Guitar Notes with Brian Baggett of Musician's Friend Private Reserve

Spotlight on Music Man Ball Family Reserve Guitars

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The Ernie Ball Music Man limited-edition BFR series models feature eye-popping woods and lavish appointments.

While Ernie Ball Music Man has long enjoyed a reputation for beautifully figured maple tops and birdseye maple necks, the Ball Family Reserve (BFR) series goes a step further. In this edition we’ll get up close with three stunning limited-edition BFR guitars, now available at Musician’s Friend Private Reserve.

Music Man uses only the very highest quality and most lavishly figured woods to build the limited-edition guitars we’re focusing on here. All three are staple Music Man models, two being signature models and the other a former signature model.

Both Steve Lukather and Steve Morse are monster players and have been with Ernie Ball Music Man for decades. The Ball Family Reserve models highlighted here bring exciting new variations to the table. The third BFR series entry, the Axis, has its origins in the Music Man EVH. It’s an innovative guitar and has been available in several configurations, now including the new BFR koa top model.

All three guitars feature the compact 4+2 headstock. They have beautiful roasted figured maple necks that are very stable even with their light oil and wax finish. Each is loaded with chrome-covered custom Dimarzio pickups and all three belong to the Ball Family Reserve collection, meaning only the finest woods were used. They are also available in extremely limited numbers. 

Ernie Ball Music Man Ball Family Reserve Luke III Claro Walnut

The Ball Family Reserve Luke III has a mahogany tone block running through the middle of its alder body. First introduced in the 20th Anniversary Silhouette in 2006, this bottle-shaped block runs from the neck pocket to just past the bridge. It gives the guitar more mids, and to my ears, a slightly warmer tone. The true star of the show, however, is the claro walnut top. Ball Family Reserve uses only the finest and most highly figured woods and this unusual top wood is blessed with highly detailed figuring and is very smoothly set into the body with no binding.

Departing from Steve’s usual active EMG HSS pickup configuration, the Luke III has two chrome-covered, passive DiMarzio Transition pickups. Various coil split options are available on the five-way switch and there is an onboard active boost that’s very handy. The legendarily stable combination of the Music Man vintage trem and Schaller locking tuners keeps this guitar in tune, even with liberal use of the tremolo bar.

The Luke neck is made of highly figured roasted maple and carved into the artist’s signature soft V shape. Unique for this Music Man is the bound rosewood fretboard. The neck is finished with gunstock oil and wax giving it a natural yet smooth feel. SIgned and initialed by Steve Lukather, these signature models are the real deal.

Ernie Ball Music Man BFR Steve Morse HH Quilt Top with Reverse Headstock

A quilt maple top on African mahogany body gives the BFR Steve Morse astounding looks under stage lights. Over the heavily and tightly figured maple, a Tahitian Blue finish does full justice to this gorgeous wood. A clear pickguard holds two chrome-covered Music Man/Dimarzio custom humbuckers. The tuning is very stable thanks to a Tune-o-matic bridge, solid brass tail block and Schaller locking tuners.

The Steve Morse neck is made of highly figured roasted maple neck and has a signature Fat C shape. Unique for a Music Man neck is the bound rosewood fretboard. The neck is finished with gunstock oil and wax, for a natural and sleek feel. It’s capped off with a reverse headstock, which was first used a few years ago on the Steve Morse Darklord guitar. It’s personally signed by Steve Morse.

Ernie Ball Music Man BFR Axis with Koa Top and Mahogany Back

A mind-boggling figured koa top on a trans gold mahogany body is the focal point of the BFR Axis from Music Man. The figured koa has a three-dimensional look and appears to be miles deep—it’s a great example of the exotic woods set aside for Ball Family Reserve guitars. Unlike the usual Axis cream binding and black basswood body, The BFR Axis Koa Top has cool black binding that creates a transition from the top to the golden mahogany body.


Legendary custom Dimarzio humbuckers with chrome covers are direct-mounted to the body. The Music Man double locking tremolo is set for down-only operation, which adds tuning stability and allows for drop tunings while also keeping other strings in tune if one breaks.

The Axis neck has a very comfortable asymmetrical shape that’s thinner on the treble side. It’s carved out of beautiful and stable figured roasted maple. The neck has very cool black binding and is finished with gunstock oil and wax, giving it a natural yet silky feel.

These great guitars are available for sale at Musician’s Friend Private Reserve. Contact our guitar advisors at 866-926-1923 before they’re gone for good. Until next time keep playing!

Read all Guitar Notes posts here.

Visit Private Reserve Guitars or contact Derek White directly at 866-926-1923. He can get you the absolute lowest price on your dream guitar. Connect with Private Reserve Guitars on Facebook and Instagram.

Brian Baggett Private Reserve Bio

Brian Baggett is Video Presenter for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve Guitars. He curates the Private Reserve guitar collection on video, visits guitar factories and works closely with luthiers and signature artists to gain insight into the greatest guitars being built today. He is also a professional guitarist playing several nights a week in the legendary Kansas City jazz scene. A former jazz guitar professor, Brian continues to teach and has a book and DVD titled "Keys To Unlocking the Fretboard".

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