The Blackbird Nylon Rider is my first travel guitar and it has proved to be a revelation. To my great astonishment it has become my #1 favorite out of my collection of acoustic, electric, steel string and nylon classical guitars; all luthier instruments. I bought the Nylon Rider for accompanying groups of singers. This music is from Brazil where nylon guitars prevail so I set out to find the very best electric nylon guitar and this turned out to be a travel size instrument!
I was tipped off about the Rider from a musician’s blog site. The writer also owned the two nylon electrics which were at the top of my list but he personally recommended the Nylon Rider. I decided to take the leap and ordered one from Joe Luttwak at Blackbird Guitars. My Rider has the RMC gold pickups with Polydrive II preamp, I feed this signal into a 96K digital reverb and then into two KRK studio monitors. The results in sound and playability are simply outstanding.
The Rider has a unique, one piece design with the vented hollow neck incorporated into the body resonance chamber. Also the interior surfaces all face each other at angles. These design elements reduce the typical lower midrange resonance peak which is the reason most acoustics sound too boomy when amplified. The ultra fast carbon top articulates the higher harmonic series of each note with an astonishing clarity and purity. Higher notes are warm and pure yet the crisp bass notes are supported with a true fundamental. This harmonic correctness has an ear candy result that really inspires my practice time.
The Nylon Rider’s sustain is superb. Musical details, chords and polyphony retain clarity even in complex music like Bach. Plugged-in, the guitar sounds natural and acoustic, not really possible with a solid body design. This sound can be eq’d very effectively because the usual boxy resonances are not present. Its like being able to dial in the sound that studio engineers strive for on recording sessions.
The construction of the carbon fiber top and the electronics in the Polydrive have all been specially tuned to eliminate feedback, I have experienced no problems in this area even when supporting over 50 singers. The Nylon Rider is the most playable nylon guitar I have ever experienced. The luthier work is excellent. Carbon fibre construction makes the instrument impervious to temperature and humidity changes. Perfect action is maintained regardless of season changes and the usual tendency of the bridge to rise due to string tension. This also makes for more carefree use, I don’t have to worry about leaving the instrument in the car in summer or winter.
Another carbon fiber benefit is pitch stability. Tuning time is much reduced, I really appreciate this when performing. The neck is radiused which helps make a steel string player feel at home. Intonation is excellent all the way up the neck. My Rider came with a neck-up support which is attached by a suction cup so the guitar is always perfectly balanced in my hands. I am able to play standing up with perfect ease. It is a featherlight 3.3 pounds; this is so comfortable. I even practice walking around the house with the guitar strapped on. In the gig bag I can take it anywhere on my back and I barely notice its weight!
The Rider is so ergonomic that it reduces stress on my body, Previously I had some signs of tendinitis in my left elbow, this has now subsided in a few weeks. The physical balance is perfect due to the hollow neck. A light instrument is a real joy but not if it is unevenly balanced to the neck. In short, the Rider is comfortable and really fun to play!
Most of my hours of playing are practicing and having fun, for this the Rider’s acoustic performance is quite satisfying. It has less volume than my (very expensive) concert classical, yet I find myself drawn to the tone of the Rider because of its purity. I would not say this if there was no true fundamental on the low E string. This is essential for long term playing satisfaction and the Rider delivers, size notwithstanding.
I am very grateful to have received this instrument from Blackbird. The design is really excellent. The usual trade offs for tradition, marketing schemes and bean counters have been set aside so that all aspects of tone, playability, consistency and durability are optimized. For example I know they are using the best quality carbon fiber and excellent tuners, these details are not obvious at first but are very important for long term playing satisfaction.
The RMC hex pickups and the Polydrive are the perfect setup for driving a guitar synth. The Rider’s low action is entirely free of fret buzz so that synth tracking will be consistent. I really look forward to exploring this exciting possibility.
The Blackbird Nylon Rider is a true synthesis of intelligent design, high technology and dedication to quality. It is a really cool guitar! Finally I can say that dealing with Joe Luttwak has been a real pleasure.
BlackBird Rider Nylon String Features:
- Carbon Fiber strength and environmental stability
- Body cutway to reach the higher frets
- 3 lbs. among the world’s lightest guitars
- Resonance-driving hollow neck and head with sound port
- 25.6″ (650mm) Scale Length
- RMC string saddle MIDI compatible pickups available
- Optional Guitar Support for enhanced comfort