Dunning ∿‌‌ Kruger FX

Effect Pedals and Guitars, etc.

Emomaster

February 2022

I’m not a guitar historian, so this may all be apocryphal, but it is my understanding that by 1958, Fender’s Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars were already pretty popular. In order to hedge their bets in case that whole “rock ‘n’ roll” fad petered out, they designed a guitar to attract musicians from other genres. They made one with an offset waist that was supposedly more comfortable to play when seated, developed unique pickups and pickup-switching electronics, and took a pass at a tremolo system with some extra bells and whistles. The resulting guitar was called the Jazzmaster.

It didn’t take off with jazz musicians. It got some traction with surf rockers, but never sold like Strats or Teles, and the model was discontinued in 1980. They were still nice guitars though, and without the cachet of the more popular models were available relatively cheaply. While there were a few people closely associated with Jazzmasters in the interim (Elvis Costello, Thurston Moore, Robert Smith played a modified one for a while) they had a significant resurgence with indie music. J Mascis may have had a lot to do with it, but it seemed like out of nowhere they were popular again, to the point where Fender re-introduced them and now offers them at every price point and trim level.

I’m old, and I don’t really know what emo is, aside from once listening to Fall Out Boy for 12 long seconds. But in the same way that Leo Fender took a random swing at jazz, I called this guitar an Emomaster. Jazzmasters may actually be more closely associated with shoegaze or something, but “Shoegazemaster” looks like one of those German words where they just collapse an entire sentence into a single word, and it wouldn’t fit on the headstock anyway.

In reality, I don’t think this has anything to do with emo, but as with most of my decisions, it sounded good at the time.

Construction

The Emomaster is a semi-hollowbody, meaning that much of the interior is hollow, but there’s a chunk of wood left under the pickups and bridge. This theoretically imparts some resonant qualities to the tone, but still keeps it from feeding back like crazy when the sound coming from the amp wants to vibrate the whole guitar at the same pitch that it’s playing. I have no idea if it makes a guitar sound “better,” and it’s tough to A/B test, but I’d buy that it makes it sound “different.” It’s certainly lighter in weight, which I find more comfortable to play, regardless of any tonal implications, especially on a guitar with such a large body.

It started as a solid blank of walnut that I cut to a vaguely Jazzmaster-ish shape—I referenced a set of actual Jazzmaster plans, but took some liberties with the final outline. I then hogged out most of it with a forstner bit in a drill press and then cleaned it up with a router. It is capped with a cedar top and bound top and back with tortoise-colored plastic. The neck is maple and supposedly rosewood, in the same way that a weird uncle supposedly has hair the color of black shoe polish. I may wind up replacing the neck at some point. This all started as an experiment…I’ve never made a semi-hollow before and was making up a lot of it as I went along, so I got a cheap neck for it just to complete the proof of concept. It wound up being much better than expected though, and probably deserves a better neck.

The pickups are GFS Nashville Minitrons. I believe that translates to “Low output Filter’Tron-style mini humbuckers.” “Weak” is not a strong marketing word, so when talking about pickup output, manufacturers will do things like call them “vintage” or, in this case, pick a city (Nashville) and put it first in an ascending list of power. I generally prefer lower output pickups and it has not destroyed my ego yet, although these still have more juice than the vintage pickups that inspired them—just less than others in the same line. The “tron” in the name is a nod to the fact that they resemble the Gretsch Filter’Tron humbucking pickups created by Ray Butts for Chet Atkins in the 50s. These were actually developed before the P.A.F. humbuckers designed by Seth Lover at Gibson, although Gibson filed for the patent first. I have repeatedly suggested that this situation be referred to as the Butts/Lover Quandary, but it’s difficult to gain much SEO leverage with those keywords. Anyway, the “mini” in the name is a reference to the fact that these are physically small: the same size as the pickups in Gibson Firebirds and Les Paul Deluxes. Mini humbuckers are kind of an oddball in the pickup world. Whereas most single coils are thought of as bright and articulate sounding and most humbuckers are known for being darker and more powerful, the narrower spacing of a mini and its smaller components put it somewhere in between.

Sound

The Emomaster guitar is surprisingly loud unplugged, and between its natural resonance and the unusual pickups, I think it has a lot of mojo. It currently has flatwound strings on it because…I don’t know, I was just trying to go as weird as possible, but they may be overly dark. I’ll experiment. The following sound sample was recorded with the flats and is overly dry in an attempt to capture the natural tone. It has fingerpicking on the neck and middle pickup positions, then flatpicking in those positions, then I switch to the bridge and kick on the BONER 4EVER for a little grit.