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Where can I buy Megatar Strings?

 

I buy my strings directly from Kalium Strings.

 

These are the strings gauges that are on almost all Megatar instruments made before February of 2017:

Bass Bottom Tuning (Megatar)

Melody string gauges: .009, .011, .012, .016, .029W, .040W

Bass string gauges: .025W, .035W, .050W, .065W, .085W, .100W

"Inverted-Fifths" Tuning (Chapman Stick)

Melody String gauges: .009, .011, .012, .016, .029W, .040W

Bass String gauges: .095W, .080W, .060W, .030W, .016, .010

 

Always have your intonation checked after changing strings.  If you use a different string gauge you must adjust the intonation.

 

 

 

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How Long Does It Take To Get A Megatar?

Typical delivery time for custom-made instruments is 3-6 months.

There are sometimes instruments in stock, and there are sometimes instruments in progress that can be delivered sooner.  Inquire.

It is one of our goals to be able to deliver high-quality handmade instruments while maintaining a high level of efficiency so you can have your instrument in your hands as soon as possible.  Also true is that good craftsmanship requires patience.

When you place your order you will get an estimated time to completion as a guide.  If all goes well your instrument might arrive sooner.  Sometimes I might need a little more time.

You will be emailed periodic updates of your instrument's progress so you will get to watch it come alive.

 

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What Wood Choices Do You Have?

New collection of guitar woods ready to stack and cure. 

New collection of guitar woods ready to stack and cure. 

Wood Choices:

Every standard Megatar is laminated out of quarter sawn sapele.   Sapele is one of the most commonly used guitar woods for a reason, and in our opinion, sapele represents the best balance of weight, tone, workability, stability, appearance, mojo and cost.  The best classic Megatars such as the so-called "Maxtapper" and "Toneweaver" instruments were made out of sapele.

In addition there are several options designed to make it easy for players to personalize the look and performance of their Megatars.  For more info on neck upgrades, click here.

Click here for more info on full custom builds.

 

Below is a sampling of the woods I normally have in stock:

I also have access to a private collection of tone woods gathered over the course of the last 40 years from all around the West Coast by my buddy "Bearman".  Lots of burl woods, crotches and figured woods, softwoods and hardwoods.  One-of-a-kind and of the finest quality and each piece has a story to go with it.  If you like the idea of including a very special piece of wood into your instrument, contact me for details. 

Here are a couple places to learn more about the characteristics of the different woods:

http://www.wood-database.com/

http://www.warmoth.com/guitar/bodies/options/bodywoodoptions.aspx

 

The wood sample images above were captured mostly from: www.wood-database.com

 

 

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Neck options: "Add Stripes" - "Add Figured Core" - "Full Custom"

All of our neck-through bodies are made up of laminations, or stripes, of solid wood.

The base model Megatar is made up of 8 or 9 strips of a single species of wood:  sapele

For more information on wood choices, click here.

Visual Aid:  All sapele body sample

Visual Aid:  All sapele body sample

In addition, there are several options available that allow you to customize the look and performance of your Megatar:

The "Add Stripes" option improves the stability, stiffness, and clarity of tone by adding several strategically placed strips of denser and more rigid tone woods to the neck.  It also adds a lot to the aesthetic experience, making the most of the neck-through design and allowing you to personalize the look and performance of your Megatar. 

The "Add Figured Core" option offers an easy way to add some serious appeal to the look of your instrument.  It calls for a heavily figured piece of hard maple wood to be used for the central spine of the instrument,  as in the samples below:

The "Full Custom" option allows you to choose the species and arrangement of the neck and body woods.  For more information on wood choices, click here.  All of the instruments pictured on this site so far have been "Full Custom" builds.  

For more information on custom work, click here

 

Sapele with wenge/bubinga stripes and curly maple core.

Sapele with wenge/bubinga stripes and curly maple core.

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Crossed vs. Uncrossed strings

Left: Creepy looking photo of a Crossed String Arrangement, stick style.    Right: Creepy looking photo of an Un crossed String Arrangement, mirrored 4ths, big strings on the outside tuning, euro-style.

Left: Creepy looking photo of a Crossed String Arrangement, stick style.    Right: Creepy looking photo of an Uncrossed String Arrangement, mirrored 4ths, big strings on the outside tuning, euro-style.

Bottom line: Personal preference.

