Scott Stenten

Klein Continued

Sketches
Bracing
Highlander
Kleins


The Klein DoubleGuitar™has a range of five and a half octaves. It’s lowest note starts on the lowest B on a piano or the low B on a 5 string electric bass.

The strings are tuned as follows.

Top neck = Low B,E,B,E,A,D,G,B,F# (the F# is one half step below the G string)

Lower Neck tuned in straight fourths = Low B,E,A,D,G,C,F,Bflat

It has a nine string upper neck and an eight-string lower neck. This instrument weighs about 18 LBS. It has a spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, and ebony fingerboard and bridges. It uses carbon fiber to strengthen the back and both upper and lower necks. Klein’s innovative bracing, bridge design, and neck construction are combined with several radical concepts to optimize the instrument’s resonance. These concepts are described with more detail in “The making of the Klein Double Neck Guitar, section.”
The upper neck has two truss rods and is a bolt on. The lower neck is a hollow chamber, similar to a Weissenborn or Harp Guitar, and has no truss rods. To help make the lower neck more accessible to the right hand, it is set into the body by about 7 and ¼ inches. The instrument has two different scale lengths on the both necks. On the upper neck seven of the strings have a traditional 25 and ½ inch Fender scale length while the two lowest strings have a longer bass scale length of 32 inches. On the lower neck seven of the strings have the traditional 25 and 1/2 inch scale length while the highest pitched 8th string has a shorter 20¼-inch scale length. The guitar has three doors built into it’s sides for easy access into the interior. It uses Schaller and Hip shot tuning pegs. It has Highlander piezo pickups and electro-magnetic pickups from EMG and Lindy Fralin. Also an onboard mixer that was designed by Bob Wolstein of Highlander Musical Audio Products. This onboard, active system is powered by two 9-volt batteries and is able to mix all the pickups for maximum control. It has three outputs; two-quarter inch mono outs for each neck separate, or one mono out that is a combination of both necks.

The story behind the making of the Klein.

For several years I would go into Madison Music Company and play their fine acoustic guitars. When I played chords blended with tapped right hand melody lines on these acoustic instruments, It created such rich overtones which sounded so beautiful, it was irresistible. I began to think of how great it would be to have a steel string acoustic double neck that would not have to be plugged in all the time. For me, playing a single neck guitar, no matter how fantastic, is like a pianist trying out half a piano, with only one arm.
In retrospect it seems obvious, but at the time there was just no way of really knowing if such an instrument would work or if I would be able to get the money together to pay for a new custom double neck. I was a full time guitarist booking my own gigs, playing bars, restaurants, coffee shops and still refining my repertoire and technique. It was in the summer of 1999 I began to contact Luthiers about getting a new all arch top or possibly an acoustic double neck guitar made. The larger and more advertised companies (Taylor, Paul Reed Smith, Martin, Benedetto, ect…) either turned me down or wanted at least $25,000. With only a couple of self-produced recordings, a video, and a hand full of reviews they probably thought I was a little crazy. Other more slightly underground luthiers wanted between $5,000 and $10,000 and for the most part had only limited credentials and experience. I knew from my previous instruments that the amount of work on both the part of the luthier and myself would make this a major project. I was told by Rick Fagen of Taylor to call a luthier in Sonoma California named Steve Klein.
Fagen told me, “he gets into some crazy projects,” and gave me the number. I was leaning towards an all archtop double neck because I was working with my group in clubs (often at higher volumes) and I was afraid of feedback problems that I might have with an acoustic. Great players like Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Joe Pass, and countless others play archtop guitars. As a guitarist studying the techniques of great jazz improvisers, it is impossible not to fall in love with the music and the sound of their instruments. Common sense and artistic sensibilities were pulling me in the direction of an archtop double neck guitar. That was until I began talking with Steve Klein in July 1999.

