There’s no doubt, technology for the guitarist has taken several quantum leaps in the past 5-10 years.
Moving into the digital realm afforded us a whole new world of countless options and put unprecedented versatility at our fingertips. Ease of use, “virtually” configurable, and all the industry standard tones coming out of one guitar is nothing short of amazing. What else could we possibly want? The only drawback is that it eventually shows to be a near simulation once the new has worn off. Having gone through the digital buffet more times that I care to admit, I keep coming back to 100% tube amp driven by real pickups. Nothing digitally generated or manipulated but the ideal tone from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that everybody is working so hard to funnel into a mass manufactured box or module. With so many “new” products in stores being reissues and retros, there must be something to it. This got me thinking: who says we can’t get more than 3 to 5 sounds out of a conventional guitar? The hightech guys absolutely broke the “one- trick pony” barrier, but if you find yourself saying “it’s just not the same”, then Turnstyle might be the answer to what you crave.
This used to be the burden of the gig. Hauling several guitars to the show because different songs required different tones, different responses, and different textures from the guitars. Sure, I enjoyed how each guitar played but always felt most at home playing my favorite Strat. I would always end up playing it most of the time and would miss it when I swapped out to a Gibson. Just my taste and what felt like "home" to me. The 3 single coil pickups nailed the classic Strat sound and could somewhat cover the Tele sound with a slight tweak of the TBX control, but always fell short of belting out the meaty P-90 or humbucker tones when the chugging rock song came up on the setlist. Hence the stack of cases. It was cool at first...showing up with my arsenal, being able to grab a different guitar at will. I eventually realized that the guitars were taking up more space in the truck than my 2-12 amp. What's worse is that it took me almost as much setup and tear down time as it did for the PA system.
I started playing a B-bender Tele as the bands I played with leaned more toward country music. We marketed ourselves as a country band to get the better paying gigs, but have of the list remained rock and blues. This drove the need for even more tonal versatility. Legit Tele for the country, but still needed a solution for the punchier tones. I spent several months designing, testing, modifying...repeat. Adding a middle pickup and piezo saddles, and a massively complex switching system: 5-way selector switch, 4-way rotary switch, 3 phase switches, and 3-way piezo switch. By the time I was done it could switch between over 100 different sounds that convincingly covered the gamut from Fender, Gibson, and even a little Gretsch. I was finally content save three problems: 1) way too many options choose from, 2) too many combinations of switch positions to remember where the favorites were, and 3) too much work to play with all of the switches an knobs while playing. It would have been a great recording tool with chart of the tones handy, but overly complicated when switching to lead tone right before the big solo. I would be three notes into the solo before just making due with where the switches were at the time and play the solo. Not good.
Fast-forward several years. After a long stretch of late night Engineering, the current Strat Turnstyle design began to emerge. Trimmed down to 15 essential and well organized tones that represent the very best pickup combinations from Stat, Tele, P-90's, and humbuckers. No batteries, no emulation...just the pickups I already liked, in the guitar I already own, covering every song on the setlist without having to swap guitars between songs.
Michael Franklin - Turnstyle Inventor