Twenty fifteen has been a helluva year for instrument creation, bringing a torrent of new ways to make sweet, sweet music with a bang, pluck, tap or scrape. Choosing a handful of tasty tone-tastic highlights from the last 12 months has been tough, really tough. But after much ruminating, we've managed to stealthily avoid picking from a hat and have come up with a select bunch of monstrous melody-making favorites.
Noodling away on an unplugged electric guitar is a great way to practice chops any time, day or night. But the raw sound can be a bit disappointing, lacking body and volume. DelSonix says that its clip-on guitar speaker can give a solid body electric a 10 dB sonic boost, which can be directed straight at the player.
Texas-based startup 660 Guitars hit Kickstarter in November to help fund the production of a new line of aluminum-bodied guitars. Though the crowdfunding effort was not successful, founders Drew Emory and Myke Wilkerson are forging ahead with a company and first product premiere at California's Winter NAMM show in January.
Yamaha is coming up to its 50th anniversary in the guitar business, and has launched a new series of solid body electric guitars inspired by café racer style motorbikes of the 1960s to celebrate. Of the eight RevStar models, seven include Yamaha's new Dry Switch tone enhancement technology that essentially replaces coil split wiring found in some guitars with passive circuitry for single coil-like tone from humbucking pickups.
Back in January, South Africa's Hans Fouche demonstrated the capabilities of his custom-made Cheetah 3D printer by creating a full-sized lawnmower. Last month saw the release of the Cheetah 2, which Fouche celebrated by printing a working car jack made from plastic and now an acoustic guitar. What makes this dreadnought stand apart from instruments printed by the likes of Olaf Diegel and Customuse is that the whole guitar (apart from steel strings and tuners) has been produced by the printer, not just the body.
String-pickers, digital tunesmiths and bin bashers are not the easiest of folks to buy gifts for. Some are quite conservative and prefer tried and tested old tech while others are gearheads who like to gather in the latest, the novel and the bizarre just in case the need arises. And then there's the (often) eye-watering cost of instruments and accessories to consider. The holidays are almost upon us and a state of muso-related panic may now be setting in. Here are a few ideas that should hit the right note.
Europe's Strat King Thomas Blug brought his full-fat tone knowledge to market earlier this year in the shape of a 100 W boutique amp called the Amp1. The celebrated string picker has been busy adding to his BluGuitar platform ever since, and has now announced that, with the recent addition of two new guitar amp cabinets, the Amp1 System is now complete and available to buy.
Back in 2007, Vancouver's Radial Engineering launched a rack-mounted device called the JX44 Air Control which provided guitarists with a quick and easy way to control instruments, effects and amplifiers on stage. The company says that it has received a constant stream of requests for a smaller and cheaper version ever since, and has now responded with the JX-42 guitar and amp switcher.
Said to have been inspired by the sight of Steve Vai pulling away a whammy bar from his Ibanez guitar and whacking the strings for some odd solo madness, the Guitar Triller offers players a different way to attack a stringed instrument. It looks like something you might use to assemble flat-packed furniture, but can help bring a hammered dulcimer vibe to a bass guitar, give shredders some new ways to speed-pick or add some expressive tap and scrape power play to ukes.
For a good long while now, IK Multimedia has been helping to satisfy the mobile noodling needs of electric git-fiddlers with a succession of instrument interfaces that bridge the gap between a smart device hosting digital effects and amp simulations and a plank of wood, some pickups and a few strands of tensioned steel. Now the company is taking aim at dreadnought picker types with the iRig Acoustic, which is billed as the first acoustic guitar mobile microphone/interface specifically made for acoustic guitars and ukuleles, and one that's claimed to rival pro-grade studio microphones.