Thursday 22 October 2009

Steve Albini's 16-string guitar

I'd like to thank Howard who forwarded this image of a 16-string guitar from Steve Albini's recording studio. It appears to be a "Frankenstein" creation with a hardtail Strat-like body (probably not a Fender) with a doctored Epiphone acoustic 12-string neck grafted onto it.

Note the four tuners in the center of the headstock (which must be bango style tuners with the buttons on the reverse) and also the simple bridge which has been moved further back than it would be on a Strat, a dictate of the neck used to allow for the correct scale and compensation.

It doesn't look like a very friendly-to-play instrument. I'm assuming that the strings are arranged in six courses as on a 12-string, but that the top four courses each have three strings. This means that the strings are all so close together that it is hard to tell where one course ends and the next begins. I'm guessing that the "Guitar from Hell" sticker near the bridge is appropriate!

G L Wilson

Additional (6 December 2009): Here's what Steve Albini himself says of the instrument:

It's a drone instrument. I saw a 12-string made like this (Epiphone neck on strat copy body) and asked the guy who made it how many strings he could fit on one guitar. His answer was 16, so I asked him to make one. The first one was a thank-you gift for Sonic Youth, who had invited Rapeman to play some shows with them in the UK. It turned out to be real fun to play, so I had another one made and that's the one we have here. It's used on a lot of records as a novelty, and on the Shellac song "Pull the Cup" in earnest.

The demo version of "Pull the Cup" is called "XVI," which is a hint.

Bob got to play one of Tom Petersson's 12-string basses at a Cheap Trick sound check, and I think he's going to see about getting one eventually. Expect everything to change once that happens.

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