The guitar music of Michael Hedges and a film called “Django Reinhardt and the Gypsy Guitarist Legacy” helped me to decide on the type of guitar I would have made. Steve never assured me that I wouldn’t have feedback problems. We both agreed the steel string acoustic was the obvious choice. My knowledge of luthiers is lacking. It wasn’t until later I found out that Steve Klein was one of the most respected and influential luthiers of our time. After talking with Klein, his enthusiasm for this unique and challenging project was apparent. Klein said he loved to do custom projects even though he tended to lose his shirt on them.
This was very refreshing after sensing the hesitation of the other companies I had approached. They were uninterested because of the amount of work, their financial bottom line and my lack of fame. I explained to Klein that I was a working guitarist who was developing a technique and my sole income was from playing; I did not have a lot of money to spend. I impressed upon him my musical goals and the acoustic sound I was hoping to bring to the two hand tapping style of guitar playing. Up to that time, the only musicians playing intricate melodic lines using this style played electric instruments. Klein replied by saying, “Isn’t that always the case that the artist who needs the instrument most is the one who can least afford it”. It gives me chills to think that he followed through to create a masterpiece with 110% of his energy and resources. This is a man of undeniable integrity and commitment, who pushes the boundaries of his craft to create a legacy of instruments used in the noble pursuit of great music. After reviewing my video and some photos of the Larson double necks, Klein sent me a sketch of his Idea. He gave me a ruff estimate of cost not including electronics or case. He said it might be a two-year project.
This was only a couple of years after the untimely death of Michael Hedges who was friends with Klein. Hedges played guitar at Steve’s wedding. Klein and Hedges collaborated on an electric harp guitar that Hedges played and recorded with. The instrument had originally been intended as an acoustic but for many reasons they decided to make it an electric solid body. I sensed from Klein that he was disappointed he never got the chance to make Hedges an acoustic. At the time of our first discussions, Klein was backlogged with orders for guitars, busy with his own Sonoma music store, and starting work on a collaboration with the Kiso Guitar Company, Japan. Despite his schedule Klein took my small down payment and blocked out the time to begin work on the guitar. I didn’t know how I would pull together the money but I knew if I didn’t get it started it might never happen. I had hoped to find investors to loan me money for this project, but the handful of people I tried were not interested. Luckily my gigs began to pick up. With all the money I could scrap together, I was able to put enough towards a down payment to show Klein my seriousness.

The making of the Klein Double Neck Guitar
After letting different ideas about this guitar percolate in his mind for a while, Klein set pencil to paper and began the design process at his drafting table. As work progressed Klein sent me a life size drawing with bridges and fingerboard positioning. I attached the drawing to foam insulation in order to get a feel for the instrument and troubleshoot for any possible problems.

To help boost the bass response he talked of making the instruments body wedge-like (2 and ½ inches thick at the top, 5 and ½ inches at the bottom)and making the lower neck a hollow chamber. The design of this instrument was full of challenges and compromises. We both agreed that this instrument would be outrageous enough without any fancy inlays or paint jobs. He wanted me to use the Novax fanned fret system to help get longer bass strings in order to have as much mass as possible to drive the top. The Novax guitar I was familiar with was Charlie Hunters 8 string. The 9 string, envisioned for the top neck would have had even more angle in the frets than the Charlie Hunter 8 string. Because I had no experience with this concept or no instruments to experiment with, Klein decided to make the scale length for the two lowest strings longer by 7&1/4 inches. In order to find the best scale length to work with Klein made and experimented with a 4x4 block of wood that had a string, tuning peg and a movable bridge on it. Having two different scale lengths on one neck was a compromise that would be necessary for the desired acoustic sound. I threw caution to the wind and hoped I could adapt to this awkward fret board without my music taking a major set back. There would be no way to know until I had some time to work with the completed instrument. In a two-month time span Klein put in about approximately 40 hours at his drafting table designing the instrument. The designs were based in part, on the measurements of the Larson 16-string double neck guitar. He drew life-sized drawings of the front of the instrument with all the frets, bridges and sound holes. He also drew out the intricate bracing system. Klein had several meetings about the instrument with his associate, and fellow luthier Steve Kauffman. After Klein’s Designs were completed the majority of the woodwork was done by Kauffman who spent about 4 solid months constructing the guitar. Kauffman, who was in constant contact with Klein, worked through many of the problems encountered. Calculating string tension, deciding how stiff to make the different zones of the top, the shapes of the peg heads and the upper necks two leveled peg head to name just a few.

