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Guitars With Ergonomic Features?


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I was wondering which guitars or even features everyone has encountered that might be deemed "ergonomic"? I've suffered from back problems for many years so this is an important consideration for me. Proper sitting position and overall weight come to mind as important factors. For example, I own a Hohner headless guitar in the style of the original Steinberger "broom". Weight is ok and it works well for classical position (if you're a rightie, the guitar sits on the left leg and the neck is at about a 45 degree angle) but it lacks any support for the right arm. Some of the guitars I'm already familiar with are the Klein Electric Guitars and the newer Kramer Delta Wing. What other ideas are out there that would be within the realm of an amateur builder?

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I was wondering which guitars or even features everyone has encountered that might be deemed "ergonomic"? I've suffered from back problems for many years so this is an important consideration for me. Proper sitting position and overall weight come to mind as important factors. For example, I own a Hohner headless guitar in the style of the original Steinberger "broom". Weight is ok and it works well for classical position (if you're a rightie, the guitar sits on the left leg and the neck is at about a 45 degree angle) but it lacks any support for the right arm. Some of the guitars I'm already familiar with are the Klein Electric Guitars and the newer Kramer Delta Wing. What other ideas are out there that would be within the realm of an amateur builder?

The Parker Fly comes to mind.

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I wouldn't call either the Delta Wing or the Parker particularly 'ergonomic'; the Kramer doesn't look like it has anywhere to rest comfortably on your leg, and the parker Fly's upper horn seems designed to poke you in the ribs if you play sitting down. A strat's more comfortable, honestly.

The Klein (ie, lima bean on a stick) is all about comfort, and is smart in all the right ways. The aesthetics are a 'like it or hate it' thing, though.

There's some company out there that makes a twisted neck/fingerboard guitar that's supposedly for ergonomic reasons.

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I wouldn't call either the Delta Wing or the Parker particularly 'ergonomic'; the Kramer doesn't look like it has anywhere to rest comfortably on your leg, and the parker Fly's upper horn seems designed to poke you in the ribs if you play sitting down. A strat's more comfortable, honestly.

The Klein (ie, lima bean on a stick) is all about comfort, and is smart in all the right ways. The aesthetics are a 'like it or hate it' thing, though.

There's some company out there that makes a twisted neck/fingerboard guitar that's supposedly for ergonomic reasons.

I didn't think the Parker qualified as ergonomic except for its low weight. That horn didn't strike me as particularly comfortable either.

The Delta Wing has a leg rest that looks like it might put the guitar at a good angle while sitting - not all the pictures on the site show the leg rest but here's one that does: Kramer Wing with Leg Rest. I have my doubts about that elongated upper horn.

The Klein seems to be the one most adapted to this purpose and it is certainly a "like it or hate it" aesthetic. That said, I'm a techie so the whole "form follows function" mantra has meaning for me. My eyes may not like it all that much but the rest of my body just might. :D

I've seen that twisted neck/fingerboard thing too - the Helix Twisted Neck System. It seems that at some point the neck was available as an aftermarket item but I haven't seen it.

Simply, WOW. That is something else. I'm not at the point of building a seat into my guitar(!) but it sure shows commitment to playing. Hell, I'm just learning myself...

I say mess around with some cheap pine to make a (non-functional) prototype instrument that fits YOUR ergonomic sensibilities. Then build it for real.

I don't disagree. I discovered Project Guitar once I started researching the idea of building a guitar myself. I've done quite a bit of research over the last couple of months so I've got some ideas. However, I wanted to benefit from the experience contained in this Forum. Afterall, that is one of the reasons we're here - to learn from each other. :D

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The Delta Wing has a leg rest that looks like it might put the guitar at a good angle while sitting - not all the pictures on the site show the leg rest but here's one that does: Kramer Wing with Leg Rest. I have my doubts about that elongated upper horn.

Man, I love builders like this...all the ideas they come up with!

Like the recessed tuner idea--I'd been wondering about the idea of making a thicker headstock, and why that's not generally done. Nice idea with the aluminum string-through plate in the back...much easier that way.

The longer horn is there to balance the guitar when standing, according to the site...you'd definitely need a leg rest for a design like that, but I'm starting to think that a leg rest might always be a pretty good idea--much better than having to brace the guitar to keep it from slipping.

Although I think you can achieve a similar or even better result by adding a rubber non-skid strip to the bottom of the guitar.

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Man, I love builders like this...all the ideas they come up with!

Like the recessed tuner idea--I'd been wondering about the idea of making a thicker headstock, and why that's not generally done. Nice idea with the aluminum string-through plate in the back...much easier that way.

