was not able to get the dynamic range I wanted without breakup with all of the stock shims. I may yet add one more the next time I change strings, but the action is still lower than on my two Godins.

Concurrently with all of this, I was programming my butt to the bone:

These are my two performance rigs. The only difference between them are the power amps: The top small venue rig uses a Bryston 2B-LP solid state amp, while the bottom large venue rig uses a MESA 20/20. So, I was able to develop the twelve programs I needed - one for every suite in my set - on the MESA rig, and just do a bulk data dump into the other MPX G2.

I'm able to get away with only four spaces for the top rig only because the heat sinks on the Bryston are on the front of the rack chassis, BTW, and I can get that rack, two Turbosound TXD-081's, a pair of speaker stands, and an X-stand onto a single dolly. The larger rig needs a vent panel, and it's in a rolling rack. I plan to get a pair of Turbosound TXD-121's for it at some point, but I have seven TXD-081's, I like them so much.

The rig I record with is an entirely different ball game:

This rig uses a Lexicon Signature 284, which sounds nothing at all like the Bryston and the Boogie, so it requires a completely different set of twelve programs. I only use the power amp of the Sig - the outputs of the MPX-G2 just go to the effects returns - and it sounds amazing recorded direct. I used to record direct from the MPX, but the sound was very sterile. The Sig adds just enough tube warmth and dimension.

Now that I have all of this in the pocket, I'm going to start recording some tracks this weekend. If I can get into a groove, I should have the first ones posted tomorrow. The guitar through this rig sounds like God... unfortunately, God won't be playing it, I will. LOL!

So, if Parker wanted to do this guitar right - since there is already a Fly Classic, we'll call this imaginary instrument a "Classical Fly" - here's what they need to do:

1] Between the bridge and the nut this guitar is absolutely the best in the world - better than any acoustic concert classical guitar I've ever encountered - so it's a Stradivarius in the playing feel department. Unfortunately, the Fishman system is so bad as to be unusable if you are a tone freak like I am, so a "Classical Fly" would have to be based around an RMC system. The Polydrive I works fine for me, but a PD II would be the best.

2] The nut/headstock combination is also a tragedy, so a reversed pitch headstock with a traditional classical guitar type of nut would be the best solution, but, as you can see, a pull-down will work.

3] The 1.85" nut width is useable insofar as I can adapt to it - the Chet Atkins CE was 1.75" and I could never make that transition, so I got a CEC just as soon as they came out - but can we please have a traditional 2.0" nut width? I'm pulling the high E off and pushing the low E off far too often when I play really wide stretches and super-difficult chords. Like I say, I can adapt, but I shouldn't have to.

4] For the right arm/hand ergonomics, this guitar is a breakthrough. Since there is no sharp corner to hit the forearm, everything is much more relaxed and groovy. I love it. Unfortunately, the corner on the backside rear of the upper bout hits smack dab in the center of my breastbone when playing this guitar seated. I have to fold up a washcloth and put it in between there for that reason (In all fairness, I should point out I've had to do that with every classical guitar I've ever had, and even with my Godins). Just a slight rounding of the rear of the upper bout would do the trick.

If Parker made a guitar like I just described, they could easily sell it for $5K per, and they'd sell ten times as many, at least, per year. The guitar world is waiting for an electric classical that does everything right, but nobody makes one, and not many people are as dedicated as I am to taking a flawed instrument and perfecting it.

OK, on to the recording phase!

Nice "wow factor" with her.


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