The uncrossed string arrangement allows each hand full access to all positions on the string set without interference. In the uncrossed arrangement, you place the left hand's string set (normally the bass strings) to the player's left, and you place the right hand's string set (normally the melody/guitar) closer to the player's head.   The left hand plays the bass strings just as on a 6 string bass.  The right hand plays the melody strings from the right, allowing for full access to both string sets.  Good for smaller hands.  Some say better for beginners.  Preferred by many musicians.   Uncrossed Bass Bottom tuning feels natural to standard guitar and bass players because the strings are in all the familiar places.

The crossed string arrangement, where in the normal playing position the musician finds the lowest strings nearest to his head and the highest-pitched strings furthest to his left, is just as common.  This arrangement means that when your left hand is playing bass strings around fret 7, your right hand is blocked from playing melody strings at that same place.  Better for larger hands as your hands will have to reach across the fretboard with fingers more outstretched.  Chapman Stick instruments use predominantly crossed tunings. 

Other considerations and random thoughts on the subject:

FIrst off, what tuning are you using? 

Bass bottom/straight 4ths tuning can be crossed or uncrossed and/or mirrored. 

Most Chapman Stick style tunings are going to to be based on a crossed hands setup.

If you choose crossed hands stick learning materials and techniques can be used.

If you are an existing bass or guitar player who uses some tapping or touch techniques and wants to expand that potential, your probably going to like uncrossed hands.  It will feel more natural to you at first.

If your new to touchstyle and not stick-centric but rather just exploring and enjoying the ride then probably bass bottom/ 4ths tuning will be easier to navigate. While uncrossed hands will be more like what you are used to if you have any experience with bass or guitar playing.

If you are a bass player, you for sure should go with bass bottom/4ths tuning.  As for crossed vs. uncrossed, it’s a matter of personal taste.  Try to experiment with or at least simulate the different string arrangements and see how it feels.  Think about what sort of music you are planning to make with your megatar and imagine how it would best work for your hands?   

If you see the instrument as a monster 12 string bass, then bass bottom tuning with crossed hands gives you what you need.  Like having a bass that goes from a low B on the bass to the upper range of a guitar, and plenty of strings to work with. 

 

 

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Tuning Choices

The ‘Celestial Harp’- a theory that the movement of the stars and planets was related to music

The ‘Celestial Harp’- a theory that the movement of the stars and planets was related to music

We offer a variety of tunings. 

Megatar Tuning

Our standard and recommended tuning is known as "Bass Bottom" tuning or "Straight Fourths" because the bass string set is tuned just like a standard six string bass (BEADGC) while the melody strings are also tuned in fourths with a range similar to that of a standard guitar only slightly lower (C#F#BEAD).  Because of the long neck, these strings cannot be tuned quite as high as a standard guitar without breaking, so they're pitched lower by 1.5 steps (3 frets).  But since Megatar instruments have 25 frets, instead of 22 as in most guitars, you can still play as high as on a guitar. You've just got yourself some extra low melody notes!

This arrangement produces the same notes under the bass strings at fret #2 and the melody strings at fret #12.  Both positions are marked by double dots.   Learning is very accessible with this tuning.  The fretboard is easy to navigate and much of what you may already know from standard guitar or bass transfers quickly because your left hand already knows what it's doing and your right hand catches on right away to the technique and the patterns.  

Additionally there are instructional materials commonly available for two-handed tapping techniques on standard bass and standard guitar, which are applicable to The Megatar with Bass Bottom tuning.  All this makes learning faster with this tuning.  Plus, learning to play the Megatar, will allow you to pick up any bass or guitar and make music.

Stick Tuning

If you have already learned the ‘Inverted-Fifths’ tuning developed by Emmett Chapman for the Chapman Stick, then we will be happy to deliver this tuning, and it will have the Buzz Feiten Intonation System installed so that your playing sounds more ‘in tune’ with itself and other instruments.

Many other tunings are available including bi-melody, dual bass, crafty, dropped, and mirrored tunings, etc. plus all of these in an uncrossed string arrangement if desired. Normally free of charge.  

Additional fees may apply if custom string sets are needed.  

Daniel Schell has a lot of great information on different touch-style tunings.  Find it here.

 

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What about "Fanned Frets?" What is a ToneWeaver?

Shown here is the classic Mobius Megatar 'ToneWeaver' with fanned frets.

Shown here is the classic Mobius Megatar 'ToneWeaver' with fanned frets.

