Lightweight vs heavy

For quite a while there’s been a trend of “lightweight guitars are better than heaver”. Sometimes you could see a guy in a music store who’d take a guitar off the wall just to try it’s weight and put right back if it seemed a tad too heavy. And it would definitely make sense for a touring musician with daily long gigs to ease up on his back and such. However, when it comes to tone qualities of an instrument I would say it is way more complicated than just saying: “Lightweight guitars sound better”. Because they don’t. It is true to say that it’s easier to play lightweight guitars. Having less “body mass” they response faster to a lighter picking technic and get to the state of resonance faster as well. In case with heavier woods you’d have to strum harder to get the same response and feel and that’s what sets off many “weak picking” players at once. But the main thing here is how weight affects the dynamic range and frequency response of an instrument. Most lightweight woods have pretty “scooped” midrange section, whoofy bass side and pretty flat treble side. They also fairly easy get to the point of max resonance which could be seen as or compared to “digital clipping” for reference. While this could actually be a good thing for modern overly compressed “purr” djenty tones, it would be a problem for a sensual dynamic soloing where clarity and “breathing” is so important. You would want a bigger dynamic range and higher response capacity so you could control your voicing/playing with your own hands. Some relatively heavier woods are capable of providing those qualities along with a fuller/richer frequency range. I like to use this phonetic example to compare bass tone of a lightweight wood vs heavier: “Boom” vs “Dam”. Try to pronounce that and you will see how latter just has more definition and “mass” to it. This is just an example taken from an idealistic perspective. With all that said we need to remember that an electric guitar is a very complex instrument that consists of many elements such as construction, shape, woods, hardware, electronics, finish. All those elements affect final sound. Real life situations depend on many factors and quite often the actual role of wood tone in final electrified sound of an instrument can be very small, almost to the level of irrelevant. Especially when you use digital processors like Axe FX, Kemper, etc. However, if you suddenly find yourself “lost” in the mix and changing pickups, pedals and amps doesn’t seem to help maybe you should try changing the instrument for a different woods selection, because in the end of the day a “building” is only as strong as its’ foundation..

Exotic woods

While now and then you can see some exotic timbers in some of my builds I have a general policy where I prefer to stick with traditional tone woods selection for making my instruments. There are several reasons for this policy which come down to following:

  • I like to know and fully understand physical and tonal qualities of the woods I use for my guitars. With exotic woods in most cases you have no idea what’s going to come out of it which turns the whole thing into a very expensive lottery.
  • I like to use sustainable woods with guaranteed supply that’s going to be there when I need it
  • Exotic woods quite often can have certain impact on your health while working with them, most common is an allergy reaction.
  • To sum it up I would like to offer this analogy: “Just because most exotic birds have tremendous looks and sometimes voices, doesn’t mean you should fry and eat them”.

Online demos and playthroughts

As simple as it sounds I do not invest myself or anyone for that matter into making online demos of my instruments simply because I think online demos are useless or at the very least irrelevant and have very little to do with the actual sound or feel of an instrument. Most demos I see online for the most part demonstrate the level of the demonstrator’s playing, recording and production skills and nothing much past that. Which quite often results in stamp-like demos where everything sounds same “good”, no matter what is being played. The other thing is that most of those demos are paid for and therefore happen to be a direct sales pitch. “Trust no-one but yourself, use your own head and ears”. These are the words I live by and urge my customers to embrace as well. I’m sure a personal visit to a guitar store or a trade show and checking stuff for yourself would be much better way to get yourself acknowledge with a certain product. A big part of that personal experience would be getting the “feel” of an instrument (quality, ergonomics, response, subjective fit, etc) which in my opinion is about same as important as it’s tone and it also is something you can’t possibly experience via online demos. This is one of the main reasons why ViK Guitars have been participating in trade shows like NAMM for many years now: to give you a chance to come and see for yourself what this is all about.

Know your ViK – Identification

Whether you got your ViK custom built for you or bought it aftermarket there some things you may want to know to better understand your instrument.

Let’s pull some information that is right there:

Serial number

is usually located on the back of the headstock and consists of 5 digits. I’ve used numerous technics to implement it over the years so it can be silk-printed, pressed, engraved or hand written. Let’s say yours shows 15 3 09. Two first digits state the year the instrument was built, which in our case is 2015. 3 is series identification number and it says it’s a Caprice T model build. Last two digits state the number of this particular build within the series. So this Caprice T was 9th Caprice T ever built. Given that all ViK guitars are hand built by one person you shouldn’t expect these numbers to be way too high and they will probably last me my lifetime.

Certificate of Authenticity 

Your ViK instrument was originally shipped with the Certificate of Authenticity that states the name of the model and build, by whom and when the guitar was crafted, as well as serial number for it. Sometimes stuff like that gets lost over time. In certain cases I can issue a replacement after the authenticity and ownership of the instrument is proved.

