Interview with Randy Parsons
Why use cedar for the California body?
Because of the way I've learned to use it. And I have some old growth stock, it's pretty special. The tonal characteristics of the stuff is crazy, taps like a bell and squeaks under your fingers. Then there's the way I join the two pieces that make the body, using a particular piece for the bass side and one for the treble side. The weight is perfect, just under 4 Ibs... I think there's nothing that sounds or feels as good.
Can you be more specific about how you join the two pieces?
Well, I do a traditional two piece, down the middle. But I go a lot further. With musical instruments, you need a larger instrument for lower frequencies, and smaller instruments for higher frequencies. It's pretty basic, a bass guitar is bigger than a guitar, and a guitar is bigger than a mandolin. The acoustic guitars soundboard is similar, it needs longer vibrations (a bigger area) to produce great lows, and a tighter smaller area for punchy trebles. So guitar makers will loosen up the bass side and stiffen the treble side when it comes to their soundboard bracing. I do the same thing with the California body. I use a straight grain, quarter sawn, or a lighter piece for the bass side, and a piece for the treble side that has a strategically placed knot for increased mass and stiffness. So if you tap on the body, you'll hear lower frequencies resonating from the bass side and higher ones from the treble side. The bodies vibrate when played, tonally there's something very special going on. The joining technique I believe, is a contributing factor.
Explain the paint work.
I had this artist friend, she did large murals. I would always have to help out when she got behind, which was frequent.
I learned some pretty cool techniques though... plaster and paint techniques...mixing stains and such. I learned quickly how to do distressed multi-colored painting and how to do Italian faux fresco treatments, that hardened and both soften the surface.. She painted my first handmade electric with that technique, and years later, Sammy Hagar bought it, so there's a bit of cool history.
I'm not doing the typical "made to look old", or "stressed look", for me, these are more like art pieces, there's definitely a calming factor just looking at them, like a painting that draws you in. The paint is applied thin, doesn't choke the woods tone and it feels great, no loose or rough spots, feels like a worn leather glove. This style isn't for everyone I know, but I really don't care. I'm just making the guitar I would want.... They're not cold to the touch like some production guitars that are dipped in hard shinny finishes. They're unique, they sound incredible. They're completely enjoyable to play.