Who is Innovating Guitar Body Design?

GE and I complain about a lot of things.  It’s pretty much the foundation of any good friendship.  One of those things, is the fact that virtually every “new” guitar is still a familiar single or double cutaway.  Usually based on the strat body.  Sure, there are some odd shapes out there1, but they are generally built for the sake of a shocking visual appeal.  We want something useful.

I wondered, if most of us agree that the typical sitting position is incorrect (with the waist resting on the right thigh of a right-handed player)2, why do we keep building bodies that seem designed for that position?  Resting that waist cutout on the opposite thigh seems to move everything too far away, and fretting open chords toward the nut can be uncomfortable.  There should be some sort of balanced option.

After a lot of research3, we decided the Charvel/Jackson Star body is the best commercial option.  It has the benefits of the Flying V, which lets you rest the rear V shape on your right thigh, but has a more traditional lower waist section that you can rest on your left thigh.  In theory, this shape works.

photo credits - charvel.com
photo credits – charvel.com

In reality, it’s still a little awkward.  That point in the lower waist is centered with the pickup.  This keeps everything off center with your body.  If that point were centered between the bridge/24th fret, it might fit just right.  It might have to go a little closer to the neck even.

Even if this were the perfect guitar for sitting and playing, the odd shape has other problems.  First of all, if you’re not in a glam rock or 80’s speed metal band, you probably don’t want to be caught playing one.  Second of all, if we’re talking about sitting and playing, having large points that jut out in various directions really limits the options of where you can sit.  You’re probably stuck with a stool or small armless chair.  Not the end of the world, but something to consider.

The point is, there has to be a better option, right?

After a much more lengthy search for folks designing bodies made for our bodies, I kept finding Kozm guitars.  From what I can tell, they’re a one man shop out of Portland4 that uses some fancy technology to make guitars that don’t look like a flat sheet of wood.

I was a bit bummed though, as this seems to be one of their main designs:

photo credit: Kozm Guitars
photo credit: Kozm Guitars
kozmaw
photo credit: Kozm Guitars

It’s really pretty, and seems like it’d be comfortable for standing, but not sitting.

Then I found this page.

Ergonomic-Tilt-SM
photo credit: Kozm Guitars

Perfect!  If we could just find an electric like that…

The keen eye would note that the last photo looks a tad familiar.  That’s because this whole issue of ergonomics was addressed a while back.  By Klein.

klein2anatomy

Klein’s guitars still suffer from the boring/uncomfortable flat top/back design, but the rest is great for comfort.  Even the location of the pickup selector switch – which is a bit out of necessity, is an excellent location for ease of reach5.

Unfortunately, Klein didn’t make it.  They had issues meeting production demand6 and shut down in the mid-late 2000’s.  You can find some Kleins and replicas out there, but not many.

The bigger problem is, this design didn’t continue to evolve.  At least not in any mainstream manner.

Today, there’s little sparks of hope in very very small circles.  These guys are fighting the good fight, but so far I don’t see anything that is taking off.

There has to be more out there, right?

  1. See: Wangcaster
  2. This is the “classical” vs “casual” position debate
  3. 2-3 emails = a lot of research
  4. the good Portland
  5. Why every Strat-style guitar makes you reach around the knobs and trem bar, I’ll never know.
  6. Translation, they probably ran out of cash
  • G. Edward Jones, Jr.

    I totally forgot about Strandberg when we were talking. They’re still more of a custom shop more than a full manufacturer, but Ola appears to be running with the Klein idea.