Before starting his Black Creek Musical Instrument Company, upstate New Yorker Chris Hofschneider spent time building instruments with other members of what has grown into the “Woodstock Contingent,” an elite group of builders that includes Stuart Spector, Michael Tobias, Harvey Citron, and Joe Veillette, whose shops are also located in the Woodstock area.
Black Creek’s NYS Guitars are built to order, with customer choices including woods, finish, neck shape, frets, hardware, and electronics. Left-handed models are also available. Our test NYS was made of solid mahogany in the body and bolt-on neck, and was finished in a deep shoreline gold. The body has a double-cutaway design with short horns beveled on the back and a contoured heel that allows access to the entire fingerboard. The neck was quite hefty (a “boat” neck), with a noticeable “D” shape. The neck has a nut width of 1 11/16″ with a graphite nut and a 25 1/2″ scale rosewood fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets and ornamented with colorful abalone dot inlays. The fingerboard radius is fairly flat and the back of the neck is rounded and flatter down the middle. The neck is built with two graphite reinforced rods that surround a two-way adjustable truss rod that adjusts at the headstock.
Other features included three-per-side Gotoh tuning machines and an interesting tune-o-matic-style bridge/tailpiece designed by Hofschneider and custom-built by Hipshot. All hardware was chrome, including pickup mounting rings around each of the three DiMarzio humbuckers. Schaller straplocks were included for extra security – always a nice touch on a high-end guitar.
The DiMarzios on our test model used a five-way selector switch and single volume control wired for standard full-humbucking sounds in all five positions. However, a buyer can request any combination of pickups and any wiring configuration they desire.
The NYS came set up and ready to play, with low action and a set of regular .010-gauge strings. The neck was straight and the fretwork was nicely finished, so there was no buzzing anywhere on the fingerboard, or fret edges sticking over the sides.
Before plugging in, we listened to the instrument’s acoustic qualities. The solid wood of the neck and body produce a warm, vibrant acoustic tone that resonates through the instrument, which is usually the first sign of a fine-sounding piece of wood. To check out the electronics, we plugged into an old 100-watt Marshall through a 4×12 cabinet with 25-watt Celestion greenbacks. The bridge pickup produces a commanding lead tone that has a nicely-balanced blend of high-end bite, midrange punch, and lows. The neck pickup brings out the rich musical qualities of the wood with rounder, bell-like clean tones that sparkle on top. The middle pickup has a smooth and punchy tone that works well on its own for a solid rhythm sound, or can be used in conjunction with the bridge or neck pickup to bring in an evenness to either side by providing additional contrasting textures to choose from. Unlike the middle pickup on certain Les Pauls, this one wasn’t at all muddy and had enough definition to be used by itself. With three-pickup Les Pauls, the middle can get in the way. But there’s a bit more space between the pickups on this three-humbucker NYS, which provides plenty of room for picking. In addition, we found the middle pickup of the NYS to be more useful, tonally, truly providing a middle ground in the spectrum between the neck and bridge.
As for the controls, the volume knob is in the perfect place for executing pinky swells, and the selector switch is readily accessible, but set back and out of the way.
The NYS is a well-balanced instrument in tone and weight. Our test model was set up for effortless playability and sounded great for clean and dirty tones for playing rhythm and lead in a variety of styles. The body design is conservative enough to satisfy players who favor traditional-style guitars, and given the many options, one can develop a versatile, truly personalized instrument, tailored to suit any playing style. Black Creek works directly with the player to create almost any design.
For more information, contact Black Creek Musical Instrument Company or check out the website, which is currently under construction.
Black Creek NYS Guitar
Type Of Guitar: Solidbody electric.
Features: Bolt-on neck, 251/2″ scale, 22 frets, abalone dot inlays, solid mahogany body and neck with double-cutaway design and contoured heel for access to all frets, custom-designed bridge, three proprietary-wound DiMarzio pickups with five-way selector switch and single volume control (many options available).
Price: $2,500 with case (as tested, prices vary based on features and components).
Contact: Black Creek Musical Instrument Co., RR3 Box 84, Hauverville Road, Middleburgh, NY 12122, (518) 827-5965 phone/fax, www.NYSGuitars. com, NYSBlackcreek@aol.com.
This review originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’01 issue.