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9-string Kelstone guitar plays like a piano


September 28, 2011

The Kelstone 9-string instrument can be played using both hands, like a piano

The Kelstone 9-string instrument can be played using both hands, like a piano

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It has the look of a lap steel and can certainly be used for playing slide guitar compositions, but the relatively low action on the Kelstone 9-string guitar opens up many more opportunities over its 26 frets. Developed by Belgium's Jan Van Kelst, players can strum, pick, hammer-on and pull-off, slide, bend, use both hands like a piano player - or combinations of all such techniques. Players can explore Stanley Jordan-like combined rhythm and lead fretboard tapping, and also throw in some bass to the melody like Dominic Frasca or move metal over metal for Robert Randolph-inspired wizardry.

Essentially, the Kelstone offers the range of a bass, baritone and standard guitar in one instrument - spanning just over five octaves and tuned in fourths (B, E, A, D, G, C, F, Bb, Eb). Van Kelst says that as such: "if you know, for instance, the fingering of a major chord, you can use this form anywhere on the arm, regardless of the position or note you start with."

The player's hands are positioned over the top of the strings, running from the bass to treble, and looking down on the fingerboard. Being fixed on a stand - tilted slightly towards the audience - frees up both hands to run up and down the fingerboard with relative ease and an included pedal-based dynamic mute feature acts as a virtual palm to help keep wayward strings in check. Not having to curl your fist around the neck also offers players the kind of note span used to great effect by the likes of Jeff Healey and it's said that learning to play the Kelstone requires a lot less scale and position study than a guitar or piano.

The Kelstone features a single coil, passive pickup, it's design is said to offer very long natural sustain possibilities, and it's available in three string setups - light, medium and heavy, with the latter being the standard set supplied. It weighs 8.3kg (18.29 pounds), is 108cm long (42.5-inches) and has adjustable screws at the nut. The saddle height and intonation can also be tweaked and two instruments can be used together like the double keyboard of a Hammond B3.

A standard Kelstone is priced at EUR915 (US$1,245). The dynamic muter pedal costs EUR85 (US$115) and although the Kelstone comes with a universal adapter to fit just about any keyboard stand, you can also buy metal stands from the company at EUR35 (US$47) each. Players can also choose to carry the instrument in a funky polyethylene tube case for EUR60 (US$81), a reinforced gigbag for EUR90 (US$122) or a polyethylene hard case for EUR210 (US$285). International orders accepted but you'll need to contact the company for shipping information.

Update: We've had a few requests for a more instructional video, so here's Jan Van Kelst with some useful playing tips for the Kelstone:

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

This is a variation on the Chapman Stick, as played expertly by Jim Lampi (check him out on You Tube)


Id still like to see an all in one guitar.This may lead to a key board witch detaches from under neath the main guitar.


Naaah, it\'s not really like the Stick at all. More like Francis Dunnery\'s (ex It Bites) Tapboard:


Keith Reeder

What a horrid video - stupid flames with some text overlaying??? Come on - I want to see it being played!!! That would have been good.

Sorry - just so very disappointed. It looks amazing awesome. . .


a lot like the Bunker touch gutair


There are alternatives to linear string musical instrument. Metallic bars laid out in a spiral fashion can easily accommodate 37 keys for a circular plate that is about the size of a 12" pizza. An electronic pal,top spiral keyboard is as light as 0.5 kg for a retail price of USD 13. See www.spiralpiano.net.

Terence LO
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