Guitar and bass bodies wait in line for their time with Ursula. Note the oval-shaped tags in the electronics cavities. These tags use radio waves to help
Ursula identify which buffing patterns are needed for each body.
cut so that there is a gap on each side of the
neck rather than extra fret wire that has to
be clipped. That gap is filled by hand with
lacquer and a soldering machine.
•Respect the body! Temporary handles are
fastened to neck joints before the necks are
put on, and then they are secured to vices at
each sub-assembly bench so that the body
remains in a hovering position when the
electronics are installed. This prevents the
bodies from getting ganked and scratched by
screws, tools, or other debris on the benches.
•Wood treatment. Despite buying already-dried and treated wood, EBMM uses real
heat from kilns (that is, not ultraviolet light)
to draw more water out of their wood. It
takes four days to cure a guitar body.
•Striped chambers. Reflex guitars are chambered by routing parallel grooves into the bodies.
Another big difference between Ernie Ball Music
Man and other companies is their approach to artists. As Brooks put it, they aren’t focused on converting up-and-coming players by the masses. Rather,
they prefer to let the instruments win true fans of the
brand. A point of pride for the company is the fact
that their artists often show up empty-handed to in-store events. “When Steve Lukather is in a store that
sells our gear, he knows that every guitar on the wall
is set up to his high standards,” Brooks said.
As for the previously mentioned “maverick”
description, Sterling embraces it. This is evidenced
in the shock he expresses over people buying guitars
that need to be set up after they’re purchased. He
also shows a bit of frustration over the fact that
musicians can be slow to accept new innovations.
“I think it’d be nice if the guitar and the bass could
move forward a little bit,” he says. “There’s a lot of
technology out there that could be applied. The
challenge is to come up with better ways of making
new, more flexible instruments that are intuitive.”
Click here to visit
premierguitar.com to see
more of our visit with Ernie
Ball Music Man, including:
• Video tours of the factory and
the historic-instruments vault
• An extended photo gallery