Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blackbird Rider Nylon Has Arrived

I misread the dates - I often forget what day it is (Typical musician) - so the Rider arrived Friday morning. It took only a few minutes with it to realize that it will replace the Godin Multiac Grand Concert SA as my go-to main gig ax, and that I also like it better than the Parker Custom Shop Cedar Nylon Fly I've spent so much time and money on. Here's why:

1] The intonation is perfect on the Rider. The Parker is perfect too, but the Godin is quite poor in this department, mostly because I needed to loosen the truss rod a lot to get the action usably high.

2] The action is perfect on the Rider. The Parker's action is user-adjustable, so I was able to raise it to where I wasn't getting too much rattle when I play forte, but I had to cut some additional shims to do it, so the guitar is really out of the range it was designed for. As mentioned previously, I got the Godin workable, but at the expense of intonation accuracy. Joe tells me the lower-than-classical "Flamenco" action I ordered is actually 1/16" higher than a traditional wooden acoustic Flamenco guitar. This is exceedingly valuable information, as this is the absolutely perfect string height I've been searching for the past twenty years.

3] String balance is perfect on the rider. Both the Godin and the Parker have problems in this area - and the problems are different between the two - which is simply the result of resonance inconsistencies in the woods used in those guitars. Since carbon fiber is consistent and neutral, those problems do not exist at all with the Rider. The only other guitar I ever had that was this perfect and neutral was the Steinberger GL2T-GR steel string electric/synth guitar I used with my Synclavier back in the 80's. The Steinberger was made of an epoxy resin composite, if I remember correctly, so this is no surprise. Wood is just a crappy material to make guitars out of.

4] Sustain is supernaturally mind-bogglingly long on the Rider. The Parker has amazing sustain too, which is what you'd expect out of a solid body guitar, but the Blackbird's sustain is actually longer and better, because it's more consistent. This is not at all what I expected, as the Rider is acoustic, but Joe says the hollow neck does not dampen the sound like a solid one does. Quite interesting! The Godin is kind of half way between a traditional wooden acoustic classical and the Parker, but it's nowhere near as consistent.

5] The Rider sounds more "natural" than the Godin or the Parker. Because it is acoustic, and despite the ridiculously eternal sustain, the Rider actually sounds more like an acoustic classical guitar when amplified than either the Godin or the Parker. Of course, the Parker was my attempt to get a solid body electric nylon string guitar, so I don't care that it doesn't sound acoustic, but the Godin never sounded particularly natural to me. I remember mentioning this to Richard once, and he said it was the guitar, not the Polydrive. Well, he was right. My pursuit of a solid body electric nylon string guitar may be over. I'm beginning to think nylon strings and solid bodies may just not be meant for each other. Or, then again, perhaps a solid carbon fiber guitar would be less problematic than the Parker.

6] The Rider can take full advantage of the possibilities of carbon fiber treble strings. A carbon fiber guitar with carbon fiber strings: Match made in heaven. Carbon fiber treble strings are the greatest advance in classical guitar strings since nylon replaced catgut. They are brighter, they project better, and they settle into tune faster. Problem is, wooden guitars expand slightly - they actually grow - as the performer's body heat warms them up. Since CF strings don't change dimensions with that range of heat, they tend to go sharp until the ax is fully warmed up. This happens a little with nylon too, but to a lesser extent. So much less, that acoustic classical guitarists may not even notice it. However, with a wooden semi-hollow guitar like the Godin or a wooden solid body guitar like the Parker, this tendency is exacerbated. Nylon trebles are pain enough, but the G string on the Parker will go nearly a full 1/4 tone sharp in the first 15-20 minutes of playing if I use CF trebles. I had to give up using CF trebles with those guitars because of this problem. Well, with the Rider once CF trebles settle in, they stay dead solid stable in tune. This is because the Rider doesn't grow with the absorption of my body heat. Truly, an excellent development.

So, after twenty years of trying to find the "perfect" (Nothing is ever absolutely perfect: I wish the rider had a full cutaway, but the 14th fret join is workable) electric nylon string guitar, I have. It is surprising to me that it's also a competent acoustic! It's not as loud as my 1979 Anthony Murray guitars, but they are spectacularly loud and very, very fragile because the tops are so thin.

The only thing I didn't like at all was the NeckUp guitar support it came with. It's made of leather, so it's flexible, and that makes the guitar go too face-up for me to play because of the Rider's rounded sound chamber. I hate it so much I ordered an ErgoPlay support after wrestling with the NeckUp for only fifteen minutes. LOL! The ErgoPlay is rigid, so it will be more like a solid extension of the guitar, which is what I want. Plus, the NeckUp prevents me from locking the Polydrive II's cable onto the receptacle because the leather is too hard and thick. The ErgoPlay won't get in the way.

As for that RMC Polydrive II, I'm really glad I got this guitar before I finish the fretted Glissentar project, because it's basically the same Polydrive IV that's in the Godin, but with only the pickups inside the guitar and the controls located remotely. The PD IV has all the tone controls, which are missing from the PD I as installed in my Parker, and that is just a lot more flexible for gigging, where you never know what the acoustics of a venue are going to be like. The PD II gives all of that control without putting heavy stuff inside the ax that would deaden the sound. So, the Reynolds-fretted Glissentar will be getting a PD II.

Well, that's it for now. I'm not playing the Rider any more until the ErgoPlay arrives. LOL!


Anonymous Rudy said...

Out of curiosity, to what fret can you play comfortably? I was reading someone else's review of a rider (not the nylon though) who said they could only play up to the 7th fret this the case with the nylon rider? Thanks!

1:28 AM  
Blogger Hucbald said...

Well, now that I've played through almost all of my repertoire on it - which includes some pieces that use the entire range of the 19 fret standard classical guitar - I can say that it's easy and comfortable to play all the way to the high B at the 19th fret of the high E string. IOW, the entire guitar. I'm using an ErgoPlay rest, BTW. I thought the lack of a full cutaway would hinder access to the top of the guitar's range, but that isn't the case: The 14th fret body join is just fine.

I'm betting the other reviewer wasn't using a rest.

8:09 AM  
Anonymous Rudy said...

Thanks a lot for responding. I have no idea if the other reviewer was using a rest, but its good to hear that the whole neck is accessible. Now I REALLY want one! Have fun!

8:49 PM  

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