Even if you have never held one of his naming instruments, you may know that Les Paul designed one of the first solid-body electric guitars. Amazingly, Gibson, who made the guitar, was afraid that this radical new direction in instrument design would flop, and it did not even show the prototypes to the public for years.
But the Gibson Les Paul was far from the first electric guitar. In 1931, the very first electrically amplified string instrument sold commercially was a simple, all-metal, cast aluminum lap steel guitar with the nickname “Frying pan“- and a certain Adolph Rickenbacker invented the electromagnetic pickups for it.
Now, 90 years later, the Kassell, Germany-based industrial designer Robin Stummvoll, is the founder of Verso musical instruments, goes back to the basics and apparently takes inspiration from the humble beginnings of the electric guitar. Without any formal training as a luthier, Stummvoll has decided to cut down on the electric guitar to its minimum parts, reducing the amount of materials used to make each instrument.
“There’s a guitar made in the ’70s by Allan Gittler [held in the MoMA design collection] it’s basically just a steel bar with steel strip welded on, “says Stummvoll.” It really is the minimum a guitar should be, but it’s very complicated to build and very expensive. So my approach was that this was something that could have been built in a smaller store, but still creates a new perspective on luthieri. ”
Instead of a lump of wood, it Cosmo‘s body is a carefully bent sheet of powder coated steel. This ergonomic shape not only contains the necessary circuitry to make the guitar work, it also allows an innovative approach to the placement of the pickups, transducers that capture the mechanical vibrations of the strings and convert them into electrical signals, which can then be amplified and played through. a speaker.
Pickups are usually screwed into place for a guitar’s body, but where they are placed affects the tone of the sound formed. This is why you see several pickups in different places on e.g. a Fender Stratocaster or a Les Paul. Stummvoll has made his pickups mobile so they can be moved around and placed where the player chooses.
“This was a happy accident,” explains Stummvoll. “That was not the intention.” Since pickups are magnetic, they naturally cling to the surface of Cosmo’s metal housing. Stummvoll realized the potential benefits of this in terms of the versatility of sound, and made it a feature. You can watch and listen some YouTube demo of this changing sound.
“It has its own character and sound, a very warm and resonant tone with lots of harmonious content, but it’s nothing strange or strange,” says Stummvoll. “I would say it’s somewhere between electric guitar and an acoustic because you have those added harmonics – but more against electric.”
As well as $ 1,781 (€ 1,710) Cosmo and the brand Gravis bass guitar, Stummvoll has now released his latest creation, $ 1,935 (€ 1,860) Orbita baritone guitar. In addition to having Verso’s signature movable pickups, Stummvoll says that Orbit’s long 28.5-inch (720 mm) scale gives this instrument a precise and grainy bass response in standard B to B or A to A moods, while the added length apparently also brings lots of sustain.
Stummvoll also claims that Orbit’s “natural microphone effect is less pronounced than on Cosmo, making it even more suitable for distorted sounds.” Metal fans, note.