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Anticipation & Feedback

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

It has been decades since I've anticipated something as much as I have this delightful guitar.

It's a Canis Minor Pegasus built by Jon Kammerer of Keokuk, Iowa and the story behind development of this musical instrument is as intriguing as its innovative design is. Detailed in an episode of CPB's Illinois Stories hosted by Mark McDonald (on YouTube, in case the link rots), I won't repeat that story here except to say that it's an admirable example of inventive perseverance driven by conviction of purpose on many levels. My favorite kind.

The episode aired almost a decade ago as of the date of this post and Jon has been making his unique guitars for a couple of decades now. How I missed finding out about his work until this past week is beyond me because I'm constantly scouring the world wide web for stuff like this. Thanks to a recent review of the guitar by Justin Johnson (also a YouTube link very likely to rot away someday) I'm no longer in the dark and this one arrived on my doorstep this afternoon only five days after purchasing it over the phone last Friday morning.

Its precise, curvaceous shape–inside and out–with suspended soundboard prevents feedback when playing it at high volume by reducing frequency bounce and buildup. So far that is proving out to be the case at all settings, with and without effects applied. A nice feature on stage.

Its concave back shaping is another fine feature, making it more comfortable to hold. And as light as it is, the weight of it is hardly noticeable. Access to the pickup's power supply is easy too, via a rock-out door on the back. Much better than having to loosen or remove strings to get at the battery through a sound hole. And even the plug and machine head seats are finely sculpted works of art. Everything about this guitar oozes invitation to play it in earnest.

So days, weeks, months ahead will be spent doing just that. I doubt I'll get a lot of sleep tonight while getting to know it.

These last five days waiting for it to arrive have had my anticipation mounting to a level of intensity I haven't experienced since childhood. This was a surprise considering how aged I am. And it also set off sparks of imagination as I wondered if maybe I could talk Jon into someday creating one of these as a fretless bass for me.

I used to go to Sons of Herman Hall to watch Guy Clark's son Travis accompany his father playing fretless bass with such skill and finesse I had trouble sometimes appreciating the songs they were performing as a whole. He could set me into a trance with his silky-smooth bass playing as effectively as his father's songs and singing style could, helping me forget just how much I really hated living and working in downtown Dallas.

Travis' bass at that time was a custom five-string Larrivée. He kept the fifth string tuned to a low B and it sounded so good.

I would like to see what Jon Kammerer could do with this Pegasus model as a fretless five-string bass. I imagine it would sound great and be a dream to play.

So enough yammering about it. TIme to play.

UPDATE: After nine days playing the guitar while carefully listening and feeling for any set up issues needing attention, my impression of it has only improved. I haven't changed the strings on it yet and have no idea how old the set which came installed on it are, but since initial tuning nine days ago it hasn't drifted out of tune on any of its six strings. Comfort level while playing it hasn't diminished at all and I expect it will be as pleasant to play standing up as it has been while seated.

No intonation problems have been experienced and after playing it through several different amps, its tone quality across all notes–lowest to highest–is rich, even and clean over the entire fretboard. Even after fiddling with amp EQ settings, its overall tone remains surprisingly well balanced. I like having the pickup gain control handily located in the lower sound hole so near the strings for quick, discrete adjustment.

The radius of the fretboard is not extreme and as comfortable anywhere along the neck as any compound-radius fretboard I've played. From what I've read about Kammerer Customs he'll shape the fretboard to your radius specifications, which will be helpful if he builds a Pegasus 5-string fretless bass for me. Also, fret ends do not extend beyond the edge of the fretboard. I really hate that, and I despise having to file fret ends down on a guitar.

I love the way it looks (aesthetics are an important factor for stage presence). There are no hard edges or corners anywhere on the guitar (inside or out), including the headstock which sports a finely sculpted arch on both top and back. Even more important, the way it feels while playing it is superb (comfort enhancements always ramp up performance-time confidence). It's as organic in appearance as a guitar can be without becoming a nightmare to hold and play.

It's definitely growing on me with every minute spent caressing it in my happy hands.

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