Is the Future of Guitar... Minimalist?

Is the Future of Guitar… Minimalist?

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Being someone whose interest in guitars only began in the late 90s, I missed out on the ridiculous inventions that came out in the 70s and 80s that never seemed to catch on. There were a lot of metallic and fiberglass contraptions that made bold claims about the future of the electric guitar – but as far as I can tell, wood has prevailed in remaining the foundation of every great instrument (things like the Hofner Shorty have managed to carve a niche though).

Lately though, there seems to be a trend toward more minimalist designs. Quite a number of boutique guitar manufacturers are coming out with guitars that incorporate more metal, superior ergonomics, and doing away with familiar hardware and appendages that they deem extraneous. Most importantly, the trend is all about less wood.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more extreme guitar designs out there.  I present these super-ergonomic, minimalist, and sometimes woodless wonders for your viewing pleasure:

Strandberg

Visit Strandberg Guitars

Let it be known that this company is becoming very popular right now, and has a lot of well-known endorsees using them as their primary instruments (including one of this generation’s appointed guitar gods, Plini). All images courtesy of strandbergguitars.com.

Strandberg Guitars

Strandberg’s unmistakable, distinctive body shape and headless neck design.

Strandberg multiscale 6-string

Strandberg multiscale 6-string

Strandberg multiscale 7-string

Strandberg multiscale 7-string

Strandberg multiscale 6-string

Strandberg multiscale 6-string

Their inclusion in this article is to highlight the trend. This is how it starts…first they lop off the headstock and run the body through a lawnmower to remove excess weight that was a huge problem for 90lb screamo kids to lift. Next… well, you’ll see.

Etherial Guitars

Visit Etherial Guitars

Etherial Guitars is a company that hasn’t sought to reinvent the wheel, but they’ve certainly given it a makeover. All images courtesy of www.etherialguitars.com.

Etherial Guitars

Etherial Guitars makes extensive use of materials like carbon fiber, aluminum, and stainless steel

“Our main goal is to challenge the tradition of timber construction by working extensively with carbon fiber aluminum and stainless steel.” – Matthew Brown, Owner, Etherial Guitars

Etherial Guitars

Etherial Guitars

Etherial Guitars

Electrical Guitar Company

Visit Electrical Guitar Company

Not a very creative name for an electric guitar company, I have to say. Did they even consider how difficult it’s going to be for people to find them on Google? However, they’ve got some cool looking instruments. Like Etherial Guitars, their main purpose is to eliminate wood with extreme prejudice. All images courtesy of www.electricalguitarcompany.com as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Electrical Guitar Company

Kevin Burkett’s Electrical Guitar Company was “born out of total admiration of the aluminum instrument world”

On Electrical Guitar Company’s website they state: “With aluminum, you are capable of generating some of the most beautiful tones. Conversely, you can create some of the harshest sounds ever imagined.”

Electrical Guitar Company

Electrical Guitar Company

Electrical Guitar Company

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Teuffel Guitars

Visit Teuffel Guitars

Now we’re getting into the super-minimal stuff. Ulrich Teuffel was one of my choices for “most creative” luthiers in an anoterh article I wrote for Ultimate-Guitar.

Teuffel Guitars

Closeup of the Teuffel Birdfish guitar

Teuffel’s Birdfish and Tesla models actually have a few big-name players taking them on stage, most notably Billy Gibbons and Kirk Hammett. Apparently, the Birdfish was selected by Guitarist Magazine in Britain as “one of the most important guitars of the 20th century.”

Teuffel Tesla

Teuffel Tesla

Teuffel Birdfish

Teuffel Birdfish

Teuffel Niwa

Teuffel Niwa

From Teuffel’s website: “This design not only allows unlimited tonal possibilities, but also results in a very lively and percussive tone.”

Gittler Instruments

Finally, we come to this monstrosity.

“We finally really did it. [falls to his knees screaming] YOU MANIACS!” – George Taylor, Planet of the Apes

Gittler Guitar

The Gittler Guitar is manufactured entirely of 6AL-4V aircraft grade Titanium

The Gittler is the “Skeletor” of guitars. It’s got a titanium frame, interchangeable plastic neck profiles, and all tuning is done at the foot of the bridge rather than on the non-existent headstock. And it also has…well, not much else really.

Gittler guitar tuning machines

Tuning machines

Striking minimalist design

Striking minimalist design

Back side of the Gittler

Back side of the Gittler

Plenty of videos of the it being played on youtube though, for anyone doubting that this thing is actually an instrument! It’s safe to say that if you have any preferences for fret size and fretboard radius, this is clearly not the guitar for you.

Is it a Bright Future – or a Grim One?

I’m a purist when it comes to guitar design – wood is an absolute must for me. Even if you don’t subscribe to the idea that the wood influences tone and you believe it’s an ergonomic hindrance – I’ll stick to my guns for the aesthetic value alone.

Having not played any of the instruments in this article (yet), I’ll say this: they definitely look interesting. And the intentions behind their innovations are all perfectly valid – whether or not they actually improve upon the electric guitar’s form, I do not know. But if history has proven anything, it’s that only a fraction of a percent of these things will stand the test of time.

What do You Think?

We’ve looked at some crazy stuff in this article. What are your thoughts? What do YOU think guitars will look and sound like 20 – 30 years from now? Let me know in the comments below.

Joel Bennet

Written by Joel Bennett

Guest Contributor

Joel Bennett is a luthier from the UK, trained in the US, and currently living in Mexico without any tools. Go visit him over at his website: www.electricherald.com.

 

3 replies
  1. Alex
    Alex says:

    You could also mention the following brands that are doing innovation in guitars: Aristides, 660 guitars, Relish guitars

    Reply
  2. Luke
    Luke says:

    Nah. Not my thing. Most look to fragile to tour with.

    Try to sit down an play that Glitter with out the shoulder strap.

    Electrical Guitar Company’s all aluminum guitar? Leading cause of dementia today is caused by beta amyloid plaque. Those little particles of aluminum that get absorbed through your skin from touching anything aluminum. It gets trapped in your brain and gunks up the synapsis causing early dementia. No thank you.

    Technology, design and style are all well and good, but when was the last time you drove a car with tail fins? 1950’s Space Age style with technology of that time at it’s best. The Stratocaster is still with us amazingly. Again 1950’s Space Age styling that worked with the technology of the day. It’s been upgraded and is still with us today because it is made out of an easy, cheap, renewable resource that
    you can get your hands on and is comfortable to play.

    Technology, design and styling will always change, but if you can
    not “get your hands on it” and is not comfortable to play; is it worth it?

    Reply

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