Megatars can be built with Novak fanned frets.

Click on the links below for more information on the origin and concept:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanned_fret_guitars

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-scale_fingerboard

http://www.novaxguitars.com/

Megatars equipped with fanned frets also have the Buzz Feiton intonation system, making them one of the only stringed instruments in the world that provides the player with both the superior 'in-tune' play of the Feiten system, and the improved tonal color provided by Ralph Novak's fanned-fret system.

With the Novak system, the frets are installed on a slant, such that the lowest bass strings are as long as possible, like a standard bass, and the highest melody strings have a shorter scale length, moving more toward a standard guitar, for a seamless flow of scale length from low/long, to high/short.  The instrument looks quite dramatic with all the frets slanting.

But doesn't this make it hard to play?

No.

With your Megatar in the vertical playing position, your hands and fingers naturally line up with the arc of the frets.  After a few minutes of getting used to the layout, you won't even notice the difference, and some players find that it feels more natural.  

 

 

 


 

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How is the New Megatar different from the classic Mobius Megatar?

classic mobius megatar maxtapper banshee

classic mobius megatar maxtapper banshee

Honestly, although there is a pretty long list of tweaks, the Megatar has always been an excellent instrument, with a focus on the mechanics of playability and tone and a sparse, functional aesthetic that belied it's sonic capabilities. 

Take that foundation and run it through a design optimization cycle and what you get is something like this:                                                                 

I like them both, but I actually like the old one better.

I like them both, but I actually like the old one better.

Shameless, I know.  Seriously I could use a shave too.

Shameless, I know.  Seriously I could use a shave too.

Or really mostly like this:

 

OK, enough of that.

Here is a list of some of the differences:

-Removed poorly applied headstock decal or sticker.  Added options for custom inlay.

-Made the hole in the headstock a little smaller to strengthen the tip and make room for moving the tuners slightly inward for a more direct string path. 

-Added megatar script logo inside the headstock hole, and “hand made in Mt. Shasta CA by:” and hand signing of each instrument.

-Increased the radii all around the headstock hole and softened outside edges for better integrity and aesthetics.

-Increased thickness of headstock slightly which embeds the tuners a little more to increase the pull down on the zero fret/nut area.

-Got rid of crude nut/string guide and replaced with string guide integrated into the end of the fret board.  Simple, elegant, no tone robbing assemblies of parts.

-Replaced drawer liner string deadener with piano felt.  Looks good, works good, better access to first fret.

-Went up a size on the zero-fret and switched to Jescar Evo ™ ultra-hard alloy fret wire.  Better energy transfer at the zero-fret.

-Went up a size on fret wire and upgraded fret work.  Better feel, more sustain.

-Fret board is slightly thicker for more integrity and to accommodate lower action.

-Added option for custom fingerboard inlay.

-Added some contour to the fretboard base.

-Minimized truss rod adjustment access cavities.

-Added optional carbon fiber reenforcement rods embedded in the neck.

-Strings are spaced evenly across the neck at the nut to increase string spacing.  While maintaining gap between strings at bridge to eliminate crosstalk.

-Added optional multi-species neck laminations.

-Added figured wood options.

-Added exotic and figured wood choices.

-Upgraded standard wood to 1/4 sawn sapele.

-Ditched plastic pick guard and huge front side control cavity.

-Switched to direct mount pickups and ‘rear route’ design. Pushed control cavities into the wings.

-Added solid matching hardwood control cavity covers.

-Modified glue choices for better tone and serviceability.

-Adjusted body angles for better balance visually and physically.

-Sculpted rear of body and removed delicate end grain serial number label cavity.

-Sculpted front side and narrowed base of body creating shoulders that make the Megatar fit in standard folding guitar stands.

-Overall less weight with more rigidity and response.

-Ditched faux-international paper serial number label.

-Re-arranged and upgraded electronic components for better tone and ergonomics.

-Added hard grounding in place of wire to foil connections.

-Starting lapping bridge plates.

-Thicker, more professional finishes.  Added traditional oil finish as an option.

-Switched to side mount output jack.

-Added manual switching for active circuits instead of dual switched jacks.

-Added custom electronics options.

-Added standard strap locks on every instrument.

-Added choice of hardware finish at no cost.

-Removed some superfluous bolts and fasteners.

-Added luxury strap option.

