If the neck is truly the most critical part of your new guitar, why hasn’t it changed in the last 100+ years? Is there anything better? How could I make the guitar neck sound even better?
One day, now many years ago, when I was just a boy, I was toying with a piece of Western Maple wood that I had found lying on the ground. Just a kid having fun, I was tapping it with another stick, almost like I would make music with it, as it seemed to be making a sweet resonating sound as I tapped it. After a few minutes, I became tired of holding it in my hand and decided it would be better if I put one end on the ground to no longer hold it.
Whoops, something went wrong. Now the musical sound I had been enjoying was gone. It was now just a kind of softer thud or thumping sound. No matter how many times I picked it up and once again placed it back on the ground, it still stopped resonating with the nice musical sound I had first heard.
Many years later, around 1953, as I was building my first DuoLectar guitar, I ran across the same problem. I used a standard type neck, with a standard bent screw-type truss where the string pulled from the distal end through the neck to the body. My problem here was two-fold: the first problem was that everything above around the 12th fret just got weaker and required that I had to tap, pick or touch each note harder to compensate for the loss of volume. The second irritation was that the tone, sustain of the note, and ease of playing was greatly reduced, no matter how or what I did to change it.
After several weeks, maybe months, of attempts to better this muted neck situation, I decided to take it to some of my engineering friends, where I was employed at Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle.
Voila! Three days later, they called me, and I had the sustain, reaction, and sound I had been searching for in the development of my now recognized Dave Bunker “Touch Guitar.” The message here is that everything can be improved. It’s just the right combination of human curiosity, different materials, additional expertise…and a little serendipity mixed in.