Riversong Guitars is a British Columbia-based guitar manufacturer whose unique creations represent the meeting of functional design and beautiful sound. Riversong Guitars’ Owner, Mike Miltimore, set out to do just that when he and luthier Mike Trelenberg first started building guitars out of the back of his parents’ music store approximately 10 years ago.
“Mike feels with his hands and builds with his heart,” said Miltimore, who spent his whole life working at Lee’s Music and who even had the opportunity to run a second location when he was 19 years old. “I am more analytical, having studied electronics engineering in college. So, I would listen to him play the things he’d built, take notes and try to quantify things. We bought $3,000 in equipment and built our first two prototypes.”
Over the course of six years and 30 prototypes, Miltimore developed what would become Riversong’s core product line: the Tradition Series. Miltimore refers to the line as “progressive traditional guitars” because, although they share some similarities with traditional instruments—for example, the modified tone bracing, the parallel frets and a more traditional-looking headstock—Tradition Series guitars are otherwise like nothing else on the market.
What makes the guitars truly stand out is their patented neck-through design. Tradition Series guitars have a one-piece neck that goes all the way through the body of the guitar. By making the tension go down the neck, rather than through the body, Miltimore was able to create a more naturally resonant instrument that allows for greater quality control.
“The tension is behind the bridge, not between the body and the sound hole, so there is no twisting tension,” Miltimore explained. “At the same time, the same mass of material is under the fretboard, which doesn’t lie on the body but, rather, through the neck. This gives more conduction points for sound transfer and it eliminates the 14th fret hump.”
Riversong’s specially designed neck can also be moved in and out of the pocket, which means the guitars can be easily adjusted for action and top loading, and they’ll never need a neck reset down the road due to the adjustable neck angle. For one thing, players are able to adjust for perfect intonation without having to take the guitar apart. “Our design is stable, and it uses the string tension to lock it into place,” Miltimore affirmed.
According to Miltimore, models in the Tradition Series typically will not require a neck reset, as other guitars do. “On all other guitars, the neck ends at the point where it joins the body. That means string tension is trying to lift the neck. So, over the course of time, string tension deforms the guitar and the guitar requires a neck reset in order to make the strings close to the fretboard again,” he said. “We have fixed those problems on the Tradition Series. By using a neck-through design, the string tension pulls directly on the neck, so it’s structurally stronger.”
Another striking feature of the Tradition Series guitars is the use of locally sourced woods. It’s something Miltimore feels is important because, “a product should represent where it comes from and reflect what you are all about,” he said. As an example, Miltimore pointed to the Canadian Special Edition, which sports a back and sides that are made with a broad-leaf flaming Chillakwian maple that comes from British Columbia. “That wood is Mother Nature’s art,” Miltimore said. “No two pieces are exactly alike.” The top is made from a Sitka spruce found on the west coast of Canada, whereas the fretboard and bridge are made from a British Columbian walnut, which falls somewhere between the sound of mahogany and rosewood. The neck is Canadian hard rock maple, which is stiff and stable in humidity, and which allows the sound to resonate and transfer through. The tuners, nut and saddle all come from British Columbia. “Everything I can get locally, I do,” Miltimore added.
Riversong Guitars can often be found to use the more unusual-looking grains of their woods, which other guitar companies typically opt to discard. “Usually, companies choose their wood based on appearance first; so, they discard 70 percent of the tree that has unique, great-looking wood, even though it’s that wood that usually sounds better,” Miltimore explained. “When we design guitars, it’s not enough for them just to look nice. For us, form follows function.”
Another guitar in the seven-model Tradition Series that is doing particularly well for Riversong is the new Tradition 2 Performer. It has AAA Black Walnut back and sides, whereas the top is a natural blend of Engelmann and Sitka spruce called Lutz spruce from Canada’s Skeena Valley. “It’s a natural hybrid with the warmth of Sitka and the power of Engelmann,” Miltimore explained.
The Tradition 2 Performer features a walnut ring on the outside edge that Miltimore stated lets the top vibrate more. Plus, the guitar sports arm comfort cuts and rib bevels, “so it’s very comfortable and easy to hold onto,” Miltimore said. “There are no hard edges that dig in. It feels good against your body.”
Both the Tradition 2 Performer and the Canadian Special Edition Performer, which features a cutaway and electronics, debuted in a Grand Auditorium body shape at the recently concluded NAMM Show. The Tradition 2 has an MSRP of $4,599; the Canadian Special Edition has an MSRP of $3,149.
Making innovative guitars that not only meet the needs of the player but that, in addition, represent the beauty of their home country has taken Riversong Guitars far in a relatively short period of time. “I am shocked and awed that I am where I am in the industry,” said Miltimore, whose products have generated industry acclaim and accolades, as well as a loyal customer base among those dedicated to quality and sound.
“Riversong offers a unique structure and adjustability for our instruments,” Miltimore declared. “We build them one at a time with the best woods I can find around me. There’s nothing else like them on the market.”