In this fourth and final episode of our fascinating with the amazingly talented and personable gentleman, Mike Tessier, we delve deeper into Mike’s creative process. He describes in great detail his planning and production process, including the selection of wood species for different components of the guitar. We see he a man who is very detail oriented, passionate, and caring of his art.
He brings out his incredibly beautiful creation, TH-1, which he says stands for “therapy 101.” Like all great works of art, it was the result of personal hardships on the part of the artist. He says that he had gone through some very hard times that “sucked the life out of him,” and created this gorgeous instrument for therapy. He says, “it really leveled me off.” It’s not hard to see why this absolute gem of a creation would have that effect on him.
TH-1 was entirely hand crafted and hand-finished, including several coats of oil-based paint – “not a shred of anything shot through of nozzle.” He tells us it is made of mahogany, maple, and a book matched flame maple top. It is a guitar that consists of the highest quality hardware – something which he takes very seriously, as we saw in Part 3 of this interview series. He says all finishes must look as “organic” as possible. Having seen it first-hand, there is no doubt he was able to achieve this goal. He finally admits that the guitar was inspired by the work of the iconic PRS Guitar Company (Paul Reid Smith). For Mike, the TH-1 was his “challenge pusher.”
The final product wasn’t what he had in envisioned but he was very happy with the result. He talks about the up-market German “Blade Runner” bridge that he installed on TH1 and tells us how the bridge significantly affects the “tonality” and “stability” of a guitar. That’s why he is willing to spend the extra money required to acquire this “incredible piece of machine” which has “flawless quality” and design.
Everything down to the smallest component is important to him since “everything affects the sound and quality” of a guitar. Every contour and every measurement also affects the sound. PRS typically have a 25” scale length and Les Pauls usually have a 24 ¾” scale length. Mike favors the 25 ½” scale length typical of Stratocasters. Many guitarists and luthiers will say that scale length really affects the overall tone of a guitar. Mike says that every contour and dimension is critical to the overall feel and tone of the guitar.
As with all segments of this interview series, Mike gives some very useful and educational advice, especially when talking about how it is critical to have a good contact at the bridge and at the nut for your guitar to deliver good tone. We wrap up the interview with Mike giving us his top three pieces of advice for proper guitar maintenances:
- Keep it in “a stable environment,” namely keeping it in the case. This will keep you from having to visit your guitar tech for extensive maintenance.
- Keep the frets clean.
- Ensure that you regularly change string changes.
All of which are straight-forward nuggets of advice for any guitar player to adhere. He tells us it’s just like owning a car – you must know how to maintain it.
It was a true pleasure interviewing Mr. Tessier. His wisdom is all encompassing. His passion and caring for guitars is infectious. He really is an artist and a damn fine guitar player.
To see previous episodes of out interview with Mike Tessier, please click on the links below: