Starting Price: $4850
The BelAire started as a solidbody, built for a customer in LA who simply wanted a 'big' guitar. With a 16" lower bout, the design I came up with certainly fit the bill, but for my tastes it was too heavy. So, I kept the size and shape, but routed out the interior to make it a semi-hollow, and added a cat's eye F-hole for a more '60's look. The guitar was a hit right away, with Alain Johannes snapping it up before it was even finished!
On that first guitar I used TV Jones Filtertrons and a Bigsby, 'cos I was really trying to get some of that Gretsch 'snap' into the sound. I was very pleased with how it turned out. It was snappy, articulate, and remarkably un-compressed sounding.
As time has gone on I've used many different tailpiece/pickup combinations, but to me they all have a bit of that same thing.. a very big, transparent, un-compressed voice.
That voice can be 'tuned' slightly by changing the variables, however.. the Bigsby adds a subtle 'shimmer' to the tone, as most spring loaded tails do.. the String-Thru produces a sharper attack and adds a 'percussiveness' that works really well for riffing on the bottom strings, and also includes a mute to prevent the strings behind the bridge from ringing too much at high volumes.. the Trapeze tail provides a softer attack than the String-thru, making it a bit more of a Jazz guitar, great for smooth chords on the neck pickup.
Changing pickups around can compliment these basic attributes, but like I said.. it's always going to be a big sound.
- Mark Fuqua, 2013