Jeff Babicz on the State of the Acoustic Guitar Union

December 1, 2008

Because acoustic guitar building is so firmly rooted in tradition, what were some of the obstacles you encountered when you introduced your designs?
In my mind it was time for a performance-based update of the acoustic guitar. As far as I knew, nobody had really tackled some of the existing design shortfalls, especially from an intonation, string action, and acoustic tone perspective. I knew there was room for improvement.

Who initially embraced your neck and stringing designs more, players or builders?
Clearly the players. Nothing validates and propels a new design like a top-level artist on a worldwide tour making music with your guitars.

Are there any areas of acoustic guitar construction that you view as sacrosanct and therefore off-limits in terms of modifications and rethinking?
Absolutely. In many respects it would be easy to take some of my ideas and push them into a futuristic direction, but that would be dangerous given how traditional the market is. In the end, the guitar must look and feel somewhat familiar, and new design features shouldn’t impose on these territories too much. But from a tonal standpoint, removing unwanted elements like dead notes, notes that sing out during recording situations, and improved overall tonal balance have always been goals of mine. My low-tension, Lateral Compression Soundboard design takes a fresh approach to addressing these issues.

What was it like when Martin wanted to use your Continually Adjustable Neck design on one of their guitars?
The respect and validation that comes along with collaborating with Martin is immeasurable. While working with them on the new Martin/Babicz OMCRE model guitar, it felt like my design and patent had some serious value. Martin is very careful about what they do, and their incorporating my adjustable neck on their traditional guitar was a moment of design truth for me.

PASSING NOTES

Flash Bathory

Flash Bathory, an endorsee for Minarik Guitars, Tregan Guitars, and others, passed away September 3, 2008, at the age of 19. She had played the Vans Warped Tour and recently released her instrumental debut, Scars and Bruises. Bathory’s music can be heard at myspace.com/flashbathory.

Don Helms

Steel-guitar legend Don Helms was a member of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys, playing on ten Number One hits and, in the process, helping to usher in the electric era of country music. His steel lines could also be heard on recordings by Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, Jr., and Helms’ last session with Vince Gill. He told his story in the book Settin’ the Woods on Fire: Confessions of Hank’s Steel Guitar Player. Helms passed away on August 11 at the age of 81.
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