See Itchika Nito play his new song on Tim Henson's Ibanez nylon-string signature guitar

 Ichika Nito
(Image credit: Ichika Nito / YouTube)

Ibanez's TOD10N Tim Henson signature model is a guitar that helps to narrow the divide between electric and nylon-string guitars with the playability of the former with the tonal character of the latter. The company has just announced an even more affordable non signature edition with the FRH10N so clearly now sees potential for it to strike a, um, chord with players (although as we'll find out, it took some convincing). But Ibanez artist Itchika Nito is one guitarist who has been inspired by the Polyphia man's version.

It's interesting to hear its potential in the hands of another progressive player as he performs new arrangement, The World Is Still Beautiful. Choppy chord work, fluid runs and tinkling arpeggios abound here as he splits the arrangement between the TOD10N and his own ICHI10 headless signature guitar. A guitar that was released in 2021 and, surprisingly, the first signature model for a Japanese artist from the Japanese guitar company.

But equally surprising is the recent revelation by Henson that his own nylon-string model nearly didn't happen. 

In his latest chat with Rick Beato, Polyphia guitarist Henson appeared with the TOD10N and explained its genesis in 2020.

"We were on tour in Europe and messing around, hanging out before the show, and I think they we were in Cologne in Germany and I went into a pawn shop. I saw this Ibanez nylon string and it was S-shape body, super thin, and it had a nylon headstock and I just thought, what the fuck is that?

"I picked it up and it had all the upper fret access," continues Henson. "I plugged it in and I was like, wow. I started playing Polyphia riffs on it. I had always struggled to play any of our riffs on an acoustic-type guitar before because steel-string is really hard for me to play and of course there's less upper fret access. I thought, this sounds crazy with the Polyphia riffs through a nylon-esque guitar. So I bought it – it was like €700 and I took it home from Europe with me. 

After spending time with the guitar – an SC500N - Henson was smitten and contacted his endorser Ibanez, that had already released a standard electric model for the guitarist.

"They told me it was a commercially failed model from 1998," explained Henson to Beato. "I guess there just wasn't really a market for it then." The guitarist believed the market had now changed but initially met resistance from Ibanez. 

"At first it was difficult to do that even because they had talked about doing it before with Tosin [Abasi] and I just thought to myself, if Tosin didn't do it they're not going to do it with me. And what was funny is I was telling Tosin about this as these negotiations with Ibanez were going on."

I legitimately thought they weren't going to do it

Abasi would go on to design his own nylon-string Larada model with his Abasi Concepts company that's still to be made commercially available. The Animals As Leaders guitarist even offered to build Henson a nylon string hybrid guitar if Ibanez didn't. But that may have been the push Ibanez needed in the end. 

"I legitimately thought they weren't going to do it and I initially told them if y'all don't want to do this I get it but I'm going to do it elsewhere. And because they didn't have product like that [available] it doesn't mess anything up [with our business relationship]. But then they came back and said, 'We'll do it'. 

The guitar's reveal would later take place with Polyphia's Playing God video.

The demo version of Playing God is what was used to convince them

"The demo version of Playing God is what was used to convince them," explains Henson. "[The SC500N guitar] was [in] the album 4 teaser video… and I went and screenshot all the comments that said, 'Where can I buy this guitar? I would love a guitar like this.' So I went and screenshot ever comment from every platform that said anything like that. And I had a whole zip folder of 300 screenshots.' 

Thanks to Tim's efforts we now have a guitar that could bring a whole new audience to nylon string guitars. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.