-Upgraded machines and tooling for tighter tolerances and consistency.

-Upgraded finishing processes, equipment and facilities.

-Base Price New Megatar: $2250.  Equivalent classic model in old prices: $2080 

-New Megatar with Acoustiphonic Piezos:  $3250  Equivalent to classic "Maxtapper Nitro":  $3300  Is the New Megatar worth $50 less dollars than what you would have paid before?  Probably. Yeah.

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Which Pickups should I get? or Are the Bartolinis or Piezos worth it?

Short answer:  Yes, get the Bartolinis.

megatar-bartolini.jpg

For more information on Bartolini pickups follow this link:

http://www.bartolini.net/

Standard Pickups:

Our "standard" pickups are a gold or chrome cased alnico 5 magnet humbucker with individual pole piece adjustments.  They are made by WSC or WooSung Chorus, a Korean guitar parts manufacturer.  Their pickups are used in a lot of top guitar brands for OEM applications and are something of a well-kept secret.  Variations of this same pickup are often sold in the $100-$150 and up range.  They are fully wax potted to minimize noise and feedback.  

I have a stockpile of these pickups and include them in the base price as a way to keep the entry price down.  They offer an especially high sensitivity and output level, necessary for a responsive touchstyle feel.   The tone is punchy, almost dirty, somewhat compressed on the high end, with plenty of growl on the bass side.  These are solid pickups for rock, blues, metal, and the like or for modeling guitar or bass amps.  People who use a lot of effects would be happy with these.  For non-connoisseurs and people on a tight budget, these will out perform many higher-priced pickups.   

They are standard-size humbuckers and as such can be upgraded or swapped out by any qualified technician. 

Bartolini Pickups:

Our standard pickups are pretty good, but once you get used to hearing Bartolini's all day, well you get sorta spoiled. The wide-open luxurious sound of the Bartolini humbuckers really is in a class by itself.  The output is high yet not distorted.  With separate pickups hand picked for the bass and melody string sets, the frequency response is even from the lowest lows, right up into the upper reaches of the fretboard.   When used passively, without active preamps, the sound is very pure and open.   Playability and headroom are improved due to increased sensitivity and the broader tonal palette.

Running passive pickups saves the bother of worrying about and dealing with batteries and any additional electronic complexities.  Some players actually prefer the cleaner sound of passive pickups.

Bartolini Active Preamp:

Our active preamp circuitry was custom designed for our application in collaboration with Bill Bartoini himself.  It includes a Bartolini TC-6 stereo preamp powered by a 9v battery in a flip out battery box and internally adjustable boost circuits with treble bleed caps that can be used to balance the output and/or to dial it up to 11.   With active circuits, the output, and headroom go up a couple notches, letting the full, robust character of the tone shine through. Playability is improved as well with the increased sensitivity and broader tonal palette. Good for players who need extra signal strength due to their setup and musicians interested in maximum sonic potential.

Acoustiphonic Piezos:

Manufactured by Graph Tech, these are piezoelectric sensors, basically like tiny microphones in each bridge saddle right where the string contacts the saddle.  They are installed just like normal bridge saddles but with wires that run under the bridge to specialized preamp circuits. The resulting tone is very bright with an aggressive attack.  Often described as producing a more "acoustic" tone.  They work especially well when blended together with the Bartolinis to provide a highly sensitive, fast, rich, powerful, feeling and tone with absolutely nothing missing.

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Can you please explain the various electronics options?

Please also see this article for more information about pickup choices.

Standard with nested volume, dual tone, stereo output jack - No Charge
The bass and melody string sets each have their own tone and volume controls.  The volume knobs are 'nested' one inside the other so that not only can one adjust the volumes separately, but it can also be used like one knob so that both signals can be turned down or up together.

Add 3-way humbucker switches (series, parallel, coil cut) + $50
Adds 2 subtle sound/response variations to the pickups output.

Add stereo-mono switch + $25
Allows for easy mono-amping, but with the option to split out the signals as needed.   

Add dual mono output + $40
Works well for switching preamps at the jack.  Requires 2 separate guitar cables.  Classic Megatars with preamps were built this way.  

Add active bypass switch + $25
Emergency backup for professionals that want to be able to bypass the active circuits in case of unexpected technical issues. 

Add Custom Electronics - Inquire
Have some specific pickups, switching options or other electronic fantasies that you would like to share?  Let me know what you have in mind. 

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