The Redenbacker Guitar

Scott Humphrey

A few years ago in the Red Special world, I came across a build on the internet, by quite a well known builder. The builder in question Scott Humphrey. Scott has been building treble boosters and amps of his own for some time, in his search for the ultimate Brian May tone.

He's also built an excellent replica of the Red Special. Scott has now put his 'Crispy Cream' treble boosters into production and is selling these commercially. He's had some excellent feedback from users - check out his website for more information.

Sadly Scott no longer is accepting orders for the treble boosters.

Scott as mentioned in the above text, has built his own Red Special replica, in the early 2000's and has made a great job of it, all be its got some different parts on it, you have to make it your own in some way!

This brings us to Scott's latest D.I.Y effort.

The Redenbacker Guitar

In terms of styling, the guitar is basically a cross between Brian May's homemade "Red Special" guitar, and a Rickenbacker...hence, the name "The Redenbacker." This is not a copy of any one guitar, but you can easily see the influences.

The guitars that Scott builds are for his own personal use... and are not made to sell. The photos and the write up about the build are for thosewho are interested in how the guitar is constructed, how the guitar came about being built by Scott, and for people who may appreciate a unique guitar.

This is a walkthrough of Scott's build in his own words.

I thought I'd share with you why I decided to make the Redenbacker:

Like everyone else, I was, and still am, fascinated with the sounds that came from Brian May's guitar (it didn't hurt that he had a great band with fantastic songs, either). Once I had figured it out and made my own version of his guitar, though, I ended up feeling a bit disappointed. The sound was there, but I couldn't help but feeling like I was playing someone else's guitar.

As it turns out, what I came to learn is that what I admire most about Brian May is his originality, and, in my opinion, it is this quality that is most worth emulating. So, in terms of my guitar, I decided to borrow from the features and sounds of my favourite guitars, but combine them in such a way as to produce an instrument that has its own unique voice and look. Also, in terms of song writing, playing, singing, etc., I'm making more of a conscious effort to strive for my own musical identity.

It is this desire to be original--a desire that came from studying Brian May--that was the inspiration for the Redenbacker guitar.

There were specific features that I wanted to incorporate into the design of this guitar:

  • Easy access all the way up to the highest frets
  • The guitar also had to be comfortable to play while sitting or standing
  • The ability to achieve some of the unique "out-of-phase" pickup sounds that are possible only with Brian May's pickup switching system

Below is a slideshow of Scott's Redenbacker tutorial, with attached instructions. Use the arrows to navigate and click on a photo to bring up the instructions.

I intentionally chose not to put binding around the edges. I think that white binding looks great (as used, for example, on the Les Paul guitar), but the bound edges are somewhat sharp and tend to irritate my forearm when I'm playing. I like the feel of the rounded edge of the Stratocaster body.

The tremolo will take the low E string down over an octave, and it will return in tune. The Fender roller nut, a roller bridge, and the straight pull on the strings throughout their travel makes for very little friction. I don't use the whammy much, but maybe I'll do it more since this works so well. Incidently, I had thought that my headstock design shape, with all of the strings being pulled in a straight line, was original. However, after looking around at pictures of other guitars on the internet, I've found that there are one or two luthiers that have built similar headstocks. Oh well! I guess that everything really has been done before!

I'm very excited about the sound of this guitar (Youtube videos with Scott doing some demos of the guitar can be found at the bottom of the page). In building this, I had a "battle of the pickups" in order to choose the ones that I liked most. I tried a bunch of different brands, including a set of the expensive reissue Gibson mini humbuckers. Those sounded pretty good, but the cheapo Retrotron Austin pickups that I ended up choosing had a more unique character. I sold a lot of pickups on eBay after this was all over and done. I had originally planned to use three pickups, but as I played with positioning the pickups in different locations on the wood, the two pickup format gave me the sounds that I wanted. Also, it's nice to not have that middle pickup in the way for the heavy bashing pick technique (ala Pete Townsend)

Thanks for looking!

All images and text by Scott Humphrey. These may not be reproduced without permission.

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