it. I’d say, “Where do you live? Maybe there’s
somebody in your area that has one that you
could play and see if you like it.” They’d say,
“No, if Chet plays it, that’s what I want.” So I
had people ordering my guitars having never
seen or played one. It really helps sales when
a customer is so confident that they order an
instrument sight unseen.
In the ’90s I made 300 NSE guitars, maybe a few
more. I’m 61 now, so that was a good decade
for me. I was buried with orders because of
Chet. But I’m sure glad it was an instrument
that I loved, because I wouldn’t want to have
made 300 banjos during that time.
thin, really. I think Lenny even used a .009 at
times. The high A actually worked quite well.
What were some of the other distinguishing characteristics of that 7-string?
It was a classical guitar shape, and I incorporated a really deep cutaway. And Lenny wanted it heavy. It was solid mahogany. That thing
weighed a ton. He wanted it to sustain—that
was a big part of his sound. He’d do those
harmonics and they’d just keep ringing like a
bell, so he really liked the fact that the guitar
was heavy and had the sustain it did.
You made a 7-string guitar for Lenny Breau
back in 1983, and that was kind
of unheard of.
It was. In 1982 or ’ 83, a 7-string player and
good friend of mine named George Van Eps
lived out here. He had his seventh string as a
low bass note, so I was familiar with that concept. Lenny wanted the seventh string on top
where the melody is, so the first string was a
high A—like the first string, fifth fret. When
you put that high A on top and you add
that string into your melodies
and chords, it’s a whole new
thing—but it’s a lot harder
to play the high A on top.
When Lenny died, we were
designing a double-neck
guitar that had a 7-string
neck and a 10-string neck. It
also had some droning harmonic strings you wouldn’t
play, but that would just
vibrate along with everything
else. I still have the template.
That was pretty interesting,
but we never finished it.
Lenny Breau with his Sand 7-string guitar at Kirk Sand’s NAMM show
booth in 1983.
changing the gauge of the string to find just
that certain scale length and string gauge
that made the first string feel like it was the
same tension as the other treble strings. The
guitar had a 22 ¾"-scale length, which is
very short. And the string was an .008,
which is not all that
What sorts of electronics did it have?
Seymour Duncan made custom pickups for it.
There were no 7-string pickups at that time.
The string spacing was the same as a classical
guitar, and the pickups had to be fabricated
so the pole pieces were directly under each
string. Lenny also wanted those roller knobs
that are turned sideways, like on a Fender
Jazzmaster. Actually, I used Jazzmaster con-
trols. Lenny would reach down to
that volume control and move
it back and forth to get a
What were some of the
challenges of designing the
Well, in order to get the seventh string
tuned up to a high A, we had to really
experiment with the scale length, because
there isn’t a string available that could tune
up to the high A without breaking. So I
shortened the scale length quite a bit. I
experimented using a capo on the guitar and
restringing it, moving the capo around and
Note the extended upper-fret access
on the Richard Smith signature
acoustic-electric nylon-string (front),
the Mahogany model acoustic-electric
nylon-string (middle), and the CTE- 2