In order to help keep the instrument as light as possible they made the necks out of Mahogany instead of the heavier Rosewood. Because I did not need to wrap my hand around the lower neck like a traditional guitarist Klein decided to make the lower neck a hollow chamber like a Weissenborn or Hawaiian lap steel guitar. This chamber served the dual purpose of helping the bass response/cavity size while also being a place to put the electronics. Klein believes a neck should reflect string vibration, not absorb it. This helps the string vibration to drive the bridge and top as much as possible. The material under the lower neck’s Ebony fingerboard is a composite layer of fiberglass and carbon fiber sandwiched between mahogany. This composite material is the thickness of the instruments top and keeps the neck strong and light but also very reflective, like a plate of glass. This helps to reflect the strings energy to the bridge. The ridged lower neck has no truss rod. The bolt on upper neck has two carbon sandwich truss rods like those used in Klein’s six string guitars. This allows adjustments to both sides of the neck, similar to certain twelve string guitars. The radius of the upper neck fingerboard is standard for such a wide neck. The lower fingerboard is flat similar to a classical guitar. The bridges and bracings use Klein’s trademark concepts inspired by Dr. Michael Kasha. On all acoustic guitars the signal from the string goes through the bridge and is transmitted to the top. This signal is distributed through the top by the braces. The braces also contribute to the strength of the instrument and its ability to resist string tension. The Kasha concept uses many more braces. These braces mushroom out from different areas of a bridge that is larger on the bass side than the treble side. This system is called a “Radial Fan Brace”. It helps to give the instrument the capacity to respond to a wider spectrum of frequencies. It is more balanced, and clear than a traditionally braced instrument. This also gives more separation and a more piano like quality. The bridges in the double neck guitar are not Klein’s trademark Impedance Matching Bridges. Klein thought it would be unpractical to install such bridges into an instrument with so many strings.

Another concern was how to make the back. The dome shaped back was so wide that in order to make it thin and responsive, yet strong and durable they decided to make it a composite/sandwich of three different materials. The inside layer is Brazilian Rosewood, the middle is carbon fiber 20,000th thick and the outside is a one of a kind Indian Rosewood which is used also on the sides. The grain pattern of these materials was offset to help keep it from cracking. This Indian Rosewood is from the same wood used on a Shakti Harp that Klein made for Steve Miller.

“The tap tone resonance was just gorgeous. It was complex and beautiful and rang like a bell, with allot of sustain to it,” Kauffman said when talking about the back of the double neck guitar. Kauffman made it with a curve built into it to help prevent it from warping or pulling away from the sides with time. It was shaped on a leath to make a dish like 15-foot radios curve. Then it was laminated in a vacume with epoxy to glue the whole thing together. “When it was done the back had this perfectly smooth spherical shape to it.” Then I went ahead and braced it and it came out just beautifully.” Kauffman continued, “The back was an experimental aspect to this project that was very successful.” This made it possible for the back to work with the rest of the instrument to help the bass response and give it more frequencies. The top also has an arch built into it. This helps make it stronger so that it can be a little thinner and more resonant. Some areas are more arched than other areas and the portion that the lower fingerboard lays over is totally flat. Kauffman came up with a groove cut into a space above the lower neck to compensate for the thin fingerboard that my right hand thumb rests upon. This also prevents my thumbnail from wearing a hole in the top as I had done on the Larson Double Neck. Kauffman estimated he could have made four top of the line Klein acoustic guitars in the amount of time he spent on this project.

When Kauffmans work was completed Klein took over with the finishing process. He made the bridges, installed the frets, hardware, and sprayed the lacquer. I played the instrument for the first time at the Anaheim NAMM show, January 2002. It was not completed and still needed a final set up and installation of the electronics. This is the first time I met Steve and the first time I played any of his amazing guitars. Klein then took the instrument to Bob Wolstein of Highlander Musical Audio Products for completion of the instrument’s elaborate electronics. Wolstein’s experience and high standards made him Klein’s first and only choice. The onboard mixer blends magnetic pickups on both necks with piezo saddle pickups. This onboard, active system is powered by two 9-volt batteries and is able to mix all the pickups for maximum control. It has three outputs; two-quarter inch mono outs for each neck separate, or one mono out that is a combination of both necks. It was delivered to me in May of 2002.

When I told Steve Kauffman how lucky I felt I was to get Steve Klein for this project he summed it up by saying: “You really picked well with Steve, his creativity, his artistic integrity and his willingness to do something that is just really off the charts made him a great choice. While your creativity and musicianship, your ability to boldly go and explore these new musical and instrument directions, that’s why we do this. It is very inspiring to us. Steve and I have a very unique position in the world of luithery, because were not trying to make replicas of vintage guitars that were successful. There are a lot of people out there that are doing that and I’m not knocking them. What we are looking for is a musician who has a vision of a sound that goes beyond what has been done and challenges us to reach a distant horizon. Not to toot our own horn too much but I think the instruments we make are in a class by themselves. Not every musician gets that. To have someone come along who recognizes and appreciates that is very fulfilling for us.”

© 2006 Scott Stenten All rights reserved.

Guitars

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