My sound vision is more a Fender tone
than a Gibson tone—quick attack with
a warm pop ... I design my pickups in
a way that they achieve the Strat-like
tone but with more volume.
The Tesla and Niwa have very wide, flat knobs. What’s the
design philosophy behind those?
I use the Tesla volume pot for swell sounds in the opposite direction. So the swell direction of movement goes down with the stroke
of the playing hand. The larger diameter makes the swell sound
more scalable. The Niwa selector knob continues the design of the
volume and tone knob.
Your pickups tend to have a hot and somewhat hi-fi sound to
them. What sounds were you going for when you designed them?
Most of the players who write reviews of my guitars describe their
tone as quite vintage, but I know it is always difficult to get the
same opinion on the same guitars. My sound vision is more a
Fender tone than a Gibson tone—quick attack with a warm pop.
In order to get this—and keeping in my mind that my guitar bodies are mostly from red alder—I design my pickups in a way that
they achieve the Strat-like tone but with more volume.
My major pickup type for the Tesla and Niwa is a split coil that
has one bobbin with three magnets for the treble strings, and one
bobbin with three magnets for the bass strings—similar to the
Precision bass pickup. No pickup can exactly paint the sound of a
vintage single-coil except a vintage single-coil, but this is not my
ambition. I evolved the split-coil design for the particular tonal
needs of my guitars. The Tesla has to have a Hendrix-like neck
sound, but louder and without hum—and sharper, too, because
it’s a noise-cancelling single-coil. The split coil is perfect for this
demand. The Niwa’s pickups use another type of split coil—
different magnets, different wires, and a different number of windings.