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ERGONOMICS AND GUITARS

I have always been concerned on some level with the ergonomics of playing a guitar.  Initially this meant fingerboard width and neck profile.  My customers seem to appreciate the notion that the fingerboard and neck profile of their guitar can be customized to their preference.  However as I and my customers began to get a bit older the issue became more and more of concern and began to affect many other design elements of the guitar.  

A good deal of my thinking on this subject was prompted by one of my customers (thanks Mark!) who had, to put it bluntly, a very bum left shoulder (at least two surgeries and counting).  When he could no longer comfortably play the guitars I had made for him earlier in my career, we began to think of other ways to accommodate his physical limitations.

First we decided to make a guitar with a 12 fret neck.  I have done this for years but had done so because of the tonal effects and had not thought about how it would affect his playing position.  Now we did. 

Similarly I had made guitars with the shorter Gibson scale (24.75) for years but had not considered the ergonomic effects ( shorter reaches and reduced string tension).  Now we did.  The result was a concert size guitar which Mark could easily play - because his left arm did not have to reach out from his side in order to play. 

The next step (when Mark's right shoulder began to cause problems) was to use a smaller (and thinner) 00 size body and to make it thinner on the bass side of the body.  This wedge shaped guitar is an innovation first made by Linda Manzer.  In this case the effect was to increase Mark's "comfortable" playing time from perhaps 15 minutes every few days to hours each day. 

Next on my agenda is to build a guitar with a beveled edge where the player's right arm rests on the guitar.  this too is not an original idea - I first saw it on Grit Laskin's work, then in the work of Kevin Ryan, and most recently on guitars built by Brian Applegate.  Thanks to all of these fine builders. A link to my page about the Bevel Edge is below.

I have no doubt that there are other modifications which can (and will) be made to make guitars as playable as they are beautiful sounding.  I occasionally refer to this process as "orthopedic guitar building" but really it is simply an extension of what builders have always done - to build a guitar for a customer that fulfills all of the dreams and needs of the customer.

 

This website and all of its content, text and images are copyright 1997-2012 by Charles A. Hoffman.  All rights reserved. 

      The BEVEL  12 Fret  The Wedge
2219 East Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN. 55404

hoffmanguitars@qwestoffice.net or choffman820@comcast.net

(612) 338-1079