The longer horn is there to balance the guitar when standing, according to the site...you'd definitely need a leg rest for a design like that, but I'm starting to think that a leg rest might always be a pretty good idea--much better than having to brace the guitar to keep it from slipping.

Although I think you can achieve a similar or even better result by adding a rubber non-skid strip to the bottom of the guitar.

I like the use of the leg rest on this guitar although the Klein solves the situation through its shape - granted its an unusual shape. My Hohner headless is of the "broom" variety and has a leg rest that flips out. Its not too bad for sitting in classical position. Steinberger was going for low profile otherwise I think a more suitable leg rest could have been made.

And, yeah, I think the thick headstock with recessed tuners is a pretty cool idea. You eliminate a potential weak point in the neck and still stay away from string trees.

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I was wondering which guitars or even features everyone has encountered that might be deemed "ergonomic"?

I've seen nothing that beats the standard strat yet. Its contoured to fit your body while in standing or sitting position. No sharp edges to cut off circulation or wear down. You can carve and carve a guitar body to find the best ergonomic "recipe" for the human body, where comfort and function are concerned, ... and I'll bet ya it will look like a strat. :D

Edited by Southpa
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I've seen nothing that beats the standard strat yet. Its contoured to fit your body while in standing or sitting position. No sharp edges to cut off circulation or wear down. You can carve and carve a guitar body to find the best ergonomic "recipe" for the human body, where comfort and function are concerned, ... and I'll bet ya it will look like a strat. :D

Sorry. I owned a Strat. Sounded great and I love the Strat sound but its not the solution I'm looking for. Take a look at the examples I give in my original post and you'll see that I'm looking at something a bit more radical than the tried and true Strat. :D

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Air guitars are the most comfortable. I wish I still had mine, but I ended up selling it to my imaginary friend.

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Never seen any acoustics like those...

Yeah, but that electric is one ugly guitar...amateur design if you ask me (did you ask? I don't remember :D )

I have a strat and I hate to play it sitting down, keeps slipping off my leg. Standing up it's pretty nice, although I prefer the height of TOM/wraparound bridge...

In fact, these days I really prefer the super-tall string height (i.e., clearance from the body) of my guitar. I wonder if there's anything ergonomic about that? Seems really comfortable to me, in terms of wrist position/fatigue...

I have a video of Lou Reed playing it's Klein (sitting down), I think it's a cool looking guitar, reminds me of a weird old 60s guitar.

I do agree though that you should ultimately work up some prototypes of your design ideas using cheap wood/plywood...it'll give you a better idea of balance, fit, etc. than a drawing on paper.

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Eh? Strat slipping off while seated? Are you wearing lubricated pants or something? A strat's bridge is perhaps a little too far back in the body to be ideal, especially when played standing up; the arm needs to be pulled a touch too far back. But for comfort, seated, strats are great.

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Air guitars are the most comfortable. I wish I still had mine, but I ended up selling it to my imaginary friend.

Since I'm fast approaching 39, I'd probably look silly wielding one of those comfortable as they are. Of course, the advantages are that I don't really need to focus on my guitar playing skills and it can look anyway I want. :D

Yeah, but that electric is one ugly guitar...amateur design if you ask me (did you ask? I don't remember B) )

You didn't have to ask! Jeez - you are not kidding. I sure hope my first electric looks better than that otherwise its going to be firewood. Oh and did you happen to look at the comments regarding neck width at the nut? And, I quote- "we intend to make the nut 1 11/16" wide and most often it is right-on! But it will be acceptable to send out to a dealer if it is as narrow as 1 5/8" or as wide as 1 3/4". " :D Wha...?

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Eh? Strat slipping off while seated? Are you wearing lubricated pants or something?

Nope, I'm not kidding...it just doesn't sit right for me. I end up having to grip the guitar or hunch over it too far (causing problems with the nerves in my back). I prefer a more rounded body (like my Melody Maker or my Rocket) when I'm sitting.

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Hi again Robert Irizarry...

You have been asking some interesting questions and generating some interest...but best of all, thanks for showing me this...

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v248/pet...ton/zac-cat.jpg

Check out the Guitar porn...Zackary Guitars...there are some interesting features there...

I'm not sure about the ergonomics factor (the bridge still looks a little far back), but it certainly has some very creative and tasteful design elements for an essentially "out there" guitar.

Spalted Maple on a walnut base. Home Brewed unique pickups. Simple straight headstock (so much easier to make) which suits the design. Simple control layout (two scret pick shaped timber back plate). Nice heel joint. Choice of timbers and oil finish. Burnt in branded makers name and logo. Very nice.

