John Gaudesi and the Yamaha Custom Shop:
Doug's 12-String is Born

An Interview with Philip Snyder


This is a first... anywhere! The complete documentation of a custom built 12-string bass from it's initial concept and design to finished instrument.  Never before has this kind of detailed information been made public.  We at are honored to be able to present this interview with Yamaha Senior Designer John Gaudesi along with the builder's photos that accompany it.  A big thank you goes to Doug Pinnick for contacting John and introducing him to our site, and to John for being so enthusiastic about providing us with everything we needed to document this properly!

John Gaudesi and Doug Pinnick's Yamaha 12-String Bass in Progress

What events led up to the building of Yamaha's first 12-string bass.
It's kind of an interesting story how this bass came about. Prior to my position here at Yamaha I was the custom shop manager and head builder for the ESP guitar company here in the U.S. As well as custom orders for customers my main duties included the custom design and construction of instruments for ESPís main endorsees at the time (Metallica, Slayer, George Lynch, etc.).

It was rumored that Doug Pinnick was straying from his relationship with Yamaha and was going to send an instrument in to be duplicated. I was looking forward to this possibility but it did not happen before I moved over to Yamaha. A few months after I started here at Yamaha Guitar Development (YGD) I was at dinner with some of the members of Kingís X along with their manager Jay before one of their shows here in Hollywood. As the night went on Jay and I started talking about gear and I told him of the strange coincidence regarding Dougís use of the lefty converted ESP bass. I told Jay and Doug that I was the one that would have made his bass and jokingly asked what I could do to rekindle the Yamaha relationship. Jay immediately replied, "We asked them for a 12 and havenít gotten one. Do you think you can build one quickly?" I arrived backstage at the Greek Theater 10 days later with the bass.

Have you ever built a 12 before?
I have built a few 12 string basses in the past but none of them seemed to have the growl that this one has.

Tell me about the body and neck construction and why you chose the woods you did.
The body is constructed of a two piece medium weight Alder body blank 1.75" thick. Total moisture content was 7%. The neck is constructed of a 3-piece quarter-sawn neck blank capped with an Ebony fingerboard and Phenolic headstock overlay. The woods chosen were primarily based on my prior experience with these combinations as well as taking Dougís playing style and sound into consideration.

(Editors Note: Click on the Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawing to the left to see a larger version.)

Doug's other Yamaha basses have the "Attitude" body style. Did you consider that body for the 12 before you chose the AES style?
The shape of the 12-string is representative of our AES line. This is the direction we are going as far as body perimeters at this time and I also felt that this perimeter would allow a little more mass without distorting the overall body shape.



Beginning to cut out the body on the band saw

How far into it were you when you told Doug about it? Did he have many ideas about what he wanted or did he just let you build it as you saw fit?
I only spoke to Doug briefly before presenting the bass to him and this was mostly about string gauge and tuning. I really wanted to keep a low profile until the instrument was finished. He had had some previous promises broken regarding projects and I just wanted to come to him with it completed and let the instrument do the talking.

The body has been cut out just outside of the pattern lines

How long did it take to finish the instrument?
I worked on this instrument primarily on my own time off company hours to avoid any conflict with an already busy work schedule.  From conception this instrument took about 8 days on this schedule.

The body takes on its final form

Yamaha Custom Shop -  Page 2