So what do you do if your solo performance set list includes compositions featuring parts for electric guitar, banjo and Dobro? You can either try to simplify the arrangement or attempt some exhausting quick change wizardry mid-song. When accomplished string picker Bow Thayer couldn't find an instrument that catered for finger-pickin' and steel slidin' and banjo rollin' all in one place, he designed his own. Meet the Bojotar.
"The Bojotar came to fruition as a means of consolidation," Thayer told Gizmag. "I was looking for a sound and instrument to satisfy a personal performance need. The style I am trying to perfect is one that utilizes a flat pick with two finger picks on my middle and ring fingers. I can do banjo rolls, flat pick, and strum. Along with a slide this gives me plenty to work on. Now I would like to see what others can do with it."
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After commissioning luthier Jason Twigg-Smith to build a six-string wooden spruce top banjo/guitar hybrid, Thayer embarked on a collaborative effort with guitarist Joey Leone and Eastwood Guitars to create a resonator, electric guitar and banjo mash-up. Eastwood gave him some parts and a free creative hand, and Thayer produced the prototype pictured below. The Toronto-based guitar makers then set about making a pre-production prototype, sent it to Thayer for some road testing and now plans to release the single cut-away Bojotar shortly.
The Bojotar has a chambered mahogany body with a black finish and a 24.75-in scale, 20 fret bolt-on painted maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. Five strings are fed all the way from the bridge to the Grover tuners at the head, but the bottom E string has been replaced with a low-tuned drone string that starts from a peg at the fifth fret, with no fingerboard wood between that fret position and the headstock.
"One of the improvements from the production prototype was the Waverly peg on the fifth fret, it is a quality machine head that does not protrude above the fret board thus allowing for unobstructed slide playing," said Thayer. "There is also a 'rail' on the 7th fret to raise the pitch on the drone string if one chooses to use a capo to change keys. I also have plans to experiment with a B bender to get some pseudo pedal steel licks yet making it more diverse."
There's a resonator cone with a piezo bridge pickup under the maple biscuit and a single-wound NY Mini humbucker at the neck, and a blend potentiometer has been installed instead of a pickup selection toggle switch to help shape the sound. This joins an overall volume and a tone knob to the right of the resonator.
"This is what this first short round will have," Thayer revealed.. "If the instrument gets any momentum I am going to suggest that we upgrade the pickups. Although I like the humbucker it tends to be a tad murky and the Piezo is a bit brittle on its own. I blend the two to get my desired tone but at this point it is sort of a one trick pony, at least tone wise … but I love this pony. I have written and recorded an entire album with it (due out spring of 2015). I think this axe is very versatile in its playability but could be more so with a pickup upgrade.
"My next step is to install an active Fishman pickup in the biscuit and make it so you have the option to turn the pickup on individually as well as together for a blend. This may be activated with a toggle switch on the upper body of the instrument, like a Les Paul. There may be some issues with phasing but I will know soon enough. We are taking baby steps here, we do not want to make an extravagant instrument before we can sell the concept. I will say that this is a quality instrument as it is now."
The Bojotar carries a suggested retail price of US$1,049, but Eastwood Guitars is currently showing a pre-release price of $879. Thayer told us that the Holiday craziness has put back the original release date of December 15 to December 29.
You can see Thayer and the Bojotar in action in the brief video below.