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December 2006
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Ergonomic Guitar Design


For whatever reason, guitar manufacturers and players all seem to be stuck re-implementing "classic" designs from the 1950s rather than addressing issues to improve playability and ergonomics.  While there's nothing wrong with the classics, I think it would be nice to see if the guitar industry could innovate and go beyond just coming up with the latest greatest pickup.  The good news is, there are boutique guitar manufacturers and hobbyists who are starting to push the envelope. 

I've long been interested in alternative guitar designs, ever since I saw my first Steinberger bass many years ago.  I'm particularly fond of "headless" designs which can potentially make a guitar more compact and lighter.

Ergonomic_guitar_full_view_1There's an excellent web site called Building  the Ergonomic Guitar by Robert Irizarry that includes a lot of well thought out material on better, more ergonomic guitar designs.  Irizarry clearly knows what he's doing and is completing his first design of an ergonomic (and headless) guitar reminiscent of a typical Klein guitar using a Steinberger bridge.  The result should be slightly under 6 pounds, which is   

Irizarry's blog takes you through all of the various decisions in his design and on the building of the guitar. I'm not a luthier, so I wouldn't attempt to do this myself, but those of you with a hankering for woodworking adventure may be inspired to try to follow along. 

The site also includes photos and links to other ergonomically designed guitars, some quite obscure.  I hope at the very least, this will inspire players to consider new designs rather than just settle for retro models.

Madrugada Rocks Norway


My wife discovered Norway's alt-rock Madrugada while on a cruise through the antarctic.  Their CD "Industrial Silence" was frequently played by the philipino crew as the ship sailed at dawn, which is what madrugada means in spanish.  The band was formed in the 1990s and originally covered songs by the likes of the Stones, the Stooges, Velvet Underground and Joy Division.  Their first CD, Industrial Silence, broke the band across Europe.  Although you won't hear them on US radio, they have had a number of hits and won awards for their haunting, expansive sound.  It's a unique sound and not one that's easy to label.  But if you like bands like Mazzy Star, Cowboy Junkies, Sigor Ros or Bjork, then it's worth exploring.   

The band also released an award-winning live album Live at Tralfamadore recorded at the Oslo Spektrum in front of 7,000 pasty-white nordic fans. 

Guitar Hero Rocks


Guitar Hero II, from Red Octane, is the much heralded sequel to their award-winning air guitar game Guitar Hero released in 2005.  Guitar Hero built up a rabid following among gamers, guitar players and oddly enough, rock stars.  Even if you're decidely not into video games, if you play guitar you should check out Guitar Hero.  The idea is that you use a plastic guitar-shaped controlled to hit the right notes to classic rock songs by clicking on colored fret buttons and struming in time.  While that doesn't sound like much, the game is surprisingly addictive, especially as you play classic rock songs from Cheap Trick, The Police, Kiss and many others. If you hit the right notes, you'll hear a roaring guitar solo and cheers from the audience.  Hit the wrong notes and you'll hear a humbling "plunk" sound and likely get booed off stage.  As you improve, you can play bigger venues, harder songs, buy new gear, and presumably, end up on VH-1 Behind the Music.

Right now, Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II run only on the Nintendo Playstation.  But new versions for the XBox 360 and Nintendo Wii are expected in the coming months as well as a package of 1980's hits.  For a more serious discussion of Guitar Hero and its impact on the industry, read the guest column over at OnDisruption.

I'm seriously considering buying Guitar Hero to make up for my spastic lack of rhythm.  The game turned out to be a big hit this Christmas with my nephews shown below who had no such problems.