Even in case you’ve by no means held certainly one of his namesake devices, you might know that Les Paul designed one of many first solid-body electrical guitars. Astonishingly, Gibson, which manufactured the guitar, was fearful this radical new route in instrument design would flop, and it did not even present the prototypes to the general public for years.
But the Gibson Les Paul was removed from being the primary electrical guitar. In 1931, the very first electrically amplified stringed instrument offered commercially was a easy, all-metal, solid aluminum lap metal guitar nicknamed the “Frying Pan”—and a sure Adolph Rickenbacker invented the electromagnetic pickups for it.
Now, 90 years later, the Kassell, Germany-based industrial designer Robin Stummvoll, founding father of Verso Musical Instruments, goes again to fundamentals, and is seemingly taking inspiration from the electrical guitar’s humble beginnings. With no formal coaching as a luthier, Stummvoll has determined to pare down the electrical guitar to its minimal components, lowering the quantity of supplies used to make every instrument.
“There’s a guitar made in the ’70s by Allan Gittler [held in the MoMA design collection] that is basically just a steel rod with steel frets welded on,” Stummvoll says. “It’s really the minimum a guitar needs to be, but it’s very complicated to build and very expensive. So my approach on this was something that can be built in a smaller shop, yet creates a new perspective on luthierie.”
Rather than a lump of wooden, the Cosmo’s physique is a fastidiously bent sheet of powder-coated metal. This ergonomic form not solely homes the mandatory circuitry to make the guitar work, it additionally permits an progressive method to the location of the pickups, transducers that seize the strings’ mechanical vibrations and convert them to electrical indicators that may then be amplified and performed via a loudspeaker.
Pickups are often screwed in place on a guitar’s physique, however the place they’re positioned impacts the tone of the sound created. This is why you see a number of pickups in numerous places on, say, a Fender Stratocaster or a Les Paul. Stummvoll has made his pickups cellular to allow them to be moved round and positioned the place the participant chooses.
“This was a happy accident,” explains Stummvoll. “It wasn’t the intention.” As pickups are magnetic, they naturally clamp themselves to the floor of the Cosmo’s steel physique. Realizing the potential advantages of this by way of versatility of sound, Stummvoll made it a characteristic. You can watch and hearken to some YouTube demos of this altering sound.
“It has its own character and sound, a very warm and resonant tone with lots of harmonic content, but it’s nothing weird or strange,” Stummvoll says. “I would say it’s somewhere between electric guitar and an acoustic, because you have these added overtones—but more towards electric.”
Along with the $1,781 (€1,710) Cosmo and the model’s Gravis bass guitar, Stummvoll has now launched his newest creation, the $1,935 (€1,860) Orbit, a baritone guitar. As effectively as that includes Verso’s signature movable pickups, Stummvoll says the Orbit’s lengthy 28.5-inch (720-mm) scale offers this instrument exact and gritty bass response in normal B to B or A to A tunings, whereas that added size additionally apparently brings loads of maintain.
Stummvoll additionally claims that the Orbit’s “natural microphonic effect is less pronounced than on Cosmo, which makes it even more suitable to distorted sounds.” Metal followers, take word.