I kind of admired the Klien...steinberger went too far, no leg or arm rest and having to add too it even to play on a strap is not a good thing. I looked into this a bit as I have an interest in the use of different materials for guitar building. Once you get into plactic and such, the sky's the limit as far as shape...I'll post some more pics of some stuff I found later (one pic per post).

However...I got to say that the strat really is very ergonomic. Fairly light and contoured nicely. I like the control layout and the general design features.

Having looked at it and thought about it over the years...I have always thought that the tuners should be in a line underneath like a reverse headstock. That way you don't have to twist your hand over to tune (I'm sure Jimi favoured this in part for this reason) and the bridge perhaps is a little far back on a strat.

I once went so far as to make a more ergonomic body for a spare neck as a jazz guitar. Single neck humbucker, trapese bridge. I just found that the Les Paul was a little too rock looking and was too small for exclusive sit down gigs like I was doing at the time.

The Les Paul really isn't very ergonomic...it is a little too small (especially if you are tall like me) and the weight is a killer. Still, there's nothing quite like them. As for the strat, my Sustainer-Strat weighs hardly anything being essentially hollow (sustain of course being the least of my concerns as it is, well, infinite)...It has never slipped off my leg and find it far less dinky than a LP shape, however, I have never played it in lubricated pants, so perhaps I need to test that out.

Still, some people swear that the Flying V is ergonomic, even sitting down. It all depends on how and what you play. If you like some out there, cutting edge designs, check out what bass players are getting up to...they seem to be far more adventurous in construction and design.

Anyway, thanks for turning me on to the Zackary site...some really interesting ideas there. The Delta Wing doesnt cut it for me, nice but not so practical. If you really want ergonomic, you have to design the guitar to Your body, playing style and technique. Get a guitar and find the best position to play it by boosing it up and moving it forward and back...then look at designing something around those critical dimensions. It doesn't have to be way out

IMO, jaguars are pretty ergonomic
...this is true, like a strat but with a shorter scale and the bridge moved forward...many would agree! But is this what you want, a guitar is a kind of statement, but you could still design something new or retro that is at the same time "ergonomic"

keep up the interesting posts and threads Rob... pete

P.S. the bugger stole my diagonal fret marker idea that I used on my minimalist acoustic practice guitar...doh!...is there nothing new in this world I can call my own!!!!

Edited by Maiden69
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You have been asking some interesting questions and generating some interest...but best of all, thanks for showing me this...

Thanks for the encouraging words, psw! I'm an inquisitive person and this forum really revs up that aspect of my personality. I also want to take a moment to thank everyone for the great feedback to my questions.

As far as Zachary Guitars, he does have some very cool ideas. I also really like the simple headstock and just his general attitude toward what a guitar should be - it should serve the music. If you've read any of his "tirades", he is not a fan of fancy topped guitars primarily because he believes it takes away the focus from the guitar's raison d’être as they say. However, he can appreciate beautiful woods so long as the other elements are there. Warning though - he can be a bit tough to take for those who prefer a more politically correct attitude. You'll find none of that there. :D

I like the idea of a chambered guitar as a means of reducing overall weight. Its on my list of possible features.

I think you're absolutely right about playing with critical dimensions. I'm also on the tall side (6'3") with an even longer reach so many guitars feel as though they don't give me the right arm support I need. Add chronic back problems for years and the somewhat stiff fingers of a 38 year old (almost 39) trying to learn guitar and I have a few things to consider.

oh and what a cute cat!

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I love Zachary's headstock design...look for a 'borrowed' version of that for my next guitar!

Robert, I think a problem you might have, if you really are a beginning guitar player, is that it's going to be hard to know what's going to fit you properly. Have you gone down to a guitar mega store and tried on various guitars for fit?

I'd think for taller guys, guitars like the Gibson Explorer or Firebird would make sense--got those longer bodies.

Stubby guitars like the Klein or the Zachary or that Kramer (or the Rickenbacker 350) for that matter make sense if you don't have extremely long arms. But for a taller guy, I'd have to think they'd get pretty uncomfortable pretty fast. That's because there's not much room behind the bridge...you'll get little to no arm support.

I'd look at designs that put a lot of body BEHIND the bridge.

Maybe a thicker guitar--like a hollowbody--will be more comfortable for you?

Seems to me if you have back problems, you're going to want to avoid hunching over your guitar --a wider body is going to force you to maintain a straight back and proper posture. Although the Klein design seems to work in that direction too.

Interesting thread. :D

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A guitar I aways liked the idea of was the Ovation Breadwinner...

bcreme.jpg

I actually played in a band and the rhythmn guitarist had one of these. It felt good to play, but the plastic bridge seemed an odd choice of hardware, and the neck was poorly supported (bit like rubber) especially as it was pretty slim, especially for back then...

