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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:


The wood sample images above were captured mostly from:





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. 





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:

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?


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.  







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

Short answer:  Yes, get the Bartolinis.


For more information on Bartolini pickups follow this link:

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.



Is Buzz Feiten Intonation Really a Thing?

The Buzz Feiten intonation system is a series of subtle intonation offsets that stretch the tuning slightly to account for the interaction of different string gauges and scale lengths. The result is kind of like the ‘stretch tuning’ commonly used on pianos to make them sound more ‘in tune’ to our ears. Pianos have used this advanced system for 700 years. But guitars never had such an adjusted tuning until Buzz Feiten, a southern California studio musician, developed the system.

Megatar instruments sound more in tune with other instruments thanks to the improved intonation, which is a good thing.  The real benefit is that the instrument is in tune with itself all over the fretboard so that individual notes, harmonies and chord structures are more pure and focused.

Here is link to the Buzz Feiten website:


[Techie/Geeky Warning: Rather technical info following] -

Our factory shop recently got an email from a Buzz Feiten authorized shop in Italy, with the following question. 

>I’m having trouble intonating the 4th melody string using the formula for BassBottom tuning because it keeps being sharp. I tune it C# no offset (at fret 2), then intonate +2 cents at the 14th fret, where I intonate. And then it’s increasingly sharp further up the fretboard.  This bugs the owner.

Now intonations can change over time, and I cannot see the instrument, but it sounds like the owner has a misunderstanding about how Feiten works, and the authorized shop is not able to explain it to him. (Or maybe this particular shop doesn’t quite understand the Feiten system, could that be?)

Here’s our shop’s response –


Thanks for writing.

First I want to make sure I correctly understand what you said –

You have set the 4th melody string intonation to no offset at fret two.
Then you set the 4th melody string intonation to +2 cents at fret fourteen.
Then you noticed that the string is sharp *above* fret fourteen, that is frets 15-25.
Is that correct?

If I have understood you correctly, then here’s what I think is true …

Of course the string is at least 2 cents sharp above fret fourteen, because the formula tells you to make it sharp by two cents at fret fourteen.

And in fact, the string should continue to become sharper as you move further toward the bridge. For example, fret 17 or fret 20 or fret 25 should be *more* than 2 cents sharp.

And of course, any string that is set to be sharp halfway up the fretboard will be even more sharp higher up the fretboard. If you had zero offset at fret fourteen, then you’d expect zero sharpness above fret fourteen. But if you’ve sharped the string at fret fourteen, then as the string length is reduced as you move higher up the fretboard toward the bridge, so it will continue to become increasingly sharp at each successive fret as you move further up the neck.

As you go down the fretboard from fourteen toward fret two, of course the sharpness will go away until there is no sharpness at fret two. Because that’s how we set it.

Another Illustrative Example of How Buzz Feiten Intonation Works

If you had set the offset at fret 22, for example, to +2 cents, then as you came down to fret 14, then fret 14 would be "less" than 2 cents sharp. And so if you set fret 14 to be 2 cents sharp, then of course fret 18 or 21 or some higher fret will be more sharp.

In other words, that’s exactly what we set it to do. That’s what it’s doing. And that’s how it has to work.

It will not be different on any other string, and it will be exactly the same on any other string, where there is a greater sharpness at 14 than at fret 2.

Buzz Feiten Intonation and Your Ears

However, you may notice it less on some other strings. For example on bass strings and strings that are lower pitched, our ear hears less. And at lower frequencies, there will be less change one fret to the next in terms of actual frequency of vibration.

On some strings where the offset is less, there will be less additional sharpness further up the fretboard. So string #3 will be less, and there should be NO sharpness on strings #2 and #1.

Precision Fret-Placement Needed for Feiten Intonation System

Each fret is in one place, the same for all the strings, on parallel fret instruments, and so one string cannot act differently than another string. Even on fanned-fret instruments, the principle is the same.

And we use computer-controlled, high-precision machinery to cut the frets, so that we have no variance on the cutting of fret slots. That is, they’re not cut by hand, and there’s no human error when they’re cut. So we can assume that the fret is in the correct place, and of course it cannot be in the correct place for string #3 and string #5 and be in the wrong place for string #4.

String Gauges and the Buzz Feiten System

There can also be some slight differences between plain and wound strings, and between one gauge and another. These are largely the differences that the Feiten intonation improves. But the formula you have is the one given us by the Feiten folks, and the strings gauges you have are the ones we used to set up the formulas. (If Fabrizio has changed to different gauges, then that’s a new can of worms!)

So What to Do?

We are left with this –

Now, that particular string #4 is the lowest-pitched plain string.

If you ears and the owner’s ears say that string #4 is “TOO SHARP” as you go up the frets, then the two of you should TRUST YOUR EARS.

That’s how Buzz Feiten and Greg Back developed the formula. They *listened* and set the offsets to what sounds the best to their ears.

So if you think that string #4 is going TOO MUCH sharp as you go up beyond fret 14, then CHANGE THE OFFSET at fret 14 to a lower value. Do this till it sounds correct to your EARS. Test against the other strings by playing simple major triads up and down the strings, if you want to really check your ears.

That’s what Buzz Feiten did.

How to Correctly Play While Setting Intonation

Now, one last thing –

As you test the intonation and as you set the intonation, PLEASE do this by TAPPING on the string. Do NOT fret the string and pluck it. Set the intonation at fret two by tapping the string, and set the intonation at fret fourteen by tapping the string. (You can get very different results picking and tapping, and this instrument is designed to be played by tapping.)

Tap ON the fret, and turn up your amp, and tap softly to do the work.

Happy intonation!