The original Specification sheet

Your ViK instrument was originally shipped with the Specification sheet that consists of the exact specs to which the guitar was built, serial number and signature of the builder.

In case either of these are missing I strongly suggest to hold off buying that instrument and get in touch with me to make sure you are buying a ViK, not some knockoff or forgery.

Where the name “ViK Guitars” comes from..

At some point every luthier has to give a name to his creations or what is these days called a “brand name”. So far I’ve heard a few stories of the ViK name. One of them is about “Vik” being short from “Viking”, the other from Victor. However, the truth is quite simple. In western cultures in most cases a brand name would be the last name of the man in charge. But in my case it’s my initials where “V” stands for my first name Viachaslau and “K” for my last name Kuletski. “i” was added as an interim for better phonetics solely. The funny part is that somehow the brand name “ViK” was transferred on me personally as well and eventually became my alias by which I’m known to the world.

ViK Guitars and CNC

For many years I was one of those builders who’d say that a handmade instrument is way better than the one made with a CNC process. And it still remains true on many levels. However I had to review some of those stand points after I got a chance to equip my own shop with a CNC machine. There are certain kinds of things that I today gladly hand over to be done by the machine. First of all, things that require precision. Stuff where even fractures of millimeters matter like fret slots, neck pockets, fingerboard markers placement. A properly programmed CNC can do it faster, cleaner and way more accurate than anyone with a hand router and a template. Same comes to truss rod slots, pickup and control cavities, binding channels, etc. Some jobs like routing out a semi hollow or chambered body require nothing but time and nerve and that’s where a CNC is priceless. 

Nonetheless, up to this day I prefer to do all jobs of a creative/artistic nature by hand. Jobs that require skills and experience and on many levels define individuality of these unique instruments. Meaning that I still hand carve the bodies and necks with chisels and planes, just like it has been done for many years before. For me it’s a creative process, much like sculpting, that turns rough square things into carefully shaped pieces of art with it’s own appearance, character and soul. There’s just something magical about being able to turn a bumpy burl into a smooth and elegant curve that will later turn heads, catch eyes and please sights..

With that said I find that CNC is a fundamental tool for today’s guitar maker that allows to improve quality and speed of the manufacturing process and it can also open a whole world of possibilities for producing unique parts and features that are impossible or, otherwise, very difficult to do by hands.

ViK Guitars and Adam “Nolly” Getgood

The story of our collaboration goes back to 2013 when Adam Getgood reached out to me for a custom build. It was an amazing endeavor with two creative minds put together over the mission of bringing life into something rather impressive. I’ve got to say I was blown by Nolly’s competence on the subject of tone and esthetic perspective which coupled with my design vision, experience and skills resulted in creating a remarkable instrument – ViK Duality 7. The workflow was so easy and fluid that at times it felt like we could read each other’s minds and finish up sentences for each other, so strong was creative chemistry. Every aspect of that instrument was spec-ed out perfectly from both player’s and crafter’s perspective. We built something that was huge yet simple and elegant, self-sufficient and dependable, totally effortless to play and an incredible joy to observe.

Just a few months later we got into working on next custom build – ViK Caprice T6 Hollowbody.

Within that time Nolly’s original ViK got so popular and people were referring to it a lot while ordering something similar, so naturally we decided to turn it into Adam “Nolly” Getgood’s signature model and signed the deal. It was about same time when Nolly joined Periphery as bass player which in my opinion was a huge waste of talent and brought some contradiction into the flow of things over the next couple of years. That relationship didn’t bring much to either side with Nolly being busy with Periphery and other things so after introduction of the 6 strings version of the Sig at NAMM’15 we decided to end the contract and part ways. No public announcement was made at the time as there were several builds for the signature model in works and we didn’t want to upset the customers. Couple months later Nolly took it upon himself to make it public in the light of the online scandal that was building up over some comments about headless guitars and gays that I made on my personal Facebook page, which apparently did not fit Adam’s views very well. The announcement led some people to believe that the scandal was the reason for that relationship to end but it had been ended before by mutual agreement and settlement which Mr.Getgood for some reason forgot or decided not to mention in his facebook post. For the sake of argument I’d like to state that we didn’t have any moral obligations within that contract as well as the fact that we’ve never discussed any aspects of personal set of values and beliefs. All that makes Nolly’s decision to participate in the scandal only a measure to preserve his public image, which is understandable because despite the fact that he was not officially endorsed at the time anymore he was still associated with ViK guitars on many levels. We’ve had a chance to talk it thru at a personal meeting later and ended up in an agreement that suited us both.

With that said I still feel blessed that I had a chance to work on those guitars with Adam Getgood. I believe we’ve created some rather impressive instruments and I’m glad that the heritage of that collaboration still lives today in ViK Duality the Transcendence model.

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