Anyway, so looking for a pic to post I found there was a Breadwinner Fansite!!!The designer Speaks

They tracked down the designer and that link will take you there. At the time this was touted as a very ergonomic guitar...and it was...you can see where klien got his influences!!!

But that's not really how it came into being...here's a few choice cuts from the designer...

I'm the designer of the Breadwinner/Deacon body. I worked at Ovation Instruments in 1971 as a commercial artist in their advertising/public relations department. My primary job was print advertising and sales promotion.
Did you design the guitar around "balance" as the ads said, or was it the likeness to an axe.. or just aesthetics?

I was long gone (1971) in 1972 0r '73 when they began advertising and selling the guitar. But my design concept did include balance as part of my original concept. I'm not an engineer, so I had no idea if it would be "balanced" by weight. My idea was to make it resemble a medieval battle axe because musicians at that time often referred to their instruments as their "axe". I also designed it so there was a deep cutaway below the strings to reach the high notes. I also wanted it to rest comfortably on the knee when playing while seated. Hence the cutaway at the bottom. I also suggested that they keep the original Ovation trademark peghead on this guitar and they did. I wanted them to make the guitar body out of the lightweight acoustic resin, Lyrachord that they make the backs for the roundback acoustic out of. The stuff is virtually indestructible. I guess they didn't like that idea and made the body out of solid mahogany. I had also suggested possibly making the body hollow with a honeycomb structure inside the hollow for strength and to keep it light weight. I got that idea from a pair of snow skis that were popular at that time called Hexel's.

A fan also writes...
Karl says: "I'm a breadwinner and Deacon owner (see the enclosed Pics). But I have to say that the sound of the original electric and of the original bridge construction is very bad.

I found out that the position of the bolt nuts in the body is the right position to install directly a gibson style wraped around one piece bridge. With this and some good modern PU you get a great sustain. The necks and the bodies of this guitar are better than all the guitars I have played in the last 35 years. And I have owned a lot of Teles, Strats, Les Pauls and also PRS. None of the these guitar is so good to play like these old Ovations.

Well, he's a fan...but it was a cool guitar in it's own way...enjoy... pete

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A guitar I aways liked the idea of was the Ovation Breadwinner...

I actually played in a band and the rhythmn guitarist had one of these. It felt good to play, but the plastic bridge seemed an odd choice of hardware, and the neck was poorly supported (bit like rubber) especially as it was pretty slim, especially for back then...

I like the Ovation Breadwinner as well and you can certainly see where Klein "borrowed" some of its elements. Sorry - I had to throw that in. I've been on a Klein Guitar group over at Yahoo and the reverence for the Klein is a bit much at times. Its a great design overall from an ergonomic perspective but not as entirely original as some of the Klein worshippers might indicate. After all, there aren't many things that can be called completely original.

But, I digress. Did you get a chance to try it sitting down? Was it much different than say a Strat type body?

I love Zachary's headstock design...look for a 'borrowed' version of that for my next guitar!

Robert, I think a problem you might have, if you really are a beginning guitar player, is that it's going to be hard to know what's going to fit you properly. Have you gone down to a guitar mega store and tried on various guitars for fit?

Seems to me if you have back problems, you're going to want to avoid hunching over your guitar --a wider body is going to force you to maintain a straight back and proper posture. Although the Klein design seems to work in that direction too.

Interesting thread. :D

The Zachary headstock design is definitely one I would want to pay "homage" to as well. :D

I've considered my beginner guitar status as well. I guess I should backfill a bit here. Back in my early 20's I took some lessons and I made a little progress. I also had a number of musician friends and owned a Strat Plus. I didn't stick with it very long (another story) but during that time I got a chance to try a number of guitars including a Gibson SG, several acoustics, a couple of Strat style designs, etc. I also used to haunt the guitar shops on 48th Street in Manhattan - Sam Ash, Manny's Music etc. Based on this, I think I have a fair idea of what I'm looking to accomplish.

As far as the back problems, I completely agree that a wider body is the way to go. The Klein certainly fits the bill. So as far as basic design elements, the guitar should have a wide body as well as sufficient support for the right arm.

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You didn't have to ask! Jeez - you are not kidding. I sure hope my first electric looks better than that otherwise its going to be firewood. Oh and did you happen to look at the comments regarding neck width at the nut? And, I quote- "we intend to make the nut 1 11/16" wide and most often it is right-on! But it will be acceptable to send out to a dealer if it is as narrow as 1 5/8" or as wide as 1 3/4". " :D Wha...?

Well, if you think about it, its only a deviation of 1/16" either way. Thats a very miniscule change if you ask me. But I agree about the electrics... makes me want to go apprentice under him just to change the electric design...

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