Mark Lucas | Guitarist | Live | Session | Arranger


I've been interested in a headless guitar for a while. The ergonomics, the modernity, the open-ness has appealed to me for years. It was Mick Goodrick who sparked this interest; then, Allan Holdsworth.

Ned Steinberger was the original designer of the headless guitar and bass, and it was quite popular when they first came out in the mid to late 80's.The design was so compelling that it reached across a lot of musical genres, from synth-pop, to progressive jazz. The original Steinbergers had a composite neck of graphite and carbon fiber that produced a very even and clean sound.

Unfortunately, Steinberger became a victim of their own success, in that they were not prepared for the incredible demand, which far outstripped their supply sourcing. In 1987, the Newburgh, NY plant was closed after Gibson bought the company. 

Over the years since then, there have been various incarnations produced by other companies. There is an organization called Headless USA that restores original Steinberger instruments. The restorations are magnificently done, however they're very expensive; often, 3-4 times their original selling price.

Keisel Guitars is the former Carvin Guitar Company, with Carvin making amps and PA systems. Located in Escondido, CA, they've been in business since 1946. Their manufacturing process, in my opinion, is literally second to none. Since they are their own retailer, they produce guitars and basses with quality and value far in excess of the price. 

In 2015, they came out with their 'headless' model, the VADER. Unlike the Steinbergers, it's a neck-through design. And their options list is pretty much 'the sky is the limit'. It takes around 8-10 weeks from the initial build spec, to have the guitar delivered.

My particular model has a mahogany neck and body, a california walnut top, stainless steel jumbo frets, a tung oil finished neck, and a satin matte finish. The bridge is a collaborative design by Hipshot and Keisel, and it operates on ball bearings instead of a knife edge. The pickups are designed by Keisel.

I really can't say enough about the Vader. It's a very big and wide sounding guitar; adept at covering pretty much any musical genre; and the build quality is absolutely perfect.


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