My name is Steve Francis. In school I started learning trumpet. In high school I played trumpet and learned guitar while dabbling in electronics. After leaving school I started making electric guitars under my house at night while working during the day. Later I pursued a career in IT as an analyst/programmer and later working with database systems and data analysis. Now I have quit my IT job to spend more time making woodwind and brass instrument pickups while occasionally repairing instruments and installing pickups in string instruments. I spend my spare time playing guitar, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet and alto sax for fun.
My aim is to do for wind instruments what the electric guitar did to string instruments. The electric guitar opened avenues for musical creativity that were revolutionary. Following the electric guitar revolution, the guitar took centre stage and now even acoustic guitars are expected to have a pickup. When you listen to an 'Unplugged' performance you are hearing the natural sound of an accoustic guitar that has been amplified and enhanced. When I wanted to buy a clarinet pickup, I found they were hard to find or too expensive so I started designing and making my own.
Developments in electronics and digital processing of sound provide an unlimited palette of sounds that defy the imagination. The sound from the instrument is no longer a fixed entity, it can be used as as a controller for digital effects that have the ability to edit the waveform in real time providing sound effects, modulations and articulations, or even replacing the instrument's natural voice with the digitized sampled waveform of another instrument. When you add the ability to do looping, the player can layer voices to provide the melody and the backing in the one performance. I began by developing a clarinet pickup for my own use. Initially my designs were simple and the sound OK but not fantastic. I thought at first I would share my ideas and people could build their own pickups but as the designs became more sophisticated and the equipment required to make the pickups became excessive I realised that few people really wanted the experience of making their own pickups. During holiday from work, I decided to start the PiezoBarrel brand to sell the pickups I was developing. It has been a long journey, but my goals remain the same:- To provide wind players with a high quality pickup at a low cost. I keep my prices low by working hard and doing all my own IT work:-). The PiezoBarrel pickups are continually being developed and revised. The current model (The 'Sol') replaces all previous models. I would like to offer more choices of mountings, shapes and sizes but, at moment at least, I simply don't have the time, after all, I still want to play and perform music as well as make pickups. I enjoy music and I want to see more people enjoy it as much as I do. In case you are wondering what sort of music I like, it varies, but includes Techno, DubStep, Pop, Brazilian Choros, Balkan, Argentinian Tango's, Jazz, Funk, Trance, Dance, Musical Theatre, Hard rock, Heavy metal, brass band, classical and modern orchestral compositions by composers such a Philip Glass, but generally excludes Country and western, rap and most hiphop. -Steve Francis
My goals are to work hard, make great pickups, look after my customers and demonstrate good business ethics. What this means to me is to create the best products I can, always strive to do better, fulfill my promises and be trustworthy. As a customer, your enjoyment of my products is an important goal of mine. As I am working for you, I hope we can work together to foster the harmony that music brings to life.