Overview of the Terry McInturff SpellCaster
The new SpellCaster is a unique distillation of various design and tonal features that have their origins in the entire line of guitars I’ve designed and built over the past 38 years. It is a mixture of the familiar and the unique and like all of my designs the SpellCaster is intended to be first and foremost, a toneful, stable, and efficient tool for the important job of making music. I’ve been a performing and recording musician for a long time now and practical aspects of a guitar are, for me, the foundations.
The SpellCaster originated in the same way that my new designs typically do. It all starts with an intriguing set of sounds that I hear in my musical imagination. These sounds always reflect a need of mine as a musician, sounds which I cannot gain access to via existing models. I design guitars to fill my needs, and hope that they will be useful to others as well.
Once I can repeatedly at-will hear these sounds, I can proceed to design the guitar and begin the prototyping process. From the imagination of the concept to the final tested design can take weeks or months.
So, what was it that I imagined for the new SpellCaster? Frank Zappa is credited for the simile, Talking about music is like dancing about architecture and discussing tone is very much the same—it’s an imperfect science. Having said that, the best that I can say is that I heard a series of sounds that were firmly rooted in classic Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster tones, but which had a certain slightly warmer nature; the notes leapt forward quickly, and were very articulate, but the trebles were slightly rounded-off in a way that’s hard to describe. In addition there was a certain thump in the lower mid-range that harkens back to the Les Paul, and especially to my Carolina Custom model. And there was an amount of natural “compression” not found in the Fenders, but which did not mask the articulate nature of the sounds.
So, what was it that I imagined for the new SpellCaster? Frank Zappa is credited for the simile, Talking about music is like dancing about architecture and discussing tone is very much the same—it’s an imperfect science.
I view my job as building acoustic guitars—even the solid bodies. One of the key lessons I’ve learned over the past 38 years of full time luthiery is that the acoustical nature of the electric guitar determines what can be available to amplify. And so my first job was to determine what the acoustical response had to be, and what would be required to build that response. At least 80% of the prototyping is devoted to that alone.
And so it can be said that the SpellCaster was intended to provide something along the lines of cherry-picked classic Fender tones but which had a new nature, feel, and response. It’s different enough from the Tele-Strat-LP-Carolina group to not be called a hybrid. The SpellCaster is a unique beast.
I knew right away that the guitar would be equipped with my latest version of my passive (no batteries) dual filter set—the Maxi-Q. The Maxi-Q will be discussed in another blog entry so for now I’ll say that he Maxi-Q takes the place of the traditional tone control and provides an impressive new tonal palette. It’s inspired by analog recording console EQ and it’s new for the guitar.
As with all of my guitars, the SpellCaster sports a genuine nitrocellulose lacquer finish and folks are really going to like the new noise-cancelling pickups by Lindy Fralin. These are the first such pickups I have ever really liked … and I really like these!
—Terry C. McInturff