New Toys

TogaMan GuitarViol by Jonathan Wilson Designs

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What seems obvious and simple to someone who's never tried it is bowing an electric guitar with a violin bow. Not so fast Jimmy since the guitar's neck and strings are flat, in a row, and not arched like a violin. That means only the first and sixth strings can be accessed. I could on about how wrong a standard guitar is for bowing technique but you'll find out when mostly thin noises and squeaking sounds are about all you'll manage to produce--even with much practice.

Enter Jonathan Wilson and his custom-made line of GuitarViol instruments. At $2,998 to $3,598 each, this hybrid axe has six strings, tunes like a guitar but has a curved bridge and arched neck for bowing. After the bowing area, the neck quickly flattens out like a regular guitar fretboard. There are also especially deep cutaways to allow for bowing which you'll do mostly underhanded--more like a viola da gamba (ancient fretted cello-like instrument) than a violinist or cellist.

Ready to be played standing or sitting, the TogaMan GuitarViols are made out of hand carved alder and have a bolt-on maple neck with Sperzel locking tuners. Since they are made one at a time, there are many options concerning fingerboard wood and finish; bridge wood and shape; body finish or color; and electronics/pickups. It comes with a proprietary BOWD Horizon bridge/pickup system for amplified bowed string sound and EMG 4SW active magnetic pickups better for plucked sounds. The EMG 6CH buffer/pre-amp/mixer has separate gain for each string too. Look for an acoustic model now in the works.

For much more about this exotic instrument Contact Jonathan Wilson Designs at 818-268-5602 or

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