Scott Stenten

The Larson Archtop ContinuedScott with Larson

After playing the detachable DoubleGuitar for a few years I began to want a more acoustic sound. I hired Brad Larson to make a new DoubleGuitar. I had never played an 8-string guitar before. But since I was having a new guitar made I decided to expand the range and make it 8 strings per neck. At the time I was trying to play some piano music on DoubleGuitar and I hoped that by expanding the range I could have more musical possibilities. For this project Larson drew upon the work of Benedetto Guitars and even consulted Bob Benedetto on occasion.

The upper half of the guitar is a hollow arch top with a floating bridge. The lower half is a semi hollow arch top with a piece of Bass wood running under the length of the body similar to a Gibson ES-335. The lower neck has electric guitar saddles similar to the Fender Strats. Looking back I wish we would have made the entire instrument a hollow archtop, but at the time I was uncertain if I would be able to get enough sound from the lower neck since I was playing right hand melody lines on that neck exclusively.

My initial hopes were to make the upper neck go two strings lower in pitch and the lower neck go two strings higher in pitch. Unfortunately we did not experiment with this before making the instrument. When the instrument was done we put the strings on. It was then we realized that you could not get the strings on the lower neck to tune up to such a high pitch. A compromise was made and we used a lower B string than 6 strings like a regular guitar and finally one hi A string using the lightest gauge available. This wimpy string was very quiet compared to the other strings and it broke easily. Eventually we took the drastic measure of taking out some frets and shortening the scale length in order to put a heavier more durable string on it. That explains how I began playing guitar with different spaced frets on the same neck. This concept is used on my current Klein DoubleGuitar.

The electronics of the Larson 16 string double neck evolved with time. At first it was made with only 1 eight string Fralin pick up per neck. Later it ended up with a total of 5 pick-ups. The first pickups were wired together with an onboard tuner and run out with one single ¼ cable. This initial set up was inadequate and the wiring created too much noise. The next set up was adding two Barcus Berry outsider piezo pick ups to add a little more crispness and bring out the acoustic sound more. These piezos were stuck onto the top of the guitar by the bridges. I then ran chords from all four pickups to a small mixer and out to the amp. As I began to grow more comfortable using the lower register of the top neck I found it necessary to ad a bass pickup for the four lowest strings. As I began to play more gigs with drummers as a duo, I found it very helpful to boost these lower strings. Eventually I traded the Barcuss Berry’s in for a wonderful transducer pick up made by K & K Sound Systems and some not so wonderful L.R. Baggs saddle pickups. The more I played with bass and drum trios I noticed balance problems with the lower neck. The higher strings were being over powered by the lower strings and it was very difficult to get the higher notes to cut through. The solution was to add a Kent Armstrong pick up and boost the higher strings. The final set up has the 3 pickups from the upper neck and the two pickups from the lower neck running into a small tabletop Midiman mixer.

The tuning for the Larson double neck originally started as the standard E,A,D,G,B,E, with the higher or lower strings tuned in fourths from there. Later in the summer of 2000 I changed the lower necks tuning to straight fourths B,E,A,D,G,C,F,B flat. At first it was difficult to adapt my music to this tuning because I was so familiar with standard tuning. But in the long run it expanded the musical possibilities for my right hand improvisation technique. In 2002 after watching pianist Brad Mehldau I changed the tuning of the upper neck to have two notes a half step apart. This gave me the ability to play dissonant closely voiced chords with my left hand alone and with relative ease. For years I had heard these types of chords played by pianists like Bill Evans. It was very difficult for me to play these voicings with the two-neck approach. I finally realized that by changing one string I was able to make it possible. The high E string was changed to a 24-gauge F sharp string a half step away from the G string. The instrument still has the holes in the sides from the original electronics. It even has the skeleton of the original tuner still attached to the upper side.

© 2006 Scott Stenten All rights reserved.

Guitars

©2008-2011 Scott Stenten. All rights reserved